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SJB challenges FM’s claim that contaminated fertiliser only a commercial issue

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‘Hasn’t AG obtained enjoining order against Chinese company?’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris says the current dispute over a contaminated consignment of carbonic fertiliser from China is not a diplomatic issue and shouldn’t be considered a row between China and Sri Lanka.

The Minister said so when the media sought his views on Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co Ltd sending a letter of demand to Dr. W.A.R.T. Wickramaarachchi, the Additional Director of the Plant Quarantine Service over a report issued under his signature that declared a sample of solid organic fertiliser sent by the Chinese company is contaminated.

The media took up the issue at the weekly SLPP briefing at the party office in Battaramulla.

Prof. Peiris emphasised that legal action had been initiated by the company concerned, not the Chinese government. The Minister said that the government couldn’t interfere with the decision taken by the Chinese company to move the court.

Both Prof. Peiris, who is also the SLPP Chairman and SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam emphasized that it was a commercial transaction between two private parties. Asked whether China resorting to legal measures against a government official undermined Sri Lanka, Attorney-at-Law Kariyawasam urged the media not to interpret the developments wrongly.

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Rohini Kaviratne said that the SLPP had quiet and conveniently forgotten the Attorney General on behalf of the government had moved the Colombo Commercial High Court not only against Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co Ltd but its local agent Chelinaa Capital Corporation Pvt Limited as well as the People’s Bank to prevent payment for the consignment.

The Matale District MP pointed out that following the court action initiated by the AG, China swiftly blacklisted the People’s Bank.

The situation remained quite problematic with the court extending the enjoining order issued to the People’s Bank and local shipping company preventing payment till Nov 19, MP Kaviratne said.

Responding to another query, the SJB MP said that the government owed an explanation as to why the services of a local agent was required as the government owned Ceylon Fertilizer Company could have dealt with the importation of carbonic fertilizer.  MP Kaviratne said that the government could have handled the matter in a transparent way.

“The Foreign Ministry seems to be unaware of what is going on,” the MP said, pointing out that Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co Ltd issued statements as regards developments through the Chinese Embassy in Colombo. The MP urged the government to examine the whole issue as quickly as possible to prevent further deterioration of relations with China.

She insisted Sri Lanka should never accept contaminated fertiliser. However, the government should prove its case against the Chinese company, the MP said. Noting that the original order placed with the Chinese company was for a staggering 99,000 metric tonnes of carbonic fertilizer, MP Kaviratne asked how the government intended to provide the required quantity. “We are well into the Maha season. Yet, farmers do not know whether they’ll receive fertilizer,” the MP said.

The SJB official said that both Chinese fertilizer and the import of liquid nano-nitrogen from India had been mired in controversy with Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera seeking the intervention of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) over the reportage of very serious accusations made in Parliament by the JVP in respect of Indian fertilizer.

The SJB MP challenged the government to come clean on fertilizer imports.

MP Kaviratne asked whether the government would defend the state official faced with legal action. The lawyers representing the Chinese firm had asked for USD 8 mn in compensation, the MP pointed out, urging the government to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation.



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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials

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Unions suspect sinister attempt to call in military

Engineers say technical fault caused power failure

CEBEU suspends work-to-rule protest

By Ifham Nizam

The government was trying to pin the blame for yesterday’s countrywide power outage on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions in a bid to call in the military, Joint Trade Union Alliance Convener Ranjan Jayalal said yesterday.

Jayalal told The Island the government’s attempt would tarnish the image of the military and that of the country, but such intimidatory tactics would not deter the CEB unions from continuing with their action against the questionable agreement between the government and the US energy firm, New Fortress, which has been allowed to acquire a 40% stake in the Yugadanavi power plant. “The government is trying to derail our trade union action, scheduled for December 08. Definitely the power outage was an act of sabotage. Two units of the Norochcholai coal-fired power plant and the one at Sapugaskanda had failed,” he added, insisting that the trade unions had nothing do with the power outage. He said union activists had sprung into action to restore power despite their work-to-rule, for the sake of the country and its people.

A senior independent electrical engineer said the power failure was an act of sabotage or attempt at sabotage. “It could have been a rehearsal that misfired,” he added.

Electricity supply in several areas in Colombo and its suburbs were restored around 2.00 p.m. Subsequently, the power supply on Anuradhapura-Habarana, Laxapana-Athurugiriya and Kotmale-Biyagama transmission lines was restored. However, even at 5.30 p.m. most parts of the Gamapaha District experiencing power failures.

CEB General Manager, Eng. M R Ranatunga sand disruptions to the power supply could be considered sabotage. He said CEBEU activists had been dragging their feet on power restoration.

State Minister of National Security & Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa said necessary action would be taken against the CEB engineers if it was revealed that the power outage was an act of sabotage.

Major disruptions to the electricity supply were reported across the country around 11.30 a.m. yesterday owing to a breakdown in transmission lines.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) said the water supply in several areas of Colombo and suburbs had been disrupted due to the breakdown in the power supply as the NWS&D is dependent on the national grid for pumping purposes.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last night said it had received a favourable response from the government to its demands and therefore decided to suspend its work-to-rule campaign.

The Island learns that President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara will meet a CEBEU delegation, next week.

A senior electrical engineer expressed concern about CEB General Manager’s statement that the power outage was an act of sabotage by the engineers’ union. He denied as baseless the official’s claim.

CEBEU Secretary Dhammike Wimalarathne confirmed that his union had decided to suspend trade union action following an undertaking given by the government to have talks with them.

Meanwhile, CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu, addressing the media, yesterday, insisted that the power outage had been due to a technical problem.

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Chamal tells Parliament if power failure is due to sabotage, culprits will be dealt with severely

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By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that the government was investigating the causes of yesterday’s countrywide power outage and if it was due to sabotage those responsible would be severely dealt with.

Responding to a question by Anuradhapura District SJB MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake during the third reading stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Defence, the Minister said that the government would not tolerate sabotage.

MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake said that while the national security was being debated in Parliament the entire country was experiencing a power outage which could be considered a serious threat to national security.

He said all reservoirs were brimful and there was sufficient water to generate hydro power.

Colombo District SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said that the entire country was in dark and Parliament was sitting thanks to power supplied by generators.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government had already called for an investigation and it would not hesitate to take necessary action on the findings of the probe.

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Committee on Public Finance meeting: one-third drop in next Yala harvest predicted

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Members of the Committee on Public Finance recently recommended that if the import ban on rice, which was imposed last April, is to be lifted, it should be done only after a proper forecast of the coming Yala harvest.

The Chairman of the Committee on Finance Anura Priyadharshana Yapa pointed out that under the prevailing circumstances, the interest of the paddy farmers and consumers had to be taken into consideration.

In response to MP Yapa’s comment, the Imports and Exports Controller General revealed that, according to the available data, the expected Yala harvest is likely to be only 2/3 as compared to last year.

MP Nalin Fernando pointed out that if businessmen were allowed to import rice freely, the business community would be tempted to import more rice than necessary, driving the paddy prices down and affecting the farming community badly. Hence, the Ministry of Finance should intervene to prevent the local farmer from facing difficulties. MP Fernando also pointed out to the officials of the Ministry of Finance that it was important to make rice freely available at reasonable prices. Sri Lankans did not like rice imported from neighbouring countries, he said.

The Committee on Public Finance was urged to obtain approval for an Extraordinary Gazette Notification permitting the importation of Kekulu, Nadu, Samba and other types of rice as per the order of the Minister of Finance. MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said officials had to investigate the macro economic impact of such orders given without a proper procedural or logical assessment.

The committee members inquired from the officials of the Ministry of Finance who were present at the Committee meeting whether the 2021 Budget forecasts could be fulfilled. According to the statistics and data submitted by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, the committee observed that if only local funds were used to repay all debts, there would be an increase in interest rates in the near future and that would adversely affect the local private sector, (Dr.) Harsha de Silva said.

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