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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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MPs urged to defeat move to conduct Law College exams only in English medium

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Ali Sabry responds to accusations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Opposition MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (19) alleged that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was going ahead with a project launched by former Justice Minister Ali Sabry with the backing of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to conduct Law College examinations only in the English medium, much to the disadvantage of Sinhala and Tamil students.

Addressing the media at Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya at Thunmulla, the leader of civil society group Yuthukama urged all political parties, regardless of whatever differences, to vote against extraordinary gazette notification of 2020 Dec 30 No 22018/13 to be submitted to Parliament by Sabry’s successor, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, tomorrow (21).

The SLPP National List MP said that those who represented the interests of the South, the North as well as the Upcountry could reach a consensus on the issue at hand quite easily.

Responding to The Island query, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya, consisting of a section of rebel SLPP MPs, backed the campaign to protect the language rights of Sinhala and Tamil communities. The first-time entrant to Parliament said that MPs with a conscience couldn’t back this move, under any circumstances, whichever the party they represented.

At the onset of the media briefing, MP Cumaratunga said that the denial of language rights of current and future students was a grave violation of the Constitution-Article 12 and Article 18. In terms of Article 12, no one should be discriminated against on the basis of language whereas Article 18 recognized Sinhala and Tamil as National Languages with English being the linking language.

Alleging that the previous Gotabaya Rajapaksa goverenment planned to implement the controversial law even without securing parliamentary approval, lawmaker Cumaratunga appreciated Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse’s decision to place it before parliament.

The civil society activist said that this despicable move should be examined against the backdrop of growing external interventions as the country struggled to cope up with the developing political-economic-social crisis. The passage of the new law could cause further deterioration of parliament, MP Cumaratunga said, adding that the House faced a serious credibility issue.

“How could elected MPs whichever party they represented back a move that directly affected the concerned communities,”? Lawmaker Cumaratunga asked.

Referring to a recent call by the Justice Minister to discuss the issue at hand, MP Cumaratunga said that among those present on the occasion were Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, and Dr. Athula Pathinayake, Principal of Law College. “Those who opposed this move asked Dr. Athula Pathinayake what he really intended to achieve by conducting Law College examinations in English, only. However, the Law College Principal failed to provide a plausible response,” the MP said.

Responding to strong criticism of their stand, MP Cumaratunga stressed that the importance of English as a language couldn’t be underestimated. But, ongoing efforts to promote English shouldn’t be at the expense of Sinhala and Tamil, MP Cumaratunga said, questioning lawmakers’ right to deprive Sinhala and Tamil communities of basic rights.

Ratnapura District SLPP MP Gamini Waleboda said that an influential section of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was behind this move. In a note dated March 17, addressed to all members of parliament urged them to defeat the contemptible move.

Lawmaker Waleboda said that there was no prohibition for those who wanted to sit law examinations in English. There was absolutely no issue over that but the bid to deny the language rights of those who wanted to sit examinations in Sinhala and Tamil was not acceptable under any circumstances. According to him, the BASL hadn’t consulted its membership regarding this move.

MP Cumaratunga also questioned the failure on the part of the apex court to make available to Parliament its interpretations in Sinhala. The Supreme Court continues to provide such clarifications in English only.

Responding to MP Cumaratunga’s allegation that he with the backing of the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resorted to action to make English compulsory for those studying at the Law College, incumbent Foreign Minister Sabry said: “That’s not correct. It is the council of legal education which formulates regulations.  The council consists of CJ, two senior SC judges, AG, SG, Secretary Justice and six senior lawyers of vast knowledge and experience.

 In terms of the constitution all higher education institutions can decide the language of studies and education. That’s how medical faculty, engineering faculty, IT faculty and management faculty conduct studies in English. Already Peradeniya and Jaffna universities do legal studies in English. It is good to do it, that’s how they become competitive. Even in India all legal faculties are in English. “

The President’s Counsel alleged that the kith and kin of certain people articulating this position received their education in English. The minister questioned why politicians get involved in this issue if the council of legal education made the relevant suggestion.

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No power cuts due to N’cholai unit failure – Minister

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By Ifham Nizam

The breakdown of the Unit Three of the First Coal Fired Power Plant Complex in Norochcholai 270 MW intake of the 300MW will cost an additional Rs. 20 a unit due to thermal power generation, says the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).  “It will cost the CEB Rs. 96 million extra a day while the Norochcholai machine is out of order,” a senior Electrical Engineer told The Island.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday said Unit 3 of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant had failed. He said the CEB had informed him of the breakdown, but he said there would be no power cuts.

“The Unit 3 was due to undergo major overhaul maintenance in April. To ensure an uninterrupted power supply, the CEB-owned Diesel and Fuel Oil Power plants will be used,” the minister said.

The Norochcholai Power Plant has experienced breakdowns several times on previous occasions as well.The first generator at the power plant was shut down on December 23, last year to manage the coal stocks and for maintenance purposes.

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CBSL chief expresses optimism

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Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe told the media, on Sunday, that the country’s dollar crisis could be managed as the IMF was set to approve a 2.9 billion-dollar bailout package on Monday. He said that Sri Lanka now had adequate foreign reserves for imports for essential sectors.

Dr. Weerasinghe added that the IMF package would boost investor confidence and enhance the country’s access to more foreign funds and investments.

The IMF package would include budgetary support, which was a new element in IMF lending, he said. Sri Lanka started negotiations with the IMF, in 2022, following the onset of the current economic crisis.

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