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SLC funds amounting to Rs 29 mn in US bank: SLC caught lying before COPE

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) Prof. Charitha Herath yesterday (9) said that the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had taken contradictory positions in respect of Rs. 29 mn deposited in an account belonging to an American identified as Diamond Channel.

SLPP National List lawmaker Prof. Herath made the revelation when The Island raised the simmering controversy over unbridled corrupt practices in respect of SLC operations over the years. The former Media Ministry Secretary pointed out that the SLC took up vastly different positions on the money transfer before the previous COPE, chaired by JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti, on Feb 20, 2020 and subsequently on Feb 11, 2021 and April 06, 2021.

Obviously, the possibility of a deliberate bid to deceive the parliamentary watchdog committee couldn’t be ruled out, the MP said.

Prof. Herath declared that the SLC lacked even the basic financial discipline expected of such a high-profile institution. How could the SLC deposit funds received as the third installment in broadcasting revenue due to it from the Sri Lanka-South Africa 2018 series in an American’s account? lawmaker Herath asked. Their finances had been run in such a shoddy manner, anyone of those in key positions could have moved funds anywhere with impunity, the first-time entrant to the parliament said, in response to another query.

The Island Sports yesterday reported that an abortive bid had been made by the SLC to deceive the Sony Company to transfer USD 5.5 to an offshore account in Hongkong.

According to records available with the COPE, initially the SLC’s Legal Officer Chalaka Silva had categorized the relevant agreement with the Sony Company for television broadcasting rights as a contract for radio broadcasting. When the then COPE Chairman Handunnetti pointed out what he asserted was a deliberate move to mislead the parliament, the Legal Officer promptly apologized. The Legal Officer also said that the SLC’s head of finance usually provided the relevant party – in this case Sony of the required bank details.

Asked whether the parliamentary committee received a plausible response when the top SLC administration was summoned by the COPE on April 6, 2021, Prof. Herath said the body seemed to be in chaos in the wake of continuing investigations into what he called unspeakable financial impropriety

The meeting called to examine the Auditor General’s 2017-2018 report on the SLC and its current status were lawmakers, Mahinda Amaraweera, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, D.V. Chanaka, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Eran Wickremaratne, S.M. Marikkar, Nalin Bandara, Premanath C. Dolawatte and S. Rasamanikkam.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ashley de Silva assured the COPE that the matter was under investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Prof. Herath said that it couldn’t be such a difficult task for the CID to ascertain the relationship between the SLC and the person who received the money.

The agreement with the Sony Company signed in July 2015 specified all details, including the account number of the Bank of Ceylon account maintained by the SLC. Prof. Herath noted Ashley de Silva had signed the contract on SLC’s behalf.

The Communication Department of the Parliament quoted Prof. Herath as having instructed Sports Ministry Secretary Anuradha Wijekoon to conduct an inquiry into this matter and submit a report within three months to the COPE.

Prof. Herath acknowledged that in spite of periodic examinations of SLC finances by the parliamentary watchdog committee, the country’s most influential sporting authority had managed to escape any penalty. That was the undeniable truth, the lawmaker said, adding that the SLC’s rash explanation as regards the hiring of Chandika Hathurusingha as the country’s head coach in Dec 2017 was similar to that of plot in a detective story. Referring to the explanation given by CEO Ashley de Silva, who had played three Tests and four ODI in 80-90s for the country, Prof. Herath said that the relevant agreement had been finalized by two outsiders, namely Hathurusingha, one of the parties to the agreement and a lawyer named Kaushalya. The SLC took up the position the agreement was prepared in secret as Hathurusingha insisted he wouldn’t go ahead with the contract if it was revealed under any circumstances. Prof. Heath said that the whole exercise seemed to be something out of a detective story.

The then Sports Minister Harin Fernando called for Hathurusingha’s removal in the wake of Sri Lanka’s poor performance at the sixth ICC World Cup in 2019. Hathurusinghe sued the SLC over the premature termination of his contract. The COPE was told the role played by the then President of the Board of Control of Cricket Tilanga Sumathipala and Vice President K. Mathivanan, who quit the post in July 2020 following a spat with other board members.

Prof. Herath has told the COPE meeting on April 6 if the court case in respect of Hathurusingha’s removal went against the SLC, in terms of the contract, the latter would have to pay the former coach Rs 100 mn, in addition to legal fees amounting to Rs 30 mn so far incurred. Prof. Herath pointed out that the SLC was paying a heavy price for negotiating a contract under mysterious circumstances.

Sports Ministry Secretary Wijekoon declared before COPE that he was not satisfied with the way the SLC managed its finances. Wijekoon revealed various persons had received monthly payments ranging from Rs 200,000 to 600,000 under questionable circumstances.

In spite of changes to the top management team, CEO Ashley de Silva has remained at the helm for 13 years. During the tenure of Tilanga Sumathipala as the President of the Board of Control of Cricket the CEO received an unprecedented salary increase, well informed sources told The Island. Shammi Silva succeeded Sumathipala in Feb 2019.

Prof. Herath said that some former members of the SLC executive committee were not allowed to participate at the April 6 meeting though they arrived at the parliament.

Prof. Herath said that those responsible had allowed the deterioration. The failure on the part of the Director General of Sports and the absence of proper procurement guidelines, too, has been highlighted along with payments made to various cricket associations with an eye on cricket board elections.

At the conclusion of the April 6 inquiry Prof. Herath instructed Sports Ministry Secretary Wijekoon to initiate legal proceedings against those members of the SLC’s executive committee found guilty of financial impropriety. Wijekoon was also asked to secure the assistance of the AG in this regard.

Responding to another query, Prof. Herath said that he discussed the issues at hand with Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa. The issues raised included the continuation of Ashley de Silva as the CEO regardless of happenings at the SLC.



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CAA reverses decision to file legal action against Litro Gas

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For introducing controversial hybrid LPG cylinder

by Suresh Perera

The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) has backtracked on moves to file legal action against Litro Gas Lanka for launching 18-litre premium hybrid domestic LPG cylinders in contravention of consumer laws.

The Chairman was not in favor of moving court on the matter due to political pressure, a senior CAA official said.

The move to desist from legally challenging Litro’s launch of the new hybrid cylinder to the market without the regulator’s approval comes in the backdrop of State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna’s intervention to allow the controversial product to be sold to consumers at its introductory price of Rs. 1,395.

“What’s the purpose of a regulatory body if politicians can interfere with CAA’s legally mandated functions to protect the interests of consumers?”, the official asked.

The selective application of the law will boil down to seeking approval from politicians on whether legal action should be instituted when even a grocery store is raided for violating regulations, he said.

“The law is the same, and if are to take punitive action by favor, then the CAA will be a dead duck bowing down to political dictates”, he opined.

Litro Gas has come under fire for introducing new hybrid domestic cylinders for Rs. 1,395 in spite of the weight being reduced by three kilograms in comparison to the regular 12.5 kilogram cylinders priced at Rs. 1,493.

“We have already received hundreds of complaints about a shortage of 12.5kg cylinders in the market as Litro is trying to push its new hybrid cylinders”, the official said.

“This is unethical”.

A resident of Kirillawala in the Gampaha district complained that only hybrid LPG cylinders were available over the past few days.

“I was told by the Litro dealer in the area that stocks of 12.5kg regular cylinders will not be received for some time”, he said.

However, Litro Gas Chairman/CEO, Anil Koswatte assured that there was no dearth of LPG in the marketplace.

When told that technically there may be no shortage of cooking gas, but on whether regular 12.5kg regular cylinders were also available apart from the new 18-litre premium hybrid product, he said that there may be delays in deliveries due to the prevailing situation, but both domestic cylinders are freely available.

Consumers can also order online or by calling 1311 for delivery, he said.

The LPG production process is continuing uninterrupted despite many challenges posed by the pandemic. Workers adhere to health safety regulations and are regularly screened and provided accommodation to prevent contact with outsiders who may be infected, he continued.

With ballooning global LPG prices, Litro Gas Lanka incurs Rs. 300 to 400 million in losses per day as the government has turned down an appeal for a Rs. 700 price increase on domestic cylinders.

The new hybrid 18-litre domestic cylinder was introduced to the market to cut losses as LPG is now sold below procurement cost.

Asked about the claim in a YouTube video shared on social media that he draws a remuneration of Rs. 3 million per month at a time Litro is facing a financial crunch, Koswatte declined to comment on what he termed as “gossip to sling mud at him”.

The presenter of the YouTube program, Chapa Bandara, claimed that Koswatte draws a monthly salary of Rs. 2 million from Litro Gas Lanka Limited and Rs. 1 million from Litro Gas Terminal Lanka Ltd.

“I am not paid with government funds”, he noted, while pointing out that both are private companies.

“My salary is a matter for the shareholders to decide on”, he stressed, while adding that his salary should not be of concern to anybody as it’s purely a private matter.

The Chairman said that if he responds to tittle-tattle, it will create the impression that he also thrives on gossip.

Presenter Bandara also asserted that a woman who served as the General Manager at the time Koswatte was Chairman of Laksala has been appointed Director (Human Resources) of Litro Gas.

 

 

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Allied Security Services to reward officer who foiled Rs. 10.7mn robbery

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Timely action by a security officer on duty at a private bank in the Anuradhapura New Town thwarted the robbery of Rs. 10.7 million by a two-member gang on Thursday morning.

The officer risked his life to prevent the gangsters from escaping with the cash during the heist, an official said.

An officer of a different security agency had alighted from the vehicle and walked towards the ATM with a representative of the bank to reload cash into the machine when two persons lurking in the vicinity had thrown chilli powder and grappled with them in an attempt to grab the bag containing the cash, he said.

They had, however, fought back, and in the melee, the bag had slipped to the ground. The security officer, who was near the entrance to the bank, had promptly run across, picked up the bag and taken it into the premises, he noted.

Sensing they had lost the chance of robbing the money, the gangsters had escaped on a motorcycle before the police arrived, the official said.

A security officer of the company entrusted with reloading cash to the bank’s ATMs was injured when his gun went off by accident during the confusion, he said. “He was admitted to the Anuradhapura General Hospital”.

The brave security officer, whose resourcefulness prevented the money from being snatched, was identified as S. R. K. Somarathne of Allied Security Services (Pvt) Limited. He is a resident of Hidogama in Anuradhapura.

“We will be rewarding this valiant officer who foiled the robbery in spite of the grave risk to his life”, a senior official of Allied Security Services, said. (SP)

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Police round up unmasked persons in public spaces in Colombo

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With the alarming spike in Covid-19 infections across the country, Police on Friday launched an operation in Colombo to round up unmasked persons in public spaces.

Police said that 85 people taken into custody were initially taken to the Bo-tree junction in Pettah, where DIG (Colombo Division) Jagath Chandrakumara, gave them a brief lecture on the risk of not adhering to health safety guidelines.

They are not only placing their lives on the line by ignoring corona preventive guidelines such as wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance, but also jeopardizing others by spreading the virus, he said.

Police said that 85 persons taken into custody were later transported in buses to the Pettah police station, where they were granted police bail. They will have to appear in court when notified.

The operation was conducted under the supervision of DIG Jagath Chandrakumara, SSP (Colombo Central) Nishantha Chandrasekara, SSP (Colombo Central 1) Samarakoon Banda, Pettah Acting OIC Chief Inspector Abeyratne and Dam Street OIC Chief Inspector A. P. Paduruarachchi on the direction of senior DIG (Western Province) Deshabandu Tennakoon.

 

 

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