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SLSI has flouted rules like nobody’s business!



There have been instances where the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) allowed the release of imported goods to the market prior to the issuance of test reports during the inspection of imported goods, the Auditor General has said in a report on the Role of Sri Lanka Standards Institution on Quality Product Sales in the Local Market.

There were also deficiencies in the issuance of the Certificate of Standards, management deficiencies, delay in conducting laboratory tests, minimum level of market inspections, reduction of awareness on the use- of pre-standards, and test reports, the Auditor General has said.

The Auditor General has recommended that “informing the relevant parties of the importance of obtaining the Product Certificate logo of the Sri Lanka Standards Institution to minimise the problems that may arise in connection with the above observations, further strengthening the mechanism for awarding the logo, strengthening coordination with other relevant affiliates and issuing product certification logos and this report makes recommendations on how to provide the necessary resources institutionally for conducting and laboratory testing and thereby expedite those processes.”

The report says the SLSI has been given the powers to inspect the quality of imported goods and that it is mandatory for imported goods to obtain the Sri Lanka Standards Certificate. SLSI has prepared a guideline on imported goods, it said.

According to these guidelines when a company imports a consignment of goods they will be allowed to be sold or used without inspection if there is a Certificate of Conformity obtained by that manufacturing company from a government agency, laboratory or testing institute registered with the SLSI in that country.

“However, only two foreign certification agencies for brown sugar were registered and certification agencies for canned fish were not registered,” the report has pointed out.

Moreover, the guideline says if the manufacturing company is registered with the Sri Lanka Standards Institution and obtains a Certificate of Conformity when importing goods, it will be allowed to sell or use without a sample test.

From January 2019 to June 2021, brown sugar was imported on 1014 occasions by 89 companies but no manufacturer was registered with the SLSI and obtained a Certificate of Conformity.

“From January 2019 to June 2021, canned fish was imported from 36 manufacturing companies on 1,522 occasions under 48 brand names. However, only five manufacturers and 20 brand names have been registered. 4,395,416 containers valued at US $ 92,205,253.54 were imported from 31 unregistered manufacturers.

Brown sugar has been imported on 31 occasions without adhering to any of the SLSI guidelines. However, they were allowed to be sold or used without inspection, the report has said. 6323.3 metric tons of brown sugar valued at US $ 2,391,388.95 has been released without testing, the report said.

“As imported goods are released to the market with the approval of the Sri Lanka Standards Institution, it is observed that the company does not have a proper guideline or methodology to ensure that the imported goods are not released to the market until the inspection report of the Standards Institution is received.”

Although a computer database was established in 2018 to keep tabs on imported goods, so far only the data up to the point of sampling has been included in the database.

The Auditor General’s Department has observed that after the sample test, approvals based on the test results, re-sampling, refusal of goods and recommendation for re-export are not made through the relevant database till the audit date of May 2021.

“It was observed that although there should be a good interaction between the Sri Lanka Standards Institution, the Consumer Protection Authority and the Sri Lanka Customs on all imported goods, but there is no such system in place. As a result, there is a high risk of substandard goods being released into the market and instances of such substandard goods being released into the market were observed during the inspection of Sri Lanka Custom’s files. The Standards Institution had not developed a suitable methodology for follow-up in this regard.”

The SLSI has Product Certification (SLS) to assure the hygienic quality of imported foods, however, this certification is not mandatory to import goods, the report says.

The report says, “As of December 2019, the number of SLS branded items was approximately 1105, but the number of market trials was relatively low and the estimated number of inspections carried out in 2016, 2017 and 2018 are 19, 39, and 35 respectively. Furthermore, market inspections were not planned for 2019 and as a result, the audit observes that low quality products are more likely to be released into the market.”

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Weerawansa’s wife sentenced to RI



Lawyers appearing for Shashi Weerawansa, MP Wimal Weerawansa’s wife, yesterday (27) appealed against a Colombo Magistrate’s Court decision to sentence their client to two years rigorous imprisonment.Colombo Chief Magistrate, Buddhika Sri Ragala found her guilty of submitting forged documents to obtain a diplomatic passport circa 2010. The Colombo Magistrate’s Court also imposed a fine of Rs. 100,000 on Mrs. Weerawansa. If the fine is not paid she will have to serve an extra six months.

Additional Magistrate Harshana Kekunawala announced that the appeal would be called for consideration on 30 May.The case against Mrs. Weerawansa was filed by the CID after a complaint was lodged on 23 January 2015 by Chaminda Perera, a resident of Battaramulla.

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Unions predict end of energy sovereignty



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A government decision to allow all privately-owned bunker fuel operators to import and distribute diesel and fuel oil to various industries was a rollback of the nationalisation of the country’s petroleum industry and another severe blow to energy sovereignty of the country, trade union activist of the SJB Ananda Palitha said yesterday.Earlier, Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera Tweeted that ‘approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations provided in bulk’.Commenting on the decision, Palitha said that according to the existing law those companies only had the power to import, store and distribute fuel for ships. Those companies did not have the authority to distribute fuel inside the country, Palitha said.

“Only the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) can distribute fuel inside the country. There is a controversy about the licence given to the LIOC as well. If the government wants other companies to import fuel, it needs to change the laws. The Minister does not have the power to make these decisions. A few months ago the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration used to rush Bills that adversely affected the country through Parliament. Now, since they don’t have a majority in parliament, they are using the Cabinet to make decisions that are detrimental to the country’s interests.”

Palitha said that the controversial government move would further weaken the CPC, and that the ultimate aim of the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government was to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) purchase fuel from private distributors. With a weakened CPC and a CEB under the mercy of private companies, the Sri Lankan state would have little control over the country’s energy sector, he warned.

“The CEB already can’t pay the CPC, and therefore how can it pay private companies? It will have to sell its assets. This is another step in the road to fully privatise the energy sector. When this happens no government will be able to control inflation or strategically drive production through fuel and energy tariffs. The people will be at the mercy of businessmen and the government will only be a bystander,” he said.

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Modi government moves to ‘solve’ Katchatheevu issue



The Narendra Modi government is mulling restoring the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island of 285 acres, sandwiched between India and Sri Lanka in the Palk Bay, with the BJP hoping the move could lift its political fortunes in the southern state.The government will push Sri Lanka to implement “in letter and spirit” the 1974 agreement reached between Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, then prime ministers of India and Sri Lanka, on the island.This will have to be done by withdrawing the “Executive Instructions” issued in 1976 without questioning Sri Lanka’s “sovereignty” over Katchatheevu, sources aware of the internal discussions in the BJP told the Indian newspaper, Deccan Herald.

Sources added that the discussions were “ongoing” at “various levels” including reaching out to Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka. The recent visit of TN BJP chief K Annamalai to Sri Lanka is also part of the outreach. Many feel the instructions issued in 1976 “superseded the provisions of the legally valid” pact between India and Sri Lanka, thus making Katchatheevu a subject of dispute in the Palk Bay.While the 1974 agreement gave away Katchatheevu, which was part of the territory ruled by the Rajah of Ramanathapuram, to Sri Lanka, the 1976 pact drew the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka in the Gulf of Mannar and Bay of Bengal.

“We cannot disturb the agreement signed in 1974. We are now finding ways and means to implement the agreement in letter and spirit. All we plan is to ask Sri Lanka to invoke Article 6 of the Katchatheevu pact. If Sri Lanka agrees, the issue can be sorted through Exchange of Letters between foreign secretaries of both countries,” a source in the know said.Another source said the time is “ripe” to push forward on the issue. “With fast-changing geopolitical situation in the region, we believe Sri Lanka will slowly come around and accept the rights of our fishermen,” the source said.

“The opinion within the party is that time is ripe to push this cause, with Sri Lanka beginning to realise that India can always be relied upon, given PM Ranil (Wickremesinghe) is pro-India.”

Articles 5 and 6 of the 1974 agreement categorically assert the right to access of the Indian fishermen and pilgrims to Katchatheevu and state that the “vessels of Sri Lanka and India will enjoy in each other’s waters such rights as they have traditionally enjoyed therein”.

However, fishermen from India were prohibited from fishing in the Sri Lankan territorial waters around Katchatheevu in 1976 following the signing of an agreement on the maritime boundary. The battle for fish in the Palk Bay has often ended in Indian fishermen being attacked by Sri Lankan Navy for “transgressing” into their waters.The BJP, which is yet to make major inroads in Tamil Nadu, feels a “solution” to the long-standing issue will give the party the much-needed momentum ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and provide a chance to get into the Tamil psyche. Political analysts feel that it might also allow the BJP to needle the DMK and the Congress by pointing out that it has restored the rights “surrendered by them,” to Tamil fishermen

Senior journalist and Lanka expert R Bhagwan Singh said: “If BJP succeeds in its efforts, it will certainly help the saffron party in the coming elections.”

But a source said the move will “take time”. “We don’t want to rush and create an impression we are forcing Sri Lanka. We will take it slow. We will take every stakeholder into confidence and reach an amicable settlement with Sri Lanka. All we want to do is restore traditional rights of our fishermen,” the source said.CM Stalin also raised the issue at an event on Thursday, telling Modi that this is the “right time” to retrieve Katchatheevu.

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