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Spotlight on covering approval for USD 16 mn transaction

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Govt. defends emergency coal purchases

By Shamindra Feddinando

Co-cabinet spokesman and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila yesterday (3) told the post-cabinet media briefing at the Information Department that the government followed proper procedures in respect of spot purchase of 300,000 MT of coal required by Lakvijaya power plant at Norochcholai.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya leader Gammanpila said so when The Island asked him why the government continued with the controversial practice of spot purchases against the backdrop of a spate of corruption accusations against both the SLFP-led UPFA and UNP-SLFP administrations regarding coal purchases.

Referring to the particular cabinet decision taken on Sept 2, 2020, The Island pointed out that the Permanent Procurement Committee had recommended the awarding of the tender worth USD 16.18 mn to M/S Swiss Singapore Overseas Enterprises Pvt. Limited.

The cabinet however granted covering approval to the proposal made by Power Minister Dullus Alahapperuma. The selected supplier is part of Mumbai headquartered global conglomerate Aditya Birla Group.

Pointing out the change of government took place in 2019 November, The Island sought an explanation why regular purchases couldn’t be made, attorney at law Gammanpila explained such acquisitions were made when world market prices were lower than that of the supplier/suppliers’ price.

 The minister also explained various factors which could contribute to the government going ahead with emergency purchases.

According to a special audit on procurement of coal by Lanka Coal Company (Pvt) Limited from 2009 to 2016 undertaken by the Auditor General’s Department, revealed that there had been instances of coal being supplied without following proper procurement procedures as well as outside procurement process.

Earlier accusations as regards mega contract awarded to the same company led to the sacking of Lanka Coal Company Chairman attorney-at-law Maithri Gunaratne and the entire board of directors in January 2017.

The media was also told of co-cabinet spokesman Gammanpila in his capacity as the Energy Minister submitting a proposal to the cabinet regarding installation of three oil tanks at the Kolonnawa storage complex at a cost of Rs 942.47 mn (sans VAT payment). According to the cabinet paper, cabinet -appointed procurement committee had recommended Indo-East Engineering and Construction (Lanka) Private Limited to undertake the project.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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