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Timber Corporation earned Rs 1.4 bn profit and transferred only Rs 100 mn to Treasury

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By Saman Indrajith

The State Timber Corporation earned an operating profit of Rs. 1.4 billion in 2021, but transferred only Rs. 100 million to the Treasury. This came to light when the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) questioned a high-ranking state official recently.

COPE Chairman Prof. Charitha Herath said that the annual revenue earned by state institutions should be received by the State Treasury.

The COPE Chairman said state institutions should be prepared to send a significant portion of their earnings to the Treasury.

The Chairman said so when the officials of the State Timber Corporation was summoned before COPE recently to examine the Auditor General’s Reports for 2019 and 2020 and to evaluate their performance.

The COPE noted that the Forest Department had granted approval to the State Timber Corporation on 30 June 2020 for the removal of 28,958 pine trees from the Hein Ford Estate in Weligampola, Kandy but the trees had not yet been removed. Member of the Committee Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Member of Parliament said the State Timber Corporation could have earned a hugh profit if it has carried out that task

It was also revealed that the Committee on Public Enterprises on 10 October 2012 had directed that action be taken to amend the Corporation Act to empower the State Timber Corporation to issue a certificate for imported timber, but that had not been done. Officials of the Timber Corporation said a board paper had been submitted for this purpose. The COPE also drew attention to the delays in the process from 2012 to date.

The COPE inquired into a write off of Rs. 14.4 million worth of debt by the Corporation without the approval of the Treasury. The officials said that the decision had been taken by the then Acting Board of Directors in 2007 with the approval of the Corporate Audit and Management Committee. The COPE Chairman said that since the Secretary to the Treasury was in charge of the Consolidated Fund for Public Debt, if debts are written off, the Chief Accounting Officer should inform the Secretary to the Treasury and obtain permission.

The COPE said that in 2012, it had directed that the loss making Kaldemulla Furniture Factory should be turned into a profitable venture, but there had been no improvement.

The COPE Chairman stated that the furniture outlets owned by the Corporation as a whole had incurred huge losses. The Auditor General stated that the waste of large quantities of timber in the production of furniture had been observed as a reason for these losses and that byproducts of discarded timber could help reduce this loss to some extent. That was due to the lack of employees with proper knowledge of furniture manufacturing and the need to compete with the private sector in the market, the officials of the Timber Corporation said.

The COPE Chairman instructed the Secretary to the Ministry to send a report within one month on the future course of action to be taken in consultation with relevant officials.

The COPE also noted that two advisors and a driver had been recruited for the Chairman of the Corporation in contravention of the circular. The recruits were paid an allowance of Rs. 2,850 per day for 270 days, a sum of Rs. 769,500, from 12 February to 3 September 2019. Although the approval of the General Treasury had been sought for this purpose, it was not received and the COPE Chairman directed the Secretary to the Ministry to take legal action against the relevant Chairperson.

The COPE noted that the corporation had incurred a loss of Rs. 982,473 after reducing the price of items valued at Rs. 1,690,183 by more than 50 percent to Rs. 707,710 and the General Manager of the Corporation stated that this decision had been taken due to the fact that the furniture was in a defective condition after being kept for too long without disposal. The Chairman said that if such concessions could be justified, a Board Memorandum should be submitted and the Auditor General’s Department should be informed.

The COPE meeting was attended by Members of Parliament Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Jagath Pushpakumara, Harsha de Silva, Eran Wickramaratne, Indika Anuruddha, Sagara Kariyawasam, Madhura Withanage as well as the Secretary to the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation and officials of the State Timber Corporation.



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Wimal asks for PSC probe into top officials’ complicity in violence

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Colombo HC lawyers concerned over shocking developments

By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, MP, says a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) should be appointed to investigate the role played by IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Public Security Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. (retd.) Jagath Alwis in the recent SLPP hothead attack on those demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, including Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Weerawansa yesterday (18) told The Island that Parliament should inquire into the unprovoked attack that triggered an extremely violent response by the public as well as those awaiting an opportunity to unleash violence on selected group of lawmakers on 09 May.

The former Industries Minister said he was confident that Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, would look into the issues at hand.

Responding to another query, Weerawansa said that Senior DIG Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon’s claim that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary had interfered with his (Tennakoon’s) plan to disperse the SLPP mobs couldn’t be easily dismissed.

MP Weerawansa declared, in Parliament on Tuesday (17), that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry dissuaded the Senior DIG from performing his duties although he had received specific instructions from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to stop the march on Galle Face. The former JVPer questioned whether those conspirators wanted to show the world the failure on the part of the police and the armed forces to maintain law and order.

Asked whether police headquarters and the Public Security Ministry had responded to his accusations, Weerawansa said he hadn’t been contacted by them so far.

Pointing out that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), inquiring into 09 May turmoil had recorded Senior DIG’s statement, Weerawansa said that the outfit could issue an interim statement on the matter.

The Colombo High Court Lawyers’ Association said that the shocking revelation, made in Parliament, should be expeditiously inquired into.

The Association’s President Attorney-at-Law Lakshman Perera said that the ongoing investigations had taken an unexpected turn in the wake of high profile specific allegations pertaining to the conduct of the IGP, as well as the Public Security Ministry Secretary. Pointing out that the HRCSL and the CID had already recorded DIG Tennakoon’s statement, pertaining to the incidents, and the officer was among a group of 22 persons slapped with a travel ban by the Fort Magistrate, lawyer Perera said that the CID couldn’t turn a blind eye to accusations directed at the head of the department as well as Secretary to the relevant ministry.

Lawyer Perera said that investigations couldn’t be completed without verifying accusations made in Parliament.

Lawmaker Weerawansa said that the question was on whose behalf the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary intervened at a time the country was under emergency and after the Senior DIG in charge of Colombo received specific instructions from the President himself.

Although the SLPP goons did not shed any blood or cause any serious injuries, unlike the well-organized mobs that caused havoc across the country thereafter, MP Weerawansa said that he couldn’t comprehend why the police and the armed forces allowed the situation to develop to an extremely dangerous level.

The HRCSL in its initial reaction to the unprovoked attacks on those who had been demanding the resignation of the government condemned the violence caused by a group of people who made it very clear that violence was their intention.

HRCSL Chairperson retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe said: “The failure of the police to prepare for this eventuality and prevent and manage the violence and destruction is a gross failure of public order. There must be an immediate inquiry into this matter. The inaction of the police to prevent the clash is condemned.”

The Island brought the latest developments to the notice of the HRCSL yesterday as MP Weerawansa said that those who conspired and planned the project that involved those at the helm of Temple Trees then and the SLPP should be arrested. The conspirators shouldn’t be allowed to escape justice while the CID arrested those who carried out the actual attacks.

Police spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the department couldn’t respond to what transpired in Parliament. Acknowledging that he was aware of the allegations made in Parliament, Attorney-at-Law Thalduwa said in case their response was sought through proper channels, whatever the queries would be answered.

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Dr. Pathirana says IGP, Public Security Ministry Secy. allowed goon attacks

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Galle District parliamentarian Dr. Ramesh Pathirana has reiterated that IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Secretary to the Public Security Ministry, Maj. General (retd) Jagath Alwis had facilitated the 09 May unprovoked attack on anti-government protesters.

The former Minister Pathirana declared in Parliament yesterday (18) that National Freedom Front (NFF) leader MP Wimal Weerawansa’s allegation, pertaining to the origins of the violence, was true.

Dr. Pathirana said that he was among those who had brought supporters to attend a meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The vast majority of those who attended the Temple Trees meet on May 09 wanted to thank the war-winning President as he gave up active politics, the MP said. However, some unscrupulous members had instigated the participants there.

Dr. Pathirana said he had been at Temple Trees at that time and as he feared violence could erupt due inflammatory speeches, contact was made with Senior DIG in charge of Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon. Dr. Pathirana said that the senior police officer had assured him that the police were ready to face the situation and confident of preventing those who attended the Temple Trees function from reaching Galle Face.

“Thereafter, I left Temple Trees for a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. There were several other members. When trouble erupted, President Rajapaksa immediately got in touch with Senior DIG Tennakoon, who revealed he had been asked not to use force by the IGP himself.”

Dr. Pathirana said the President had asked the senior law enforcement officer why he didn’t carry out instructions issued by him (the President).

The Galle District MP emphasised that the IGP and the Secretary to the Public Security Ministry were responsible for the violence at Kollupitiya and Fort police areas which triggered violence in many parts of the country. (SF)

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New Deputy Speaker not from Rajapaksa political dynasty

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Newly-elected Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa said that he was not a member of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s clan.

The Hambantota District Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmaker said so when The Island asked him whether he, too, was a member of the Rajapaksa family now under fire over the continuing political-economic-social turmoil.

Rajapaksa polled 109 votes at a secret vote held in Parliament on Tuesday (17) to secure the Deputy Speaker’s post. MP Rajapaksa defeated Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Kaviratne, who polled 78 votes.

The SLPP rebel group members refrained from voting for Rajapaksa after the top SLPP leadership ignored their appeal to fill the vacancy through consultations with the SJB.

Rajapaksa succeeded SLFP’s Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, who quit the post twice, the second occasion after beating SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar at a secret vote.

Deputy Speaker Rajapaksha said that he had served as the Chairman of the Ambalanthota Pradeshiya Sabha in 1997. Subsequently, he became a member of the Southern Provincial Council.

Asked whether he was a resident of the Rajapaksas’ home base, Deputy Speaker said that he was from Pallerotta, Ambalantota. (SF)

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