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Tourism Minister orders Airport and Aviation Services to assess damage caused to MIA

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Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday instructed the officials of the Mattala International Airport and Airport and Aviation Services to assess the damage caused by storing paddy at the former by the previous administration and provide a report within a week.

Ranatunga instructed officials at a meeting at the ministry where the future of the Mattala International Airport was discussed.

Earlier unions had informed the Minister that the Airport and Aviation Services officials had not conducted a proper assessment of the damage caused by storing paddy in 2015. Airport and Aviation Services too had admitted that a proper assessment had to be carried out, the Minister said.

Last year, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating corruption in the yahapalana administration found that storing of paddy inside the buildings had caused damage estimated to be around Rs. 5 million. It was also found that the Paddy Marketing Board had paid Airport and Aviation Services Ltd Rs. 835,132 a month for storing the paddy. The paddy was stored for six months.  

Ranatunga said that the previous government wanted to destroy the Mattala Airport and that since November 2019; the current administration has been trying to revitalize the institution.

However, an earlier PCoI on irregularities at SriLankan Airlines, SriLankan Catering and Mihin Lanka, was informed that SriLankan lost USD 14.04 million between 2013 and 2015 as it was compelled to fly to and handle flights at the Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport. Head of Revenue Management and Planning at SriLankan, Sumudu Upatissa added that the airline had incurred a loss of USD 10.1 million during that period as it had to fly through Mattala. The airline lost another USD 3.94 million for providing various services at the airport.

 

 

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Special COVID-19 probe crippled by infections among CCD sleuths: AG calls for new police team

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Brandix Apparel Limited yesterday (29) said that the company would fully cooperate with relevant authorities in the investigation ordered by the Attorney General (AG). A spokesperson for the company said so when The Island sought a clarification with regard to AG Dappula de Livera, PC, directing the police to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged lapses on the part of the company as well as those officials leading to the devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

The Minuwangoda eruption, which happened in the first week of October is widely believed to be the cause of the fast expanding Peliyagoda cluster.

Asked whether the police had contacted the Brandix management as regards the investigation and sought access to Brandix management and workers at its Minuwangoda apparel manufacturing facility as well as records at the Minuwangoda facility, the spokesperson said: “We will work with the relevant authorities in this regard”.

The Colombo Crime Division (CCD) tasked with the probe has suffered a serious setback due to a section of its officers being tested positive for COVID-19. Authoritative sources said that the CCD lacked sufficient strength to carry out the investigation.

AG de Livera early this week told DIG Ajith Rohana that a progress report should be submitted to him by or before Nov. 13.

Sources said that the badly depleted CCD was not in a position to conduct the high-profile investigation, in addition to other ongoing inquiries. The AG has directed the Acting IGP to constitute a special team of law enforcement officers to conduct the investigation. Sources acknowledged the urgent need for a thorough inquiry into the far worse second corona wave. Sources said that the AG issued fresh instructions in that regard after the crisis in the CCD was brought to his notice.

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Most garment workers under self-quarantine left to fend for themselves

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of garment workers who were undergoing self-quarantine in Minuwangoda did not receive any assistance, Chamila Thushari of the Dabindu Collective, a labour organisation that works with garment workers, told The Island yesterday.

She said that those who were under self-quarantine did not have money to purchase food and even those who were willing to help could not reach them.

“Some of them have received food parcels from their work places but that is not adequate. Most others have not received any assistance. Matters will only get worse after curfew is imposed throughout the Western Province,” Thushari said.

Most of these workers are undergoing self-quarantine at their boarding places, which also house individuals who still work in garment factories. “Although there is a curfew, they can go to work. These are perfect incubators for the virus,” she said.

Thushari said that every day between 20-30 workers under self-quarantine, tested positive for COVID-19.

There were no public health inspectors to monitor the boarding houses of garment workers to ensure that COVID-19 prevention measures were being followed, she said.

“Not even Grama Niladaris visit them,” Chamila said.

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SJB requests separate seats for its dissidents

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Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has written to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena requesting him to make arrangements to provide separate seats to the nine MPs who had voted with the government for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution recently.

The letter dated yesterday said that the SJB parliamentary group had decided to expel MPs Diana Gamage, A. Aravind Kumar, Ishak Rahuman, Faisal Cassim, H. M. M. Haris, M.S. Thowfeeq, Nazeer Ahmed, A.A.S.M. Raheem and S.M.M. Musharaf and it requests the Speaker to make separate seating arrangements for these MPs in the Chamber.

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