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Virtual meetings for prisoners with their families with the help of ICRC

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BY CYRIL WIMALASURENDRE

KANDY – State Minister for Prisons Reforms Lohan Ratwatte said here yesterday that as prison visits had been suspended, inmates would be afforded an opportunity to communicate with their loved ones via Zoom.

The facility had been made available in six prisons of the country, including Welikada and Angunakolapelessa, State Minister Ratwatte said.

Answering media queries, State Minister Ratwatte disclosed that the now vacant Bogambara prison buildings and its land would be developed as a tourist attraction in the near future.

The buildings and the land of the old prison were so valuable that they should be made utilised for a useful project, capitalising on the arrival of  foreign tourists. The building alone was unique with many attractive features, the State Minister said.

Such development activities were carried out by the Urban Development Authority ( UDA ) , Ratwatte said, adding that investors would also be able to join in once the developments were completed.

State Minister Lohan Ratwatte addressed the media after attending a meeting with central province governor Lalth U. Gsmage at the governor’s secretariat.



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‘LIOC increases prices to cut down losses at CPC’s expense’

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Huge increase in sales volumes disastrous for Ceypetco – CPC chairman

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) Chairman Sumith Wijesinghe says Lanka IOC has increased its fuel prices by Rs. 5 a litre to curtail its losses by making its customers obtain fuel from Ceypetco fuel stations.

Wijesinghe said so when The Island sought an explanation as regards the mechanism in place to revise fuel prices and whether Lanka IOC required the government permission to do so. Wijesinghe emphasised that Lanka IOC move was calculated to discourage customers coming to its fuel stations thereby would sharply increase financial losses on the state enterprise as its fuel was highly subsidised to protect the local consumer.

“In other words, the surge in sales volumes will automatically increase losses. The same result can be achieved by increasing petrol and diesel by just two rupees, each,” Wijesinghe said.

Responding to another query, Wijesinghe pointed out that Lanka IOC clearly sought to cut down on their losses by forcing its regular customers to visit Ceypetco fuel stations. The outspoken official said that as their competitor is on record as having said that they suffered a loss of Rs. 20 and Rs.40 per ltr, on the sale of petrol and diesel, respectively, Lanka IOC strategy was clear.

Lanka IOC is a subsidiary of Indian Oil Corporation which comes under the purview of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, is the only private party that operates fuel stations here.

CPC Chief said as a result of increased volume of sales their stocks would be depleted much faster. Wijesinghe described the situation as ‘grave’ and quite a concern to cash-strapped loss making public sector enterprise.

According to him, the problem was much worse than the public realised. The Indian strategy would cause a catastrophic situation, Wijesinghe said.

Wijesinghe admitted that Lanka IOC didn’t require Energy Ministry consent to revise fuel prices. The enterprise that entered the Sri Lankan market during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s premiership in 2003 is the eighth largest listed company here.

The official stressed that urgent revision of fuel prices was a dire necessity as the overall financial situation remained precarious. Ceypetco’s network of fuel stations is much larger than Lanka IOC’s.

Lanka IOC in a statement issued Thursday night said that the selling price of petrol and diesel here remained significantly low as compared to the prices prevailing in the neighboring countries. “The prices of petrol and diesel need to be in line with the prices prevailing in the international market,” the company said in a statement e-mailed to The Island.

Lanka IOC refrained from revising the prices of Lanka Super Diesel and LP 95. The previous price revision took place on June 12.

Asked whether Ceypetco would match the Lanka IOC’s price increase immediately to counter the competitor’s strategy, CPC Chairman said that the issue at hand required a thorough examination of the full picture as they couldn’t contain the rapid deterioration of the finances unless a substantial increase was implemented.

Claiming the mounting losses were unbearable, Managing Director LIOC Manoj Gupta said that the company had increased the prices to the barest minimum. Responding to The Island queries, Gupta said that Lanka IOC didn’t require GoSL approval to revise fuel prices. According to the Indian official, Lanka IOC had been empowered by ‘virtues of previously signed agreements with GOSL to take independent commercial decisions.“

As at Oct. 21 the international price of Gasoil 500ppm was at $ 95.62/barrel and Gasoline92 $ 99.37/barrel.

The last price revision took place on June 12, 2021. However, since then the Brent crude oil prices have increased from $72/barrel to $86/barrel in the international market.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila on Oct. 15 revealed that when raised the possibility of Treasury assistance to the CPC with Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, he was told in no uncertain terms the Finance Ministry was not in a position to do so.

In the wake of simmering controversy over the fuel price hike announced by Minister Gammanpila on June 12 with General Secretary of the SLPP attorney-at-law Sagara Kariyawasam demanding the minister’s resignation, the latter declared that the revision of fuel prices was the prerogative of the Finance Minister.

Attorney-at-law Gammanpila explained that in his capacity as the Energy Minister, he only made the announcement of a decision taken at a meeting attended by both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Asked by The Island yesterday (22) afternoon whether the Ceypetco would match Lanka IOC price hike immediately, Minister Gammanpila said ‘No.’

In terms of the 2003 agreement with the UNP government, Lanka IOC has the strategically located China Bay oil tank farm, the largest such facility situated between the Middle East and Singapore. The tank farm, formerly owned and operated by CPC, has 99 tanks, each with a capacity of 12,000 litres. Of them, only 15 of these tanks are operational at the moment.

Commenting on the ongoing talks with about half a dozen countries to ensure uninterrupted fuel supplies, the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Gammanpila said that the cabinet of ministers recently approved a proposal to obtain USD 3.6 billion loan from Oman to repay in 20 years with a five-year grace period. According to him, the Omani offer had been undoubtedly the best and the government was going ahead with it. The offer now before the cabinet of ministers would give the government an opportunity to use USD 500 mn overdraft to order refined products from India.

Minister Gammanpila said that there had been other offers from China, UAE and Singapore though at the moment they were committed to Omani and Indian proposals.

Asked to explain the Indian offer, Minister Gammanpila said that USD 500 overdraft could be obtained with 4 percent interest payable in one year.

“Once settled, we’ll be eligible for USD 500 mn overdraft again.”

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Wigneswaran wants self-rule for Tamils in North and East

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

Former Northern Province Chief Minister and Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK) leader C.V. Wigneswaran said that issues faced by the Tamil people would not end until the Sri Lankan Constitution recognised the Tamil homeland and allowed self-rule for the Tamils in the North and East. “This is the only way to secure their rights and give them the freedom they deserve,” he said.

Speaking to Jaffna-based journalists, Wigneswaran said that Sinhala Buddhist leaders of the country needed to know that Tamils’s rights had to be safeguarded.

“Everyone must admit that Tamils have the same rights as everyone else in Sri Lanka. The North and East of Sri Lanka are the homelands of the Tamils.”

Wigneswaran said that it was important to raise those points at a time when a new Constitution was being drafted. He said that Sinhala Buddhist leaders of Sri Lanka had always tried to undermine the concept of a Tamil homeland.

“The war ended 12 years ago but the Army is still in the North and the East. Because they are there, the Tamils can’t enjoy all the resources that are rightfully theirs. Some lands are held by the Army and this has caused a land crisis,” he said.

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‘IPU pleased with release of MP Bathiudeen’

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MP Rishad Bathiudeen’s media office said yesterday that the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) had stated it was pleased that the parliamentarian was released on bail.

Issuing a press release, the media unit said that the IPU in its official Twitter account stated that “The IPU is pleased that Sri Lankan Parliamentarian Rishad Bathiudeen was finally released on bail following his arrest on the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The IPU will closely monitor his trial.”

Bathiudeen was arrested by the CID on 24 April 2021 under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979. He was detained for a total of 177 days before he was finally released on bail on 14 October.

“Being a Parliamentarian, the case of Rishad Bathiudeen had drawn the attention of the IPU. The IPU is an international organization comprising 179 national Parliaments and 13 regional Parliamentary assemblies from all over

the globe. Having been established in 1889, the primary goal of the IPU has been to promote democratic governance and accountability. It also has permanent observer status in the United Nations General Assembly. The IPU has considerable influence in the affairs of the United Nations and has contributed towards numerous resolutions of the General Assembly. The investigations of the IPU are still ongoing and have not been made public. It is likely the IPU would take up the case of arbitrary arrest of Rishad Bathiudeen in its upcoming session in November at Madrid, Spain,” Bathiudeen’s media office claimed.

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