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Whistleblower prevented from leaving for Dubai

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Ex-CAA Executive Director Thushan Gunawardena addresses the media in Colombo on Sunday.(pic by Nimal Dayaratne)

Lak Sathosa garlic scam:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

One-time Executive Director of Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA), Thushan Gunawardena says the Immigration and Emigration Department has barred him from leaving the country.

An irate Gunawardena alleges he is being harassed over the disclosure of a massive garlic scam at Lak Sathosa last September.

“Instead of prosecuting those responsible, expeditiously, I’m being targeted for ordering the raid that exposed the corrupt lot,” Gunawardena told The Island soon after returning home. The ex-CAA official declared he would be soon filing a fundamental rights case against the Immigration and Emigration Department.

Gunawardena said that the senior officer in charge of the Immigration and Emigration unit at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in the early hours of Saturday (22) had informed him of the instructions received in that regard. Gunawardena was to board the Colombo-Dubai Emirates flight that departed at 2.55 am, on Saturday.

Gunawardena said that a stock of 56,000 kilos of garlic that had been released by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) to Lak Sathosa, had been sold to a regular Lak Sathosa supplier at about Rs 135 a kilo. The Sathosa management had planned to buy back the same consignment at Rs 445 a kilo and then make it available to consumers at about Rs 540 a kilo. Alleging that the fraud had been perpetrated at Lak Sathosa management level, Gunawardena said the plan had gone awry due to the raid carried on information provided by an insider. Lak Sathosa had sold the stock at such a low price to a supplier on the basis of poor quality in spite of Quality Assurance clearance, Gunawardena said, such fraudulent activities were rampant though never been properly investigated.

Gunawardena said that the government owed an explanation how the Immigration and Emigration Department had thwarted his departure in spite of him carrying a valid passport. “I was told the BIA unit acted on the instructions received from their head office at ‘Suhurupaya’ Sri Subhuthipura road, Battaramulla. But, the issue at hand is as my passport hadn’t been impounded in connection with investigations into the garlic scam, there is suspicious of interested parties manipulating the Immigration and Emigration Department.”

Gunawardena said that according to a document that had been received by the Immigration and Emigration unit, he was categorized as a suspect along with five others unknown to him.

The Immigration and Emigration Department 1962 hotline in a recorded message stated that the department could be contacted only on weekdays between 8.30 am and 4.15 pm.

Gunawardena emphasized the political leadership couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for what was happening with the connivance of lawmakers and top officials. Gunawardena said that he learnt a bitter lesson having had an opportunity to serve as CAA executive. “Corruption here is nothing but a way of life. The current dispensation, despite its leaders’ pledges, has done nothing to curtail waste, corruption and irregularities,” Gunawardena said.

Responding to another query, Gunawardena said that he expected the Justice Ministry, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), the Human Rights Commission as well as the Police Commission to inquire into this matter.

Gunawardena claimed that he earned the wrath of both Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena and State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna for going public with garlic fraud. Now that the government had prevented him from attending some meetings in Dubai connected with his present employment he was seriously contemplating seeking compensation for loss of business opportunities.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has assigned the Immigration and Emigration Department to Defense State Minister Chamal Rajapaksa. The Immigration and Emigration Department is one of the 31 state institutions that come under the purview of the Defence Ministry.

The Police Department, State Intelligence Service (SIS), Registration of Persons Department, National Dangerous Drugs Control Board and the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRC) are among other state institutions coming under the purview of the Defence Ministry.

Gunawardena said that a senior management level official who had been arrested and then granted bail pending further investigations into the garlic scam was reinstated. Recalling he sent in his resignation to Chairman CAA retired Maj. General Shantha Dissanayake in the third week of Sept last year, Gunawardena said government actions couldn’t certainly be compatible with the much-touted policy statement titled Vistas of Splendor.



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Govt. allows private operators to import fuel for industries – minister

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ECONOMYNEXT – The Government has allowed private bunker fuel operators to import fuel for industries, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said on Friday, in a bid to reduce the burden on cash-strapped state-run fuel retailer Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC).

The move comes as a severe dollar shortage has reduced CPC’s ability to import fuel and meet the demand as earlier amid long motorists’ queues for fuel.

“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,” Wijesekera said in his Twitter platform.

“This will ease the burden on CPC and fuel stations providing in bulk. The meeting was held yesterday.”

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 providing in bulk. The meeting was held yesterday. pic.twitter.com/dhAonet10J

— Kanchana Wijesekera (@kanchana_wij) May 27, 2022

In April, Sri Lanka cabinet has agreed to amend the Petroleum Products Act making provisions to issue licenses to “properly identified parties” to import fuel which will end an import monopoly held by the CPC.

There was a push to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to import its own oil as the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation was unable to get foreign exchange and the power utility ran out of cash due to lack of a price increases.

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Protesters ask PM to serve justice for May 09 attack

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ECONOMYNEXT – Hundreds of anti-government protesters agitated in front of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesighe ’s office Colombo demanding justice for May 09 attack by the supporters of previous prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and immediate measures to overcome ongoing economic crisis to prevent a looming social unrest.

The youth-led groups which had been protesting near presidential secretariat and prime minister’s official residence in the heart of commercial Colombo shifted neat the prime minister’s office and shouted against the new government’s inaction against the brutal attack at unarmed and peaceful protesters by Rajapaksa supporters on May 09.

They demanded the new Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to implement the rule of law without being biased to any parties and serve the country.

Rukshan, a 25 years old protester said, as per the initial demands of their protests, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned from his position, but his successor should do his duties towards the country and the people without trying to protect corrupt politicians.

“When we started the protest back in April our main demand was to bring all Rajapaksas before justice and get all the wealth they have stolen from the common people of this country,”  Rukshan told Economy Next.

The protest started around mid-day on Thursday (26) and protesters’ route was blocked by police barricades on the main road in front of the prime minister’s office.

The protesters, however, withdrew from their positions and regrouped at a nearby road to go towards the Wickremesinghe’s office.

However, by the time the protesters regrouped, a court order was issued by the Fort Magistrate to stop the protest due to inconvenience to the public.

“Ranil Wickramasinghe should remember why he is here now. We’re not asking him to resign. He is here to do his duty towards this country and its people,” Rukshan said.

“On May 09, we were attacked but no justice has been served yet. That is the main reason we came today to the prime minister’s office,” he said.

“We still see queues for medicine, fuel, and gas. To be honest, there is no medicine in the market. No medicine for cancer patients. If you get bitten by a dog, then there is no medicine for you. They (the market) don’t have any of that.”

Wickremesinghe has been working over a new budget and discussing with international partners to ensure uninterrupted supply of essentials, officials close to him have said. However, it will take time, they say.

Rukshan said the country is running due to the state workers, who are working as they are being paid salaries after the government’s excess money printing.

“When that stops, then there will definitely be a revolution in this country,” he said.

“When a person goes to office in the morning, there is no fuel for the vehicle, or no public transport available. They get late and the salaries are being cut because of that. And when they come home, they don’t have gas to cook a meal.”

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Weerawansa’s wife gets two years for passport offence

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Her lawyers file appeal challenging sentence

Colombo Chief Magistrate Buddhika Sri Ragala on Friday sentenced Shashi Weerawansa the wife of former minister Wimal Weerawansa to two years in prison. Shashi was found guilty of using falsified documents to obtain a passport.

The Magistrate also ordered the accused to pay a fine of Rs. 100,000 in addition to the imprisonment and an additional six months of jail if she does not pay the fine.

Sashi Weerawansa is found guilty by the court for obtaining diplomatic and general passports by submitting birth certificates with forged names and dates of birth.

She had applied for a diplomatic passport in 2010 by submitting false personal information which was different to what appears in her previous normal passport that expired on May 24, 2009.

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