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Who sold urea plant? Wajira ducks Vasu’s question

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

General Secretary of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) Vasudeva Nanayakkara, MP, yesterday (20) said that the UNP had sold the urea plant at Sapugaskanda to a foreign buyer who set it up in an Arab country.Having brought the machinery as scrap iron the buyer had re-installed the machinery and today Sri Lanka procured urea from that facility, Nanayakkara said.

The veteran politician called what the UNP had done a crime by the nation. The former minister said so when The Island sought an explanation from him about his brief exchange with UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Saturday (19) during the fifth day of the 2023 Budget debate.MP Nanayakkara said that those who had sold such a valuable national asset owed the country an apology as the hapless people struggled to cope up with the ever-worsning economic-political-social crisis.

When MP Abeywardena recalled the assassination of Industries Development Minister C. V. Gooneratne about a week after he informed Parliament of an agreement Sri Lankan entered into with a US firm to produce fertiliser here, Nanayakkara asid, “Who sold the urea plant as scrap iron, please tell us?”

MP Abeywardena only said that Sri Lanka had a lot of scrap iron, which had to be disposed of. The UNPer refrained from responding to MP Nanayakkara’s query.An LTTE suicide bomber killed Minister Gooneratne along with 22 others, including his wife, at Ratmalana, on June 7, 2000.

Abeywardena entered Parliament in July this year, filling the vacancy created by Ranil Wickremesinghe’s election as the President to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksas’s five-year term.Nanayakkara alleged that Budget 2023, presented by President Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Finance Minister, on 14 Nov., had revealed that the latter’s strategies hadn’t changed. It was clear that the incumbent government was taking advantage of the current economic crisis and planning to dispose of many profit-making public sector ventures, the former minister in charge of water supply and drainage told The Island.

Lawmaker Nanayakkara quit the Cabinet after the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sacked his Cabinet colleagues Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila in the first week of March this year over their opposition to the sale of 40 percent shares of the Yugadanavi power plant to US-based New Fortress Energy.Responding to another query, MP Nanayakkara, who represented the Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya, said that its members wouldn’t vote for the Budget. The outfit consists of lawmakers who entered Parliament on the SLPP ticket and National List MP Ven. Athuraliye Rathana of Our Power of People Party (OPPP).

At the onset of MP Abeywardena’s speech, he dealt with a spate political assassinations and attempted assassinations, beginning with grenade attack on the UNP group meeting in Parliament, chaired by the then President J.R. Jayewardena, in August 1987. Having referred to the 2019 April Easter Sunday carnage, lawmaker Abeywardena asked whether Sri Lanka’s economy was being controlled by external elements. The former minister stressed the responsibility on the part of the Central Bank to work in accordance with the policies of the government, whether they were right or wrong.

MP Nanayakkara questioned who benefited from the sale of the urea plant.Geologist Dulip Jayawardena, involved in the examination of the Sapugaskanda site, said that the plant had been built in the early 80s by British firm Kellogg Overseas Corporation. Jayawardena said that the plant built over a period of nearly four years was capable of producing 980 tons of urea a day.

The State Fertiliser Manufacturing Corporation (SFMC) had been established as a wholly-owned Government entity, under the State Industrial Corporation Act of 1973, and was expected to meet Sri Lanka’s demand, the former official said.

Jayawardena pointed out how the powers that be deprived urea plants of raw material naphtha by exporting the same. According to him, international bids were called in 1986 and the plant was sold to an Indian company. Jayawardena claimed that the selling price of the urea plant that had been in operation from 1982 to 1985 was never disclosed.



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Six member committee appointed to inquire into Sri Lanka Cricket Team’s conduct in Australia

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Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Roshan Ranasinghe has appointed a six member committee headed by Retired Supreme Court Judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena to inquire into the incidents reported against some members of the Sri Lanka Cricket team that participated at the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia.

 

 

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SJB MP: Most parents have to choose between food and children’s education

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By Saman Indrajith

Most Sri Lankan parents are compelled to choose between food for their families and their children’s eduction, SJB Matale District MP Rohini Kumari Wijerathne told Parliament yesterday.

Only a few parents were able to feed and educate their children the MP said, participating in the debate on Budget 2023 under the expenditure heads of Ministries of Education and Women and Child Affairs.

“An 80-page exercise book costs Rs. 200. A CR book costs Rs 560. A pencil or pen costs Rs 40. A box of colour pencils costs Rs 570 while a bottle of glue costs Rs 150. If the father is a daily wage earner he has to spend one fourth of his salary on a box of colour pencils for his child. A satchel now costs around Rs 4,000. A pair of school shoes is above Rs 3,500. The Minister of Education knows well how many days a child could use an 80-page exercise book for taking notes. Roughly, stationery cost is around Rs 25,000 to 30,000 per child, MP Wijerathne said, adding that only Rs. 232 billion had been allotted for the Ministry of Education by Budget 2023.

“After paying salaries of teachers and covering officials’ expenses, etc., there will be very little left for other important matters,” the MP said, noting that Sri Lanka would soon be known as the country that made the lowest allocation of funds for education in the South Asian region.

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All crises boil down to flaws in education system, says Dullas

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By Saman Indrajith

All the crises Sri Lanka was beset with were due to the country’s outdated education system, MP Dullas Alahapperuma told Parliament yesterday.

“The political and economic crisis we are facing is the direct result of our education,” he said.

The Sri Lankan education system had not changed with global developments. Our system is not even geared for employment. Our examination system is antiquated and our classrooms are in the 19th Century.

However, the students belong to the 21st century. How can you cater to 21st Century children under an outdated system?” he queried.

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