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Wimal unfazed by loss of profit-making Lanka Phospate Co.

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… hopes new minister will sustain successful operations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader and Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa yesterday (20) said that he hoped Lanka Phosphate Company would continue to achieve success under the purview of any other ministry.

A spokesperson for NFF quoted Minister Weerawansa as having said that he wished Phosphate deposit at Eppawela would be utilised in a way beneficial to the country for generations to come.

The Minister said so in the wake of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa bringing Lanka Phosphate under Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage by way of a special gazette notification. This has been done at the expense of Minister Weerawansa.

The NFF official emphasised that the loss-making Lanka Phosphate Company had been transformed during Weerawansa’s tenure as the Industries Minister and by June 2021 the state venture recorded Rs 104 mn operating profit.

The NFF also released relevant documents pertaining to losses suffered before Weerawansa took over the Industries Ministry. Pointing out that the public sector enterprise had suffered an operating loss of Rs 80.8 mn loss in 2016/2017 financial year, the NFF said that Industries Ministry under Weerawansa’s leadership proved that bankrupt institutions, too, could be turned around.

The new administration now bore the responsibility for sustaining the successful operation, the NFF said, adding that the party expected the continuation of work undertaken by Minister Weerawansa. The NFF pointed out that Lanka Phosphate Company undertook production of organic fertiliser during an initial Covid-19 eruption and was aiming to expand its operation. Had the company achieved success valuable foreign exchange could have been saved, the party said, estimating annual expenditure on fertiliser imports at Rs 33 bn.

The phosphate project has been under the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau since its inception in 1974. Having set up a Phosphate company in 1991 and an abortive attempt was made in 2000 to sell it off to a private company, the NFF said, pointing out that since then the enterprise remained under the Industries Ministry. However, the previous government brought it under the Agriculture Ministry as the then minister in charge of portfolio Duminda Dissanayake represented the area where the Eppawela phosphate deposit was, the NFF said.

After the change of government in 2019, Lanka Phosphate Company was brought back under the Industries Ministry, the NFF said.

Minister Weerawansa explained measures taken by him to transform the loss-making venture and manage the operation in a way that brought benefits to the farming community.

He said that at the time of the issuance of the gazette they were planning to launch a new product Biogenic Microbial Phosphate as part of the overall development of the enterprise. The former JVP heavyweight denied accusations that he interfered with the management or in any other way hindered the smooth running of the operations.

The NFF said that it wouldn’t worry over the transferring of Lanka Phosphate Company to the Agriculture Ministry though some believed that the development should be examined against the backdrop of emerging differences between the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and its constituents. Minister Weerawansa last week joined seven other lawmakers to issue a statement condemning the General Secretary of the SLPP Attorney-at-Law Sagara Kariyawasam for demanding Energy Minister Attorney-at-Law Udaya Gammanpila’s resignation over hike in fuel prices.

The NFF said that the government at least didn’t inform the party of the intended change. It could have been handled in a much better way, the party said, urging the SLPP administration to be mindful of the relationship among the constituents.



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SJB complains of sexual harassment of its female MP; Speaker denies allegation

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By Saman Indrajith

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday in a statement said that an allegation made by SJB Matale District MP Rohini Kumari Wijeratne pertaining to an issue of verbal sexual harassment was not true.

Raising a point of order MP Wijeratne said that she regretted over some government MPs singing lewd songs about SJB Ratnapura District MP Thalata Atukorale while the debate on the no-confidence motion against Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila was in progress during the last sitting week of parliament.

MP Kaviratne said it was a violation of MP Atukorale’s Parliamentary privileges. “There are only 12 female MPs in this Parliament. This house is not there to criticise women or to discuss the wives or mistresses of MPs. Its objective is to make decisions on issues faced by the public,” she said.

MP Wijeratne said that she also regretted that Speaker Abeywardene’s failure to prevent a female MP being subjected to verbal sexual harassment in the House. “You have a wife and a daughter but you were sitting there laughing. “You were laughing when MP Athukorala was being verbally harassed. I as a female MP regret your silence and express my disapproval,” MP Wijeratne said.

Speaker Abeywardena said he would inquire into the allegation.

Later issuing a statement, the Speaker’s office said that MP Wijeratne’s allegation was untrue.

The statement said that there had been no occurrence of such an incident while Speaker Abeywardene was in the Chair. Therefore, the Speaker had no involvement in such an incident as alleged by MP Kaviratne. “It is regrettable that MP Kaviratne made such irresponsible remarks without perusing the Hansard and video records of parliament sitting sessions. The MP should have perused the records before making such an allegation. Without doing so the MP has made remarks misleading the public and bringing disrepute to the House,” the Speaker’s statement said.

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As COVID-19 cases rise, Minister wants all hands on deck

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Health Minister declaring open the Centre

All health workers had been vaccinated, and they had to report for work, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Minister of Health yesterday said at a ceremony to open a Covid-19 treatment unit constructed at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital.

The unit was constructed with the help of the Sri Lanka Air Force. Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana was present on the occasion.

The centre has five wards with 160 beds. The estimated cost of the construction was close to Rs. 200 million, however the Air Force was able to construct it at a cost of about Rs. 35 million.

The Minister of Health said, “As the number of patients increases, hospitals have to be maintained and hospital capacity has to be increased. The presence of healthcare workers is needed to treat people. We have given both

doses of the vaccine to everyone in the health service. Therefore, they have acquired immunity. We have also taken steps to vaccinate their family members.”

Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena, Director of Mulleriyawa Base Hospital Dr. Priyantha Karunaratne, Director of Civil Engineering Services of the Air Force and a number of Air Force personnel and health staff were present on the occasion.

 

 

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AG ’s Dept tells Supreme Court CID is probing Aranthalawa Bhikku massacre

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By Chitra Weerarathne

Senior State Counsel Dr. Avanthi Perera yesterday told the Supreme Court that the Criminal Investigation Department was investigating the 1987 Aranthalawa Bhikku massacre, where a number of Bhikkus were gunned down by the LTTE.

A Bhikku who survived the massacre filed a fundamental rights violation petition, requesting that the assailants be brought to justice.

Dr. Perera added that the investigation report would be submitted to Court on October 12, the next date of calling of the case.

The bench comprised Justice Priyantha Jayawardene, Justice Achala Wengappuli and Justice Janak de Silva.

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