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Yugadanavi deal: SJB challenges Vasu, Udaya and Wimal to leave Cabinet

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) spokesperson Mujibur Rahuman says those Ministers who challenged the sale of the Yugadanavi Plant should be either sacked by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa or they should quit the Cabinet, without further delay, if they genuinely believe the government entered into an agreement at the expense of national security.

The Colombo District lawmaker insists Ministers Vasudeva Nanayakkara (General Secretary, Democratic Left Front), Wimal Weerawansa (Leader, National Freedom Front) and Udaya Gammanpila (Leader, Pivithuru Hela Urumaya) can’t have it both ways.

Responding to The Island queries, MP Rahuman pointed out that having made submissions to the Supreme Court as regards what they called, a corrupt energy deal, they voted for the Budget and continue to serve the cabinet.  MP Rahuman said that all eight members of the DLF, NFF and PHU voted for the final vote on the 2022 Budget.

MP Rahuman questioned the rationale in them remaining in the Cabinet after having alleged that Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa manipulated the Cabinet process to pave the way for the sale and purchase agreement for New Fortress Energy Sri Lanka Power Holding LLC to acquire 40 percent of issued share capital of West Coast Power (Private) Limited.

Lawmaker Rahuman said that following the explosive statement made by JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, last Friday, after having tabled a copy of the agreement, Minister Weerawansa made a desperate bid to play down the importance of the JVP Leader’s disclosure in Parliament. The former UNP MP said that the Opposition repeatedly asked the government to table the agreement. In spite of promising to do so, the government conveniently failed to table the agreement, MP Rahuman said, pointing out that MP Weerawansa claimed that his former colleague could have received a copy from a member of the Cabinet.

The JVP leader is on record as having said that several members of the Cabinet asked for copies of the agreement from him.

The Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Ven. Elle Gunawansa, the SJB and the JVP moved Court against the Yugadanavi agreement.

MP Rahuman said that in addition to the DLF, NFF and PHU, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), with 14 members, the Communist Party, and a couple of other MPs, declared their opposition to the Yugadanavi deal. But all of them voted for the Budget, MP Rahuman said, alleging that those who opposed the US energy deal continue to defend the same government while faulting anti-Sri Lanka agreement, the SJB spokesperson said.

The main Opposition party challenged them to take a stand if they are genuinely opposed to the deal. MP Rahuman said that the Yugadanavi fiasco caused, rapid deterioration of the government against the backdrop of serious corruption charges regarding the importation of Chinese carbonic fertiliser and liquid urea fertilizer from India.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Anura Kumara Dissanayake told The Island that the Presidential Media Division (PMD) had organised a briefing for journalists recently to justify the Yugadanavi deal.  He asked whether the PMD knewthat the Chief Government Valuer P. P. D. S. Muthukumarana had given an opinion so soon in response to the Director General, Department of Public Enterprises request dated 9 and 13 July, 2021. Muthukumarana responded on July 14, 2021.

MP Dissanayake said that whatever the members of the Cabinet said for and against the Yugadanavi deal, the public couldn’t be deceived. A two-thirds majority for Budget 2021 didn’t mean a thing, MP Dissanayake said, asserting that disclosure of corrupt transactions pertaining to fertiliser imports from China and India and the Yugadanavi deal had caused a debilitating setback to the SLPP, the JVPer said.



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Professionals’ National Front opposes MILCO appointment

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… questions rationale behind Basil’s actions

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Professionals’ National Front (PNF) has questioned the appointment of Renuka Perera as the Chairman of MILCO at the expense of Lasantha Wickremasinghe, a senior member of the outfit as well as an associate of the patriotic civil society outfit ‘Yuthukama’ organisation.

The ruling SLPP accommodated ‘Yuthukama’ leader Gevindu Cumaratunga on its National List whereas Anupa Pasqual also of the civil society grouping successfully contested the Kalutara district.

PNF Secretary and its spokesperson Kapila Renuka Perera told The Island that the government owed an explanation as to why Wickremasinghe who transformed the loss making public sector enterprise in spite of severe difficulties, was removed.

At the time Wickremasinghe received the appointment following the 2019 presidential election, Milco was reported to have suffered losses amounting to Rs. 2,000 million, the PNF spokesperson said. Thanks to Wickremasinghe’s interventions and the tireless efforts of the management team, MILCO earned annual profit of Rs 400 mn regardless of significant increase in the revenue received by milk farmers, Perera said.

Responding to another query, Perera pointed out that no less a person than Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had also served as the Finance Minister till July last year emphasized the pivotal importance in transforming the public sector. Therefore, the recent removal of Wickremasinghe to accommodate Renuka Perera, the Administrative Secretary of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) was contrary to the government position articulated by the Premier, the PNF official said.

Renuka Perera received his letter of appointment from Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa on the afternoon of January 20 at the Finance Ministry.

Acknowledging that public campaigns undertaken by the PNF since its inception in 2016 helped the then Joint Opposition (JO) now represented in Parliament as the SLPP, PNF Secretary Perera said they were quite horrified by the way the powers that be behaved at a time the country was experiencing severe economic difficulties. Declaring the public had lost faith in the parliamentary system, those who were skeptical of the concerns expressed by professionals should inquire into the sharp increase in the number of families, individuals, particularly the youth seeking to migrate.

Asked whether the PNF questioned the Milco appointment as Lasantha Wickremasinghe happened to be a member of the organization as there had been a number of other controversial appointments since Nov 2019 though they largely remained silent, the official pointed out their opposition to the appointment of Milinda Moragoda as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India. “We raised the issue with the Parliamentary High Post Committee and campaigned vigorously against the former minister given such a crucial diplomatic posting. However, the political leadership thought otherwise,” the PNF spokesperson said.

Amidst the controversy, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued a statement defending Moragoda’s appointment.

The PNF official said that the SLPP Administrative Secretary being appointed as the Milco Chairman should be examined against the backdrop of a failed attempt to appoint him as Chairman and the board member of Litro Gas. However, an irate President Gotabaya Rajapaksa rescinded a letter issued by the Secretary to the Finance Ministry S. R. Attygalle in respect of the top Litro appointment. Having done so, President Rajapaksa went to the extent of inspecting the Litro’s main facility at Kerawalapitiya in the company of Theshara Jayasinghe, the incumbent Chairman.

It would be pertinent to mention that Renuka Perera lost his position as Chairman, NHDA (National Housing Development Authority) last July when former lawmaker and convict Duminda Silva moved in soon after he received presidential pardon.

President Rajapaksa brought in Theshara Jayasinghe in July last year following the controversy over Litro successfully blocking government audits even after the Auditor General and the then COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) emphasized the need for state-owned Litro to undergo state audit.

Litro hired Romesh de Silva, PC and Sanjeeva Jayawardena, PC, who is also member of the Monetary Board to represent Litro in the controversial as well as unprecedented case, parliamentary sources told The Island.

Sources said that the government audit resumed after Theshara Jayasinghe replaced Finance Ministry appointee Anil Koswatte, who called Treasury Secretary Attygalle to inquire into allegations directed at him by Theshara Jayasinghe.

The PNF official said that during yahapalana administration the grouping strongly opposed ETCA (Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement) with India as well as SLSFTA (Sri Lanka Singapore Free Trade Agreement) and high profile US MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) project as they were inimical to Sri Lanka’s national interests.

In a statement issued on January 20, the PNF also raised the appointment of Gamini Senarath as the Secretary to the President in spite of accusations as regards his culpability over the disastrous Chinese carbonic fertiliser deal that ended up with cash-strapped Sri Lanka having to pay USD 6.7 mn regardless of the rejection of allegedly contaminated fertilizer stock. The PNF spokesperson pointed out that a close relative of Gamini Senarath managed the Chinese exporter, Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co., Ltd’s local agent Chelina Capital Corporation (CCP).

However, following allegations in this regard, both in and outside Parliament late last year, Senarath issued a statement denying his involvement whatsoever in the transaction while declaring his readiness to cooperate fully in case of an investigation.

The PNF noted that the former Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, too, had allegedly interfered in liquid fertilizer imports from India and a CID investigation was underway following him complaining against the reportage of the developments.

The PNF Secretary said as many others, they, too, were disappointed with the way appointments were made under controversial circumstances at different levels. Asked whether the PNF ever contemplated moving court against unacceptable actions of the government, the spokesperson pointed out that the creation of more than 30 separate ministries in violation of the Constitution was challenged and the case was pending in court.

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Udaya sounds dire warning

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Sri Lankans would have to experience daily power cuts up to four hours a day, if Sri Lanka could not secure a substantial USD loan by March 2022, Minister of Energy, Udaya Gammanpila said yesterday.

Gammanpila said that the country should brace for any eventuality and politicians should lead by making sacrifices. The country was facing a forex crisis and a lot of other sectors would have to suffer if large amounts of fuel had to be imported to generate electricity.

“Monsoons will begin in April. When that happens we may be able to reduce the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity. It will be a struggle until then,” he said.

The only way for the country to have an uninterrupted supply of electricity is to secure a large foreign loan, the Minister said. If the country does not start enforcing daily power cuts now, there will be a crisis in the coming months, he said.

“Is it not better that we implement one and a half hour cuts from now itself rather than moving onto four-hour power cuts later? Should we starve for 28-days after stuffing ourselves from star-class hotels for two days? Or should we rather cook the meals at home?” the Minister asked.

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PHIs threaten to pull out of duties at BIA

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) yesterday threatened to withdraw from the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) because a large number of foreigners arriving in the country do not adhere to health guidelines.

PHIs’ Union head Upul Rohana said that six of their members who were working at BIA had tested positive for coronavirus recently.

“A lot of foreigners and Sri Lankans who come from abroad seldom adhere to health guidelines. Often they do not wear masks. Thus, they are putting health workers and other staffers at risk. PHIs are compelled to communicate with almost everyone. This is a dangerous situation and we had repeatedly told health superiors about this,” he said.

Rohana said that PHIs at the BIA operated with minimal facilities. They did not have adequate restrooms and some powerful health sector unions had ensured that PHIs had to work under difficult circumstances.

“They have to stay in cramped spaces. So, if one PHI gets COVID, a lot more would be infected. This is a serious development. We again urge health officials to look into this. If nothing is done, we will leave our stations at the BIA,” he said.

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