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COPA calls for prompt probe on unloading 102 spoiled fish containers

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The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) instructed the officials of the Ministry of Finance to immediately report the matter of unloading 102 spoiled fish containers in Sri Lanka to the Criminal Investigation Department as it appears to be a criminal matter. 

Furthermore, high officials of the Criminal Investigation Department who were present at the Committee meeting held were informed to expedite the investigation in this regard.

This was notified when the Committee on Public Accounts met recently (March 20) under the Chairmanship of Lasantha Alagiyawanna to examine the facts disclosed by the audit inquiry regarding the entry of a ship which sailed from Seychelles to Thailand with spoiled fish containers, was let into the country from the port of Colombo.

A ship carrying 102 containers of fish (over 2700 mt) from Seychelles to Thailand has suffered a technical fault near Sri Lanka. It was also disclosed that the fish had been spoiled due to the ship’s power failure. Accordingly, the Auditor-General W.P.C. Wickramaratne stated that the ship arrived at the port of Colombo on 13.01.2022 and instead of leaving following the ship’s repair many issues have arisen due to the intake of these containers to Sri Lanka.

In the event of an emergency, though certain facilities are provided at the nearest port, the Auditor-General pointed out that the decision to unload this stock of fish in Sri Lanka despite the fact that the Customs Ordinance states “the importation of rotten, odorous, disease-causing small fish, grains and other things unfit for consumption are prohibited” is deeply concerning.

As it is against the existing law of the land to unload spoiled fish in Sri Lanka, it was disclosed that the containers were landed in Sri Lanka by obtaining a new CUSDEC permit using a buyer as an importer to Sri Lanka on the recommendations of a committee consisting of senior Customs officials appointed by the Customs. The fact that it is a fraud to showcase non imported containers as imports was also discussed here. Furthermore, the Auditor-General pointed out that the date of the invoice presented as an import is marked as 10.12.2021 which is a date prior to 13.01.2022 which is the date the ship arrived at the port. The Auditor-General emphasized that it is thus problematic.

However, the Import and Export Control General stated that according to the report of the Customs Committee, on the recommendations of the Central Environment Authority, the relevant agency applied for the import of this fish for the production of organic fertilizer and the relevant permission was obtained according to the Import and Export Control Act.

It was disclosed that 4 of the 102 containers were destroyed, 43 of the remaining 98 were used to produce fertilizer, 40 were re-exported and 15 were still remaining in the country. It was also discussed that during a physical inspection conducted in July 2023, it was observed that the remaining 15 containers were oozing with an odour of rotten fish. It was also discussed that the re-export of such fish containers taken into the country stating it is for the purpose of making organic fertilizers is also problematic.

Moreover, the Auditor-General stated that the main business of the company that obtained this stock of fish to make fertilizer is salmon production which is concerning. However, the customs officials who were present stated that it is two distinct businesses and therefore, the officials testify to the fact that these fish were not used to make salmon.

The Committee Chair stated that although there is no issue in assisting a ship when it is in distress, it is clear that in this context, it is not the case. He pointed out that bringing a stock of rotten fish that no one wants to buy into the country is a serious situation and a threat to the environment and lives. Hon. Lasantha Alagiyawanna further stated that there is a doubt as to whether these fish have been used for human consumption and that there are many issues observed in this entire process.

Moreover, the Chair pointed out that though it was recommended to the Department of Import and Export Control during the COPA held on 23.01.2024 to appoint a committee consisting of all relevant institutions in relation to this incident for the purpose of conducting a field tour and report how much fertilizer has been produced, it was disclosed that the said committee was appointed after receiving the summoning letters for this meeting. The Chair of the Committee expressed his strong displeasure in this regard.

Furthermore, the Chair stated that it appears that the customs officials have been working with great interest to get the containers into Sri Lanka and thus, the same interest should be there for other activities as well.

State Ministers Mohan Priyadarshana De Silva, Diana Gamage, Chamara Sampath Dasanayake, Members of Parliament Tissa Attanayake, Isuru Dodangoda, Dr. Ms. Harini Amarasuriya, officials representing the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Finance, Department of Import and Export Control, Sri Lanka Customs, Sri Lanka Police, Criminal Investigation Department and Auditor General’s Department were present at this Committee meeting held.

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EU refutes claims of conducting election polls survey in SL

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The European Union mission in Sri Lanka has refuted claims stating that they had conducted an election poll survey in Sri Lanka.

The diplomatic mission had stated this on a X post.

Social media posts based on such a report had claimed that the National People’s Power (NPP) was leading the polls.

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Have no any fear about the constitutional amendment – President

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe urged that there should be no fear regarding the constitutional amendment.

He emphasized that when making constitutional amendments, he entrusts the responsibility to experienced professionals. He mentioned that in the past, lawyers like K. N. Choksi were involved in such matters.

However, since Mr. Choksi had passed away by the time of the new constitutional amendment in 2015, the task was assigned to lawyer Jayampathi Wickramaratne.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged that the current issues have resulted from an oversight on his part and expressed his apology to the public for it. 

He made this statement today (19) during the opening of the new court complex in Beligaha, Galle.

To enhance the efficiency of justice administration for the people of Galle, a new court complex was constructed at a cost of LKR 1600 million. The complex houses a Civil Appeal High Court, two High Courts, three District Courts, two Magistrate Courts, a Legal Aid Centre, a Community Corrections Office, a Probation Office, and a Debt Relief Board. It is fully equipped with necessary facilities for court proceedings, including administrative offices.

After unveiling the plaque and officially opening the new court complex, the President took an observation tour of the premises. 

The Galle Bar Association also presented a commemorative gift to the President.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe further stated:“I would like to extend my gratitude to Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe for overseeing the completion of this Judicial Complex. With plans to develop the area as a tourist destination, it was crucial to relocate the existing Court Complex, and I am pleased to say that this has been accomplished.

As we work to transform the Galle area into a tourist hub, we have identified locations outside the province for large hotel developments. Additionally, there are plans to move the Transport Board, Timber Corporation, Mahamodara Hospital, Nursing College, Prison and Post Office to the city centre. We also plan to build a similar court complex in the Hikkaduwa area.

The Galle District Court Complex holds historical significance. After Dutch rule, the Batavian Statutes introduced Roman-Dutch law to Ceylon, making Galle a jurisdictional centre with a judicial board, a civil board, and a land board. This marked the beginning of our judicial system. While the Galle judicial area was originally divided into the Matara and Galle districts, only the Galle district continues to operate as a judicial region.

During the Dutch period, the majority of the Land Board members were Dutch, while the minority were Sri Lankans from Ruhuna. The Sri Lankans learned the law from the Dutch and later emerged as lawyers during the English colonial period.

Over time, many Sri Lankans pursued careers in law and entered the Legislative Assembly. Lawyers became a cornerstone of the legislative system. Under the Donoughmore Constitution, they served in the State Council with significant voting power. The English system of governance was established through the Soulbury Constitution, and when India adopted a republican constitution, Sri Lanka followed suit with the English system. 

Colvin R. de Silva introduced the first Republican Constitution, while J.R. Jayewardene presented the Second Republican Constitution. Sri Lanka has a rich constitutional history and a strong commitment to the rule of law.

In 1931, Sri Lanka became the first country in Asia and Africa to grant universal suffrage. Unlike in the United States, where some states did not extend voting rights to Black people, Sri Lanka is unique for maintaining democracy continuously since then. We should take pride in this achievement. Despite facing wars and rebellions, Sri Lanka has preserved its democratic system, and democracy has remained intact despite numerous challenges.

In Sri Lanka, power transitions smoothly and without conflict after elections, a testament to the strength of our democratic process. Despite various debates and issues, democracy has never been compromised.

Some critics argue that democracy is at risk during certain crises. However, our constitution, judiciary, and political system have worked to advance and protect it. The most significant threat to our democracy occurred in 2022, yet we have continued to progress through consensus.

While Parliament remains a venue for debate, protecting democracy is crucial. The upcoming election is on schedule, with the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court confirming that it should be held within the specified timeframe, and we support this directive.

In 2015, we proposed a new constitutional amendment. Typically, I would have assigned this task to K. N. Choksi, a lawyer. However, since he had passed away, the responsibility fell to lawyer Jayampathi Wickramaratne. He was unable to make the necessary revisions. This oversight is regrettable, and I apologize to the nation for it. There is no need for further discussion on this matter; our country has upheld democracy since 1931.

Additionally, the government will fund the compilation of a book on the heritage of Galle’s history”.

Mr. Wijayadasa Rajapakshe, Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reform;

As a citizen of Ruhuna, I am very pleased to celebrate the opening of the new modern court complex in the southern province. The lawyers in the Galle area have faced many challenges, and it took approximately 12 years to complete this project due to various obstacles. Thanks to the President’s intervention, we have successfully built this impressive facility.

Despite the national crisis over the past two years, the President ensured that the judicial process continued smoothly. The new court complex has faced some political accusations, but it is important to clarify that this facility was not constructed for political purposes. Our goal is to provide better access to justice and relief to the people, as we view the court as a temple of the people.

Minister of Health and Industries Dr. Ramesh Pathirana;
Thank you to everyone who contributed to making this court complex a reality. During the country’s economic crisis, continuing the construction was challenging, but President Ranil Wickremesinghe provided the necessary financial support to complete the project. Without his assistance, this achievement would not have been possible.

State Ministers Anuradha Jayaratne, Geetha Kumarasinghe, and Mohan Priyadarshana Silva, along with Members of Parliament Vajira Abeywardena and Sampath Athukorala, attended the event. Also present were Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, Attorney General Parinda Ranasinghe, Galle District Secretary W. Dharmasiri, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Justice R. S. Hapugaswatta, High Court Judges, District Judges, Magistrates, Galle Bar Association President Ruwan Asiri De Silva, and other lawyers and government officials.

(President’s Media Division)

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Lanka Sathosa reduces prices of six essentials

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The prices of some essential consumer goods sold by Lanka Sathosa have been reduced.

Lanka Sathosa, the only state owned supermarket chain in the country, has reduced prices of six essential food items effective 19 July in order to provide relief to the public on the directives by the Ministry of Trade, Commerce and Food Security.

Accordingly, 1 Kg of Undu (bulk) which was sold at Rs. 1,500 has been brought down to Rs. 1,400 with a saving of Rs. 100. The new price of Sathosa milk powder 400 gram pack has been reduced to Rs. 910 from its previous price of Rs. 950 providing a saving of Rs. 40.

Wheat flour 1 Kg (bulk) is now sold at Rs. 180 with a price reduction of Rs. 10 from its previous price of Rs. 190. Price of White Sugar (bulk) 1 Kg has been reduced by Rs. 5 from its previous price of Rs. 265 and is now sold at Rs. 260.

The new price of 1 Kg of White Kekulu Rice (bulk) is Rs. 200 reduced from its previous price of Rs. 204 with a saving of Rs. 4. Keeri Samba Rice (bulk) 1 Kg which was sold at Rs. 260 has been reduced by Rs. 2 and now sold at Rs. 258.

(dailynews.lk)

 (This story, originally published by dailynews.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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