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Customs and Treasury clash over multimillion-rupee reward fund; 600 containers held up

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A dispute between Sri Lanka Customs and the Treasury over the Customs reward fund erupted again, this time triggering a trade union action holding up more than 600 containers at the Colombo Port yesterday.

The clash erupted after the Treasury on Thursday informed Sri Lanka Customs that the balance in the Reward Fund under the Customs Director General would be transferred to the Finance Ministry.

Customs officials have demanded that the Reward Fund be continued to be maintained by the Director General of Customs, as the funds were being used to make over-time payments and spend on training purposes, in addition to the payment of rewards for customs officials for making detections and tip-offs leading to detections.

Customs officials have justified their demand, claiming that if the reward fund is under the control of the Finance Ministry, their payments will be delayed, thereby demotivating them.

However, a senior Finance Ministry official said that under an International Monetary Fund programme, funds of 14 institutions were being brought under the control of the Finance Ministry, and, therefore, the Customs’ funds should also come under the purview of the Finance Ministry.

He said that the Customs had been given the option of retaining Rs 100 million in the Rewards Fund and transferring the rest to the Finance Ministry with the assurance that the payments would be made within a week.

The fund currently has more than Rs 700 million, and the interest also is being accumulated.

Customs Officers Association President J.G.A. Sanjeewa told the Sunday Times that they had decided to demand that the fund be kept under the Customs as some of the rewards cheques issued recently had been returned due to the lack of funds.

He said that as the initial part of the trade union action, Customs officials had withdrawn from carrying out overtime duties, and if the government failed to resolve the issue, they would resort to further trade union action.

Meanwhile, Container Operators Association President Sanath Manjula said that about 600 containers were held up outside the Colombo Port terminals, with some inside the port as well, yesterday. He noted that the Customs were currently carrying out a work-to-rule campaign and were said to be clearing only urgent cargo.

As a result, the containers are held up at the verification points, and the drivers of the trucks are facing security concerns.

Although at present no ships are said to be on hold, with Saturday and Sunday being days when berthing happens, by Monday the situation could aggravate at the terminals within the port, Mr. Manjula noted.

Customs Spokesman Seevali Arukgoda told the Sunday Times that the trade union action was affecting the activities of the port and airport, and officials were handling only the clearing of essential items. The Finance Ministry is expected to raise the issue with President Ranil Wickremesinghe tomorrow.

(Sunday Times)

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Five killed, 21 injured in accident at ‘Fox Hill SuperCross’ event

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Tragedy struck at the “Fox Hill Super Cross 2024” racing event in Diyatalawa, resulting in the death of five individuals and leaving 21 others injured, according to Police Media Spokesperson DIG Nihal Thalduwa.

The incident occurred when a race car veered off the track and collided with a group of spectators, DIG Thalduwa explained.

The 28th edition of the ‘Fox Hill SuperCross,’ organized by the Sri Lanka Military Academy Diyatalawa with the support of Sri Lanka Automobile Sports (SLAS), commenced in Diyatalawa on Sunday (21).

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Southern province governor Willy Gamage resigns

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The Governor of the Southern Province Willy Gamage has handed over his letter of resignation effective from 02 May, 2024, to the President’s Secretary.

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5 years marked since the Easter Sunday bombings

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Today (April 21) marks 05 years since the brutal Easter Sunday bombings in 2019.

All churches across Sri Lanka will observe 02 minutes of silence at 8:45 am today (21) to remember those lost in the attacks.

Several memorial events centering the St. Anthony’s church in Kochchikade and the St. Sebastian’s church in Katuwapitiya will be held.

Police spokesman DIG Nihal Thalduwa says that security has been beefed up to areas where memorial services are being held.

In 2019, a spate of bombings that took place across the country claimed 273 lives while injuring hundreds.

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