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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He said that as the initial part of the trade union action, Customs officials had withdrawn from carrying out overtime duties, and if the government failed to resolve the issue, they would resort to further trade union action.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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SC judgement on petitions challenging IGP’s appointment, on July 24

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The Supreme Court is to pronounce judgement on the petitions, challenging the appointment of Inspector General of Police Deshabandu Tennakoon, on July 24.

The petitions were filed by 08 parties including His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

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Lawyers helped Kanjipani Imran & Ganemulle Sanjeeva to escape from SL – Tiran

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Kanjipani Imran and Ganemulle Sanjeeva, who are wanted by the police, were helped by their lawyers to escape from the country, Minister of Public Security – Tiran Alles has said.

He has said this during a media briefing held in Colombo today (July 18). 

The minister also stated that the police has seized drugs amounting to Rs. 19 billion as well as 955 firearms, since the ‘Yukthiya’ operation kicked off on Dec. 17, 2023.

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“Japan ready to resume suspended official development assistance projects”

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Dr. IZUMI Hiroto, the head of the Japanese delegation visiting Sri Lanka, lauded the successful completion of the country’s debt restructuring process, noting that it has paved the way for the resumption of Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) projects. 

These projects, which include several initiatives that were suspended last period, are now poised to restart, signaling a renewed phase of cooperation and development.

Dr. Hiroto highlighted that the international community’s confidence in President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s leadership is strongly reflected in the expedited success of the debt restructuring agreements. This achievement, accomplished in partnership with the Official Creditors’ Committee and the International Monetary Fund, underscores a remarkable turnaround for Sri Lanka.The high-level Japanese delegation, comprising representatives from the housing, construction, and urban sectors, met with President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat this morning (18).

During the meeting, Dr. IZUMI Hiroto highlighted the successful completion of Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring process and announced that projects under Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA), including those previously suspended, are set to resume.

The discussion also focused on new investment opportunities in Sri Lanka, emphasizing the potential for enhanced cooperation between the two nations. The delegation expressed their appreciation for Sri Lanka’s economic progress and the swift achievement of debt restructuring agreements in collaboration with the Official Creditors’ Committee and the International Monetary Fund. They praised President Wickremesinghe’s leadership in navigating the country through its financial challenges, which has restored international confidence and paved the way for renewed development initiatives.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, recalling Japan’s invaluable support during Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring process, emphasized Sri Lanka’s commitment to deepening economic cooperation with Japan across various sectors, including education and agricultural modernization. The President stressed the importance of resuming stalled projects under Japanese cooperation to further strengthen bilateral relations.

Additionally, President Wickremesinghe highlighted the critical role of the Colombo Dockyard, underscoring its significance as a key institution in Sri Lankaís maritime and industrial landscape.

The Japanese delegation noted that several projects that are currently suspended, including the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) Development Project, the Colombo Port Eastern Terminal Development Project, the Central Expressway Construction and the Digital Broadcasting Project, can be promptly restarted.

Additionally, the delegation highlighted the potential to resume the Light Railway Transit (LRT), which was halted by the previous government. They are actively assessing locations to re-implement this project, recognizing its significant potential to alleviate traffic congestion in Colombo city.

Both sides emphasized the significance of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in executing housing for low-income earners and other urban development projects. It was also highlighted that the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to promoting environmentally friendly projects and renewable energy in line with its policies and international agreements.

The Japanese delegation expressed their willingness to the President to recruit Sri Lankan graduates in the field of technology for job opportunities in Japan’s private sector. This initiative aims to improve the electricity supply sector in Japan. The delegation also highlighted the Joint Credit Mechanism (JCM), which encompasses projects designed to promote environmental sustainability by utilizing advanced Japanese technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.Chief of Presidential Staff and Senior Advisor to the President on National Security Sagala Ratnayaka, Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka H.E. Mizukoshi Hideaki, Chairman of the Board – Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) Mr. MAEDA Tadashi, Presidential Senior Advisor to the President on Economic Affairs Dr. R. H. S. Samaratunga, and the Managing Director/CEO of the Colombo Dockyard PLC Mr. Thimira S. Godakumbura, along with representatives from several leading businesses in Japan attended the discussion.

President’s Media Division (PMD)
18.07.2024

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