YAHAPALANA AS A PUPPET REGIME Part 13 (A)
Posted on October 16th, 2019

KAMALIKA PIERIS

LAND GRAB IN RAMSAR SITE

A request has been made to release five acres of land from the Vankalei sanctuary, on the left side of Mannar Bridge, for the construction of a park. The request was made by the Project management unit of the Taskforce on the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).  It is Rishard Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry & Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Co-operative Development, Vocational Training & Skills Development, who is keen on getting the five-acre plot,  said the media.

The proposed land belongs to the Department of Wildlife and is part of the Vankalei sanctuary designated in 2008 for the protection of birds. It is a Ramsar site. Ramsar Convention on Wetland protects wetlands that serve as critical habitats for migratory birds. Sri Lanka presently has six sites designated as Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance.

The purpose of declaring a sanctuary is to limit human activities in the area. Therefore the proposed park contradicts this.  An increase in human activities can disturb birds’ behavior and alter the natural environment. The resulting noise pollution, air pollution, and water pollution could degrade the environment.  Proposed night activities might also enhance adverse effects.

Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (Amendment) Act of 49 of 1993 says any development activity within one mile from the boundary of any national reserve is required to be subjected to Environmental Impact Assessment or Initial Environmental Examination and written approval must be obtained from the Director-General, Department of Wildlife Conservation prior to project implementation. Centre for Environmental Justice has urged the Minister of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Affairs to refrain from releasing the said land for a park. (Island 17.9.19 p 1). 

COUGH SYRUP

Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE)   found that in 2016 an imported cough syrup” which should have been tested on animals before release to the market has, instead, been tested on a group of patients who had sought medical treatment from the Ayurvedic Teaching Hospital, Colombo. 

A private company had supplied the cough syrup to the Institute of Indigenous Medicine. The cough syrup should have been tested at several stages before being released to the market and approval obtained from the Ethics Committee. A professor representing the Ethics Committee had been working as a director of the private company that supplied the cough syrup to the Institute. The cough syrup was tested, in 2016, on patients who sought treatment at the Ayurvedic Teaching Hospital, Borella. Advertisements and promotional campaigns had been conducted to promote the syrup, stating that it had been clinically approved by the Institute.

Director of the Institute of Indigenous Medicine admitted when questioned by COPE that this had indeed happened and that a committee was appointed to look into the matter. COPE then ordered a Ministry investigation in parallel with the Institute’s committee inquiry.

IMPORTING WASTE (1)

Several thousand tonnes of plastic waste (HS number 3915) had been cleared through the Customs during the past two years, said Gomi Senadhira, former Head of trade. He was not referring to the ‘stinking garbage containers rotting in the port’ but to the thousand tonnes of plastic waste (HS number 3915) which were imported and cleared through Customs during the last two years. Sri Lanka imported over 5000 tonnes per year of plastic waste from Pakistan, during the last two years, he said. Exact numbers were 5,914 tonnes in 2017 and 5,082 tonnes in 2018.

Importing plastic waste will drastically increase during the next few years, Senadhira said. China was the world’s largest importer of plastic waste. That accounted for almost 50% of the global imports or over 500,000 tonnes per month. In July 2017, China notified the WTO that she would forbid the import of plastics waste. India and Thailand have also announced bans on the import of plastic waste. Malaysia has tightened requirements for import permits, continued Senadhira. Plastic waste now has nowhere to go. The exporters are searching for new dumping grounds.

In 2016, Singapore exported almost 42,000 tonnes of plastic waste to China, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. With the Chinese ban looming, Singapore was looking for dumping grounds. It was at this time that SLSFTA was signed. Senadhira Thinkswe have agreed to import waste in the Singapore FTA.

“When I raised my concerns, I also pointed out there were many provisions in the SLSFTA to import and process plastic and other hazardous waste from Singapore. Those were simply shrugged off by the politicians and the trade officials, said Senadhira. They claimed that Sri Lanka had included those items in the FTA with Pakistan but there were adequate safeguards to stop such importation of waste & garbage to Sri Lanka. However, plastic waste was already coming in from Pakistan.

IMPORTING WASTE (2)

The proposal to have three waste-to-energy (WTE) plants in Karadiyana, Muthurajawela and Aruwakkalu, a sanitary landfill in Aruwakkalu  and an industrial incinerator in Muthurajawela cannot be seen as isolated proposals. Sri Lanka does not produce that much of burnable waste to use in that many WTE plants.  These WTE plants need at least 4000 Mt/day, but we produce less than 500 Mt/day burnable waste in Sri Lanka. These plants are probably made ready to burn global waste.

IMPORTING WASTE (3)

Five more of the 111 mystery containers from the United Kingdom lying at the Colombo Port have been found to have hazardous waste. Colombo Metal Industries and ITL Colombo Limited had used their licences to import hazardous waste. Director, Customs said that they wanted to send the containers to the UK and were waiting for the verdict of the Court of Appeal.

STORING RICE AT MATTALA AIRPORT

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry investigating alleged corruption in the current administration (PCoI) has summoned Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to appear before it, to be questioned on the decision to store paddy at the Mattala Airport in 2015. This was because the former head of the Paddy Marketing Board Dissanayake told the Commission that the Prime Minister personally instructed him to store paddy at the Mattala Airport.

Dissanayake added that Minister Daya Gamage called me frequently. He told me that they had promised to store paddy at the Mattala Airport and that the Cabinet had approved a decision to store 4,000 metric tons there.” Charitha Ratwatte, senior advisor to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also played a role in this initiative.

Dissanayake said that he had held a series of meetings with the officials of the Mattala Airport in 2015 to explore the possibility of storing paddy there during the next harvesting season as there wasn’t sufficient space in PMB’s stores. Mattala Airport officials turned down the request saying that the buildings around the runway contained valuable equipment. However Dissanayake had rented the Mattala premises for six months but rent initially for three months only. Mattala Airport officials were not aware of the decision to store paddy at the Airport until we went and took over the keys to the buildings, he said.

Manager of the Mattala Airport told the Commission that around 23 aircraft had landed at the airport after the opening of the airport. But the Yahapalana government put rice stores into the airport and planes stopped coming. Mattala was getting around Rs 40,000 as income and this fell to Rs 900 thereafter.

They also said that the world’s largest cargo aircraft, the Antonio An-225 Mriya, had landed at Mattala Airport on April 2018, to refuel and allow its crew to rest. This brought in revenue of nearly Rs. 15 million to the airport. Police officers assigned to the Commission had visited Mattala Airport and inspected the premises. They found that storing paddy inside the buildings had caused damage estimated at around Rs. 5 million.

FLAMINGO DUTY-FREE SHOP

Presidential Commission of Inquiry investigating corruption in the current administration was told that Four shops in departure and arrival sections of the Bandaranaike International Airport had been vacant. We needed two operators to handle them, said Director Procurement, Civil Aviation Ministry. A Cabinet paper was submitted to select a suitable service provider who deals with liquor, cigarettes, toiletries, and fragrances.

We received five bids. We then appointed a five-member TEC to check tender documents. One of the main criteria set by the TEC was that the particular company had to submit its certificate of liability with tender documents. Flamingo Duty-Free Company did not submit this certificate. However, TEC had approved the tender document submitted by Flamingo Duty-Free Company without their certificate of liability. All the bids were submitted to the Cabinet appointed Procurement Committee and Flamingo was selected.

PAYMENT TO LIVERPOOL NAVIGATION”

Former Chairman of Lanka Sathosa, Kiran Atapattu, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI), investigating alleged corruption in the current administration, that Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and his public relations officer, Abdullah had applied pressure on him to make an illegal payment of Rs. 549 million to Liverpool Navigation (Pvt.) Ltd in July 2015. The owner of Liverpool Navigation is a close personal friend of Bathiudeen, (Island3.10.19 p 1) 

A large quantity of rice was imported, in April 2015, and they were brought to Sri Lanka in over 1,600 containers. “The shipment arrived, on April 10 and due to Sinhala New year delay, the shipping companies demanded demurrage––a charge payable to the owner of a chartered ship on failure to load or discharge the ship within the time agreed,” We have to pay demurrage to shipping companies and the payments were prepared.

 However, on July 27, 2015, Liverpool Navigation (Pvt.) Ltd, who had acted as a clearing agent, also sent Atapattu a bill for Rs. 549 million, which they had no right to do. I rejected Liverpool Navigation’s request.  Minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s public relations officer, Abdullah and the Minister himself had pressured him to pay. Atapattu had refused.

He had fallen ill. During his absence, the Ministry Secretary was appointed the Chairman of Lanka Sathosa. On August 08, 2015 Miyanwala approved a payment of Rs. 100 million to Liverpool as demurrage for shipping companies. ( Island3.10.19 p 1 )  on March 05, 2018 the legal officer of Lanka Sathosa had sent a letter of demand to Liverpool saying that in 2015 alone they had paid the company Rs. 1.2 billion. However, Liverpool had only settled bills amounting to Rs. 981 million. “The legal officer asked Liverpool about the balance Rs. 267 million.” (Island 3.10.19 p 1) (Continued)

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