PCoI witness complains of intimidation
Posted on April 2nd, 2019

By Rathindra Kuruwita Courtesy The Island

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing allegations of large scale corruption under the current government instructed the police unit attached thereto to investigate an attempt to intimidate witness Amal Suriyage of the Lammermoor Estate in Maskeliya by some officials of the Ministry of Rural Economic development and the Foresight Engineering Pvt. Ltd, the local agent for Wellard Rural Exports Pvt. Ltd., Australia.

Suriyage is giving evidence on the questionable import of high-yielding cows in 2017; the Ministry of Rural Economic development signed an agreement to import 20,000 cows from Wellard Rural Exports Pvt. Ltd., Australia. Suriyage and a number of dairy farmers have made startling revelations about the quality of the imported cows.

Suriyage was giving evidence before the commission, yesterday, when he was informed that 12 persons, including four from the ministry and seven from Foresight Engineering, had forcibly entered the farm, inspected the premises and taken footage of the farm a few hours earlier. A supervisor of the farm informed Suriyage that the veterinary officer for Maskeliya, Dr. Suresh Kumar had led the team. Kumar later told Suriyage that the Ministry officials had informed him that they were acting on the instructions of Minister, P. Harrison.

Suriyage told the PCoI that officers from Foresight Engineering had entered the farm illegally on a number occasions. “They are trying to silence me. We have instructed our workers not to allow people without permission, but, yesterday, they opened the gate because Kumar was with the group. Nimal Perera, Media Officer of the ministry was also with those who entered the farm. So it’s obvious that they are not there to treat the animals. I ask the commission to protect me from attempts made by the government to intimidate me.”

Additional Solicitor General (ASG,) Ayesha Jinasena, who led the evidence, requested the commission to act according to the powers vested in it under the Commission of Inquiry Act and Assistance to and Protection of Victims’ of Crime and Witnesses Act and ensure the security of the Witness.

Chairman of PCoI retired Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne said that it seemed that the ministry officials and those from Foresight Engineering Pvt. Ltd were attempting to intimidate their witness. “Therefore we order the Police Unit attached to the PCoI to start an investigation within the day into this incident. We also order the secretary of the commission to inform the National Authority for The Protection of Victims of Crimes and Witnesses about what has transpired,” Abeyratne said.

Earlier it was revealed that a number of cows procured by Lammermoor Estate as a part of the subsidised scheme had a number of diseases that were not found in Sri Lanka and Suriyage had to treat them with expensive medicine.

Suriyage, who started giving evidence, last week, said that the government had distributed 3,030 substandard imported Australian cows among 46 investors and dairy farmers who had taken part in a subsidised scheme to introduce high-yielding imported cows, in 2017. He said that the Ministry of Rural Economy had informed the investors that those pregnant cows would produce 20 litres of milk a day on average and had advised some of the investors, who were already raising cows to get rid of the Sri Lankan cows that they already had. The investors paid Rs. 200,000 per cow and the government contributed Rs. 265,000. A number of cows had died, while a number of calves had been aborted or were stillborn, Suriyage said.

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