Agro sector mess: Govt. cannot absolve itself of responsibility by sacking Secy. – Opposition
Posted on December 24th, 2021

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) has called for a thorough inquiry into the conduct of sacked Agriculture Secretary Senior Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe by Auditor General W.P.C. Wickramaratne and other relevant authorities.

Matale District lawmaker Rohini Kaviratne on behalf of the SJB said that the truth couldn’t be suppressed by sacking Prof. Jayasinghe. Accusing Prof. Jayasinghe of importing liquid nano urea from India at a cost very much higher than in the Indian market in the wake of a stock of Chinese carbonic fertiliser being rejected, MP Kaviratne alleged that the sacked official was the main culprit.

Prof. Jayasinghe said that he was quite surprised by the SJB’s allegations. I have absolutely no idea why the Opposition directed a spate of accusations at me,” Prof. Jayasinghe said, adding that he, too, wanted to know what he did wrong and why. When pointed out the SJB held him responsible for ruination of the agriculture sector, Prof. Jayasinghe said that he would like to know how he achieved that in less than six months.

Prof. Jayasinghe was appointed the Agriculture Ministry Secretary in early June this year. At the time he received the appointment, Prof. Jayasinghe served as the Vice Chancellor of the Wayamba University. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa replaced Prof. Jayasinghe with D.M.L.D. Bandaranayake this week.

The former UNPer said that the government should explain the appointment of five Secretaries to the Agriculture Ministry since the last presidential election in Nov 2019.

Making a reference to the Secretary of another ministry owning property in Australia, lawmaker Kaviratne said that the government couldn’t address the issue by sacking the Agriculture Ministry Secretary.

MP Kaviratne said that Prof. Jayasinghe questioned the role played by Ven. Atureliye Rathana and President of the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya in promoting carbonic fertilizer though he was actually the main person who promoted the interests of those private companies engaged in fertilizer imports.

MP Kaviratne pointed out that having declared in May 2021 what the government called a green agriculture development strategy, the Agriculture Ministry in June 2021 called for global bidding for organic fertiliser. Subsequently, on August 11, 2021 the Agriculture Ministry named the Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co., Ltd. as the supplier of 99,000 metric tons of carbonic fertilizer to Sri Lanka, MP Kaviratne said.

Responding to another query, MP Kaviratne emphasized that the government couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for the opening of a Letter of Credit and the immediate shipping of the first consignment even before the National Plant Quarantine Centre (NPQC) cleared the test samples. Referring to a statement issued by the Chinese company dated Oct 26, 2021 that dealt with the fertliser crisis, MP Kaviratne said that the supplier quite clearly acknowledged that the NPQC received product samples the same day (Sept 23, 2021) China shipped the organic fertilizer.

MP Kaviratne said that a wider investigation was required to expose all those who had profited immensely at the expense of the country. The outspoken MP said that China went to the extent of blacklisting People’s Bank in the wake of the issuance of an enjoying order by the Commercial High Court of Colombo in respect of the payment for the rejected stock of fertilizer.

The SJB MP urged those responsible to investigate why over a month after the government did away with the ban on agro-chemicals not a single product had been imported. Who got the Registrar of Pesticides removed and why, MP Kaviratne asked, warning the government that once President Gotabaya Rajapaksa opened the new session of Parliament on January 18 the Opposition intended to raise that issue.

The ruination of the agriculture sector couldn’t be blamed on the recently sacked Secretary alone, the MP said. She pointed out that the prorogation of the Parliament soon after the passage of the Budget for 2022 had been influenced by the devastation in the agriculture sector as a result of hasty abolition of agro-chemical use, the Yugadanavi betrayal, the deteriorating balance of payments crisis and the rising cost of living.

Having promised political stability and security, the incumbent dispensation had mercilessly destroyed every sector, MP Kaviratne said, the political leadership should accept the blame for the fertliser crisis.

The MP alleged that an Acting appointment had been made after the removal of the Registrar of Pesticides Dr. J.A. Sumith to pave the way for a certain company to receive the agro-chemicals tender. The SJB lawmaker urged the government to come clean on the issues at hand.

Responding to questions, MP Kaviratne said that the government couldn’t divert public attention from the CID recording statements from several persons, including the Editor of ‘Aruna’ Mahinda Illeperuma regarding the accusations directed at Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the President as regards the opening of an account at a particular branch of the People’s Bank to pave the way for nano urea imports from India. She pointed out that Gamini Senarath, Secretary to the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, issued a statement following various allegations made pertaining to carbonic fertiliser imports from China.

The MP pointed out that the government had so far refrained from giving any specific reasons for Prof. Jayasinghe’s removal.

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