President Overturns Litro Chairman’s Removal

By Gagani Weerakoon | Published: 2:00 AM Jan 15 2022
Ceylon Politics President Overturns  Litro Chairman’s Removal
By Gagani Weerakoon

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday (14) made an inspection visit to the Litro Gas Terminal at Kerawalapitiya. President Rajapaksa, who visited the main operation centre of the terminal, inspected the process of unloading gas from the vessels and the process of storing gas.

He was accompanied by Theshara Jayasinghe, Chairman of Litro Gas Lanka Limited, Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardana, State Minister Shehan Semasinghe, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Finance Ministry Secretary S.R. Attygalle and Secretary to the Ministry of Technology Jayantha de Silva.

Shortly after the President arrived at the terminal, employees and officials of the company, who reached out to him informed that Chairman Jayasinghe had been removed from the post with immediate effect on the instruction of Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa. 

The President, who seemed as astonished as the employees, inquired from Finance Ministry Secretary Attygalle, whether the news was true. Attygalle confirmed the news. The President then instructed Attygalle to overturn the decision. 

On Wednesday (12), Attygalle wrote to Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Ltd, which owns Litro, instructing them to appoint with immediate effect, Renuka Perera as Chairman and Board Member of the Board of Directors of Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., replacing Jayasinghe. “Please take necessary action to effect this appointment,” the letter stated.

Attygalle, in the letter, said that it was Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa who instructed the removal of Jayasinghe, who was a front-liner of the ‘Viyathmaga’ organisation that backed President Rajapaksa even before the Presidential Election 2019. 

The letter was also copied to the President’s Secretary, the Prime Minister’s Secretary, Renuka Perera, and Theshara Jayasinghe, among others.

The reasons for the removal of Chairman Jayainsghe had not been stated. 

Meanwhile, Litro Surakeeme Jathika Ekamuthuwa (LSJE), holding a media briefing that evening, thanked the President for his timely intervention.

New Presidential Secretary next week? 

President’s Secretary, Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, bade farewell to his office on Friday (14). 

It was heard through the grapevine that President Rajapaksa has indicated he would like an earlier exit of Presidential Secretary Dr. Jayasundera who, according to his resignation letter, is officially scheduled to leave office on 31 January.

Jayasundera’s resignation announcement was delayed as Gamini Senarath, who is currently serving Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, was reluctant to accept the post to succeed Jayasundera.

However, sources claimed that Senarath is likely to assume duties on 19 January at an auspicious time. The much hyped Cabinet reshuffle is also likely to take place under the new Presidential Secretary.

Meanwhile, another senior SLAS officer in the Prime Minister’s Office, who has also served previously at various key institutions, including the National Police Commission, is tipped to be appointed as the Immigration Controller General. However, another SLAS officer who is currently at the Defence Ministry is also another hopeful for the same post. Both these officials have worked at the Immigration and Emigration Department at one point or another. Interestingly, Gamini Senarath, who is confirmed as next Presidential Secretary’s first appointment to the Sri Lanka Administrative Service was at the same Department.

A simple farewell party for Dr. Jayasundera was held at the Presidential Secretariat on Friday morning (14). 

SLFP set to leave the Government? 

Claiming that old alliances have ‘expired’, former President Maithripala Sirisena this week said a new alliance will be formed soon.

He added that any party looking forward to join the new alliance is free to do so. “No discussion has however been held with any political party and no decision has been taken in this regard.” 

Commenting on the decision to postpone the Local Government elections, Sirisena said the SLFP is against postponing the polls and added that there is a difference between postponements during the Yahapalana administration and now.

“The postponement of elections during the Yahapalana Government was due to the Constitutional crisis created by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,” he said adding that he was not in any manner involved with the activities of Parliament as he did not have powers in the House.

Meanwhile, Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera observed that even if those in the SLFP do quit the party, they have no intention of joining the SLPP, the Opposition or the UNP, adding that several political parties have joined the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and the next Government will be established by the UPFA.

Mahindanada’s ruined political career

While saying that criticisms of farmers regarding organic farming during Maha season are not unfounded, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage claimed that his entire political career was destroyed by trying to implement the Organic Fertiliser Policy. 

He made this remark during a meeting held with the National Federation of Farmers’ Association at the Ministry premises. 

The farmers’ representatives, during the meeting, noted that paddy harvest in the Maha season can be reduced by 40-50 per cent. Aluthgamage accepted that there could be loopholes in the organic farming programme in the Maha season. 

The farmers also said that there were several conspiracies against the organic agriculture policy. Some parties even tried to bribe farmers to convince them to give statements to the media as well, they said. 

“However, we have to overcome these loopholes. The Government has decided to import rice. I personally don’t like importing rice. However, by doing so, the price we fix for local farmers could be reduced,” the Minister pointed out. 

“By trying to implement this policy, my 32-year political career was destroyed. But since this is a policy with good intentions, I will always defend it,” he added. 

Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananada Thera felicitated

An event was held at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre to officially welcome the Thera who was appointed Chancellor of the University of Colombo, this week. 

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena were among the invitees present. 

Speaking at the event the Premier said, “It is a pleasure to be involved at an event where Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera is being felicitated following his appointment as Chancellor of the University of Colombo. The services rendered to the Buddha Sasana and this country by Ven. Ananda Thera, while continuing to be the Chief Incumbent of the Abhayarama Temple, is enormous. He is widely known for being involved with the nursing fraternity. 

We also know that the Thera continues to be at the helm of the Public Services United Nurses Union (PSUNU) since its inception. Through the PSUNU he continues to look into the rights and plight of the nursing fraternity of this country. Today the PSUNU has emerged as one of the most powerful trade unions in the health sector, thanks to his efforts. 

I must also recall the many occasions the Thera has come forward to give invaluable advice and instructions to politicians of the day, whenever the country was faced with a crisis. I also came to know that our Thera has taken measures to grant 1,000 scholarships to students for higher education. The work rendered by Ven. Ananda Thera during the signing of the controversial Indo-Lanka Peace Accord, 35 years ago, cannot be forgotten. Also it must be mentioned that whenever any person goes to meet the Thera, he never turns them away, I can vouch for this. 

Furthermore the invaluable support that I had received during my political career has to be mentioned. Whenever I met the Thera he always spoke to me on the importance of propagating the Dhamma and the sustenance of the Buddha Sasana in this country. Hence I take this opportunity to thank Ven. Ananda Thera for the assistance he has given during my political journey and also towards this Government to put it back on track. 

The work rendered by the Thera as the Chief Incumbent of the Abhayarama Temple helped us to elect Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President. But, it’s sad to say that many had forgotten the tireless work done by the Thera. I am also confident that under the stewardship of Ven. Ananda Thera the University of Colombo will go from strength to strength.”

Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera: “I have never hankered after posts. This has to be clearly stressed. I only accepted it as an honour that I thought of bestowing on the President. Hence, I take this opportunity to thank the President for appointing me as Chancellor of the University of Colombo. I also have many plans to bring this university on par with other universities both here and overseas. As part of this plan I intend to offer 1,000 scholarships from this month and urge you to grant us a piece of land to build a hostel for students. I hope that the President will consider my request and approve it shortly.” 

India assists Sri Lanka to overcome forex crisis

India has announced a US$ 900 million loan to Sri Lanka to build up foreign reserves and for food imports.

On Wednesday (12), Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal said that Sri Lanka is negotiating a one billion US dollar loan from India to import goods from the country and the negotiation had reached its advanced stage.

The Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay met Cabraal on Thursday (13) and “expressed India’s strong support to Sri Lanka in the wake of RBI extending over a USD 900 million facility over the last week.

“These comprise deferment of Asian Clearing Union settlement of over USD 509 million and currency swap of USD 400 million,” the tweet said.

1000 days since Easter Sunday carnage

Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church conducted a Special Service on Friday (14) marking 1000 days following the 21 April 2019 Easter Attack. |Colombo Archbishop, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith officiated at the ‘national prayer meditation and supplication’ with the participation of Bishops, Priests, Nuns and devotees at the open air prayer centre of the Tewatta National Basilica, Ragama at 10:00 a.m. 

The clergy marched from the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a procession to the outdoor prayer centre of the Basilica at 10:00 a.m., praying the rosary, followed by a prayer service led by the Archbishop of Colombo, who also rendered the sermon. 

“The Basilica at Tewatta has a historical significance and is a shrine where miracles have taken place. This would be a prayer service and an entreaty not only for justice to the Easter Attack victims, but also for relief to be given to the people of this country,” Media Director of the Archdiocese of Colombo, Rev. Fr. Jude Krishantha said.

Elsewhere, a hand grenade was discovered at the All Saints’ Church in Punchi Borella on 11 January. The Police Special Task Force was called to dispose the grenade.

As of now, Police have arrested four suspects in connection with the incident. One suspect, arrested by the Colombo Crimes Division over the incident, was remanded until the 25th of this month, after being produced before Colombo Additional Magistrate Rajindra Jayasuriya on Thursday (13).

Meanwhile, Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, lambasted the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Police Spokesman, and suggested that they should give up their uniforms and go home instead of sacrificing innocent people by conducting incomplete investigations. 

Speaking to the media at Bishop’s House in Borella, Cardinal Ranjith said if the Police investigations into the detection of a hand grenade at the All Saints’ Church in Punchi Borella were being conducted properly, they would realise that they were taking legal action against four innocents, including a minor. 

“If the investigating team checked CCTV footage from Tuesday (11) morning and not just from 3:00 p.m. onward, they would realise that a suspicious person had entered the church premises at around 9:52 a.m. that day,” he added. 

“The Police are not there to pander to politicians and give huge statements to the media, but to enforce law and order. Therefore, instead of conducting hasty investigations and arresting innocent people, it would be better to probe the incident more carefully,” he said. 

Cardinal Ranjith, expressing dissatisfaction with the current investigations, said similar to the action taken with regard to the 21 April 2019 Easter Attack, this too signified a conspiracy in which the innocent were the victims.

Following the criticism of the Cardinal, the IGP vowed that everyone connected to the incident will be arrested and brought before the law on Friday (14). 

Ranil meets important people

Leader of the United National Party (UNP), Ranil Wickremesinghe recently met several persons of importance at the Sirikotha, and other selected locations around Colombo.

Amongst his audience was an individual who had resigned from a government institution, involved in the trade sector, nearly a month or two ago, after making various controversial statements. He arrived at Sirikotha with several other businessmen, claiming that there no longer remained anything to hide. 

Despite being a member of the Viyathmaga organisation and a close associate of the President, he attributed his resignation to the recent revelations made regarding the corruption and fraud within the particular institution he was involved with at the time.

Moreover, a proposal citing three key issues was submitted to the UNP Leader by that individual and other businessmen present at the meeting. They claimed that although these proposals were previously submitted to the government, a response in this regard is yet to be communicated.

“It is the UNP that can build the economy of this country. Only when we spoke to him did we realise the true character of the Leader of the UNP, and that he was not, in fact, the person portrayed by the media. 

In the event a change of government takes place, these proposals could potentially be considered and later added to the National Policy Framework, UNP Deputy Chairman Ruwan Wijewardene assured.

An ensemble of vehicle importers also met Wickremesinghe and Wijewardena during the week. Conversations relating to how the Sirikotha had not been this crowded were later sparked amongst the workers in the building.

Talks of reorganising the party also took place amongst the Leader of the party, Deputy Chairman, and other members. UNP activists too, took part in these discussions on Wednesday (12).

During these discussions, the establishment of programmes for youth and the ‘young leaders’ of the party were discussed.

“Youth are now able to participate in sports and cultural activities, as the necessary facilities in this regard have been provided,” General Secretary of the party Range Bandara said, adding that selected areas will be allocated to build establishments in which youth will be able to engage in such activities.

In a similar vein, Deputy Chairman Wijewardene noted that it would be beneficial if work relating to these youth programmes set off in the last week of January, adding that a shramadana programme is being discussed as a means of getting youth involved.

“Several ideas have been proposed, we will attempt to do something new following discussions in the coming week,” Wickremesinghe said.

Later, during the week, Ranil Wickremesinghe visited the Port City at the invitation of the Chinese Embassy, and participated in the celebrations of the 65th Anniversary of the diplomatic relations between China and Sri Lanka. 

Regardless of the UNP Leader’s busy schedule over the week, however, he also accompanied his wife to watch playwright Ashoka Handagamage’s Antique Kade at the Lionel Wendt Theatre.

Speaking of the turmoil currently faced by the citizens of Sri Lanka, however, Sandith Samarasinghe made the following statement, “Local government elections were also postponed. It is unlikely that national elections will be held either, because how can they ask for votes after everything they have done.”

Questioning the current fate of the country, Vajira stated that the recent power cuts also imply that water cuts are to be expected in the future. “Now we can’t even find those who voted for this government,” he said. In a similar vein, Vice President Sagala Ratnayake added that the country is now at a point where people are unable to survive. He also questioned the Government’s plans.

“Half of the gold reserves have been sold and our global rankings are constantly dropping. The Government is simply bragging,” Range Bandara said.

In an attempt to boost public confidence, Wickremesinghe noted that the only way to rebuild the country’s economy was through a change of government, while maintaining steadfast policies. “Let us get ready for this, and get down to work this year,”  he said in this regard.

Everything set for new Session of Parliament

The rehearsal for the ceremonial opening of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament was held on Thursday (13) at the Parliament premises. Officers of the Police Cultural Division and students of the President’s Girls’ College, Sri Jayewardenepura were also present. 

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to present the Government Policy Statement in Parliament on 18 January at 10.00 a.m. in accordance with the powers vested in him by Article 33 (2) of the Constitution. Prior to this, the second session of the Ninth Parliament will be ceremonially opened under the patronage of the President.

On the instructions of the President, arrangements have been made to hold the ceremony in a very simple manner, thus there will be no gun salutes or car parades. Instead, the President will be received in front of Parliament with a cultural salute with the participation of the Police Cultural Division.

The arrival of the invited guests will take place at 9.15 a.m. The arrival of Members of Parliament will take place first, followed by the arrival of the Speaker, the Prime Minister and the President.

The Speaker and Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayaka will be welcoming the President Rajapaksa at the main steps of the Parliament building.

The Speaker and the Secretary General of Parliament will then escort the President to Parliament House along with the Serjeant-at-Arms, Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms and Assistant Serjeant-at-Arms.

The students of President’s Girls’ College, Sri Jayewardenepura will line up for the recital of Jayamangala Gatha at the main entrance of the Parliament Building in welcoming the President.

Following the presentation of the Government Policy Statement by the President, the House will be adjourned. Afterwards, a tea party would be organised for the MPs and invitees.

Foreign diplomats, former Presidents, Prime Ministers, Chief Justice, Supreme Court Justices and the Attorney General have been invited to the ceremonial opening of the second session.

Meanwhile, the party leaders decided to debate the President’s Policy Statement on 19 and 20 January.

Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena said the Adjournment Motion on the President’s policy statement will be presented by the Government. 

Furthermore, four Bills, including an amendment to the Penal Code, Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Bill, amendments to both the Judicature Act No. 02 of 1978 and Civil Procedure Code will be presented to the House on 20 January.

By Gagani Weerakoon | Published: 2:00 AM Jan 15 2022

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