The Sunday Leader

Switching Off Millions Of Public Funds

  • Another deal of the former Rajapaksa regime exposed

By Nirmala Kannangara

Financial losses incurred by the country during the former Mahinda Rajapaksas regime are now being revealed. One such incident that has recently surfaced is how the long planned project on the conversion of analog radio and television broadcasting technology into the digital technology system was to be adopted from Japan allegedly for personal benefits.

The former Rajapaksa regime when opening the Kokavil tower in the Northern Province in 2011 assured that Sri Lanka would be adopting the European DVB-T2 television standard, which had already been implemented in most countries in the world. According to radio and television broadcasters in the country, adopting the DVB-T2 method will reduce the cost on television stations and provide better reception for local television viewers. Despite the pre-planned European adoption system, the sudden decision allegedly taken by the Rajapaksa regime to adopt the Japanese technology – ISDB-T after the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister to the country last year, not only raised eye brows in those in the radio and television broadcasting sphere but, later came to light how a son of a VVIP in the previous regime was to be benefitted through the much controversial Japanese technology.

As a result, without holding discussions with the parties concerned and taking their view into consideration, the government of Sri Lanka had allegedly entered into an agreement with the government of Japan to adopt the ISDB-T technology to this country as the Japanese Government had agreed to provide a soft loan amounting to Yen 13 billion through Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) for digitalization of terrestrial television broadcasting. This loan agreement was signed at the Ministry of Finance and Planning on September 23, 2014 by then Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera and Kiyoshi Amada, the Chief Representative of JICA.

Before signing the aforementioned agreement, the then opposition MP, Dr. Harsha de Silva raised this issue in parliament on September nine, 2014 and queried as to why the Japanese system was selected haphazardly when a national roadmap team comprising members from the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC), Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, University of Moratuwa and representatives of private TV channels together with the International Telecommunication Union made a roadmap and selected the DVB-T2 system which had been adopted in most of the countries in the world.

According to highly reliable sources from among engineering experts in radio and TV industry in the country, the DVB-T2 system is the most sought after system in the world where it had been deployed in 36 countries and is to be adopted in another 37 countries in the world while, the Japanese ISDB-T system is to be tried in Sri Lanka as a test bench (test run).

“The Japanese technology has been implemented in nine countries and to be adopted by 15 countries.

Thailand and South Africa first adopted the Japanese technology but later switched on to DVB-T2 because of the failure of the Japanese technology”, sources who wished to remain anonymous told The Sunday Leader.

According to our sources, if the European technology is adopted, Sri Lanka can be covered with less frequency and the remaining frequencies could be sold for telecommunication purposes which would be an additional income to the country. “In the event the Japanese technology is adopted, minimum eight frequencies is needed to cover the entire country.”

Sources further added, “Since all private radio and TV channels became so vociferous wanting to adopt the European technology for greater benefits to the country and its people, the Japanese were lobbying to get their support and was offering various incentives including free holidays to Japan for those who were against the Japanese technology. There were a few who grabbed these incentives but the majority refused to accept any benefits.”

According to sources, although it was a big question as to why the Rajapaksa regime informed the industries concerned that the government had decided not to adopt the long planned European technology and instead have decided to accept the Japanese method as the best option to the country, it was later revealed how a son of a VVIP was going to be benefitted heavily by adopting the Japanese technology.

“They were not interested on how the country and its people are to be benefitted by implementing the European technology but they were interested in looking after themselves. When we switched on to the digital system most of our TVs are old and do not support digital signals and the additional hardware in the form of set-up-boxes have to be connected for the old TVs to be compatible to support the digital signals.

These set-up-boxes for the European method does not cost more than US$ 12 per one unit while for the Japanese method a set-up-box costs around US$ 40 which the difference is more than US$ 28 which is around Rs.4,000.

The reason why the previous regime wanted to switch on to this Japanese system was that a company owned by this VVIP’s son was to get the sole authority to import these costly Japanese set-up-boxes to the country and was alleged to have another plan to become the sole agent for all TVs imported with in-built set-up-boxes in future,” sources alleged.

Sources further stated as to how the then government planned to adopt this Japanese method by taking the soft loan amounting to Yen 13 billion (approximately US$ 108 million) when the European technology cost was approximately US$ 35-40 million.

“Out of the Japanese loan, Yen 3 billion was to be used to build a studio and an outside broadcast system for Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and the rest for the implementation of the ISDB-T system. Together with is another soft loan agreement was signed to construct a flyover from Pettah to Peliyagoda through Kollupitiya to connect to the Katunayake Highway.

This flyover has two entrances from Kollupitiya and Borella. As the country now knows that commissions were taken from each road project, the previous regime knew that it was yet another good opportunity for them to make a few more millions in the form of commissions to be pocketed and without considering the impact to the country announced their plan to adopt the Japanese technology instead of the European,” sources claimed.

They further queried as to why the former regime wanted to adopt the costly Japanese project when the country could have saved US$ 60 million by getting the European technology.

Meanwhile, sources also said how the Japanese had wanted to introduced NTSC system to Sri Lanka when they gifted Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation.

“When the Japanese gifted us the Rupavahini Corporation they proposed to introduce the NTSC system. Had we got the NTSC system, we would have to buy TV sets with the American standard which is extremely costly. Knowing what would happen if the country opted for the NTSC system the then Director Engineering, Rupavahini Corporation Rukman Wijemanne and Head of Engineering, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Mr. Buwel had opposed to the NTSC system and wanted the Japanese to give the country the PAL system which is what is currently being used. Japan has been a good friend of Sri Lanka over the years but when it comes to these issues, they want to make this country a test bench,” sources added.

According to sources, the fall of the previous regime in January this year was a blessings in disguise for them as when this brought this to the notice of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, he had immediately appointed a Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) comprised of selected members who has the knowledge in this seeking a report to find out what the best technology for the government would be.

“If not for the change of government, the Rajapaksas would have already implemented the Japanese technology in the country by now. Because of the fall of the previous regime, the project is now at a standstill and once the report is submitted to the Prime Minister, we are sure that the European standard would be implemented which is also a less burden to the country,” sources said.

Sources further said that the newly appointed TEC Committee had asked the Japanese to show their technology as well as a request had been made to a German company through the German Embassy in Sri Lanka to demonstrate on the European Standard and to show their technology as well in order to submit the recommendations to the Prime Minister to decide what technology is the best to be adopted here. Meanwhile, Chairman, Telshan Network, Shan Wickremesinghe said that it is better to move forward with the analog system than converting it to digital system  in the country.

“Once it is converted to digital people have got to spend money to buy a set box to view the programs. This will cost them. If the country adopts the Japanese system the set box is much expensive than that of the German set boxes,” Wickremesinghe.

According to Wickremesinghe, after the fall of the previous government, TV Engineers who were really concerned about the change of conversion had informed the government that the Japanese system is not good for the country and the German system which had been used in many countries in the world has to be adopted by Sri Lanka as well. Hence the government appointed a committee in which he too is a member to check what the best system to the country is.

“When we asked the Japanese to show us a trial, with about 20 members, they presented it to us. What I understood was that they were well prepared for it and had better coordination that that of German group. The German group is now in the process of doing their presentation and we are planning to submit the report in two weeks,” Wickremasinghe said.

Minister of Parliamentary Reform and Mass Media Gayantha Karunathilake also confirmed that a committee had been appointed to select what the best Technology that could be adopted in Sri Lanka. “Once the committee report is submitted the final decision will be taken according to the recommendations,” Minister Karunathilake said.

Director General TRC, Sunil Sirisena said that it is prtemeature for him to say as to whether it is the Japanese technology or the European technology that is the best to Sri Lanka.

“It is the government that has to take a decision in this regard but not the TRC. We have not negotiated with any of these two parties,” Sirisena said

 

8 Comments for “Switching Off Millions Of Public Funds”

  1. I Udarath Wanigasekara

    A Technical Evaluation Committee have to decide

    • Many more MR Jillmall will come up in the future, the MR&CO was not bothered what happens to the poor people who are unable to make ends meet, their main motive whether father, brothers , sons or wife was to grab as much wealth as possible. I fail to understand what are they going to do with millions or trillions in Banks all over the world, MR, GR & BR dont have many more years to galavent, only the Three scoundrals are there to fight among themselves & splash extravagently & finish the Bank also. Easy come, Easy go.

      • Hangman

        Behind all these people is the infamous PBJ who was barred from holding any government job. Will he be taken to task for all the corrupt activities.

  2. TONY

    ME DID EVERYTHING FOR THE BENEFIT OF HIMSELF AND HIS IMMEDIATE FAMILY, DISREGARDING COUNTRY’S INTEREST

  3. suren

    The innocent public are sick with what MR regime had done in the past. Please expose all their corrupt deals and punish every one of his family and friends. This talking is not going to help the people or the Country. The only stumbling block is that the “Yahapalanaya” too have a lot of similar scavengers,awaiting like swine to pounce on public funds!

  4. investigation was a eye washed. billions and billions was corrupted scams, nepotism. by mr Rajapaska former president and his brother mr Gota. no action by the attorney general department. CID it is a waste of time and money,i the case of ordinary citizen he will be in jail by no time, minister of justice mr W,Rajapaska was behind the culprits, judicial is same like former regime. mr Ranil said what is correct please do it.according to the world intellentge report mr Mangala samaweera will be the most suitable person for the prime minister, it is pity srilanka good governance going bad to worse. the president mr srisena

  5. gamarala

    Where are the 18 Billions stashed abroad by MR & Co. as claimed by Samaraweera? Why is this long probe, yet not fruitful?
    Has the corruption mafia connections with the probe team?

  6. KG

    Only a few countries in the world use the Japanese ISTB technology, majority of countries use DVB-T2 technology, which is technically superior. Because of the wider use DVB-T2 televisions and set top converter boxes are cheaper

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