28th July 2002, Volume 9, Issue 2














Commerce Minister Ravi Karunanayake who arrived in Sri Lanka from Pakistan on Friday was given a rousing welcome by fellow cabinet ministers and parliamentarians at the airport. Picture shows Minister Karunanayake being escorted out of the airport by Lands Minister Rajitha Senaratne and Gampaha District parliamentarian Olitha Premathiratne.                                                                                  Photo by Lalith Perera

007 handbag with CBK

By Suranimala 

Incontrovertible proof that President Chandrika Kumaratunga is in possession of the ladies handbag with the hidden VH09 video colour camera has been discovered by the Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DII).

An investigation has also revealed that the handbag with the hidden video camera was purchased just nine days after the election of the United National Front government by the president’s security advisor T.V. Sumanasekera and handed over to Kumaratunga a week later on December 20, 2001.

Documentary proof of the handbag with the hidden video colour camera having been handed over to President Kumaratunga was also unearthed.

Records in the Directorate of Internal Intelligence show that a quotation for the equipment was called from Roshan Motha of General Engineers & Suppliers on November 16 by Sumanasekera and accepted the same day. The purchase was made on December 14, 2001.

Investigations reveal that a note was made by Police Sergeant 3498 Chandrasiri in the file at the Technical Branch at the Directorate of Internal Intelligence stating that the camera and a handbag had been handed over by T. V. Sumanasekera to the president personally on December 20 at President’s House.

Investigations further reveal an endorsement was made by the OIC/Technical Aids, DII, Inspector O.Y.R. Perera that one radio jamming equipment, a brief case, video camera and a ladies camera bag were handed over to the President’s Security Division on October 28, 2001, December 14, 2001 and December 20, 2001 respectively and that the ladies handbag is not inventorised.

The note further adds that this camera was directly purchased by Sumanasekera and that he handed over the same to the president on December 20, 2001, thereby corroborating the version of Sergeant Chandrasiri.

It is further revealed that the local agent, Motha was taken into custody by the CID somewhere in 1997/1998 and detained for three days when Sumanasekera was the DIG, CID in connection with an inquiry into a scandal on the procurement of body armour and related items to the army.

Commerce Minister Ravi Karunanayake the previous week accused President Kumaratunga of bringing the handbag with the hidden video camera to cabinet for the purpose of recording cabinet proceedings in violation of the law.

The president did not show her handbag to prove the minister wrong but accused him 48 hours later of alleging that she brought a bomb to cabinet to assassinate the prime minister, an allegation which has been rejected by the cabinet of ministers as a falsehood.

Ministers want CBK taken to task

Senior government ministers will this week meet with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and urge stringent action against President Chandrika Kumaratunga following serious allegations levelled by the president against several ministers.

Several ministers and UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema held a series of discussions last week following President Kumaratunga’s speech in Polonnaruwa and the fracas in parliament, where the consensus emerged that it was no longer possible to cohabit with Kumaratunga.

Among the ministers who participated in these discussions with the UNP chairman and separately in parliament included Finance Minister K. N. Choksy, Constitutional Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris, Labour Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, Justice Minister W. J. M. Lokubandara, Interior Minister John Amaratunga, Lands Minister Rajitha Senaratne, Samurdhi Minister S. B. Dissanayake and Western Province Regional Development Minister M. H. Mohomed.

It was proposed at these discussions that the ministers must meet the prime minister in delegation and call for the immediate introduction of the conscience vote, repealing the constitutional provision enabling the president to dissolve parliament at the end of one year, and repealing the immunity clause of the president with a view to prosecution for corruption and abuse of power.

Minister Choksy had also indicated that he would be informing the prime minister of his intention to raise in cabinet the allegations the president made against him in Polonnaruwa.

The Sunday Leader learns that several other ministers against whom the president made allegations are also expected to raise the issue in cabinet next week.

“The president has defamed us and we cannot sit in the same cabinet with her until the issue is resolved. It is our reputation that is at stake,” a senior minister told The Sunday Leader.

PA to move ‘no faith’ on Jayalath

By Frederica Jansz

The main opposition People’s Alliance is planning to move a motion of no confidence against Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Refugees Minister Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena.

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse said this decision was taken at the last parliamentary group meeting of the PA, where the matter was discussed and a committee appointed to study the allegations and charges that have surfaced, questioning Dr. Jayawardena’s credibility and integrity.

Amarasiri Dodangoda, Nimal Siripala de Silva, John Seneviratne and two others will comprise those nominated by the PA to probe the charges against Jayawardena.

“The no confidence motion will be on specific charges,” Rajapakse said, adding that the northern road contract given to Jayawardena’s family will figure when this committee sits, including the allegations of commissions Jayawardena has been accused of picking up on rice deals to the northern peninsula and the fact that Jayawardena uses a luxury flat under the name of Ravi Wethasinghe at the JAIC Hilton.

President planning prorogation?

By Frederica Jansz

President Chandrika Kumaratunga last week summoned an emergency meeting at President’s House at 7 p.m. with her most trusted confidantes and discussed the possibility of proroguing parliament next month.

Highly placed sources revealed that members of her ‘inner cabinet’ namely, Harim Peiris, Mangala Samaraweera, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Lukshman Kadirgamar, Nimal Siripala De Silva, Tara De Mel and Maithripala Sirisena were part of this top secret meeting where proposals were put forward to divert attention from the present crisis situation Kumaratunga is facing.

One member, presently evolving as a key advisor to the president had at this meeting put forward three proposals. The first suggestion was for the president to sack Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on the basis that as head of cabinet she no longer has confidence in Wickremesinghe’s ability to govern. 

The second proposal centered around the possibility of sacking Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake, thereby creating a constitutional crisis.  The third suggestion is for Kumaratunga to appoint Deputy Leader of the United National Party, Karu Jayasuriya as prime minister after having sacked Wickremesinghe.

Kumaratunga together with these members of her inner cabinet, thereafter discussed the possibility of simulating a series of crisis situations over the next few weeks, which would then enable Kumaratunga to prorogue parliament on the basis that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has lost control in government.

Last week, the brawl between opposition and government parliamentarians in the well of the House was the first step initiated towards this end. 

There are also moves being made for the president to get rid of her long time Secretary, Kusumsiri Balapatabendi.  The latter has fallen out of favour with Kumaratunga after he refused to sign a letter on her behalf in relation to the luxury vehicle controversy.

When The Sunday Leader contacted Harim Peiris he said he would neither deny nor confirm such a meeting took place.

SB challenges President

By Risidra Mendis

Agriculture and Livestock development minister S B Dissanayake has openly challenged President Chandrika Kumaratunge for a debate, over allegations leveled against him by President Kumaratunge, described by the minister as ‘baseless’.

The minister made this announcement on Friday at a press conference held at his ministry at Battaramulla.

According to Dissanayake, President Kumaratunge had denied any connections with a businessman who had helped her financially while contesting the elections.

The minister said that President Kumaratunge, after winning the election ended all connections with the businessman due to a fall out with him. “The very man whom she had presented her gold pen and ‘green chair’ to, before the election received nothing after she fell out with him, as even the little benefits he received were all withdrawn.

According to the Minister the businessman had come to him with a hope of solving his problems with the president. “But at the time I went to the president to discus about this, the president said she had no connections with such a person,” he said.

“I have told the president that if she denies having any connections with the businessman I will show the entire nation with valid photos and documents her involvement with the man” Minister Dissanayake said.

The minister said the businessman had spent nearly one billion and supplied 50 lunch packets, 25 dinner packets and three whiskey bottles for the people helping out during the election campaigns. He told the journalists that the businessman had also given two benz cars to the president.

Dissanayake also said that there was no truth in the speech made by President Kumaratunge in Pollonnaruwa referring to him and his wife, going to the President’s office and ‘begging and worshipping’ her to return his letter of resignation.

He further said the President’s speech was aired repeatedly on TV with the intention of creating disrepute to his wife and himself regarding a Samurdhi issue.

“However the true story is, my wife wrote the letter and I signed it. Even though many people at the Ministry wanted me to stay on, I made a firm stand and said I have made up my mind” Dissanayake said.

According to Minister Dissanayake he gave his resignation because he was not allowed to run the Samurdhi Ministry the way he wanted, adding however it was President Kumaratunge who came to his house and returned  him the resignation letter and pleaded  him to come back to the Ministry and run it the way he wants.

Ravi sues Mangala

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake has demanded Rs. 1,000 million from former Minister Mangala Samaraweera for the latter’s statements made recently at a press conference, described by Minister Karunanayake as “damaging” and “baseless”.

The statement made by Samaraweera was published in a daily newspaper on July 20, 2002.

In a letter addressed to Samaraweera, Karunanayake’s lawyer states Samaraweera’s statement saying that Karunanayake is obviously trying to sabotage an increasingly good relationship that has been established between the prime minister and the president is false.

Referring to another statement of Samaraweera that says that the minister has accused the president of being a suicide bomber and trying to kill the prime minister, the cabinet and herself is also false.

Referring to another allegation of Samaraweera, that the prime minister has fully agreed with the president that this amateur and third grade behaviour of Karunanayake must stop, the lawyer says is also false.

Lawyer G.G.Arulpragasam’s letter states as follows; “The aforesaid statements have been made mala fide and maliciously with a view to discrediting my client. In the circumstances my client has suffered loss of reputation both as a person and as a politician. My client estimates the damages at Rs. 1,000 million.”

‘Sing for Joy’

The Board of Social Responsibility of the Kollupitiya Methodist Church presents “Sing for Joy”, a musical extravaganza for the whole family, at the Methodist College auditorium, at 6.00 pm, on Saturday, August 3.

Many popular artists will make a remarkable contribution of their talents to raise funds for social projects.

The programme will end with a “Sing for Joy” of golden oldies.

Thonda, EFL oppose UKP

While the special committee appointed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to investigate the Upper Kotmale Project (UKP) has given its approval for the project to be implemented, Housing Minister Arumugam Thondaman and Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) have shown vehement opposition to it.

Minister Thondaman warned he would go to the extent of mobilising the entire hill country and outside to oppose the Upper Kotmale Project, if the project takes off the ground prior to the prime minister agreeing to the implementation of the project.

Thondaman told The Sunday Leader that the committee was appointed by the prime minister and the subsequent findings of the committee should also be studied by the premier. “It is the prime minister who should give the green light to the project and not others. I understand that the government plans to commence the project by August 15. I will not let it happen,” he said.

He has said if the government starts the project, even before the prime minister goes through the committee report, he would strongly oppose and ensure that the project does not take off the ground at all.

However EFL, also voicing its strong opposition to the project has said that it believes the committee that was appointed to look into it itself is biased since the project director is from the Ceylon Electricity Board.

EFL further states that it cannot agree to the implementation of the project because the committee has not considered the recent documents and the letters sent to the prime minister by the EFL in addition to ignoring a letter of a former environmental consultant of the project.

The EFL has also stated in a document that the committee recommendations are totally based on assurances provided by the CEB prepared by the project director who is a member of the committee.

The EFL document signed by its Chairman Ravi Algama has also said that it cannot accept the recommendations made by the committee because he understands that the consortium of Japanese construction companies, Finance Ministry personnel and a certain politician have pressurised the committee to agree to the project.

“The European Union is against the project since there has not been an open bidding process. In fact, the Japanese ambassador openly stated that the EU objected to the project loan. The aid for this project is only for the Japanese contractors and we have reason to believe that those constructers have already come up with a winning entity (HKK-Hazama, Kumagai &Kajima) whose plans to bid the lowest under three other contractors who for consideration will make frivolous higher bids. It is believed that HKK’s bid will be at least 50 percent higher than a competitive bid.

“Further although the cabinet has so far not approved the project, the secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy has already requested the Japanese government to provide their favorite consultants to the project. We therefore, have reason to believe that this project is guided by an unseen hand,” Algama has said in his statement to the press.

New president felicitated

The newly elected Indian President, Professor Abdul Kalam has a unique hobby of meeting little children. He is determined to personally meet 100,000 children in order to guide them towards creating a peaceful world.

Parliamentary Affairs minister A.H.M.Azwer in his congratulatory message to the new Indian President Professor Abdul Kalam has said following the traditions set by Jawaharlal Nehru, it is pleasing to note that the new President loves to mingle with children and understand their minds.

“Your Cherished desire to talk to them and to learn from their views to build a better future for your motherland is a true manifestation of an exceptional mind. This is also reflected in your book ‘India in the year 2020’ which is dedicated to a child who once told you that her future ambition is to live in a developed India,” he has said.

World Photo 2002 Exhibition in Sri Lanka

The World Press Photo 2002 Exhibition will be held at the Barefoot Gallery in Colombo from August 2 to 21.

The annual exhibition is held each year at about 70 venues in 35 countries all over the world, subject to the condition that all prize-winning entries are exhibited without any form of censorship. This year’s exhibition contains nearly 200 photographs. The exhibition not only shows the best in press photography in the past year, it can also be seen as a collection of historical documents containing the world’s main events during year 2001, a press release from The Barefoot Gallery said.

Damayanthi needs help

M.M.R. Damayanthi is suffering from an advanced cancer in the salivary gland, infiltrating the brain.

She has failed to respond to frontline treatment and needs extensive surgery to remove the part of the tumor inside the brain.

The surgery according to medical experts is to cost around one million rupees. The public is requested to make financial contributions to Bank of Ceylon - Borella Branch, A/C No.100381178557.

New Archbishop

Bishop Oswald Gomis was installed as the new Archbishop of Colombo yesterday at a ceremony held at St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Kotahena, attended by tens and thousands of religious dignitaries, politicians and other diplomats.

Bishop Gomis was appointed as Archbishop by Pope John Paul II. The new archbishop would be the head of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka comprising 11 dioceses ranging from Jaffna in the north to Galle in the south.

Up to the time of his elevation Bishop Gomis was also Bishop of Anuradhapura and was also the elected leader of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference in Sri Lanka.

The new archbishop is head of the Catholic Church as the Secretary General to the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference, which has no president.

The archbishop joined the seminary after academic studies at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo and completed his priestly training at St. Bernard’s Seminary, Borella and the National Seminary Kandy.

The son of Vincent and Florinda Gomis of Kelaniya, the archbishop grew up in the shadow of Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya and continues to be a regular visitor there and has a good relationship with all religions.

He did his Masters degree in education at Adamson University in the Philippines and Taiwan based Fu Jen Catholic University awarded him a Ph.D for his outstanding contribution to church communications in Asia.

UDA to bring down unauthorised structures

By Shezna Shums

The Urban Development Authority (UDA) is to carry out an islanwide programme to demolish all unauthorised structures, UDA Chairman Tudor Munasinghe said.

The chairman said it is the UDA’s responsibility to bring down these structures and also added that he has planned to revamp the Unauthorised Structures Unit of the UDA to carry out this programme more effectively.

He said the unit has not been very active under the Peoples’ Alliance (PA) regime.

Munasinghe, The Sunday Leader learns, has plans to implement this programme to bring these structures down with the assistance of the police, Land Reclamation Authority and the local authorities.

At present the UDA is holding discussions with  Colombo Mayor Prassana Gunawardena, planning out strategies to carry out this plan in Colombo and suburbs where it is an acute problem.

The chairman stated he wants to commence this programme in Colombo and then move to the suburbs such as Kotte, Dehiwala and Mount Lavinia.  The UDA will also be looking into towns like Kandy, Nuwara-Eliya and Galle as Munasinghe said a number of local authorities have complained to him about these structures coming up without proper approval from the state.

At present, Munasinghe points out, the UDA acts  on the complaints received from respective local authorities. He said after receiving such a formal complaint, a team from the UDA would visit the scene for further inspections. Upon confirming that the structures are unauthorised, the UDA he says, would initially issue a warning and if nothing is done thereafter, UDA would resort to taking legal action against the violators.

Meanwhile Deputy Mayor of Colombo,  Azath Sally says that the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) in association with the UDA holds regular  meetings to plan out how they are going to clean the city and bring down the unauthorised structures in Colombo.

Alarming increase in abortions

While the Catholic Church and civil society is perturbed over the alarmingly increasing number of abortions being performed in Sri Lanka every day, the Family Planning Association and certain other medical experts say the government should seriously look into legalising abortions.

According to unconfirmed figures, over 1,200 abortions are carried out a day and the Catholic Church is of the view that this would lead to a ‘ruthless society’.

Many medical doctors and clergy from religious places of worship, who wished to remain anonymous said that abortions are taking place under the guise of ‘menstrual regulation’ and added there are 23 such  centres in Sri Lanka - namely at Deal Place and Grandpass in Colombo, Moratuwa, Ja-Ela, Hatton, Dehiwela, Matale, Kurunegala, Kegalle, Galle, Kandy, Ratnapura and in Negombo.

They also alleged that these illegal abortion clinics continue to operate by bribing police officers who give them the support, while the law of the land specifically states that this is unlawful.

Executive Director, Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka, Dr. Daya Abewickrema says the government should look into the possibility of legalising abortions. He says by legalising abortion, better standards could be expected from such operators who now operate under cover.

Condemning the present rise in abortions, he said the government should have a close tab on abortionists and set some regulations and better standards that may lead to such abortionists resorting to proper methods of carrying out their activities.

Director Private Hospitals - Ministry of Health, Dr. Harsha de Silva said the government is aware that though abortion is illegal, it does take place in an unprecedented way. He said this is because of the present social conditions.

He said the government should look into the laws that prevent abortions and find out ways and means of amending them for the better.

He said abortions should not be ignored, adding some regulatory body should be appointed to have a record of abortions. “This must be brought under a body that would have a grip of the whole situation. Since there is nothing of this sort, abortions are taking place at an alarming rate and that could be dangerous to society,” he said.

Meanwhile,  Assistant Secretary, Bishop’s Conference, Rev. Neil Dias Karunaratne said even if it is one abortion per day it is ‘horrifying’ and the action is akin to a murder. “Any attempt to deliberately destroy a foetus is equal to a ‘murder’ said Karunaratne. “We must have respect for life and regard for human beings. This is something that is lacking in our contemporary society. In our society, all respect and regard for  life is gone,” he said.

He also said there is no reason to be ‘surprised’ over abortions that takes place, when a society is involved in ‘contract killings’ and other ways of taking human life.

He said the abortion rate is ever increasing because there is a breakdown of the social system in Sri Lanka. “How can an unborn child be a threat to anyone?” he asked.

He said the Catholic Church has done everything possible to either curb or prevent this menace, but sadly it only keeps increasing day by day.

“We have also taken up this issue with the United Nations (UN). But our society wants to choose the easy way and not the other,” he added.

Govt. stops exam fee hike

An attempt by the director, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine (PGIM) to increase the examination and course fee for  post graduate training by an additional Rs.30,000 has been turned down by the government.

Earlier, a sum of Rs.10,000 was levied from those candidates who were qualified to sit for the post graduate examination but the PGIM Director, Dr. J. B. Peiris increased the amount to Rs.40,000. But intervention by the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), Higher Education Ministry,  Ministry of Health and the University Grants Commission prevented Dr. Peiris from implementing this system.

General Secretary,  GMOA, Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya told The Sunday Leader, that at a time when the country lacks consultants, the post graduate training must be encouraged and added a decision to increase the fee would only put an end to this.

He said in foreign countries less than one third of a doctor’s salary is kept apart for this type of training and added in Sri Lanka this cannot be done as a doctor gets only Rs. 17,000. Therefore he said, either the fee charge should be kept at Rs. 10,000 or the salaries of the doctors should be  increased.

He further said the sustainability of the post graduate training programme should be safeguarded because it only costs around Rs. 1 million to fully train a doctor, while it costs more than that amount to send a patient out of the country for treatment.

Meanwhile, UGC Vice Chairman, Prof. L. L. Ratnayake in a letter addressed to PGIM Director, Dr. J. B. Peiris has instructed to amend all PGIM circulars with regard to examination and course fees to maintain the previous rate until the proposed examination fee structure is discussed and finalised. “It was suggested to make recommendations before 01.08.2002 by the same representatives who attended  the earlier meeting,” the letter said.

The earlier meeting took place on May 30, 2002, to discuss the new examination fees structure proposed by the PGIM director.

Parliamentary TV crew biased - Azwer

Parliamentary Affairs Minister A. H. M. Azwer has made an oral complaint to  Speaker Joseph Michael Perera saying that the parliamentary television crew is biased and the crew failed to focus on some of the People’s Alliance and JVP MPs who were the cause for the pandemonium in parliament last Wednesday.

The Speaker, Azwer told The Sunday Leader, had admitted to him of the biased reportage of the incident by the television crew.

Last Wednesday, July 24, opposition members staged a noisy protest in the well of the House. Members also traded punches and kicks and several from both sides were injured as a result of the turmoil.

The minister said the TV camera was focussed only on the Speaker and not on the incident. He said the TV crew should have also focussed on the incident and highlighted the members who were involved in the brawl.

He further said that last week’s incident was initiated, conspired and maneuvered by the JVP, who he described as “Janadhipathi Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), led by Anura Bandaranaike.

He said that the JVP and the PA resorted to disrupt the sittings in parliament because of sheer jealousy over the fact that the present UNF government is able to do things that could not be done by them during their time in government.

He said even during the time  the UNP was occupying the opposition bench, esthe members displayed placards but never targeted any particular member of parliament unlike how the PA is doing now against some of the UNF members. “Also, our leader never allowed us to get into the well to dance the devil,” he added.

Local film industry far behind time - Dr. Peiris

Veteran filmmaker Dr. Lester James Peiris  says the Sri Lankan film industry is nearly 30 years behind time and that to resurrect the industry, additional capital is needed.

According to him Sri Lanka has still not been able to have a technologically perfect studio to film movies that would be in par with other Bollywood movies.

He says the best cameras that are available are 10 years old and to film movies, cameras are being hired from India.

He said this is due to many theatres being burnt during the 1983 ethnic riots because most of them were owned by Tamils.

He also said that many reports on the industry have been submitted to the government but so far no action has been taken to revive it. Citing an example he pointed out to a proposal submitted to the government by Prof. A. J. Gunewardene during  late President J. R. Jayewardene’s time, and added even this report, that had the incentives to boost the industry, was not implemented.

He said he is shocked that the local film industry has still not acquired an archive to preserve films. “Right throughout I have been fighting for this but so far we have not had one,” he said.

He was of the view that as a result of the lack of an archive, the industry was losing 80% of the films termed by him as “Sri Lanka’s heritage”.

Dr. Peiris explained that the negatives could be reduced to powder. “This is why we should have an archive that would preserve these films. They ought to be preserved under stringent conditions,” he pointed out.

He said if this industry is to survive, there must be an infusion of capital, more investors involving themselves in the industry and above all patriotism.

He also said though he sees a lot of young talents in this field, the system is not in a position to motivate them due to lack of facilities.

“However, I am glad that some of our films are being internationally recognised. This gives some of us great joy,” he said.

Plantation TUs lock horns

Plantation trade unions have locked horns over a demand for a wage hike for the plantation workers.

While some unions demand a wage hike of Rs. 150, some other unions are demanding Rs. 200 per day.

The Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) which is considered to be the largest trade union in the plantation sector demands that a sum of Rs. 150 should be granted to overcome the rising cost of living.

However, the rival Ceylon Workers’ Alliance (CWA) that is affiliated to the People’s  Alliance (PA) says the private companies managing the estates must grant the workers at least Rs. 200 per day to meet the spiraling cost of living.

CWC General Secretary and Housing Minister Arumugam Thondaman last week said that his demand on behalf of the workers is reasonable as it will not lead to the industry suffering. “While I make my demands, I will also ensure that the tea industry is not killed,” Thondaman said.

Meanwhile, the CWA Convenor S. Sathasivam said that since the cost of living index has risen from 2055.4  in 2000 to 3292.1 this year, the workers deserve a hike of Rs. 200 per day.

Further explaining he said that the production that was 301 million kgs in the year 2000, has increased to 306 million kgs this year. He also said that a kilo of tea that was sold at Rs. 135 in the year 2000, is now sold at Rs. 157.

“So I do not see any reason as to why the companies cannot give the workers a decent increase, considering the fact that the cost of living has gone so high, with the level of production also going up steadily,” he said.

Delay in renewal of licences cost Rs. 10 million

Failure to renew licences of foreign employment agencies attached to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) incurs the country a monthly loss of Rs.10 million, The Sunday Leader learns.

The loss, foreign employment agents allege, is mostly due to the inefficiency of the chairman of the Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB).

Most of the agents who are deprived of their licences, told The Sunday Leader on condition of anonymity, that the FEB which is responsible for the renewal of these licences, either fails to do it or delays the process. They further said for the past six months there has been a major delay in renewing the licenses.

However, countering this, Deputy Director, SLBFE S. Batagoda said the agents would definitely face problems if they submitted their relevant documents after the deadline, “If they are submitted on time, the bureau ensures that their licensces are renewed properly and methodically” said Batagoda.

However many travel agents complain that even though their documents are passed on to the Bureau, they face this delay because the SLBFE Chairman Susantha Fernando does not sign the letters of approval on time. “Even though he gives these agents a letter of approval for them to continue business, he does not give a signed renewal for these agents,” they alleged.

They further said that many attempts made by them to meet him have been unsuccessful as he is said to be ‘too busy’ all the time.

They explained that they were forced to hold back the job orders they received from abroad, as a result of their licences not being renewed and added this has also led to a loss of more than 5000 foreign jobs a month. 

The agents complain that without a renewed licence they cannot advertise for recruitment and this prevents potential candidates from seeking foreign jobs. Employment agents  face a severe crisis when they cannot meet their demand for job orders, which is considered a major source of income to the country.

The Sunday Leader learns that the Bureau’s lethargy results in the delaying of at least by one month the renewal of a license of a job agency. Furthermore, reliable sources attached to this trade said that 90% of the recruitment agents face this problem. They said their licences are not renewed according to a strict time frame and the Bureau does not give any valid reasons for the delays.

At present there are around 600 licenced job agencies around the country where many of them find it difficult to get their licence out in time. 




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