Council uproar over a note by CJ
erupted at an emergency meeting summoned by the Bar
Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) on Saturday, October 9, when
BASL Chief, Ikram Mohamed read out a note from Chief Justice.......
charges on tanks and rice
system - chaos and confusion
sentiment over BPC entrance
Council uproar over a note by CJ
N. Silva and Ikram Mohamed
erupted at an emergency meeting summoned by the Bar Association of
Sri Lanka (BASL) on Saturday, October 9, when BASL Chief, Ikram
Mohamed read out a note from Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva warning
members of possible contempt of court action.
emergency meeting of the Bar Council was called for October 9 and
held at 10 a.m. at the BASL auditorium at Mihindu Mawatha, Colombo
notice issued by Secretary Anoma Goonetilleke stated the council was
meeting to consider what action the BASL should take with regard to
the direction given by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to
Wellawaya Magistrate Kelum Bandara for the judge to recall the
warrant he had issued for the arrest of SSP Sheriff Deen.
orders issued by the JSC, Judge Bandara was compelled to recall a
warrant for the arrest of SSP Sheriff Dean of Wellawaya despite the
evidence of three witnesses who identified Sheriff Dean to have been
behind the wheel of a vehicle that mowed to death a resident of
the Bar Council meeting last Saturday, President's Counsel Ikram
Mohamed read out a letter he said was from the Chief Justice which
stated words to the effect that members should not discuss the
incident revolving around the Wellawaya magistrate as it may amount
to contempt of court.
unprecedented note caused a furor as members loudly voiced their
protest. President's Counsel N. R. M. Daluwatte pointed out that the
Bar Council was a body comprising of independent members and
irrespective of what the JSC had said this was a matter that must be
taken up for discussion. "If not, why call this meeting at
all?" he queried.
Counsel Nihal Jayamanne however attempted to say that the council
should indeed refrain from taking action or discussing the matter as
a result of the letter by the CJ. He was shouted down by other
members who booed and jeered his comments.
what?" they yelled almost in unison charging their independence
as lawyers was being seriously challenged.
Sahabandu, one time treasurer of the BASL said, in view of the
letter from the Chief Justice "all of us are in danger of
facing contempt proceedings." Therefore, he suggested the Bar
Council refer this matter to an advisory committee consisting of
past presidents for an opinion whether discussion on this matter
amounts to contempt of court.
senior attorney had also told the BASL President, Ikram Mohamed that
it was he who started all this talk of contempt of court and should
take responsibility for solving the problem.
Vice President for the Bar in Badulla under which Wellawaya comes,
Niranjan Perera also spoke. He observed the JSC has no powers to
issue directions to a magistrate to change judicial orders. He said
the powers of the JSC are restricted to disciplining a judicial
officer. "If a wrong judicial order is made the aggrieved party
should go before a superior court for remedial action," he
Vice President for Matara, Muttukumaran expressed the same view.
this case however, the police officer charged with murder, SSP
Sheriff Dean wrote personally to the JSC seeking redress and a
withdrawal of the magistrate's order. A request the JSC complied
with when it ordered Judge Bandara to withdraw his warrant on
Manawadu also rose and said he as a junior lawyer would like to know
the procedure by which a suspect may appeal to the JSC against an
order made by a judge.
Mohamed was asked to table the letter from the CJ, but he refused
and not a single member of the Bar Council has to date been given a
while tempers raged and the meeting grew more vociferous it was
decided to appoint a fact finding committee.
Counsels H. L. de Silva, Desmond Fernando, Ranjit Abeysuriya, Romesh
de Silva and N. R. M. Daluwatte were nominated.
however, H. L. de Silva PC, declined to sit on the committee. Asked
why he had made such a decision he said, "I don't think it was
appropriate for me to participate in such a committee. I doubt I
could make a proper contribution given the circumstances of the
case... I have used my own discretion and decided not to sit."
Beyond saying this, he refused to comment further.
Fernando PC, reiterated the point that he would continue to sit on
the committee but asserted "there is nothing I can do until I
get the documents."
maintained that if the committee is to reach any conclusion it must
be given the documents pertaining to the court proceedings, the
letter written by Ikram Mohamed to the CJ, and Sarath N. Silva's
response. "Otherwise we cannot report back to the Bar
Council," Fernando said.
the Bar Council meeting Secretary Anoma Goonetilleke had sought an
appointment from the CJ for a delegation from the Bar Association to
meet with him, but the CJ declined showing displeasure at the
until Friday, October 15, almost a week since the stormy meeting, no
member of the fact finding committee had been given any documents to
begin a probe on whether the Bar Council was justified in its
decision to discuss and take action on this issue.
charges on tanks and rice
months into office, government ministers and President
Chandrika Kumaratunga have begun finger pointing charges
against each other.
the one hand Kumaratunga has accused the JVP of violating the
13th Amendment to the
Dissanayake, Siripala Gamlath and Maithripala Sirisena
Constitution accusing them of resorting to illegal procedure with
regard to the Marxists 10,000 tanks project.
the other, JVP's Agriculture Minister, Anura Kumara Dissanayake has
charged the Deputy Marketing Development Minister as well as the
brother of government Minister Maithripala Sirisena with
manipulating the rice market leading to shortages and the resultant
issue at hand is what the JVP who promised to uphold accountability
and transparency in government intends to do about this situation.
far as the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and
Corruption is concerned, Director General Piyasena Ranasinghe does
not think there is sufficient material to kick-start a probe. He
said the charges are mere allegations and lack concrete or
comprehensive evidence to begin an investigation.
was responding to a request received by him last week seeking an
investigation both into the charges made by Kumaratunga as well as
Dissanayake. He said files have been opened and the matters would be
scrutinised by a legal officer who would then make recommendations
on whether the cases warranted a thorough investigation. Having
already perused the allegations Ranasinghe was however doubtful the
statement by the JVP Minister would evolve into a full scale probe.
"He has merely made an allegation - there is insufficient
material to even consider beginning an investigation"
Ranasinghe said. He was non committal on the President's statements
with regard to the JVP's 10,000 tanks project.
question is whether the Bribery Commission should record statements
from both Dissanayake and the President to substantiate their
allegations or simply sweep it under the carpet.
Kumara Dissanayake last Sunday when addressing a gathering of
farmers publicly slammed President Kumaratunga whom he referred to
as "Loku Nona" and some of her ministers. He named
Minister Maithripala Sirisena, accusing the Minister's brother
Nipuna Sirisena and Siripala Gamlath who is deputy marketing
development minister of masterminding a rice scam.
Sirisena is owner of Nipuna Rice Mills which purchases paddy and
point is, if indeed the JVP and Dissanayake are genuinely concerned
and have proof that both Sirisena's brother as well as a government
servant namely, Siripala Gamlath, are engaged in some kind of rice
scam then they must provide that evidence to the Bribery Commission
and ensure a thorough probe is initiated. There is little point in
making mere allegations and thereafter sweeping the issue under a
carpet of subterfuge.
JVP Minister at this meeting also went a step further. He made an
even more serious charge against the President saying, "Loku
Nonala (big madams) are spinning false allegations of corruption
against the JVP and its programmes in order to cover up alleged acts
of corruption by her own party men."
wrath is as a result of the rising prices in rice as well as a
decision by Consumer Affairs Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle to
import rice from India and Pakistan.
March this year due to previous floods followed by a drought in the
districts of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, a shortage of rice was
predicted. Official statistics at the time revealed the shortage
would amount to a lack of approximately 500,000 metric tonnes.
shortage continued up to October this year. Dissanayake and his
counterparts in the JVP actively opposed the import of rice by the
government. His opposition was based on protecting the farmers. But
the fact is, the farmers had no stocks of paddy in hand to sell as
it had all been bought for very low rates by the millers.
UNP MP, Kabir Hashim charged that it was the millers who had held
back a considerable amount of paddy and rice, in a bid to control
JVP Minister meantime had "inside" information which he
revealed to the public last Sunday. He charged that a hidden
interest lies within Nipuna Rice Mills in the way of Maithripala
Sirisena's brother Nipuna as well as the Deputy Marketing
Development Minister who he charged were engaged in a racket,
controlling the paddy and rice produce from Anuradhapura,
Polonnaruwa, and Amparai districts.
second issue, this time pointing a finger of corruption at the
Consumer Affairs Minister is that disregarding procedure
Fernandopulle apparently authorised two state agencies, Markfed and
Coopfed to individually select sellers in India and Pakistan and
import rice in order to meet the shortage.
a note to cabinet on October 5, Fernandopulle stated the government
had decided to import 150,000 metric tonnes of rice free of import
duty up to December 31 this year.
states he has taken steps to import rice from Pakistan and India as
an emergency measure to inject into the local market in order to
stabilise prices. As a result he says he has obtained a bank
guarantee for US$ 10 million to open Letters of Credit for this
purpose from the Treasury. He has also negotiated with the People's
Bank to open Letters of Credit upon the bank guarantee.
his cabinet paper Fernandopulle explains how after negotiations with
Pakistan the government ordered 2,000 metric tonnes of IRRI 6
Pakistani white raw rice at US$ 250 per metric tonne and 2,000
metric tonnes of Basmathi rice at US$ 350 per metric tonne from Mian
Amin Trading Establishment in Pakistan.
the government he maintains has also made arrangements to import
1,000 mt of Ponni rice at US$ 285 per mt from Veera Exports Pvt. Ltd
India. Another 1,000 mt Ponni rice also at US$ 285 per mt from Capro
Connection India and 2,000 mt of Ponni Samba for US$ 289 per mt from
Spices Trading Corp. Ltd., India.
Omvishka Exports 1,000 mt at the rate of US$ 285 per ton of Ponni
rice and another 1,000 mt of red rice from the same dealer for US$
290 per mt, 2,000 mt from Bharath Exporters of Ponni Samba for US$
283 per mt and 1,000 mt of IR 65 from Ananthamal Kasi for US$ 265
Private Sector Food Importers Association has since charged that
they have been unfairly sidelined. They point out that in the past
the CWE, called for open tender, by which all rice exporters from
India, Pakistan and Vietnam would participate offering a performance
bond. This time however Markfed and Coopfed were allowed by
Fernandopulle to individually choose the Indian and Pakistani
wholesalers and Letters of Credit opened in order to facilitate the
arrival of the imports.
is typical in such transactions it is being whispered that multi
million rupee commissions have oiled palms.
Hashim charges that not only Fernandopulle but even the JVP's Anura
Kumara Dissanayake must be held accountable for this situation
charging that by withholding rice imports over the last four months
not only allowed local rice millers to capitalise on the shortage
and thereby mark massive profits, but, also, the cost of a kilogram
of rice today is astronomical as a result of the government botch,
present, prices have zoomed and a kilo of white raw rice is sold to
the consumer for Rs. 32, white par boiled rice is Rs. 36 per kg,
Samba is sold at Rs. 44 per kg, red raw rice is Rs. 42 per kg and
red par boiled rice is Rs. 44 per kg.
system - chaos and confusion
was a Monday morning from hell last week - for pedestrians,
commuters and motorists alike - with the traffic police deciding to
implement the uniflow system on Galle Road and R. A. De Mel Mawatha
with little or no prior notice to the public.
Sunday (10), the stretch of Galle Road from Savoy junction in
Wellawatte upto the Colpetty junction was made one way towards
Colombo and R. A. De Mel Mawatha was made one way in the opposite
direction all the way from the Liberty Plaza round about in Colpetty
to Dharmarama Road in Wellawatte. Given that weekend traffic is
minimal, things proceeded smoothly, but with the Monday morning
school and office rush, hiccup after hiccup in the plan began to
round in circles
were confused as to where bus stands had been shifted to and
motorists went around in circles trying to get to work since the
plan was not previously communicated to the public. Previously quiet
bylanes were overnight transformed into three lane highways and shop
owners on both roads complained that they had lost out on business
because of parking problems. Vendor, H. B. Gunapala sells vegetables
on R. A. De Mel Mawatha and has been doing so for 20 years now. He
travels from Mount Lavinia to Bambalapitiya every day in a three
wheeler with his produce.
this system comes into force permanently, it will be disastrous for
shop owners and vendors in this area. I usually make about Rs. 2,000
a day, but that Monday I made less than Rs. 300. They didn't allow
any vehicles to park so how were we to sell anything?" Gunapala
complained. "I hope they abandon the idea," he added.
reigned nearly all day Monday until police reverted to the normal
system at about 6 p.m. On the upside however, several motorists
commented that the system had resulted in reducing traffic
congestion especially at 5 p.m. to a great degree. Most of them
agreed that there were serious problems to be resolved before the
plan could be properly implemented.
one way system, which has been on the cards for some time now to
reduce congestion on the two main roads during peak hours, was first
put into practice on Sunday, October 3 and was due to be tried out
for a period of one week. Studies conducted by the traffic police
indicate that upto 20 minutes drive time can be saved during peak
hours if the system is put in place.
police officials say that since the awareness campaign had been
insufficient and unsuccessful, they scrapped the one week plan until
the problems encountered in putting the system into practice could
be ironed out.
was necessary to put the system into practice to test it out;
despite the studies it is only in practice that the weaknesses of
the system can be identified and rectified," said Director,
Traffic Administration and Road Safety, SSP Lucky Peiris. "The
system involved a change of routine and habit, which understandably
cannot be done overnight but we received both negative and positive
feedback about the scheme," SSP Peiris added.
to SSP Peiris, some of the problems identified during the experiment
included the fact that the centre island on Galle Road made lane
changing difficult. "There was also the volume of pedestrians
on both sides of the roads and the alternate location of bus stops
and of course the distance to the railway stations and things,"
SSP Peiris told The Sunday Leader.
Peiris believes that motorists and the general public need to be
properly educated about the working of the uniflow system before the
plan can be put into practice on a regular basis. "We need to
use the electronic and print media to make people more aware, that
was the problem with the trial, there was some confusion as to turn
offs and things like that," Peiris said. He said that the aim
of the exercise was to allow motorists to get to the city without
delay, thereby minimising fuel consumption and stress for motorists.
"We knew there would be problems, but anywhere in the world
such experiments are carried out in order to make life better for
the general public," Peiris asserted.
if the completion of the Marine Drive highway would help to ease the
traffic problem along the Galle Road, SSP Peiris said that the new
road will be able to accommodate more vehicles and therefore would
definitely improve the situation. He said that media reports had
indicated that the project would soon be complete, adding that the
traffic division was hopeful the new highway would ease the problems
for motorists and commuters alike once it is commissioned.
apologise to the public if there was any inconvenience caused, but
what the people must understand is that the police carried out this
experiment in good faith. We will come up with improvements to the
plan and implement them accordingly in the near future," SSP
Peiris said. He said the assistance of the Road Development
Authority, the Colombo Municipal Council and the Highways Ministry
would be necessary to properly put the plan into action to actually
find a permanent solution to the traffic problems on this route.
City Traffic, Colombo Y. G. R. M. Lafir after extensive study
came up with the uniflow traffic plan for Galle Road and R. A.
De Mel Mawatha which runs parallel, which he says has worked
fairly well when implemented in other parts of the city.
first one or two days there were always complaints and
confusion. But as people got used to the system they realised
how much smoother the traffic flow is and they have now
totally adjusted," SSP Lafir told The Sunday Leader
referring to how he streamlined traffic at the Pamankada and
Saranankara junctions a few years ago.
his study, SSP Lafir found that between 100,000 and 150,000
vehicles enter Colombo daily using the Galle Road/R.A. De Mel
Mawatha route. If the roads were made one way on a particular
stretch, SSP Lafir found that upto 20 minutes of driving time
could be saved, because congestion would be greatly eased. If
implemented, the uniflow system would also ensure that
pedestrians only cross the road at pedestrian crossings
because otherwise, the constant flow of traffic would make
sporadic crossing extremely dangerous, the study found. The
system would also allow for six lanes on each route to deal
with peak hour traffic. "In as far as the working
population is concerned, the saving of 15-20 minutes a day
will undoubtedly make a positive contribution towards the
overall economy of this country in addition to minimising wear
and tear on motor vehicles" the report says.
failure of course was the inability to properly educate the
public, especially motorists about the system," SSP Lafir
acknowledged. However, he said that many people who had
understood the benefits of the scheme properly being put in to
effect had urged the traffic police to continue with its
implementation. "Some of them, especially business owners
and corporations even offered to put up overhead crossings and
erect bus halts at their own cost to assist in the plans
successful implementation," Lafir added.
said that the problem the traffic police was facing in terms
of education of the public was that no amount of theoretical
explanation will be sufficient to give them an idea about what
happens on the ground. "Even though we showed them maps
and gave them thorough explanations and leaflets, very few
comprehended the system like that," he said. Lafir also
added that although there had been several complaints from
merchants along the route that their businesses had been
affected, the police had in fact made special provisions for
parking space to be allocated on by lanes just as was the case
we need to understand is that in the last 10 years, the number
of motor vehicles in this country has more than doubled. But
our road systems have not kept up with that growth. Eighty per
cent of all these vehicles enter Colombo daily, so we have to
find a solution to this and the uniflow system, once properly
put in place will be very efficient," SSP Lafir
to statistics, in 1993 there were 1 million vehicles in the
country, and by 2003 the number had swelled to 2.3 million,
plans for toll introduction yet - Transport Minister
Minister Felix Perera last week scotched rumours about the
introduction of a toll system for containers entering the city
of Colombo, saying that a decision on the matter had not been
made as yet. Speaking to The Sunday Leader the Minister said
that however there were several proposals put forward by
experts and consultants to bring containers into the city
using the railway network in order to ease congestion.
"However the Ministry of Transport has not yet discussed
the matter and we are yet to make a decision about this,"
had an opinion about Monday's traffic experiment and many of
them agreed that it had not significantly eased congestion on
the streets during peak hours. The general opinion among
merchants in the affected area in particular was that they
strongly opposed making the scheme permanent. Motorists
complained that fuel consumption had been higher that day
because they found themselves going around in circles and
three wheelers hiked up their fares inconveniencing the
general public. The Sunday Leader spoke to several people who
found that their business and daily activity was affected by
last Monday's uniflow trial. Following are excerpts:
Three wheel driver, Bambalapitiya:
was a real mess in the morning because people had no idea
where the new bus halts were and motorists were confused but
in the evening something we noticed was that traffic
congestion was significantly less than usual on Galle Road. We
were affected in the morning because our three wheeler stand
is situated in the spot that the new bus halt was to be, but I
think that if the parking problems and things can be worked
out it will be a good system."
Charlie's Mini Market, Bambalapitiya, Lisa Perera:
traffic system affected us big time. There were customers
coming here, being unable to park and turning away. As a
result we had much lower sales. To add to this, the noise and
congestion even on the by-lanes was terrible. Even if the
police provides parking facilities for customers I don't think
the one way system is a very good idea because the lack of
pavements and excessive congestion would still deter
Fresh Fish, R. A. De Mel Mawatha, Dharmasiri Gunesekera:
usually have about 300 customers a day. On Monday, we had less
than 50 people coming into the shop. Usually we stay open till
about 6:30 p.m. but because of poor sales we just closed at
about 4:30 p.m. It was a huge problem for us. There were two
police constables here conducting traffic and they were not
allowing people to stop near our shop. I think the system
would be alright as long as they provide parking for people.
But we did see a lot of congestion in the early hours of the
one-way system introduced on Sunday hit the bottom within a day as
it had not only inconvenienced and confused the public, but people
were also of the view that a lot of fuel had been wasted through
unwanted rounds around Galle Road and Duplication Road.
children had also been delayed to attend their schools, as van
drivers had been confused as to which roads were accessible. After
school hours, many little children had been missing as the school
entrances had been changed which led to a chaotic situation amongst
the van drivers, parents and teachers.
to a school van driver, the day had been so confusing for the little
kids that an 11 year old school boy had suddenly become panicky when
his school van had not arrived on time. "When he finally saw
the van, across the road, he crossed the road ignoring the speeding
vehicles. Luckily the boy received only minor injuries when a three
wheeler hit him but if the police continue with this system, it will
not only be dangerous for the children but it will also be dangerous
for drivers and pedestrians," he warned.
The Sunday Leader visited the streets, this is what the general
public had to say...
one way system which was introduced on Sunday left the public
'clueless' and confused. Although there had been a lot of excitement
that such a system would be introduced, the police had not informed
the public that it would be on Sunday. Suddenly on Sunday morning
when people stepped out onto the Galle Road and Duplication Road, it
was extremely confusing as we did not know which by-lanes to turn
from. The entire day was chaotic and it was further chaotic on
Monday - being the first day of the week.
though cars were allowed to travel only one way on Galle Road, there
were a few vehicles coming from the opposite direction, which was
dangerous. Such a system is not viable for such small roads."
the one way system was introduced by the police to ease congestion
on Galle Road and Duplication Road during peak hours, traffic only
increased and people were confused. On Sunday, although there were
cops standing at every bylane and on the main roads directing the
people, this served no purpose, as people still remained unaware.
There were many accidents and school kids were also harassed and
although the police introduced this system in good faith, it's a
pity that it is not viable on our roads."
a Sri Lankan, I have been living in the United States for 15 years.
Although this system was introduced to ease congestion especially
during peak hours, what the cops have to realise is that our roads
are too small and the distance is too short. In the US, this system
is practiced only on the highways and the 'wide' main roads. Our
roads are too narrow for such a system."
this system had been organised in a proper manner, then maybe it
would have been successful. Although the media had been informing
the public that the police would be introducing such a system, what
the police had forgotten was to inform the public about the specific
date and educating the public about the system, beforehand. When we
stepped out on Sunday morning, everything was 'haywire' on the two
main roads. The public needs at least a week to get used to such a
system and maybe if the police had continued with the system, the
people would have been used to it by now."
system caused a lot of inconvenience as people were confused, school
children had been delayed and people had been late to reach their
offices. Traffic had only increased and the congestion near St.
Peter's College and the Colpetty Junction (where the system ended)
was unbearable on Monday. There were many accidents, a few school
children had been missing and the public had only been harassed. If
the police had educated the public beforehand then maybe the system
would have been successful."
Sunday Leader also visited a few people who had been overly
inconvenienced by the system as they had been the victims of minor
I stepped onto the Galle Road on Sunday morning, I did not know
which roads to take to get to the Duplication Road. Although there
were many police personnel on the streets to guide the public,
suddenly I saw a car speeding at me from the opposite direction.
Obviously this man had not been informed about the one-way system or
he had just not been able to adjust to it. Although he and I both
received only minor injuries our vehicles were damaged. When
questioned by the cops as to what he was doing traveling on the
opposite direction, he just gave the cops a confused look which said
with the chaos on the roads on Sunday and Monday and with the number
of accidents, its obvious that our people cannot adjust to such a
system. It was introduced in good faith but what the cops have to
realise is that this is too complicated for our people."
School Service Society, J. Waidyaratne:
system was introduced without informing the public and when we
started our work in picking and dropping the children on Monday
morning, we were so confused that we did not know which routes to
take. We were finally able to drop the children to school by 8.45
a.m. and in the afternoon, when picking the kids, we had to make
several rounds as we were not able to park on Duplication Road. We
had to make rounds to pick up each child and on Monday alone, I
spent more than Rs. 500 on diesel."
sentiment over BPC entrance
existing players in the petroleum sector - CPC and IOC
and Treasury Secretary, Dr. P.B. Jayasundera
Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
the government of Sri Lanka has still not finalised details
with regard to a third player in the petroleum sector, the
entrance of Bharath Petroleum Corporation (BPC) - yet another
company owned by the government of India - has created anti-Indian
sentiments among Sri Lankans.
Indian government too has expressed concern over the matter as it
too does not wish to antagonise Sri Lankans while the Ceylon
Petroleum Corporation (CPC) has expressed concern that bringing in a
third player also from India would wipe out CPC from the local
petroleum market for good.
the entrance of a third player to the country's petroleum market is
inevitable as the tripartite agreement signed between the government
of Sri Lanka, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and CPC stipulates the
market would, in the first few years, be limited to three players.
when looking at sectors for liberalisation identified the
petroleum sector and decided to break the monopoly in the market by
bringing in a second player and then a third player later on. The
matter was overseen
by the Public Interest Programme Unit (PIPU) under the
Economic Reforms Ministry.
unit, after analysing the pros and cons of the matter, decided it to
be a politically strategic move to introduce IOC to the local
petroleum market, which till then was monopolised by CPC. Leasing
the oil tank farm in Trincomalee to the Indians was made in order to
provide the necessary security to the location as an Indian presence
would ensure its safety.
team leader, PIPU, Lakshman Siriwardena explained to The Sunday
Leader that bringing in IOC to the country while liberalising the
petroleum market created a competitive environment and also solved
the problems related to a single monopoly in the field.
went on to say that unlike the earlier liberalisations - Sri Lanka
Telecom (SLT), Shell and SriLankan Airlines - bringing in a second
player and then a third player to the petroleum market was done in
accordance to a clear plan.
pointed out there was no exclusivity as the tripartite agreement
outlined the sector would be limited to three players for the first
five years, after which it would be an open market.
agreement states "and whereas recognising the fact that the
total retail market size of Sri Lanka is not large enough to
accommodate too many players to operate in the petroleum sector,
GOSL has decided to initially restrict the number of participants in
the petroleum sector to three players for an initial period of five
years from the date of this agreement, consisting of CPC, LIOC and
another to be identified in the future."
PIPU, apart from introducing broad sectoral reforms, also intended
to introduce a multi sector regulatory commission - Public Utilities
Commission of Sri Lanka - which would be the regulatory authority
for several fields including petroleum and electricity.
pointed out it was the intention of the PIPU to give priority to
introduce the legal framework simultaneously with the introduction
of other players to various sectors.
further observed that duopoly, which is the present scenario with
regard to the petroleum sector, is definitely worse than monopoly.
to Siriwardena, PIPU was looking at introducing a regional player as
the third player, adding that Sinopec would have been the ideal
option. The ultimate goal with regard to the petroleum sector of
the UNF government
was to open the market and keep the pricing formula among
other decisive factors with the Public Utilities Commission.
such a scenario, providing subsidies too would be possible as it
would subsidise the product and not an entity as a whole.
observed that the new Petroleum Reforms Act, which empowers the
Public Utilities Commission to perform as a regulator to the sector,
which was approved by the previous cabinet, is still with the legal
draftsman thereby leaving the present petroleum market without a
proper regulatory authority.
it is under such circumstances that the Sri Lanka government now
plans to bring in a third player also from India and most of all yet
another state-owned institution.
calling for bid bonds, three interested parties were short listed
during the UNF adminstration - Sinopec from China, Hindustan Oil
Corporation from India and PBC also from India - with Sinopec being
the highest bidder.
the change of government and policy in April this year, Sinopec
withdrew leaving Hindustan and BPC from India in the race. Although
bringing in a third player into the petroleum market would be good
for the CPC, bringing in another state-owned player from the same
country as LIOC would be detrimental to CPC's existence.
the government decides to bring in BPC as the third player to the
market, it would instead of creating a competitive environment,
create a battle of two against one. However, a third player from a
private sector company would benefit the country's petroleum sector
as it would create an equal playing field for all players, including
is also interesting to note that in case the government decides to
bring in BPC to the country's petroleum market, it too would have
the trademark of the three key privatisation deals done earlier -
SriLankan Airlines, Sri Lanka Telecom and gas - exclusivity.
some instances, the agreements have undermined the functions of
regulators in the respective fields.
telecommunication sector was one such example where for five years,
NTT - the main stakeholder of SLT - was monopolising the IDD sector
leaving the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) helpless.
In such a scenario, if BPC is given the green light to become the
third player in the local petroleum market, economists fear that
Indian-owned monopolies would strangle the Sri Lankan market.
exploration: India requests preference
Secretary, Dr. P.B. Jayasundera denied the rumour the
government of Sri Lanka in a bid to secure the US$ 150 million
Indian line of credit has offered the country's oil
exploration sites to them. However, Dr. Jayasundera pointed
out the Indians have requested the Sri Lankan government to
give preference to them when calling for bidders to work on
Chairman, Jaliya Medagama noted there was still no problem of
a third player entering the market as the President has
suspended the issue after speaking to the CPC trade unions who
were up in arms against bringing a third player to the
asked about the clause in the agreement between IOC, CPC and
the government of Sri Lanka which states the country's
petroleum market would initially be opened for three players,
Medagama maintained there would be no doubt on the matter as
the Treasury would hold on to its one third share.
for the position of IOC in such an event since the government
of Sri Lanka holds two thirds of the share, preventing equal
competition, Medagama said the agreement does not
categorically mention that the third player would have to be a
private sector company.
he observed in the event the government decides to bring in a
third player, then CPC would have to think of strategic ways
of improving its position in the market.
to decide" - Dr. P.B. Jayasundera
government is yet to decide on whether to give one third of
the petroleum market to BPC. Treasury Secretary, Dr. P. B.
Jayasundera told The Sunday Leader the government has not made
any agreement with the Indian government in this regard.
Dr. Jayasundera pointed out that according to the tripartite
agreement between IOC, CPC and the GOSL, the market would be
opened to three equal players, adding that under the present
circumstances, LIOC is against the Sri Lanka government as the
CPC owns one third with the other being held by the Treasury.
also noted that Indians have shown concern over the
anti-Indian sentiment building in the country.
Jayasundera observed the entrance of a third player would not
change the terminal value. When asked as to why the highest
bidder, Sinopec, withdrew at the last minute, Dr. Jayasundera
said the party when discussing the matter with the new
government did not wish to continue as the government had by
then decided to keep 51% of the terminal ownership with it.
second and third highest bidders - Hindustan Oil and BPC -
held back. The government was then holding discussions with
BPC, when CPC trade unions were up in arms against the matter,
adding that they could forward a better alternate proposal.
Jayasundera asserted that while the proposals were forwarded
by the trade unions, they have been now sent to the Strategic
Enterprise Management Agency (SEMA), under whose purview the
CPC is functioning at present. Explaining further, Dr.
Jayasundera observed the government has to maintain cordial
relations with the bidders, adding that if not the country
would run the risk of not receiving any bidders for future
asked about the danger in bringing in a third player without
forming a regulator, the the Public Utilities Commission,
which would be the regulator for electricity and fuel, Dr.
Jayasundera pointed out that to formulate such a regulator one
has to look at several aspects such as legal framework and
went on to say although it would be ideal to have the
necessary regulations in place before bringing in a market
player, it would also not be practical to hold on to a deal
merely to formulate the regulation. However, Dr. Jayasundera
observed in case the necessary regulation is not in place, the
important issues could be included in the respective
pointed out that when gas was privatised in 1995, it was
agreed to introduce a regulator within five years, but that
has failed to materialise to date. As for the risk of bringing
in a third player also owned by the Indian government, Dr.
Jayasundera said there would be no problem except if BPC and
IOC decides to merge.
in mind such an event, Dr. Jayasundera said the government
would then include a clause in the agreement outlining the
necessity of the Indian government to first consult the
government of Sri Lanka before taking any such decision.
asked of the possibility of two Indian players strangling CPC,
Dr. Jayasundera said it would not be the case as CPC would
have to compete with all players and vice versa.
went on to say CPC should be restructured in order to be a
visit of a prominent foreign dignitary to Sri Lanka went largely
unnoticed, specifically because her tour was not given much
publicity. Swiss Foreign Minister, Micheline Calmey-Rey arrived in
Colombo last week and the reasons behind the virtual media blackout
of her visit are only just coming to light.
LTTE delegation headed by the LTTE's Political Wing Head, S.P.
Tamilselvan is currently in Switzerland. He held extensive
discussions there with the LTTE's constitutional council about the
future of the peace process. Soon after this meeting, Tamilselvan
and the rest of the delegation held talks with Swiss government
officials and informed them of the Tigers' stance on the peace
arrived in Sri Lanka last week armed with this message and met with
the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and several other
officials from NGOs. She informed government officials that the LTTE
was rigid on its position regarding the ISGA proposals and that the
LTTE would only commence negotiations based on the ISGA. The unique
feature of her message was the rebels' latest position that they
would not accept any alternate proposals either.
peace talks already stalled, this latest message indicated even
further delays and stalemates. The government for its part informed
the Swiss Foreign Minister that it was ready to start peace talks.
But well armed to counter the government's claims, Calmey-Rey
informed the government about the allegations by the LTTE that the
government was in fact postponing peace talks.
her meeting with Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, Calmey-Rey
asked him whether the government had a unified position on policy
and although Kadirgamar tried to explain away the situation at
first, he was eventually compelled to admit to differences.
there are problems," he said. Responding to this, Calmey Rey
said, "The ball is in your court. You have to decide whether
you will throw it in the direction of the LTTE or not. It is
therefore up to the government to decide what it wants to do."
also advised Kadirgamar not to treat the ceasefire agreement as a
joke. "From discussions with both parties we can see that the
ceasefire is in jeopardy. Please do everything you can to make sure
it stays in force," Calmey Rey appealed.
Tuesday a deputy minister representing the Kandy District arrived to
meet the President. He detailed at the meeting how the Media
Ministry which was functioning under Minister Mangala Samaraweera
was pursuing the JVP's agenda. He also informed Kumaratunga about a
certain programme that had been telecast over the Independent
Television Network (ITN).
deputy minister said that during a documentary about the granting of
jobs to unemployed graduates, one frame had been a shot of young
people clad in red shirts shouting, "We got all this because of
our fight." He said that the programme to grant jobs to 17,000
graduates which is one of the President's best projects was being
portrayed as being an achievement of the JVP as a result of the ITN
telecast, the deputy minister charged.
said that although he had not seen the programme himself, several of
his supporters had described it to him and added that he had come to
see the President that day specifically to make sure she got the
tape of the documentary down and viewed it.
heard this tirade, an incensed President Kumaratunga immediately
called ITN Chairman, Newton Gooneratne and demanded whether the ITN
now dances to the tune of the JVP. "I don't know what these
people in the Media Ministry are doing. Was the documentary given to
you by that Ruwan Ferdinandez who works for Mangala?" she
asked. Gooneratne denied this saying, "No, it was Deputy
Finance Minister, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya who approved it." He
added that the screen play had been written by K.B. Herath.
not satisfied with that explanation, Kumaratunga continued to blast
Gooneratne and demanded a detailed report about the programme be
submitted to her. Gooneratne however maintains the President spoke
to him about other programmes and not on issues relating to the JVP.
item on the cabinet agenda last week was a paper submitted by CWC MP
Muthu Sivalingam on the Soumayamoorthi Thondaman Foundation. The
cabinet paper was requesting for three state institutions and a
piece of state owned land. But the President did not look on any of
these requests very favourably.
is no way we can do that. We can't just hand over three state
institutions and land for someone's foundation," she argued,
adding "I also have great respect for Mr. Soumyamoorthi
Thondaman, he has done a great service for estate workers and I am
in no way opposed to the setting up of the foundation but I can't
approve the setting up of such things using government funds."
Sivalingam pointed out that the foundation was being set up with the
intention of providing education and training to estate workers. The
President accepted these reasons but said that she doubted whether
the Attorney General would grant approval for the project.
about this situation, Sivalingam then raised another point. He said
that he was always opposed to the Upper Kotmale Hydro Power project
and continued to be against its implementation.
our positions are not relevant to the government. I am also a member
of the committee set up to amend the proposals for the project and
the committee has met several times now. However, I haven't been
summoned for a single meeting. Is this how you treat our
people?" he lamented.
Kumaratunga apologised to the CWC MP about this sidelining and said
she would take action against those responsible for this. She added
however that there was no way the Upper Kotmale project could be
misunderstand. The Upper Kotmale project can't be stopped. If it is,
aid flow will also cease. Our biggest problem at the moment is donor
funds. But I will take action against those responsible for this
injustice to you and I will dissolve that committee. And in its
place I will set up another committee to be chaired by you,"
UNP decided to appoint a ministerial group and deputy ministerial
group from within its own ranks to monitor the activities of each of
the government ministries shortly before Opposition Leader, Ranil
Wickremesinghe took wing to India on an official visit.
the moves led to some amount of conflict within the UNP itself. MP
S.B. Dissanayake who was irked at not being assigned the Samurdhi
and Agriculture Ministry, which were his subjects during the
previous regime and being assigned the Post and Telecommunications
Ministry instead, immediately went to meet the Opposition Leader to
air his grievances.
he had to meet Opposition Whip Mahinda Samarasinghe instead, who had
also assisted in the assigning of ministries.
"I don't want Post and Telecommunications. You keep that
ministry, I'll just go on with what I was doing," Dissanayake
complained. Samarasinghe urged Dissanayake to remain calm and try to
find a solution to the problem. He explained that the assignments
were merely to better supervise parliamentary activity and promised
to convey Dissanayake's position to Wickremesinghe.
just organised this system to better coordinate parliamentary
affairs and we only gave you this ministry because we know you have
much bigger tasks to carry out. If you don't like the assignment,
just speak to MP Ravindra Samaraweera who has got the Samurdhi
Ministry and exchange it with him," Samarasinghe advised.
Accordingly, Dissanayake made the necessary amendments to the
assignments and kept the MP informed.
soon after this, MP Milinda Moragoda too met Wickremesinghe to air
similar grievances. He was complaining that he had been assigned the
Science and Technology Ministry when all he wanted was the Buddha
Sasana Ministry, adding that this had been done to undermine him.
told the UNP Leader that if his service to the party was going to be
degraded, he should be relieved of all responsibilities currently
handed over to him. Wickremesinghe then spoke to Samarasinghe and
asked him to suspend the alternate ministerial committee idea for
cost of living was another key topic at the cabinet meeting last
week. Ministers discussed this matter at length, but the President
maintained that there was very little that could be done in the face
of escalating global oil prices. "We have to reduce the cost of
living. But please suggest things that we can actually do,"
Samurdhi Minister, Pavithra Wanniaarachi also submitted a
cabinet paper recommending that an additional Rs. 5 million be added
to the Samurdhi Fund in the budget to help Samurdhi beneficiaries to
cope with the cost of living. But again, the President shot the
suggestion down saying, "This can't be done. Enough of giving
subsidies and relief. We never said that we would increase the
asked the ministers whether all they thought about was granting
further subsidies and whether they didn't think of development plans
at all. "The government does not have money to grant subsidies.
People know that. So people will not protest. If I grant approval
for this today, tomorrow I will get another proposal," the