Plus - Letter to the editor

Minister’s deal has rank smell of rotting fish

By Theodore R. Fernando, Seeduwa

A few Sundays ago this newspaper carried a news item that the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Felix Perera owed the Fisheries Corporation Rs. 2.4 million.

The minister then made a statement, also reported in this newspaper, admitting he owed this money for fish that his private company had purchased on credit from the Fisheries Corporation in order to supply the security forces. He said he would be settling the money within a week. He added that he had transferred the company, and that it was now in his wife’s name.

This is an interesting revelation. The Fisheries Minister buys fish on credit from the Fisheries Corporation, which comes under his ministry, and supplies this fish to the security forces.

As everyone knows, our security forces comprise the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and their collective strength is well over 300,000 men and women.

Let’s do some calculations. On the basis that a kilogram of fish can feed 20 persons, the total fish requirements of our security forces would amount to 15,000 kilograms a day. If we assume that fish is served three days a week, this works out to 45,000 kilos a week. If the supplier makes a modest profit of Rs. 30 on a kilo of fish, he makes a profit from sales to the security forces of Rs. 1.35 million a week or Rs. 5.4 million a month or Rs. 70.2 million a year.

The question that arises is why is it not possible for the security forces to buy their fish directly from the Fisheries Corporation, without going through the middleman minister, and thereby save the government a massive Rs. 70.2 million a year?

In fact, the profit made from a kilo of fish could be a lot more than Rs. 30. The Minister makes this money without investing a cent of his own money.

Is this not misuse of power? Is it not unethical for the Minister to make easy money this way? Is it not time the President stepped in and once and for all placed a “thitha” (put a stop) to this kind of unethical deal-making?

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