Mobitel, the mobile phone operating arm of Sri Lanka Telecom, has been given the go ahead to explore buying out Etisalat. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Matters (CCEM) has said it could carry out “a study on technical and due diligence” of this subsidiary of the leading telecom operator in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) [...]


Mobitel engages Etisalat


Mobitel, the mobile phone operating arm of Sri Lanka Telecom, has been given the go ahead to explore buying out Etisalat.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Matters (CCEM) has said it could carry out “a study on technical and due diligence” of this subsidiary of the leading telecom operator in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a prelude to negotiations.

When the company originally began business as Celltel in June 1989, it was the pioneer of the mobile phone industry in Sri Lanka. Later it became Tigo in 2007 before being acquired by Etisalat in 2010.

If the Etisilat network is acquired by Mobitel, the latter would function as the only other mobile phone operator in Sri Lanka with market leader Dialog.

A Committee appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers is already going into the acquisition of Hutch, the fourth mobile phone operator in Sri Lanka. Unlike Dialog and Mobitel, it does not have a countrywide reach.
The ministerial committee has noted that growth potential of Mobitel has been hampered due to spectrum constraints and pointed out that it requires additional spectrum.

More questions on MFA questionnaire
Disclosures in these columns last week of how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a questionnaire to Sri Lankans living overseas on the proposed Judicial Council with the deadline set at July 28 have had their sequel. Now, the MFA has extended the Diaspora consultations until August 10. Of course, those responsible for the blunder have sheepishly answered what they claim were “allegations made in some media.”

On their website, some of the links from the Sinhala and Tamil pages end up in English.  The questionnaire itself has flaws. It is mainly for Sri Lankans living in Sri Lanka as one has to indicate the district of residence. The discrepancy in the March 30 circular and the July 21 one is glaring as no mention is made in the latter to the former.

And as is the case since time immemorial, important Government instructions and circulars are sent out under the signature of the Foreign Secretary. In this case, all instructions have been signed by the Acting DGs who are junior officers. It is clear that there has not even been a proper in-house consultation on this as many senior officers have been side-lined by the Minister.

What is he  trying to hide?
As a key minister in the previous blue administration, this minister aspired to rise to prime ministerial positions. It did not quite work despite all his overtures.

Now that he has what his friendly allies call a ‘plum’ portfolio, the big man now representing a district from the cooler climes is on a different mission.He says publicly that the freedom now enjoyed by the media is “far too much.” He wants immediate laws to keep them under control. He was even against the Right to Information Law, though he dared not vote against it.
“Why does he fear? Does he have a lot more to hide now?” asked one of his contemporaries.

No Tigers, but convoy and outriders for top cop
Even if the separatist war ended with the military defeat of Tiger guerrillas more than six years ago, some habits remain.
A top cop posted to a former intense battle area travels with a small convoy. It is led by a motorcycle outrider and another police officer in uniform wearing white gloves.

Then comes the official car of the top man followed by a jeep with armed policemen.
Ahead of the police party moving out, messages are relayed on the radio to policemen on duty along the route that the top man is travelling and to make sure traffic is stopped on either side of the road.

The white glove clad policemen in the motorcycle often stop at crowded areas to order people to get to a side.

Minister gets guidelines for UDA projects
Megapolis and Western Province Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka recently asked the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for a “methodology for evaluation and continuation of the UDA (Urban Development Authority) projects.”
Such “policy guidelines,” he said, were required to “implement the projects without various legal and procedural impediments.” He pointed out that the projects which were envisaged to be implemented by the UDA had not progressed due to various illegal and procedural impediments.

Minister Ranawaka has been given a four-point guideline. The first is a request that he refers cases that are having bribery and corruption allegations to the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) to obtain its views.
Thereafter the guidelines say:

Review the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and other legal documents by the UDA legal team before taking the next step.
Obtain the present valuation from the Chief Valuer and try to negotiate with the investors to pay the same.
Proceed to the next steps of the agreements/leases once the three other guidelines are completed.

Former IGP grilled on transfer of probe
Criminal Investigation Department (CID) detectives on Friday questioned former Police Chief Mahinda Balasuriya, among other matters, about whether he ordered that an important inquiry under the CID be handed over to the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID).

The investigation was over the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga, former Editor of The Sunday Leader. The investigation had been tasked to the CID but had later been moved to the TID. Mr. Balasuriya was the IGP when the murder took place in January 2009.

Engineering Corp crumbling, gets loan to pay salaries
The State Engineering Corporation (SEC) is virtually bankrupt.
A note before the Cabinet of Ministers has noted that Government agencies have not paid dues over the past ten years.
As a result, even the payment of salaries to staff has become virtually impossible, it points out.

The Corporation has sought a Treasury loan of Rs. 750 million or a guarantee from it to raise a loan from a bank. The request to raise a loan has been allowed. Ministers have decided to appoint a committee to assess the quality of works that the Corporation has already completed due to complaints made by its clients, and a technical report to be submitted. It will be headed by K.L.S. Sahabandu, General Manager, Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB).

Novel water parks on Bentota river
The Government has given approval to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) to establish in Bentota what the latter calls “non-conventional” water parks.

Such parks will have swimming areas and provision for water sports and recreation in the Bentota River. The SLTDA has said there will not be construction involved.

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