The Government will this week sign a US$ 135 million (or more than Rs 20 billion) deal to buy a Russian built Gepard 5.1 Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) for the Sri Lanka Navy. A delegation from Rosboronoexport, the monolithic state-owned enterprise for defence exports, will arrive in Colombo for this purpose. They are also expected [...]


Deal for Rs. 20 billion++ Russian patrol vessel this week, company chief comes in private jet


The Government will this week sign a US$ 135 million (or more than Rs 20 billion) deal to buy a Russian built Gepard 5.1 Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) for the Sri Lanka Navy.

Alexander Alexandrovich Mikheev, head of Rosborono export

A delegation from Rosboronoexport, the monolithic state-owned enterprise for defence exports, will arrive in Colombo for this purpose. They are also expected to hold talks on other Russian defence equipment on offer. The Russian company offers battle tanks, fighting vehicles, combat trainers, bomber jets, aircraft, helicopters, ships, boats, submarines, weapons and ammunition.

The signing of the OPV deal will coincide with the arrival of Alexander Alexandrovich Mikheev in his private jet. A close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he is the head of Rosboronoexport and is being accompanied by top officials and his personal security team. He is expected to call on President Maithripala Sirisena, top security and defence officials. President Putin appointed Mr Mikheev for the top post in January this year.

The cost of the OPV at US$ 135 MILLION is the unutilised amount remaining from a credit line issued by Russia on February 10, 2010. The previous Government utilised only US$ 165 million and the credit line lapsed in 2015. However, the present Government persuaded Russia to re-validate the US$ 135 million for five years. A Russian bank is extending a loan for the amount at an annual interest rate of four per cent. The repayment period, with a five year grace, will be within ten years.

The value of the OPV would increase to US$ 158 million which would cover onboard spares and ammunition. A further US$ 7 million is the cost of training Sri Lanka Navy personnel. The Russian authorities have requested the Government of Sri Lanka to contribue 15 percent of the value of the vessel.

In September this year, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a recommendation from President Maithripala Sirisena, as Minister of Defence, for the purchase of this vessel. He said in a Cabinet Memorandum that “The Sri Lanka Navy has a requirement of this kind of a ship and already given the recommendations to purchase this.” Defence sources say the purchase of more ships from two different countries is now on the cards.

High hopes for women, but lowest allocation in budget
While there is a great deal of talk about getting more women to contest elections, there are questions about how serious the Government is about the welfare of women and children.

As Ampara District UPFA MP Sriyani Wijewickrema pointed out this week in Parliament, the allocations to the Women’s and Child Affairs Ministry for 2018 is a mere Rs 3 billion, one of the lowest. This amount is for the welfare of a group that makes up well over 50 percent of the country’s population, she pointed out.

Mattala airport valuation goes high and low
A ding-dong battle is under way over the valuation of the Mattala International Airport.
Valuation officials are learnt to have placed the figure at US$ 400 million taking into consideration the land value and the infrastructure development that is under way.

However, sections of the Government argue that the real value is US$ 230 million and claim a higher figure would be a deterrent to foreign investment. However, officials are sticking to their position.

At last, obituary for G-15 headed by Lanka
The Group of 15 (G-15), an informal forum chaired by Sri Lanka for the past seven years, plans to close shop by the end of the year. Created during the ninth Non-Aligned Summit meeting in Belgrade in 1989, it consisted of countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Sri Lanka, which has held onto the rotating chair since 2010, took over the chairmanship from Iran, and at a time when there was lack of interest on the part of other members to assume the chair of a forum which had little or no political clout internationally.

Sri Lanka took over despite strong reservations from Foreign Service professionals in the ministry. They argued that it was an ailing organisation. However, Dayan Jayatilleke who was Permanent Representative in Geneva at the time, Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama were active supporters of taking over the G-15 chair overruling Foreign Service professionals.

The Dayan-Kohona-Bogollagama triumvirate were keen to impress President Mahinda Rajapaksa of a chairmanship of an international body, irrespective of the fact that it was in the throes of death. That long outstanding obituary has now arrived.

Motions against Musthapha unlikely this year
Two different votes of no-confidence against Local Government and Provincial Council Minister Faiszer Musthapha are not likely to be debated this year. One was moved by the ‘Joint Opposition’ while the other came from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).

The ongoing budget debate is expected to end on December 9. Thereafter, Parliament will sit only on December 11 as the Constitutional Assembly. That is to enable ‘Joint Opposition’ members who had not made any speech during the earlier debate on the proposed constitutional changes to do so.
However, the motions will remain in the Order Book of Parliament and are not likely to come up early in view of the impending local elections.

Phone monitoring: Police Commission takes case to CC
It was only last week that the Sunday Times reported on its front page that the head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Senior DIG Ravi Seneviratne revealed how Police Chief Pujith Jayasundera wanted telephone records of senior officers.

The revelation came at a meeting the Police top brass — with the exclusion of the IGP — met members of the Police Commission. Mr Seneviratne said the Special Investigation Unit which functions under the Police Chief had given a list of names. Upon perusing, he had first found his phone number and, thereafter, a closer study had revealed all the mobile phone numbers belonged to senior Police officers.

Following the meeting, the Police Commission has said it would make representations to the Constitutional Council over several issues they have raised, particularly over the Police Chief.It has now come to light, that the IGP Jayasundera had sought to use a machine handed over to the Police by the Australian Federal Police. It extracts information held on mobile phones, including deleted e-mails and location data. One such machine has been assigned for use by the Terrorism Investigation Division.

That this piece of equipment and others were handed over to the Sri Lanka Police by their Australian counterparts was revealed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). The ABC has sought recourse to the Freedom of Information Act in Australia.An ABC report said that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) “was central to the Government’s attempts to deal with the influx of asylum seekers fleeing the civil war in Sri Lanka. In mid-2009 it struck a deal with Sri Lankan police to provide equipment and training to help Sri Lanka disrupt people-smuggling networks.

Excerpts of the ABC report: “Documents released to 7.30 (title of the ABC programme) under a Freedom of Information request, the last of a series dating back to 2011, detail what is being provided. Across five years the AFP have given the CID and other branches of the Sri Lankan police everything from furniture and office equipment to high-tech intelligence programmes. Among them is the Jade Investigator software program, which allows police to easily link photos, video, intelligence reports and other evidence together.

“Another program given to the CID was IBM’s i2 Analyst’s Notebook, a powerful tool to visualise networks of people being targeted by a police force. The AFP also handed over two machines that extract information held on mobile phones, including deleted emails, texts and location data.
“Former diplomat Bruce Haigh served as Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner in Sri Lanka in 1994. He told 7.30 the equipment could have been used to pursue the Sri Lankan government’s enemies.

“The AFP also built or refurbished at least four offices in CID’s headquarters in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.”
Police Chief Jayasundera, meanwhile, was in Australia last week attending a conference of Police heads.

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