No flour in power
Powerful union withdraws case
under apparent pressure
While in the Opposition the UNP controllled Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya
had led a stormy campaign that Colombo port land was being fraudulently
leased out for a flour milling project with a Dubai based company.
But now with its party in government the powerful Union has apparently
yielded under pressure from the party hierarchy and withdrawn a
court case against the project.
Not so long
ago the JSS identified the allocation of land for the Serendib Flour
Mill project as a corrupt deal. But early this month it decided
to withdraw a case filed against the particular company and the
trade unionist, Vasudeva Nanayakkara has revived the battle to question
the deal by filing a fresh petition in the Court of Appeal. The
JSS, led by Minister Gamini Lokuge early this year vowed to continue
a campaign against what he called a 'corrupt' deal but now the JSS
has settled for what appears to be minor adjustments in the original
deal - among them being the company agreeing to shift the location
of its flour milling plant to an extent not exceeding 12 metres
towards the east.
The JSS also
had agreed that no claims would be made against each other while
all allegations have been withdrawn. JSS Treasurer, Nimal Samarakkody
who swore one of the affidavits to the Court of Appeal said, "the
main aim of the court case was to highlight the corrupt practices
of the previous PA regime and to stop a transaction that was against
the national interest of the country".
The JSS had
challenged the validity of the allocation of land in the Prince
Vijaya Quay (PVQ) in the Port of Colombo for the construction of
a flour mill by the Serendib Flour Mills, Dubai.
The JSS had
said that nearly two acres of land from the Port had been leased
out to the particular company wrongfully, unlawfully, and fraudulently
during the period of the PA government despite objections by SLPA
The SLPA had
called for tenders for the purchase of land in the vicinity of the
port due to the non-availability of land within the Colombo Port
area. The Director (Technical) of the port and the Finance Committee
were among those who objected to the leasing of the land at the
(Technical) G.P. Weerasinghe had pointed out that only limited land
was available within the port and it was not feasible to provide
the land. "Providing large areas of land for individual business
activities is best served in specialised industrial ports. Thus
granting of space for individual activities in the small port of
Colombo is at the expense of multi-user economic activity and could
be damaging in the long run to the economy of the country,"
Mr. Weerasinghe said.
Finance of SLPA had noted that leasing of this quay would mean a
loss of around Rs. 800 million annually to the port, whereas the
income in terms of the rental from the lease of the land would only
be Rs. nine million.
One of the
allegations levelled by the JSS was that the transaction lacked
transparency and instructions given by the cabinet had not been
followed. The Sunday Times learns that the JSS had been under heavy
pressure from within the party to withdraw the case on the grounds
that it would prevent investments coming in from Dubai.
Secretary Sirinal de Mel told The Sunday Times he did not wish to
comment on reasons for withdrawing the case, as it was Minister
Lokuge who was handling the matter. Mr. Lokuge was out of the country
and was not available for comment.
travel, but don't bring SARS
By Chris Kamalendran
Sri Lankans are rushing to make use of an extraordinary offer made
by airlines and tour operators to fly to Singapore, Bangkok and
other SARS-hit destination at give-away rates.
tour operators have cut down their air ticket rates by more than
20 per cent of the normal fares and offered free hotel accommodation,
special family packages and visits to tourist destinations.
The offer is
said to be made as a promotional campaign to overcome the drop in
air traffic and the tourist arrivals due to SARS and the Iraqi war.
Among other countries the offers are being made to visit Singapore
and Thailand which had been affected by SARS. An Epidemiologist
said the SARS threat was not still over, though the World Health
Organisations (WHO) latest report says that for the past few weeks
the disease had not been transmitted internally.
an individual choice to visit these countries and a risk the visitors
take," he said.
Among the offers was one from Singapore Airlines which made available
a return ticket for Rs. 9,750 and free hotel accommodation with
meals for two nights and a day in Singapore.
It had made
similar offers to 10 other destinations. A singapore airline spokesman
in Colombo told The Sunday Times that the offers were being made
to improve the air traffic and boost tourism affected by the the
spread of SARS and the Iraqi war.
He said that they were offering 15,000 tickets under this promotional
campaign, and already the package was fully booked.
The Thai airways
made a different offer aimed at boosting Thailand's tourism industry.
The Thai Airways is offering upto 20,000 free air tickets in a competition
for those who take its flights.
the Colombo international airport health authorities continued to
keep vigil for SARS cases. Airport Medical Officer Dr. Gamini Jayasekara
said they were still maintaining the surveillance at the airport
for SARS cases.
within a fraud, says Vasu
By Laila Nasry
The application filed by veteran trade unionist Vasudeva Nanayakkara,
against the construction of a private flour mill in the Colombo
Port premises will be taken up in the Court of Appeal tomorrow.
When the case
came up last Friday, lawyers for the respondents said they were
not yet ready as they had received notice only the previous day.
Nanayakkara came to court having learnt that the Jathika Sevaka
Sangamaya (JSS) which initially went to court opposing the setting
up of a flour mill within the port, stating it was part of the corrupt
practices of the PA regime and went against the national interest
of the country, had settled the case by signing a motion prepared
by the 2nd respondents, Serendib flour mills.
petition states that such a settlement was subsequent to the political
pressure brought to bear on the JSS in spite of Minister Gamini
Lokuge who plays a pivotal role in the JSS was quoted as saying
that they would pursue with the case.
the motion, which contains the acquiescence of the 2nd respondent
to shift the location of the mill by 12 metres eastward, is dubious
and an attempt to cover up a fraud, Mr. Nanayakkara says the settlement
in effect prevented the court from going into the merits of the
case and has thereby endorsed a fraud within a fraud perpetrated
on the unsuspecting public.
to the settlement the flour mill project had got underway and the
2nd respondent had already begun demolishing an existing warehouse
where a considerable amount of tea was being stored.
states the leasing out of prime land within the Colombo Port for
30 years without calling for competitive prices could result in
a monumental loss of revenue and the loss of land which otherwise
could be utilized for the core operations of the port.
Further in the event the port needing the land back after an initial
period of ten years, would result in them having to pay compensation,
a further loss in revenue, which would affect the financial status
of the Ports Authority and its vast number of personnel.
petitioner is praying court to issue an interim order staying the
operation of the lease, restrain the Ports Authority and Serendib
flour mills to act in pursuance of the lease and to issue a writ
of certiorari and a writ of prohibition respectively in this regard.