All that glitters is not gold; controversy over statues gifted to Dalada Maligawa

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Did the Thai donors with connections to the Thai government take the authorities for a ride when gifting

Buddha statues to the Sri Dalada Maligawa?

The hue and cry in 2018 at the loss of “gold Buddha statues” has become a whimper according to a report from the National Gem and Jewellery Authority.

Twenty-five gold statues were gifted to the Sri Dalada Maligawa authorities in 2017/2018. They were placed in the new wing of the temple.  

The present Diyawadana Nilame, on the advice of the Asgiriya Mahanayake, who was then in-charge of the inner shrine room, gifted some statues to temples around the country.

A hue and cry was raised that the gold statues were spirited away and banner headlines appeared, questioning the authorities of shifting the gold statues out of the Sri Dalada Maligawa and what became of them.

The temple authorities who accepted the 25 Buddha statues at the time, never tested them in good faith and took the word of the donors to their authenticity as the donors claimed connections to the Thai government.

However, results of tests conducted subsequently have now been released by the Gem and Jewellery Authority. They have testified that there are no traces of gold in the statues presented to the temple.

The height of each statue with the base is 4 feet 9 inches and three feet without the base.

The composition of the material of the Buddha statues is as follows: In front of each statue are the words “Sri Dalada Malgawa.” There is 57.4 percent of copper (Cu) and 42.6 percent of zinc under the outer cover of each statue.

Underneath the main covering of the statues, the content is as follows: 41.4 per cent of titanium, 30.5 percent of lead, 11.2 per cent of calcium, 8.4 per cent of chromium, 6.6 per cent of iron, and 1.9 per cent of copper.

The Authority says there is no gold covering on the statues presented for examination.

To celebrate 32 years in politics, minister plans big bash at public expense

A senior government minister has raised eyebrows over a series of events organised by his ministry to celebrate his 32 years in politics. To celebrate the minister’s anniversary in politics, his ministry has organised these roll over events running for almost a month.

A letter circulated by his ministry to all heads of government bodies coming under it has instructed officials that seven events at seven different villages in the south have been organised to celebrate the minister’s political anniversary.

They have been instructed that since the minister intends to spend an entire day in each village for each of the respective events, the presence of the officials who had been assigned for each village, is required to ensure the events are successful.

Concerns have been expressed at the highest levels in the government that public officials are being required to spend entire days at events specifically designed to celebrate a politician’s political career.


Former PUCSL Chief Janaka Ratnayake watching the Parliamentary proceedings at his office in Kirulapana.

Dismissed PUCSL Chairman’s removal made into a mess by his PR team

This week saw the Parliament voting out the chairman of an independent commission–the first to be removed through a Parliamentary vote.

For Janaka Ratnayake–the overthrown head of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL)–who was brought in by the previous administration, it was using the whole saga for his next ambitious project–contesting the Presidential elections as he indicated a day before the vote.

It was almost like warning the MPs they had better be in his good books so when he becomes President, they could be considered to be in his Cabinet.

After being refused entry to the gallery to witness the Parliament debate on his removal on Wednesday, Mr Ratnayake followed the proceedings on a giant television screen in his private office located at Somadevi Avenue, in Kirulapone.

To capitalise on the momentum and gain some sympathy, his staff released photos of the chairman on his way out from his seat at the PUCSL office, seated in a cushy chair in front of the mega LCD screen as the divided House debated on his imminent removal. Somewhat later, the staff realised the images they circulated could be counter-productive.  Underneath the TV screen was a minibar consisting of bottles of foreign liquor which were extraordinarily expensive these days after the tax hikes.

Social media users had a field day on the publicity disaster. One commented; “After a tough day of witnessing his removal, he definitely might need a couple of shots and the chairman was well prepared for it to fortify himself with the outcome.”

Realising the blunder, the staff had to do the photo-shoot again covering the bottles of foreign liquor with a photo frame in front of them. By the time the latest photos landed on social media, the damage had already been done and users hopped onto the next hot topic.


Top official in secret visit to African country

Eyebrows were raised at the highest levels of the government after the story reached them about a top bureaucrat of a ministry who is on leave.

They found that he had travelled beyond the western capital when he sought leave. It was to an African country. The top bosses were unaware of it.

To make matters worse, he had been accompanied by a person who had struck it rich in a trade related to the sea. They say he is underwriting the costs.


Indo-Lanka fishing talks in troubled waters

A visiting Indian expert who works with the rural fisherfolk community in South India met with Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda this week on the ongoing issue of Indian fishermen engaging in illegal bottom trawling in the Lankan territorial sea.

V. Vivekanandan currently serves as the Director of the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS), a start-up that works closely with rural fisherfolk communities in this region.

With the minister reiterating his stand of not allowing Indian fisherfolk to engage in fishing in Lankan waters using illegal fishing methods, Mr Vivenkanandan observed that “No one in Tamil Nadu can publicly say that Indian fisherfolk are entering into Lankan waters for fishing illegally.”

He also noted that some groups are linking up the Katchathivu islet issue with so-called fishing rights of Indian fisherfolk for political reasons, and it had nothing to do with the ongoing issue of mass scale fishing by Indian fisherfolk using illegal methods.


With prices high, boozers going for illicit liquor

Following the tax hike, illicit arrack production increased exponentially in recent months as many Sri Lankans found themselves unable to afford a decent shot of a local brand.

Therefore, many switched to the cheaper ‘moonshine’ which is commonly available in urban cities nowadays after being procured from rural areas.

As sales went down significantly, the Sri Lanka Liquor Licence Holders Association was concerned.

Addressing a media briefing, its President Dallas Fernando said many dangerous chemicals, including one used in tranquilisers to tame wild elephants, were among the source materials used in the illicit attack manufacturing process.

It gives not just a mule’s kick, as the
saying goes, but an elephantine kick, said a habitual tippler.

Mr. Fernando also said the government could increase its revenue up to Rs 300 billion from the current Rs 170 billion if taxes were reduced.


Fraud Bureau probe on conduct of former secretary to ministry

A former ministry secretary may soon be called before the Fraud Bureau after revelations that the ex-official was still signing official documents even after his retirement.

The detection was made by the new secretary after the official found that documents related to land transfers had taken place without his approval.

The new secretary had sought advice from senior officials and was advised to complain to the Fraud Bureau as there may be unlawful gains in the process.

Initial investigations had revealed the documents had been backdated to give the impression they were transactions already approved, but that seems not to be the case as approval had not
been granted.

Police carry Jaffna district MP away from protest site

Jaffna district All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) Parliamentarian S. Kajendran, was among the dozens of protesters who staged a protest against a Buddhist shrine, allegedly built on a private land at Palaly in Jaffna on Thursday.

Palaly Police tried to remove the protesters from the sit-in protest, but when they refused, nine were arrested, barring the MP. When they tried to arrest him, a directive came from the senior brass of Police on the implications of arresting a Parliamentarian under the Provisions of the Parliamentary Privileges Act.

Police officers were helpless on how to remove him from the spot. Finally, they had enough of it and four officers came and lifted the MP and put him in a nearby land covered with bushes, located a few hundred metres away from the protest site. The arrested individuals were released on bail after being produced before Jaffna Magistrate’s Court.

After the footage of how the MP was manhandled by Police officers came to public attention, the court called for a report from the Police on the conduct of Police personnel at the scene.

Meanwhile, even after being dropped off by the Police in a different location, the MP continued his protest till early morning the next day.


MP argues over his six minutes being reduced to four

The backbenchers in Parliament often find their allocated speech time reduced to mere minutes in the afternoon sessions after party heavyweights seek to use their time for their lengthy speeches.

As Parliament sat this week, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Parliamentarian Gevindu Cumaratunga found his earlier allocated time of six minutes was reduced to a four minutes at Thursday evening’s proceedings, with poor attendance of lawmakers in the House.

He took up the matter with the Presiding Chair on how his time was arbitrarily reduced and the back-and-forth arguement went on nearly for two further minutes from his allocated total of four minutes.

The MP made do with a brief contribution and wound up.

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