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COPE promises to probe SJB accusations over fertiliser imports from China, India

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) would soon initiate a thorough probe into the importation of organic fertiliser from China and Nano Nitrogen from India, its Chairman Prof. Ranjith Bandara told The Island yesterday (11).

The SLPP National List MP said so in response to the query regarding SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, and Leader of the House Susil Premajayantha, taking up massive losses suffered by Sri Lanka due to fertiliser imports during President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s administration.

Prof. Bandara said that punitive active measures were needed to be taken against all those responsible, regardless of their standing in the society.Colombo District MP Premadasa said that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government owed an explanation regarding the losses incurred due to fraudulent activities on the part of politicians and officials and action taken against those who have been accused of corruption.

Pointing out that he raised this issue in Parliament last Friday (09), parliamentarian Premadasa questioned the possibility of the government going the whole hog as those involved continued to wield power.

MP Premadasa questioned the basis under which Sri Lanka paid USD 6.9 mn to China for a consignment of rejected organic fertiliser. The former Deputy UNP leader alleged that the government had quite conveniently ignored the recommendations made by the Auditor General in this regard.

The People’s Bank, in early January 2022, paid USD 6.9 million to a Chinese company to settle a longstanding dispute triggered over its fertiliser shipment that was rejected after it was found to be contaminated.

The payment was made after the Colombo Commercial High Court dissolved an order preventing the payment to Qingdao Seawin Biotech for the imported fertiliser.The order was dissolved on the basis that the Chinese company and the Sri Lankan government had reached a settlement on the issue.

The SJB leader said that the Parliament should be informed of the status of the China deal. “I do not want to point finger at China and India as the responsibility of both deals lie with the Sri Lanka,” MP Premadasa said.

A staggering USD 6.9 mn payment was made in the wake of China blacklisting the People’s Bank for following a court directive.Lawmaker Premadasa pointed out that a comprehensive inquiry was needed to unravel the truth. The fertiliser scams couldn’t be investigated without taking into consideration President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ill-fated decision to do away with chemical fertiliser, in May 2021.

MP Premadasa said that nano fertiliser, too, was imported under controversial circumstances. “We paid USD 12.45 for a 500 ml nano liquid fertiliser whereas it was available in India for USD 3.23,” MP Premadasa said. Therefore, Sri Lanka paid Rs 7,841 mn more than the actual price, he said.

MP Vijitha Herath told The Island that he raised this issue in Parliament at that time. Those who had been involved in these deals were named and in fact the CID initiated an inquiry following a complaint received from Dr. P. B. Jayasundera, the then Secretary to the President, lawmaker Herath said.

The CID recorded Dr. Jayasundera’s statement regarding the accusations directed by MP Hearth over nano fertiliser imports, whereas Gamini Senerath, the then Secretary to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, in a statement issued to the print media denied any wrongdoing on his part.

Editor of ‘Aruna’ Mahinda Illepperuma told The Island that he was questioned by the CID over the reportage of nano fertiliser imports after the disclosure of a State Bank being pressed to release funds. In spite of much publicised investigation, absolutely nothing happened, Illeperuma said.

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