CID complaint by SJB over nano fertiliser import
- JVP asks why private firm handled fund transfer for state transaction
- Shasheendra promises farmers will be compensated
BY Buddhika Samaraweera
The main parliamentary Opposition, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), yesterday (25) lodged a complaint with the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), requesting an inquiry into an alleged misuse of government funds regarding the consignment of liquid nano nitrogen fertiliser that was recently imported to Sri Lanka.
The Government imported liquid nano nitrogen fertiliser from India, and from an initial order of 3.1 million litres, 25,000 litres were airlifted into the country on 19 October.
Against this backdrop, the Sathi Aga Aruna newspaper published an article titled “Rs. 290 million to pay for Indian fertilisers in a personal bank account – President’s Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera has influenced”, which caused a stir, with Jayasundera denying all allegations through a media release issued by the President’s Media Division (PMD).
Commenting to the media after the complaint was filed, SJB Parliamentarian Mujibur Rahuman claimed that no tender procedure was followed in the import of the liquid nano nitrogen fertiliser, and also alleged that the stock of fertiliser was released by Customs, in violation of the Customs Ordinance, under the influence of Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage.
“At first, it was said that about 100,000 litres of nano nitrogen would be imported, but in the end, only 25,000 litres were imported. No tender procedure has been followed in importing this stock of fertiliser. If an urgent order was made, at least the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers should have been obtained, but Cabinet approval has not been obtained for this,” he further claimed.
Rahuman also charged that the local company that imported the consignment of fertiliser had not submitted any relevant documents to the Customs, and that the company in question did not even have a licence issued by the Imports and Exports Controller General to import fertiliser.
Aluthgamage was unavailable for comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, Sathi Aga Aruna Editor-in-Chief Mahinda Ileperuma, last Saturday (23) delivered a statement to the CID on the aforesaid news report. The CID had requested a statement from Ileperuma following a directive issued by Dr. Jayasundera to Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana D. Wickramaratne on the same day to inquire into the allegations levelled in the newspaper article.
Commenting on this, SJB MP J.C. Alawathuwala yesterday said that after the media uncovered suspected irregularities in the importation of the fertiliser, the relevant journalists were being summoned to the CID.
“Currently, the Government is using the CID to crack down on those who reveal thefts and irregularities,” he claimed.
In this backdrop, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) questioned why the financial transactions related to the Government’s acquisition of this liquid fertiliser were entrusted to a private entity.
Raising this question at a press conference on Sunday (24), JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti stated that the transactions for such dealings between India and Sri Lanka should instead be carried out through a state company.
“They have opened an account for international transactions on 18 October, on the same day the funds were transferred from the Treasury. A private company cannot transfer funds when it comes to a state transaction. The Cabinet decision was reached on 19 October. How can they open an international account on the very same day that the money was to be transferred? The funds had arrived prior to the Cabinet decision being reached,” said Handunneti.
Noting that the Cabinet decision stated that the transaction was to be handled by the Colombo Fertiliser Company, he claimed that the transaction was instead handled by the local agent of the Indian fertiliser company. He thus questioned the transparency of Cabinet decisions, charging that these are based on “personal intentions”, and that public funds were being used for private business activity.
Handunnetti also questioned the Government as to who made such decisions to allow this “underhand deal” instead of using the Ceylon Fertiliser Company for the transaction.
Meanwhile, farmers have engaged in various forms of dissent, including protests, against the sudden shift to a 100% organic agriculture-based industry, citing that they would need time and resources to adopt the new practices and organic fertiliser, and that their harvests would suffer as a result.
However, State Minister of Promoting the Production and Regulating the Supply of Organic Fertiliser, and Paddy and Grains, Organic Foods, Vegetables, Fruits, Chilies, Onion and Potato Cultivation Promoting, Seed Production, and Advanced Technology Agriculture Shasheendra Rajapaksa yesterday confirmed that the Government would compensate farmers for any losses they incur due to their harvests being compromised by the switch to organic fertiliser.
Speaking at a media briefing, he stated: “If in the case of a reduction in the harvest, farmers will be compensated through the farmers trust fund. The decision to move from chemical to organic fertiliser was made with such implications in mind. We are working while keeping the best interest of the people in our conscience.”
He added that the ruling family is accustomed to being reprimanded by the people, but that despite such setbacks, the decision would remain in place until the goal is achieved. He reiterated that President Rajapaksa’s decision was in the best interests of the people, and to ensure they do not consume harmful chemicals.