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Port City Economic Commission: Marapana gets tough on mandate

  • Writes to President’s Secretary and CHEC Port City MD

By Our Political Editor

Colombo Port City Economic Commission Chairman Gamini Marapana PC recently locked horns with President’s Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundara over attempts to undermine the Commission, and went on to explain the mandate of the Commission and its functions to Dr. Jayasundara.

The exchange came following a letter sent by Dr. Jayasundara seeking a meeting once in three weeks with the Commission in response to a letter sent by CHEC Port City Colombo, The Sunday Morning learnt.

In his response letter, Marapana had also requested Dr. Jayasundara to convey the concerns raised by him to the President and obtain an appointment for him (Marapana) and the commission members to personally meet the President to discuss the matter. The request was made following Dr. Jayasundara’s letter stating that he was writing because of a request by the President.

However, The Sunday Morning reliably learnt that the Commission had not received an appointment to meet with the President, even at the time of going to print.

The exchange of letters occurred when CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt.) Ltd. Managing Director (MD) Yang Lu, on 14 July 2021, in a letter addressed to Port City Commission Chairman Marapana, had noted that CHEC Port City was “looking forward to a productive working relationship with the Commission,” further adding: “Given the large number of subject matters concerned and related tasks, involving various Government and Private agencies from both our end and the Government of Sri Lanka, we are writing to suggest that fortnightly discussions are held in order to: 1. Review progress, 2. Agree on time bound next steps and 3. Allocation of responsibilities with the Commission.”

The letter, seen by The Sunday Morning, was also copied to Dr. Jayasundara. 

Dr. Jayasundara, on 20 July 2021, had sent a letter to Marapana referring to Lu’s letter dated 14 July 2021.

After extending his appreciation to the Commission for all the work done since its formation, he had said: “…It is important that the Commission and the project investor company take their respective decisions having regard to Government policy and fiscal and macro policy consideration, while aligning through a continuous dialogue between the parties and the Government in a well-coordinated manner…”

Dr. Jayasundara had proposed that he meet with all relevant parties once in three weeks.

“You are kindly requested to require the Acting Director General to co-ordinate between the parties and tender a list of matters proposed to be discussed two days prior to the meeting date,” the letter further went on to state.

Apart from Lu, the letter was copied to Legal Consultant to the Commission K.V.N. Jayawardene PC and the Secretaries to the Commission. The Secretaries to the Commission are Capital City Law, which is led by Nihal Jayawardene PC, and Attorney-at-Law Shamalie Gunawardana.

Marapana, responding to Dr. Jayasundara’s letter of 24 July, expressed surprise over the CHEC Port City MD’s move to copy the letter sent to him (Marapana) to Dr. Jayasundara.

After citing Sections 30(1) and 30(4) of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Act, Marapana had expressed serious concern and reservations over Dr. Jayasundara’s proposed action in his (Dr. Jayasundara’s) letter.

The Commission Chair had then gone on to note that Acting Director General (ADG) of the Commission Saliya Wickramasuriya, until the appointment of a permanent Director General, had done a tremendous amount of work to further the goals of the Commission.

He had further noted that under Section 25(b), (e), (f), and (g), the so-called “process” referred to by the CHEC Port City MD were matters within the purview of the Director General.

Marapana had then pointed out: “…If at this early stage of the Commission’s own existence, the coordination of the activities between the Commission, the Project Company and other would be investors and applicants…Were to be taken out of control of the ADG, simply on the basis of a letter addressed to me, as the Chairman of the Commission, being copied to the Secretary to the President, it is my considered view that that it would not only result in seriously undermining the authority of the ADG, but it would further result in sending the wrong signals not only to the ‘Project Company’ but also other would be investors, that they could by-pass even the permanent DG, once appointed, and perhaps even the Commission itself…”

The Chairman had reiterated that undermining the DG and bypassing the Commission would undermine the Commission’s authority and public confidence in the Commission.

Also, responding to Lu’s letter, Marapana, on 24 July 2021, had thanked the CHEC Port City Chairman for two letters sent to him and noted: “What I could not understand was the reason why you, having concluded your letter to me stating ‘Looking forward to a productive working relationship with the Commission’, went on to copy that letter to the Secretary to the President…,” adding: “In the light of the sentiment expressed by you in the last sentence of your letter quoted above, I view your act of copying the said letter, as stated above, to be in bad taste.”

Marapana had then gone on to point out that under the applicable law, the Commission is the “Single Window Investment Facilitator” responsible for the consideration and determination of whether to accept or reject for good reason any application made to the Commission for registrations, licensing, authorisations, or other approvals required to engage in business, invest, reside, or employ in the Colombo Port City.

“There is no need for anyone to attempt to bypass the Commission with regard to such matters. The Commission will, as mandated, deal with such matters as expeditiously as possible, in terms of the Law and in the best interests of the Colombo Port City,” Marapana had noted in the letter to Lu.

Port City Economic Commission: Marapana gets tough on mandate