Small party making giant strides with help from Western embassy: SLPPers told

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Several worried ministers and MPs of the SLPP met with one of the party’s senior-most officials this week to raise concern over the delay in making preparations for the upcoming presidential election.

The ministers and MPs pointed out that one particular opposition party, though small in size, was making hectic preparations for the election. This includes holding large-scale meetings, setting up new “bala mandalas” and similar measures throughout the country.

“Why are we delaying our campaign? Won’t we be at a disadvantage if we don’t move to meet this threat?” the ministers and MPs asked the official. The senior party man, however, pointed out that the presidential election was at least six months away. “If we start our campaign now, what will be left to say six months down the line when the election is actually around the corner?” he asked his colleagues.

He then told the others that he had it on good authority that the smaller opposition party was receiving both political and financial backing from the diplomatic mission of a powerful Western nation. “Several NGOs connected to this embassy are also providing them funding. That is the secret behind their large-scale campaign. We are getting more information. Let us see how much help the embassy will give them,” said the official.

He added that in the meantime, the SLPP party would carry on as it had planned for now by reorganising itself at the grassroots level and holding pocket meetings.

Desperate Meesalai North residents send money to Governor to repair main road

Following the country’s worst economic crisis, many development projects, particularly road development initiatives, which were approved or under implementation across the country were halted or abandoned by contractors on multiple grounds, making it difficult for the public to even access a decent road to carry out their daily activities.

The cash-strapped government also temporarily halted such projects to tighten the budget deficit.

In a village in Meesalai North, Chavakachcheri, residents are fed up with taking up the issue of renovating Thattankulam Road, their main access road, which is covered by two Grama Sevaka divisions. With the authorities taking little or no action on their pleas over the past 18 years, the residents came up with a final solution, hoping that this time the authorities would listen. Each family residing on the street came forward to donate their one-day salary, or Rs 1000 per head. They collected around Rs 100,000 and sent it to the Northern Province Governor’s official bank account, telling him in a petition that it was their contribution to the road development work.

In their petition, the villagers pointed out that several hundred people, including students, used the road, which is located near the A9 road, daily and requested the Governor’s Office to look into the issue urgently as their main access road had not been renovated for more than 18 years, despite various assurances given by authorities and local politicians.

A daily labourer who is residing on the street said: “We are sick and tired of requesting authorities to renovate this road, but since the government is also financially struggling, just like us, we thought of pooling money among ourselves to extend a helping hand since that is the only way left for us.”

Kite flying in the North

The annual Thai Pongal Day kite festival organised by youth groups in Valvettiturai, North, on Monday turned out to be a major event as Tamils marked the birth of the first month of the year and the beginning of the harvest season.

Thousands of spectators flocked to the northern tip of Valvettiturai near Uthayasooriyan Beach to witness mega-size kites designed by kite enthusiasts. At least 70 such danced in the northern sky, with the
North-East monsoon’s moderate wind weather helping the spectacle to continue till the evening.

Among the mega-size, uniquely designed kites, one, in particular, caught the attention of many as they could relate so much to the current cost of living and the recent Value Added Tax (VAT) hike.

The kite owner came up with a creative illustration that depicted a man bearing the tax burden box. Many spectators clicked photos of the hike and appreciated the designer for coming up with a  timely message.


The protest outside the National Hospital against the appointment of new inquirer into sudden deaths

Sudden deaths: Questions over new inquirer’s competency

A protest was held this week outside the Colombo National Hospital against the recent appointment of an inquirer into sudden deaths.

The protesters alleged that the official was not competent to hold the position.

The official’s actions have resulted in the remains of deceased persons being referred needlessly to
post-mortem examinations, they alleged.

A letter signed by several former Colombo Municipal Council members and members of the public has also been handed over to the authorities, asking for the official’s removal and demanding that a more competent official be appointed as the inquirer into sudden deaths at the National Hospital.

Traders hire guards to protect carrots

The talk of the town among most Sri Lankans these days is the unprecedented prices of vegetables, and one in particular, carrots, which are sold at more than Rs 2000 per kilo in retail markets.

The lower supply and increased demand for carrots due to recent bad weather coupled with floods resulted in limited supplies to economic centres countrywide.

With carrot prices rising to gold levels, some of the traders had to hire security guards, paying them Rs 1,500 a day to ensure the carrot bags were protected in the store since there were reports of’missing’ bags in recent days.


NAPPP staff raps move to change CEO

A group of staff members of the National Agency for Public-Private Partnership (NAPPP) have strongly objected to a move to remove its acting CEO and appoint a retired and allegedly “corrupt” former Finance Ministry official in his place.

In a letter to the President and others, they claim that a memorandum to this effect is to be presented soon to the Cabinet to obtain its approval.

The staff members allege that the recently retired Finance Ministry official faces serious allegations of corruption and wrongdoing. They accused a senior financial advisor to the president of being behind the attempt.

Apart from President Ranil Wickremesinghe, copies of the letter have been sent to State Finance Ministers, all Cabinet Ministers, and senior officials at the President’s office and the Treasury.

Radio video: SLBC mulls novel project to raise revenue

A proposal has been put to the Board of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) to video record certain SLBC programmes for telecast via private television channels as part of a joint venture. The proposal notes that video recording certain live or pre-recorded SLBC programmes and allowing television channels to telecast them will give more publicity to those programmes and help attract more advertising revenue.

The proposal points out that the newest trend in radio broadcasting is the utilisation of visual radio, and accordingly, the SLBC hopes to video certain special programmes it produces and telecast them jointly with private television channels.


Move to import peanut and undu flour smells of scam

The Agriculture and Plantation Industries Ministry has urged the Import and Export Control Department to issue licences for private traders to import 2000 metric tonnes of peanuts and 1000 metric tonnes of undu flour by the end of February.

The ministry request claims that, in terms of the Agriculture Department data, while the peanut harvest for the 2022–23 Maha season and the 2023 Yala season was sufficient, their recovery percentage had dropped from 60% to 50–55% due to water shortages and failure to apply fertiliser on time. As such, a need has arisen to import peanuts for domestic usage, along with undu flour, given that demand will be high over the Thai Pongal season.

Sri Lanka achieved self-sufficiency in peanuts in 2021, and some senior government officials claimed the proposal to allow the import of peanuts and undu flour should first be referred to the Finance Ministry for approval as it decides on the taxes for such imports. They claimed that the move could open the door for another massive scam in the form of the sugar scam, allowing private companies to import peanuts and undu flour and sell them at exorbitant prices. It will also be a blow to the country’s foreign reserves, which it is desperately trying to increase, they opined.


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