Fertiliser imports from China, India:
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probing allegations against Secretary to the President, Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, as regards the opening of a new account at the Town Hall Branch of the People’s Bank under the name ‘United Farmers Trust Limited’ (UFTL) on Oct.18 for the payment of nano-urea ordered from the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), has questioned Secretary to State Ministry of Agriculture M.N. Ranasinghe.
Declaring that the Indian High Commission in Colombo had facilitated nano-urea imports, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage recently assured Parliament that payment had been made to the UFTL account as the outfit functioned as IFFCO’s local agent.
The former Controller General of Immigration and Emigration Department is among those so far questioned by the CID. At the onset of the investigation, the police questioned Mahinda Illeperuma, the editor of ‘Aruna’ over their coverage of a statement made in Parliament by JVP MPVijitha Herath on Oct 22.
The Chairman of Colombo Commercial Fertilisers Ltd., Methsiri Wijegunawardena, too, has been asked to furnish a statement to the CID in this regard.
M.N. Ranasinghe is the Secretary to the State Ministry of Organic Fertilizer Production, Supply and Regulation and the Paddy and Grains, Organic Food, Vegetables, Fruits, Chillies, Onion and Potato Cultivation Promotion, Seed Production and Advanced Technology for Agriculture. Shasheendra Rajapaksa received appointment as the State Minister on July 8, 2021.
Denying MP Herath’s allegations, Dr. Jayasundera has lodged a complaint with the CID.
The President’s Media Division (PMD) has quoted Dr. Jayasundera as saying that the opening of an account in a State bank ‘is an act between the relevant bank and the account holder. It is the responsibility of the bank to act in accordance with the standard procedures in this regard.
MP Vijitha Herath yesterday (23) told The Island that the government should make a special statement in this regard in Parliament. Welcoming the CID investigation into the newly formed UFTL opening a new account under controversial circumstances at the Union Place branch of the People’s Bank, the Gampaha District MP said that the order placed for nano urea should be investigated taking into consideration the rejection of organic fertilizer consignment ordered from Qingdao Seawin Biotech Ltd. China on the basis of it being contaminated. The latter has challenged the rejection in court and demanded the company be compensated to the tune of USD 8 mn.
The MP pointed out that the PMD had stated that the rejected consignment was a part of the order worth about Rs 1 bn.
The JVP MP said that the Attorney General had moved the Colombo Commercial Court against Qingdao Seawin Biotech Chinese Company, its local agent Chelina Capital Corporation and the People’s Bank. The court has extended the enjoining order issued in respect of the submissions made by the AG till Dec 3.
Responding to another query, MP Herath said that the Opposition expected the government to explain why orders for nano urea and organic fertilizer had been placed via UFTL and Chelina Capital Corporation, respectively, at the expense of the state enterprises namely Colombo Commercial Fertilisers and Lak Pohora.
Herath questioned the circumstances under which the state enterprises had been prevented from placing orders. It would be pertinent to mention that the government had placed the order for nano urea following a dispute with Chinese organic fertiliser, MP Herath said.
The JVPer urged the CID to submit at least an interim report on its investigation to the Parliament through the Public Security Ministry.
The issue at hand is whether the price of the consignment had been manipulated, the MP said, adding that initially, the price of a 500 ml bottle had been quoted at USD 12.45 though subsequent allegations and negotiations involving all stakeholders brought the price down to USD 10 per bottle. Of the 2.125 mn litres that had been ordered from IFFCO, only a part had been received so far and the arrangements were being made to airlift the rest, sources told The Island.
An enjoining order has been obtained in respect of the Chinese carbonic fertiliser matter only. There was no legal issue pertaining to the nano urea imports, sources said.
Herath said that the government should explain how it intended to address China blacklisting the People’s Bank over the enjoining order issued by the Colombo Commercial High Court to stay the payment for Chinese fertiliser.
The JVPer said that parliamentary watchdog committees should examine both cases. In addition to MP Herath, Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Patali Champika Ranawaka has launched a scathing attack on the government over nano urea imports.