COPE member blows whistle on another scam


By Shamindra Ferdinando

A member of the anti-corruption parliamentary watchdog committee, UPFA MP Weerakumara Dissanayake yesterday alleged that there was an ongoing move to categorize a large stock of rice declared unfit for human consumption under questionable circumstances as animal feed.

MP Dissanayake claimed that it was being done so as to sell the stock as animal feed.

The revelation was made at the weekly Joint Opposition media briefing held at the Dr N.M. Perera Centre, Borella.

Speaking on behalf of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) Anuradhapura District MP Dissanayake alleged that a national crime was being committed by the government.

Former JVPer and National Freedom Front member Dissanayake contested the last parliamentary polls on the UPFA ticket.

Dissanayake said that a stock of approximately 97,000 MT had been sealed in the wake of an inquiry initiated by the ruling coalition following the January 2015 presidential polls.

The alleged move came to light on Tuesday (Sept. 20) when top officials of Laksathosa appeared before the COPE. The MP quoted them as having explained that the stock had been discarded on the basis of unsubstantiated assertion that it was unfit for human consumption. The MP stressed the fact that the quality of the sealed stocks had been confirmed by the management appointed by the new government.

He insisted that the stock had been in good condition at the time the stores were sealed.

The COPE member urged Leader of the House and Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella to inquire into the alleged move to dispose of the stock of rice as animal feed. Alleging that Minister Kiriella had been unduly concerned about COPE investigations into alleged Central Bank bond scams, Dissanayake challenged the UNPer to intervene in the matter.

MP Dissanayake said that the COPE had received a mandate from parliament to probe alleged Central Bank bond scams therefore Minister Kiriella shouldn’t be unnecessarily worried about it. The MP said that COPE report on the alleged Central Bank bond scams would be handed over on Oct. 13, 2016 to parliament.

Recollecting the circumstances under which a section of the UNP went out of its way to undermine the inquiry and targeted the Auditor General over his opinion in respect of government debt, MP Dissanayake called for comprehensive probes into waste, corruption and irregularities.

The MP urged President Maithripala Sirisena, too, to inquire into the alleged attempt to discard quality rice. He however acknowledged that the condition of the stock may have deteriorated during the lengthy investigation.

The NFF representative speculated about the possibility of what he called the rice Mafia benefiting from the plight of Laksathosa.

Having had won the last two national level polls on an anti-corruption platform, the Yahapalana government had engaged in a spate of questionable transactions. There couldn’t have been a deal as shady as Central Bank bond scams, the MP alleged.

Dissanayake said that the crisis at Laksathosa had shocked the COPE. "We requested the Auditor General to inquire into the controversy over sealed rice stocks."

The COPE member alleged that the ruling coalition had pathetically failed to keep its much repeated promise to end waste, corruption and irregularities.

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