JVP protests sacking of Lanka Mineral Sands Chairman


by Saman Indrajith

Removal of Asoka Peiris from the post of chairman of Lanka Mineral Sands indicated that the Yahapalana government does not need honest and competent public officials with a backbone but those who toe their line and help perpetuate corruption, the JVP said in parliament yesterday.

Chief Opposition Whip and JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake making a special statement said that there was public displeasure against the government abruptly removing Peiris from the post of chairman of Lanka Mineral Sands. He was an official who carried out his duties to the letter and honestly. He was in that position before he was appointed as the head of the delimitation appeal committee. While Peiris was leaving the parliament complex after giving evidence and statements before the COPE committee on Feb 07, he was sacked and another person was appointed to his post.

Peiris worked to convert the Lanka Mineral Sands into a profit earning venture. He was able to increase its annual turnover which was Rs 385 million in 2015 to Rs 1250 million

in 2016. When Peiris assumed duties the institution’s bank balance was Rs 61 million. He increased the amount to Rs 385 million by the time he was sacked. When he started the monthly cost of the institution was at Rs 100 million and he brought it down to Rs 65 million. He increased welfare measures for the employees. In 2015 an employee received only Rs 17,000 as bonus and he increased that up to Rs 43,000. Medical expenses allowance for employees had been increased form Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000. He not only made the institution a profit earning one by cutting down waste but also increased welfare of the workers. It was a known fact that he was against corruption and waste. He stood against the government’s plan to sell off Lanka Mineral Sands to private sector by fixing the label that it was loss making enterprise. "There is a public opinion that Peiris had been removed since he is not toeing the government line. If that is true we have to understand that the Yahapalana regime has now veered off all its promises and become an extension of the previous regime where the corrupt officials had been lauded for they worked hand in glove with the rulers to rob public money", Dissanayake said.

The person who had been appointed to the post of chairman after sacking Peiris was Maithree Gunaratne. We want to know from the government is there any truth of the stories that Gunaratne had been once sacked from another public institution over corrupt charges. We have been told that Gunaratne soon after he was appointed to the new post conducted an inspection visit to the Pulmuddai premises of the Lanka Mineral Sands. For that purpose he had hired a helicopter. Is that true?

Industries and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen said Peiris was an honest public official and he had done nothing wrong during his tenure as the Chairman of the Lanka Mineral Sands. "We also admit that he made the institution a profitable venture. It was the Secretary to the President who appointed Peiris to that post and he was replaced with Maithree Gunaratne by the same office. The new appointment has been conveyed to my ministry. I will inquire whether the charges and allegations against Gunaratne are true. I will also inquire whether he had hired a helicopter for his site visits. 

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