The Eastern Terminal of the Colombo Port was inactive for five years since 2015 due to the mismanagement and poor decision making of the former Yahapalana Government, Ports and Shipping Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena revealed in Parliament yesterday.
Minister Abeygunawardena also said that 310 persons who have not passed the Ordinary Level examination were recruited to the Ports Authority during the Yahapalana Government’s tenure.
Joining the debate on nine regulations under the Excise (Special Provisions Act) and 10 notifications under the Excise Ordinance, Minister Abeygunawardena also pointed out that three main political figures that took economic policy decisions during the Yahapalana regime have not made it into the 9th Parliament. Abeygunawardena said, “When a tenure of a government ends, we can conclude whether its economic policies and strategies were good or not. If the Yahapalana Government took people friendly economic policy decisions, it would not have ended up in the Opposition. During the Yahapalana Government’s tenure, key economic policy decisions were taken by three persons that include the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the two Finance Ministers Ravi Karunanayake and Mangala Samaraweera. They are like the pilot and the two co-pilots. None of them has been elected to this House. People have decided that keep aside being in the ruling party, these people do not even deserve to be in Parliament. Mangala Samaraweera knowing that his competitor would get more votes than him, did not contest in the election. This is enough to realize how good or bad a Government’s economic strategies were.”
Speaking on his ministry Abeygunawardena said, “when we handed over the Eastern Terminal, all its work was completed. As soon as the Government changed, it decided to cancel the order for importing cranes for this terminal. Due to this poor decision, the Eastern Terminal ended up being inactive due to the lack of cranes during the last four and a half years. This is a humongous terminal that could facilitate any large international vessel. The loss incurred due to its inactivity during the last five year must be millions of rupees,” he noted.
Abeygunawardena also said that the Yahapalana Government planned to develop Number 5 of the JC Terminal. However, even before the commencement of the project, a stock of cranes was ordered. “When the development of the jetty was not started, these cranes were ordered. So now we have a stock of cranes which cannot be employed, but have to pay for, for storage.” At this juncture former State Minister Harsha De Silva questioned, “Is the MP who made this order in Parliament now?” to which Abeygunawardena replied, “No, that MP is not in Parliament. Do you want to reveal his name? Are you asking for the name? If you are asking for the name, I can reveal it. But out of decency I will not do so.”
Minister Abeygunawardena was also critical of the lease agreement of the Hambantota Port. Regarding the employment of 310 persons who do not have O/L qualifications, Minister Abeygunwardena said, “Even to become a labourer in the government sector, a person needs to pass the O/Ls. What are we going to do with these people? They have been absorbed into the cadre but they do not have necessary qualifications.”