A joy ride for the ruling party parliamentarians has been provided by Sri Lanka Ports Authority in two dredging vessels on Tuesday January 9 at the expense of the taxpayers.
More than 25 MPs and their families have joined in this joy ride free of charge which has cost Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) nearly Rs. 5 million according to Chief Secretary All Ceylon General Port Employees Union Niroshan Gorakanage.
Although Gorakanage claims so, reliable SLPA sources said the total cost for fuel for the two vessels was around Rs. 300, 000. “SLPA foot the bill only for the fuel as these vessels moved within the port area not outside. Hence the cost was minimal,” sources said on condition of anonymity.
This joy ride was organized by the State Minister of Ports and Aviation Premalal Jayasekera for government MPs and the State Minister’s Coordinating Secretary Senali Jayasekera by letter dated January 8, 2024, has made a request to the Chairman SLPA to provide short eats free of charge for the guests.
But however, SLPA Chairman Keith Bernard has turned down the request.
“The Chairman has turned down the request claiming that state funds cannot be spend on such rides which is hailed by the employees. Had the Chairman agreed to provide the food that was requested, Ports Authority could have lost a considerable amount of public money. Later the State Minister has requested the private bakery that provides short eats for the SLPA staff to supply these food,” Gorakanage said.
But however, Gorakanage said that the other expenses including fuel for the two vessels, overtime payments for the SLPA employees who were in attendance and for other services has cost the institution around Rs. 5 million.
“They claim that this ride was to inspect the two port terminals. If so, why did they spent the time inside the vessels enjoying music provided by a live band with food and drinks? No one was seen inspecting the terminal work,” Gorakanage alleged.
State Minister Jayasekera however refuted the allegation leveled and said that it was he who foot the bill for the snacks, drinks and even for the fuel.
“The MPs wanted to supervise the East and West Terminals and also to see how dredging taking place within the harbour area. That was why I organized this tour. We did not go outer harbour area but within the port area,” he said.
When asked why his daughter who is his Coordinating Secretary requested SLPA Chairman to provide snacks for this event, the state minister said that his daughter never made such a request.
Also, when asked why this journey was organized late in the evening instead during the daytime, if the MPs wanted to inspect the two terminals and how dredging takes place, he said that he had to postpone the time as the MPs had to attend an urgent meeting.
All attempts taken to obtain a comment from Chairman SLPA, Keith Bernard failed as he was not in office.
SLPA refutes reports on “Lavish party on a ship for MPs”
Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) refuted reports that a group of MPs had a lavish party organised on a ship and claimed that it was only an inspection tour of the development activities at the Colombo ports.
It said in a statement that the Ports Authority organise such inspection tours for various Head of State, VIPs, professionals and journalists in the inner and outer harbour in a move to provide correct information on the development activities at the ports.
The statement said that Ports Authority organised an inspection tour for a group of ministers and MPs on the request of Ministers Nimal Siripala De Silva and Priyankara Jayaratne to witness the development of the Eastern Jetty, the JCT terminal and West terminal.
Sri Lanka Ports Authority said it had not borne any expenses for food or anything else as reported.