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Citizens' Mail

A lawyer’s battle against corruption

We are aware that people in the present culture tend to abide by the axiom ‘Make money. By good means, if you can, but by any means make money’. Many seem to prefer the latter option perhaps because the profits are larger and the effort is less. Also, most people, when they see injustice, prefer to look away rather than stand up for what they know is right as that option is not only easier but also healthier. But rarely among us, there are fearless men who for some reason or other choose the honourable option. They do so not with the expectation of personal gain but in the hope of making life better for their fellow beings.

Those who know him well would consider Nagananda Kodituwakku, lawyer and civil rights activist, to be one of them. He has demonstrated this many times. The palm oil case is just one such episode. Many people, particularly those with young children have shown an interest in the case as fast foods often use palm oil and children are fond of fast foods.

In June 2016 the customs refused clearance for a consignment of 24 containers of adulterated palm oil as it was found to be unfit for human consumption.

In an Investigation conducted by the customs, the palm oil board in Malaysia affirms that the exporter of the consignment had at the request of the Sri Lankan importer mixed a fatty acid with the refined palm oil. This adulteration is simply motivated by profit utterly disregardful of the serious health hazards to the consumer. A tax of Rs 150 is levied on a kilogram of refined palm oil. Importers as we are aware resort to various unethical means to reduce their costs by declaring the contents to be what they are not. In this instance, the contents were declared to be crude palm fatty acids which are not listed in the customs tariff codes or used in the palm oil industry in Malaysia. The Malaysian Palm Oil Board also states that action will be taken against the exporter for violation of export regulations. Crude palm oil can have only 0.5% fatty acids and the finished product only 0 .1% fatty acids. But this consignment according to analysts contains 20% fatty acids. The food act stipulates that such a product should be confiscated and destroyed.

However, a customs officer made arrangements to release the consignment with a fine of Rs 100,000 imposed on the importer. This carcinogenic product would be released to the market in barrels with no indication of the contents or the manufacturer and would get into the food that our children and we consume.

Mr. Nagananda got wind of this and he filed a case against the release of the palm oil on behalf of a representative of the national movement for consumer rights protection and the consignment of palm oil was detained.

When Nagananda was visiting his family in England the representative of the national movement for consumer rights had filed an affidavit seeking permission to withdraw the case for reasons which most of us would consider obvious. But he was informed that it had to be done through his counsel and was therefore compelled to inform Kodituwakku. Thereupon Nagananda who returned to Sri Lanka withdrew the case and immediately filed the case in his own name. Accordingly, the Director General of customs PSM Charles informed court through the AG and the court ordered that the release order made by the customs officer be cancelled and action be taken in accordance with the Food Act and thereby the consignment of potentially harmful palm oil was once again prevented from getting into the market. The petitioner whose bid to get the palm oil released was thwarted, organised a group of persons to stage a protest in front of the customs. Their attempt to burn an effigy of Lawyer Nagananda was prevented by customs officers. The case is due to be taken up for hearing.

It must be said that Nagananda is doing this solely in the interest of the citizens of this country. He bears the expenses personally.


Who is a good politician?

We are blaming the politicians for problems the country is facing today. Our annual growth rate is very low. We are importing all our basic needs. All of us want to own a car. But we do not make cars. We want motor cycles. But we do not want motor cycles. We have thousands and thousands of three-wheelers. We do not make even a single three-wheeler.

Our export earnings are very low compared to our exports.

We run our country from the loans taken from foreign countries. We take more and more loans to pay back the loans.

We spend very little as capital expenditure for development. We spend a very large amount of money for salaries, maintenance and other routine work. Very little development is happening.

Large amount of money is spent to maintain Ministers, State Minister, Deputy Ministers, Members of Parliament, Members of Provincial Councils and Members, etc.

Large amount of money is spent for their salaries, perks, allowances, vehicle permits, pensions, foreign trips, etc.

With all these the economy of the country is going from bad to worse.

Politicians are telling all sorts of fairy tales to cheat the people and grab power.

Should we allow this to happen? We have appointed wrong people as our leaders. This year is an election year. It is our responsibility to send good politicians to the Parliament. It is not the political party that is important. Very good or excellent people should go to parliament.

We have given below the qualities and required skills of a politician:

First and foremost, the best quality of a politician is honesty. A faithful and effective politician is trustworthy and reliable. He or she should have a very good character.

A politician should be well educated. He has to control thousands of highly educated people. To do this he must be well educated. Otherwise he will have one hundred advisors to advice him.

A good politicians should have decision making capabilities. He should be able to delegate. He should not play favourites. Crisis management and problem solving skills are very important. He should have political professionalism. He should know what responsibility is and what accountability is.

Courage, positive attitude, creativity and clarity are also very important for politicians.

When we want to buy a shirt we go to a very good shop. When we want to buy a saree we go the best Fashion shop. When we buy a car we buy the best car. We want to buy the most beautiful house. We send our children to the best school. We want our daughter to marry the rich, decent, educated, pleasant young boy. He should have an excellent character.

Unfortunately we appoint as representative in parliament a person without GCE/O-Level qualifications. A person having connections to the underworld. A person who has stolen millions and millions of public funds. A person who went round the world using public funds. A person having two or three liquor shops or bars. A person connected to two or three murders. A person of very bad character or a playboy. A person having connections to sale of illicit drugs.

Let us not do this mistake at this year elections. Political party is not important. A person having correct leadership qualities is very important.

D. Weeratunga

Makandura Madush saga in lighter vein

It has been reported Makandura Madush has amassed wealth worth billions by his underworld activities and even donated lavishly for religious places of worship.

Why not get him released and bring him down to this debt-ridden country and allow him to carry on his business unhindered to pay up all the foreign debt. It will be a good idea to appoint him as Minister for Trade and Commerce and add him to those Ministers and Members of Parliament who are accused of being drug addicts by State Minister Ranjan Ramanayake.

Then, we can sit back in comfort and sing ‘pack up your trouble in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile - he is a jolly good fellow?

GAD Sirimal


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