COLOMBO | Thursday September 19, 2019 | NewsLanka | by Claude Gunasekera | During the opening ceremony of the Colombo LOTUS TOWER, the incumbent President Sirisena at a ceremonial speech mentioned and claimed an allegation on a scam regarding an advance of 2 billion rupees which was given to a company naed ALIT in 2012 by the then government, which was later revealed in 2016 that such a company did not exist.
It is believed that the ALIT was given the permission to build the tower by then cabinet of ministers in 2012. In 2017, TRCSL scrapped the agreement with the ALIT and continued the project. The contract to build the tower was awarded in 2012 to China National Electronics Importers & Exporters Corporation (CEIEC) and Aerospace Long March International Trade Co. Ltd. (ALIT) by the Cabinet of Ministers. “The Lotus Tower was a tripartite agreement. The Sri Lankan and Chinese Governments were part of that agreement but the third party was a company named ALIT. The Sri Lankan Government made an advance payment of Rs. 2 billion to that company but that company suddenly disappeared after 2016,” the President said. He said that following the disappearance of the third party of the agreement the Chinese Exim Bank did not release the balance of the loan. “Total cost of the project was Rs. 16 billion as per the agreement made with the Chinese Exim Bank, which was supposed to provide the total amount but following the disappearance of the company, the bank only released Rs. 12 billion.” Sirisena said.
President Sirisena claimed the project was only partially completed and Rs. 3 billion will be needed to complete the rest of the project and that money could have been spent on welfare projects such as public healthcare. The President also pointed out the Government will have to pay Rs. 2.4 billion annually as debt repayment for the project for the next 10 years.
Referring to the technical advancement of the project, the President said the tower will be the next chapter of the country’s telecommunication sector. He noted the tower would attract more tourists to the country. “Construction of the Colombo Lotus Tower can be seen as project that has moved Sri Lanka forward technologically,” he said.
Responding to the President’s speech, Mass Media Ministry former Secretary Dr. Charitha Herath in a Twitter message denied the President’s statements. “I just saw Prez @MaithripalaS speech at the opening ceremony of the Nelum Kuluna tower. As far as I know about this development project, many untruthful facts were mentioned in that speech. I guess TRC officials would rectify those misinformation. #SriLanka,” he said in the Twitter message. Meanwhile Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa also denied the statement of the President and said “ No payments is made to China National Electronics, to ALIT or any other company in this regard”.
Following this incident the Committee on Public Enterprises (CoPE) decided to launch a full-scale investigation on the revelations made by President Sirisena. CoPE Chairman and Opposition lawmaker Sunil Handunnetti said in a meeting that all institutions including the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) would be summoned for an investigation on the questionable deals and the construction-related matters of the Lotus Tower.
“In June 2014, CoPE made an investigation about the Lotus Tower. The Auditor General had prepared a special report on the Lotus Tower and that report was presented to Parliament on 1 April. This report analysed various aspects of the tower and all stages from construction to operation. CoPE will take this matter in a speedy manner and complete its probe within a short time,” he said.