Jan 09, Colombo: Sri Lanka Minister of Industry and Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons and Cooperative Development Rishad Bathiudeen today clarified that the allegation of registering a false cooperative entity aimed at fraudulently collecting funds is clearly false.
Meeting with the representatives of the All Island Farmers' Federation (Lanka Govijana Sansadaya) on 9 January at his Ministry, Minister Bathiudeen said the allegation made by the Farmers' Federation convener Namal Karunaratne was false and his Ministry has no authority to collect funds.
Minister Bathiudeen has called the meeting after Namal Karunaratne made false allegations on TV against the Minister.
At a recent press conference Karunaratne has alleged that Minister Bathiudeen has led the process of registering a false cooperative entity called as Sri Lanka Rice Producers Cooperative Association aimed at fraudulently collecting funds for it.
A Sri Lanka Cooperative Rice Producers Association already exists and therefore registration of another cooperative bearing such a similar name is illegal, Karunaratne has said on TV, adding that the newly registered cooperative also applied for a loan from a Company in China at more than Rs. 1 billion.
Minister Bathiudeen, joined by Secretary to the Ministry KDN Ranjith Ashoka clarified that he does not have any powers to approve loans for cooperatives and clearly showed that his official too did not do so.
"Any foreign fund application should go through the Finance Ministry and External Resources Department and not though our Ministry. Our officials have not approved nor recommended any such fund applications. Therefore this is clearly a false allegation," Minister Bathiudeen said.
The Minister added that he is also instructing his officials to speed up support work for local cooperatives and to speed up registration processes also.
After clarifications were made, Karunaratne praised Minister Bathiudeen for promptly looking into this issue and clarifying it.
"We made these allegations based on the information we received. We have to safeguard our farmers and millers and that is why we took up this cause. The Sri Lankan consumer can benefit only when the small scale rice miller is safeguarded. We shall clarify to the media of our error today," he said.