Primary Industries and Social Empowerment Minister Daya Gamage informed the Presidential Commission that the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) had decided to store paddy at Mattala Airport after the airport officials had given them permission to execute this decision in 2015.
During the testimony given at the Commission on the decision to store paddy at the Mattala Airport in 2015, he stated that if the airport officials were against that decision the government would have arrived at some other solution to store the paddy.
The complaint made to the Commission mentioned that there was valuable equipment in the premises where the PMB stored paddy and by storing paddy inside the buildings, damage of approximately Rs.5 million was caused.
However, the Minister informed the Commission that during this particular period the government had faced a problem due to a sudden increase in the paddy cultivation.
“There was an increase of 23% in paddy cultivation in the Ampara District in 2015. People in the Ampara District cannot store that quantity of paddy in their houses because of wild elephants,” the Minister said.
The Minister said that he had also been in a committee appointed by the government to find a solution for this matter. “I don’t know who it was, but someone from the committee had decided to store paddy at Mattala Airport and accordingly we needed permission from the airport officials. We also obtained their approval,” he informed the Commission.
Minister Gamage also stated that the airport officials have to inform the PMB if there had been valuable equipment at the place where paddy was to be stored.
“We only used one place at the airport and I believe that it is a place which was created specifically for stores because at the Bandaranaike International Airport there is a similar place for stores,” he said.
However, the commissioners informed the Minister that the PMB should have followed certain safety measures when storing paddy at the airport without causing damage to equipment.
Earlier, police officers attached to the PCoI visited Mattala Airport and observed certain damages to the premises, including the damages caused by rats mainly to the panel rooms attached to the main switches of the airport.
It was also reported that the PMD had paid Rs. 835,132 per month as rent to the Airport and Aviation Services Ltd., for storing paddy and the paddy was stored for six months. (Yoshitha Perera)