Written by Tharushan Fernando
10 Feb, 2017 | 8:59 pm
The Voice Against Corruption questions as to whether there was a suspicious transactions that took place with regard to the Balloon Project which was to provide the entire country with free Wi-Fi service.
Convenor of the Voice Against Corruption, Wasantha Samarasinghe, said that issues have arisen with regard to an institution named Rama, which is involved in the project.
In February 2016, a Balloon was launched with the promise of providing high speed internet to the entire country using Wi-Fi technology.
The Balloon which was launched under the guidance of the CEO of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka, or ICTA, Muhunthan Canagey, crashed in Gampola on February 17, 2016.
As part of the Google Loon project, an agreement was entered into on July 29, 2015, in Colombo, to launch 13 Balloons in order to create 10,000 Wi-Fi zones.
The agreement was signed by CEO of ICTA, Muhunthan Canagey, and the Vice President of Google, Mike Cassidy.
After the project was deemed a failure, it was revealed at a press conference convened on April 8, in Colombo, that this project is being carried out under a programme known as the Rama Project.
According to the Voice Against Corruption, during the past the government staged a massive performance saying that Google is coming to Sri Lanka and that a Google balloon will be launched and the entire country will be provided with Wi-Fi services but now that performance has come to an end and the Balloon has crashed.
“There is no Google, and there is no Wi-Fi. That is where the questions arise. Where are the people who were involved in this project? Even though they called this a Google Project, now information has come to light that the name of this project is Rama. So who is Rama? Who are the directors of the Rama project?” they questioned.
Convenor for Voice Against Corruption,Wasantha Samarasinghe called on the government to inform the public as to what this Rama project is all about and they must inform the country about who the project directors are.
He added that the television and radio frequencies in this country are national resources, and cannot be changed according to the whims and fancies of various people.
“Now the problem before us is, what decisions will be taken with regard to television and radio frequencies in the country? This is a serious issue”, he said.
Meanwhile, on October 25, 2015, the Business Times supplement of The Sunday Times newspaper reported that the CEO of ICTA, Muhunthan Canagey, had stated that he would resign from his post if the plan to include Sri Lanka into the project failed.
While Muhunthan Canagey still serves as the CEO of ICTA, his tenure is due to the end on March 3, 2017.
While the Google Loon project that was launched under his leadership ended in complete failure, Acting Minister of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure, Tharanath Basnayaka, says that proposals have been made to extend Muhunthan Canagey’s term as CEO of ICTA, until 2019.
Basnayake said that the proposal made by the Board of Directors, will be presented to Subject Minister, Harin Fernando, who is currently overseas, upon his arrival to the country.
However, Secretary to the Ministry of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure, Wasantha Deshapriya, notes that the Ministry is not aware of such a proposal.
Secretary of Ministry of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure said that the institution in question has been gazetted under the Ministry and it is an institute that has been registered under the 2003 Act, as well as the Companies Act.
He pointed out that the appointment of Boards of Directors for companies registered under this Act, is outlined in the document titled Article of Associations, where Article 109 states how a Board of Directors should be appointed, which states that the power to appoint a Board of Directors lies with the Secretary to the Treasury which should be done after obtaining the advice of the Subject Minister.
He further added that this company has only two shares which are both owned by the Treasury.
“Another question we have is how the Chief Executive Officer of this Institution was appointed. Article of 120 states that the power to appoint a CEO lies with the Board of Directors. That power has not been vested in the Minister, nor in me”, charged Deshapriya
Meanwhile, a Satellite Television Broadcasting firm belonging to Muhunthan Canagey, was shut down in 2006.
In such circumstances, what procedure was followed when appointing him to such a high position in a state institution? When such institutions, that depend on public coffers for its survival, keep failing, how does one remain as the leader of such an Institution? What exactly is the Rama Project which is behind the Google Loon project?
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