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Colombo says donated Saudi dates ‘properly distributed’

A senior Muslim minister in Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Cabinet has rejected claims of irregularities in the distribution of dates donated by the Saudi government.
The dates donated by the Saudi government in April were distributed among needy communities in Sri Lanka without any bias, said Abdul Hameed Mohammed Fowzie, senior minister for Urban Affairs and minister-in-charge of Haj Affairs.
He told Arab News that 200 metric tons of dates had been donated by the Kingdom to the Sri Lankan government to be distributed among the deserving people in the island.
Neomal Perera, deputy minister of external affairs, had accepted the dates officially from the Saudi government in April.
The dates which were contained in 2 kg packets were clearly printed with labels saying ‘From Saudi Arabia — Not for sale.’
Fowzie was reacting to what he called mischievous reports in some anti-Sri Lanka websites that wrongly claimed irregularities in the distribution of dates donated by the Saudi government this year.
He explained that a special consignment of dates would arrive in Sri Lanka soon, which will be distributed among the mosques on the island during Ramadan.
“This will be carried out on a special directive from President Rajapaksa at state expense,” he added.
A media release from Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Ministry said the government in Colombo is deeply appreciative of the recent generous donation of 200 metric tons of dates by Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to the people of Sri Lanka.
“As desired by the donor, the dates would be distributed in all twenty five districts of Sri Lanka,” said the ministry statement.
“This magnanimous gesture is yet another demonstration of the warm friendship and close relations between Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia,” it added.
Central Province Council Member Azath Zalley has earlier written a letter to Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Johnston Fernando pointing out that the stock of dates was meant for distribution among the needy Muslims during Ramadan.
He also alleged that the ministers who received their portions are now trying to sell those dates at the local market.

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