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AG to move HC over eight related incidents 



Easter Sunday carnage probe:

… gems worth Rs 14 mn among cash, jewellery, etc., worth 340 mn recovered

By Shamindra Ferdinando  

The Police Headquarters says Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, will soon move High Court in respect of eight incidents related to the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide attacks.  

Officers of the AG’s Department along with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) were preparing in that regard, Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said.  

According to SDIG, in charge of the police Legal Division, altogether, the CID and the TID had investigated 17 incidents and the previous AG Dappula de Livera, PC, filed cases in the High Courts of Kegalle, Kandy, Kurunegala, Puttalam and Colombo in respect of nine investigations. Rajaratnam succeeded de Livera on May 26. SDIG Rohana said that the CID and the TID would conduct further investigations into fresh findings made because of ongoing discussions among the AG’s officers and representatives of the CID and the TID. A series of suicide attacks in Colombo, Batticaloa and Negombo on April 21, 2019 claimed the lives of 270, including 45 foreigners. The police blamed now proscribed National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) for the attacks. Police headquarters announced the move to file the remaining eight cases in the wake of the Catholic Church stepping up pressure over what Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith called unsatisfactory status of the investigations 

SDIG Rohana said that during the investigations the CID and the TID took 724 persons into custody. Out of whom, 227 persons had been remanded pending further investigations whereas 83 were held in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The rest had been granted bail.

Among those detained are All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader and Vanni

District Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Rishad Bathiudeen and his brother, Riyaj as well as JVP National List nominee Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim, father of two suicide bombers, who perished in the wave of attacks on Easter Sunday 2019. Investigators have recovered Rs 28.5 mn in cash, USD 695,830, three blue gems estimated to be worth Rs 14 mn and jewellery to the tune of Rs 24 mn from some of the suspects.  

 SDIG Rohana said altogether they had recovered Sri Lankan rupees, USD, gems, and jewellery worth Rs 205 mn. The government, in terms of the PTA has also taken over several properties owned by Easter Sunday carnage suspects, he said.  

Among the properties are 18-acre Lactowatta in Karadipuwal, Wanathavilluwa, 25-acre land at Aselapura in Welikanda, another 25-acre land at Ollipuram in Kattankudy and luxury house situated on 8.5 perch land at Dematagoda, where wife of one of the suicide bombers triggered a blast when the police surrounded the house. The police arrested her father-in-law spice merchant Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim whose two sons — identified as Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim and Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim — detonated their explosives at the Shangri-La and the Cinnamon Grand hotels, respectively. The police have also taken into custody seven vans, one Bolero jeep, seven motorcycles and one three-wheeler used by those involved in the conspiracy. SDIG Rohana said that the police investigating Easter Sunday attacks recorded staggering 9,800 statements and analyzed 21,000 telephone numbers, in addition to the recovery of Rs 134 mn from 100 bank accounts. Responding to another question, the top police officer said that the police also inquired into NTJ activities in the run-up to the Easter Sunday attacks. There had been organized attempts to entice those who sat the GCE Ordinary Level and Advanced Level into the NTJ’s ranks, SDIG Rohana said.  

Meanwhile, top Church spokesperson Rev Father Cyril Gamini Fernando asked whether the AG Department and the police would consider the recommendations made by the Presidential Commission. Rev. Fernando said that the Church expected the government to punish those who had planned the heinous attacks. Dealing with those who had neglected their responsibilities despite being constitutionally responsible for safety and security of the people was as important as exposing the masterminds, Rev Fernando said.  

Responding to another query, Rev. Fernando recalled what former AG de Livera, PC said days before he retired. President’s Counsel de Livera declared that the Easter Sunday massacre was a high-profile conspiracy, Rev Fernando recalled. Now that he was no longer at the helm of the AG’s Department, his successor Rajaratnam should bring the investigations to a successful conclusion, the priest said. 

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Personal income tax shock dims economic activities



ECONOMYNEXTSri Lanka’s personal income tax hikes have hit economic activity in the first quarter though despite currency stability helped businesses cut prices, Hemas Holdings, a top consumer goods group has said.As the currency stabilized, as central bank ended contradictory money and exchange policy conflicts, businesses had cut prices. Mainstream economists generally claim that price falls lead to delayed transactions and try to generate positive inflation through money printing, though businesses believe otherwise.

“The market witnessed price reductions and promotional trade schemes to stimulate consumption,” Hemas Holding told shareholders in the March quarterly statement.

“However, changes made to the personal income tax structure severely impacted modern trade sales volumes as consumers rationalised their purchases under reduced disposable income levels.”

Sri Lanka hiked personal income tax rates in 2023. Value added taxes were raised to 15 percent from 8 percent last year. Another 2.5 percent cascading tax was imposed on top of VAT, the effect of which was estimated to be around 4.5 or more through the cascading effect.

While value added tax allows the government to get tax revenues after citizens make transactions and getting the economy to work, based on best decisions needed to drive the economy to satisfy real needs, income tax kills economic decisions and transfers money to state actors, analysts say.

Net gains on income tax therefore comes at a cost of lost value added tax as well as killed real economic activities which would otherwise have been based on decisions of those who earned the money.

UK also almost doubled VAT in 1979, also to 15 percent, cut the base income tax rate and widened thresholds above inflation to give choice to individuals, amid criticism from Keynesian style or mainstream economists to recover the economy, after two back-to-back IMF programs failed to deliver concrete results, analysts point out.At Hemas Holdings, group revenues went up 52.6 percent to 32 billion rupees in the March 2023 quarter from year earlier amid price inflation as the rupee fell, and cost of sales went up 45.1 percent to 22.2 billion rupees, allowing the group to boost gross profits 72 percent to 9.8 billion rupees, interim accounts showed.

However, administration costs went up 54 percent, selling and distribution costs went up 36 percent, and finance costs went up to 1.3 billion rupees. Profit after tax was flat at 1.06 billion rupees.Sri Lanka’s central bank stabilized the rupee in the second half of 2022 after the rupee collapsed from 200 to 360 to from two years of money printing and also removed a surrender rule in March allowing the exchange rate appreciate.

The US Fed also tightened policy from March 2022 helping bring down global commodity prices after triggering inflation not seen for 40 years through Coronavirus linked money printing or accommodating a real shock through monetary expansion.

“While the modern trade channels witnessed a slow down due to the adverse impact of the tax reforms and high cost of credit on the middle-class urban population, the general trade channels experienced significant growth and increased foot fall,” Hemas told shareholders.

“The decline in global commodity prices in the second half of the year, enabled the business to make price reductions across the portfolio.

“However, the benefit of appreciation of the Sri Lankan Rupee in March 2023 was not seen during the quarter due to the lag effect but is expected to realise in the quarters to come, provided the current economic conditions prevail.”

Hemas is also has operations in Bangladesh where the central bank is also buying up government securities with tenors as long at 20 years to mis-target the interest rate, triggering forex shortages and depreciating the Taka, according to analysts who study the country.

Inflation had hit 9.3 percent in Bangladesh by March.

“In the face of numerous challenges including slowdown in the global economy, depreciation in Taka, heightened inflation and depleting foreign currency reserves, the country entered an IMF programme in January 2023,” the firm said.

“The value-added hair oil market witnessed a degrowth, as consumers curbed consumption in many non-essential items and switched to value-for-money alternatives.”

Mainstream economists mis-target rates to boost growth known as either monetary stimulus or bridging an output gap, though the effort result in instability and economic contractions.

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