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America dumps “toxic” Trump!

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN,

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, January 23: He fooled some people for some time. He also fooled almost all the people for some time. He tried to fool all the people all the time, and failed miserably.

 Former United States President Donald Trump returned to Mar-a-Lago in Florida and to his company last week as an ordinary citizen at a time when it faces a deepening crisis, with key properties bleeding revenue and its bankers, lawyers and customers fleeing the company.

His neighbours at Mar-a-Lago do not want to have him around on a permanent basis! Proud Boys and other outfits who invaded the Capitol in Washington on January 6 after he incited them are now mad with him. They thought he would defend them. But he denounced them even as they were on the rampage.

 Financial disclosure forms, filed by the former president as he left office, revealed that his hotels, resorts and other properties had lost more than $120 million in revenue last year, as the Covid-19 pandemic forced long-term closures and kept customers home. Those losses were worst in the places where Trump could least afford it: His Washington hotel, which has a $170 million loan outstanding, saw revenue drop more than 60 percent. His Doral resort in Miami — also carrying a huge debt load — saw a 44 percent drop.

 Barely 24 hours after he left the White House oh-so-reluctantly, his company’s troubles appeared to multiply: One of its banks and one of its law firms said they would cut their ties with the Trump Organization. They are the latest in a string of vendors and customers who severed their relationships with the company after Jan. 6, when a mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol directly after he addressed them at a rally.

 The picture emerging shows the inversion of Trump’s fortunes since 2015, when he entered politics promising to remake the country in the image of his growing, swaggering business.

Now, Trump returns to a business remade in the image of the country he led: beleaguered, indebted and toxically politicized, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

 “He faces some very serious problems that have been building in recent years and I think are going to come to a head now that he’s left office,” said Bert Ely, a banking consultant who has testified before Congress on financial matters.

 The Trump Organization is a relatively small operation. It relies heavily on the work of others — lawyers and real estate brokers, and investors who paid to have Trump’s name on their buildings. Now, some of those outsiders are pulling away. “He’s done enormous reputational damage to himself,” Ely said. Trump still owns his company. But it is unclear when — or even if — he will return to his old role as the company’s day-to-day leader.  

The new financial disclosures, filed routinely by an outgoing president, show that the company is facing one of its darkest hours, as the coronavirus hammers the tourism industry.

Overall, Trump listed specific revenue figures for 47 different companies, including his golf clubs, hotels and New York City park properties. Combined, revenue at those companies declined more than 35 percent last year, according to a Washington Post analysis.

 There were sharp declines at three of Trump’s most important properties: his D.C. hotel, his Doral resort in Florida, and his Turnberry resort in Scotland. Their combined revenue fell from $149 million in 2019 to $71 million last year, a drop of more than half. Trump faces more than $400 million in outstanding loans, including more than $290 million on Doral and the D.C. hotel.

 The New York Times reported last week that he has to cough up nearly half a billion dollars in the next three years: $395 million in loans that fall due during 2022-24, and $100 million he owes in taxes which had dodged all these years. 

And Trump’s company continued to lose key partners — including banks and lawyers that had stuck with it through the lowest points of Trump’s political career. “We no longer have any depository relationship with him,” said a spokesperson for BankUnited, a Florida-based bank where Trump had kept more than $5 million in money-market accounts. On Thursday, BankUnited said it was closing those accounts.

 The decision meant that, since the attack on the Capitol, Trump had lost three of the four banks that held his largest deposits. Signature Bank and Professional Bank cut their ties earlier this month. The fourth bank, Capital One, has declined to comment.

The backlash to Trump’s actions has even hit the smallest of Trump’s business partners, including the organizers of a triathlon — the Tri at the Trump — held at Trump’s golf course outside Charlotte.

 “It was all on track before the Capitol,” said Chuck McAllister, the founder of the event, which he expected to attract 450 athletes and 1,000 spectators.

 But then, McAllister said, the Capitol attack caused sponsors and vendors to pull out. He had to cancel the event. “It is deja vu. It’s like Groundhog Day,” McAllister said. He said he was unsure whether he would come back in 2022. “The name’s toxic. It’s toxic to some people. That’s never going to change.”

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Massive revenue loss: Eyebrows raised over delay in responding to House query

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SLPP members say sugar deal black mark on govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Many an eyebrow has been raised over the delay on the part of the Finance Ministry to respond to a Finance Committee (FC) request for a comprehensive report on an alleged fraud in the controversial sugar tax revision.

Chairman of the Finance Commission Anura Priyadarshana Yapa on January 5 issued instructions to the Finance Ministry in this regard when the FC considered several special gazette notifications pertaining to the Ministry of Finance issued since October 2020.

According to the Communication Department of Parliament, MP Yapa on Feb 25 told the FC that the report called by him hadn’t been received yet. Yapa said so when State Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka and SLPP MP Nalin Fernando alleged the revision of taxes pertaining to the import of sugar hadn’t benefitted the consumers at all and only caused loss of revenue to the State. Severe criticism of the revision of sugar taxes was nothing but a black mark on the government.

Asked whether the report had been received since the issue at hand was taken up on Feb 25, the former Minister said that the FC answered in the negative.

Yapa told the last FC meeting that the Department of Import Control should be able to submit analytical comments with data on the relevant gazette amendments. Having approved the regulations issued on that day in respect of the issuance of licenses for the import of brown sugar, the FC recommended that a full explanation be given on March 09 with the participation of all relevant Ministries and Institutions.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on March 9.

Yapa is on record as having told the FC on January 5 though the tax on imported sugar was revised downwards to 25 cents from Rs. 50.00 per kilogram through the Gazette Notification No. 2197/12 issued by the Ministry of Finance on 13th October 2020, the move did not benefit the consumers at all.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake lambasted the government over what he called a massive sugar scam that caused losses amounting to Rs 10 bn. In addition to the JVP, the SJB and UNP flayed the government over the corrupt deal. Dissanayake questioned the rationale in increasing the tax on sugar from Rs 33 to Rs 50 on May 23, 2020 and then bringing it down steeply to 25 cents on Oct 13, 2020. Dissanayake said that at that time the tax was brought down to 25 cents, there had been 90,000 metric tonnes of imported sugar in the country. Having reduced the sugar tax to 25 cents, the government directed that a kilo of sugar be sold at Rs 85, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer alleged that subsequently, when the government wanted to increase the sugar tax by Rs 40, Commerce Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that once imposed tax couldn’t be altered for a month, hence the decision to continue with 25 cents tax till Nov 13, 2020.

MP Dissanayake on Dec 12, 2020 named all those involved in the sugar scam.

Lawmaker Dissanayake said that the country suffered massive losses due to corrupt sugar deals. Those who suspended imports claiming the country faced severe foreign exchange crisis allowed massive corruption at the expense of the national economy.

Dissanayake said that last year alone at least 73,000 metric tonnes were imported at 25 cents tax.

He pointed out that the Treasury was responsible for facilitating sweet deals at the expense of the national economy. The revenue which should have been received by the government ended up with racketeers, Dissanayake lambasted the government for allowing its cronies to flourish.

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JVP expresses solidarity with Black Sunday campaign

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The JVP-led NPP yesterday expressed solidarity with the Black Sunday campaign seeking justice for the Easter Sunday carnage victims.

A statement issued by the party said that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage had released its report but the general consensus was that the inquiry had failed to bring justice. The PCoI report had only made the matter complex by creating some more puzzles instead of identifying the masterminds of the terror strikes.

The JVP has said Sri Lankans will never forget the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 2019 where nearly 300 perished and more than 500 others were wounded and became disabled for the rest of their lives. It is no secret that it was the failure on the part of the previous government to prevent the attacks that led to the destruction of lives and properties. The appointment of the commissions to investigate the incident was the only response of the former and incumbent governments. It is now clear that the commission has failed to identify the masterminds, owing to political reasons. Demanding justice is a human right. The Catholic Church has called on people to mark the coming Sunday as a day of agitation, demanding justice. We, of the NPP, extend our fullest support for the campaign and urge the law enforcing agencies to take action without further delay to bring about the masterminds and offenders of the crime, the statement has said.

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Iranaitivu islanders protest against burying of coronavirus victims there

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Residents of Iranaitivu Island yesterday forcibly filled up the burial sites prepared for those who had died from COVID-19 and held a demonstration against burying coronavirus victims on the island.

The protesters claimed that the media had reported those who died from COVID-19 would be buried on the island and that some group had already prepared a burial site. However, the residents of the island had not been consulted, they said.

They claimed that even during the war they had fought for the right to live on the island and they were opposed to the decision taken by the government to bury COVID-19 victims on the island.

 The protesters claimed that it was a cunning plan by the government to drive in a wedge between Christians and Muslims in the area. The government should have earmarked a deserted island for that purpose, they said. The protest was led by Christian religious leaders and local politicians. 

Iranaitivu is situated 10 km from Mannar and can only be accessed by boat. Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said that it was not a political decision and that health experts had taken it after careful consideration. He added that a vehicle especially made for this would be used to transport bodies to the island. This vehicle would include a freezer and the driver would be isolated from the bodies. Two family members would also be allowed to attend the funeral.

 

 

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