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Artificial toddy manufacturers deprive govt. over Rs 80 billion in revenue annually – Pathirana

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Minister Cabraal thanks MP for constructive criticism, promises action

By Saman Indrajith

The state coffers lost over Rs 80 billion a year owing to tax evasion by artificial toddy manufacturers, Parliament was told yesterday (25).

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana said that the total loss would be much higher if the serious health problems those illicit brewers caused to people’s health was taken into account . “As per the reports, artificial toddy is produced by mixing urea, ammonia, nickel cadmium of old batteries and sugar. This harmful brew is sold at liquor shops and used for manufacturing ‘coconut arrack’ and vinegar.” .

In response to the MP’s query whether the government would bring in new laws to nab tax evaders, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal said that the MP’s concerns were appreciated and the government would certainly put in place a mechanism to do so.

Minister Cabraal said that there were two types of methods to regulate the quality of toddy, which was used to produce vinegar. “The first method should be initiated by the vinegar producers who have doubts about the quality of toddy they used. The producers could send samples of the suspected toddy to the Government Analyst’s Department and ask for a report. Upon receipt of the report, the producers could decide whether they would use the same material. The Excise Department officials could visit the vinegar factories and test the toddy they use. These two methods are employed at present.”

MP Pathirana said that some officials who were in the pay of toddy manufacturers compiled false reports to mislead policymakers. “I want to know whether an independent probe could be arranged with a team of investigators comprising officials from the Ministries of Finance, Health and the Trade Ministry’s Consumer Protection Authority to ascertain the damage inflicted by artificial toddy on our society,” the MP queried.

Minister Cabraal said that he would make arrangements as requested by the Opposition MP.

MP Pathirana:

It has been mentioned in the budget proposals that new mechanisms will be introduced to prevent tax evasions. As per the reports, the toddy producers evade taxes to the tune of Rs 80 billion or even more. But an official recently placed the amount at Rs. 40 billion. It is good that the government is introducing a foolproof sticker on the bottles of liquor for which taxes have been paid. Can the government think of a similar method to solve this problem too? The amount of brew being sold as coconut toddy cannot be produced naturally even if all the coconut palms in the country were tapped. Will the government take steps to adderss this issue?

Minister Cabraal:

We understand that MP Pathirana has made very productive proposals and I assure you that we will take them into consideration.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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