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Cabinet decision on duty-free vehicle facility for lawmakers awaited



… SLPP biggest beneficiary, followed by SJB

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Co-cabinet spokesman Minister Udaya Gammanpila said that the Cabinet hadn’t so far discussed whether to continue or do away with duty free permits issued to members of parliament.

Pivuthuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Energy Minister said so in response to a query raised by The Island.

Pointing out SLPP presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his election manifesto promised not to import vehicles for the government for a period of three years, The Island asked the co-cabinet spokesman whether the cabinet decided to continue the practice of issuing duty free vehicle permits or discontinue the facility especially in the wake of the unprecedented economic crisis caused by corona epidemic. The minister said that the issue hadn’t been discussed at the last two cabinet meetings.

In a section titled ‘An efficient governance mechanism,’ the SLPP in Oct 2019, assured in the run-up to the presidential poll that the procurement of vehicles for the public sector (including Ministers) and purchase of multi-faceted office facilities would be suspended for a period of 3 years. In addition, the renting of such facilities would also be stopped for a period of three years.

In terms of the permits, lawmakers are entitled to tax exemption to the tune of over Rs 33 mn.

A case filed against the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) in late 2015 over its failure to initiate action in respect of lawmakers for selling vehicles imported under special facility exclusively provided to them is pending in courts.

In the 9th parliament, the SLPP is entitled for a staggering 145 duty free permits (128 for those elected and 17 for National List nominees) whereas the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) would receive 54 permits (47 elected and seven on the National List). The remaining permits are shared among the Tamil National Alliance (10/one NL), JVP-led Jathika Jana Balavegaya (3/one NL), Ahila Illankai Tamil Congress (3/one NL), EPDP (1), UNP (1 NL), SLFP (1), Our Power of People Party (1 NL), Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (1), Muslim National Alliance (1), Tamil Makkal Theshiya Kutani (1), All Ceylon Makkal Congress (1), National Congress (1) and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC).

In spite of repeated efforts, The Island couldn’t get in touch with Dr. Harsha de Silva to obtain views on the issuance of duty free facility at a time the government slapped an unprecedented ban on imports as a solution to deteriorating foreign reserves. Co-cabinet spokesman Dr. Ramesh Pathirana, too, couldn’t be contacted for his comments.

Sri Lanka is negotiating with India to re-schedule repayment of loans and an additional facility of USD 1.1 bn, having recently secured USD 400 mn loan facility. Of the 225 elected and appointed to the 9th parliament, there were 81 newcomers, parliamentary sources said, adding that of them, 16 were National List nominees. The rest had received multiple duty free permits with some of them entitled to the facility since 1989, the first election conducted under the Proportional Representation (PR) system.

Secretary to the Public Administration Ministry outspoken official J.J. Ratnasiri last week told a two-day orientation programme conducted at the parliamentary premises for new lawmakers that a decision hadn’t been taken as regards the duty-free vehicle permit. Speaking on facilities and various entitlements, Ratnasiri said that the ministry was yet to receive instructions in that regard.

Sources said that those lawmakers present refrained from raising any questions in that regard.



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M’tivu Magistrate orders arrest of teacher wanted for sexual molestation of female students



By Dinasena Ratugamage

Mullaitivu Magistrate R. Saravanaraja on Thursday (30) directed police to arrest a school teacher wanted in connection with an ongoing investigation into the alleged sexual molestation of six female students.

The order was issued after the police informed the Magistrate of the progress of the investigation. Police have already recorded statements of the victims who were subjected to medical examinations.

The suspect has fled the area amidst public protests demanding his immediate arrest. According to the police, the teacher has lured the girls to have sex with him by encouraging and helping them have affairs with boys of the same school.

A student, who was produced in court after he was found to have helped the teacher in his sexual exploits, was granted bail by the Magistrate court.

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HRCSL: No prisoners were used in 09 May attacks on protesters



AG, CJ asked to take action against lawyer for triggering violence

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has declared that a false allegation by President of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera that some prisoners were used to attack anti-government protesters outside Temple Trees and at Galle Face on 09 May triggered violence in many parts of the country.

The HRCSL also faulted Sudesh Nadimal Silva also of the same organisation for propagating unsubstantiated allegations.

Justice (ret.) Rohini Marasinghe, in her capacity as the Chairperson of the HRCSL, said that both Senaka Perera and Sudesh Nandimal had failed to substantiate their allegations made at the Galle Face protest site on 10 May.

The HRCSL, in a statement issued yesterday (29) quoted Justice Marasinghe as having said: “False propaganda as well as misinformation of the alleged use of Prisoners to have attacked the innocent protesters is both a diabolical lie and a deceitful action.”

The HRCSL has recommended that Attorney General Sanjaya Rajaratnam conduct a further investigations into allegations made by Senaka Perera and take necessary action

The HRCSL has requested Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, to take note of the detrimental statements made by Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera and take due action.

The HRCSL consists of Ven. Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera, Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara and Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan.

The HRCSL dealt with the issue in a statement titled ‘The HRCSL condemns the false media broadcast made by the President of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners’.

The HRCSL issued the statement after the conclusion of a special investigation by an appointed committee of investigators (Col).

CoI consisted of Sanjeewa Weerawickrama, Attorney -at- Law, Miss. lmasha Senadeera, Attorney-at-Law and Dr. Dilshani Bogollagama.

Referring to allegation that prisoners had been used to attack protesters at protest sites at Galle Face and Temple Trees, the HRCSL said that the CoI determined that no prisoners had been used in perpetrating any attack on the peaceful protesters.

The HRCSL asserted that the unsubstantiated allegations caused an irreversible damage to the country.

The HRCSL said that a group of prisoners had been seriously assaulted and subjected to mental and physical torture by an unidentified group on 09 May.

The HRCSL stated: “The unprecedented ruthless nature of the attack on prisoners and officials resulted in injuries and hospitalization of many inmates.” Since the incidents, eight prisoners hadn’t been accounted for so far, it has said.

The prisoners had been made available to the private sector enterprises in terms of an agreement endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers in Oct 2021. On the day of the incidents, a group of prisoners had been taken to a designated work place and were on their way back when gangs intercepted them.

“Attorney at Law Mr. Senaka Perera, the convener of the conference identified himself as a Human Rights Activist. The COI provided the CPRP president Mr. Senaka Perera with the opportunity to justify his statements that caused an outrage in both Sri Lanka and the World at large. For the purpose of submission of any evidence, in either oral statements or picture documentation in support of his statements, Mr. Perera was extended a justifiable time period. However, he expressly affirmed before the Committee that at the time of the statement or even thereafter he did not have any tangible evidence in favor of his expressed views in regard to the alleged incident. Mr. Sudesh Nadimal Silva was also summoned to give evidence before the COl. The Committee explaining the paramount importance of the maintenance of professional ethics provided Mr. Sudesh Nadimal Silva with the opportunity to provide a justifiable explanation for his expressed allegations. However, he was unable to provide any acceptable evidence in support of his statements.

The COI observed that the press conference which was chaired by M. Senaka Perera had dispensed totally false statements without any sustantive evidence.

“Following the above-mentioned facts, the COI has identified the grave consequences of the negligent attitude of making unfounded statements. Inciting agitation in the general public against state departments and personnel has inadvertently led to disruptions to the law and order of the Country.

“The COI further observed that these inaccurate declarations conveyed by the above speakers directly contributed to the series of violent activities and right violations, reported island wide. The combined result of the atrocities that occurred within a mere 48 hours resulted in the loss of 12 human lives with several hundred injured casualties. In addition, intentional damage and arson to both public and private properties surmount to the loss of billions of rupees.

“After a thorough and diligent inquiry, the COI has arrived at the following conclusions. The highly irresponsible misconduct by the Attorney-of-Law Senaka Perera, with his speculative allegations with no substantiated evidence, resulted in disastrous consequences.

“Hence, it is of paramount importance that members of professional bodies need to be guided by the code of conduct or the professional ethics as set out by the respective professional bodies for the due conduct of the members. These conditions of misconduct from individuals of representation and influence should be held accountable by the respective professional bodies.

It is the view of the COI that national media institutions must consciously adhere to responsible reporting and promote journalism with integrity, especially during this volatile period of both political and economic instability. This tantamount to avoidance of direct reporting of incidence without due assessment of this veracity and credibility. The Committee further advocates promotion of investigative journalist practices with the objective of strengthening the democratic fabric of the Country.”

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IMF end-of-mission report highlights ‘corruption vulnerabilities’ in Sri Lanka



By Sanath Nanayakkare

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) personnel that remained in Sri Lanka for ten days from 20-30 June to study the exact reasons for the current economic crisis in the country and design a comprehensive economic programme have stressed the need to reduce ‘corruption vulnerabilities’ in Sri Lanka.

The need for tackling corruption has been listed right below the IMF’s concerns about containing rising levels of inflation and addressing severe balance of payments (BOP) pressures of the country.

Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf, Deputy Director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, participated in policy discussions. At the end of the mission, Messrs. Breuer and Nozaki issued the following statement:

“Sri Lanka is going through a severe economic crisis.

The economy is expected to contract significantly in 2022, while inflation is high and rising. The critically low-level of foreign reserves has hampered the import of essential goods. During the in-person visit, the team witnessed some of the hardships currently faced by the Sri Lankan people, especially the poor and vulnerable who are affected disproportionately by the crisis. We reaffirm our commitment to support Sri Lanka at this difficult time in line with the IMF’s policies.

“The authorities’ monetary, fiscal policy and other actions since early April were important first steps to address the crisis. The team had constructive and productive discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on economic policies and reforms to be supported by an IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement. The staff team and the authorities made significant progress on defining a macroeconomic and structural policy package. The discussions will continue virtually with a view to reaching a staff-level agreement on the EFF arrangement in the near term. Because public debt is assessed as unsustainable, Executive Board approval would require adequate financing assurances from Sri Lanka’s creditors that debt sustainability will be restored.

“The authorities have made considerable progress in formulating their economic reform programme and we are looking forward to continuing the dialogue with them.”

The IMF team held meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Secretary to the Treasury K M Mahinda Siriwardana, and other senior government and CBSL officials. It also met with MPs, representatives from the private sector, civil society organisations and development partners.

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