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Claims that SL’s intelligence services have been revamped are mere fairy tales – Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka



‘Though we don’t have gunboats, we have an Admiral of the Fleet’

by Saman Indrajith

Claims that the country’s intelligence sector has been restored to its former level and revamped are mere fairy tales, former army commander and Gampaha District SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said in parliament.

Participating in the third reading of the budget debate 2021 under the defence ministry expenditure heads, Fonseka said that it would take at least five to six years to re-streamline an intelligence service. For a complete overhaul and bringing it to optimum level, it would take more than 10 years.

“So those who claim to have rebuilt the intelligence services within one year are either lying or they do not know the service priority but only their political priorities. The intelligence sector must be revamped. There had been several changes in the top-most positions of the intelligence services but that does not mean the service has been overhauled,” he said.

He stressed that the tri-forces should be provided with necessary equipment and facilities to keep their morale high.

“During my time as the army commander, I increased the cadre strength of the army from 116,000 to 200,000. As the morale was then high, the youth joined the army. Earlier, only 3,000 personnel were recruited per year but I was able to increase it to 4,000 per month. Though the numbers increased, there was no corresponding budget allocation increase”, he said.

“I fought the battle with an allocation of Rs. 82 billion. But I used the money to provide for the soldiers. They had only one jungle fatigue. I gave them two. They had only one pair of boots, I gave them two pairs. A soldier was given only a half of an apple, but I provided an apple to each of them. I could do so as the army was free of corruption then. Sometimes, I had to make unpopular decisions and implement them. I visited the army hospital and got all those who could see, hear and stand on their feet to carry a weapon and deployed them in the operational areas, sometimes with their doctors and nurses”, Field Marshal Fonseka further said.

He added: “In that manner I, redeployed 10,000 men from hospital to the front. Though the soldiers had the morale to fight, they changed their minds once they went home and saw the tears of their mothers and wives and some who went home on leave did not come back. It was the time we were holding fortifications near an earth bund near Mullaitivu. The number of our casualties was high. I wrote letters to the soldiers asking them to come back. Thereafter, I wrote to their parents and wives asking them to send their sons back to service. I distributed CDs containing patriotic songs among soldiers but nothing worked and desertions continued.

“Later, I asked the police and military police to capture the deserters and court martial them. Earlier, it took at least two months for a decision, I brought it down to two days and those found guilty were put in prison. Around 2,000 were put behind bars. I had to send 2,000 to jail. No politician claimed ownership for those moves. Those who claim credit for winning the war did not know the actions I took. They were not popular moves but they helped win the war”.

The Field Marshal said that the tri-forces should be modernized. “The army has not been modernized since the day I left it. One may have got two or three computers and boast that they modernized the army. Modernization means that they should buy new armaments. We still have the tanks of 1955 that came soon after World War II. There were 80, and we lost 50 under my command in the war. The army has only 30 now”.

The air force does not have fighter aircraft. It had 11 fighter planes. Four of them were brought from corrupt deals by Udayanga and his friends. Today, we have only a single fighter aircraft. The navy has only two gunboats which are with the coastguard for offshore patrolling. Though we don’t have gunboats, we have an admiral of the fleet. War or peace we must build the tri-forces which are the pride of the nation, he added.

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COPA questions lion’s share of fines going to Customs



Irregularities, lapses, corruption erode public finance

By Shamindra Ferdinando

 The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) has summoned the Inland Revenue Department tomorrow (23) for an inquiry regarding the inordinate delay in collecting taxes amounting to billions of rupees and extraordinary payments made to the officers of the Customs Department out of fines imposed on both public and private sector enterprises.

Besides, a COPA sub-committee is inquiring into revenue losses suffered over the years as a result of releasing vehicles imported for special purposes as dual-purpose vehicles. 

SLPP MP Prof. Tissa Vitharana heads the all-party watchdog committee. 

Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake in a statement issued on April 19 through the Communication Department of the Parliament said that Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and COPA summoned four enterprises. COPE called the Sri Lanka Football Federation and the National Film Corporation on April 22 and 23, respectively. The COPA summoned the Wildlife Conservation Department and the Inland Revenue on April 21 and April 23, respectively, Dasanayake said.

COPA has fixed the meeting in the wake of disclosure of major shortcomings in the overall revenue collection process. Following COPA meeting Inland Revenue Chief H.M.C. Bandara on March 10, the watchdog committee called for accelerated measures to recover dues. The COPA pointed out that out of Rs 107 bn due to the government, only Rs 224 mn had been recovered so far, immediate measures were required to collect taxes and fines.

At the same meeting, the COPA, having questioned the correctness of a list containing tax defaulters furnished by the Inland Revenue Department, emphasized the pivotal importance of rectifying the shortcomings. The COPA also raised the practicability in recovering taxes in terms of the data provided by ‘Legacy’ and ‘RAMIS’ computer systems. 

The Inland Revenue Commissioner General lamented before COPA how inordinate delay in legal proceedings thwarted their efforts to recover taxes. The COPA assured that the Justice Ministry and the Finance Ministry would be summoned for a meeting along with the Inland Revenue Department to explore ways and means of overcoming the issue at hand.

At a subsequent COPA meeting held late March, it was revealed that in addition to their failure to recover taxes amounting to Rs 2,670 mn due from casinos, the Inland Revenue received 6,878 dishonored cheques to the tune of Rs 2,451,465,383. COPA members present on this occasion included Dayasiri Jayasekera, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Tissa Attanayake, Mohamed Muzammil, Niroshan Perera, Dr. Upul Galapatti, Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Cader Mastan, S. Sritharan and Weerasumana Weerasinha.

That particular meeting was also told that the amount of collectable taxes in terms of the ‘Default Taxes (Special Provisions) Act No 16 of 2010 (certified on Dec 07, 2010) amounted to a staggering Rs 144.5 bn. 

COPA and the Consultative Committee on Ports and Shipping had also taken up on March 9 and 24 the highly contentious issue of the Customs officers taking a big share of fines imposed on tax defaulters, both public and private sector. COPA pointed out that the Customs took advantage of the provision that 50 per cent of the fines imposed on defaulters were shared among those involved in a particular detection. COPA has discussed two specific issues in this regard. COPA pointed out that the allocation of 50 per cent of a fine received from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) for defaulting in respect of gantry cranes to Customs officers was a major problem. COPA focused on taking necessary measures in this regard after having discussed the matter with relevant authorities, including the Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle.

COPA pointed out how out of Rs 205 mn fine imposed on Lanka Coal Company (Pvt) Limited for defrauding taxes, Rs 102.5 mn (50 per cent of the total amount) had been distributed among Customs officers as rewards and Rs 41 mn for their welfare (20 per cent) thereby leaving the government with only Rs 61.5 mn. COPA has directed Treasury Secretary Attygalle to conduct a fresh inquiry into this and take tangible measures to prevent similar malpractices in the future.

COPA investigations have also revealed massive racket in the registration of ‘dual purpose’ vehicles. It revealed that as a result of corrupt elements since 2013 registering vehicles imported for special purposes as ‘dual purpose’ vehicles the Treasury lost taxes amounting to Rs 220 mn.

In addition to that the Treasury had been also deprived of taxes amounting to Rs 1.300 mn by not imposing Rs 3 mn each on 443 special vans brought to the country during 2010-2019 period.

COPA also stated that the Customs perpetrated another massive fraud by allowing the import of 10 vans and 414 lorries as special purpose vehicles during 2010-2014.

COPA reported the Customs imposing Rs 1.5 mn tax on a super luxury car instead of legitimate Rs 56 mn.

It revealed the loss of revenue to the tune of Rs 6.1 bn during 2013-2016 period due to the Customs adopting wrong procedure in respect of large quantities of palm oil imports by two enterprises. The watchdog committee has instructed the Customs to expedite measures to recover the dues from those companies.

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India reiterates commitment to Sri Lanka’s security



India has reiterated her support for Sri Lanka’s fight against terrorism. The assurance was made on the second anniversary of 2019 Easter Sunday attacks. The following is the text of statement issued by the Indian High Commission yesterday: “High Commissioner Gopal Baglay attended the solemn ceremony at St. Anthony’s Church on 21 April 2021 to mark the second anniversary of the dastardly Easter Sunday attacks. He lit a candle in memory of the victims of the attack and prayed for the recovery of those who are still suffering from its aftermath.

“It may be recalled that the High Commissioner had paid homage to the victims at the Church also on 23 May 2020, the first day after the completion of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, subsequent to his arrival to Sri Lanka on 8 May 2020 on a special flight carrying a gift consignment of essential medical supplies from India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also paid his respects at the Church during the solidarity visit to Sri Lanka in June 2019.

“St. Anthony’s Church was one of the multiple targets of the Easter Sunday attacks, which also took away the lives of 10 Indians. These Indian victims fell prey to the perpetrators at Shangri-la, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand Hotels.  

India and Sri Lanka cooperate closely in all aspects across the security spectrum. India stands firmly with the people and Government of Sri Lanka in the fight against terrorism and also collaborate on curbing various other illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, narcotics, etc. “

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Explosive cargo: Ship carrying compound used for enrichment of uranium asked to leave H’tota port



A ship that made an emergency call at the Hambantota International Port on Tuesday night (20) carrying Uranium hexafluoridea–a compound used in the process of enriching uranium, which produces fuel for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons–has been asked to leave.

Chandula Rambukwella, Senior Manager, Commercial & Marketing, Hambantota International Port, issued the following statement yesterday: “M.V. BBC Naples sailing under the flag of “Antigua & Barbados” entered the port of Hambantota on 20th April at 2100 hrs, while en route from Rotterdam to China. The ship made an emergency call at the port for some urgent repairs. Agents for the vessel in Sri Lanka, Ms. Barwil Meridian Navigation, had not declared to the port authorities that there was dangerous cargo on board, prior to the vessel entering the port.

It was later found that they were carrying a cargo of Uranium Hexafluoride via investigations made by the Sri Lanka Navy and the Port Authority. The vessel was required to leave the port no sooner the facts were verified.

The SLPA, Navy, and Customs officials had approved all the necessary documentation prior to berthing of the vessel, based on the declaration made by the agent. The Navy and Customs were present at all times to ensure that there wasn’t any cargo unloaded onto the Hambantota International Port premises.”



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