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Country suffers huge loss due to corrupt revenue collection system – JVP

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Govt. urged to act on COPA report or face the consequences

By Shamindra Ferdinando

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says the country is paying a huge price for the failure of successive governments to streamline tax collection process. The JVPer insists the tax collection process has been somewhat debilitated by rampant corruption and irregularities.

Dissanayake was responding to The Island query regarding massive losses in tax revenue highlighted by the current Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) in its first report to the parliament tabled on July 20th.

Such large scale fraudulent activities couldn’t have been carried out without the complicity of those in authority whoever was in power, the Colombo District lawmaker.  The JVP contested the 2020 general election on the National People’s Power (NPP) ticket. The JVP parliamentary group consists of three, including one National List MP, Dr. Harini Amarasuriya.

MP Dissanayake alleged that in addition to the failure on the part of the government to collect due taxes and mismanagement of finances, absolutely unjustifiable decision to sharply reduce taxes soon after 2019 presidential election dealt a deadly blow to national economy.

The government owed an explanation why the Treasury was denied as much as Rs 650 bn in taxes at the onset of incumbent administration, MP Dissanayake said. The country could have coped up with the continuing crisis caused by raging Covid-19 epidemic much better if the tax structure in place at the time of the 2019 presidential election was retained, he said.

Responding to another query, the JVP leader emphasized that a serious examination of losses caused by the ruling SLPP’s reduction of taxes amounting to Rs 650 bn should be made.  Parliamentary watchdog committees, namely the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) and Committee on Public Finance (COPF) should take up the matter. The latest COPA reported exposed an extremely embarrassing state of affairs in key institutions responsible for the tax collection process, the MP said.

Pointing out that the Customs and the Motor Traffic Departments coming under the purview of the Finance and Transport ministries, respectively, had been particularly named by COPA, MP Dissanayake said that massive scam in sugar imports soon after the last parliamentary poll proved how decisions were made at the expense of the national economy.

Referring to COPF proceedings that dealt with the sugar tax scam, MP Dissanayake said that COPF Chairperson Anura Priyadarshana Yapa (SLPP/Kurunegala District)  is on record as having said on January 5, 2021 consumers hadn’t benefited at all by Finance Ministry decision to reduce Rs 50 tax on imported kilo of sugar  to paltry 25 cents. MP Yapa was referring to a gazette No 2197/12 issued by the Finance Ministry on Oct 13, 2020, the JVPer said. MP Dissanayake said that the sugar tax scam was as bad as the Treasury bond scams perpetrated by the previous administration. Although some government members expressed concerns over the sugar tax scam at the COPF, the government conveniently turned a blind eye to what the JVPer called a brazen fraud perpetrated on the hapless population.

Have you ever heard of such a drastic reduction of taxes in respect of sugar on any other occasion, MP Dissanayake asked, alleging the incumbent administration as a result of sheer crookedness caused unbearable loss of revenue. The JVP leader said that sugar tax scam couldn’t be suppressed though the government acted as if nothing had happened.

Successive governments obviously facilitated fraudulent practices in the tax collection system. The incumbent government was no exception, the MP said, underscoring how government revenue gradually dropped over the years as robber barons took over the national economy. “We are now in such a desperate situation those in authority seem to be clueless where the national economy is heading,” MP Dissanayake said.

Urging the government to go flat out to recover long overdue taxes, the JVP leader said that in spite of big talk the government was in a bind, struggling to face the daunting financial challenge. Asked to explain the situation, lawmaker Dissanayake said that the raging Covid-19 epidemic deprived Sri Lanka of two major sources of income, namely funds remitted by those who had been employed overseas and the disruption of tourism. The JVPer pointed out that tourism suffered in the wake of 2019 Easter Sunday carnage followed by Covid-19 as both ruined the sector.  Acknowledging that the country had managed to sustain the garment trade and other exports, lawmaker Dissanayake said that the economy was in a critical phase. The government seemed to be either incapable of comprehending the rapid deterioration or it could sustain the economy until the ongoing vaccination drive achieved desired objective.

MP Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka could no longer afford to delay taking action to restructure revenue collection mechanism. The SLPP should be prepared to face the consequences unless continuing corrupt practices were brought to an end. The deterioration of national economy caused by Covid-19 against the backdrop of waste, corruption, irregularities and negligence could overwhelm the country soon unless remedial measures were taken.

The JVPer said that the parliamentary system of governance should take command of the situation regardless of the political power being with the SLPP. The deepening national economic crisis couldn’t be addressed by playing politics with the issue at hand as commanding overwhelming majority in parliament wouldn’t be relevant.

The JVP leader said that there was no need to comment on proposed tax amnesty to crooks as former minister Dew Gunasekera, one-time General Secretary of the Community party, in an interview with The Island explained futility of such an exercise.



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Explanation sought over Monetary Board Secy.’s sudden transfer

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Rohini calls for social media campaign against govt. move

By Shamindra Ferdinando

 The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) has sought an explanation from the government over the sudden removal of the Secretary to the Monetary Board of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, K.M.A.N. Daulagala on16 Sept.

Matale District lawmaker Rohini Kaviratne yesterday (19) questioned the rationale behind Assistant Governor Daulagala’s removal. The former UNP MP emphasised that Daulagala had played a critically important role in the Central Bank’s response in the wake of Treasury bond scams perpetrated in 2015 and 2016. Therefore, her removal was quite suspicious and might facilitate efforts to suppress those scams as well as future frauds as well.

MP Kaviratne represented the UNP during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Prime Minister (2015-2019).

Declaring that Daulagaha had been at the forefront of the efforts to create a clean administration, Kaviratne stressed that she was second only to Rohini Nanayakkara of the Bank of Ceylon (BOC) and earned the respect of all for courageously taking a stand against fraudulent practices.

The SJB spokesperson said that Daulagala, in her capacity as the head of the non-banking sector financial institutions, handled the ETI investigation at the onset (2010-2012) of the probe. In the wake of her recommendations pertaining to the ETI being rejected by the Central Bank, she received a transfer to another section, MP Kaviratne said.

The Monetary Board is responsible for making all policy decisions related to the management, operation and administration of the Central Bank. It comprises Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Finance Secretary S.R. Attygalle, Sanjeeva Jayawardena, PC, Dr (Mrs) Ranee Jaymaha and Samantha Kumarasinghe.

Cabraal, who served as the Governor (2006-2014) recently replaced W.D. Lakshman on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s request.

Kaviratne asked who had benefited from the removal of the Secretary to the Monetary Board?

MP Kaviratne said that Daulagala had been involved in the internal process following the first Treasury bond scam and the subsequent developments, including the coordination between the Central Bank and the Attorney General’s Department pertaining to the Treasury bond scams. Urging women’s organsations, civil society and law abiding citizens to take up Daulagala’s removal through social media, lawmaker Kaviratne said that the issue at hand should receive attention of the parliament.

“The Parliament is responsible for public finance. The Parliament cannot turn a blind eye to what is going on in the Central Bank. The national economy is in such a perilous state every effort should be made to investigate past frauds and thwart future adventures,” the MP said.

MP Kaviratne also recalled the role played by Deepa Seneviratne, Superintendent of Public Debt at the time of the first Treasury bond scam in exposing the then Governor’s culpability. “Unfortunately, we seem to be unable to change the direction regardless of exposure of past misdeeds,” she said.

Declaring that she had no intention of protecting any wrongdoer under any circumstances, MP Kaviratne said that the incumbent government should ensure transparency and accountability in public finance.

Examination of COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), COPA (Committee on Public Accounts) and COPF (Committee on Public Finance) proceedings revealed a frightening picture, lawmaker Kaviratne said. Shocking revelations made by the watchdog committee should be examined against the backdrop of overall deterioration of the national economy over the past several years, the MP said.

She said that it would be a grave mistake on the government’s part to blame the current crisis on the raging Covid-19 epidemic. Acknowledging the difficulties caused by the economic downturn, MP Kaviratne said that the country was paying a huge price for unbridled waste, corruption, irregularities and negligence.

The MP asserted that the citizenry could play a bigger role in a political campaign on social media. The vast majority of those who use social media strengthened democratic opposition, she said. Removal of Daulagala could be a rallying point, she said, urging public onslaught on the SLPP government.

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Those responsible for Easter carnage will be haunted eternally – Bishop Galle

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Text and pictures by PRIYAN DE SILVA

The Chief Celebrant of the 114th annual feast of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Matara, Bishop of the Diocese of Galle, Rev. Dr. Raymond Wickremasinghe told a virtual congregation that the conscience of those responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage would never be at peace and it would haunt them eternally.

 The celebrations of the 114th annual Feast of the National shrine of Our Lady of Matara commenced on 05 September with the raising of the flagstaff and ended on Sunday 12 September. This year’s feast was held in keeping with strict health guidelines sans public participation.

 Rev Dr. Wickremasinghe reiterated that it was the wish of the general public, especially all Christians that those who carried out and those masterminded and those who knew but did not prevent the Easter Sunday carnage would be exposed and Justice served. “It is our prayer that the divine father guides the authorities in their endeavours” the Bishop added

 Rev. Wickremesinghe also called upon every person including decision-makers to heed the advice of the experts and act intelligently to overcome the pandemic.

 The Marian procession carrying the miraculous statue of our lady of Matara. accompanied by clergy and security personnel paraded the town, concluding this year’s festivities.

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Wild jumbos destroy houses in search of newly harvested paddy

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BY CYRIL WIMALASURENDRE

KANDY— Herds of wild elephants raid Ududumbara and Minipe area sdestroying houses in search of newly harvested paddy.

Farmers of Minipe, Hasalaka and Udadumbara keep paddy in their houses as they are without proper storage facilities.

Kandy District Secretary Chandana Tennakoon visited the house of a farmer destroyed by elepheants in Kongahaela, Hasalaka.

The victim informed the District Secretary Tennakoon that a herd of elephants including young ones were roaming had attacked his house.

Similar complaints were made to the District Secretary by farmers at Minipe, Hasalaka, Welgala, Ulpathagama and Udunuwara.

The farmers said at least they should be provided with an adequate number of elephant crackers to scare the elephants away. The farmers had to travel about 30 km to the Randenigala Wildlife Office office to receive one cracker each, they said, adding that they needed many more.

District secretary Tennakoon told the farmers that steps would be taken to resolve the issue this year by putting up an elephant  fence around the affected villages of Ududumbara, Medsadumbara, Minipe and Hasalaka sector.

The project would cost about Rs. 100 million. The length of the fence would be about 43 km, he said.

Divisional Secretary of Minipe Nuwan Hemachandra and Deputy Director of Plan Implementation Palitha Rajapakse were present.

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