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Douglas Wickramaratne – the warrior who defended SL amidst LTTE threats to his life



by Sujeeva Nivunhella in London

There was a time Douglas Wickramaratne, President of the Sinhala Association in the UK, had to be given protection by Scotland Yard after he came under threat for exposing the blatant falsehoods propagated by the LTTE to win the support of the international community.

Despite the machinations of the powerful pro-LTTE lobby at the time, the warrior that he was, Wickramaratne held his ground and pushed ahead with his concerted campaign to lay bare the atrocities of the terrorists and expose to the world the campaign of brutal terror perpetrated by the Tigers.

Many were the times he traveled to Geneva to attend the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions to help safeguard the interests of Sri Lanka in the face of Tamil diaspora inspired allegations leveled against the government.

This time around, Wickramaratne won’t be able to make his annual journey to the UNHRC sessions in Geneva to stand up and fight for the rights of the Sinhalese.

“For 40 years, I stood by my country and fought for what was right. Many people ask why I am silent now. I cannot continue any longer as my health is not too good”, he says.

He said that over the years, he was the only Sinhalese to address the UNHRC Assembly on time allocated to NGOs. On one such visit, a LTTE leader had greeted him and asked ‘Douglas why are you doing this to us?’

“I continue to receive invitations to visit Geneva to address the UNHRC sessions, but I cannot travel now due to my poor health condition”, he explained.

Recalling the time his life was under threat by LTTE supporters in London and Geneva, Wickramaratne said Scotland Yard ensured his security. At one time, Interpol was alerted about threats on his life in Geneva.

Since 1983, after his TV debate with a LTTE supporter on BBC Newsnight, he was invited by almost every British TV channel, and Al Jazeera and Press TV to participate in regular debates and discussions on Sri Lanka. In addition, he also took part in many radio programs.

Traversing down memory lane, the octogenarian recalled the famous Oxford Union Debate in 1984, where he and Bradman Weerakoon faced Prof. A. J. Wilson, S. Sivasithamparam and Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam.

“After that, I was invited to deliver many talks and take part in seminars at Oxford University, Cambridge University, London School of Economics, Bath University among others. In addition, I also participated in debates with LTTE activists in France, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Italy, USA and Canada”, he remarked.

Referring to his 1984 visits to Toronto and the USA at the invitation of Sri Lankans there, Wickramaratne highlighted how the World Federation of Sri Lankan Associations was formed. In 1985, the second convention of the Federation was held at London Hilton attended by delegates from USA, Canada, Australia and France. Among the eminent guest speakers were Minister Lalith Atulathmudali, Anura Bandaranaika and Miss. Betty Boothroyd.

“I was elected President of the Federation and the following year I handed over the presidency to Prof. Christie Weeramantry”, he noted.

Wickramaratne is a product of Ananda College, Colombo, where he led the English debating team. He was a keen cricketer from his childhood days and was instrumental in forming the Dehiwala Sports Club at the age of 10 years, which he captained for 11 years since its inception.

He migrated to the UK in the early 1960s and joined the Savings Bank and later a Clearing Bank. At both institutions, he continued with his addiction to cricket and was elected captain, a rare privilege at the time to head an all white team.

“A Guyanese friend invited me to play for the famous West Indian Wanderers CC. Frank Worrel, Garfield Sobers, Conrad Hunte and many West Indian test cricketers had played for the Wanderers formed by Sir Leary Constantine. I was the only non-West Indian in a team from all Caribbean Islands, and we bonded well together”, he reflected with a smile.

Asked what prompted him to form the Sinhala Association in the UK, he recalled an incident he witnessed during a Sri Lanka versus England cricket match at the Colombo Oval in 1975, where about 50 Tamil youths attacked and injured a small group of cheering Sinhala students.

“On my intervention, police arrested some of the attackers. This episode made me realize the need to form a Sinhala Association. With the help of a group of dedicated patriots, the Association was formed in 1976”, Wickramaratne recalled.

He said the Association organized variety entertainment programs, concerts and meetings to bring people together, and more importantly, to educate the youth of the true situation in Sri Lanka and counter the false claims made by the LTTE.

“We have organized well attended meetings with the participation of Ven. Elle Gunawansa Thera, Prof. Nalin de Silva, Dinesh Gunawardena, the late Gen. Lucky Algama and Cyril Mathew and many others”, he noted.

He further said the Association afforded an opportunity to Sri Lankan artistes to perform in the UK and other European countries by organizing concerts.

Among those who performed were Amaradeva, Nanda Malini, Sisira and Indrani, H. R. Jothipala, Latha Walpola, Victor Ratnayake, Sunil Edirisinghe, T. M. Jayaratne, M. S. Fernando, Malini Bulathsinhala, Clarence Wijewardena and Mariazelle, Angeline Gunatilaka, Ivor Dennis, Gypsies, Desmond Silva and musicians like Stanley Peiris, Wijeratna Ranatunga, Rohana Weerasinghe.

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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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