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Duty on sugar to be kept at 25 cts. a kilo

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Faced with shortage, govt. throws open sugar market to competition

By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister of Co-operative Services, Marketing Development and Consumer Protection Lasantha Alagiyawanne yesterday (01) said that the duty on white sugar would remain at 25 cents a kilo for the time being to ensure the control price remained the same.

The Lawmaker said so when The Island asked him whether the duty would be revised in the wake of the government lifting restrictions on the import of sugar as stocks diminished rapidly. The wholesale price of white sugar is at Rs 116 and retail Rs 122.

Responding to another query, the State Minister estimated the available stocks of white sugar and locally produced red sugar needed to be replenished quite urgently to ensure the red sugar is priced at Rs 125. According to the State Minister the stock available, included the white sugar variety used for other than domestic uses.

Asked whether it was fair to continue with 25 cents duty on a kilo of sugar at a time both government as well as Opposition lawmakers criticised the unprecedented duty slash, SLFPer Alagiyawanna emphasised that there was no basis for such criticism. The State Minister stressed that the position taken by the Committee on Public Finance (CoPF) as regards the duty reduction didn’t actually reflect the situation on the ground. The CoPE’s criticism was unfounded, the Gampaha District MP said.

CoPA Chairman Anura Priyadarshana Yapa is on record as having said that the duty reduction didn’t benefit the consumer at all. Lawmaker Yapa called for a report from the Finance Ministry in that regard.

MP Alagiyawanne said that price controls were imposed on sugar in the wake of kilo of sugar going beyond Rs 230 or 240 in the market. The State Minister said that the Finance Ministry had abolished the license system to enable any interested party to import sugar.

The Finance Ministry on Oct 13, 2020 issued a gazette notification pertaining to the much debated unprecedented duty reduction from Rs 50 to 25 cents a kilo.

Those who found fault with that didn’t realize how the price mechanism worked, the State Minister said, tangible measures were being taken to prevent shortage of sugar in the market.

The lawmaker said that revision of duty couldn’t be contemplated at the moment under any circumstances. According to the State Minister, as sugar hadn’t been imported into the country in the recent past the available stocks were diminishing quite rapidly.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in terms of emergency regulations declared at midnight August 31, took tangible measures to ensure sufficient supply of rice, sugar and other essential items. The President also appointed Maj. Gen. Senarath Niwunhella as the Commissioner General of Essential Services (CGES) to work in unison with the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) to reign in the traders’ Mafia. In a series of recent raids, authorities seized nearly 30,000 tonnes of sugar imported by four companies.

However, the government has again opened up the sugar market close on the heels of rescinding the price controls on both paddy and rice.

Meanwhile, SJB lawmaker Mujibur Rahman said that contrary to government claims the whole supply system was in tatters. Declaring that the government couldn’t suppress the actual situation by media gimmicks, the former UNPer said milk powder, rice, sugar, cement, garlic and almost all essentials were in short supply. The top SJB spokesperson said that the government owed an explanation as to how it intended to sustain basic requirements as the national economy fast deteriorated.

The MP asked whether in spite of repeated threats directed at those accused of hoarding and manipulating the market, any action was initiated against them. The decision to rescind the gazette on the price of rice revealed the government lacked even basic strategy to ensure market stability, the MP said.



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Two-year reconciliation project spurns Lord Naseby’s disclosure

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EU, Germany funded scheme costs Rs. 8 mn

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The National Peace Council (NPC) says war-related matters hadn’t been discussed at the nearly two-year-long reconciliation project that brought together students from Eastern, Jaffna, Ruhuna and Sabaragamuwa Universities.

More than 160 students have participated in the project that culminated with a conference on the theme of ‘Plural Sri Lanka: Paths to reconciliation.’ Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris delivered the closing address and responded to questions from the audience.

Pointing out that post-war reconciliation efforts had been badly hampered by allegations that the Sri Lankan military killed over 40,000 civilians on the Vanni east front, The Island sought clarification as regards measures taken by the NPC to improve relations among the communities, and the following questions were raised:

The Island:

During your two-year long project did participants discuss specific war crimes allegations and disclosure made in the House of Lords in Oct 2017 that contradicted unsubstantiated accusations pertaining to 40,000 civilian deaths.

Executive Director NPC Dr. Jehan Perera:

“No, we did not discuss these war-related matters. The project was titled “Creative Youth Engagement for Pluralism” and it focused on the nature of Sri Lanka as a plural society and the value framework that should guide it.  The research papers highlighted the diversity within Sri Lankan society that goes beyond ethnicity and religion.  They included topics such as “Attitudes of Society on Education and Transsexuality: A Comparative Study on the Ideologies of a Community with Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Education,” and “Pluralism and University Subculture: An Ethnological Study on Young Behavior towards Social Cohesion,” and “An Investigative Study of the Challenges Posed by the Changes in the Aboriginal Society.”

The Island:

What is the total cost of the project?

The NPC

: Rs 8 million was spent to train and mentor the writers of the 30 research publications in four universities, translate, review and publish their findings in book form and for the conference which brought the students to Colombo.

Question 3:

What is the GoSL’s contribution?

The NPC:

There was no direct financial support by the government. Four state universities supported through their faculty members and students.

The Island: What is the NPC’s stand on accountability resolution and announcement made in Geneva that the Sri Lankan military would be subjected to a fresh inquiry?

The NPC:

In order to get out of these allegations, there is a need for a credible and independent investigation. Our preference is for a national mechanism that is acceptable to all sides.  Accountability will need to be a part of the reconciliation process.  NPC favours the restorative justice approach which focuses on ensuring justice to victims. This includes an acknowledgement of wrongs done and reparations and institutional reform to ensure that there is non-recurrence. 

 The Island: Are you also engaged in post-war reconciliation projects funded by Norway?

The NPC:

NPC hasn’t obtained funds from Norway for the past five years.

The recently concluded project has been funded by a project called Strengthening Reconciliation Process here jointly funded by the European Union and the German Federal Foreign Office and implemented by Deutsche Gesellsschaft Fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the British Council in partnership with the Sri Lankan Government.

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Speaker promises to appoint bi-partisan committee to look into incidents in Parliament

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced in Parliament yesterday (06) that a committee consisting of senior members from the Government and Opposition would be appointed within the week to look into the incidents that took place in Parliament last Friday and Saturday and submit a report.

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High Court Trial-at-Bar orders release of several accused from 11 charges in CB bond auction case

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By AJA Abeynayake

Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar yesterday ordered the release of several accused, including former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayke and former Central Bank former Governor Arjuna Mahendra, from 11 charges out of 22 in connection with the Central Bank bond auction held on 31 March, 2016.

Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar held that public property charges against the accused could not be maintained. Indictments had been filed against Perpetual Treasuries Private Ltd (PTL), former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayke, CBSL former Governor Arjuna Mahendran, Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) beneficiary owner Arjun Aloysius, PTL Chief dealer Kasun Palisena, Chairman of PTL Jeffrey Joseph Aloysius, Chitta Ranjan Hulugalle, Muthuraja Surendran, Ajahn Gardiye Punchihewa and Badugoda Hewa Indika Saman Kumara in connection with bond auction held on March 31, 2016.

The case against seventh accused Ranjan Hulugalle was dismissed on preliminary objections raised.

President’s Counsel Anil Silva, Counsel Asela Serasinghe, Hafeel Farisz, Sahan Kulatunga and Vishwaka Peiris appeared for the seventh accused.

The Attorney General’s stance regarding the future cause of action to be informed on 26 Jan. 2022.

The Attorney General had alleged that the PTL had been using the Central Bank’s important undisclosed information to alter the final outcome of the Treasury bond auction and it had a huge impact on the overall national economy as a result of the subtle; the systematic conduct of the offences related to the fraud and had caused injustice to other primary sellers in the bond market, and the PTL had acted cunningly and made a huge profit and conspired to cause a huge loss to the government.

The case was postponed until 26 Jan. 2022.

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