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Govt. insists no fraud in sugar imports



By Saman Indrajith

Cooperative Services, Marketing Development and Consumer Services State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna on Wednesday told Parliament that there was no truth in the Opposition’s allegations that the government had given undue duty concessions to a private sugar importer.

The Minister admitted that few companies made undue profits, making use of the gazettes issued by the government changing import duties on sugar.  “But there was no fraud. If you insist that there was such untoward incidents then provide us with the details we may investigate it. We know that some companies made some profits but there is no proof of a fraud as alleged by the opposition.”

Minister Alagiyawanna said that during recent years the prices of essential food items had increased in November and December. “In October last year, our government made several policy decisions to give relief to people. On Oct 13 we released a gazette bringing down the 50 rupee import duty on a kilo of sugar to 25 cents. The price of a kilo of sugar was Rs 137 to 138 at that time. We thought that bringing down the tax would result in the lowering of the prices of sugar in the market. That did not happen. There had already been stocks of around 150,000 metric tons in warehouses belonging to the importers and they did not release their stocks. So, a private company came forward and imported sugar under the new price and released them to the market. That was what exactly happened. The decision to bring down the import tax was not taken by the President alone. The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Trade too were party to it.

“Today, the prices of some essential food items are determined by supply and demand. Market forces determine the prices though we have issued regulations. Though we still have control on the prices of fuel, gas, cigarettes and liquor, the prices of essential food items are determined by market forces. That is the reality. We can change this by allowing certain imports but our decision is to strengthen the local production and industries. Although the people and the Opposition blame us, we are determined to stick to our policy until local production and industries get their hold in the market. We know that this is hard but we have to do so. For example, we can bring down the prices of rice within five days. All we have to do is to import rice at low prices from India but that will not help our farmers. Not a single grain of rice was imported in the year 2020. As a result now our farmers get between 50 to Rs. 55 a kilo of paddy. They used to get only Rs 38 per kilo.

“We know that a certain company made an undue profit but that is the nature of business. The permanent solution for this is to develop the Cooperative shops and Sathosa so that the government would have a network of establishments that have an effect on the market.

“The Opposition alleges that a businessman made Rs 10 billion profit by importing sugar due to the lowering of the import duty. It is not so. The cost of the stock of imported sugar was around Rs. 11 billion so practically there couldn’t have been a 10 billion rupee profit. Today a kilo of sugar is Rs 118. Otherwise, it would have been in the range of Rs 155- 160 a kilo.”

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DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL




The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.

The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).

The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.

Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969



The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.

Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.

“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.

Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.

“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.

The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.

“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.

The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.

“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.

Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.

“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.

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JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?



By Rathindra Kuruwita 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.

“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.

Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.

 “They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.

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