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Govt. under pressure to tackle corruption in revenue inflow

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Amendments to Exchange Control Act contemplated

By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya yesterday (07) said the government would introduce some amendments to the Exchange Control Act No 12 of 2017 as part of its response to the continuing financial crisis.

The SLFPer mentioned that amendments were necessary to restore the authority exercised by the Central Bank in respect of regulation of foreign exchange before the enactment of the Exchange Control Act No 12 of 2017, adding that the government has received several proposals in this regard.

The State Finance Minister said so when The Island sought a clarification as regards rebel SLPP accusations that the Exchange Control Act No 12 of 2017, enacted during the Yahapalana administration, allowed exporters to ‘park’ funds overseas. Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Wimal Weerawansa and Gevindu Cumaratunga had estimated the stashed amount at over USD 35 bn.

Siyambalapitiya acknowledged that the amendments that had been introduced in 2017 deprived the Central Bank of certain regulatory powers.

The Island

raised the issue at hand with Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, yesterday (07) consequent to his declaration that as much as USD 53.5 bn had been ‘parked’ overseas. This claim was made during the committee stage of the ongoing debate on the Appropriation Bill.

Minister Rajapakse said that Nanayakkara, Weerawansa and Cumaratunga, too, had referred to the same funds though he was able to obtain the latest figures.

Responding to another query, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka emphasised that the situation had further deteriorated due to the Covid-19 pandemic, etc. According to him, the figures available with him dealt with the past 12 years.

The Justice Minister said that he discussed this with the Central Bank. Lawmaker Rajapakse said that in the absence of regulatory powers, the Central Bank hadn’t been able to make necessary interventions.

The Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, told The Island that the urgent need for amendments to the Exchange Control Act No 12 of 2017 had been taken up with the relevant authorities. Dr. Weerasinghe said that the ongoing controversy, over funds ‘parked’ overseas, gathered momentum against the backdrop of his recent speech, at the AGM of the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association, where the inordinate delay, on the part of the exporters to convert export earnings to rupees, was highlighted.

In terms of current foreign exchange regulations, the exporters are required to convert 25 percent of their export proceeds, within a month, and all export proceeds within 180 days.

Having found fault with apparel, tea and rubber for the unsatisfactory conversion rate of forex earnings, Dr. Weerasinghe said that they were in the process of examining a selected group of exporters but realized the majority weren’t forthcoming with the required data.

The Justice Minister said that the entire revenue collection system was utterly corrupt, influenced and manipulated by interested parties. “The people are suffering because of continuing corruption at every level. Those responsible for revenue collection are part of the growing racket. They seem to be unstoppable,” he said.

Dr. Rajapakse said that there couldn’t be a better example than continuing the racket in security stickers on bottles of liquor to highlight the pathetic situation here. The Minister alleged that the racket, involving liquor manufacturers and some excise officials, deprived the Treasury a massive amount in revenue. In spite of frequent media exposure, the racket continued unabated, Dr. Rajapakse said, adding that those who defended the manufacturer of the security sticker were all part of the scam.



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Full implementation of 13A: NFF vows to torpedo Ranil’s move, asks Dinesh, Mahinda to disclose their stance

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The National Freedom Front (NFF), a constituent member of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya (NJS), has declared that it would oppose President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s bid to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The patriotic people were ready to defeat such plans, even at the expense of their lives, the party has vowed.

The breakaway JVP faction consists of six MPs, including former minister Wimal Weerawansa. The NJS is contesting the Local Government polls, scheduled for March 09, under the ‘Helicopter’ symbol.

NFF spokesperson, MP Jayantha Samaraweera, on Monday (30), told the media that his party was ready to lead a campaign against the UNP leader’s move to do away with constitutional safeguards meant to ensure Sri Lanka’s unitary status. The Lawmaker addressed the media at the NFF main office, at Pitakotte.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the controversial constitutional amendment at the Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15, President Wickremesinghe reiterated his commitment to the Eelam project during the party leaders’ meeting at the Presidential Secretariat, the former State Minister said.

Lawmaker Samaraweera asked Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, and twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had flanked President Wickremesinghe, at the party leaders’ meeting, to disclose their stand on 13th Amendment.

The Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya, consisting of NFF, Democratic Left Front, Communist Party, Lanka Samasamaja Pakshaya, Pivuthuru Hela Urumaya, Vijayadharani Jathika Sabhawa, Yuthukama, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Nidahasa Janatha Sabhawa, Jana Jaya Peramuna, Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya and Nidahas Janatha Peramuna, has yet to disclose its position on this issue.

MP Samaraweera attacked the President, close on the heels of NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa, who is also the Chairman of the Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya (ULS), questioning the legitimacy of the move. Lawmaker Weerawansa addressed this issue at a meeting held at the BMICH, on January 26, to discuss ways and means to thwart the move to privatize the CEB.

The ULS consisting of seven political parties, and groups, is aligned with the NJS.

Referring to the circumstances UNP leader Wickremesinghe re-entered Parliament, through the National List, nearly a year after the last General Election, former Minister Weerawansa emphasized the President didn’t have a mandate to fully implement the 13th Amendment. How could the UNP leader abolish Sri Lanka’s unitary status, having received an opportunity to complete Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s remainder of five-year term, won at the Nov. 2019 Presidential Election.

The MP challenged their erstwhile comrades, in the JVP, to state their position on the 13th Amendment. Alleging that the JVP had been conveniently silent on the issue at hand, MP Samaraweera asked whether the current leadership would take up Wickremesinghe’s challenge.

In addition to Weerawansa and Samaraweera, Yuthukama leader Gevindu Cumaratunga, MP, has declared opposition to the President’s move, at the party leaders’ meeting.

Of the SLPP parliamentary group, retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera is the only MP to publicly oppose Wickremesinghe’s proposal.

Political sources said that the NJS, as a group contesting the forthcoming LG polls, was yet to deliberate this issue and take a stand. They said that consensus was required without further delay as the President’s proposal would be a major issue at the forthcoming election.

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PHU, too, opposes land, police powers to PCs

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A lawyers’ group, aligned with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU), yesterday (31) said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe couldn’t unilaterally decide on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Attorneys-at-Law Pasan Gunasekera and Bhupathi Kahathuduwa, in a statement issued, explained why police and land powers, in terms of the controversial amendment, shouldn’t be granted to Provincial Councils. Abolition of current constitutional safeguard would undermine Sri Lanka’s unitary status thereby paved the way for a new conflict.

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Bangladesh FM to deliver LK memorial lecture

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Bangladesh Foreign Minister, Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, will deliver the Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture at Block 3, Jasmine Hall, BMICH, on February 03, at 6 pm.

The LTTE assassinated the then Foreign Minister, Kadirgamar, on Aug. 12, 2005.

FM Momen will deliver the annual lecture on the invitation of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies.

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