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Govt. urged to admit pandemic now at community transmission stage GMOA alleges Epidemiology yet to share data, cause remains a mystery



Debate on Minuwangoda cluster today

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Academy of Health Professionals and Joint Front of non-MBBS Health Professionals have urged Health Secretary retired Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have requested the Health Secretary to take appropriate measures to deal with the situation instead of trying to prove the pandemic was yet to reach the community transmission stage. In a letter dated Oct 22 to the Health Secretary, they pointed out the continuing shortcomings in the government strategy.

Warning that proper decisions couldn’t be solely made on ‘intelligence strategies’ as done so far, the trade unions urged the government to change its approach or face the consequences. They strongly urged the government to take measures on the basis the corona pandemic was now spreading among communities here.

The warning was given a day ahead of the debate on the country’s unprecedented health crisis in parliament. The GMOA (Government Medical Officers’ Association) spokesperson Dr. Prasad Colombage, in response to The Island query, yesterday (22) said that those concerned were yet to reveal how the second eruption took place. The first corona detection in its second wave was made on Oct 2 and the curfew was declared in selected police areas on Oct 4.

The Committee on Parliamentary Business chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Wednesday (21) put off the scheduled vote on condolence to pave the way for a debate on the corona epidemic. Director, Department of Communication, Parliament Shan Wijetunga said that JVP leader Anura Kuamar Dissanayake called for a parliamentary debate on corona in the wake of SJB leader Sajith Premadasa raising the spread of the corona virus in the country.

GMOA Secretary Dr. Senal Fernando yesterday (22) said that only the Epidemiology Unit could correctly ascertain status of the corona epidemic as it held relevant data. Dr. Fernando alleged that the Epidemiology Unit hadn’t so far shared the relevant data with those who had been involved in government initiatives against the epidemic. The GMOA is among those deprived of corona data.

While urging all stakeholders not to politicize the issue, the GMOA emphasized the pivotal importance in all extending support to the ongoing efforts to combat the spread of the highly contagious virus.

Meanwhile, the situation continued to deteriorate further with indications of several smaller corona clusters in the Gampaha district under curfew since 10 pm on Wednesday. Gampaha administrative district consists of 22 police areas. In addition to them, Kuliyapitiya, Giriulla, Narampala, Dummalasuriya and Pannala are under curfew. The police have also isolated several villages in Matugama and Agalawatte areas.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said that in addition to the Gampaha district, police areas in Colombo North and Kuliyapitiya Division were under curfew. However, in view of the large number of factories situated in the Gampaha district et al, police headquarters named four officers whom the public could contact in case of emergency. According to DIG Rohana, SSP M.K.R.A. Gunaratne (071-8591605), ASP Thusitha Kumara (071-8591610), SP Palitha Amaratunga (071-8591632) and SSP Niranjan Abeywardena (071-8591574) could be contacted for issues in Kelaniya, Gampaha, Negombo and Colombo North Divisions, respectively.

DIG Rohana explained that those attached to the state and private sector engaged in essential services, including health, harbour, airport, airport and aviation services, electricity, communications and media as well could use their office identity cards as curfew passes. The DIG strongly advised the public not to abuse arrangements made by the government to ensure functioning of essential services under extremely difficult conditions.

Academy of Health Professionals, Joint Front of non-MBBS Health Professionals as well as the GMOA requested the government to act faster with the latter suggesting formulation of guidelines as regards the admission of corona patients.

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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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