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JVP files FR case over state losing Rs 15.9 billion in questionable steep duty reduction on sugar

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JVP politburo member Sunil Handunnetti yesterday filed a Fundamental Rights petition in the Supreme Court, claiming that the state had incurred a loss of Rs. 15.9 billion due to an arbitrary reduction of the import duty on sugar.

The petition alleges that the fundamental rights of the people have been violated as the state failed to prevent the corrupt deal.

The petitioner has sought the apex court to order the Attorney General to institute legal action against those responsible for causing the losses to the state.

The petitioner has also requested the Supreme Court to order Finance Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the respondents to take necessary measures to recover the losses and to recover Rs. 500 million as compensation.

Handunnetti and JVP Central Committee Member Sunil Watagala filed the complaint.

The Attorney General, on behalf of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundara, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance S. R. Attygalle, former CWE Chairman Nushad Perera, the importer Pyramid Wilma, its Chairman Sajath Mausoon, Consumer Affairs Authority Chairman Shantha Dissanayake and the Attorney General have been named as respondents in the petition.

The petitioner says the government has incurred a loss of Rs. 15.9 billion by reducing the import the duty on sugar imports to 25 cents from Rs. 50.00 per kilo. The Ministry of Finance has also reported the matter to Parliament. The duty reduction was effected to help a group of pro-government businessmen.

The Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance Anura Priyadarshana Yapa in January said that although the duty on the price of imported sugar had been lowered to 25 cents from Rs. 50.00 per a kilo through a gazette notification No. 2197/12 issued by the Ministry of Finance on 13th October 2020, consumers had not benefited.

The petitioner has requested the Supreme Court to rule that the respondents were responsible for causing the aforesaid loss to the public.

Handunnetti has also requested the Supreme Court to order the respondents to repay the amount of Rs. 15.9 billion the state has lost due to the reduction of sugar import duty and order the Attorney General to file cases against the respondents under the criminal law.

In addition, the petitioner requests the Supreme Court to issue an order to the respondents to pay Rs. 500 million as compensation to the petitioner for the violation of basic human rights.



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.

 

 

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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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