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JVP: Govt. moving to reward two of its cronies with new liquor manufacturing licences

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The JVP yesterday renewed its accusation that the government was planning to issue two new liquor manufacturing licences to SLPP’s cronies.

Addressing the media at Anuradhapura, JVP Central Committee Member and former MP Wasantha Samarasinghe said one of the licences would be given to a very close friend of the Finance Minister to manufacture liquor.

“The other licence is to be given to a businessman who is already engaged in importing spirit and bottling them here. That licence is given to manufacture wine.”

The JVPer said that the issue had been raised by several others, but the government had failed to give an assurance that no new liquor manufacturing licences would be issued. “The issue has been raised in Parliament, too, but the government is determined to go ahead and give the licences without following proper procedure. “Worst, under the guise of producing local wine, the liquor manufacturer would get tax concessions. He would have to pay only Rs 900 per litre of liquor, which would be labeled as a local product. The actual tax should have been Rs 3,200 per litre. The businessman will have the chance of evading Rs 2,300 per every litre he is going to produce.”

When the issue was raised in Parliament the government promised to look into the matter, but the process of issuing the licences was in progress on the sly, Samarasinghe alleged.

 “We heard the Commissioner General of Excise say at a recent press conference that no new licences would be issued for the manufacture of liquor without the permission of the Finance Minister. The power to issue such licences is with the Minister of finance.”

The JVP Central Committee member said that the Committee on Public Accounts had recently revealed that the liquor producing companies were dodging taxes, causing a loss of Rs 2,380 million to the state coffers. Their surcharges were around Rs 1,900 million. “It is in this context that several leaders in this government are planning to issue new liquor manufacturing licences.”

Samarasinghe said the JVP would remain alert and do everything in its power to stop the government from issuing the licences at issue.



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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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