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Liquor licences for govt. cronies will deprive pregnant mothers, children of Thriposha

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By Saman Indrajith

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) yesterday alleged that the government had issued four liquor manufacturing licences to its cronies who would further worsen the prevailing maize shortage by using those grains for the production of beer and spirit.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s office in Colombo, Kurunegala District SJB MP Thushara Indunil said that there was a shortage of maize in the country. “While there is a severe shortage of maize, the government has surreptitiously issued four licences – two for spirit production, two for beer production, to its crony businessmen. Those businessmen will use the remaining stocks of maize to produce beer and spirit and that will worsen the acute shortage of maize in the country.”

The SJB MP said there was a shortfall in the locally produced maize supply. A portion of the production is used to manufacture nutritional supplements such as Thriposha, a blended and nutrient-rich supplementary food provided to infants and expectant mothers. “Some of the produce is sent to market for people to buy while a portion of the produce is also used for animal food production. The government stopped importing maize without taking action to promote production of the grain in the country. They allowed their crony businessmen to import wheat. Following the suspension of imports, the animal food industry is now in a quandary. In addition, the suspension of importing affected negatively on the poultry industry too because maize is a key ingredient in making poultry feed.”

The Thriposha factory in Ja-Ela had been shut down citing the reason of inability to obtain maize, MP Induni said.

“Now the Thriposha given to low income pregnant women and infants is not available as it is no longer produced. In the coming days the poultry industry too is going to face a crisis. The situation has been aggravated further by the Sena caterpillar destroying much of the maize cultivation during the recent past. While the country is suffering from maize shortage the government has issued beer and spirit manufacturing licences. Those businessmen will buy the remaining maize stocks to produce beer and spirit. Production of spirit and beer requires grains they have to use either rice or maize. Now, the infant children and pregnant women are starving but the government promotes beer and spirit production. This is how the so-called Sinhala Buddhist government behaves.”

“We have information that a spirit production factory is being set up in Passekudah. That factory belongs to one of the leading businessmen that supported this government. We condemn this and demand that the government revoke the licences at least for the sake of saving maize for the production of Thriposha for the low income earning families. We have no problem with the government looking after its friends, but that cannot be permitted at the cost of innocent pregnant women and infants. We are planning to campaign against the issuance of liquor manufacturing licences and hope that the people will stand up with us.”

Badulla District SJB MP Vadivel Suresh also addressed the press.



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Colombo Stars defeat Dambulla Aura by 9 runs at Sooriyawewa

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Colombo stars defeated Dambulla Aura by nine runs in the 5th game of LPL 2022 at MRICS Sooriyawewa .on Thursday.

Colombo Stars 165-9  in 20 overs (Niroshan Dickwella 62, Ravi Bopara 26, Dinesh Chandimal 29*; Lahiru Kumara 4-36, Sikkandar Raza 1-31, Tharindu Ratnayake 1-20, Lahiru Madushanaka 1-17)

Dambulla Aura 156/7 in 20 overs (Shevon Daniel 28, Jordan Cox 29, Tom Abell 33, Dasun Shanaka 31*; Suranga Lakmal 2-29, Dominic Drakes 2-35, Naveen-ul-Haq 1/22, Karim Janat 2-30)

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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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Criminal waste at State Hospital revealed

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Chairman, Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital, Professor Shanthilal Devapriya Jayaratne responds to probing questions from COPE members (Pic courtesy parliament)

Surgical items thrown away amidst shortages

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has called for a comprehensive report from Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital regarding hiring of a private surveyor, way back in 2015 although the Surveyor General’s Department had completed the task.

The COPE, chaired by Prof. Ranjith Bandara, on 06 Dec, asked the Legal Officer of the hospital to provide a list of persons responsible for hiring the private surveyor.

During the inquiry, several irregularities were exposed, according to parliamentary sources. The COPE raised the issue of 80% of surgical items being discarded due to the expiration of shelf life. The hospital management said that they had received a report compiled, following an inquiry. Those items had been procured at a cost of Rs 4.2 mn for the neurosurgical unit of the hospital.

Health Secretary Dr. Asela Gunawardena was to submit a comprehensive report in this regard within two weeks.

The COPE also called for reports on spending Rs 1.8 mn on a software package and spending Rs 19.7 for scanning and uploading documents in 2019.

Lawmakers also discussed how payments had been made for unfinished work undertaken by various parties. (SF)

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