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MP Pathirana exposes how Excise helps artificial toddy producers to rob govt. revenue and poison people

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By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday informed Parliament that Excise Department officers colluded with artificial toddy makers to deprive the state coffers Rs. 80 billion a year while poisoning people with toxic vinegar, its by-product.

MP Pathirana said that the Excise Department officials had helped the artificial toddy producers to operate without paying taxes. The government lost at least Rs. 80 billion per year as the artificial toddy makers bypassed the laws. “I have a list of names and a confession by such a businessman who is willing to admit to his offence and pay the fine and expose the corrupt officials. This businessman is accused of producing artificial toddy and not paying the due taxes. He wrote a letter to the Commissioner General of Excise, admitting to his fault and naming five officers who had helped him by giving him technical points to evade taxes. The businessman is Chandrakanthan Ruban of No 174A, Palali Road, Kondawil. He, in his letter dated Sept 06, 2019, addressed to the Excise Commissioner General H.G. Sumanasinghe, states how he has been assisted by Excise officers in flouting the regulations in return for money. The Excise Department officers have helped other artificial toddy makers too to flout the laws. Therefore, there is a need to amend these regulations. The letter states that the businessman was been assisted by Excise OIC S. Sirimanne, Deputy Commissioners N. Sothinathan, K. Kumarsinghe, B. Warnasuriya and W. Dissanayake. The offender states he had committed an offence with the help of those officials and was ready to pay the fine for his offence. I table this letter.”

Pathirana said that following his recent exposures in Parliament, media spokesman of the Excise Department had issued a press release stating that artificial toddy was not used to produce vinegar. The very same officer had once admitted in a TV talk show that artificial toddy was used to produce vinegar. He had also stated there that the gazettes pertaining to the toddy industry had helped increase the production of artificial toddy. “This is a serious issue; the government loses 80 billion rupees annually because of this industry,” MP Pathirana said, adding that artificial toddy was made using sugar, yeast, ammonia, water and the batteries of old mobile phones.



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JVP accuses EC of conspiring to delay LG polls

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By Saman Indrajith

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, MP, has told Parliament that the Election Commission and its Chairman are collaborating with the government to postpone the local government elections.

Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023, on Friday, MP Dissanayake said that as local government bodies should be reconstituted before March 20 2023, the Election Commission had to publish a gazette calling nominations by late December or early January.

“The EC has the authority to do so. It has sought the Attorney General’s opinion on some matters. There is no need at all for it to seek the AG’s advice,” he said.

“This is a conspiracy. The Elections Commission can publish the gazette even tomorrow. It is clear that the Elections Commission is collaborating with the government,” he said.

Dissnayake said that Election Commissioner Nimal Punchihewa’s impartiality was in question. “We know where Punchihewa worked before and at what party office. We know the governments and persons he has worked with closely. He is not an independent person.”

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Diana wants bars open 24/7

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By Saman Indrajith

State Tourism Minister Diana Gamage says liquor outlets should be kept open longer if the country wants to boost tourism.Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023 on Friday, State Minister Gamage said: “We have to keep these places open 24/7. I have spoken about it many times. Liquor is the highest tax earner in the country. In this paradise, we are closing bars after 11pm. Foreigners in hotels can’t get any alcohol if they need, because all the places are closed.

We need to keep this country open 24 hours. Like Singapore and other countries, people must have entertainment.”

“I talk about the night life, and when I talked about that earlier many criticized it and saw it as a big sin. That is ones who are incapable of understanding it,” she said.

“What we call night life is actually a night economy. All the countries in the world have developed because of night economy. These countries get 70 percent of their income from the nigh economy. They only get 30 percent during the day time. We have to develop a night economy in this country. That will earn 70 percent of the income. Only that can develop this country.

“We can do that. And also our museum, that closes at 5 pm. In other countries, museums earn most during night. It must be opened 24/7.  This night economy is essential for a country’s economy. People must have places to spend their money.”

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SJB asks govt. to introduce political reforms fast

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has asked the government when it will introduce the political reforms demanded by the international community.

Speaking in Parliament on Saturday, Kiriella said that when the Opposition parties met the members of the Colombo-based diplomatic community during the Aragalaya protests, the latter had demanded that Sri Lanka implement political and economic reforms to receive foreign assistance to get out of the prevailing crisis. “That was six months ago. We have been asking the government repeatedly to inform this House whether it has implemented those reforms.

“The riginal plan was to establish an interim government for six months to restore the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. It was stated that an election would be held after six months. Now, what has happened? The politicians who are responsible for the crisis are still in power.

“Foreign Minister Al Sabry met USAID Administrator Samantha Power on Friday. Samantha Power called for the same political and economic reforms again. The international community is asking for the same.”

Leader of the House, Minister Susil Premjayantha said that political reforms were being implemented. “It is as part of the political reforms we are setting up a National Council, Sectoral Oversight Committees and three other committees. Counter terrorism act is in the pipeline. It will be taken up within couple of weeks. We passed several bills with your support. There were nine amendments to be introduced to the criminal law,” he said.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa: “The bills and amendments that have been passed are not enough as far as the international community and we are concerned. The biggest request is to allow the people of this country for a new mandate. Allow the people to express their will. Give them a chance to establish a new government or to maintain the same government now they have.”

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