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‘Runaway cost of living: Govt. rendered itself impotent by doing away with price controls’

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Ex-CAA official: “Trade, Consumer Protection ministries reduced to nameboards’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Co-operative Services, Marketing Development and Consumer Protection State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna said that the government could not interfere with the Milk Food Importers’ Association decision to increase the prices of imported powdered milk.

The SLFPer pointed out that price control on imported milk food had been done away with in early November. Therefore, the Consumer Protection Ministry couldn’t interfere with their decision, the Gampaha District lawmaker said, adding he was informed of the price increase.

MP Alagiyawanna said so when The Island sought his response to the Milk Food Importers’ Association announcement on Thursday (30) as regards the price increase with effect from Dec 30 midnight. According to their spokesperson Asoka Bandara, the price of a kilo of packeted milk powder would cost Rs 1,345 and 400 grammes pack Rs 540.

State Minister Alagiyawanna said that a kilo of imported milk powder and 400 grammes pack had cost Rs. 1,195 and Rs 480 before.

State Minister Jayantha Samaraweera on behalf of the National Freedom Front (NFF) recently urged the government to re-impose price controls or face the consequences. Lawmaker Samaraweera alleged that duty concessions that had been granted to various importers, including the Milk Food Importers’ Association didn’t benefit the consumers. The Kalutara District MP cited the reduction of duty on imported sugar in Oct 2020 as a case in point.

Having imposed emergency regulations that had been imposed on Aug. 30, 2021 to prevent hoarding and the termination of the Office of Commissioner General of Essential Services, the government on Nov 04, 2021 removed the retail price cap on several essential commodities through a gazette notification. The retail prices of dhal, sugar, sprats, green gram, potatoes, big onions, canned fish, chickpeas, wheat flour, full cream milk powder, dried fish, coconut, chicken and maize were removed.

The new gazette notification has also removed the maximum price limit of Rs. 1,500 for a 400g packet of sausages and Rs. 1,500 for a kg of mackerel. In addition to that the Special Commodity Levy of Rs.65 per kg of imported rice has been reduced to 25 cents for the next six months.

As per the powers vested in terms of the section 2 of the Public Security Ordinance, President Rajapaksa declared emergency regulations formulated as per the section 5 on essential food supply, with effect from midnight August 30, 2021.

Authority (CAA) Thushan Gunawardena questioned the justification of maintaining the Consumer Protection Ministry as well as the CAA at the taxpayers’ expense in the absence of what he called price control mechanism. “Consumers are fleeced. The government brazenly provides tacit support to unscrupulous business enterprises. On one hand, duty concessions are granted. And on the other hand price controls are done away with. The hapless public has no protection at all,” Gunawardena said.

The cabinet minister in charge of trade Bandula Gunawardena and State Minister of Consumer Protection Alagiyawanna should quit because they were jobless, Gunawardena said adding that there had never been a previous instance of any particular government altogether abolishing price controls.

Outspoken ex-official Gunawardena said that the appointment of a senior serving army officer Maj. Gen. M. D. S. P Niwunhella as Commissioner General of Essential Services for a short period was nothing but a joke. Gunawardena pointed out that having targeted some of those who hoarded sugar and rice and promised an uninterrupted supply of essential items at a reasonable price, the government had done away with price controls, abolished the Office of Essential Services and reduced the trade and consumer protection ministries to just name boards.

Responding to another query, Gunawardena pointed out that the recent media statements that had been attributed to State Minister Samaraweera revealed that the government had done away with price controls without consultations with constituents of the ruling coalition. “In fact, the current dispensation does not seem to believe in proper consultations as regards any matter. There cannot be a better example than the Yugadanavi Power plant share sale agreement,” Gunawardena said.

Asked what the government would do in case the Milk Food Importers’ Association exploited the consumers, State Minister Alagiyawanna said that the government could always resort to price controls. Asked to explain, the lawmaker said that in the case of milk food prices, before the association decided on Rs 150 per kilo increase, it was sold at Rs 1,195. “We are in a position to ascertain how the world market prices as well as shipping charges are impacting on imports,” MP Alagiyawanna said.



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Canadian declaration of ‘Tamil genocide’ may influence European parliaments, EU – Maj. Gen. (retd.) Gallage

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‘Counter lies, or face consequences’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Retired Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage says controversial Canadian House of Commons declaration that Tamil genocide took place in Sri Lanka may influence many Western parliaments as well as the EU.

The Gajaba Regiment war veteran said that the recognition of 18th May, the day Sri Lanka defeated terrorism as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day was an affront to Sri Lanka.

The ex-combat officer said that the government owed an explanation without delay. Perhaps, Sri Lanka parliament should remind Canada of deaths of hundreds of native residential school students, who had been literally snatched from their families, the retired officer said, adding that it would be interesting to see whether any political parties, civil society groups or those who issue statements against Sri Lanka at the drop of a hat would question the Canada’s gruesome past. So far unmarked graves of more than 1000 native children have been found on the grounds of such schools run till the mid-1990s, the retired Major General said.

Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree, son of veteran Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree presented the motion on Wednesday (18). “Canada becomes the first national parliament in the world to recognize May 18th of each year as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day,” tweeted, Anandasangree, the MP for Scarborough-Rouge Park.

The motion states that “this House acknowledges the Genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka, and recognizes May 18th of each year as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day”.

The House of Commons unanimously accepted the motion.

Gallage alleged that Sri Lanka lacked political will to counter the campaign against the country. Acknowledging the current political-fiscal -social crisis caused by decades of economic mismanagement, he warned that the Canadian declaration would have disastrous consequences. Would the government care to examine how interested parties could exploit the Canadian condemnation of Sri Lanka? Gallage asked.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in the third week of May 2009.

Gallage questioned the responsibility on the part of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministries for Sri Lanka’s failure to meet the challenge.

Anandasangaree brought forward the motion on the 13th anniversary of the annihilation of the LTTE fighting cadre at Mullivaikkal.

Retired Maj. Gen. said that those who had failed to throw a lifeline to the LTTE as the military brought the war to a rapid conclusion worked overtime for the realization of the Canadian project.

Responding to another query, Gallage said that declaration of May 18 as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day should be examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka co-sponsoring an accountability resolution against itself at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in early Oct. 2015 under the yahapalana regime.

Gallage recalled how Australia denied him a visa during yahapalana administration though there hadn’t been specific war crimes allegations against him. Australia also found fault with Gallage for being in command of the 59 Division from May 7, 2009 to July 20, 2009.

Established in Jan, 2008, the 59 Division, deployed on the eastern flank aka the Weli Oya front, fought under the then Brig. Nandana Udawatte’s command for one year to cross the Anandakulam and Nagacholai forest reserves, which served as natural defences for the LTTE Mullaitivu stronghold.

Maj. Gen. Gallage said that the Parliament should respond to the Canadian House of Commons declaration on Tamil genocide. The former senior officer who was always in the thick of combat reiterated that unless tangible action was taken immediately the Canadian motion would cause irreparable damage. The Tamil Diaspora would exploit their success with Canadian political parties to pressure other countries, Gallage said, the coming Geneva sessions would be quite a challenge.

He urged the current military top brass to make representations to the government as regards the damning unfair Canadian indictment of Sri Lanka. “We should ask Canada to share with us information on the basis its Parliament reached conclusion that genocide took place here. The very basis of their declaration is questionable,” Gallage said, adding that Sri Lanka should officially inform Canada of the Indian intervention that led to the deaths of thousands, both before and after the deployment of the Indian Army (1987-1990), killing of one-time Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by an LTTE female suicide cadre and the sea borne attempt to assassinate the Maldivian President in 1989. “We should set the record straight. We should use wartime British High Commission cables now in the public domain to counter lies,” the Gajaba Regiment veteran said.

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Some MPs seek hotel accommodation to attend parliament

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament yesterday that a group of MPs had requested that they be provided hotel accommodations for them to attend Parliament sittings.

Speaker Abeywardena said that the request had been made due to the prevailing fuel crisis.

The Speaker said that some MPs who travelled from outstations were unable to return home due to the fuel shortage.

“Therefore, they have requested me to book a hotel for them to stay in Colombo to attend Parliament proceedings,” he said.

The Speaker’s clarification came as reports of MPs being provided fuel at a subsidised rate were raised in Parliament yesterday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that fuel had not been given at subsidised rates to any MP.

Many government MPs also lost life possessions as their houses were looted and torched by marauding mobs early last week.

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Elder brother says MR should have known when to quit politics

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SLPP MP and former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that his younger brother former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa should have retired from politics after concluding his second term as President.

“Nearly 50 years of his outstanding political achievements and journey have been lost at present,” he said.

“If we become greedy for power and positions then we face such consequences as we see today,” he said.

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