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SJB accuses govt. of trying to reward crony with new liquor production licence

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Also exposes Excise shenanigans

Minister Cabraal assures a probe

By Saman Indrajith

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), yesterday, accused the government of trying to issue a new liquor manufacturing licence to one of its cronies notorious for tax frauds.

SJB Matara District MP Buddhika Pathirana told Parliament that he had information of an attempt to issue a new liquor licence through the Excise Commissioner General without following the proper process of spot inspection, etc., in a transparent manner.

“This licence is to be issued on Friday (4). The government is in a mighty hurry to do so.”

He said that currently there were 25 liquor production licences in the country. Five of those licence holders accounted for around 93-95% of total revenue of the government through liquor production.

Pathirana said that he had received information that one of the tax evaders who currently produced a wine brand had got hold of some government politicians to secure a liquor manufacturing licence. “The process has been fast tracked in a suspicious manner. As per the alcohol percentage, he should pay taxes on the basis of Rs 3,200 per litre but he has managed to convince the Excise authorities he is producing an indigenous brand of wine. He pays only Rs 900 per litre. The state has lost around Rs. 80 billion as a result. Now, the government is going to give him a liquor manufacturing licence!”

State Minister of Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal promised that he would conduct an inquiry into the matter and inform the House of its progress.

MP Pathirana said that the tax evading businessmen and their tax lawyers were making use of the age-old provisions of the Excise Ordinance and deprived the government Rs 2,300 from each litre of wine being sold in the market.

MP Pathirana said that artificial toddy producers avoided arrest thanks to the spot-fine system introduced by the Excise Department.

“When the Excise officers visit an artificial toddy factory and issue a receipt for a spot-fine, police cannot raid that place on the same day because one cannot be punished for the same offence twice. I have media reports that during recent raids on five such licenced toddy plants, the Excise Department found 50,000 litres of artificial toddy in one place, 40,000 litres in another plant, 30,000 litres in another factory and 60,000 litres in another site and imposed spot fines on them. By doing so they deprived the government of Rs. 9.5 billion. So, this is how the officials work. I request the ministers to read the newspapers. I also request Justice Minister Ali Sabry to look into this issue and assist the police to raid these breweries.



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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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