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SJB demands forensic audit on loss incurred from reduction of duty on imported sugar



The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) has requested the Ministry of Finance to conduct a forensic audit on the loss incurred by the state due to reducing the import duty on sugar to Rs. 0.25 per kilo.

SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva urged a forensic audit to calculate the real loss since it was estimated that the state incurred a loss of Rs. 15.9 billion by what he called the strange exercise.

“The Ministry of Finance told the Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) this week that Rs. 15.9 billion in tax revenue has been lost”, he said.

Dr. De Silva said that the SJB had asked for a debate in Parliament on the matter.

Earlier this year, Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance Anura Priyadarshana Yapa instructed the Ministry of Finance officials to submit a report on the sugar tax revision.

In October 2020, the government reduced the import duty on a kilo of sugar from Rs. 50 to 25 cents stating that it wanted to reduce the retail price of sugar in the market.

However, sugar importers had stocked about 90,000 metric tons of sugar they had imported after paying Rs. 50 per kilo by way of import duty.

The government on 27 October increased the tax imposed on a kilo of sugar to Rs. 40. However, according to the Special commodity levy act, a levy increase come into force a month later.

Thus, the amended duty increase was not enforced between October 13 and November 13. During this period, one sugar importer was able to import 100,000 MT of sugar by paying only 25 cents as duty per kilo. Sathosa had also purchased sugar from the importer at over Rs. 125 a kilo. The Opposition alleges the importer made a significant profit at the expense of the state. (RK.)

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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?



… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.



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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others



The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.



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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area



Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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