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SJB takes ‘sugar racket’ to CIABOC, demands PCoI

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The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) youth movement yesterday (1) lodged a complaint with the Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC), calling for an investigation into the alleged sugar fraud, which it says caused a loss of Rs. 11 billion to the state coffers.

Filing the complaint, Samagi Tharuna Balawegaya Chairman MP Mayantha Dissanayake said that in addition to the bribery investigation, a Presidential Commission of Inquiry should also be appointed to probe every aspect of the alleged fraud and the persons involved in it. 

Samagi Tharuna Balawegaya Propaganda Secretary Rasika Jayakody, National Organiser Chamith Wijesundera and Attorney-at-Law Madhawa Jayawardena were present to file the complaint.

“Approximately, a consignment of 75,000 MT of sugar was imported by a powerful businessman after the import duty on sugar was reduced to 25 cents per kilo. Several other consignments of sugar are still arriving. Despite the drastic reduction in duty, there was no significance decrease in the sugar prices in the market. The state-owned Sathosa purchased sugar at higher prices and sold it at Rs. 85 per kilogram. We suspect that some racketeers with links to the government made huge profits.

“The impact of the alleged sugar fraud was two-fold. On the one hand, it deprived the government of a staggering amount of tax revenue. According to our calculations, this amounts to Rs. 11 billion. On the other hand, the benefit of the duty reduction was not passed on to consumers.

“We urged the Bribery Commission to probe the alleged involvement of former Sathosa Chairman Nushad Perera’s in this and his connection with Sajad Mowzoon, the owner of the company which imported sugar. When we raised the matter in Parliament, no member of the ruling party came out with a proper answer.” 

The MP said the alleged sugar fraud was similar to the Treasury Bonds scams which took place under the yahapalanaya government. “At least President Sirisena appointed a Presidential Commission to investigate the scam and the legal proceedings were initiated based on the report. We hope President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa will have the courage to investigate the corruption allegation faced by his own officials and supporters.” 

Dissanayake said the SJB, as the main opposition, would continue to monitor the progress of the bribery investigation. “Our struggle will not stop here. We will continue to raise this issue in Parliament and demand answers. This staggering deal should not be swept under the carpet. Everyone involved in this deal, irrespective of their positions or allegiance, should be brought to justice.”

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SLFP: PCoI has exceeded its mandate and failed to address critical issues

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the PCoI on Easter Sunday Attacks to identify local and international forces behind the attacks, establish the motives of those groups and to punish those who were directly and indirectly responsible for the attacks, but those issues had not been addressed by the PCoI’s final report, the SLFP said yesterday.

 SLFP General Secretary, Dayasiri Jayasekera said that the party’s Executive Committee had discussed the report in depth on Thursday and decided that the Commission had not addressed the issues it had been appointed to probe.

On the other hand, some of its recommendations have gone beyond its mandate.

Issuing a press release, the SLFP said that while the PCoI observed that former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had been soft on Islamic extremism and his government had not taken active steps in combating extremism, however, the PCoI had treated Wickremesinghe with kid gloves while taking a tough stance on former President Maithripala Sirisena.

 “The former President took over the Ministry of Law and Order on 30 October 2018, i.e. only five months and twenty days before the attacks. None of those who held the post before have been accused of anything. The report also focuses little on those who planned the attacks, those who financed the attacks and those who protected the attackers. Moreover, although there is evidence to prove that the weapons found in Muslim mosques after the attacks had been brought in by ships; the report had not investigated it in-depth,” the SLFP said.

 The party also said Pulastini Rajendran alias Sara Jasmine, the wife of Mohommadu Hastun, a suicide bomber, had fled to India sometime after the attacks. However, the Commission had not only paid any attention to it but also had ignored what could have been found.

 “The mandate set by President Sirisena says to look at current or former state officials who are directly or indirectly linked to these incidents. There is no mandate for the Commission to look into whether the head of the state or ministers have fulfilled their constitutional duties. Thus, the recommendations on the former President are beyond the PCoI’s mandate. The pages 292 and 293 of the report state that President Sirisena had instructed the Police to arrest NTJ leader Zahran Hashim at the National Security Council. However, they also insist that the former President had not carried out its duties and responsibilities. Page 296 says that the former President not appointing an acting Defence Minister when he left for India and Singapore was a violation of the Constitution. However, in another place the Commissioners say that making such appointments is at the President’s discretion,” the SLFP said in a press release.

 The SLFP also states that the former President had carried out his duties and the report has ample evidence of it. Thus, there is no way that criminal proceedings can be instituted against him.

 “The concept that criminal proceedings can be instituted against a President for not carrying out some duty sets a bad precedent and is a slight to the power given to the President by the Constitution. The US and New Zealand security agencies had received information about 9/11 and the Christchurch shootings but the heads of the states were not charged. We vehemently refuse the allegations against the former President and reject many of the other recommendations too.”

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Dubai haven for majority of Lankan fugitives with INTERPOL red notices

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By Pradeep Prasanna Samarakoon

Police had obtained INTERPOL Red Notices against 24 drug traffickers hiding overseas, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

In addition, DIG Rohana said INTERPOL blue notices had been issued for 87 wanted criminals who were currently residing overseas.

The DIG said a majority of the suspects were reported to be hiding in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, while some were in neighbouring India and European countries.

The country’s law enforcement agencies had seized over 1,610 kilos of heroin in 2020 alone, the DIG noted, adding that last year 33,125 suspects had been arrested for possessing heroin and 1,400 others for having in their possession synthetic drugs.

About 61,550 persons had been arrested for narcotic-related offences, in 2020, said the Police Spokesperson, noting that intelligence reports had suggested there was a shortage of heroin in the local drug market due to continuous raids carried out by law enforcement authorities. That had led to a rise in the use of synthetic drugs, such as ICE, he added.

INTERPOL assistance had been sought to extradite 129 Lankans wanted for various crimes, he said.

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Organise State Vesak festival at Nagadeepa with those of other religions- PM 

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also the Minister of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs has instructed authorities to hold this year’s State Vesak Festival at the Nagadeepa Raja Maha Viharaya in Jaffna focusing on the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The Prime Minister at a meeting held at Temple Trees on Thursday evening had given instructions to the Secretary to the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Cultural and Religious Affairs Prof Kapila Gunawardena to organize the State Vesak Festival together with those following other religions.

Accordingly, the Departments of Hindu, Christian and Muslim Affairs under the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs, will join in the efforts to organize the event.

Among those present were Sanghanayake of the Northern Province Chief Incumbent of the Nagadeepa Vihara Ven Dr. Dharmakeerthi Sri Navadagala Padaumakitthi Nayaka Thera, Sanghanayake of the Eastern and Thamankaduwa Ven Munhene Mettharama thera, Sanghanayake of the Matara-Hambantota districts Adrahere Kassapa Nayaka thera, State Minister Vidura Wickramanayake, MP Suren Raghawan and officials of the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs.

 

 

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