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Sumanthiran says regular tax amnesties only encourage more people to evade 

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Provisions of the Finance Bill would be detrimental to the country, TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran told Parliament yesterday, calling on the government not to pass the Bill.

 Participating in the debate on the Finance Bill, the TNA MP said, “For the first time in the history of this country, we have tax amnesty being declared through a legislation titled Finance Act. Previously, those Bills said were quite open, they were called Tax Amnesty Bill, or Inland Revenue amendments, but here some important issues as to what the objective of this Act, I say is being covered up by the title of the Act which is Finance Act”, he said.

MP Sumanthiran observed that the amnesty that was being granted was not the first time, not the second time, not the third time, from the 1960s several times amnesties had been granted.

“This matter was discussed at length in the public finance committee of Parliament, and all senior officials, I am sure many of them are here in the box today, repeatedly said that they concede that you must not do it from time to time, amnesties must never be given from time to time. It must be a one off, and that’s it. Because once the country gets used to, the fact that after a few years another opportunity will arise for amnesty that encourages people to make money and not declare it. You might bring them into the tax net. That’s a second justification that is made for tax amnesty, but the primary problem that we have in this country is that we don’t have a proper mechanism to collect our revenue, now that is conceded by everybody, so without fixing that problem, there is no point.

“I will get on to the two important issues, one is that, in section 7 of this Act, there is secrecy, now this is what we pointed out in court as well, where it said absolute secrecy and later official secrecy, fortunately in the Supreme Court the Attorney General said they will change the wording to absolute secrecy to official secrecy but nevertheless the concern remains. Once you have this provision then how that person came by that money, came by that taxable supply can never be gone into and although the speaker from the government ranks, who preceded me, said that terrorist financing, money laundering all of that is exempt from this, yes, it says it is exempt from this, but money earned through those processes can be brought in and you cannot go after that person on that account, and all you have to do is under section 5 is deposit in an account. You can take it out the next day, the justification is that the money is coming into circulation, but it doesn’t prescribe a minimum period for which the money must remain or invest in a property. You can invest in a property and sell it the next day. So this is not a desirable provision that is being made, the tax commission report of 2009 has recommended to the government not to do this, that this doesn’t bring in the desired results, the Chairman of the Commission is the present Governor of the Central bank, so I say, urge the Minister to abandon this process that is called a tax amnesty, country will lose, according to revenue officers’ trade union who have publicly said, which has not been counted that 300 billion loss will be incurred by the country as a result of this act and no government official has still counted that.”



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Self-Employed Traders petition SC over govt. favouring liquor dealers

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By A.J.A Abeynayake

The Supreme Court has decided take up, on 04 Oct. for hearing a petition filed by the Association of Self-Employed Traders against the opening of liquor stores during the current lockdown.

 The traders have requested the apex court to order the government to allow members of their union to engage in business activities since the liquor stores had been allowed to reopen during the lockdown.

The petition was taken up before a three-judge bench comprising justices L. T. B. Dehideniya, Shiran Gooneratne and Janak de Silva, yesterday.

 The State Counsel appearing for the respondents said he had received the relevant documents pertaining to the case only last Friday evening. Therefore, the State Counsel requested the court to give him time to seek advice from the respondents who were many.

Attorney-at-Law Eraj de Silva, appearing for the petitioner at the time, said about 7,000 members of his client union had lost their livelihoods due to the decision by the respondents.

Therefore, Attorney-at-Law Eraj de Silva requested the court to give an early date for considering the petition.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court decided to take up the petition for consideration on 04 Oct and directed the lawyers of the petitioners to take steps to send notice to the respondents before that date.

The petition was filed by the President of the United National Self-Employed Trade Association G.I. Charles, its Vice President P.G.B. Nissanka, and Secretary Krishan Marambage.

The petition names 47 respondents, including the Director General of Health Services, the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of Excise.

The petitioners allege that under the quarantine law, the Director General of Health Services, who is the competent authority, issued a notice on Aug 20 prohibiting the opening of liquor stores.

The petitioners point out that steps were taken to open liquor stores countrywide contrary to the regulations of the Health Authority.

The Director General of Health Services, the Commissioner General of Excise and the Inspector General of Police have stated that they have not allowed the reopening of liquor stores.

The petitioners have also requested the Supreme Court to issue an order to the respondents to allow the members of their association to engage in business activities as the liquor stores are allowed to remain open.

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Lankan born newly elected Norwegian MP Gunaratnam calls for investments here

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Newly elected Norwegian Labour Party MP, Lankan born Kamzy Gunaratnam says she will ask the new Norwegian government to continue engagement with the country of her birth.

 Speaking at a virtual media conference on Sunday night, Gunaratnam said that she does not believe that boycotting Sri Lanka is the way forward.

“I don’t believe in boycott. There needs to be investments. Only that will ensure employment,” she said.

Gunaratnam said that she is also prepared to meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, if invited, for talks.

She said that Norway must continue to assist Sri Lanka through trade, education and in other ways.

Gunaratnam said that she will also discuss with her party and the new Norwegian Foreign Minister, as well as the Norwegian Ambassador in Sri Lanka and see how best Norway can assist the country.

Gunaratnam said that Sri Lankans must also decide the best solution for Sri Lanka and not any foreign country. She said that Sri Lanka must not wait for foreign pressure to work on a solution.

The newly elected Norwegian MP also said that minority rights in Sri Lanka must be protected.

As a Norwegian MP she said that her main focus in the Norwegian Parliament will be to push for equality in Norway.

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Going to IMF best solution, says Ranil

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UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe insists that a programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is necessary to mitigate impact of the growing debt repayment crisis; homegrown solutions are not effective.

“Unlike in the past, Sri Lanka’s debt problem has increased at a time when there is a global debt problem. This makes the situation more challenging and complex. Sri Lanka is a highly import-dependent economy,” Wickremesinghe said during a panel discussion, organised by the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka on Saturday.

The UNP leader said that the government shouldn’t sell state assets to ease off the shortage of foreign exchange to have breakfast but reinvest those proceeds back in the economy. “Going to the IMF is the best solution,” Wickremesinghe said.

With reference to homegrown solutions, he referred to the mess caused by the government in promoting Dhammika peniya as one of the failed measures earlier on to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The former Prime Minister said that Sri Lanka should use the current situation to forge ahead with structural and public sector reforms which were postponed due to political considerations in the past.

The former PM suggested that the re-opening of the country be delayed till mid-October.

In responding to the issue of debt management in Sri Lanka, the UNP leader said that the most pressing concern is addressing the dwindling foreign exchange reserves of the country.

He explained that the regional foreign exchange reserves were projected to increase over the course of the year, however, Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves were on a downward trend.

He also said that economic recovery based on a resurgence of the tourism industry would be uncertain, and until airline ticket prices were reduced it was unlikely that tourist arrivals would increase significantly.

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