Karu says alleged sugar tax fraud could sour President’s reputation

Friday, 22 January 2021 00:16 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • Former Speaker claims alleged fraud serious blow to confidence people have in President
  • Questions why Govt. is yet to explain allegations of fraud of Rs. 10 b
  • Opines Govt. professing about “one country, one law” ridiculous in light of these developments
  • Says authorities must also address continuing human-elephant conflict

The apolitical National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) Chairman Karu Jayasuriya said yesterday that the failure on the part of the Government to explain the massive fraud of Rs. 10 billion that had allegedly taken place due to the cut in the sugar tax was a serious blow to the confidence that the people of this country had in the President.

Addressing a press conference, Jayasuriya said the Chairman of a Government institution who resigned recently was suspected of being either involved in or aiding such a massive fraud but he still continued to head another institution which comes under the purview of the President.

“The Government is not giving any explanation about the massive fraud of Rs. 10 billion that took place in this country with his involvement. This is clearly a serious blow to the confidence that the people of this country have in the President. It will mar his reputation. He should understand that,” the former Speaker said.

Jayasuriya said that in the 1980s, a program was devised to give a fair price to local sugar producers as well as sugar importers and the State Treasury and industry worked together in this process.

“At that time, I was the President of the Sugar Importers’ Association. Ananda Kumarasiri, who was the Chairman of the Sugar Corporation and later also the Deputy Speaker, represented the sugar producers at that time. Back then, an importer of sugar only made a profit of five or 10 cents per kilo. However, in a fraudulent transaction that led to a recent fraud, importers have been allowed to make a profit of more than Rs. 50 per kilo of sugar. Therefore, we who know about this trade feel nothing but disgust and shame when we see such incidents,” he said.

He added that there was much speculation in the country today about the situation surrounding the granting of a loan amounting to Rs. 3 billion by using a bank branch of the Bank of Ceylon.

“Such transactions can only take place under political influence. The manner in which this loan transaction took place is unbelievable. Can this happen with a clean government?” he questioned.

Jayasuriya said is it was ridiculous for one to talk about one country and one law today in light of these developments.

He also referred to the continuing human-elephant conflict and said the country needed to be more vigilant and responsible in this regard.

“We studied the valuable research papers and recommendations of Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya and Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando, who are eminent scholars in this field. It is a serious problem that the authorities have continued to ignore the ideas and suggestions made by them. As a result, Sri Lanka has become the country with the highest number of elephant deaths in the world due to clashes between elephants and humans. Sri Lanka also has the second highest number of deaths of humans caused due to the human-elephant conflict,” he said.

He said the information was illustrated by the studies conducted by Dr. A.W. Wijeratne, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando and environmentalist Supun Lahiru, who belong to a group of eminent scholars in the country. 

“As we have been informed, this situation has also come to the notice of a parliamentary committee Also, various governments that have come to power in this country over the past few decades have made various promises to the people regarding the human-elephant conflict. But nothing fruitful has come out of it since and we are not satisfied with the steps taken,” he said.

Jayasuriya said that the authorities needed to understand the impact of these highlighted issues. “Today, 131 Divisional Secretariats in 19 districts in eight provinces are impacted by the human-elephant conflict. Also, the number of Divisional Secretariats where the human-elephant conflict is rapidly escalating is increasing annually at a record rate.”

He said the human-elephant conflict had spread from Hambantota in the south to the Madurankeni or Vadamarachchi East Divisional Secretariat belonging to the Jaffna District in the north.

“There are many world-renowned scholars in our country who study the facts and give valuable opinions and recommendations about the issue. Their findings and recommendations have even received special attention internationally. It is reported that foreign delegations also visited Sri Lanka to study these matters. Sadly, not much attention has been paid to their opinions locally. Therefore, we urge the relevant authorities to pay immediate attention to minimising this ongoing devastation. The views and suggestions of the leading scholars who have conducted research and studies in this field should be taken into consideration,” he said.

Jayasuriya underscored the importance of using modern technology along with the ancient methods of the past. “We also need to understand the reality we face as a country. Today, 70% of the elephant’s habitat is located in human-inhabited areas. This is why we have failed to restrict elephants to protected areas. Therefore, it is difficult to face this problem without a well-planned methodology,” he said.

Jayasuriya added that it was important to add permanent electric fences as well as temporary electric fences around the paddy fields to prevent damage to settlements and cultivation lands by elephants.

“In addition, it is also important to carry out these activities through community-based participation projects. The Government should intervene in the construction of fences only when it is not possible to build them as a community initiative.”

He added that compensation for physical and property damage to the public must continue to be paid. 

“As far as we know, no compensation has been paid for crop damage. Therefore, the Government has to pay appropriate compensation for this damage. Also, in order to rid the country from this problem, an action plan needs to be formulated at the national level.

“Ministries and departments belonging to all sectors such as the Wildlife Department as well as the District Secretariat, the Divisional Secretariat, the Grama Niladhari and the Agriculture officials should be involved in this matter. We also hope that a successful solution to this problem will be found through the active involvement of the Army as they did in the past during various disaster situations faced by the country.”