Categories
Domestic

Sri Lanka unveils tax reforms to boost post-war economy

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday announced a major tax reform package aimed at boosting the economy of the island as it recovers from the civil war that ended last year, reports AFP.

Rajapakse, who is also finance minister, unveiled the new measures as he presented the annual budget for 2011 with the deficit predicted to fall to 6.8 per cent of gross domestic product from 8.0 per cent this year.
He slashed import taxes on many capital goods, including on vehicles and industrial machinery by 25 per cent, and also simplified taxes charged on imports and retail trade. “Having ended the war, and with vital infrastructure in place, we are now in a better position to engage in an accelerated development process within the next six years,” Rajapakse said.

As part of foreign exchange liberalisation, he said foreigners in future would be able to buy into companies through local investment funds.

He also announced plans to lower value added tax for banks from 20 per cent to 12 per cent, ease taxes on construction companies to 12 per cent and offer breaks on commodity exports like tea, rubber and spices.
Tax breaks for the fisheries, agriculture and construction sectors were among the schemes to boost economic activity in the island after the bloody conflict between government troops and Tamil separatists ended in May 2009.

“One of the main objectives of my government is to double per capita income to 4,000 dollars by 2016,” Rajapakse said. “But, that is not the only objective, I want real incomes to go up.” “A high per capita economy will help us to regain many opportunities we have lost during the war years.”

Rajapakse, who has a strong grip on power in Sri Lanka after overseeing the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels, raised taxes on casinos, alcohol and international phone calls.
Charges for overseas calls have fallen to historic lows due to stiff competition among phone companies.

The president said he would cut income tax for tourism- related businesses, but added tax breaks would favour more expensive hotels in Sri Lanka in an attempt to push the island towards the luxury holiday market.

Categories
Politics

A History Lesson for the Western Powers

History is a funny animal. Like a pet dog it can be loved, rubbed, groomed, fed, made to obey, ignored, forgotten, punished, or locked up – depending on the owner’s proclivities and prevailing mood. As long as the animal is fed, it is usually cooperative. In a rare moment, however, it can bite back if provoked or mistreated. I think this might be just one of those moments when the dog takes a nip out of his owner’s hide. Let me explain.

The recent uproar over presumed human rights abuses by the Government of Sri Lanka resulted in the “Western Powers” crying foul in unison. Even without proper investigation, for some strange reason they quickly jumped to condemn the GOSL, which was doing everything it could to protect the lives of the innocent Tamil human shields and bring them to safety in the No Fire Zone.

There has been a lot of tearful feigned sympathy for the rescued IDP’s, but there has also been a huge loss of memory in regards to the “Western Powers” past sins of mass murder, or their looking the other way while thousands suffered and died on their watch.

Categories
Domestic

The right and wrong pertaining to Poddala Jayantha

Poddala Jayantha, Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association was abducted and assaulted on June 1, 2009. The ‘who’ and the ‘why’ of this attack is yet to be determined and I believe it is of little use to engage in conjecture.

On the other hand, this attack is not the first on a journalist. Over the years many journalists have been abducted, attacked and even killed. Some of these incidents have been investigated to conclusion and some have not.

I am not a member of any media collective. I believe that there are people out there who prefer quiescent journalists to relatively independent ones (‘an independent journalist’ is a non-existent creature) and I know that politicians are pretty sensitive creatures who for the most part don’t have what it takes to stomach criticism. At the same time, we have to keep in mind that journalists are hardly the saints they would like people to believe they are. Journalists are not above the law; they don’t enjoy any special immunity. They have enemies and not all of these enemies are in the Government.

We know that some arrests have been made. We know that Poddala Jayantha was quite an activist, even though one might not agree with the causes he championed or endorsed the policies his fellow-travellers.

Today, there are few, if any, who would stand up and say ‘this was wrong!’ when the news came that Poddala Jayantha had been attacked. Why? First, it was Poddala Jayantha who was attacked. He not only spouted nonsense on occasion regarding the situation in the country, but his organization had intimate dealings with forces that were actively operating to destabilize the country and give leg-room for the Tigers. Under these circumstances and especially after all such efforts have been comprehensively squashed, few would be ready to stand with Jayantha as per the basic civil duty of opposing anything outside the framework of the law. This is after all a period when everyone is a ‘patriot’ and when it is not easy to not be one.

Poddala Jayantha was never a patriot in the sense that he belonged to a motley group of disgruntled Enjoyists (NGO activists) whose livelihoods depended on bad mouthing the Government, the Sinhalese and the Buddhists. The organization he was associated with, the Working Journalists’ Association and its sister organizations in the sphere of agitation are moreover are currently in the dock (along with Jayantha and his pals Sunanda Deshapriya and Balasuriya) for perpetrating fraud. He was certainly a man whose hand can be held even in a moment of tragedy only with trepidation.

Let me repeat, I do not wish to go into the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of this attack. At the same time, one needs to remember that there have been strident ‘expose and kill’ calls regarding journalists and others deemed to have acted against the national interest. Such cries have been raised perhaps by a nationalist urge that has spilled over the boundaries of reason and the need to respect the structures that dispense justice in this country. A moment of euphoria cannot be grudged a nation that has suffered for 30 years under the shadow of terrorism, but that does not justify in any way the call for lynch-mobs.

I should mention also, that not all ‘patriots’ lighting crackers in the print and electronic media were exactly patriotic during those long years when one was called ‘war monger’ or ‘racist’ for saying that the LTTE must and can be defeated militarily. As my friend Shamindra Ferdinando observed in a good-humoured tone laced with a dash of irony, the media war was the private property of ITN and Rupavahini. Until they came into the picture, the media and journalistic fraternity in general was ‘unpatriotic’, they would have us believe.

This mindless ‘call for blood’ may or may not have precipitated this incident. It may be come from elsewhere, but it should alert all of us to the dangerous consequences of irresponsible journalism. On the one hand, a cogent argument can be made for arguments of the Jayantha-asked-for-it kind, even though, strictly speaking Jayantha was not a journalist and not even a working journalist but a person who profited from activism and a man who is under a shadow for defrauding organizations he is associated with. On the other hand, this lets-bypass-the-law attitude is the bread and butter of the worst kind of anarchy possible. We can’t afford it.

Categories
Domestic

Traitor who was on LTTE payroll and leaked sensitive info to ‘Prabha’

Recently State Intelligence Service (SIS) agents arrested a LTTE suicide cadre in Negombo who revealed the whereabouts of another suicide cadre in Wellawatte, residing in a luxury apartment located in 37th Lane. When SIS agents arrived at the apartment, second suicide cadre committed suicide by jumping from the 7th floor. SIS agents recovered four suicide kits. A mobile phone used by this LTTE agent had the phone number of an Army Colonel attached to Military Intelligence (MI) as well as to the SF. It was Lt. Col. Ranjith Perera attached to the Ratmalana Army Transit Camp.

The suicide cadre revealed that this Colonel facilitated the transportation of cadres and suicide kits to several areas. He further said that they had tried their utmost to carry out a suicide mission during the recent ‘Deyata Kirula’ exhibition at the BMICH. Their target had been to kill the President, the Defence Secretary or Army Commander. But the attempt had failed as the security cordon was too tight. The Colonel had suicide cadres in his vehicle when the President visited the ‘Deyata Kirula’ exhibition at the BMICH.

‘Colombo’s Praba’ caught & Lt. Col. Ranjith Perera exposed

A person had been in the habit of meeting diplomats at the Colombo Swimming Club (CSC) whom he lobbied and misled, regarding the conflict in Sri Lanka. His name is Prabha and lived in Wellawatte. He was the owner of an electronics outlet called Panama Traders, Shop Numbers 3-26 and 3-27 on the 3rd Floor of Majestic City. His mobile phone number was 0777 398 117 and his shop phone number was 011 4527057.

One of Prabha’s major links was Lt. Col. Ranjith Perera, a Colonel General Staff (GS) of 52 Division. He served from 2006-2-9 to 2008-1-8. He had been denied promotion to the rank of full Colonel by the Army Commander. This was because during a battle at Tanankilappu in Jaffna when the LTTE had attacked this Lt. Col.’s battalion, he had not offered resistance, and without his superior officer’s command, he had withdrawn his battalion from battle.

Categories
Domestic

Sri Lanka Frost Over Sri Lanka Live

An international aid group has suspended its aid operations in Sri Lanka due to restrictions placed on it by the government.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told Al Jazeera on Wednesday, a day after Sri Lanka’s government declared victory over the Tamil Tigers, that “additional restrictions” meant it had no choice but to halt its activities.

About 265,000 ethnic Tamils were displaced in the military’s recent offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, and many of them have been sent to overcrowded camps in the country’s north.

“Since last weekend there have been additional restrictions imposed on aid organisations, including ICRC,” Paul Castella, the head of the group’s Sri Lanka operations, said.

“The authorities have said that because of security they had to restrict access to certain areas.

“What is the take of these civilians and what the conditions are we don’t know because we are not granted access to the area.”