Protests over VAT increase continue

* False propaganda, essential commodities, services not affected – Govt.

* 8,000 Information Officers to implement RTI Act

by Zacki Jabbar

While Collective of Trade Associations protested in many parts of the country yesterday against the increase in Value Added Tax , the government lashed out at what it called false propaganda being carried out by disgruntled elements with ulterior motives.

State Minister of Finance Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena addressing the weekly Cabinet press briefing in Colombo said that the demonstrations were based on a whole lot of lies and had a political agenda.

"The VAT increase will not apply to essential commodities and services. They include milk powder, medicines, education and electricity," he noted, adding that despite the government repeatedly clarifying the issue some disgruntled elements were holding protests which inconvenienced the public.

The Collective of Trade Associations demonstrated in many areas including Kiribathgoda, Badulla, Katugastota and Kelaniya. They burnt a coffin on the Colombo-Kandy Road at Kiribathgoda, resulting in a massive traffic block lasting for several hours.

Media Minister Gayantha Karunathillaka said that 8,000 Information Officers would be recruited for 4,000 government institutions to be established under the Right to Information Act.

An International Media Training Institute with Chinese assistance and an Independent Media Commission would also be established, he added.

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