Prez talks tough

Calls for urgent meet to revise VAT structure


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Revealing his intention to replace Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran with renowned economist Indrajith Coomaraswamy, President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday (July 2) stressed that he cherished democracy and unity and was obedient only to the people.

President Sirisena was responding to a claim by an Opposition politician that he was subservient to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Addressing an event held at the Nelum Pokuna theatre to mark the 94th International Cooperative Day, President Maithripala Sirisena said he had taken the decision in respect of new Central Bank Governor at a discussion with Premier Wickremesinghe.


An irate President said that during the tenure of his predecessor whom he described as an all powerful king some of those who talk demeaning of him used to lick the great king’s feet. President Maithripala Sirisena stressed that he had had the courage to quit the then government and send the dictatorial leader home.

President Sirisena said his style of governing the country was certainly different from that of his predecessor. Explaining the circumstances under which he had brought in 19 Amendment to the Constitution to do away with some executive powers, including the restoration of two-term limit for elected presidents, President Maithripala Sirisena assured that he wouldn’t behave the way the previous presidents had done.

In an oblique reference to the then SLFP National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa role at the inaugural meeting of the movement held at Badulla on Saturday, President Sirisena said that he was thankful to him for having made him the President.

President Sirisena said that the conduct of the Rajapaksas had enabled him to win the January 2015 presidential polls.

The President said that he wouldn’t have requested his predecessor in January 2014 not to call for early presidential polls had he been aware that he would be chosen as the common candidate. President Sirisena said that he in his capacity as the General Secretary of the SLFP had called for urgent political and economic reforms instead of early presidential polls.

Commenting on ongoing wave of protests demanding that Value Added Tax (VAT) on a range of goods and services be removed forthwith, President Maithripala Sirisena acknowledged that there was a need to revise the tax structure due to heavy burden on the people. Alleging that some unscrupulous traders had charged VAT on items not included in the list, President Maithripala Sirisena said he would meet Premier Wickremesinghe and relevant ministers to decide on relief to consumers. The President emphasized the urgent need to take action against those who fleeced consumers as well as rectify shortcomings in the implementation of the tax scheme. Explaining measures the government would take to streamline VAT scheme, President Maithripala Sirisena assured action to provide relief to those struggling to make ends meet.

President Sirisena said that the government had to settle problems, such as the VAT issue through discussions.

Claiming that successive governments had to tackle severe economic problems and similarly foreign governments, too, faced similar crisis, he said that terrorism was having a destabilising impact on Europe. According to him, the Europe was in turmoil due to terrorism. Referring to Friday’s attack in Dhaka, President Maithripala Sirisena said that the world had been badly affected by economic and political crisis.

Acknowledging that national economy had been plunged into crisis due to massive accumulated debt amounting to nine trillion rupees, President Maithripala Sirisena said that there was no meaning in pointing finger at various persons. The President said that all had to work together to face the daunting task of servicing the debt and take tangible measures to strengthen the national economy.

If Mahinda Rajapaksa had not called for early presidential polls, he (Rajapaksa) would still have been the President, President Maithripala Sirisena said. The President attributed the former President’s decision to his awareness of the impending economic crisis and inability to face war crimes accusations raised at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). President Maithripala Sirisena said that the coalition government had to tackle the two problems.

Asserting that major problems hadn’t been caused overnight, President Sirisena said that mismanagement and maladministration had resulted in such issues.

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