JO outlines the mess Finance Ministry has created in three vital govt depts


By Ajith Alahakoon and Kushan Subasinghe


Parliamentarian Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday told Parliament that due to arbitrary policies of the government the Customs, Inland Revenue and Excise Departments were underperforming.

He said the government had to stop interfering in those departments.

Gunawardena said the government was not willing to amend the Customs Ordinance as suggested by its officers and now it had decided to recall the retired Customs officers to perform the duties of the regulars.

The MP said one of the key institutions generating income to the government coffers had been made to face a crisis situation.

Parliamentarian Bandula Gunawardena said the loss incurred by customs per day was over a billion rupees as result of the showdown.

He said there could be issues arising when imported goods were released from the customs as its officers were on a work-to-rule campaign.

If commodities like salt, chillies were not released on time they would perish. It would be a big blow to those running industries as well, he said.

Former Education Minister Gunawardena said the Finance Minister was attempting to change the Customs Ordinance in an arbitrary manner.

The customs trade unions had asked for only two things 1) Dissolving the committee appointed to amend the Ordinance 2) Having discussions with the
Customs trade unions, the Chambers of commerce and other relevant parties, he said.

He accused the Finance Ministry of trying to undermine the authority of Parliament.

The FM had ordered the shops of traders who opposed the VAT increase sealed. It withdrew the monies it had deposited with Bank of Ceylon without having discussions with solving the issues via discussions with the officials.

"How could you run a country in this manner?"

MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara said what the UNP tried to do was to suppress the trade unions so that it could do what it wanted.

Strikes were likely to cripple the entire country before long, Nanayakkara said.

The government had terminated the services of some government servants whom it didn’t like.

The late J. R. Jaywardene had suppressed the trade unions while he was in power. Ranil was doing the same. JR had banned trade unions in the Free Trade Zone, Gunawardene said.

The TUs would not dance to the tune of the Finance Minister, Nanayakkara said.

The veteran leftist said Ravi Karunanayake had ordered the release of 212 Prado vehicles from the Customs by allowing those who had imported them to pay a paltry sum as duties. That had caused a colossal loss to the government coffers.

The President had assured at a meeting in Polonnaruwa that he would send home the officers who were burdening the masses with excessive taxes. But, he had not honoured his pledge.

Kidney patients were exempted from VAT. But others facing life threatening diseases had to pay extra for medical care, he added.


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