State Finance Minister defends sale MPs’ duty free permits

By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Finance Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena yesterday strongly defended the right of members of parliament to raise funds through the sale of their duty-free vehicle permits.

State Minister Abeywardena explained that members of parliament couldn’t manage political activities on their own and that was the reason for unorthodox method of raising funds.

The Matara District MP said members had enjoyed that privilege since Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s presidency.

Abeywardena was responding to a query by The Island whether political parties could justify such conduct against the backdrop of more tax burdens and as well as unprecedented increase in traffic fines imposed on ordinary people.

Asked why members of parliament were allowed to deprive the state of much required revenue by selling their duty free permits worth as much Rs. 44 mn, State Minister Abeywardena said that members sold permits and bought a smaller vehicle and spent the rest on political work.

The State Finance Minister side-stepped the issue of members representing the government, the Opposition and the Joint Opposition receiving tax concessions between Rs. 30 to Rs. 44 mn since June this year.

He said the government was struggling to cope with massive debt accumulated over the past several decades and, therefore, the need to control expenditure had arisen. The State Minister said the diesel price couldn’t be further reduced as the government needed funds.

Asked why the government had raised traffic fines to as much as Rs 25,000, the State Minister claimed that the government was making an effort to rein in errant motorists.

Commenting on recent warning given by Joint Opposition Leader Dinesh Gunwardena that there could be a military coup unless continuing suppression of democratic rights wasn’t stopped, State Minister Abeywardena asserted that the bankrupt grouping seemed to be awaiting a military intervention. The State Minister emphasised that the JO had embarrassed the military by propagating lies.

When The Island pointed out that the present-day rulers had accused former President Mahinda Rajapaksa of planning a coup in the wake of January 8, 2015 presidential polls, State Minister Abeywardena said that he did not believe in coup allegations.

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