UNP MP for Hambantota Sajith Premadasa has called upon the government to compensate the victims of the so-called Danduvam scam. Danduvam Mudalali, who swindled people out of billions of rupees, is now dead and gone. He had been operating in the Hambantota District for about 14 years and over 18,000 persons deposited money with his finance company which offered unbelievable interest rates. His depositors did not have to account for their wealth as he was not registered with the Central Bank. Among them were crooks of all sorts including tax dodgers. The same goes for thousands of others cheated by Sakvithi and Golden Key. They were earning high returns on their undeclared funds while the law abiding people deposited their money with either banks or registered financial institutions and settled for average interest rates.
Those who invest in the financial black market deprive the State of direct tax revenue thus causing an increase in indirect taxes which send the general price levels up. In other words, tax evasion inevitably aggravates the burden of the ordinary people who are made to pay more and more indirect taxes on almost all commodities they consume.
So, relief that MP Premadasa suggests, if given, will be tantamount to a double whammy for the masses in that it is at their expense that the victims of Danduvam will have to be compensated. Neither the Rajapaksas nor the Premadasas are going to foot the bill. Funds for that purpose will come from the public politicians will gain some mileage by dishing them out.
Where have the Rajapaksas and the Premadasas been all these years? Danduvam Mudalali operated in their district which they boast of knowing like the back of their palm. Being all knowing representatives of the people of Hambantota, they should have either cautioned their voters against risking their money or reported Danduvam Mudalali to the police or the Central Bank. There has been a serious lapse on their part as well.
There may be people who have lost all their lifetime savings or proceeds from the sale of their houses etc. But, all depositors now in trouble acted in breach of tax laws and therefore the taxman must be detailed to ask them tough questions. Some of them are reported to have chosen to remain silent without demanding their dues for fear of the taxman.
The hapless public must not be made to pay for others` sins. They are already burdened with enough and more problems including high cost of living.
Where govt. writ still doesn`t run
The Northern and eastern parts of the country have been liberated from the clutches of a bestial terrorist outfit and brought under the government control after nearly three decades. But, yesterday a bunch of remandees at the Welikada Prison proved that the government writ might run in all other places but in the State pen. They staged a rooftop protest against checks conducted by the police on grounds that they were not permitted to bring in cigarettes and beedies given by their kith and kin, when they were taken out to be produced in courts. The government that defeated Prabhakaran gave in!
Remandees can now have tobacco products inside prisons and indulge in puffing away at them! The question is whether there are separate areas for smoking in prisons? Ordinary people get fined for smoking in undesignated areas. Is it that remand prisoners are `more equal` than other smokers?
There is reason to believe that the remandees` tobacco demand was a ruse their protest may have been instigated by the wily prison personnel who have been resisting the presence of the army and the police in prisons as they cannot, while being watched, carry out illegal operations such as smuggling narcotics, mobile phones and liquor into prisons. When the recent deployment of the army to frisk prison staff triggered protests, inmates pledged solidarity with their jailers on the warpath by skipping a meal! It is this unholy alliance that has rendered the running of prisons an uphill task.
The government must not give in to prisoners when they make unreasonable demands or act like a cat`s paw of corrupt officers responsible for the chronic lawlessness in prisons. If they stage rooftop protests ever again, they must not be denied the pleasure of continuing their dome perch as long as they like. There must be neither negotiations nor compromises with such unruly elements.
Operations to clean up prisons must continue until the intended results are achieved.