Firing yet another barrage ahead of the local government polls, President Maithripala Sirisena said yesterday the government incurred a major loss of revenue during the past three years because it had been channelled to private companies on political connections.
He said this at a meeting with the heads of print and electronic media institutions.
The President said several more frauds had taken place in the re-export business, even sullying the image of Ceylon Tea and Pepper.
“Amid this unscrupulous trading practice, tea of inferior quality was imported to Sri Lanka for value addition before being re-exported as tea of Sri Lankan origin. It has brought Sri Lanka’s tea trade into disrepute. In addition to tea, even pepper, dry arecanuts called karunka and pineapples wee imported to be re-exported in this same manner,” he said.
The President said there was a huge price difference between the actual cost and the retail prices of various items sold in the local market and that he had raised this matter on more than 100 occasions in the Cabinet though little or nothing happened.
“Let’s say the import cost is sometimes only Rs.500. With a profit margin, it can be easily sold at Rs.750 but it is sold at Rs.1,500. The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) should look into it,” he said.
Commenting on the annual budgetary allocations for various sectors, the President said only 50 to 60 per cent of it had been spent by the year end.
Referring to economic matters of the previous regime, he said the then government had made external borrowings amounting to Rs.10 trillion, but the accomplishments on the ground had reflected an expenditure amounting to Rs.1 trillion.
“I am saying this with responsibility after a proper study. The figure is in trillions. In fact, I even consulted someone with expertise on arithmetic to ascertain the veracity of these figures. Only Rs.1 trillion has been documented,” he said.
Referring to the Central Bank bond scam, the President said though this government was elected to eliminate corruption, the ‘General Treasury’ was plundered barely two months after it assumed office and asked how he could remain passive in the face of stoic silence by some in the face of such massive frauds.
The President said through he had initially intended to make his statement only on the scam, he was compelled to do so prematurely by those who kept pushing for it.
The President said there were bundles equal to two lorry loads of supportive documents submitted to the Presidential Commission which probed the bond scam.
“I made my statement after consulting legal experts. In fact, this is the first statement made by me in my whole political life, with the involvement of others.The PRECIFAC report was also presented in the meantime. It was not something pre-planned only a coincidence. It was only the bond report that was handed over and one side would have agitated for a debate ahead of the elections but they remained silent because of the PRECIFAC report,” he said.
The President said an unholy alliance of bandits had emerged to cover up corruption and frauds.
Commenting the abortive attempt by former minister Ravi Karunanayake to make a statement in Parliament on the allegations against him, the President said it would have been politically suicidal for him had he made that statement.
He said Prime Minster Ranil Wickremesinghe had stopped Mr. Karunanayake from making that statement on one occasion and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on the other.
Declining to say more on the bond scam, he said some ill-gotten money had been sneaked out for bribing some officials.