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Monday February 6th, 2023

Journo attack: Sri Lanka media minister ready to accept govt responsibility if investigations fail

ECONOMYNEXT – If Sri Lanka Police fails to find those responsible for the recent attack on journalist Chamuditha Samarawickrama’s residence, as media minister he would not hesitate to accept the government’s responsibility and take any decision necessary, co-cabinet spokesman Dullas Alahapperuma said.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet press briefing on Tuesday (15), Alahapperuma said a recent statement by him condemning the attack was still valid. On March 08, he made a similar statement that failure on the part of the police to find the culprits would inevitably result in the blame falling on the government.

“The government will be unable to absolve itself of that responsibility. I am still of that position,” the media minister said.

“Yesterday marked a month since the attack. I spoke to the police. They said investigations are still ongoing but they have yet to arrive at a conclusion. The file has not yet been closed, they told me. As I said last week, if this is not resolved, the responsibility will inevitably fall on us.”

The government would have to bear the shame of it if the police was  unable to find those responsible, said Alahapperuma.

“It doesn’t matter if the criminal is a politician clad in white, or an underworld figure dressed in black or a contractor in some other colour.

“We urge the police, as media minister, to continue investigations. If that cannot be done, I will not hesitate to say that it’s our responsibility. And I won’t hesitate to take any decision regarding that,” he added.

In the early hours of February 14, a gang of unidentified men invaded the gated community Samarawickrama lives in and allegedly threw bags of faeces at his residence. The journalist told EconomyNext that day that he also heard the sound of a gunshot.

Samarawickrama, considered a firebrand media personality with a large online following on top of a TV career going back over two decades, said he had no guesses as to who might have been behind the attack.

The government was quick to condemn the attack. The next day, Minister Alahapperuma said it unequivocally rejected the attack with unreserved disgust.

“The police is investigating the incident, and we urge the media to expose the attacker, this faeces lover,” said Alahapperuma said on February 15.

“It is clear that this faces lover is someone with no voice for democracy and is hiding in a lavatory.”

“It is the stink of a festering group of society that is emanating from this attack,” the minister said.

Samarawickrama has been courting controversy with a series of explosive interviews published on his YouTube channel ‘Truth with Chamuditha’.

His latest videos include one with the leader of the Ape Janabala Pakshaya, who had levelled allegations against controversial Buddhist monk Galabadaththe Gnanasara thero. The monk now heads a task force appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa named ‘One Country, One Law’.

Another video interview with Chandimal Jayasinghe, the Sri Lankan franchise holder for the Mrs World pageant, had racked up over 350,000 views. In the video, Jayasinghe had made some remarks about Pushpika de Silva, who recently lost her Mrs Sri Lanka for Mrs World title, the culmination of a widely publicised scandal that erupted last year when her crown was forcibly taken off at the 2021 Mrs Sri Lanka pageant. (Colombo/Mar15/2022)

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Sri Lanka to address SME tax problems at first opportunity: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Problems faced by Sri Lanka’s small and medium enterprises from recent tax changes will be addressed at the first opportunity, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said.

Business chambers had raised questions about hikes in Value Added Tax, Corporate Income Tax and the Social Security Contribution Levy (SSCL) that’s been imposed.

It should be explored on how to amend the Inland Revenue Act, Siyamabalapitiya said, adding that the future months should be considered as a period where the country is being stabilized.

Both the VAT and SSCL are effectively paid by customers, but the SSCL is a cascading tax that makes running businesses difficult.

In Sri Lanka SMEs make up a large part of the economy, accounting for 80 per cent of all businesses according to according to the island’s National Human Resources and Employment Policy.

(Colombo/ Feb 05/2023)

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Sri Lanka revenues Rs158.7bn in Jan 2023 up 51-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government revenues were 158.7 billion rupees in January 2023 but expenditure and debt service remained high, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

In January 2022 total revenues were Rs104.5 billion according to central bank data.

Sri Lanka’s tax revenues have risen sharply amid an inflationary blow off which had boosted nominal GDP while President Ranil Wickremesinghe has also raised taxes.

Departing from a previous strategy advocated by the IMF expanding the state and not cutting expenses, called revenue based fiscal consolidation, he is attempting to do classical fiscal consolidation with spending restraint.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has presented a note to cabinet requesting state expenditure to be controlled, Gunawardana told reporters.

State Salaries cost 87.4 billion rupees.

Pensions and income supplements (Samurdhi program) were29.5 billion rupees.

Other expenses were 10.8 billion rupees.

Capital spending was   21 billion rupees.

Debt service was 377.6 billion rupees for January which has to be done with borrowings from Treasury bills, bonds and a central bank provisional advance of 100 billion rupees, Gunawardana said.

Interest costs were not separately given. (Colombo/Feb05/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices down for second week

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices fell for the second week at an auction on January 31, with teas from all elevations seeing a decline, data showed.

“In retrospect, the decline in prices would be a price correction owing to the overall product quality and less interest from some key importers due to the arrival of cargo at destinations ahead of schedule,” Forbes and Walker tea brokers said.

The weekly sale average fell from 1475.79 rupees to 1465.40 rupees from a week ago, according to data from Ceylon Tea Brokers.

The tea prices are down for two weeks in a row.

High Growns

The High Grown sale average was down by 20.90 rupees to 1380.23 rupees, Ceylon Tea Brokers said.

High grown BOP and BOPF was down about 100 rupees.

“Ex-Estate offerings which totalled 0.75 M/Kg saw a slight decline in quality over the previous week” Forbes and Walker said.

OP/OPA’s in general were steady to marginally down.

Low Growns

In Low Grown Teas, FBOP 1 was down by 100 rupees and FBOP was down by 50 rupees while PEK was up by 150 rupees.

The Low Growns sale average was down by 8.55 rupees to 1547.93 rupees.

A few select Best BOP1s along with Below Best varieties maintained.

OP1                     Select Best OP1’s were steady, whilst improved/clean Below Best varieties maintained.   Others and poorer sorts were easier.

PEKOE                 Well- made PEK/PEK1s in general were steady, whilst others and poorer sorts were down.

Leafy and Semi Leafy catalogues met with fair demand,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“However, the Small Leaf and Premium catalogues continued to decline.

“Shippers to Iran were very selective, whilst shippers to Türkiye and Russia were fairly active.”

This week  2.2 million Kilograms of Low Growns were sold.

Medium Growns

Medium Grown BOP and BOPF fell by around 100 rupees

The Medium Growns sale average was down by 33.40 rupees to 1199.4 rupees.

“Medium CTC teas in the higher price bracket witnessed a similar trend, whilst teas at the lower end were somewhat maintained subject to quality,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“Improved activity from the local trade and perhaps South Africa helped to stabilize prices to some extent.”

OP/OPA grades were steady while PEKOE/PEKOE1 were firm, while some gained 50-100 rupees at times.

Well-made FBOP/FBOPF1’s were down by 50-100 rupees per kg and more at times.

(Colombo/Feb 5/2023)

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