The Island: Sri Lanka: Shamindra Ferdinando: Monday, February 6, 2017.
Attorney-at-law Nagananda Kodituwakku yesterday said that thanks to the Right to Information (RTI) Act that had been endorsed unanimously by parliament, he had been able to obtain information from the Motor Traffic Department pertaining to those who had transferred vehicles imported on duty free permits especially made available to members of parliament.
Kodituwakku emphasized that none of those who had bought expensive vehicles were legitimately entitled to obtain duty free facilities. In accordance with the RTI Act as well as the much touted 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the public couldn’t be denied their right to access crucial information, Kodituwakku said. In case, some institution withheld such information, the parliament had the right to intervene, the attorney at law said.
Responding to a query, the former head of the Revenue Task Force of Sri Lanka Customs said that some parliamentarians had transferred vehicles to unauthorized persons close on the heels of the Supreme Court being moved against the failure on the part of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) to take meaningful measures to stop what he called a corrupt practice.
The SC will take up the case on Feb 13. Several members of parliament, including Joint Opposition heavyweight Bandula Gunawardena are on record as having said that the members enjoyed the right to transfer duty free vehicles since the time of President Jayewardene’s regime and it was certainly not a matter to move court against them.
An irate Kodituwakku told The Island that had there been resolute action by the CIABOC in late 2015 when the first illegal transfer of a vehicle imported on a duty free car permit was brought to its notice, members would have been discouraged. Kodituwakku said that he was compelled to seek Supreme Court intervention to stop a practice that had been implemented for several decades at the expense of the national economy.
According to a list made available to Kodituwakku by the Motor Traffic Department the following MPs had transferred their vehicles to persons/companies mentioned within brackets: S. Sridharan (Paththage R.A. Fernando), S. Gnanamuttu (Premadasa Jewelery Private Limited), Sisira Jayakody (A.D.A.K. Kavinda), S.C. Muthukumarana (H.M.S. Jayaratna), Chamal Rajapakse (R.P. Amarasooriya), S. Sivamohan (S.W.I.T. Sandaruwan), Buddhika Pathirana ( B.A.J.C .Abeyratne), Janaka B. Tennakoon (Central Finance Company Limited), Vasantha Senanayake (Alliance Trust Private Limited), Wasantha Aluwihare (Menasha Pvt Limited), K.S.N. Perera (King Aqua Services), Romesh Pathirana (Finite Lanka Private Limited), D.T.W.W.Dissanayake (D.G.D.I. Silva), Nishantha Muthuhettige (Colombo Logistics World Private Limited), Sujeewa Senasinghe (Ali Akbar Salehbhai), Kanchana Wijesekera (People’s Lanka Micro Credit Limited), Mohan Lal Grero (Lyceum International Private Limited), Palitha Thewarapperuma (Kotuwe Kade Private Limited), H.M.N. P. de Silva (W.D.A. Hemantha), Imran Maharoof (L. U. R. Liyanage), S. Senathirajah (Migel Indra Mallika), R.M. K.A.S. Jayaratne (Araliya Green Hills Hotel Private Limited), Dilum S. B. Amunugama (Cosmic Technologies Private Limited), Lohan Ratwatte (Don Yasapala Jayasuriya), Lakshman Kiriella (A.D.R. Cristie Leonard), Udaya Gammanpila (Mel Wire Rolling Private Limited), Ven. Athureliye Rathana (P.A. Ajith Panditharatne), B.H. Wijepala (Samaranayake and Company Limited), S. Premaratne (Ambilipitiya Tool Makers Limited), P.S. Fernandopulle (Certis Lanka Security Solutions), Vadivel Suresh (Perumal Palaniappan), V. Maheswaran (Wanniyage Roshan), D.V.C. Dinushan (Mohammed S. Mistak Mohammed) and J.P. R. K. Wijeratne (Abeywardene Distributirs Private Limited).
Kodituwakku said that the actual number of vehicles sold to unauthorised persons and companies was much higher than the nunber registered. The attorney at law said that the vas majority of those who had availed the duty free facility ordered state of the art Land Cruisers. According to informatoon made available by the Customs, each Land Cruiser importer had received a staggering tax excemption amounting to nearly Rs 35 mn. Other vehicle owners had received tax exception amounting to Rs 30 mn to Rs 44 mn.
Kodituwakku said that he would pursue the matter in the Supreme Court as he believed no other institution could inquire into the matter due to political interference.
With the vast majority of people struggling to make ends meet and the country facing unprecedented balance of payments crisis, lawmakers under any circumstances couldn’t help themselves to such extragavent tax concessions, he said. The attorney-at-law said that he intended to inform the Brtish High Commission of the situation as the UK government soon after the change of government in January 2015 promised to work closely with the CIABOC as well as the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) to combat corruption.