2016 January issue of “Niyamuwa” newspaper
2016 January issue of “Niyamuwa” newspaper
“The calculation of fuel prices is devoid of any transparency but it is a right of the people to know how much tax they pay for a liter of fuel. Hence, the people have been demanding the government to introduce a price formula that is transparent. However, the government has not introduced such a formula yet. The suspicion arises to many that such a formula is not introduced as the government is unable to justify it before the people. Also, prices could be brought down in a big margin according to the existing price formula, which the people are not aware of,” said the Leader of the JVP Comrade Anura Dissanayaka asking a question under standing orders in Parliament.
Full text of the question:
Question asked under order 23/2 on 28.01.2016
I would like to draw the attention of this assembly to the difficult situation that has arisen due to not giving the benefits of the dwindling fuel prices in the world market to people in this country.
At present the prices of fuel is rapidly falling down in the world market. The highest fuel prices in Sri Lanka are recorded during the period from 23.02.2013 to 17.09.2014. The prices of fuel started coming down in the world market from June, 2014. The benefit of the dwindling fuel prices in the world market has not been given to our people properly. The calculation of fuel prices is devoid of any transparency but it is a right of the people to know how much tax they pay for a liter of fuel. Hence, the people have been demanding the government to introduce a price formula that is transparent. However, the government has not introduced such a formula yet. The suspicion arises to many that such a formula is not introduced as the government is unable to justify it before the people. Also, prices could be brought down in a big margin according to the existing price formula, which the people are not aware of.
It is not necessary to have logical arguments to prove that the benefit of fuel prices should be given to people. It is suffice to compare the price of fuel in June, 2014 when prices in world market started coming down with the price of fuel at the time it is unloaded.
Ceylon Petroleum Corporation imports fuel based on Platts Analytics in Singapore market. In 2014 a barrel of crude oil was US$108.06. The price of a barrel of 92 octane petrol was US$12.39. When the exchange rate that existed at the time is considered as Rs.130 the price of fuel when unloaded was Rs.98.42. A barrel of diesel was US$121.24 and the price when unloaded was Rs.99.10 a liter. However, with various taxes and other expenditure a liter of petrol was priced at Rs.162 and a liter of diesel at Rs.121.
Since January, 2016 according to average Singapore Platts Analytics, the price of a barrel of Oman crude oil is US$ 26.81. A barrel of 92 octane petrol is US$ 46.89 and diesel is US$35.18. In relation to these prices and considering that exchange rate of US$ is Rs.145, a liter of petrol at unloading is Rs.42.76. a liter of diesel is Rs.32.08. Even if the handling charge is Rs.10 a liter of petrol could be priced at Rs.52 a liter and diesel at Rs.42. However, petrol is sold at Rs.117 and diesel at Rs.95. The tax and other profits from a liter of petrol is Rs.65 while it is Rs.53 for a liter of diesel. An extra profit of Rs.23 can be earned from a liter of diesel when government taxes are deducted. Indian Oil Company too gets the same profits. It sells 20 million liters of diesel a month. Accordingly, the extra profit IOC gets from selling diesel is Rs.460 million.
The people should understand the amount they pay unjustly and they should get a just reduction in fuel prices.
I would expect answers to following questions that arise due to the present situation in fuel prices would be placed before the House.
1. What is the reason for the increase of the price of a liter of petrol by Rs.65 (125%) and a liter of diesel by Rs.53 (126%)?
2. How is the increase in prices calculated? Shouldn’t the people made aware why they should pay more?
3. Since when will the benefit of the reduced prices of fuel in the world market given to our people?
4. Will a formula for fuel be introduced immediately? If so from when will it be implemented?
5. When taxes are removed from a liter of diesel or petrol what would be the profit earned by the Corporation?
6. Do you accept that the same profit is obtained by IOC as well?
Member of Parliament
The Leader of the JVP Parliamentarian Comrade Anura Dissanayaka states that the government is aware of all the information regarding the three foreign accounts of a member of a political VIP family and three close associates which have more than billion dollars. It has also been revealed that the member has US$1.086 billion, a businessman who had been a Parliamentarian has US$500 million and a joint account of a former Secretary and a chairman of an institution has US$1.8 billion and asks the government to reveal their names, take legal action against them and acquire for the country the wealth they have plundered from the people.
Comrade Anura Disssanayaka said this raising a question in Parliament under standing orders.
The text in full:
Question raised under Standing Order 23/2 – 27.01.2016
I would like to draw the attention of this assembly to the news that the government has found information regarding several foreign accounts of members of highest political families in this country containing large amounts of money. On the 14th the cabinet spokesman of the government said that it had been revealed that three foreign accounts of a member of a political VIP family and three close associates have more than billion dollars. It was revealed that the member has US$1.086 billion, a businessman who had been a Parliamentarian has US$500 million and a joint account of a former Secretary and a chairman of an institution has US$1.8 billion. Also, another Parliamentarian of the government had told media that he had seen 426,560 billion hidden in foreign accounts by former rulers.
According to these explanations it is felt that the government is aware of all the information regarding the accounts. A broad dialogue occurred in the society that investigations should be carried out regarding frauds and corruption that had escalated in the recent past, the perpetrators should be punished and the wealth they had plundered should be acquired. One of the main of the presidential election held on 8th January, 2015 was the promise to punish fraudsters.
The same promise was made through the election manifesto ‘A Maithri administration – a new country in 100 days’. According to the ‘100 day programme what was destined for 5th February was to establish special councils to investigate large scale frauds. At the general election held in August too there was a massive dialogue regarding taking legal action against fraudsters.
A suspicion is developing among the people that despite the new administration has been in office for a year, sufficient action has not been taken against frauds and corruption, the investigations being carried out do not go forward at an expected speed, the present government is protecting fraudsters to maintain its power and there is interference for investigations being carried out regarding frauds and corruption.
Such statements were also issued by the ruling party in October last year. However, we didn’t see legal action being taken forward against fraudsters. In such an environment, people think, that the government comes out with such statements not to take legal action against fraudsters but to deceive the people.
I expect the Prime Minister will answer the following questions that arise due to this situation.
1. Has the cabinet spokesman or the Parliamentarian made a complaint regarding the relevant accounts to relevant institutions?
2. Has anyone else who has seen these accounts and money made any complaint?
3. Has anyone ever made such a complaint to any legal institution?
4. Which institutions have carried them out if there had been any investigations?
5. Who are the owners of those accounts?
6. What is the progress of such investigations? What is the framework of time to take legal action?
7. If there is no complaint or investigation regarding the definitely stated accounts, what action would be taken for making such false statements?
8. How many files of investigations that have been completed regarding frauds and corruption have been forwarded to the Attorney General? How many files have been approved and disapproved?
9. Do you accept that investigations regarding frauds and corruption should be carried out justly without any interference, legal action should be taken immediately against the perpetrators connected to such crimes and the wealth they had plundered should be recaptured for the country?
Member of Parliament
“The proposed Indo-Sri Lanka Economic and Technology Cooperative Agreement (ETCA) would include freeing services sector and computer and information technology services. It states the rough framework of the pact has been made available to India. Making it available to India without informing about it to anyone in Sri Lanka is a display of the government’s subordination to India. Who or what is Ranil accountable – to parliament or Modi – should be sorted out,” said the National Organizer of the JVP Parliamentarian Bimal Rathnayake speaking at a media conference held at the head office of the JVP at Pelawatta today (24th).
Speaking further Mr. Bimal Rathnayaka said, “There is information that the government is going ahead with the controversial ETCA. There has been a dialogue regarding this agreement among professionals, industrialists, entrepreneurs and trade unions in our country for more than a decade. Despite Presidents Chandrika Bandaranayke and Mahinda Rajapaksa were interested in the agreement, they could not sign it. They couldn’t do it as it was not possible to prove that the agreement was advantageous to our country. As such, Maithri-Ranil government’s haste to sign the agreement in such a situation is questionable and is against the mandate it received from the people.
In a letter sent by Minister Malik Samarawickreme in response to a question we asked in Parliament states the primary intention of the discussion is to apprise the Indian parties the framework that would broaden Indo-Lanka trade agreement that limits only for trade matters to make it an agreement of cooperation and economic affairs. The draft of the agreement has been made available to Indian delegation and their response will be informed at the end of January, 2016. The framework of the agreement would be signed in February, 2016 while the final economic and technological cooperation agreement would be signed in mid 2016.
The proposed agreement allows the professional labour market to be opened and it would include ship building and information technology. It is also stated that the draft has been already made available to India. Making it available to India without informing about it to anyone in Sri Lanka is a display of the government’s subordination to India. Who or what is Ranil accountable – to parliament or Modi – should be sorted out.
Former President Chandrika Bandaranayke Kumaratunga signed a free economic agreement with India in 1998. As information technology sector is undefined it could be related to any profession or sector. It could include any profession from a data entry clerk to an engineer. According to CEPA agreement signed with India by Ranil Wickremesinghe Indian workers could be employed any profession in banks, services, businesses, retail trade as well as fishing in deep waters. The danger of such an agreement should be realized without being limited to one sector. For the government could wriggle through opposition of the people and sign the agreement stating that sector has been exempted from the agreement.
The government is trying to put the engine on the track so that compartments could follow. Countries like Nepal that have signed such economic agreements with India are being dominated by India economically, socially as well as culturally.
India’s economy is large. However, the most poverty stricken people and the unemployed in the world live in India. 94% of the labour force is improperly employed. Recently applications were called in for 368 vacancies for office assistants. 2.3 million had sent in applications. Among them 150,000 were graduates; 24,969 were postgraduates. 250 of them had doctorates. The minimum qualification asked for was school education and ability to ride a cycle. According to another website 85% of the graduates in India are unemployed. 17% qualified in Information technology are unemployed. This is the type of situation in India. Our governments should consider such situations before they sign agreements. WE are not happy about this situation. We are sorry for the people in India who have been made destitute by their government.
In such a situation the country would be confronted with two issues if the labour market of the technological sector is opened. The slashing of salaries of the lower strata in the sector would be unavoidable. The middle and higher grades in the sector get more than US$1000 at present. However, if Indian workers invade this section for lower salaries professionals will have to leave the country. This would lead to brain drain.
At present IT sector companies that are opened under BOI should recruit a minimum of 15 Sri Lankans. These companies get massive tax reliefs. Under the proposed agreements a large number of Indian could come in as workers. Someone, without knowing facts, would say it would bring in a lot of foreign exchange. However, this wouldn’t happen as Indians are culturally meager spenders. In many countries there are special restrictions to limit Indian worker s from entering those countries. In such a situation we, who have a very small economy, opening for the Indian labour market is harmful.
Trade unions of doctors, engineers and accountants have seen the destructive nature of the agreement. Stating that such professionals would get job opportunities is a myth. It is impossible to think that Sri Lankan professionals would get job opportunities in a country where a large number of languages are used and professionals are suffering from unemployment.
As the JVP we do not think of an isolated journey from the world. It is not improper to sign agreements where necessary. It is not relevant whether the agreement is signed with India, China or any other country. However, we should not lose our economic independence when signing such agreements. When obstacles that exist when exporting from Sri Lanka to India are mentioned the response of the Indian team has been that such obstacles are compatible with India’s regulations.
The Minister in his letter states that discussions were held regarding directions that are outside custom duties and the Indian delegation explained that they were national directives commonly followed for all countries. This indicates that the agreement would not give us a special advantage. Also, Sri Lankan investors will have to sign various agreements with 28 states in India and 6 types of administrations in these states. This would be a difficult task. The government has not been given a mandate to sign such an agreement. Hence, the government should not sign this agreement. We call upon all professionals, industrialists, entrepreneurs and trade unions to unite to struggle to defeat government’s move if it signs the agreement without considering opposition to it.
We hope to have discussions with heads connected to professionals and service providers. The trade unions would struggle against it and we would make all efforts to oppose the agreement in Parliament.”
A workshop organized by internationalists in Italy to express international solidarity with the independent struggle carried out by the people of Palestine against imperialism and zionism was held in Rome yesterday (23rd).
A large number of people including representatives of progressive and left organizations in Italy as well as representatives from Palestinian organizations in Italy participated. Representatives from the JVP committee in Italy also participated adding their views and experiences and also to express international solidarity of the JVP.
A protest demonstration under the theme ‘No more imperialist wars’ to oppose US bombing of Iraq on 16th January 25 years ago that commenced Gulf war was held in Rome yesterday (16th). Members of the JVP committee in Italy too participated.
The protest movement was organized by progressive movements in Italy while foreign anti-imperialists and those against wars and a large number of people participated.
Today is Thai Pongal Day. According to Hindu calendar the New Year for the Hindu devotees commences today. Hindu devotees celebrate Thai Pongal Day to aspire for a new dawn for their lives and the work place and for a new beginning.
The dawn of a new year is the beginning of new expectations. It is a moment when hopes to win challenges that could not be won as well as determination to solve issues that could not be solved get freshened up.
However, Hindu devotees will have to think deep this year if the New Year dawns for them with new issues added to the ones that were present in the previous year. We have to struggle with dedication and determination to win the challenges before us and make this a victorious year for the people.
People in Sri Lanka were able to topple the dictatorial family rule that failed to establish democracy, equality, brotherhood and unity in the country and establish a new administration. However, this administration too has started acting in a manner that shatters people’s expectations. Hence, it is time that Hindu devotees as well as other Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and Malay masses think anew and begin a new life. This is the message Thai Pongal Day in 2016 gives us.
The JVP believes that it is important that people in this country begin a new journey and we are prepared to give directions and leadership for the masses to undertake such a journey.
The JVP sincerely sends greetings to all Hindu devotees who celebrate Thai Pongal Day today and invites all to organize themselves and unite to win a better tomorrow for all.
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna.
“Last 60 years since Independence has proved that the SLFP or the UNP or both parties together have failed to build and develop the country. Only the JVP could develop the country under its administration. Hence, the JVP should be prepared and geared up to establish administration by 2020,” said the National Organizer of Socialist Youth Union and Parliamentarian of the JVP Comrade Bimal Rathnayake.
Comrade Rathnayake said this addressing the Anuradhapura District Convention of the Socialist Youth Union (SYU) held on the 10th.
He said the media praising the students who showed excellence at the A/L Examination is appreciated but it should be remembered that only a meager 25,000 of the 149,000 students who sat the exam get qualified to enter university. The rest of the students are languishing at home with no hope for the future. Comrade Rathnayake said a system that gives equal opportunity to all those who seek higher education should be established and it could be done only by a people friendly administration.
The National Organizer of SYU said the yahapalana government is making a big noise about a new constitution. He said they were not opposed to formulating a new constitution but there were several issues in the country needed to be resolved first and the government is using the proposal about a new constitution to detract attention from burning issues. Comrade Bimal Rathnayake said the so called good governance policy has severely deteriorated so much that not a single corrupt individual of the previous regime has been brought to book and punished so far. He said a public outburst was needed to take action regarding Parliamentarian Hirunika Premachandra. However, those responsible for the murder of rugby player Wasim Thajudeen were still at large pointed out Comrade Bimal Rathnayake.