Parliamentarian Athuraliye Rathana Thero who is very vocal on anti-austerity and poverty has imported a brand new Toyota Land Cruiser from Japan under the tax concessionary terms evading total tax revenue of rupees tens of millions.
The customs declaration form which is in possession of the Colombo Telegraph shows, the total tax waived off for Rathana Thero’s brand new Toyota Land Cruiser is approximately Rs. 33.5 million on the vehicle.
According to Sri Lanka’s pioneering MP Monitoring Website (Manthri.lk) JHU – UNFGG National list MP Rathana Thero has only participated 7 times in parliament and shows poor performance.
Meanwhile in a letter addressed to the Director General of Customs, lawyer and rights activist Nagananda Kodituwakku in a letter dated November 10, 2016 accused the Director General of intentionally violating the Constitutional rights conferred in all citizens in terms of Article 14A (1) (b) of the Constitution and Section 3 of the Right to Information Act No 12 of 2016 and also the provisions of Section 6 Paragraph XLVII of Volume II of the Establishment Code – to obtain the said information helped with the office of the Director General of Customs.
Kodituwakku accused the Director General of Customs that he had not only violated the public trust placed in his office, but had abused his office to protect the interest of dishonest politicians, while also helping them in unjust enrichment by defrauding the government revenue.
At least 77 MPs in Parliament have used their duty free permits to purchase luxury vehicles in 2016 alone, which has resulted in the country losing billions of rupees in revenue.
Most of the vehicles that have been imported have been Toyota Land Cruisers, Hummers, BMW’s and Mercedes Benz. In July, Kodituwakku told the Supreme Court that the MPs instantly make as much as Rs. 25 million for each permit they sold, which they receive free of charge from the government.
After coming to power, the Maithripala Sirisena – Ranil Wickremesinghe led administration, having appraised the colossal losses sustained under the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, in its first budget presented in the parliament on November 20, 2015 declared that government had incurred a heavy loss of over 40 billion rupees on tax free car permits, therefore the administration proposed to abolish all such permits altogether including the permits issued to MPs which was openly abused by them.
However, few months later, the same Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake who presented the initial fiscal policy statement made a U turn and made an order (published in the Gazette (No 1965/2 of 02nd May 2016) under Sec 3C of Excise (Special Provisions) Act exempting levies on motor vehicles imported by MPs with CIF value up to US $ 62,500/. However, as required by the law to protect the government revenue, there was no condition whatsoever imposed against the abuse of such permits, allowing MPs to sell their permits in the open market.