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Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna MP also criticises paying for ‘confiscated’ sugar

By Buddhika Samaraweera

Both Opposition as well as Government MPs have pointed out that the Government should not financially compensate traders who are hoarding sugar stocks with the intention of creating an artificial shortage and making huge profits when such stocks are being confiscated.

Addressing a media briefing in Colombo yesterday (5), Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Jagath Kumara Sumithraarachchi said that in the background of large amounts of sugar having been imported since October 2020, various traders are now trying to create an artificial sugar shortage by not releasing stocks to the market, with the intention of turning a profit.

“The Opposition alleges that these traders are allies of the Government due to the tax concessions given for the importation of sugar. However, tax concessions were given to provide sugar to the people at a lower price. However, the traders are trying to earn huge profits through this. If they are loyal to the country and the Government, they would not have acted in this manner,” he said.

Sumithraarachchi further stated that confiscation of hidden sugar stocks alone is not sufficient.

“The Commissioner General of Essential Services said that a fair amount of money would be paid to the traders when hidden sugar stocks are being confiscated, but there is no need to pay any money. The sugar hidden in this manner should be given to the public free of charge,” he added.

Meanwhile, speaking at a media briefing yesterday, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Eran Wickramaratne claimed that the Government has lost nearly Rs. 35 billion in revenue since the reduction of the tax imposed on sugar imports in 2020. “Of that lost revenue, 35 million Covid-19 vaccines could have been imported, thereby providing a good vaccine to 17.5 million people on time,” he said.

SJB MP Manusha Nanayakkara, while speaking at a media briefing yesterday, also condemned the payment for sugar confiscated by the Government. He said: “The Government has all the information on how much sugar is in the possession of each trader who imports them. When the Government took steps to confiscate hidden sugar stocks, we thought that the sugar would be given to the people free of charge, but what the Government does is buy the sugar that was imported by traders at a price of about Rs. 75 per kg at Rs. 116 per kg,” he alleged.

Sugar prices have risen sharply in recent days, following which people were seen waiting in long queues in several areas to buy sugar. Later it was revealed that certain traders had hidden sugar stocks in order to create an artificial sugar shortage in the country.

Against this backdrop, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 30 August declared emergency regulations on the provision of essential foods, with the aim of preventing market irregularities that could cause inconvenience to consumers by concealing stocks of essential food items including paddy, rice, and sugar and charging them at exorbitant prices.

Following this, relevant agencies, including the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) raided a number of such places.

The relevant Gazette notification was issued by the Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundara on 30 August, and subsequently, Maj. Gen. M.S.P. Niwunhella was appointed as the new Commissioner General of Essential Services, who is tasked with overseeing and co-ordinating the distribution of consumer goods essential for daily needs including paddy, rice, and sugar.