Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake told Parliament yesterday that there were four sitting MPs who had been involved in ethanol business under the previous regime.
The Finance Minister, answering a question from JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake, said that the names of those MPs could not be revealed to the House. However, the minister said that he was ready to reveal to MP Dissanayake the names of those who conducted ethanol business.
Minister Karunanayake: Four MPs of the previous regime obtained licences to import ethanol. But, we cannot reveal their names. They have not paid taxes to the Excise Department. During the last two months the Excise Department has received more than four million rupees as tax revenue.”
MP Dissanayake demanded to know whether former ministers, MPs chief ministers and provincial councillors had not paid taxes.
When Minister Karunanayake said that such things had taken place only under the Rajapaksa regime, his microphone went off. “How come my microphone was switched off when I just mentioned the name, Rajapaksa?”
Opposition MPs shouted that there was no question and answer session in progress but only a ‘friendly conversation.’
Minister Karunanayake: How could this be a friendly conversation? MP Dissanayake is with us at night but blame us in the morning.
MP Dissanayake: There are no friendly frauds. There have been family frauds. Now only the truth is coming out.
As opposition MPs shouted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said there were four MPs who imported ethanol. He challenged the Opposition to prove otherwise if possible. “The Leader of the Opposition could disapprove it,” Wickremesinghe said but Leader of the Opposition remained silent.
Asked to state to the House the volume of ethanol imported during the last three years Minister Karunanayake said that 25,631,014 litres of ethanol had been imported in 2012, 10,821,764 litres in 2013 and 13,663,498 litres in 2014.
MP Dissanayake demanded to know the volumes of liquor produced and perfume products that were manufactured using ethanol that was imported during the last three years.
The minister said that imported spirits had been used for manufacturing liquor and they had been blended with locally produced spirits. He said using the imported ethanol, 119,881,427.700 litres of perfume were manufactured in 2012, 136,577,603.090 litres in 2013 and 158,581,975.250 litres in 2014.
MP Dissanayake: This country has only 20 million population and but 158 million litres of ethanol had been imported. How could this happen? Did the people bathe in perfume or did they drink perfume? It is clear that ethanol was imported on the pretext of producing perfume to be blended with locally produced spirits.
Minister Karunanayake: After we came to power we seized a container load of ethanol. We do not know who imported it. The consignment had been brought from Malaysia. We are investigating it. It is clear that around 25-30 containers of ethanol were imported monthly.
MP Dissanayake: Perfume is stored in small bottles but according to these figures each family should have used at least two barrels of perfume.
Minister Karunanayake said that from January 2013 to August 2014, the Pelwatte Sugar Company had produced 10,788,735,450 litres and the Sevanagala Sugar Company 6,492,438,100 litres of ethanol.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said that the incumbent government would not give liquor licences to any politician. “If the need arises, we may impose taxes and take over some of the licences. We thought that Parliament is in the middle of Diyawanna Oya. Now, I wonder whether we are in the middle of an ethanol river.”
(Courtesy: The Island)