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Rs. 904 bn. arrears amount due to IRD – COPA

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It was revealed at during a meeting of the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) that the total arrears of taxes, penalties and interest due to the Inland Revenue Department by December 31, 2022 in relation to RAMIS and Legacy systems is Rs. 904,342,180,778 (904 billion).

It was disclosed that an amount of Rs. 163,425,093,401 (163 billion) has been identified as income that can be collected without any legal concern and that Rs. 740,917,087,377 (740 billion) has been identified as income that has been temporarily suspended due to certain reasons.

The Auditor General also pointed out that this amount has been identified as the total arrears of tax to be collected under both RAMIS and Legacy systems and there was a discussion at length about not collecting the revenue due that could be collected off this tax arrears.

The Chair of this Committee, State Minister –  Lasantha Alagiyawanna, recommended that a report be given to COPA with dates containing information on how to collect the tax arrears identified as chargeable income which can be collected least in installments. The Chair also recommended that a separate report should be given on the total outstanding tax amount of 904 billion rupees and the report should state in detail how taxes have been evaded and the reasons for such.

This was disclosed when the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) met recently (12) under the Chairmanship of State Minister – Lasantha Alagiyawanna for the reviewing of the current performance and progress of the Inland Revenue Department which was summoned before COPA on the 28th of November 2022.

It was also discussed that the RAMIS computer system was not at a proper level of operation and that there were no trained personnel to operate the system once it was set up. Therefore, the need to prepare a suitable program for that was mentioned here.

Furthermore, the existence of return cheques worth 2,488,003,615 rupees (2.4 billion) as at 30 June 2022 according to COPA discussion held on 28.11.2022 was also discussed. The officials who were present pointed out that 90% of tax payments are made through the Bank of Ceylon and even though the tax payments are approved on the day they are paid, they are shown as return cheques the next day. Accordingly, the Chair of the Committee contacted the Chairman of Bank of Ceylon via phone during the Committee and gave relevant instructions.

A discussion was also held regarding taxation on the gross collection for the casino business.

State Minister – Diana Gamage, Members of Parliament – Niroshan Perera, J. C. Alawathuwala, Sivagnanam Sritharan, Hector Appuhamy, Isuru Dodangoda and (Dr.) (Ms.) Harini Amarasuriya were present at the Committee meeting held.

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi killed in helicopter crash, official says

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister were killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain and icy weather, an Iranian official said on Monday, after search teams located the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province.

“President Raisi, the foreign minister and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash,” the senior Iranian official told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Iran’s Mehr news agency confirmed the deaths, reporting that “all passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred”.

An Iranian official earlier told Reuters the helicopter carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was completely burned in the crash on Sunday.

State TV reported that images from the site showed the aircraft slammed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash.

State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a U.S.-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear programme, had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.

“With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter’s passengers,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV.

Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.

In the early hours of Monday, it showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard.
Several countries expressed concern and offered assistance in any rescue.

The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash. China said it was deeply concerned. The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises. Iran’s clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.

Since Iran’s ally Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, provoking Israel’s assault on Gaza, conflagrations involving Iran-aligned groups have erupted throughout the Middle East.

In Iran’s dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is Raisi’s 85-year-old mentor Khamenei, supreme leader since 1989, who holds decision-making power on all major policies.
For years many have seen Raisi as a strong contender to succeed Khamenei, who has endorsed Raisi’s main policies.

Raisi’s victory in a closely managed election in 2021 brought all branches of power under the control of hardliners, after eight years when the presidency had been held by pragmatist Hassan Rouhani and a nuclear deal negotiated with powers including Washington.

However, Raisi’s standing may have been dented by widespread protests against clerical rule and a failure to turn around Iran’s economy, hamstrung by Western sanctions.

Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border on Sunday to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who said he had bid a “friendly farewell” to Raisi earlier in the day, offered assistance in the rescue.

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(Reuters)

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Fire breaks out in workers’ living quarters near Colombo Port

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A fire has reportedly broken out in the living quarters of highway access road workers near the Colombo Port.

The Colombo Fire Brigade said it has dispatched four fire trucks to assist in extinguishing the flames.

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President Wickremesinghe meets Elon Musk to discuss starlink implementation in Sri Lanka

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe has met with billionaire and investor Elon Musk on the sidelines of the 10th World Water Forum High-Level Meeting being held in Indonesia.

During the meeting, Wickremesinghe and Musk discussed the implementation of ‘Starlink’ in Sri Lanka.

It was emphasized that Sri Lanka is committed to expediting the application process to connect the country to the global Starlink network, according to the President’s Media Division (PMD).

Minister Jeevan Thondaman, accompanying the President on his two-day visit to Indonesia, tweeted: “President and Elon discussed Sri Lanka’s recovery, economic potential, and new opportunities for investment. Great to have two visionary leaders come together for Sri Lanka.”

Elon Musk arrived in Indonesia’s resort island of Bali on Sunday to launch Starlink satellite internet service in the world’s largest archipelago nation.

The billionaire head of Tesla and SpaceX, and owner of social platform X, arrived by private jet on the idyllic “island of the gods,” renowned for its tropical beaches, terraced rice paddies, mystical temples, and colorful spiritual offerings.

Musk is slated to launch the service alongside Indonesian President Joko Widodo in a ceremony later Sunday at a public health clinic in Denpasar, the provincial capital of Bali. 

Musk will also sign an agreement to enhance connectivity in the country’s health and education sectors.

During his first in-person visit to Bali, Musk is also scheduled to participate in the 10th World Water Forum, which seeks to address global water and sanitation challenges.

–With agencies inputs

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