The Samagi Jana Balawegaya yesterday accused the government of making moves to issue four new liquor manufacturing licenses to their kith and kin, even defying Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s popular policy on abstinence from alcohol ‘Mathata Thitha’.
SJB Parliamentarian Thushara Indunila Amarasena addressing a press briefing yesterday said,the government was planning to issue four new excise licenses to manufacture liquor on a large scale,which is clearly against Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s policy on controlling alcoholic substances.
The MP said they had information that two licenses for spirits or hard liquor manufacturing and two excise licenses for the production of beer are to be granted to a group of selected individuals who are supporting the present regime. “We learnt that the initial approval for these liquor manufacturing plants had already been granted by the government through the Ministry of Finance,which is the controlling body of the competent authority,the Excise Department,that regulates the relevant law,” Mpamarasena said.
He said the applications for these licenses are presently at the Ministry of Finance pending final approval by the subject Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa,who is the competent authority for approving such documents.
The operations of one such hard liquor manufacturing plant is scheduled to commence in its factory located at Pasikudah in the near future,as the initial green light has been flashed by the state authorities,the parliamentarian said.
“We strongly condemn this act by the government in allowing its political friends to flourish by issuing new licenses through which the latter could gain billions in profits,” Amarasena said.
The SJB protest comes in the wake of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna making the same allegation a few days back and opposition MP Buddhika Pathirana raising the issue in the House two weeks back,which was responded to by the State Minister of Finance Ajith Nivard Cabraal who promised an immediate inquiry.
The Excise Department has so far issued 25 liquor manufacturing licenses,of which five of the large scale producers contribute 95% of the tax revenue to the state through taxes generated from alcohol at present. (KURULU KOOJANA KARIYAKARAWANA)