In a new twist of the saga surrounding visa system crisis, the Committee on Public Finance (CoPF) Chairman and Main Opposition SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva yesterday (07) told Parliament that he has been intimidated by Government members to stop the investigation into addressing the issues related to the new visa issuance process.

Speaking in Parliament, he emphasised the gravity of the situation, calling for the Speaker to ensure his safety amid threats and professional humiliation.

“What am I expected to do? Am I to cover corruption? What is the meaning of this?” he questioned.

This was not the first time Dr. de Silva faced resistance for his unwavering commitment to transparency, where he was removed from the CoPF Chair position twice.

He was reappointed unanimously by the Opposition.

Dr. de Silva also said that the Parliament Secretary was summoned to the Committee by force which was uncalled for.

Although not directly threatened with death, Dr. de Silva expressed concern for his life, questioning, “What if I am killed on the street?”

Listing down few of the critical financial matters work under his leadership, include: proposal of Casino Regulator to Implement the Betting and Gaming Levy Act based on international best practices; recommendations for Betting and Gaming Levy Act to improve Government revenue, CBSL salary hike review; inquiry into the electric vehicle permits scheme and foregone taxes; improving VAT equitability for local software companies (Pickme vs. Uber); opposing the Government’s removal of VAT exemptions on agriculture and healthcare, wheat flour scandal which directed towards auditor general for independent review, recommended drafting anti-dumping laws, sugar tax implementation and loss of State revenue; improving Port City investment climate ensuring legal status of contracts and agreements; proposal to combat period poverty via a voucher system; directives issued to Excise Department on ‘fake stickers’ to collect due taxes; questioning Government’s attempt to increase import tax on milk powder, ultimately led to a price reduction and advocating for the redrafting of the Microfinance Bill due to its potential harm rather than benefit.

Despite this record, CoPF Chief detailed the significant hurdles faced during the VFS inquiry.

“Certain people not only tried to intimidate me but are now resorting to slinging mud, falsely accusing me of being in cahoots with VFS to hush things up,” Dr. de Silva stated.

He stressed that despite the immense pressure, he would continue to scrutinise the visa processing contract, which involves billions of dollars, and bring the truth to light.

“If something happens to my life, everyone behind the VFS scam must be responsible,” he declared, urging the Speaker to take note of the matter.

Dr. de Silva claimed that an invisible hand is involved in the matter.

“Some are alleging that I have struck a deal with VFS to stop investigations and promote a different agenda. If you (Speaker) wear my shoes, you would know the stress and pressure I deal with,” Dr. de Silva told the Parliament.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa also highlighted the severity of the situation, condemning the harassment of CoPF Chairman by Government MPs.

“The Government MPs in the committee are disturbing the unbiased and transparent investigation by the CoPF. This scam is worse than the Central Bank scandal,” Premadasa alleged.

MP Mujibur Rahman called on the Speaker to tighten the security of Dr. de Silva, citing that he has been subjected to death threats by some MPs if he continues to probe the visa issue.

Separately, Tourism Minister Harin Fernando also acknowledged facing similar pressure for opposing Cabinet decision on new visa system, citing he faced accusations of accepting a bribe from VFS Global, whilst firmly denying the allegations.

“As claimed by a MP that I have become silent on the VFS Global issue after accepting a bribe, is not true. I have not become silent. I am opposing it continuously. I was able to get some of the visa fees reduced,” he said, adding that the tourism industry stakeholders too have contested the move.

Fernando also revealed that VFS Global officials came to discuss with him and offered to provide $ 500,000 for Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion efforts.

“I directed them to the Tourism Advisory Committee Chairman Hiran Cooray, who’s a veteran in the industry and I learned that they too have rejected to accept it,” the Minister stressed.

Joining the debate, Leader of the House Susil Premajayantha praised Dr. de Silva’s work as an economic expert whilst recognising the importance of CoPF role amid the ongoing economic crisis.

He assured that no Government MPs are planning to remove Dr. de Silva from his position, emphasising the need of Parliament to extend full support to continue the committee’s valuable efforts.





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