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Presidential pardon for PA tax defaulter
By Shanika Udawatte
In what is probably the first case of a presidential pardon for a tax defaulter, President Chandrika Kumaratunga has written off Rs. 950,000 from accumulated taxes that had to be paid by the former PA chairman of the Jaela Pradeshiya Sabha.

The lucky recipient of the presidential bonanza at public expense is Sanath Jayawardena, now an ordinary member of the PS. Mr. Jayawardena had been ordered by both the District Court and the Court of Appeal to pay an accumulated tax amounting to Rs. 1 million, but the President has given an order writing off as much as Rs. 950,000 and allowing him to pay the remaining Rs. 50,000 in easy instalments running into three years.

The letter giving the presidential pardon was sent to the Justice Ministry with copies to the Interior Ministry, the Registrar of the Court of Appeal and the Registrar of the District Court of Colombo.

The District Court had ordered Mr. Jayawardena to pay the taxes in Rs. 75,000 monthly instalments. Thereafter he had gone to the Court of Appeal which gave him a little relief by reducing the instalment to Rs. 40,000 a month.

The PA politician then appealed to the President who gave the pardon on August 19. The government reacted strongly with Minister Bandula Gunawardena who is also deputy minister of finance, expressing concern about what sort of example the head of state was setting to the country. Presidential spokesman Harim Peiris said he was not aware of the details of this particular case but he appeared to justify it saying such pardons were generally given on humanitarian grounds.

An official of the Inland Revenue Department said they believed that this could be the first case where a person was pardoned by the President on a tax related issue. An official of the Justice Ministry said the pardon letter had been received from the President and would be sent to courts. The President gave the pardon by virtue of powers vested in her by Article 34(1)(a) of the Constitution.

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