Mangala Samaraweera

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Background

Mangala Samaraweera is a Member of Parliament in Sri Lanka, representing the United National Party (UNP) since 2010. As of August 2019, he held the position of Minister of Finance in the Government of Sri Lanka. He entered politics representing the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in 1988.[1][2]

Image 1: Mangala Samaraweera[3]

Government Positions Held

  • Minister of Finance - February 2019 to date[4]
  • Minister of Finance and Mass media – December 2018 to February 2019[4]
  • Minister of Finance and Media – May 2017 – November 2018[1]
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs - January 2015- May 2017 and November 2005 - January 2007[5]
  • Minister of Ports and Aviation - April 2004 - November 2005[6]
  • Minister of Information and Media - April 2004 – June 2005[7]
  • Deputy Minister of Education - April 2004 – Nov. 2005[7]
  • Chief Opposition Whip in Parliament - 2002 – 2004[7]
  • Deputy Minister of Finance - 2001-2002[7]
  • Minister of Urban Development, Construction and Public Utilities - 2000 – 2001[7]
  • Minister of Posts and Telecommunications - 1994 – 2000[7]

Tobacco Related Activities

Proposal to Import Cigarettes from China

In a press briefing conducted in May 2019, Minister Samaraweera, announced that the government is considering a proposal to import Chinese cigarettes. He further stated that such action is needed to increase the tax revenue from cigarettes and meet the demand of Chinese workers in the country.[8]

Wide Criticism for the Proposal

Minister of Health publicly criticised the proposal and stated that he would not allow it to be implemented.[9] Criticisms arose from tobacco control advocates and health professionals too, highlighting how it can have negative implications on tobacco control in Sri Lanka.[10][11][12] The governing board of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA), the government authority responsible for implementing the main regulatory framework related to tobacco and alcohol control in Sri Lanka announced that they would resign if the proposal is implemented.[12][13] In the presence of strong opposition, Minister Samaraweera withdrew the proposal. He publicly showed his displeasure about the outcome, while stating that the proposal had been formulated for addressing the issue raised by the Ambassador of China on the unavailability of Chinese cigarettes in Sri Lanka.[14]

The cigarette industry in China, the state-owned monopoly China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC), engages in global business with British American Tobacco (BAT).[15][16][17]

The Proposal to Register Companies to Import Cigarettes

In 2017 budget speech, as the Minister of Finance, Mangala Samaraweera proposed to issue licenses for import cigarettes and cigars. The proposal was criticised by public health advocates and stakeholders of tobacco control as it would open the Sri Lankan cigarette market to new tobacco companies possibly leading to increased availability, affordability and accessibility.[18]

To read more visit the TobaccoUnamsked page Budget Proposals 2018 and Tobacco.

Opposing the Proposed ban on Single Stick Cigarette Sales in Sri Lanka

The Minister of Health announced the plan to ban the sale of single stick cigarettes in 2016.[19][20][21]

When the relevant proposal was tabled for the cabinet approval in September 2018, the Minister of Finance Managala Samaraweera opposed, arguing that the ban would cause a reduction in tax revenue while causing an increase in beedi consumption. (Please refer to our page Proposed ban on Single Stick Cigarette Sales in Sri Lanka for more details).[22][23]

Meeting with the Tobacco Retailers’ Association

One year before the policy on banning single sticks was submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers in Sri Lanka, in September 2017, Tobacco Retailers Association (TRA) met Minister Samaraweera, reportedly, to discuss issues related to tobacco sales.. Media reported that “TRA requested the Minister to maintain prices of legal tobacco products at reasonable levels and not implement the proposed ban on (single) stick sales”.[24][25][26]

For more details please visit the TobaccoUnamsked pages Tobacco Retailers’ Association Opposing Tobacco Regulations in 2017

Minister Samaraweera has a history of being lobbied by the cigarette industry. On 22nd March 2018, The All Ceylon Cigarette Tobacco Barn Owner’s Association met him and handed over an appeal regarding the proposed tobacco cultivation ban.[27] Please refer to our page All Ceylon Cigarette Tobacco Barn Owner’s Association for further details.

Smoking inside the Parliament Premises

A national newspaper in Sri Lanka, The Sunday Times, published a photograph of Minister Samaraweera leaving the Parliament smoking a cigarette in 2007.[28]

Image 2: Mangala Samaraweera smoking a cigarette in the Parliament Complex captured by a photographer of a national newspaper in Sri Lanka.[28]

Alcohol Related Activities

Minister Samaraweera was criticised by health professionals and the public over his activities related to alcohol as mentioned below::

Supporting the Beer Industry

Submitting the 2017 budget proposals at the Parliament, Mangala Samaraweera stated that beer is healthier than sweetened soft drinks, generating wide criticism.< Ref name= Beer> Daily mirror. The ‘sweet’ and ‘strong’ side of budget 2018 – Editorial, 14 November 2017, Accessed December 2018</Ref>

Further, he proposed to give tax incentives for beer manufacturers, arguing that it would result in reduced consumption of hard liquor. He also proposed to tax alcohol based on concentration and type of liquor, which practically led to a significant (around 40%) reduction in beer prices in Sri Lanka.[29][30]

Proposals to Relax Alcohol Control Measures

Media reported that Minister Samaraweera proposed, during a Parliament sitting in 2017, to relax the restrictions on sale of alcohol on Poya days and Christmas day.[31] Further, he also proposed to revoke the ban on women buying alcohol and women working in alcohol retailing settings.[32] The National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection accused Minister Samaraweera of encouraging alcohol use, and urged the President to intervene and restore the restrictions.[33]

Tobacco Unmasked Resources

Other relevant TobaccoUnmasked entries:

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 B. Dwarakanth. PROFILE-Sri Lanka's Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Reuters, 21 June 2017, Accessed December 2018.
  2. manthri.lk. Mangala Samaraweera, undated, Accessed December 2018
  3. Wikipedia. Mangala Samaraweera, 14 July 2019, Accessed July 2019
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ministry of Finance Sri Lanka. Mr. Mangala Samaraweera who was appointed as the Minister of Finance and Mass Media assumed duties this morning at the Ministry of Finance, 20 th December 2016, Accessed December 2018
  5. Minister of Foreign Affairs. Minister of Foreign Affairs, undated, Accessed December 2018
  6. The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,4 October 2004, Accessed December 2018
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Ministry of Foreign Affairs- Sri Lanka. Mr. Mangala Samaraweera, 2005 – 2007 January, undated, Accessed December 2018
  8. P. Silva. Liberalization is fine, but is this right time for cigarette imports?, 12 June 2019, Accessed July 2019
  9. Daily FT. Health Minister says will not allow cigarette import. 18 June 2019
  10. P. De Silva. Liberalisation is fine, but is this right time for cigarette imports. Daily Mirror. 12 June 2019
  11. DailyFT. ADIC fumes against Mangala’s proposal to license import foreign cigarettes to Sri Lanka. 13 June 2019
  12. 12.0 12.1 D. Jayamanne. NADF urges Government Don’t import Foreign Tobacco. Ceylon Today. 19 June 2019
  13. Colombo Gazette. NATA board threatens to resign if Chinese cigarettes imported, 30 June 2019, Accessed July 2019.
  14. Daily Mirror. Mangala withdraws plans to allow Chinese cigarette imports, 3 July 2019
  15. TobaccoTactics. British American Tobacco, TobaccoTactics.org, 03 June 2019, Accessed July 2019
  16. British American Tobacco. CTBAT International Limited has officially commenced business operations, News Release, 30 August 2013, Accessed July 2019
  17. TobaccoReporter. CNTC and BAT joint venture in business, 02 September 2013, Accessed July 2019
  18. Parliament of Sri Lanka. Budget Speech 2018, 9th November 2017, Accessed January 2018
  19. The Government official news portal. Laws to ban the sale of a single cigarette, 08 March 2017, Accessed October 2018
  20. S. A. Jayasekara. Sale of loose fags will be banned: Rajitha, Daily Mirror, 09 March 2017, Accessed October 2018
  21. Daily FT. Govt. to introduce standardised packaging for all tobacco products, 12 April 2018, Accessed October 2018
  22. Daily Mirror. No ban on single cigarette ban, 17 September 2018, Accessed October 2018
  23. K. Jayawardena. GMOA wants law to prevent single stick cigarette sales, Daily Mirror, 14 September 2018, Accessed October 2018
  24. Daily Mirror. Tobacco retailers meet Fin Min over industry concerns, 30 May 2017, Accessed December 2018
  25. Daily news. Tobacco retailers urge FM not to hike prices, 30 May 2017, Accessed December 2018
  26. Daily FT. PM appoints Committee to review draft changes to Tobacco Policy, 30 May 2017, Accessed December 2018
  27. Jayantha godawela. සිගරට් දුම් උදුන් හිමි සංගමයෙන් මුදල් ඇමතිට අභියාචනයක් ,22 March 2018, Accessed December 2018
  28. 28.0 28.1 Sunday Times. News Wire, 18 February 2007, Accessed July 2019
  29. Daily Mirror. No presidential cheers for beer – EDITORIAL, 6 December 2017, Accessed December 2018
  30. ADIC Credibility of the research justifying reducing the beer tax in budget 2018, undated, Accessed April 2019
  31. Daily FT. Mangala cheers rethink of alcohol policy, 23 June 2017, Accessed December 2018
  32. NEWS AGENCIES. Sri Lanka lifts ban on women buying alcohol Bangkok post, 13 January 2018, Accessed December 2018
  33. The Guardian Sri Lanka reimposes ban on women buying alcohol – days after it was lifted, 15 January 2018, Accessed December 2018