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27% of Sri Lankans would emigrate if they could

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About 27% of Sri Lankans would like to emigrate if they got opportunities, Sri Lanka Opinion Tracker Survey (SLOTA) conducted by the Institute for Health Policy reveals.

The study authored by Dr. Ravi Rannan-Eliya said that of those who would like to emigrate, one in four had plans to do so.

“Comparisons with earlier years is difficult as the SLOTS survey is new, but comparison with earlier surveys, which used the same questions, implies that the number of Sri Lankans who want to emigrate has doubled during the last three to five years, and this can be taken as a reasonable indicator of potential emigration, both legal and undocumented from Sri Lanka once global travel restrictions imposed in response to COVID-19 are lifted”, the report says.

Given below are excerpts of the report: Men are more likely than women to want to emigrate if given the chance, but the groups expressing the greatest desire to emigrate are the youth (ages 18–29 years) and university graduates, around 1 in 2 of whom would like to emigrate if given the chance, and those in the Northern and Eastern provinces, around 2 in 5 of whom would like to emigrate if given the chance.

However, it should be noted that in terms of translating the desire to migrate into actual plans, the better-off and more educated are far more likely to have started preparations, demonstrating that personal resources are also a key factor enabling Sri Lankans to migrate.

“Since the youth are far more likely to want to emigrate, Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s point that it’s the youth who most want to emigrate does seem to be correct, but it doesn’t follow that this is because of disenchantment with the government. But voters’ disenchantment with how they voted in 2019 and 2020 is sizeable. Of respondents who said that they voted for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2019 (or the SLPP and SLFP in 2020), 1 in 3—referred to here as “disenchanted Gotabaya Rajapaksa voters”—did not choose President Rajapaksa when asked how they would vote if there was an election today. Some indicated other individuals, but most responded they would not vote or refused to answer, suggesting that much of the disenchantment with the government does not translate yet into support for the Opposition. It also suggests that the increased desire to migrate may reflect wider despair about the ability of the political system to offer change for the better.

When accounting for all factors in combination, only some have sizeable independent influence on the desire to emigrate. These include being youth, male, more educated, living in Northern and Eastern provinces and in urban areas, and being economically better-off. But amongst adults who voted for President Rajapaksa, the desire to emigrate is even more strongly influenced by being degree educated and being higher income, whilst disenchanted Rajapaksa voters are three times as likely as other Rajapaksa voters—referred here as “loyal Gotabaya Rajapaksa voters”— to desire to emigrate. This would confirm Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s second point that disenchantment with the government is pushing former supports to migrate, but it is the best educated and better-off Rajapaksa voters who are being pushed the most to migrate.

Pessimism about the economy and dissatisfaction with the COVID-19 response appear to be key drivers of disenchantment. Disenchanted Rajapaksa voters assess their own household economic situation not that differently to loyal Rajapaksa voters, with 66% reporting their household situation is worse than a year ago compared with 56% of loyal voters, which is little different to all adults (65%). However, disenchanted Rajapaksa voters are more pessimistic about prospects for the economy, with 66% saying they expect the economy to be worse in a year’s time, compared with only 59% of loyal voters, although they are less pessimistic than the overall public (72%). And this represents a complete collapse in public optimism from just prior to the 2019 Presidential Election, when 56% of Sri Lankans said that they expected the economy to be better in a year’s time.

Disenchanted Rajapaksa voters are also less satisfied than loyal voters with the government’s COVID-19 response. When asked how they assess the government’s response, only 47% assess it as good, much less than loyal voters (74%). They also favour much stronger control of COVID-19 in future. When asked how many COVID-19 deaths would be acceptable as the country lifts restrictions, almost half of disenchanted voters (46%) say that less than 100 deaths a year would be acceptable, compared with 77% of loyal voters who are willing to accept more deaths and two thirds of whom consider 1,000 deaths a year or more to be acceptable.

This preference of disenchanted Rajapaksa voters for greater control of the virus is reflected in other views. A composite index of preference for greater control of the virus, which combines responses to several other questions, shows that disenchanted voters favour much more control of the virus than loyal voters. On the issue of COVID-19 control, their views are in practice the same as those of the overall public and those who did not vote for President Rajapaksa, implying that the greater official tolerance of COVID-19 spread since early 2021 has cost the government significant support.

In summary, responses in the Sri Lanka Opinion Tracker Survey corroborate Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s claim that there is a surge in Sri Lankans, especially the youth, trying to migrate, and they confirm that much of this is driven by disenchantment of voters with the government. They also indicate that much of this dissatisfaction is driven by pessimism about economic prospects and dissatisfaction with the COVID-19 response, in particular a preference for stronger control of COVID-19 versus just “living with the virus”. The only positive aspect of this for the government might be that many disenchanted Rajapaksa voters do not appear to have switched their support to other parties, but this might only be a matter of time. However, from a national perspective the increased pressures to emigrate by the youth and the most educated and affluent in society bodes badly for the country’s future economic and social prospects as global travel restrictions are lifted.



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Collective Cabinet responsibility won’t be at country’s expense

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Udaya: We are ready to face consequences of revolting against backdoor Yugadanavi deal

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila says that in spite of being members of the Cabinet, he along with National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa and Democratic Left Front (DLF) leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara, have supported the petitions filed against the government entering into a framework agreement with US-based New Fortress Energy in respect of Yugadanavi Power Plant, etc., as they strongly felt that collective Cabinet responsibility should not be at the expense of national security.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila emphasised they had challenged the Cabinet over the controversial agreement following careful examination of what he called a politically charged situation.

The Colombo District MP said that they were ready to face the consequences of legal measures they had resorted to. Minister Gammanpila said so in response to The Island query whether they could continue as members of the Cabinet after having objected to an international agreement, finalised by the government.

Gammanpila said that they had never tried to hide their intentions and they felt embarrassed by the way some in the government manipulated the very process that was meant to ensure transparency and accountability.

Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle, on behalf of the government, entered into an agreement with New Fortress Energy, a company listed in the NASDAQ, on July 7, 2021, two days after Cabinet decided on the matter.

Gammanpila said they had tried to settle the issue at the Cabinet level and at the government parliamentary group. “Finally, we were left with no alternative but to denounce the New

Fortress deal and then throw our weight behind those who moved the Supreme Court against it,” Minister Gammanpila said.
The SLPP repeatedly demanded that whatever the issue the constituents should settle it within the government parliamentary group and the Cabinet.
Minister Weerawansa told Parliament on 11 November that an Attorney-at-Law would represent the trio at the Supreme Court proceedings.
Responding to another query, Minister Gammanpila questioned the rationale behind bringing in a company that hadn’t been involved in the tender process in respect of a high profile project involving the West Coast Power Limited (WCPL). The minister said that the US firm had spurned the tender process as it received an assurance as regards the contract.

The US government pushed for the deal meant to secure 40 percent shares of the WCPL at a cost of USD 250 mn, Minister Gammanpila said.
The Cabinet memorandum as regards the sale of WCPL shares, in addition to the floating storage regasification unit, mooring system and the pipelines and the supply of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) is dated 06 Sept., 2021, months after Sri Lanka entered into FA with New Fortress Energy.

Asked whether the NFF, PHU and DLF would receive the support of other parties including the SLFP, Minister Gammanpila said that those who had pledged support for their cause remained committed and confident.

In addition to the NFF, PHU and DLF with a combined strength of eight MPs, the grouping against the New Fortress deal included the SLFP (14 members), CP (1 MP), Yuthukama (2 members) and Tiran Alles. Over two dozen elected and appointed members of the SLPP are against the New Fortress deal.

Of the smaller constituents in the government, the MEP (Mahajana Eksath Peramuna) has distanced itself from the campaign against the energy deal.
Minister Gammanpila said that in his current capacity as the energy minister he had been compelled to struggle against the energy project as it posed a threat to the country. Referring to the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa sacking ministers, Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayaka and G.M. Premachandra in 1991, Minister Gammanpila said that the UNPers sought the Supreme Court intervention. The SC ruled that in case ministers had been deprived of an opportunity to discuss some matter at the cabinet, they could do so with the public, Gammanpila said, adding that they pursued a strategy based on that SC position.

Minister Gammanpila said that Sri Lanka couldn’t afford to create a foreign monopoly in the gas supply to the country. The situation would be far worse as the proposed monopoly would be American, Gammanpila said, noting that in spite of entering into a spate of other agreements with foreign partners under controversial circumstances, the incumbent government seemed to have perpetrated an unpardonable act.

Minister Gammanpila said that the US energy deal would deliver a knockout blow to Sri Lanka’s efforts to tap gas in the Mannar seas. The consequence of this arrangement would be far reaching and devastating as far as Sri Lanka was concerned, the minister said. If the New Fortress deal was carried pit. Sri Lanka wouldn’t be able to bring in other investors to extract gas from the Mannar basin, the minister said.

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State and private sector union members on sick leave demanding Rs 10,000 pay hike

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Protesting workers blocking the entrance to the Presidential Secretariat yesterday morning (pic by Nishan S. Priyantha)

Members of several state, semi-government and private sector trade unions took sick leave yesterday (08) as part of their trade union struggle to win a number of demands including a 10,000-rupee pay hike and the cancellation of the questionable New Fortresss deal.

Unions of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), the Ports Authority and Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) have pledged solidarity with the protesting workers.
The unions held demonstrations near the Parliament Roundabout and the Fort Railway Station.

They opposed the government decision to raise the retirement age to 65.
“There are over 25,000 postal workers and about 80% of them have joined the union action. This is the case in other sectors too,” President of Sri Lanka Postal Services Union Chinthaka Bandara said.

He demanded that the government increase their salaries through the budget 2022. “Otherwise, we will resort to sterner trade union action. The cost of living has gone through the roof and the Central Bank has admitted that inflation has risen sharply. Most companies in the private sector have reduced the salaries of employees and the allowances in the government sector too have been slashed. People will have to starve at this rate, “Bandara said. (RK)

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Contaminated fertiliser: Case to be taken up on May 09

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By Ifham Nizam and Chitra Weerarathne

The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ)’s lawsuit to stop unloading here of allegedly contaminated organic fertiliser, CA WRIT 476/2 was taken up yesterday before Court of Appeal Justices Achala Wengappuli and Dhammika Ganepola.

Taking the facts into account the Court ordered that the case be recalled on May 9, 2021.

At a previous hearing the court questioned the Attorney General whether the Government was in a position to assure that they would not allow the controversial load of fertiliser to be unloaded. In response to that request Deputy Solicitor General Nirmalan Wigneswaran, who appeared on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture informed the Court yesterday that the vessel carrying the controversial fertilizer belonging to the Chinese company has left Sri Lankan maritime space.

Senior Counsel Ravindranath Dabare, Ms Nilmal Wickramasinghe (AAL) and Ms Thushini Jayasekara (AAL) appeared for the petitioners on the instructions of Ms. Samadhi Hansani Premasiri (AAL).

In the petition. CEJ argued that organic fertiliser from any country could not be imported into Sri Lanka, under any circumstance, according to the regulations of the Plant Protection Ordinance imposed in 1981 and Plant Protection Act No. 35 of 1999 as it prohibit the import of soil particles, living organisms, any virus, bacteria or fungus cultures into the country, given that organic manure/compost is made of decomposing animal and plant parts, which could consist of pathogens.
However, when the samples collected from this controversial shipment were tested Sri Lankan authorities found harmful organisms. As a result, National Plant Quarantine Service did not issue any import permit particularly for this bulk stock of so called “Organic Fertilizer”, the petitioner pointed out.

It also said that based on those facts the Director General of Agriculture had issued a letter dated 22.10.2021, addressing the Chairman, Sri Lanka Port Authority, requesting him to prevent the berth of the vessel carrying this stock of Fertilizer at the Colombo Port and not to discharge any of its organic fertilizer into the Sri Lankan territory claiming it carried a huge phytosanitary risk to Sri Lanka.

In addition to this Ceylon Fertilizer Company also obtained an enjoining order (on 22.10.2021) from the Commercial High Court of Colombo against Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd; the supplier and the People’s Bank, preventing the latter from making any payment under the Letter of Credit opened in favour of Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd which has entered into a contract with Ceylon Fertilizer Company.

However, in spite of all these Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd officially informed The Director General of Agriculture that its consignment of fertilizer which was shipped from China on 29th September 2021 would reach Sri Lanka as scheduled.

The Center for Environmental Justice therefore had to file an urgent motion CA WRIT 476/21 on (25.10.2021) to prevent the stock of fertilizer from entering the country owing to political or public pressure.

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