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‘Appointment of Ranil as PM not change of direction protesters yearn for’

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The appointment of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new Prime Minister on Thursday (12) was an extension of the status quo ante and not the change of direction that the people yearn for, a group of politicians and activists has said.The signatories to statement include A.M. Faaiz, Bhavani Fonseka, Shanakiyan Rasamanikam, M.A. Sumanthiran, Ermiza Tegal and Jayadeva Uyangoda.The activists have urged all Members of Parliament, belonging to government and opposition ranks, to listen to the demands of the Sri Lankan people for a genuine change in government and governance.”They ignore this at their own peril, and that of the country. It is imperative that even now, all MPs take a principled stand that reflects the demands of the people to create a political change in Sri Lanka,” these activists said.They also said that all perpetrators of violence should be brought to book, forthwith, and condemned the reimposition of the State of Emergency from midnight on the 6th of May 2022, after revoking it on the 5th of April 2022.

“We vehemently condemn the violence unleashed on peaceful protesters on May 9, 2022 both at Minagogama and Gotagogama, credibly endorsed by the then Prime Minister and members of the government. The demands of the protestors at Gotagogama include an end to the culture of violence and impunity,” they said.The activists have said they also denounce equally the counter-violence perpetrated on persons and properties. They said all perpetrators of violence should be brought to book forthwith.”Violence is antithetical to what Gotagogama stood and stands for. By the committed and sustained peaceful conduct, the protestors at Gotagogama and all other sites of protest have earned the support, solidarity, and goodwill of the citizenry of the country and reflect Sri Lankans demanding in unison that the President goes home. Any attempt by elements with vested interests to discredit the peaceful protestors by attributing violence to them or any attempt to disrupt the peaceful protests using force or emergency should be desisted,” they said.

Given below are excerpts of the statement: “The attempts by the police to crack down on peaceful protests and intimidate protesters who are exercising their democratic right to dissent, shows the intention of the security establishment to create tension and violence. These attempts are more intense, induce greater fear and are effectively stifling of voices from the North and East of Sri Lanka. Excessive force by the authorities and the visible inaction to prevent harm to citizens in recent weeks has escalated violence, wreaked havoc and resulted in the death of one person in Rambukkana and injured several across other sites of protests. We note with extreme concern the attempts made to thwart the freedom of movement of citizens by the use of barricades, including those with spikes that can cause grievous injury, the use of curfew and emergency regulations. We decry these tactics of violence and intimidation against peaceful protesters and call out these acts as violations of the fundamental rights of the citizens in Sri Lanka.”We recognize that peaceful protests across Sri Lanka have called for a system change in the country. The general public has demonstrated widespread support for this change, and the citizens actively engaged in the ‘aragalaya’ continue to fearlessly and determinedly stand fast in their demands. They have been undeterred by complacency, coercion and criticism in peacefully pursuing their vision of forging a new Sri Lanka.”This political awakening is redefining the role of the citizen and the relationship between the citizen and the state with a clear message: change can only begin with #GoHomeGota. We echo this demand. The President must resign. This must be followed by other steps including constitutional, legal and economic reforms that are essential to address the growing humanitarian, economic and political crisis and ensure stability in Sri Lanka.

“We also recognise in the protesters’ demands for a new Sri Lanka, the call for economic justice and strong social protections, especially for the working people of this country. We also highlight that the demands by women citizens at the protests reflect their multiple and continued struggles for justice in the political, economic and social spheres of life.”Further, we urge all Members of Parliament, in government and opposition, to listen to the demands of the Sri Lankan people for a genuine change in government and governance. They ignore this at their own peril, and that of the country. It is imperative that even now, all MPs take a principled stand that reflects the demands of the people to create political change in Sri Lanka. In this context we view the appointment of the new Prime Minister yesterday as an extension of the status quo ante and not the change of direction that the people yearn for.”We recognize that Sri Lanka is in a deep economic crisis and any way out of the crisis is daunting. At the same time, we urge the government and the policy-makers not to pass the burden of economic recovery on the poor, the workers, and the middle classes. A sustainable and transparent policy package of social protection should be in place during the period of economic reconstruction in order to manage Sri Lanka’s unprecedented social crisis.We affirm our solidarity with the people’s struggle for change and a new political culture, and commit to work towards realizing justice in Sri Lanka’s transformation.”



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More than 6 bn worth of substandard drugs dispensed to patients

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The Committee of Public Accounts (COPA) has disclosed that Rs. 6,259 million worth of drugs faced a quality failure from 2011 to 2020 due to improper storage. The COPA report has further revealed that 99% of such drugs had already been dispensed to patients when the condition was brought to attention. In that situation, it was not possible to recover the cost of substandard drugs from the suppliers, the Parliament said.

The Committee on Public Accounts has directed the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine to expedite the process of facilitating better storage of drugs to ensure their safety.

It has also been observed that the temperature in the warehouses, owned by the Medical Supplies Division, is maintained properly and that the medical supplies are stored in the corridors of the central drug warehouses and hospitals.

Furthermore, the Secretary to the Ministry has pointed out that if there is a system to detect the failure of drugs as soon as they are received, the loss can be recovered from the suppliers and if the quality testing of 60 drugs can be done by the State Pharmaceutical Corporation, this situation can be avoided to some extent.

These concerns and observations were contained in the first report of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament on COPA, which was tabled in Parliament recently (20) by Prof. Tissa Vitarana, the Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts.

The report contains information about the investigations of seven state institutions summoned before the Committee on Public Accounts and one Special Audit Report during the period from 04.08.2021 to 19.11.2021.

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CBSL Chief: Economy could be stabilised in year or so if …

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By Hiran H. Senewiratne

The prevailing Balance of Payments (BoP) crisis could lead to a major social crisis as the available foreign reserves were only sufficient for a few weeks’ imports, Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe warned on Monday.

“The economy can be stabilised in the next 12 month if the IMF negotiations and debt restructuring are finalised within the next seven to eight months. Until then we have to support the poor people,” Dr. Weerasinghe said, addressing a seminar on the “State of the Economy and Talks with the IMF”. It was organised by the Press Club, together with the Press Institute, at Colombo Hilton.

The CB Governor said the current BoP crisis would worsen and, therefore the economic pain could only be minimised if essential policies and measures were implemented in an expeditious manner. But “IMF technical level virtual meetings are likely to conclude this week, and thereafter further discussion will take place to finalise everything,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.

Dr. Weerasinghe suggested that the monetary and fiscal authorities tighten the monetary policy by higher margins and fiscal policy by restoring tax rates to pre-2020 levels.

The Governor said, “We have three categories of creditors namely International Sovereign Bonds, which raise short term funds from global markets, which account for 35 percent of the government debt, while other two creditors are Paris Club and non-Paris Club (India and China).

Dr. Weerasinghe said that the country’s debt needed to be brought to a sustainable level. “For that purpose a debt sustainability analysis needs to be drafted with a fiscal policy for the IMF bailout”, he said.

Speaking about the country’s worsening economic fundamentals, Dr. Weerasinghe said: “The nation is currently experiencing a historically low economic growth and falling trend of per capita GDP since 2017 with rising levels of poverty. It is also running the highest fiscal deficits since 1988 with the lowest ever government revenue as a percent of GDP.

“Amid those developments Sri Lanka’ poverty level will increase, unemployment level soar and local industries will have to shut down due to restriction of importation of raw material. Therefore, we have to seek humanitarian assistance from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other bilateral and multilateral agencies”, the Governor said.

“We are seeking short-term bridging facilities from official creditors until an agreement is reached with creditors on restructuring,” he said.

In his presentation, Dr. Weerasinghe analysed the links between banking and the currency crises. He pointed out that the problems in the banking sector typically precede a currency crisis with the currency crisis deepening the banking crisis, thus activating a vicious spiral.

Sri Lanka also had the highest-ever government debt which was unsustainable at the moment. Debt dynamics might be worsening in the next few years unless the debt was restructured, he said.

Sri Lanka also recorded the highest rate of inflation in 12 years which was increasing sharply and was experiencing the highest-ever levels of money printing by the CBSL, he added

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Dragonfly thought to be extinct found again

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By Ifham Nizam

Scientists have rediscovered Sri Lankan Clubtail (Anisogomphus ceylonicus), one of the rarest species of dragonflies in the country. The team that made the discovery comprised Amila Sumanapala of the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences, University of Colombo, T. Ranasinghe of the Butterfly Conservation Society of Sri Lanka, and D. Sumanapala of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Sri Jayewardenepura. According to lead scientist Amila Sumanapala Sri Lankan Clubtail is one of the rarest species of dragonflies.

First collected in 1859, it was only known from the original collection and another collection record made a century after in 1962. This species had not been found anywhere in Sri Lanka for close to 60 years until the team encountered a larva during a survey conducted in 2021.

Anisogomphus ceylonicus is one of the few Odonates of Sri Lanka with no photographic records of a living specimen available hitherto.

The present observation provides the first photographs of a live A. ceylonicus larva and the most recent documentation of the species. These observations, coupled with previous work (Lieftinck 1971, Bedjanič & van der Poorten 2013), provide an improved understanding of the species, which might enable further targeted surveys to be made

It was first discovered from Ramboda over 140 years ago based on a female specimen, which was originally described as Gomphus ceylonicus and later assigned to the genus Heliogomphus by F.C. Fraser (Bedjanič & van der Poorten 2013). Almost a century later, Lieftinck (1971) collected an immature male and its exuvia of a clubtail dragonfly from Rambukpath Oya, 10 miles northwest of Hatton in 1962 and described it as Anisogomphus solitaris. However, Bedjanič & van der Poorten (2013) recognized that H. ceylonicus is conspecific with A. solitaris, and thus reassigned it to the genus Anisogomphus. Since the discovery of the species, only these two records have ever been documented (Bedjanič et al. 2014), despite odonatological surveys and numerous biodiversity explorations conducted countrywide.

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