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Automobile service providers warn of disruptive trends

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Leading members of the Sri Lanka Automobile Service Providers Association (SLASPA) say they have observed several disruptive trends in the country’s automobile industry and the time has come for the transformation of Sri Lanka’s automobile repair services.

Addressing the media in Colombo on Thursday, Secretary of SLASPA Sunil Devasurendra, said: “The present macroeconomic challenges caused by the pandemic have impacted the local automobile repair and maintenance industry. We see a price increase for every relatable aspect of the industry —from lubricants, body parts, material, fuel and other equipment costs to labour charges of technicians. This has resulted in vehicle owners compromising the quality and safety of their vehicles by choosing cheaper and low-quality auto repair and maintenance options due to price increases. Even amidst an economically-challenged period, the SLSPA does not encourage this. You put yourself and your loved ones in danger if you try to save money on DIY repairs.”

Several disruptive trends and automotive industry challenges were poised to transform Sri Lanka’s automobile repair services industry’s outlook for 2022 and beyond. Local auto repair shops that want to ensure tackling these disruptive trends and thrive in 2022 must take steps now to prepare their shops and their staff for a future in which transformative trends will drive it. The association pointed out that for the local industry to sustain business continuity, three key factors will play a crucial role in 2022 and beyond: professionalism, quality processes and procedures, and customer safety.

“To address these issues and sustain the industry’s momentum, SLSPA recommends three key elements— professionalism, quality processes and procedures and customer safety—for all industry representatives to adhere to. We need to be professional about our business, especially the pricing. The industry needs to properly analyse the market trends, global pricing patterns and set benchmarks to impose proper price controls. And these price changes have to be properly communicated to customers to avoid less friction between the client and the service provider,” Devasurendra said.

SLASPA President Amal Piyatilake said: “The automobile repair industry in Sri Lanka has a history of more than 100 years. Given the present situation of our island-nation, SLSPA believes that our industry could play a key role as a fundamentally crucial component of the overall economy of Sri Lanka, helping the country to thrive in these unprecedented times. Against this backdrop, our clear-cut vision for 2022 will provide a window of opportunity to address and resolve longstanding common issues confronting the trade collectively. We will endeavour to ensure an efficient, courteous and expeditious service to clients of the members whilst improving the standards and quality of our workshops.”

SLASPA Media Coordinator Shashika De Silva said that the general public should prioritise a SLASPA certified workshop for all the repairs and maintenance. SLASPA ensures that such establishments would carry out the repair or service in high moral and technical standards to keep the vehicle performing to its original condition for a longer period. SLASPA would also ensure that the organisation will independently assess all customer grievances or disagreements to ensure the vehicle owner’s interest is kept at the peak.

“Similarly, suppose consumers visited any NON-SLASPA workshop for any repair or maintenance job. In that case, they may be victimised by inferior repairs done according to financial benefits that favour the repairer or any other directives by third party financial interest holders. This may devalue their vehicle at resale and breakdowns at unknown times and places. At such a point, there would be no mediation opportunities to solve such calamities,” he said.



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Weerawansa’s wife sentenced to RI

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Lawyers appearing for Shashi Weerawansa, MP Wimal Weerawansa’s wife, yesterday (27) appealed against a Colombo Magistrate’s Court decision to sentence their client to two years rigorous imprisonment.Colombo Chief Magistrate, Buddhika Sri Ragala found her guilty of submitting forged documents to obtain a diplomatic passport circa 2010. The Colombo Magistrate’s Court also imposed a fine of Rs. 100,000 on Mrs. Weerawansa. If the fine is not paid she will have to serve an extra six months.

Additional Magistrate Harshana Kekunawala announced that the appeal would be called for consideration on 30 May.The case against Mrs. Weerawansa was filed by the CID after a complaint was lodged on 23 January 2015 by Chaminda Perera, a resident of Battaramulla.

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Unions predict end of energy sovereignty

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A government decision to allow all privately-owned bunker fuel operators to import and distribute diesel and fuel oil to various industries was a rollback of the nationalisation of the country’s petroleum industry and another severe blow to energy sovereignty of the country, trade union activist of the SJB Ananda Palitha said yesterday.Earlier, Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera Tweeted that ‘approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations provided in bulk’.Commenting on the decision, Palitha said that according to the existing law those companies only had the power to import, store and distribute fuel for ships. Those companies did not have the authority to distribute fuel inside the country, Palitha said.

“Only the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) can distribute fuel inside the country. There is a controversy about the licence given to the LIOC as well. If the government wants other companies to import fuel, it needs to change the laws. The Minister does not have the power to make these decisions. A few months ago the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration used to rush Bills that adversely affected the country through Parliament. Now, since they don’t have a majority in parliament, they are using the Cabinet to make decisions that are detrimental to the country’s interests.”

Palitha said that the controversial government move would further weaken the CPC, and that the ultimate aim of the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government was to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) purchase fuel from private distributors. With a weakened CPC and a CEB under the mercy of private companies, the Sri Lankan state would have little control over the country’s energy sector, he warned.

“The CEB already can’t pay the CPC, and therefore how can it pay private companies? It will have to sell its assets. This is another step in the road to fully privatise the energy sector. When this happens no government will be able to control inflation or strategically drive production through fuel and energy tariffs. The people will be at the mercy of businessmen and the government will only be a bystander,” he said.

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Modi government moves to ‘solve’ Katchatheevu issue

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The Narendra Modi government is mulling restoring the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island of 285 acres, sandwiched between India and Sri Lanka in the Palk Bay, with the BJP hoping the move could lift its political fortunes in the southern state.The government will push Sri Lanka to implement “in letter and spirit” the 1974 agreement reached between Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, then prime ministers of India and Sri Lanka, on the island.This will have to be done by withdrawing the “Executive Instructions” issued in 1976 without questioning Sri Lanka’s “sovereignty” over Katchatheevu, sources aware of the internal discussions in the BJP told the Indian newspaper, Deccan Herald.

Sources added that the discussions were “ongoing” at “various levels” including reaching out to Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka. The recent visit of TN BJP chief K Annamalai to Sri Lanka is also part of the outreach. Many feel the instructions issued in 1976 “superseded the provisions of the legally valid” pact between India and Sri Lanka, thus making Katchatheevu a subject of dispute in the Palk Bay.While the 1974 agreement gave away Katchatheevu, which was part of the territory ruled by the Rajah of Ramanathapuram, to Sri Lanka, the 1976 pact drew the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka in the Gulf of Mannar and Bay of Bengal.

“We cannot disturb the agreement signed in 1974. We are now finding ways and means to implement the agreement in letter and spirit. All we plan is to ask Sri Lanka to invoke Article 6 of the Katchatheevu pact. If Sri Lanka agrees, the issue can be sorted through Exchange of Letters between foreign secretaries of both countries,” a source in the know said.Another source said the time is “ripe” to push forward on the issue. “With fast-changing geopolitical situation in the region, we believe Sri Lanka will slowly come around and accept the rights of our fishermen,” the source said.

“The opinion within the party is that time is ripe to push this cause, with Sri Lanka beginning to realise that India can always be relied upon, given PM Ranil (Wickremesinghe) is pro-India.”

Articles 5 and 6 of the 1974 agreement categorically assert the right to access of the Indian fishermen and pilgrims to Katchatheevu and state that the “vessels of Sri Lanka and India will enjoy in each other’s waters such rights as they have traditionally enjoyed therein”.

However, fishermen from India were prohibited from fishing in the Sri Lankan territorial waters around Katchatheevu in 1976 following the signing of an agreement on the maritime boundary. The battle for fish in the Palk Bay has often ended in Indian fishermen being attacked by Sri Lankan Navy for “transgressing” into their waters.The BJP, which is yet to make major inroads in Tamil Nadu, feels a “solution” to the long-standing issue will give the party the much-needed momentum ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and provide a chance to get into the Tamil psyche. Political analysts feel that it might also allow the BJP to needle the DMK and the Congress by pointing out that it has restored the rights “surrendered by them,” to Tamil fishermen

Senior journalist and Lanka expert R Bhagwan Singh said: “If BJP succeeds in its efforts, it will certainly help the saffron party in the coming elections.”

But a source said the move will “take time”. “We don’t want to rush and create an impression we are forcing Sri Lanka. We will take it slow. We will take every stakeholder into confidence and reach an amicable settlement with Sri Lanka. All we want to do is restore traditional rights of our fishermen,” the source said.CM Stalin also raised the issue at an event on Thursday, telling Modi that this is the “right time” to retrieve Katchatheevu.

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