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BASL petitions Court of Appeal to protect their dollar earnings



By A.J.A. Abeynayake

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) Tuesday petitioned the Court of Appeal seeking the issuance of a writ order nullifying the Extraordinary Gazette Notification issued by the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka ordering the conversion of foreign currency received through bank accounts into Sri Lankan rupees.

The petition was filed by President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, Saliya Peiris, PC and President’s Counsel Anura Maddegoda, Deputy President of the Association.

The Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal, the Monetary Board, Minister of Finance Basil Rajapaksa and the Attorney General have been named as respondents.

The petition filed by Attorney-at-Law GG Arulpragasam states that the petitioners’ Association is an organisation that deals with the rights of lawyers, human rights and the rule of law.

Attorneys who are members of the Petitioners’ Association have so far received fees from their clients in foreign currency both inside and outside Sri Lanka. For this, they had the ability to receive foreign currency directly from both the personal resident foreign currency account and the foreign deposit account, as well as through commercial bank accounts.

So far, there has been no need to convert the foreign currency into rupees. The members of the petitioners’ association have done a great service to the country so far, earning large amounts of foreign exchange.

Foreign currency earned by importers or international traders as well as members of the BASL can be withdrawn directly from Sri Lankan accounts.

Despite this situation, on 28 October, the Governor of the Central Bank issued an Extraordinary Gazette Notification 2251/42 – “Repatriation of Export Proceeds into Sri Lanka Rules No. 5 of 2021” under the Section 10.1 of the Finance Act.

This gazette notification made it mandatory to convert foreign currency sent to this country through bank accounts into Sri Lankan rupees.

It is unlawful to order the foreign currency to be converted into Sri Lankan rupees without the consent of the members of their association. It is also against Article 140 of the Constitution.

This is also against the principle of natural justice.

Further, the Governor of the Central Bank and the Monetary Board have taken steps to issue this gazette notification in violation of the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Act. This is a law of the jungle.

Therefore, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has requested the court to issue notice to the respondents, issue a writ order nullifying the relevant gazette notification and issue an interim order restraining the execution of the relevant gazette notification.

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Overtime gravy train for public sector back



Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy

By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.

The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.

Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.

Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.

Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.

Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.

One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.

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Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee



Prof G L Peris

Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.

Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.

Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.

Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.

The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)

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Cabinet nod for fuel distribution by three foreign companies



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera announced yesterday that the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for allowing China’s Sinopec, Australia’s United Petroleum and RM Parks of the USA, in collaboration with multinational Oil and Gas Company – Shell plc, to enter the fuel retail market in Sri Lanka.

The minister said that each of the three companies would be given 150 dealer operated fuel stations, which are currently operated by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). A further 50 fuel stations at new locations will be established by each selected company, he said.

They will be granted licences to operate for 20 years to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka, the minister tweeted.

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