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Call for abolition of executive presidency prevents consensus on proposed 21-A

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SJB says SLPP rebels’ proposal doesn’t reflect demand for Gotabaya’s resignation

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the SLPP rebel group haven’t been able to iron out their differences as regards the urgently required proposed 21 Amendment to the Constitution meant to address the current political crisis amidst the worst post-independence economic fallout, political sources say.

Parliamentary sources told The Island that the dispute was over the SJB’s push for the abolition of the executive presidency. Both groups have handed over their proposals to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. The SJB, which comprises 54 members in Parliament recently lost one of them when its National List MP Diana Gamage accepted a State Ministry.

Colombo District MP Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, handed over the constitutional proposal.

SLPP rebel Gevindu Cumaratunga explained that they basically agreed on the urgent need to curtail powers and immunity granted to the executive by way of the 20th Amendment. The SLPP rebels consist of about 40 MPs.

Acknowledging that the members of the rebel group had voted for the 20th Amendment, National List MP Cumaratunga said that they had done so following President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s assurance that a new draft new Constitution would be unveiled within two years after the Nov. 2019 presidential election.

Responding to queries, in terms of the SLPP rebels’ proposal the President should appoint the Cabinet of ministers in consultation with the Prime Minister, restore the 10- member Constitutional Council to ensure transparency in key appointments, including those in the judiciary.

The SLPP rebel group has made this proposal against the backdrop of its formal request to President Rajapaksa that the entire Cabinet, including the incumbent Prime Minister should step down. Cumaratunga emphasised that the group remained committed to their original demands that they had handed over in writing to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Referring to the proposed CC, MP Cumaratunga said that the SLPP had recommended that three civil society members of the outfit chaired by the Speaker should be suggested by the Organisation of Professionals’ Association (OPA), Chamber of Commerce and the University Teachers. The two other main recommendations dealt with the public sector procurement and the denial of foreign passport holders the right to contest parliamentary and presidential elections.

Cumaratunga said that they were still making an attempt to convince the JVP to back their constitutional proposal. “We are still hopeful that a consensus could be reached as the continuing delay caused further deterioration of the national economy. All political parties realise the growing threat due to uncertainty and economic turmoil,” he said.

Responding to the SBJ demand that the abolition of the executive presidency should be part of the proposed 21 Amendment, MP Cumaratunga said that the main Opposition appeared to have changed its stand on the executive presidency. Having asked for a balance of power between the President and the Parliament, the SJB had overnight demanded the abolition of the executive presidency, MP Cumaratunga said.

Cumaratunga dealt with this issue in Parliament yesterday. The leader of civil society group Yuthukama pointed out that the executive presidency couldn’t be abolished as long as the Provincial Councils systems introduced in terms of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution remained.



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Mullaitivu judge resigns citing death threats

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By Saman Indrajith

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was in Berlin on Friday issued directives to his secretary, Saman Ekanayake, for an immediate and comprehensive investigation into the abrupt resignation of Mullaitivu District Judge and Magistrate, T. Saravanarajah, who presided over the controversial Kurundimale Viharaya case. The judge cited receiving death threats as the reason for his resignation, sources of the President’s office said.

The President’s decision to order an investigation stemmed from the fact that the Judge resigned without formally informing the police or the Judicial Service Commission about the alleged death threats against him, according to sources.

In a letter dated September 23, 2023, addressed to the Judicial Services Commission, Saravanarajah conveyed his decision to step down from various judicial roles, including District Judge, Magistrate, Family Court Judge, Primary Court Judge, Small Claims Court Judge, and Juvenile Court Judge.

Reports circulating on social media and online platforms suggested that he had left the country for India. In these reports, he allegedly informed web journalists that he had received death threats in connection with the Kurundimale Viharaya case.

President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake held discussions regarding the incident with Minister of Justice Wijayadasa Rajapaksa and Minister of Public Security, Tiran Alas. It was revealed during these discussions that the magistrate had not lodged any formal complaint about the alleged death threats prior to his resignation.

The magistrate left the country on September 24 and sent his resignation letter to the Judicial Service Commission the preceding day (Sept. 23).State intelligence agencies have apprised the President’s office of the magistrate’s purported close associations with officials from several foreign embassies.

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RW says great power rivalries and geopolitics emerging threat to Third World

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The West has labeled China’s Belt and Road Initiative as a cohesive program, and the participating countries like Sri Lanka are looked upon with suspicion, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Thursday (28) at the Berlin Global Conference.

“This will further hurt economic prospects in the global South, and the polarization will become more evident,” he said.

Great power rivalries and geopolitics have been an emerging threat for open access to trade, investment, capital, and technology that are vital for the economic recovery of the developing world, Wickremesinghe said.

He said that recently Jake Sullivan, United States national security advisor to President Joe Biden, rejected the Washington Consensus at an address at the Brookings Institute.

“With the new concept of de-risking and decoupling, the developing South, which was compelled to follow the Washington Consensus, is now asked to do a 180 degree turn even without consultation with us. With decoupling, whatever it is, we have been asked to change the system. We were compelled to get into it. Now we are told this is no longer relevant,” he said.

Wickremesinghe said the global south is now looking for alternative leadership, given the expansion of the BRICS and the downgrading of G20. In 2024, the US leadership might change and that people are wondering what policy changes would ensue.

“We know in 2024, the US leadership may not be there. Then who is going to act? So I think it’s a chance for the EU to come up and work with the other countries. There’s no one else. So I am suggesting that the EU, together with G20 BRICS, certainly USA, and some selected other Asian and African nations, the IMF and the NDBs, and you can bring in the big financial institutions, private ones, sit down and find urgent solutions,” he said.

The President said the world requires a constructive dialogue between the West and China.

“We need a constructive dialogue between the US and China. We need a constructive dialogue between the EU and China. Otherwise we will not move forward. So this is the stark reality. It’s a question of how we get together and how we work, and who’s going to take the lead in 2024,” he said.

Below are excerpts of the speech : “I don’t think in any other period of modern history have we gone through this type of a crisis. And in all these instances, it’s the developing economies and the global south that has suffered extremely. We are now faced with stubbornly high inflation in advanced economies, oil prices edging towards US $100 a barrel, and monetary tightening by the global central banks.

“One example is that Sri Lanka’s export to Europe has not increased at all this year, so far this year. That’s an indication of how we are being affected as we try to recover from the crisis we face. The confluences of factors face serious risk for many developing countries. In the global south, we are facing rising import costs, food, energy, insecurity, and the problems of our exports. The resulting balance of payment stress translates into a weaker economy for all of us. The difference between the advanced economies and the developing nations is that you all have all the buffers and reserves to deal with these shocks. We haven’t. And it’s from here that the sovereign debt crisis started.

“In this context, I think the world may be in another crisis if corrective measures are not taken immediately. Many developing countries find themselves with large debt burdens. For example, the IMF has no mechanism to face this new situation. When Sri Lanka declared bankruptcy, all foreign funding ceased and that started the political crisis. If not for the help given by the World Bank in re-graduating Sri Lanka, and the help given by my old friend Samantha Power in funding us with fertilizers, the chances are that I may not be, I would not be able to come here today.

“The funding on the table is woefully inadequate to address the vast challenges at hand. So we haven’t got any money. But we do have 100 billion with the IMF. Let’s start with that money. 100 billion is better than nothing. Then let’s see how we can raise the rest of it. Because though I talk of Sri Lanka, I must say Africa’s needs, especially of the low-income countries, are far greater than ours. The problems Africa faces need not be described by me because I think there are enough representatives here.

The developing countries require financing up to US 5.9 trillion to fulfil their nationally determined contributions. Then a further US 4 trillion, for clean energy technology to achieve net zero emissions, look at Sri Lanka’s financing needs for our climate prosperity plan to succeed. We need five billion US dollars by 2030.

“This is a country that’s bankrupt. And the IMF states, we’ll have for the next few years a growth rate of 3.5% if you are lucky. Here again, global coordination and leadership to resolve these challenges have simply not been sufficient to address the magnitude of the urgency of the problem. So what we need here is a new architecture.

Now we’ve been talking of the many crises and shocks we have discussed today. And we’ve been talking about what we have to do. First, we’ve all agreed that the core of the international financial architecture today was designed almost 80 years ago. The world has seen dramatic changes since then with many emerging economies in Asia, Middle East, South America, and Africa becoming global economic powerhouses.”

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“No fixed timeline” to disburse 2nd tranche of $3 bln loan, IMF official says

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By SHIHAR ANEEZ

ECONOMYNEXT –Sri Lanka’s second tranche of a $3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund is likely to be delayed as the country has failed to meet the program objective and a global lender’s official said there is no fixed timeline on the disbursement of second tranche.

Sri Lanka’s government revenue is likely to face a 15 percent fall from the target agreed with the IMF, the global lender said, due to poor tax administration and lower collection.

An IMF delegation was in Colombo over two weeks for the first review of the loan before the global lender’s Executive Board approval for the second tranche.

“There is no fixed timeline,” Peter Breuer, Senior Mission Chief for Sri Lanka at the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, told reporters at a media briefing on Wednesday after concluding the first review of the loan.

“We are confident that it (the GOSL) will be able to do so with a little bit more time,” he said referring to Sri Lanka’s effort to raise revenue.

The IMF in March this year approved a 48-month, $3 billion extended arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) to support Sri Lanka’s economic policies and reforms with the main emphasis on increasing the government revenue, boosting the international reserves, and reducing inflation.

Soon after the approval, Sri Lanka which is going through an unprecedented economic crisis received the first tranche of $330 million. The first review was to assess the country’s performance against the IMF programme objective. Breuer said Sri Lanka is yet to satisfy two key objectives.

“We need two important things to be satisfied. We need to reach agreement on set targets, policies, and reforms that will allow us to go forward… with the understanding that the objective of the programme can be reached,” Breuer said.

“So, now we have discovered there was a little bit of shortfall on one area during this year. So, we are looking to try and find ways to address that shortfall and compensate.

He said working in a direction of having agreement on these policies is an “important prerequisite.”

“Then the other one is in the area of debt,” Breuer said adding that reaching agreement with creditors will help store debt sustainability in Sri Lanka.

“When these two conditions are met, we can go forward. Of course, there is a little bit of administrative process also. It will take some time to write the reports that actually assesses the performance of the first review before steps to be considered by our executive board which will make the final decision on this.

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