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Cardinal slams ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour,’ demands total overhaul

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Rev. Brother Sunanda Alwis, Principal, Maris Stella College, Negombo, welcomes Rt. Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, on his arrival at the college premises on Saturday (Pic by Clifford Murray)

current exodus sign of developing crisis

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has issued an ominous warning that the country struggling to cope up with extreme economic difficulties would be ruined unless the political party system and the people readily accepted the urgent need for a total transformation of the current utterly corrupt way of life.The Cardinal declared that the situation was so bad with the large-scale exodus now threatening the future of the country that those in authority should take tangible remedial measures or face the consequences.

Having emphasized waste, corruption and irregularities as the bane of the country, the outspoken leader of the Catholic Church described those factors as cancerous. The country was being devoured by corruption, the Cardinal declared, pointing out that the public couldn’t get anything done at most government officers without bribing those in authority. At a higher level, people received commissions, the Cardinal said, pointing out how pump attendants took advantage of the disruption of diesel and petrol supplies to fleece consumers.

The Cardinal said so delivering a sermon in Sinhala at a special mass at Maris Stella College, Negombo, on Saturday (18) as part of its centenary celebrations.Referring to the growing number of families and individuals trying to leave the country amidst the deteriorating economic crisis, the Cardinal warned the way the situation was developing there wouldn’t be a requirement for schools in this country.At the onset of his sermon, the Cardinal dealt with the arrival of Marist Brothers in Sri Lanka where they first served the people of Batticaloa and then established St. Mary’s College, Negombo, before launching Maris Stella College, also in Negombo, in 1922.

He also was made reference to the French revolution that brought untold misery on the Catholic community before the French political and military leader Napoleon Bonaparte restored the much desired freedom to the Catholic community. The Marist Brothers Schools were founded in 1817 by St. Marcellin Champagnat, a Marist priest from Leon, France, the Cardinal said, while discussing current challenges faced by the communities at a time of social upheaval.Acknowledging the need for a new Constitution, constitutional amendments, including the 21st Amendment, the Cardinal warned that such measures wouldn’t achieve the much anticipated goals unless the vast majority of the people changed their mindset. The country was in such a sorry state of affairs and further deterioration, the people no longer had any confidence in a stable future, the prelate said.

Referring to the 2019 Easter Sunday massacre, the Cardinal said that the heinous crimes were approved by those in the top as well as the bottom.The Cardinal explained how those who exercised political authority over the past several decades caused debilitating damages and the people were struggling to leave the country. Long queues at the Passport Office were an indication of the public rapidly losing confidence in the government, the Cardinal said.

 Declaring that issuance of election manifestos and promises given on political platforms meaningless exercises, the Cardinal ridiculed the incumbent government’s 2019 presidential election manifesto, titled ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour.’ Alleging that what was happening here was quite the opposite of ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour,’ the Cardinal emphasized the political leadership should realize that the people were above them.

Demanding that the political leadership should address the grievances of the people, the Cardinal said that the political party system here was geared to divide and cause animosity among the public. The Cardinal warned that the country couldn’t achieve development if petty party politics caused rifts among the population.

The Cardinal also strongly condemned those who promoted private tuition at the expense of families struggling to make ends meet under perilous living conditions. Recalling his school days, the Catholic leader said that he never secured 9 ‘A’s at the GCE (O/L) but that didn’t hinder him. Unfortunately, those who had sought profits mercilessly promoted tuition and succeeded in creating a myth that sufficient results couldn’t be obtained without private tuition classes, the Cardinal said.The Cardinal repeatedly emphasized the responsibility on the part of the education system, both government and private, to transform the student community, thereby creating the required impetus for social change.



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CB Governor: Lanka now in a position to pay for essentials

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‘Inflation will not be as high as initially expected’

Inflation will not be as high as initially expected and there are signs of economy stabilising, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says.Dr. Weerasinghe said that during the past few months a number of initiatives had been made to improve the economy and they were yielding the desired results.

“During the last review, we thought the inflation would reach 70%. However, now we believe that the inflation will not be that high even with the electricity tariff hike,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe said that the severity of the shortage of foreign currency had lessened. The country was now in a position to import fuel, gas and medicines.

“This has become possible because of the decisions we took. Imports have decreased. Export revenue has somewhat increased. Even without short-term loans we have been able to meet our basic needs. This is a positive development,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.The CB Governor said that inflation driven by demand had lessened because the expansion of loans had been curtailed.The supply side inflation too would drop with price and foreign exchange stabilisation.

“Still the inflation is about 60% and that’s why we need to maintain the current high policy rates. Once the government adjusts the fiscal policy, tax, and presents the new budget, things will improve. I think you can also see this. We are seeing positives,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe also urged exporters to bring back the foreign exchange earnings, and that the Central Bank had taken steps to ensure that exporters abided by the CB regulations.

“The irregularities due to open accounts, hawala and undial are being controlled and the black market premium is dropping. The foreign exchange liquidity in the banking sector has increased,” he said.

The Governor added that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had made good progress. An IMF delegation was expected to visit Sri Lanka by the end of August to reach a staff-level agreement.After Sri Lanka reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF, it had to start engaging with its creditors on debt restructuring.

“Once we reach an agreement with the IMF the situation will improve further,” he added. (RK)

(See related stories in the business section)

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CID arrests Mervyn 15 years after he forcibly entered Rupavahini

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By Norman Palihawadana

Former Minister Mervyn Silva was yesterday arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for forcibly entering the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and attacking some employees there in 2007.On 27 Dec. 2007, Silva and his associates entered the SLRC premises and assaulted its news director for not airing a speech he had made in Matara.

SLRC employees held Silva incommunicado for hours, and the police intervened to secure his release. A few weeks later, some of the workers involved in the incident came under goon attacks.Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President at the time.

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Aeroflot affair: flights yet to resume; MP questions status of probe into detention of SU 289

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ByShamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka hadn’t been able yet to convince Russia to resume Aeroflot flights and tourists from there to Sri Lanka suspended in the wake of the detention of SU 289 at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on the afternoon of June 02, authoritative sources said.

Sri Lanka grappling with an unprecedented foreign exchange shortage desperately needs tourists from an important destination like Russia, which earlier accounted for a sizeable share of the incoming traffic. Responding to The Island queries, sources said that relevant authorities were in the process of looking into the issue at hand.Having summoned Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Moscow Janitha Abeywickrema Liyanage soon after the incident at the BIA, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning over the incident.

In the wake of the Russian warning, the then government took measures to lift restrictions imposed on the aircraft that was to be detained till June 16. The detained SU 289 was allowed to leave on June 06.Former Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera yesterday (18) told The Island that no holds barred investigation was required to ascertain the truth.

Lawmaker Weerasekera said that the government should inform the Parliament of the progress of the investigation and what steps it intended to take as well as measures already taken to mend relations with Russia.

The retired Navy Chief of Staff said that those in authority should investigate whether a court ruling issued in respect of a case filed by Ireland-based Celestial Aviation Trading Company Ltd., against Aeroflot had been manipulated by interested parties.

It transpired that no sooner High Court Judge, S. M. H. S.P. Sethunge, in the Commercial High Court of the Western Province, Attorney-at-Law Aruna de Silva accompanied a fiscal officer of the same Court to the BIA at lightning speed to deliver the ruling.

Lawyer de Silva appeared for the plaintiff with Avindra Rodrigo, PC, (litigation) of FJ & G.de Saram, leading law firm from the colonial times. The law firm has previously declined to comment on this matter.High Court judge Sethunga is on record as having said that he didn’t order the BIA not to permit Aeroflot SU 289 to take off on the afternoon of June 02.

Attorney-at-Law Dasun Nagasena, Coordinating Secretary to Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC yesterday (18) said that the Justice Ministry recommended action against the Attorney-at-Law to the Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC. Nagasena said that the fiscal officer who served the Justice Ministry had been interdicted, pending further investigations. As regards the lawyer, it would be handled on the advice of the CJ, the official said. Responding to another query, the official said that the Justice Ministry hadn’t been informed yet of the progress of the investigations.

Ports, Shipping and Aviation Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra yesterday said that ministry officials on Wednesday (17) discussed ways and means of resuming Aeroflot flights with relevant authorities, including the Russian embassy. Ruwanchandra said they were hopeful reaching a consensus on this matter soon. The official said so in response to The Island queries.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President Saliya Pieris, PC, yesterday said that they could initiate an inquiry only on the basis of a formal complaint. He said so when The Island asked him whether the BASL initiated an inquiry into the lawyer’s conduct in this regard. The President’s Counsel said that normally the BASL wouldn’t launch an investigation into a matter inquired into by the CJ.

At the time of the BIA incident, Prof. G.L. Peiris had been the minister in charge of foreign affairs. Since the change of government, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has sworn in Ali Sabry, PC, as the new minister of foreign affairs.

Russia has pointed out that action was taken against SU 289 in spite of an assurance given by Sri Lanka in respect of regular flights to Colombo.Sri Lankan Airlines in late March suspended flights to Moscow in the wake of imposition of what the airline called operational restrictions in the wake of war between Russia and Ukraine.

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