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Claims that SL’s intelligence services have been revamped are mere fairy tales – Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka

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‘Though we don’t have gunboats, we have an Admiral of the Fleet’

by Saman Indrajith

Claims that the country’s intelligence sector has been restored to its former level and revamped are mere fairy tales, former army commander and Gampaha District SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said in parliament.

Participating in the third reading of the budget debate 2021 under the defence ministry expenditure heads, Fonseka said that it would take at least five to six years to re-streamline an intelligence service. For a complete overhaul and bringing it to optimum level, it would take more than 10 years.

“So those who claim to have rebuilt the intelligence services within one year are either lying or they do not know the service priority but only their political priorities. The intelligence sector must be revamped. There had been several changes in the top-most positions of the intelligence services but that does not mean the service has been overhauled,” he said.

He stressed that the tri-forces should be provided with necessary equipment and facilities to keep their morale high.

“During my time as the army commander, I increased the cadre strength of the army from 116,000 to 200,000. As the morale was then high, the youth joined the army. Earlier, only 3,000 personnel were recruited per year but I was able to increase it to 4,000 per month. Though the numbers increased, there was no corresponding budget allocation increase”, he said.

“I fought the battle with an allocation of Rs. 82 billion. But I used the money to provide for the soldiers. They had only one jungle fatigue. I gave them two. They had only one pair of boots, I gave them two pairs. A soldier was given only a half of an apple, but I provided an apple to each of them. I could do so as the army was free of corruption then. Sometimes, I had to make unpopular decisions and implement them. I visited the army hospital and got all those who could see, hear and stand on their feet to carry a weapon and deployed them in the operational areas, sometimes with their doctors and nurses”, Field Marshal Fonseka further said.

He added: “In that manner I, redeployed 10,000 men from hospital to the front. Though the soldiers had the morale to fight, they changed their minds once they went home and saw the tears of their mothers and wives and some who went home on leave did not come back. It was the time we were holding fortifications near an earth bund near Mullaitivu. The number of our casualties was high. I wrote letters to the soldiers asking them to come back. Thereafter, I wrote to their parents and wives asking them to send their sons back to service. I distributed CDs containing patriotic songs among soldiers but nothing worked and desertions continued.

“Later, I asked the police and military police to capture the deserters and court martial them. Earlier, it took at least two months for a decision, I brought it down to two days and those found guilty were put in prison. Around 2,000 were put behind bars. I had to send 2,000 to jail. No politician claimed ownership for those moves. Those who claim credit for winning the war did not know the actions I took. They were not popular moves but they helped win the war”.

The Field Marshal said that the tri-forces should be modernized. “The army has not been modernized since the day I left it. One may have got two or three computers and boast that they modernized the army. Modernization means that they should buy new armaments. We still have the tanks of 1955 that came soon after World War II. There were 80, and we lost 50 under my command in the war. The army has only 30 now”.

The air force does not have fighter aircraft. It had 11 fighter planes. Four of them were brought from corrupt deals by Udayanga and his friends. Today, we have only a single fighter aircraft. The navy has only two gunboats which are with the coastguard for offshore patrolling. Though we don’t have gunboats, we have an admiral of the fleet. War or peace we must build the tri-forces which are the pride of the nation, he added.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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