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Cost of living hike is sop to mislead and pacify state employees, says union boss

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The president has attempted to mislead and pacify state employees by offering to increase their cost of living allowance by 10,000 rupees from April 2024, President of the All Ceylon Management Service Officer’s Union Udeni Dissanayake told The Island yesterday.

Presenting the 2024 budget, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said the Cost of Living Allowance for public sector employees will be increased by 10,000 rupees effective from January 2024 but it will only be added to salaries from April 2024.

“We have asked for a 20,000 rupee salary increase as the salaries of the government sector had been last increased in 2016. The 10,000 allowance is an attempt to pacify us,” he said.

Dissanayake said usually salary increments are given in January.

“The VAT will be increased to 18 percent in January. The import costs of petrol, diesel and coal will rise by around 11 percent from 01 January 2014, when the VAT increases to 18 percent. With this the price of all essentials will skyrocket,” he said.

Dissanayake said that the 2024 budget has also not addressed any issues faced by high salaried Sri Lankan professionals either.

“They were promised some tax concessions but that too is not in the budget. The average government worker who is paid a pittance has also not received much. This will just lead to further disillusion and anger,” he said.



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President orders probe into notification issued by Department of Immigration and Emigration

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It has been reported that President Wickremesinghe ordered an investigation into the notification issued by the Department of Immigration and Emigration requesting all  Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the relevant notification was issued without prior approval from the Cabinet of Ministers.

The decision had reportedly been taken as certain foreign tourists are running illegal businesses in the country.

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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives

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Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”

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Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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