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Covid robs the country of outspoken politician, Mangala Samaraweera



Mangala Samaraweera addressing his final briefing at the ‘Freedom Hub’ at T.B. Jayah Mawatha on July 25 where he warned of the debt trap faced by the country

Former lawmaker and outspoken politician Mangala Pinsiri Samaraweera yesterday (24) died of Covid-19. Samaraweera was 65 at the time of his death.

Mangala entered Parliament for the first time in 1989 from the SLFP. He served as a Cabinet minister under several governments.

Nominated by the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) to contest the last general election from the Matara District, Samaraweera quit it at the last moment. He addressed his last media briefing on 25 July at ‘Freedom House’ at T.B. Jayah Mawatha as the leader of an organisation called ‘True Patriots.’

Samaraweera fell sick soon thereafter and initially they didn’t suspect it was Covid-19. Asked whether Samaraweera had received the Covid-19 vaccine, sources said the former minister did.

Samaraweera was the son of Mahanama Samaraweera, Cabinet minister of Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s government, and Khema Samaraweera.

Mangala may have had his shortcomings like any human being, but whatever he did was done with plenty of panache and commitment. In certain ways he was ahead of his times and very innovative. He took up challenges in his stride.

Samaraweera led ‘Mothers’ Front’ with the then Hambantota District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa, against the deaths squads during the second JVP uprising.

Samaraweera returned to parliament at the next general election in 1994 and was accommodated in the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s Cabinet as the Post and Telecommunications Minister. Samaraweera also served as the Minister of Urban Development, Construction and Public Utilities in the same Cabinet following a cabinet reshuffle and was later given the Deputy Minister of Finance portfolio.

Subsequent to the SLFP’s defeat at the general election in 2001, Samaraweera was made the Chief Opposition Whip and the Treasurer of the party. Following their return to power at the 2004 general election, Samaraweera received Ports, Aviation and Media portfolios in the new cabinet of President Kumaratunga.

In the run-up to the 2005 presidential election, he gave up media portfolio while retaining Ports and Aviation portfolios. Samaraweera played a significant role in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s campaign and was rewarded with an additional foreign affairs portfolio. However, following a dispute with the Rajapaksas, Samaraweera was replaced in January 2007 as foreign minister and UNPer Rohitha Bogollagama given that vital portfolio during the Eelam War IV.

President Rajapaksa retained Samaraweera as the Ports and Aviation minister. But, Samaraweewa along with Anura Bandaranaike and Sripathy Sooriyaarachchi were sacked from the party on February 9, 2007. Samaraweera formed a new political party, the SLFP (Mahajana) wing but gave it up to join the UNP.

Later, Samaraweera joined the UNP and played a crucial role as an Opposition member and following the 2015 general election received the appointment as the foreign minister. Samaraweera along with the then PM Ranil Wickremesinghe paved the way for the signing of Geneva Resolution in early Oct 2015. Two years later, President Maithripala Sirisena in agreement with Wickremesinghe switched portfolios held by Samaraweera and finance minister Ravi Karunanayaka.

Following Sajith Premadasa’s defeat at the 2019 presidential election, Samaraweera pledged his support to the rebel group who took over the registered political party and re-registered it as the SJB.

Samaraweera strongly pushed for media freedom and was instrumental in allowing television stations to carry local news bulletins in 1994. (SF)


GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE



Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY



President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm



By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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