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‘Crises endemic, reflect overall failure of ministers’

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Wijeyadasa, Vidura slam Cabinet

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Blaming the Cabinet of Ministers for a spate of serious crises, State Minister Vidura Wickremanayake says there is absolutely no point in a Cabinet reshuffle.

The Cabinet of Ministers has failed the country, the Kalutara District lawmaker said, urging the government to take tangible measures or face the consequences. The former SLFPer contested the last parliamentary election on the SLPP ticket.

The State Minister said so when The Island asked the outspoken Parliamentarian to explain his recent call for change of strategy due to the pathetic performance of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Responding to The Island queries, the only son of one-time Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake said that the country wouldn’t have been in such a sorry state if cabinet ministers accomplished what was expected of them. Instead, the cabinet was the cause of turmoil today, MP Wickremanayake said, explaining how flawed decisions taken without proper consultations, advice in line with overall national policies weakened the government.

Asked whether his frank opinion as regards the performance of the cabinet of ministers received criticism from colleagues in the government, MP Wickremanayake said that how could anyone refuse to accept the truth. According to the State Minister, the cabinet was part of the executive therefore it was responsible for implementing decisions taken by the government.

In terms of the Constitution the President heads the cabinet.

State Minister Wickremanayake said that the failure on the part of the cabinet had caused irreparable damage to the two year old administration. “One or two more wrong decisions will be catastrophic,” MP Wickremanayake said.

State Minister Wickremanayake has questioned the standing of the cabinet of ministers at a time ministers Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila have challenged the integrity of the rest of the cabinet ministers over the controversial Yugadanavi deal. The case is now before the Supreme Court.

Former cabinet minister and SLPP Colombo District MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse asserted that the current crisis should be examined against the backdrop of the enactment of the 20th Amendment in Oct 2020 at the expense of the 19th Amendment.

Acknowledging State Minister Wickremanayake’s strong criticism of the cabinet of ministers, lawmaker Rajapakse emphasized that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa couldn’t absolve himself of responsibility as he chaired the cabinet. The 20th Amendment was meant to strengthen the hands of the President, the former Justice Minister said, the cabinet couldn’t be faulted leaving the President out.

MP Rajapakse voted for the controversial amendment after having strongly criticized it. State Minister Wickremanayake, too, voted for the 20th Amendment.

Former BASL President Rajapakse said that the incumbent dispensation had caused so much turmoil in the administrative and political setups, every sector was in deepening turmoil. Ruination of the agro sector was a glaring case of an example, MP Rajapakse said, adding that the hasty decision regarding the abolition of agro-chemical use destroyed the farmer community.

Subsequent, corruption accusations both in and out of Parliament over both carbonic fertiliser imports from China that ended in disaster with the creation of a new controversy over payment of USD 6.7 mn to the supplier of allegedly contaminated fertiliser that had been rejected and liquid fertilizer imports from India placed the government in an extremely embarrassing situation, the MP said.

Yugadanavi was another crisis that has now ended up in the Supreme Court, the President’s Counsel said, while asserting that the government might not be able to overcome a spate of overwhelming challenges. “The new year is going to be tough. The people are experiencing an extremely difficult situation due to the sharp increase in the cost of living as a result of the continuing balance of payments crisis,” MP Rajapakse said.

Who would accept the responsibility for gas-related explosions in all parts of the country? the former minister asked. Who really believed the crises could be overcome by proroguing the Parliament or selling national assets to external powers through skullduggery.

MP Rajapakse said that nothing could be as important as the government undertaking a comprehensive examination of the ground situation. The executive, the legislature and the judiciary would have to undertake a total review, the former Minister said, warning that the government seemed to be running out of time.



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Sri Lanka and Indonesia pledge stronger bilateral ties and economic cooperation

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At a  bilateral meeting held on the sidelines of  the 10th World Water Summit, President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Indonesian President Joko Widodo reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the longstanding relationship between their nations. The discussions, which covered a wide range of regional and international issues, underscored the importance of collaboration in addressing global challenges.

A major topic of discussion was the critical issue of water management. President Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of the World Water Summit and expressed Sri Lanka’s willingness to participate in the Global Blended Financial Alliance, an initiative aimed at addressing common financial challenges faced by countries in managing water resources. He commended Indonesia for establishing a Secretariat for the Alliance, recognizing its significance for Sri Lanka.

President Wickremesinghe reiterated the importance of completing the PTA by early 2025, noting Sri Lanka’s existing free trade agreements with India, and Singapore, and ongoing negotiations with Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. He emphasized the potential benefits of joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), suggesting that Sri Lanka’s inclusion could encourage other South Asian countries to follow suit.

He also mentioned the ongoing removal of import restrictions and assured that Sri Lankan health authorities would address the entry of Indonesian pharmaceuticals into the market.

The discussion also touched upon regional security and economic cooperation in the Indian Ocean. President Wickremesinghe supported ASEAN’s Indo-Pacific outlook and stressed the need for closer bilateral and regional cooperation regarding Indian Ocean affairs. He proposed more frequent meetings between heads of government and a specific bilateral agreement with Indonesia to enhance commercial collaboration in the region.

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Landslide early warnings issued to Badulla, Colombo, Galle, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Kurunegala and Ratnapura Districts

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The Landslide Early Warning Centre of the National Building Research Organization (NBRO) has issued landslide early warnings to the districts of Badulla, Colombo, Galle, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Kurunegala and Ratnapura. The warning will be effective until 12 noon on 21st May 2024.

Accordingly,
Level II landslide early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries divisions and surrounding areas of Seethawaka in the Colombo district and Mathugama in the Kalutara district.

Level I landslide early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries divisions and surrounding areas of Haldumulla, Haputhale, Badulla, Hali Ela and Ella in the Badulla district, Padukka in the Colombo district, Nagoda and Elpitiya in the Galle district, Attanagalla in the Gampaha district, Dodangoda, Agalawatta, Ingiriya, Bulathsinhala, Walallawita and Palindanuwara in the Kalutara district, Yatinuwara, Ganga Ihala Korale, Kandy four Gravets or Ganagawata Korale,  Pasbage Korale, Udapalatha, Ududumbara and Udunuwara in the Kandy district, Kegalle, Deraniyagala, Yatiyanthota, Bulathkohupitiya, Mawanella, Galigamuwa, Dehiowita, Ruwanwella and Warakapola in the Kegalle district, Alawwa, Narammala and Polgahawela in the Kurunegala district, Ratnapura, Balangoda, Kiriella, Elapatha, Eheliyagoda, Kuruwita, Imbulpe, Ayagama and Kalawana in the Ratnapura district.

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President highlights Global North’s failure in Climate Change Financing at 10th World Water Forum

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing the 10th World Water Forum, held in Bali, Indonesia today (20), highlighting the stark contrast between global funding priorities, pointing out the willingness of the Global North to fund death and destruction in Ukraine while showing reluctance to finance measures to combat climate change.

Accordingly, President Wickremesinghe proposed a 10% levy on the annual profits of global tax evasion assets deposited in tax havens, estimated at $1.4 trillion annually. He suggested that funds raised through this levy could support Blended Finance projects focused on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The World Water Summit, themed “Water for Common Prosperity,” began on May 18 in Bali, Indonesia, bringing together world leaders, experts, academics, entrepreneurs, and policymakers. The conference aims to unite nations in a collaborative effort to address global water issues.

Since its inception in 1997, the World Water Summit has been held every three years, serving as a premier platform for countries worldwide to share experiences and knowledge on best practices for water management. The summit facilitates dialogues among stakeholders on water, sanitation challenges, and sustainable development goals.

This year’s event sees the participation of key United Nations organizations, including the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations International Children’s Fund, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and the United Nations Climate Change Organization.

Following is the speech delivered by President Ranil Wickremesinghe;

At the outset let me thank the President of the Republic of Indonesia, H.E. Joko Widodo for hosting the 10th World Water Forum in Bali. The theme ‘Water for shared prosperity’ focuses on collective responsibility in managing water resources, the life blood of all living beings and ecosystem services. This follows the “Sustainable Management of Lakes” Resolution proposed by Indonesia at the UNEA-5.

During the UNEA -6 held this year, the European Union together with Sri Lanka brought about the resolution “6/13 Effective and inclusive solutions for strengthening water policies to achieve sustainable development in the context of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution”.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of Indonesia for taking the initiative during the G20 Presidency to launch the Global Blended Finance Alliance. Sri Lanka expresses its willingness to become a pioneering member.

Climate Change and water stress are two sides of the same coin. The cumulative effects of Climate Change are the main reason for what we see today as the water resource crisis. According to IPCC projected climate scenarios till 2090, Sri Lanka’s dry zone will get drier and the wet zone will get wetter in an unprecedented manner. Sea level rise will cause salt water intrusion in coastal areas resulting in salinization of land. I took this example from Sri Lanka while appreciating the fact that this is what is happening all over the world.

In global terms the solution to water stress revolves around climate mitigation and adaptation. Combating the triple planetary crisis with specific measures aiming at water. In the Nationally Determined Contributions water is classified under the adaptation sectors. On the other hand, mitigation is equally important as emissions are the root cause. Combating the threats to water resources posed by climate change requires colossal amounts of financial resources.

The Global North has failed miserably in adhering to the commitments to provide financial resources for Climate Change. There is a notable lack of political will after the euphoria of the Glasgow COP was over. Climate Change denial is gaining ground in the West.

The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund, after a long drag, if effectively implemented can help to bridge the gap. This is a big IF. The Summit for a new Global Financing Pact will hopefully reach a conclusion by September this year. Nevertheless, the final outcome will depend on the results of the US Presidential Elections in November.

The OECD in 2021 projected the investment for global water related infrastructure at US $ 6.7 trillion for 2030 and US$ 22 trillion for 2058. The UNEP Report 2023 “Underfinanced – Underprepared” estimate the under financed gap to combat climate change at US$ 194 – 366 billion per year. The Global North is willing to fund death and destruction in the Ukraine. But there is an unwillingness to fund measures to avoid death and destruction caused by climate change.

Since money is not coming our way in anticipated amounts and at anticipated pace, to overcome the resource gap, Sri Lanka presented to COP 28 the Tropical Belt Initiative. A novel concept of harnessing commercial investments in the natural forests, mangroves, swamps, grassland water bodies and other natural resources in the Tropical Belt towards tackling the triple planetary crisis. The Tropical Belt from the time of its existence has been a ‘shield’ for the whole world. It is a catalytic accelerator of solutions to the ongoing triple planetary crisis. Investment in the tropical belt will bring in transformative changes to combat the triple planetary crisis.

In this context, the Initiative on Global Blended Finance will enable the Global South to mobilise the much needed financial resources. The US$ 9.4 billion available to commence this fund is a good example of leveraging concessional finance. The Tropical Belt Initiative will also benefit from this facility. In this context Sri Lanka proposes a 10% levy on the annual profits of global tax evasion assets deposited in tax havens. The annual profits are estimated at US$ 1.4 trillion per annum. The levy can be enforced by imposing sanctions, similar to those imposed on Russian Banks on the Banks and the Financial Institutes which fail to implement the levy. The monies raised by these levies to be made available to be utilised by the Blended Finance projects on Climate Change adaptation and mitigation.

The Global Blended Finance initiative is a supplement to the Loss and damage funds – not an alternative. These two measures must work in tandem. Therefore at this forum, let us express our appreciation for the hard work done by Indonesia in proposing this Initiative at the G20 culminating the establishment of the Alliance Secretariat.

Again, our thanks to President Joko Widodo for his contribution both in respect to the management of water resources and for bringing together the Global Blended Alliance.”

 

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