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Crisis cannot be tackled by fuel price increases alone: SJB prescribes IMF



By Shamindra Ferdinando 

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) spokesperson Dr. Harsha de Silva, MP, yesterday (21) called for immediate remedial measures in the wake of Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s shocking admission that the national economy was in such a bad shape it found it difficult to pay for oil imports. 

 Former UNP non-Cabinet minister de Silva said that there had not been a previous instance of a minister expressing fears of collapse of the banking system under their watch unless corrective measures were taken. The Colombo District MP recommended the government to seriously consider seeking IMF’s assistance before the situation further deteriorated . 

Noting that both the Energy Minister and the Presidential Secretariat declared that state banks could be overwhelmed by staggering Rs 737 bn loans owed by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), MP de Silva emphasised that the monetary crisis could not be addressed by increasing fuel prices alone. 

COPE member MP de Silva appreciated Attorney-at-law Gammanpila for being frank in his assessment. The SJB MP explained ways and means of addressing the issues at hand when The Island asked whether the Parliament as an institution should adopt a common stand on national economy and take tangible remedial measures? 

The Island also sought the MP’s suggestions on  stabilising the economy. 

Economist de Silva said that Minister Gammanpila is on record as having said that the Central Bank in a letter dated May 31, 2021 warned the Finance Ministry of dire consequences unless remedial measures were taken. 

MP de Silva said that State Minister of Finance, Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal in a recent interview with Irida Lankadeepa confirmed Minister Gammanpila’s statement. However, it would be a grave mistake on the part of the government to believe such an extremely serious situation could be tackled by increasing fuel prices. 

The former Policy Planning Deputy Minister said the issue at hand is so serious, it could not be fixed by just increasing fuel prices. “A macro prudential analysis must be undertaken by the Central Bank without further delay. The systemic risks must be identified and assessed. The vulnerability of the banking system must be immediately addressed beyond the mere inability of the CPC to make good on their payments,” MP de Silva said. 

MP de Silva underscored the desperate situation the state banks were experiencing. The MP said that state banks were entering into dollar swaps at massive discounts. For instance, buying dollars today at Rs 199.99 with settlement in a year at Rs 181.99. “Consider the risk these state banks are running. Can they get dollars at Rs 181.99 in a year’s time or will the dollar cost Rs 210 or even higher? Whose money is at risk? Another glaring example is the plan to borrow USD 1 billion from ‘unsolicited’ bidders. This is unbelievable. Are we going to integrate our banking system with money laundering operators to allow them to clean black money? What will happen to our credibility in the longer run? These are all serious matters that need immediate attention.” 

Responding to another query, MP de Silva asserted that the best option available to the SLPP government was to restructure the country’s debt. “If we, do it now, we should be able to come out of the crisis with only a re-profiling exercise, meaning a delay in our payments to the bond holders instead of asking them to take a haircut, meaning to agree to a reduction in principle,” he said. 

The SJB heavyweight asked would working with the IMF acceptable than seeking deals with those hoping to clean their dirty money. The current crisis should be tackled by working with the IMF whatever the political agenda the SLPP hoped to pursue, the government had no option but to seek IMF assistance or face a catastrophe. MP de Silva said that he suggested six months ago that Sri Lanka had no option but to undertake a restructuring process with the IMF. Although the government had ignored warnings and declared it would never go to the IMF, the crisis triggered by the fuel price hike exposed the government. “Unfortunately for the people of Sri Lanka the more these people continue this delay in restructuring the greater the pain will be when it finally is thrust upon us. We need a soft landing. Not a hard landing,” Dr. de Silva said. 

 The former minister said that this would be raised in parliament. Referring to a media briefing called by Minister Gammanpila early this month whereas announced plans for a new oil refinery at Sapugaskanda, MP de Silva said that the PHU leader said that cash-strapped debt-ridden government lacked the wherewithal to make an investment therefore needed external financing amounting to USD 3 bn. The former Minister said that Minister Bandula Gunawardena and State Minister Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, too, acknowledged the severe financial difficulties with the latter explaining how the raging Covid-19 pandemic worsened the situation.

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Ratwatte’s prison raids: Probes a farce, State Minister protected, TNA alleges



‘Govt. actions make promises on domestic mechanisms a joke’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) yesterday (26) accused the government of having suppressed a proper investigation into death threats the then Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation State Minister Lohan Ratwatte issued to a group of ex-LTTE cadres held at the Anuradhapura prison on the late afternoon of 12 Sept.

Batticaloa District TNA lawmaker Shanakiyan Rajaputhiran Rasamanickam told The Island that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was yet to record the statements of those threatened by Ratwatte, who continued to be the State Minister of Gem and Jewellery related industries.

Rasamanickam said so after meeting eight of those who had been threatened by the Kandy District MP. He accompanied TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran and Acting General Secretary of the party on Saturday (25) to Anuradhapura, where they spoke to eight out of the 10 ex-LTTE cadres threatened by MP Ratwatte.

Responding to another query, MP Rasamanickam said they had been able to meet only eight inmates. One of them informed the TNA delegation that he didn’t want to cause himself further trouble.

MP Rasamanickam said that the prisoner’s concerns were quite legitimate as the police proved incapable of handling the investigation.

Referring to a special statement made by Public Security Minister retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera on Sept 17 regarding IGP C.D. Wickremaratne being instructed to initiate an inquiry into the complaint in respect of MP Ratwatte received by the CID on the previous day, MP Rasamanickam asked for the status of the inquiry.

The Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) lodged a complaint with the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) on Sept 16 urging the immediate arrest of MP Ratwatte. CPRP President Attorney at Law Senaka Perera yesterday told The Island that in terms of the Criminal Procedure Code Section 109 (1) the police could have initiated an inquiry without receiving a complaint. Perera alleged that Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya and Commissioner Chandana Ekanayake were guilty of dereliction of duty as public officers of the State by both aiding and abetting in Ratwatte’s actions. Perera also pointed out that the CID never contacted them in spite of issuance of the receipt for having recorded their statement.

MP Rasamanickam said that ex-LTTE cadres requested that they be moved to the Jaffna prison and cases against them heard as quickly as possible. The TNA spokesperson said that Anuradhapura incident on Sept. 12 wouldn’t have taken place if the Prisons administration took tangible measures following MP Ratwatte’s drunken raid on the Welikada prison on Sept 6. The government should explain its failure to respond to the Sept.6 raid, MP Rasamanickam said, pointing out the absurdity in underscoring the importance of domestic accountability mechanisms at a time those in judicial custody weren’t safe. The TNA would take up Ratwatte’s matter with the visiting EU delegation.

Asked whether the TNA would use Welikada and Anuradhapura drunken escapades by a Minister to push for required amendments for the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), MP Rasamanickam pointed out that they had been campaigning against the PTA for some time. “There is absolutely no connection between our representations to the EU and other members of the international community as regards the PTA and the death threats directed at ex-LTTE cadres,” MP Rasamanickam said.

The EU delegation is scheduled to meet the TNA tomorrow (28). MP Rasamanickam asserted that the EU delegation would primarily take up the apparel workers’ conditions at apparel factories and the PTA. Those who had received death threats from an intoxicated lawmaker brandishing a weapon at Anuradhapura prison couldn’t tell the TNA delegation the full story as two jail guards sat with the lawmakers throughout their interaction with the prisoners. MP Rasamanickam quoted prisoners as having told them they were ordered out and directed to sit down on ‘L’ shape. Later, the MP repeatedly demanded them to tell him the truth.

MP Rasamanickam alleged that the Prisons Department would have quietly hushed up the incidents if not for the print and electronic media coverage and the social media taking it up. Asked whether he appreciated the appointment of retired High Court judge Sarojini Kusala Weerawardena to inquire into the incidents, MP Rasamanickam said that no such investigation was required if the police moved against the wrongdoer in terms of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The MP pointed out the continuing controversy over the government failure to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into 2019 Easter Sunday carnage. “What happened to the investigation undertaken by retired HC judge Weerawardene into the Mahara prison riots in late Nov. 2020,” MP Ramamanickam asked. That committee also included the Chief Legal Advisor to the Justice Ministry U.R. de Silva, PC, a former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, MP Rasamanickam said, urging the government not to suppress the investigation.

The TNA MP said that by the time they met Anuradhapura prisoners, their statements had been recorded by the Prisons Department and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. Well informed sources said that the appointment of a retired HC judge to probe prison incidents had been made on the recommendation of the cabinet. MP Rasamanickam said that the incidents involving the State Minister has set a new record. “Now in addition to the promised police investigation, the Prisons, HRC and retired judge are inquiring into the Ratwatte affair,” MP Rasamanickam said, adding that the much touted pohottuwa slogan ‘One country, one law’ is nothing but a joke.

Ratwatte incidents in the run-up to the 48th Geneva sessions and 76th session of the UNGA ruined the country’s image, the lawmaker said. The TNA spokesman challenged the government to prove its sincerity by taking tangible measures pertaining to prison raids.

The SLPP’s response to the prison raids should be compared with its demand to Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila to resign over his announcement regarding fuel price increase in June. The SLPP found fault with Minister Gammanpila for making an announcement on behalf of the government. But, the same party had no issue over one of its members threatening prisoners in judicial custody.

MP Rasamanickam said that among those held at Anuradhapura prison were ex-LTTE cadres from Batticaloa. However, State Minister Ratwatte was seen in Batticaloa on Saturday, MP Rasamanickam said. How can there be a proper investigation when the prisoners and prison department personnel realize the possibility of Ratwatte returning to the Prisons Management and Prisoner’s Rehabilitation Ministry MP Rasamanickam asked.

The first-time entrant to national politics said the TNA would pursue this issue both in and outside parliament.

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NMRA data erased after CID began probing corrupt deals during yahapalana rule – MP



By Prabhath Withana

SLPP Colombo District MP Madhura Withanage says that the National Medical Regulatory Authority’s data were erased only after he had lodged a complaint at the CID seeking an investigation into alleged corrupt deals there.

Addressing the media at Pita Kotte on Friday the MP said he had lodged a complaint with the CID on 06 April, calling for a probe into NMRA’s deals during the 2015-2019 period.

“Corruption was rampant at the NMRA during that period. So I made a complaint to the CID on 06 April. Thereafter, the CID started investigations and visited the NMRA to inspect its records.

The CID, in some instances, had to obtain court orders to get access to the NMRA reports. The investigation went on and the CID was about to trace the culprits. Following this came the news that some data had gone missing from the NMRA database. Now, it is clear that some parties who wanted to cover their corrupt deals had done it. The Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa or his men do not know the gravity of this issue. They come to parliament and speak as if our government had deleted data from the NMRA database. They should know that the data had been erased to cover frauds that took place while they were in power,” the MP said.

Withanage said that there was evidence that NMRA granted licences to only a group of selected medicine suppliers during the yahapalana period. “There were instances where registrations of some suppliers were delayed while some others were given preference.

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Nihal Samarasinha appointed Hon. Consul



Nihal S. Samarasinha has been appointed as Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka for three Federal States in Germany, which includes Hessen, Rheinland Palatinate and Saarland.

He would be mainly promoting commecial diplomacy in the three states.

He presented his credentials to State Minister Axel Wintermeyer along with 18 other Consuls General and Honorary Consuls at the official State Residence Villa of the Minister President of Hessen.

Samarasinha, born in Sri Lanka and migrated to Germany in 1972 is the Chairman and Managing Director of Millennium Hospitality Advisory Company providing advisory services and managing and operating hotels of several international hotel brands based in Frankfurt am Main. He is an alumni of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, and graduated from the Heidelberg Hotel School, Germany, American Hotel and Motel Association, Michigan USA; Holiday Inn University, Atlanta USA and from the Ramada

International University, New York.

His focus in Finance throughout his career made him a proven financial expert with vast analytical skills.

 Samarasinha has held senior management positions in organisations such as Holiday Inn WorldWide (Europe) as Director of Finance; Canadian Pacific Hotels – Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) as Regional Comptroller and Ramada International Hotels and Resorts as Vice-President of Finance and Internal Audit for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), India and Sri Lanka. He has been engaged in the hospitality industry since 1972 with remarkable success.

Over the years Samarasinha has developed strong bonds with Sri Lankans in all parts of Germany and had assisted them in numerous ways long before he was first appointed Honorary Consul for the Federal state of Rheinland Palatinate in 2010.

He is a co-founder of the Diplomatic Council in Frankfurt along with the former Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Frankfurt Buddhi Athauda, The Diplomatic Council acted as a springboard to promote Sri Lanka Tourism, Trade and Culture in an environment of commercial diplomacy.

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