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Dinesh lashes out at opposition; accusing it of attempting to destabilise the country

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“..did everything to create an economic crisis in the country” 

by Saman Indrajith

The Opposition attempted to destabilize the country economically and politically during the COVID-19 pandemic without cooperating with the President and the Prime Minister, Leader of the House, Foreign Affairs Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said yesterday.

Speaking during the second day of the debate on the Vote on Account, Minister Gunawardena said that despite Opposition’s obstructions President Gotabaya Rajapaksa successfully overcame the challenges that emanated from the pandemic situation.

“Sri Lanka was brought back to the world map. Once again Sri Lanka appeared as one of the most successful countries that controlled the COVID-19 pandemic for which, we have to accept, we needed money, funding, so the expenditure had to be incurred by the President’s orders under the Constitution. And we have come today before the House to get the Vote on Account approved for the next few months. The budget shall be presented in November by the Prime Minister,” Minister Gunawardena said.  

Minister Gunawardena pointed out that “While Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has presented the Vote on Account for the coming four months, I would like to clarify as to how the Opposition attempted several times to create a financial crisis in the country over the last few months. On February 20, 2020 we as the government requested from the House necessary financial provisions immediately following the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Initially the Opposition said that it will support us, however, we had to withdraw the proposal as at the last moment the Opposition opposed it,” he said.

 “Now, the Opposition’s main argument is that there is a legal concern in relation to utilizing funds during the period April to August. The Prime Minister explained that there are billions of unsettled payments due for constructions, development projects, health projects and public needs which were abandoned by the previous government. In February our attempt was to obtain the necessary funding to meet these needs so that the country shall not be dragged into an economic crisis. So the Opposition was taking every opportunity to destabilize the country economically, politically and socially,” Minister Gunawardena said.

Minister Gunawardena said: “Now the Opposition MPs are coming up with all kinds of arguments concerning the period of time that the President could use funds without the approval of the House. President quite correctly dissolved the Parliament so that the election could be held at an appropriate time. However our country as well as the whole world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Entire countries, economies, airports were closed down due to the pandemic. The world was shocked by the pandemic. Thus the Election Commission took a decision to postpone the poll. If the election was not postponed, we would have been able to elect a new House by the end of April this year. Even to hold the election, the Election Commission requested a larger financial provision to hold it. So the President was challenged to allocate large sums of money to hold the general election and to secure the citizens from the pandemic. President most successfully overcame all these challenges. The public was secured against the pandemic and the economic difficulties. It is important to remember that all the benefits were distributed equally among every community without any discrimination.”

 Minister Gunawardena said that the Opposition which should have cooperated with the government during the pandemic did everything to create an economic crisis in the country. “They did not support the President and the Prime Minister during the time of need. The Opposition’s actions and political behavior are unacceptable. The Opposition when in power did not present a budget during their rule, and to quote their own words, they did not expect a defeat in the election. The public of course gave them the answer in the general election.”



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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving

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Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest

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By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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