Don’t fiddle like Nero as country plunges into a precipice: Karu J
(Excerpted from remarks made by the Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice Karu Jayasuriya at a press conference held at the Janaki Hotel, Colombo on April 1)
If there is any harm or humiliation to our country, it is the real Sri Lankans who suffer the most. That is why we feel great pain when we see what is happening in the country today. But unfortunately, as our country is rapidly descending into a precipice today, all those responsible are playing the fiddle as Nero did when Rome was burning to the ground. Therefore, we urge them at this juncture to open their eyes and look at this great tragedy that is befalling us and not sacrifice the people of the country at the altar of greed for power and wealth. We call for the country to be saved from this ongoing catastrophe with the support of all parties. That is the plea we are making here today.
Our difficulties today are not only within the country; we are in serious trouble internationally too. The resolution on Sri Lanka passed recently at the UNHRC in Geneva makes this clear. Various views on this are being expressed by the government today. Veteran diplomats have a different view and they have expressed it publicly. Opposition political groups are also analyzing the situation and presenting their own viewpoint. But have the rulers of this country correctly understood the seriousness of the problem we face today? Have we managed to preserve the image, honor and dignity of our country?
We are not saying all this wearing tinted glasses. We conducted an in-depth investigation into the possible consequences of the Geneva resolution and also sought advice from international relations experts including eminent diplomats who have served our country in the foreign service. When we look at all that in depth and without bias, we can very clearly say that those responsible have completely failed us. This failure has been displayed not only within the country but also internationally as well. If that process continues at UNHRC, our country could face serious difficulties. No matter what anyone says, this is the truth. In the end, its suffering will be on the backs of the people.
Why did we have to face such a fate in Geneva? The reason is very clear. It is due to our losing in recent times many of the friendly states that once stood up for us; not only in Asia but also in every part of the world there were many friendly nations that supported us. In the past all those countries respected Sri Lanka as a country that pursued non-aligned policies. But many of them have voted against us this time or abstained from voting. While this is hurtful, we have to understand what happened. We must understand the reality and act accordingly. In the modern world, no country can stand alone. We must always stand with our traditional allies.
There is also a further point that we reiterate as the National Movement for Social Justice – that is that the 20th Amendment was a major factor in weakening our country both nationally and internationally. Every institution that was required to act responsibly in the people’s interest has become a puppet of the rulers due to the 20th Amendment.
As a result, the respect of these institutions for democratic principles have eroded. That is why politicians in this country today have been able to shut down certain police units and transfer senior police officers at will. There is no point in running a Police Commission in such a background. Can free and fair elections be expected in a country where Commissions such as Elections, Public Service, Police and the Bribery Commission are run through political allies?
Will the public service be people-friendly? Will the police service function fairly? Will corruption and bribery be eradicated in such a country? Will there be an independent judiciary in a country that makes decisions above the courts especially on the basis of reports obtained using notorious individuals? This situation has contributed not only to the massive decay that is taking place in our country today but also to some of the issues that have been raised in Geneva.
Also, according to social surveys conducted, 81% of the people in this country do not approve of the 20th Amendment. The vast majority of religious leaders representing all religions in this country do not accept it and it must therefore be repealed if Sri Lanka is to be re-energized and democratized. We repeat this consistently. I hope that the government will pay attention.
Another unfortunate incident reported this week was the discovery of toxic coconut oil. The people of this country became aware of this thanks to the media. It does not appear that the law is being enforced against those responsible. Re-exporting coconut oil containing this toxin is not the only solution. The law should be enforced against those who exposed the people to this risk and tried to make money out of it. Such national crimes are not possible without the complicity of politicians and officials who call the shots.
There are reports of large scale corruption and fraud, including the sugar scam. COPE, the Finance Committee and the Treasury have acknowledged irregularities in sugar imports. A thorough investigation is essential and this has been suggested to the President on several occasions. In fact, the sugar fraud is bigger than the Central Bank fraud. At least the money in the bank accounts of the accused in the Central Bank fraud has been seized; but what was embezzled in the sugar fraud is already in the pockets of the fraudsters. The country needs only 650,000 tons of sugar annually with about 50,000 tons produced locally. Today the international price of a ton is around $ 465. Accordingly a kilo of sugar should be around Rs. 96. If our requirement is 50,000 tons per month, why did we import hundreds of thousands of tons and waste our foreign exchange during this difficult time? These are matters that need the attention of the Treasury.
One more shameful occurrence must be highlighted. In the 1980s, sugar companies like Hingurana, Kantale, Sevanagala and Pelawatta produced more sugar than they do today. What does that mean? The beautiful country situation painted by politicians today does not exist. High sugar production then was due to the Sugar Importers’ Association, the Sugar Producers’ Association, the Treasury and the Ministry of Trade working in harmony in the national interest. These matters must be brought to the attention of the authorities. It is still not too late to take necessary action.
Today there is a growing interest in environmental destruction in the country. In addition to environmentalists, we see the interest shown by various sections of society as a good omen for the future. Above all, we are happy that school children and young people are enthused on this subject and their commitment is truly fantastic.
But has the government paid proper attention to this subject? Recently, the media quoted the President saying that government officials are responsible for protecting the environment drawing attention to the problem. We must tell the President that there is a powerful political hand behind a lot of environmental degradations. As a result, many government officials, including Government Agents and Divisional Secretaries, are helpless. They have told us about this. If we are to stop this massive destruction, the political pressure exerted on public officials must be stopped. The President can do that.
These are not just our own ideas. We are saying what the majority of the people want. We raise our voices, with no subversive motive, on the basis of confirmed facts adding our own voice to that of the common people. We say this with the utmost sincerity and the responsible authorities must understand that. The country’s future depends on that and we hope that the necessary attention will be paid to these matters.
President requests the opposition to support the implementation of the IMF agreement
President Ranil Wickremesinghe urged the Opposition to unite and disregard political differences to assist in carrying out the IMF agreement, which would aid in the development of Sri Lanka’s economy.
The President emphasized that his duty is not to condemn previous administrations but to concentrate on the development of the country. He also declared his dedication to constructing a better future by creating laws and frameworks that prevent the recurrence of past errors.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe delivered this message in a special address to Parliament this morning (22) regarding the receipt of the Extended Credit Facility from the International Monetary Fund.
He stated that despite allegations being leveled against him that his objective was not to rescue the country from an economic crisis but to safeguard the Rajapaksa family, the international community had acknowledged his efforts to carry the country across the economic vine bridge.
The President further said that he had faith in rebuilding the beloved country where he was born, brought up and educated, and said that many past experiences were the reasons for confirming that faith.
SJB, JVP move SC against Finance Secy. for contempt of court
The main Opposition, Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday (21) moved Supreme Court against Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana over his failure to provide funds required by the Election Commission to conduct the Local Government polls, ignoring an interim order issued by the apex court, on 03 March.
Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, is the petitioner for the SJB and Vijitha Herath, MP, moved court on behalf of the JVP, the leading party in the Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB).
Two Opposition parties declared action against Siriwardana the day after the Freedom People’s Alliance (FPA) issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Finance Secretary to release the funds.
EC Chairman Nimal Punchihewa is on record as having said that in spite of SC directive he didn’t receive fresh funding.
The petitioners sought the issuance of summons on Siriwardana for contempt of court over failure to carry out its interim orders, given on 03 March.
The petitioners want the Finance Secretary punished in terms of Article 105 (3) of the Constitution.
The SJB stated that Siriwardana had refrained from carrying out the March directives, on the basis of a Cabinet decision, taken on 13 Feb., 2023. The SJB also pointed out that the offensive conduct of the Treasury Secretary, inter alia, causes grave prejudice to the esteemed authority of the Supreme Court and in turn disturb the public confidence in the authority of the highest Court in the country. (SF)
Minister indicates reduction in fuel prices in April
Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara told Parliament yesterday that fuel prices would be reduced considerably according to the fuel price formula at the next fuel price revision, due in April.
The Minister said that the government would be able to procure fuel shipments, at lower prices, during competitive bidding, with the receipt of the IMF bailout.
There had been practical issues, and problems, in opening Letters of Credit, and obtaining credit facilities, in the recent past, as Sri Lanka could not give a guarantee to fuel suppliers, Minister Wijesekara said.
“We could not open LCs and obtain credit facilities when procuring fuel. After the IMF bailout, we will be able to procure fuel at lower prices during competitive biddings. We will be able to obtain a long-term credit facility as well. Fuel prices in the global market seem to have declined and the rupee has also gained strength against the US Dollar. Having considered all these factors, fuel prices will be reduced by a considerable margin which could be felt by the people,” he said.
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