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EU takes up 20A, judicial independence, separation of powers and independent institutions

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Govt. promises to bring PTA in line with int’l norms

The government has again reiterated its commitment to bringing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in line with international norms and standards. The assurance was given at the 5th Meeting of the European Union – Sri Lanka Working Group on Good Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights held recently.

The Working Group was co-chaired by Manisha Gunasekera, Director General Europe, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka and Ioannis Giogkarakis-Argyropoulos, Head of South Asia Division, European External Action Service.

 In a joint statement issued, the Foreign Ministry and the EU stated Sri Lanka, having provided an update on the action in process to review the PTA, reiterated its commitment to bring it in line with international norms and standards within a time bound process. “The EU and Sri Lanka agreed to take stock of progress in this regard by the next meeting of the EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission in early 2022. The need to uphold international norms and standards of human rights while countering terrorism and violent extremism was also underlined,” the joint communiqué quoted the two delegations as having said.

The EU reiterated its opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances. Welcoming the continued moratorium, the EU encouraged Sri Lanka to take steps towards the formal abolition of capital punishment.

 They reaffirmed their commitment to good governance, adherence to the rule of law, and protection of human rights. They discussed common interests pertaining to the protection and promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms, and agreed to continue cooperation on issues of relevance.

The EU and Sri Lanka exchanged experiences in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Sri Lanka appreciated the EU’s contribution to COVAX which supports vaccine equity and benefits developing countries.

The EU stressed the importance of fostering social, economic and political inclusion through justice, reconciliation and accountability. The two sides discussed the 20th Amendment, independence of the judiciary, separation of powers and the ongoing work of independent institutions. The two sides reiterated the importance of the effective functioning of independent institutions.

Sri Lanka briefed the EU on the extensive legal reform programme undertaken by the Ministry of Justice, through consultative processes that brought together officials, sector experts and members of the official and unofficial Bars. The EU encouraged Sri Lanka to consider a broad consultation process in this undertaking.

The EU and Sri Lanka agreed on the importance of engaging civil society and giving it the necessary space to function in all its diversity. The EU expressed its readiness to continue supporting Sri Lanka in these efforts.

The Working Group discussed matters related to minorities and measures to address hate speech. Sri Lanka highlighted the pluralistic composition of the country where the rights of all communities are equally guaranteed by the Constitution.

The delegations discussed cooperation with the Human Rights Council, including treaty bodies, special procedures and universal periodic review. They agreed to work towards enhancing cooperation in multilateral fora, including in the achievement of the SDGs by 2030 in the United Nations framework.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris welcomed the constructive, cordial and regular engagement between Sri Lanka and the EU in a separate meeting with the visiting delegation. The EU mission to Sri Lanka was led by Senior Advisor, Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission Nikolaos Zaimis, and Head of Division for South Asia of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Ioannis Giogkarakis-Argyropoulos. The meeting entailed discussion on EU – Sri Lanka cooperation and Sri Lanka’s engagement with the EU on matters of relevance.

In the discussion, Foreign Minister Peiris appraised the EU delegation, inter alia, on progress in reconciliation, review of Prevention of Terrorism Act, engagement with civil society, SDG 16 initiative, and Sri Lanka’s cooperation in the Human Rights Council.

The Foreign Minister observed that Sri Lanka’s relations with the EU are wide ranging and mutually beneficial, including in the spheres of economic and development cooperation. The EU being Sri Lanka’s second largest export destination (in 2020), the Foreign Minister highlighted the positive contribution of EU GSP plus benefits in upgrading the livelihoods of communities in the country.



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GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets

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Prof. G.L

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.

The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.

Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.

Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.

While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.

Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.

Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.

Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.

Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.

Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.

Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.

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LPBOA demands bus fare hike

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By Rathindra Kuruwita  

Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.

On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.

Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.

“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.

School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.

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Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR

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A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.

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