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Ex-diplomat alleges Australian aid project sabotaged, points finger at Medical Supplies Division



By Shamindra Ferdinando

One-time Surveyor General Michael de Silva, who served as Sri Lanka High Commissioner in Australia (2004-2007) says in spite of begging for medicine and medical equipment, the health ministry sabotaged ongoing Australian Medical Aid Programme meant to assist state-run hospitals.

Declaring that under the programme launched 15 years ago, 102 forty foot container loads of medical equipment worth over Rs. 2,000 mn had been provided to government hospitals, an irate De Silva alleged that the Medical Supplies Division (MSD) brazenly undermined the project by failing to clear a 40 foot container sent last May.

The philanthropist who had donated a three storey building to Maharagama ‘Apeksha’ hospital over a decade ago in addition to an OPD for the Eye Hospital, Colombo and an additional ward for Anuradhapura hospital said he lodged a complaint with the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) as the failure on the part of the MSD was deliberate.

De Silva, who had served as Sri Lanka Ambassador to China before being moved to Canberra said that in a letter dated Sept. 14, 2022, he informed Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella of how the MSD hindered the project implemented at no cost to bankrupt Sri Lanka.

Minister Rambukwella said that he was aware of the issues raised by the former High Commissioner. According to him, soon after he received the health portfolio, 52 beds were received under this programme. There had been some defects in some of them, Minister Rambukwella said, adding that they were rectified and the entire lot was made available to the hospitals in the Kandy region. The minister assured he would look into the matter.

The retired non-career diplomat and Vice President of Federation of Sri Lanka Organizations in Australia William Deutrom, also involved in the project told The Island how the MSD worked overtime to discourage those who voluntarily helped the country. “We didn’t expect anything in return,” Deutrom said, alleging the clearing of the container carrying 48 special beds had been delayed deliberately to cause heavy demurrage.

According to them, Minister Rambukwella didn’t respond to the issues at hand raised in De Silva’s letter dated Sept. 14, 2022. Minister Rambukwella didn’t answer calls to his phone yesterday morning.

De Silva warned unless tangible measures were taken to clear the cargo and punish those responsible for deliberate holding up of it, Australian authorities would terminate the project. Referring to Indian credit lines and a range of bilateral donations provided by the international community and ongoing talks on USD 2.9 bn IMF loan facility, the former diplomat emphasized the responsibility on the part of the government to clean up the public service.

Messrs De Silva and Deutrom recalled how the Australian Aid Programme facilitated Police Department to obtain 180 beds for Narahenpita Police Hospital during Pujith Jayasundera’s tenure as the Inspector General of Police.

They said a thorough inquiry was needed to identify the culprits. The MSD owed the country an explanation why the second lot that arrived at the Colombo port on May 30 last year was yet to be cleared, they said. De Silva said that the health sector seemed to be in the grip of utterly corrupt lot hell bent of making money at the expense of poor patients.

Pointing out that electrical components in medical equipment invariably get spoilt due to sea breeze, De Silva said that a senior MSD official asked him why he donated beds when they could procure them directly. De Silva said: “I mentioned this in my letter to Minister Rambukwella. The reasons are obvious.”

De Silva said that crippling of the Australian Medical Aid Programme would have far reaching consequences as donor countries would take note of corrupt practices at the health ministry.

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Lanka to lend US$2.5bn to US and top-rated borrowers in 2023 under IMF deal: analysis



ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is projected to lend 2,533 million US dollars mainly to the US and Euro areas during an International Monetary Fund deal in 2023 including a mandatory 1.4 billion US dollars collected from exports and remittances, according to official documents.

Sri Lanka is expected to get two tranches of 331.2 million dollar (254 million special drawing rights each) in March and September 2023 from the IMF.In 2023 Sri Lanka has to repay 256.4 million dollars from an earlier IMF loan taken during an earlier currency crisis.

Net inflows from the IMF would be 406.12 million US dollars in 2023 if the first review is completed in September 2023.Sri Lanka has committed to collect at least 1.4 billion US dollars from remittances and exports and lend to the US and other developed nations during 2023 under the IMF deal.

A large volume has already been collected. An ad hoc peg is now operated under the IMF deal to buy dollars and export to the West, as ‘below-the-line outflows. Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves are usually loaned to highly rated sovereign or sovereign linked borrowers, mainly in the US.

But there have been amounts of Euro assets in Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves at times, triggering forex losses when the dollar to Euro parity changed.Under the IMF program there is a performance criterion to increase net international reserves by 1,948 million dollars during 2023.

Sri Lanka is also expected to repay a 200 million US dollar swap to Bangladesh during 2023, which will also raise the NIR.At the moment Sri Lanka’s central bank is in debt after borrowing from India, Bangladesh, India including on Asian Clearing Union dues as well as the IMF. Year end net international reserves would still be negative.

Sri Lanka’s gross reserves are expected to rise by 2.5 billion US dollars to 4.4 billion US dollars in 2023 indicating that the country will lend 2.5 billion US dollars to the US and other highly rated borrowers. It may include re-invested interest coupons.

Sri Lanka is also expected to get 650 million dollars from the Asian Development Bank and 250 million dollars from the World Bank as part of partner support for the IMF deal. Outside of core monetary reserves linked to reserve money, balances in Treasury accounts are also counted as forex reserves.

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BASL writes to IGP over protest against Saliya Peiris



The BAR Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has condemned a protest staged outside the Law of Chamber of BASL President Saliya Pieris, PC on Friday.The protest was staged against the representation of Saliya Pieris, PC for notorious Sri Lankan drug kingpin Nadun Chinthaka alias “Harak Kata”.

Condemning the protest, BASL said in a statement that Saliya Pieris, PC was only conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client.

“We are of the view the said protest seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law,” it pointed out.

The BASL called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to take action to ensure that Saliya Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and to ensure his safety.

Full text of the letter: ” We write with reference to an organized protest outside the chamber of Mr Saliya Pieris, President of the \Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

We have been made aware the said protest relates to Mr. Pieris conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client. We are of the view the said protest seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law.In the case of Wijesundara Mudiyanselage Naveen Nayantha Bandara Wijesundara v Sirwardena and Others (SCFR 13/2019), the Supreme Court observed that:

“The first piece of legislation passed by the Parliament soon after the promulgation of the 1978 Constitution was the Judicature Act No. 02 of 1978. As the administration of justice in any civilized society cannot be effectively implemented without lawyers, the legislature in its wisdom, through the Judicature Act, established the legal profession.

Thus, there is no dispute that the legal profession is a sine qua non for the due administration of justice in this country and for that matter in any civilized society. The said profession is essential for the maintenance of the Rule of Law and maintenance of law and order and its due existence is of paramount importance to the organized functioning of the society which is primarily the basis for the smooth functioning of the country as a whole.”

Further, Section 41 of the Judicature Act which has clearly set out the right of representation, and, has further shed light on the above mechanism established for implementing the administration of justice in the country.

It is as follows; Section 41 of the Judicature Act (Right of Representation)

(1) Every attorney-at-law shall be entitled to assist and advise clients and to appear, plead or act in every court or other institution established by law for the administration of justice and every person who is a party to or has or claims to have the right to be heard in any proceeding in any such court or other such institution shall be entitled to be represented by an attorney-at-law.

(2) Every person who is a party to any proceeding before any person or tribunal exercising quasi-judicial powers and every person who has or claims to have the right to be heard before any such person or tribunal shall unless otherwise”

Therefore, we strongly demand that you take action to ensure that Mr. Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and to ensure his safety.”

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State need not do business, says Ranil, seven SOEs to be divested



ECONOMYNEXT – The State need not engage in business as its mandate is to provide services such as education and maintain law and order, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said Thursday defending plans to divest government-held shares of seven state owned enterprises (SOEs).

At a discussion at the presidential secretariat on Thursday morning, Wickremesinghe responding to a question about the decision said that Sri Lanka must no longer hold on to corporations and enterprises owned by the government.

Sri Lanka has been spending more on the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) than it has on education, he said.The following seven SOEs will undergo the divestment of state-held shares: Sri Lankan Airlines Ltd including Sri Lankan Catering Ltd, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Ltd,

Canwill Holdings Pvt. Ltd., (Grand Hyatt Hotel), Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd., (Hilton Hotel Colombo), Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., including Litro Gas Terminals (Pvt) Ltd., (LPG retailing), and Lanka Hospital Corporation PLC

The State Owned Enterprises Restructuring Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilisation and National Policies will oversee the process, a statement said.

“Not all of them are loss making. But we do have to repay debt. You can’t keep these and pay back loans.

“If we can’t pay off our loans, we might have to sell something in the house and pay it,” said Wickremesnghe.

Asked why Sri Lanka should sell SOEs that aren’t making losses, he responded: “Why is the state engaged in business? That’s not our mandate. The state has no business engaging in business.”

“In what country is there a law that these (businesses) should be (held by the state)?” he added.

Noting that the crisis-hit nation is trying to embark on a path of recovery and rapid development, the president said Sri Lanka must follow India’s example.

“India is selling their airports, profit making ones. India has come to that stage. We have to go there too.”

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