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Experts point out golden opportunity for Lankan businesses to meet Colombo Port City needs



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Sri Lanka’s private sector would have about five years to get ready to supply goods and services to the Colombo Port City, Sweden-based economist, Kasun Kariyawasam, said at a seminar on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), organized by the Asia Progress Forum on Monday.

Kariyawasam said the Port City would need 500,000 floor tiles, 2.3 million square metres of carpets, 7,188 bedding sets, 480,000 gallons of paint, one million LED bulbs, and six million square metres of wall paper.

“The Port City will also need 160,000 sets of office furniture, 75,000 bathroom sets, 28,992 water closets and wash basins, 37, 500 sets of kitchen cupboards and 37,500 sets of living room furniture. Sri Lankan companies have an ideal opportunity to make money and gain international experience. They have four to five years to be ready, but unless they get their act together, the investors, at the Port City, will import these and we would have gained nothing,” he said.

General Secretary of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL) Dr. G. Weerasinghe said that by 2041, the Port City will have been fully occupied. There would be 75,000 permanent residents and 175,000 temporary residents.

“We can also supply food and services. This is an opportunity for Sri Lankan hotels, and other service suppliers to make money continuously. We need to expand capacity as well as efficiency. Right now, people have to wait months to buy things like tiles. This won’t work when it comes to projects like the Port City. We need to be more productive. Banks must also step in and provide finance,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe added that Sri Lanka also needed to ensure that adequate human resources were made available for the jobs created by the Port City.

“Instead of getting ready to reap benefits, some are grumbling about Chinese investments. Some powerful interests are creating the impression that Sri Lanka won’t benefit from the Port City. If we don’t take steps to get ready to reap benefits from Chinese investments, this will be a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said.

Economist Kariyawasam said that Sri Lanka’s financial infrastructure ws weak and that the country had not established systems for cross border settlements. The Colombo Port City is a financial centre and it will do a lot to address these issues,” he said.

The Sri Lankan government must also take steps to establish payment gateways. Sri Lankans had been clamouring for that for decades but successive governments have done little, he said.

Dr. Waruna Chandrakeerthi and Prof. Samitha Hettige spoke of the importance of understanding the Chinese market to promote Sri Lankan exports there.

“The Chinese have been planting tea for thousands of years. We started tea in the 19th century, so we can’t assume that they will buy our tea. What they want is different and we must try to understand their demands. It is a big market, and we need to understand it. We need to have more sinologists,” Dr. Chandrakeerthi said.

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SJB MP slams police double standards



“Why one law for Ponnambalam and another for Gamage?”

The police have failed to display the same efficiency they displayed in arresting Jaffna District MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam with regard to arresting State Minister Diana Gamage, who should have been spending her time at the Mirihana Immigration Detention Centre, Kurunegala District SJB MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha told Parliament on Friday.

“If the police had displayed the same efficacy, Diana Gamage should have been at the Mirihana Detention Centre at this time. Instead she comes to parliament and issues threats to other MPs. The courts have clearly stated that the CID could take her into custody because she had been using two passports.

“The Immigration Controller himself has reported to the courts that she had been a UK citizen since 2004 and using a UK passport since then. She has not revoked her UK citizenship. In addition she has obtained anther passport through the Secretary General of Parliament. The Speaker too should have a responsibility to prevent a foreign citizen sitting unlawfully in the House,” he said.

Jayamaha said that Gamage had no right to sit in parliament. “The case against her regarding her having forged passports is postponed again and again. The law is not implemented. My colleague Mujibur Rahuman tabled a document in this House that the Defence Secretary had been informed of the illegality of Gamage’s presence in Parliament. I tabled the same again today.

“She recently told a TV talk-show that she had applied for the revocation of her UK citizenship. We do not know whether she has two tongues,” the MP said.

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Sarath Weerasekera opposes SLT share sale on security grounds



Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), which owns a fixed and mobile telecom group, which is partly foreign owned and listed should not be privatized, the head of a parliamentary committee on national security has said.

Government MP, Retd. Admiral Sarath Weerasekara who chairs the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security told parliament Friday that divestment of the 49.5 percent stake in SLT held by the government could “expose the country’s strategic communication infrastructure and sensitive information to private companies that are motivated by profit, which could pose a threat to national security”.

Weerasekara also said that any individual or organization proscribed or otherwise that “aided terrorists or extremists” must not be allowed to purchase shares or control Sri Lanka’s national assets.

The claim comes despite satellite links and international cables connecting the country being built and managed by foreign conglomerates in which many connected countries are also shareholders. SLT is also a shareholder in some global cable companies.

Weerasekara suggested that the government retain the right to repurchase shares held by the majority shareholder of SLT.SLT’s second biggest shareholder, behind the Sri Lanka government, is Malaysia-based Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd with a 44.9 percents take in the company.

Most Sri Lanka’s mobile firms were also built and owned not just by private firm but foreign ones. SLT’s own mobile network, Mobitel was a build operate transfer project by Australia’s Telstra.

Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers in March 2023 listed Sri Lanka Telecom among several state companies to be re-structured.SLT currently enjoys market leadership in fixed-line services and is the second-largest operator in mobile. It also owns an extensive optical fibre network.The company was placed on watch for a possible rating upgrade by Fitch Ratings in March 2023 after the government announced the restructuring. (EconomyNext)

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Cardinal hits out at government demanding local elections



By Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has urged the government to hold local elections to secure the democratic rights of the people.

“Voting is a right of the people that we must all enjoy. It is a right that every person over 18 -years of age is entitled to to determine the future of the country,” he said on Thursday.

“Today justice as been turned into injustice, governance to dictatorship and law into lawlessness,” the 75-year-old cardinal told a gathering of hundreds of people at a function at St. Anthony’s College in Kochchikade.

Local polls to elect 340 councils were slated for April 25 but the election commission postponed it, citing a lack of funds.

“The government said earlier that it doesn’t have money to hold an election, now it’s saying that it has money. If the government has the money, please give an opportunity to the people to vote and let the people express their wishes. How much of what came from the IMF was used for agriculture? How much for the fishing industry? And what about education?” the cardinal queried.

Rather than improving the lives of people, “politicians import goods, and bring in what we need and what we don’t need, destroying our economic independence, leading us to depend on foreign countries,” he said.

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