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GL cites Maithri-Ranil battle over economy to highlight dangers of 19A



By Shamindra Ferdinando 


Education Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris says the new government cannot move forward due to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Prof. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the SLPP, said that their priority would be to do away with controversial sections in the 19A causing hindrance to the new administration.

The minister said so addressing the media at the SLPP Office on Monday (24) at Nelum Mawatha.

 The crisis caused by the 19th Amendment was such that the government couldn’t move forward, systematically, Prof. Peiris said. The success of the new administration depended on the repealing of those sections inimical to the wellbeing of the country.

At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris said that a Vote-on-Account would be presented to parliament later this week to secure funding required until the government presented the budget for 2021.

The Education Minister said that the SLPP never sought to suppress its intention to amend the 19th Amendment. Pointing out that it had been the SLPP’s main campaign slogan at the parliamentary election; Prof. Peiris said that they required a two-thirds majority in parliament to address the problem.

The SLPP obtained 145 seats, one more than the UPFA’s 144 at the 2010 general election. Prof. Peiris said that the government commanded an overwhelming majority of 150 seats with the backing of those friendly parties who contested on their own. The Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP/2 seats), Sri Lanka Freedom Party/1 seat), National Congress (NC/1 seat) and Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP/1 seat) back the SLPP.

Calling the 19th Amendment a curse, Prof. Peiris alleged that it undermined the country in numerous ways. The Education Minister dealt with one major problem caused by the 19th Amendment. The creation of two power centres by it ripped apart the then administration with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe struggling for control. They caused unprecedented chaos, Prof. Peiris said, pointing out that such a situation wouldn’t have arisen if there was no 19th Amendment.

Prof. Peiris explained how President Sirisena in the wake of the debilitating setback experienced by the SLFP and the UNP at the Local Government poll in February 2018, abolished the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) headed by Premier Wickremesinghe. The President then named a National Economic Council (NEC) under his leadership.

The former law professor said that the CCEM that had been established to make recommendations to the Cabinet of Ministers on implementation of laws and related subjects concerning economic affairs, monetary and financial policy, national investment programme, facilitating private sector investments, investments and economic development of the country in a way functioned as an alternative to the cabinet. The Education Minister said that the Premier exercised powers to form his own cabinet as the cabinet of ministers included SLFPers.

Prof. Peiris said that investors wouldn’t have considered Sri Lanka a safe destination due to the battle between the two partners. President Sirisena, himself sacked a person whom he appointed to the NEC claiming that he was more away from Sri Lanka than in being paid half a million rupees a month.

Under no circumstances could power centres be created at the expense of stability. The 19th Amendment created an extremely dangerous situation that enabled various interested parties to undermine the country at will, the top academic said.

The former External Affairs Minister said that 19th Amendment paved the way for the Speaker, too, to play a nosy role not exercised by any previous Speaker.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa tasked Justice Minister Ali Sabri to bring in the 20th Amendment to the Constitution to do away with controversial sections in the 19 A.

Prof. Peiris said that the government measures to introduce a new Amendment were on track.

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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP



By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms



Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations



… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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