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Godahewa explains body blow country suffered , but says future is bright through innovation



State Minister Dr. Nalaka Godahewa said yesterday that covid-19 caused a debilitating blow at a time the government was struggling to settle foreign loans amounting to a staggering USD 11 bn. Dr. Godahewa said that the GDP contracted by 3.6 % percent in 2020.

The State Minister explained that at a time they were struggling to bridge the huge trade deficit of about USD 10 bn, the country lost entire earnings from the tourism industry. The loss of about USD 4.5 bn had a significant negative impact on Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange earnings. To make matters worse, during 2020 and 2021, the government had to settle foreign loans of more than USD 11 bn, draining the country’s reserves down to USD 3 bn.

Dr. Godahewa said so delivering the keynote address at the Inaugural CSSL CEO Conclave@ NITC2021 organised by the Computer Society of Sri Lanka.

“I would like to draw your attention to a recent McKinzie report on the topic “Unlocking Sri Lanka’s digital opportunity” and invite you to think out of the box in order to capitalise on the post pandemic surge in economic rebound and the unique opportunities that come with 4.0 digital revolution”

The eminent panel consisted of Jayantha de Silva, Secretary Ministry of Technology, Rohan Fernando Chairman SLT, Kumar Parakala, President at GHD Digital USA and invited member of Forbes Business Council, Sujeewa Rajapaksa, Chairman People’s Bank and Damith Hettihewa President CSSL and Managing Director of Nimbus Cloud Lanka Ltd. The session was moderated by Arjuna Seneviratne, Leading development Strategist and Former Director of the Strategic Enterprise Management Agency (SEMA).

Delivering his keynote addres, Dr Godahewa said that the recent McKinzie report on the topic Unlocking Sri Lanka’s digital opportunity has highlighted five key areas that CEOs should focus on. They are as follows:

1) .You must set big, bold aspirations, and integrate them into the overall business. Constantly evaluate your unique competitive strengths, identify imminent threats, and reinvent your business models as necessary.

2). Build digital capabilities around customer experience. Use digitalisation to improve you customer-satisfaction by making operational enhancements, primarily by accelerating and simplifying your interactions with the customers.

3). Leverage data analytics to drive real-time decisions across the value chain. Use of data analytics may include targeted marketing and dynamic pricing.

4). Foster an innovative and agile corporate culture. Build a culture that encourages risk taking, experimentation, and accepting failure.

5). Invest in digital organisation and talent. Create a work environment that will enable you to attract and retain employees who can execute your digital agenda. Have organisational structures that encourage autonomy and flexibility.

A digital transformation requires a wholehearted commitment from a company’s leadership. So as CEOs you have an important role to play in driving the required changes in your own organisations. If you don’t see the future unfolding and remain inactive, your companies can get adversely affected by sudden market changes. On the other hand, moving quickly and becoming a leader in the digital transformation will dramatically increase your revenue potential and the returns to shareholders.

At the time we are having this discussion, the Covid-19 pandemic has reached almost every country in the world. We are passing through a very difficult period in human history. More than 4.8 million lives have already been lost, despite the vast advancements in medical sciences.

In addition to the enormous loss of human lives, the current pandemic has resulted in catastrophic economic losses across the globe. In 2020, except China, all other world economies reported negative growth. Even in China which reported a mere 2.2% growth, the growth rate had declined significantly compared to previous years. The global economy is expected to lose nearly 8.5 trillion US Dollars in terms of output, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that the world student population has lost more than 3 trillion learning hours. This too will have serious consequences for human development in the years to come.

Pandemics are not new to the world and we all know that the bad times will be over soon. Therefore, we must look to the future positively. The good news is that the global economy is expected to bounce back with about 5.4% growth rate next year. We must try and follow suit with the right strategies and efficient implementation. Currently we anticipate an economic growth of about 3.4% for 2021 and we should aim for a much higher GDP growth for 2022. However, the slow global recovery, coupled with continued trade restrictions and the high debt burden could continue to affect our growth targets.

We all know that a crisis always sparks innovation and entrepreneurship. That is why there is a famous saying “Necessity is the mother of invention”. If we look at statistics from various parts of the world, 2020 shows a surge of applications for new businesses. The COVID-19 crisis has created an imperative for companies to transform and reconfigure their operations. To the extent that they do so, greater productivity will follow. This is mainly propelled by the readiness of the ICT and the circumstances pushing for change.

We are aware that there has been a major pandemic every 100 years or so. Similarly a technological revolution too has occurred in almost every century. We are in the early stages of the 4th industrial revolution. It is a technology revolution, mainly a digital revolution.

For the ICT industry, the pandemic has been the silver lining in the dark cloud. Things have accelerated in the digital revolution. The ‘future of work’ has arrived ahead of schedule, as a result of the pandemic. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that more than 20 percent of the global workforce now work away from the office and yet they are just as effective.

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Outgoing BASL chief asks lawyers to continue struggle to safeguard rule of law, democracy, judicial independence



Saliya Peiris

Outgoing President of the BAR Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) Saliya Peiris, PC has urged his colleagues to continue their struggle to counter threats to the rule of law and judicial independence.

“The BASL was able to play a pivotal role in the nation’s struggle to safeguard the rule of law, democracy, and human rights. In doing so, we were together able to make our profession relevant to the lives of the people and help enhance its credibility and public acceptance,” Saliya Peiris, PC said in a statement to mark the completion of his tenure as BASL President.

Peiris has said that in these two years, the BASL took up strong positions on many issues and where necessary sought recourse to the courts to protect the rights of the people.

“In the coming months, the Bar will need to continue to stand for the principles which are at the core of our profession and to protect the rights described in the Constitution as the intangible heritage of the people,” he said.

Excerpts of the statement:

“As I conclude my term as President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), I write to thank you for the support given to me during my tenure and for placing confidence in me. It has been my privilege to have led the Bar during this momentous period in our history.

“With your support and drawing from your strength, the BASL was able to play a pivotal role in this nation’s struggle for the rule of law, democracy, and human rights. In doing so we were together able to make our profession relevant to the lives of the people and help enhance its credibility and public acceptance.

“In these two years the BASL took up strong positions on many issues and where necessary sought recourse to the courts to secure the rights of the people. The BASL was the first amongst the professional bodies to publicly express its view on the looming economic crisis and the need to address the same.”

“Amidst these difficult times, the BASL continued to support the membership in their professional development and welfare. Through seminars, symposiums, workshops, webinars as well as through its social and welfare work during the pandemic and thereafter, the BASL was able to reach out to thousands of members, including the junior members of the Bar. The BASL also reached out to the branches in the outstations in an unprecedented manner. The BASL formed the Members Benevolent Society, and it is our expectation that the Society will grow to benefit the members in the years to come.

“As I write, we see new threats emerging to the rule of law and a concerted effort being made to undermine the independence of the judiciary. In the coming months the Bar will need to continue to fiercely stand for the principles which are at the core of our profession and to protect the rights described in the Constitution as the tangible heritage of the people.

“I take this opportunity to thank His Lordship the Chief Justice, all the members of the judiciary, the Hon. Attorney General, the Solicitor General and the members of the official Bar for the support and co-operation extended towards me as the President of the BASL.

“A special worn of thanks also to the Chairpersons of the Standing Committees as well as the Co-Chairs and Convenors for their immense contribution towards the BASL.

“I must record my deep appreciation for the unwavering strength demonstrated by the Bar Council the Executive Committee and the office bearers of the BASL, namely the Deputy President Mr. Anura Meddegoda PC, the Secretary of the BASL Mr. lsuru Balapatabendi, the Treasurer Mr. Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Mr. Mehran Careem as well as the former Secretary Mr. Rajeev Amarasuriya and the former Assistant Secretary Mr. Pasindu Silva for their unstinted support and co-operation given to me.

“I am indebted to the senior members of the profession to whom I turned to, for their wise counsel and words of encouragement.

“I have striven at all times to act according to the cherished values of our profession and to act in its best interests, mindful of the trust and confidence you placed in me on 24 February 2021. As I leave office, I trust that I have performed the duties of this office in accordance with your expectations. I have at all times drawn strength and been inspired by your goodwill towards me.

“I extend my best wishes to the incoming President Mr. Kaushalya Navaratne and the new office bearers and members of the Executive Committee.

“It is my sincere hope that the BASL will remain a strong and vibrant institution, inspiring confidence among the people of the nation, dedicated towards upholding the rule of law, democracy, the independence of the judiciary and the rights of the people and the community whilst safeguarding and promoting the welfare and interests of the members of the Bar.”

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SC summons IGP for disregarding court order



C. D. Wickramaratne

by AJA Abeynayake

The Supreme Court (SC), on Friday, summoned IGP C. D. Wickramaratne to appear in court on 03 April for disregarding a court order.The SC issued the summons when a fundamental rights petition was called before a bench comprising Justices S. Thurairajah, A. H. M.D. Nawaz and Achala Vengappuli.

The IGP has been ordered by the Supreme Court to prepare a set of guidelines to prevent the deaths of suspects in police custody taken out for various investigations.The SC judges pointed out that the IG had not abided by the order and expressed displeasure.

Justice Thurairajah said that despite the fact that the Supreme Court itself had given many judgments regarding the police, there had been no progress in the police department.The Justice said the police had a separate legal department and money should be allocated and training imparted to the police personnel through that section.

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Opposition slams govt. for move to undermine judiciary



The Opposition has strongly condemned what it calls a move by the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to undermine the Supreme Court (SC).The Opposition has, in a joint statement issued over the weekend, urged the government to refrain from being hostile towards the apex court.

Among the signatories to the statement are Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, Dullas Alahapperuma, Prof. G. L. Peiris, Wimal Weerawansa, Gevindu Cumaratunga, Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, M.A. Sumanthiran and Udaya Gammanpila.

“The country is facing an unprecedented crisis in respect of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary,” the Opposition has said.

“Basic principles and values we had all taken for granted, are now being directly and strenuously challenged.

“Now, for the first time, a criterion fraught with the gravest consequences for the very survival of representative democracy, is sought to be laid down that election can be held only if and when the Head of State is subjectively satisfied that the economic condition of the country warrants the allocation of resources for the conduct of an election at a particular time.

“The alarming corollary is a vicious onslaught on the Supreme Court in the exercise of its inalienable jurisdiction to uphold and implement the provisions of the highest law, the Constitution of the Republic.

“The country has been treated to the ignominious spectacle of the apex court being derided and reviled in parliament.

“The interim order by the court, directing the Minister of Finance and the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance to refrain from preventing the release, to the Election Commission, of financial resources allocated by parliament in the annual budget for the conduct of the Local Government election, has been contemptuously disregarded.

“In a flagrant violation of a binding decision by the Supreme Court, the Government Printer and other relevant authorities are being deprived of funds required for the performance of essential functions in this regard.

“Urgent appeals by the Election Commission, addressed to the Finance Secretary, continue to be simply ignored.

“Refusal by the Executive to give effect to imperative directions by the Supreme Court represents, of itself, a deliberate erosion of the foundations of our constitutional system, based as it is on the clearly demarcated separation of powers among the organs of government.

“It expresses, in our view, undisguised contempt for cherished constitutional values which form the bedrock of freedom and stability in our country.

“Tragically, not even this seems to satisfy the appetite of an unelected administration to arrogate to itself authoritarian powers incompatible with the rudiments of a functioning democracy.

“The government has brazenly invaded the province of the judiciary by means of a wholly distended, and entirely illegitimate, recourse to the concept of parliamentary privilege to assail the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

“We are aghast at the purported initiative by the Privileges Committee of Parliament directing the Supreme Court to forward to parliament the interim order which has already been impugned with egregious disregard for sound principle and policy.

“There were strident calls in parliament for the discontinuation of proceedings property in progress before the Supreme Court : these were complimented by demands for the cessation of all judicial action in respect of pending proceedings , until parliamentary processes with regard to privileges are exhausted : to cap it all, cynically infringing express provision contained in the Standing Orders of Parliament, there was explicit criticism of a judgment of the Supreme Court and indeed, of propriety of the behavior of a judge , in the absence of substantive motion before the House.

“In keeping with established precedents across the civilized world, these actions constitute, cumulatively, contempt of the Supreme Court in uniquely aggravating circumstances.

“We find very disquieting the arrogant and dismissive attitude which the government, embarked on its dangerous frolic, has adopted to the emphatic appeals by religious leaders, including the Venerable Theras of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters and his Eminence the Archbishop of Colombo.

“The sense of frivolity and flippancy underpinning the government’s approach to issues which define our political system and our way of life, presents to this nation and the world a spectacle of which we can hardly be proud.

“Representing all parties and groups in the Opposition in the parliament, we wish to express our profound respect for the judiciary –an indispensable pillar and, indeed, the final bulwark for the enjoyment of individual and collective liberties enshrined in the Constitution –and our firm resolve to resist, by all means at our disposal within a democratic framework, every attempt to undermine the prestige and stature of our country’s judiciary.”

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