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‘Govt must hide its head in shame for allowing the crisis to deepen’




Looking back at 2022, Sri Lanka cannot look forward to 2023, with any sense of hope. The economic, social and political crisis deepens without any clear plan by the Government to emerge from the crisis. Inflation is increasing with the Government, which is short of money due to its reluctance to tax the rich, resorting to massive printing of currency notes. This rise in the cost of living is fed by the support given to the private traders and big rice mill owners to fleece the cultivator and the producer who are in perpetual debt to them on the one hand and the consumer on the other. Survey data indicates that more than 65% of families live below the poverty line and that the malnutrition rate has approached 20%. Thus one out of five children below five years of age is suffering from severe under nutrition, and are both physically stunted and thin, but also mentally defective.

The future generation will be badly affected. Thus people with fixed or diminishing incomes faced with the high cost of living are suffering from hunger. In many families the parents have one meal a day and the children two, but the meals lack protein which is essential for development as well as vitamins and key minerals. Rampant bribery and corruption in the Administrative service has added to the suffering of the average person in his daily life; it is no longer a Public Service, it only serves the rich, the crooks and those with influence Instead of Government action to stop this exploitation by the middleman, like strengthening the Cooperative Movement among producers and consumers, reviving the Marketing and Food Control Departments, the Government supports the exploiter, rather than the exploited.

Ranil Wickremasinghe (RW) as Finance Minister tries to control the inflation by increasing the bank interest rate to a massive 30%. This not only deters the startup of new companies but also hits the established ones. The outcome of these policies is that the economy will continue to shrink, with more closures and job losses in the private sector together with the near complete stop to infrastructure development in the public sector. RW claimed that he would revive the economy through the private sector but his policies are undermining the private sector. The lack of jobs especially among the youth is leading to their leaving the country in huge numbers. The brain drain among professionals like doctors due to wrong tax policies is also increasing in an alarming manner. The youth that remain are driven to illicit activities like drug addiction and trafficking, and prostitution. Criminal activities like robberies, petty thefts, abductions, rape, assaults and murders are increasing so that people fear to venture out, especially after dark. Conflicts within families and between families and among criminal gangs are increasing. In society as a whole the collective cooperative spirit is being replaced by neoliberal individualism. Social cohesion is being lost. There is a complete breakdown of law and order.

The policy of taking more and more foreign loans is being persisted with. But even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has yet to come forward with any part of its promised 3.9 billion US dollar (USD) aid package, despite several months of negotiations. Even if we get the IMF loan it will be too little too late. The terms demanded, if fully implemented, will reverse all the gains of the post-1956 era towards building a national economy as a sovereign independent state and emerge from our colonial past. The IMF demands would lead to de-nationalization and privatization of state-owned enterprises, but worst of all to the ownership passing over even to foreign hands. Sri Lanka would become a neo-colony subject to direct Imperialist exploitation once again.

The Government expects that by bowing down to the IMF terms Sri Lanka would be able to access more multilateral and bilateral loans and emerge from the dollar crisis and restore the ability to import using letters of credit from local banks. But getting deeper into foreign debt, which is the main cause of our dollar shortage and crisis, will only make matters worse. In 2021 we had to pay USD seven billion to service our 52 billion USD foreign debt, and Sri Lanka will be drawn further into the foreign debt trap. The fact that nearly 50% of the foreign loans are International Sovereign Bonds (which are short term high interest private loans) which are difficult to re-negotiate to delay payment makes matters worse. To further aggravate the situation the ban on the import of half of over 1500 non-essential items by this Government has been lifted recently. The dollar shortage will get worse and the fuel and gas queues will return and the shortage and high price of medicines and essential food items will also continue to rise.

The wrong policies of the present Government should be radically changed. There must be “a system change”. The way to increase productivity and national income is not by going back to the purely profit oriented privatization policy, but to move with the times and turn to a solidarity economy, as in Scandinavia and some provinces in Germany. In our agricultural economy the biggest export income earner is tea. But the private companies say they are running at a loss and cannot pay the employees a living wage. After 5 years of struggle the employees won a wage increase, the total allowance was raised to Rs.1000/day. But the employees are now being forced to increase their green leaf quota from 18 kilos per day to an impossible 24 kilos.

Even if they provide 20 or even 22 kilos, their pay is cut by Rs 50 per Kg, so that they are back to the status quo ante. We must learn from Kerala, India, where the solidarity economy is now in action. The ownership has been given to the employees by the Left regime, and as owners with shares in the company, in addition to their salary, they have increased the output tremendously and produce a large profit, which also benefits the society.

The present Government should also promote value added industry based on local raw material. I am happy to mention that as Minister of Science and Technology I developed the nanotechnology centre, SLNTEC, which can do this. In addition I was happy to learn that the Vidatha Centres for the development of SMEs in every Division have now topped the mark of thousand entrepreneurs that have successfully exported their products. Thus the answer is to make Sri Lanka an industrialized exporter of finished products.

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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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