Envoy suggests powwow with Catholic Bishops Conference
Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, on Tuesday (31), briefed His Eminence Archbishop Brian Udaigwe, Apostolic Nuncio (the Vatican Ambassador) to Sri Lanka, on the ongoing investigation into the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage. The meeting took place at the Foreign Ministry, ahead of the Foreign Minister’s meeting with Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith expected to take place soon.
Prof. Peiris told The Island that the government was determined to bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to justice.
During the meeting, the Foreign Minister explained that one of his first duties, in his previous portfolio as Minister of Education, was to confer degree-awarding status to the Benedict XVI Catholic Institute at Bolawalana, Negombo, which was built by the then Defence Secretary, and present President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and the armed forces. The Minister highlighted the importance of setting up the institution in not only imparting education but also developing social equity for the less privileged segments of society.
The Minister also expressed deep sorrow on the calamitous and horrendous tragedy, and the great deal of pain and suffering undergone by the Catholic Church, and his understanding of the sentiments of the Catholic Church, and the need for justice to bring all those who were responsible before the law.
Alluding to the sensitive nature of the ongoing investigation, the Minister emphasized the need to have an informed discussion with a view to facilitating to resolve the matters with His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the Catholic Bishop’s Conference at the earliest juncture.
The Minister said that the Government understood perfectly the sincere motivation and unendurable anguish of the Catholic Church and its purest of motives.
The Minister drew attention to certain groups who were trying to exploit the situation for their own purposes which he asserted were contrary to the genuine motives of the Catholic Church, highlighting the upcoming session of the United Nations Human Rights Council scheduled to commence on 12 September, and the United Nations General Assembly which is to be held on 21 September, 2021.
The Minister remarked that every endeavour should be made to ensure that the purest motives of the Catholic Church were not hijacked, either locally or internationally.
While expressing his sincere appreciation for the attention being received by the Catholic Church and Catholics in Sri Lanka, though they are a minority, the Papal Nuncio indicated that he had not witnessed similar recognition given to Catholics in other countries.
The Apostolic Nuncio suggested that a meeting could be arranged at an early date with a Committee of the Bishop’s Conference, so that the Government could discuss the relevant issues with representatives of the Church.
The Minister expressed appreciation of this opportunity, and said that the government was collecting all particulars from the Attorney General’s Department, the Police and other relevant State agencies to be able to provide the fullest information at the discussion with the Church.
The Apostolic Nuncio wished the Minister of Foreign Affairs every success in his new assignment.
GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.
The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.
Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.
Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.
While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.
Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.
Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.
Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.
Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.
Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.
Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.
Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.
LPBOA demands bus fare hike
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.
On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.
Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.
“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.
School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.
Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR
A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.
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