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Hunger strike opposite Embilipitiya UC over the way council budget was passed

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By Prageeth Janaka

A group of ruling party and Opposition ranks in the Embilipitiya Urban Council launched a hunger strike opposite the council building on Tuesday protesting against how the council budget had been passed.

Chairman of the Council Lalith Gamage said that there had been no untoward incident or irregularity in the procedure adopted to pass the UC’s 2021 budget and he had done so within the provisions made in the Municipal and Urban Councils Act. Some members had boycotted the meeting, he said.

Protesting members said that the UC Chairman had misled them by holding a ceremony to declare open the newly renovated ground floor of the Urban Council and getting the budget passed while the Council members opposing him were at the ceremony. The opening ceremony had been scheduled to be held under the patronage of Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon and Sabaragamuwa Province Governor on Tuesday morning. However, they did not come and the SLPP Kolonna Chief Organiser Sunny Rohana opened the building. Among those present were the Chief Sanghanayake of Dhakkina Lanka Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera and Chief Incumbent of Sripada Ven Bengamuwe Dhammadinna Thera.

Speaking at the ceremony SLPP Chief Organiser Rohana found fault with SLPP members of the Council for conspiring to defeat the budget with the help of the UNP and other party members. He said that some SLPP Council members had sold themselves to the Opposition. While the ceremony was in progress, the Council meeting taking up the budget vote continued with only three Council members and its Chairman Lalith Gamage present. Two SLPP members Priyantha Kumara and Sarath Witharana and JVP member Susil Welendagodage were present at the meeting that concluded with an announcement that the budget 2021 had been passed with majority of votes.

Other members arrived at the council chamber, and shouted against the passage of the budget.

The SLPP holds the power in the Embilipitiya Urban Council with eight members including the Chairman while the UNP has three members, SLFP one member and JVP one member. The council comprises 13 members but recently one member resigned.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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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

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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

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… 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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