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Karu demands immediate repeal of 20-A to win confidence of all political parties



Proposed roundtable discussion

Former Speaker and Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) Karu Jayasuriya said yesterday his organisation was glad that the government had decided to hold an all-party conference. As an initial step to win the confidence of all the political parties, the government could repeal the 20th amendment to the Constitution, he said.

Speaking at the Anuradhapura District Conference on “A New Constitution for a Better Country” co-organised by the NMSJ, Jayasuriya said the responsibility for the success of this process lay with the present government.

“First of all, these matters should be discussed in a friendly manner. But trust can never be built as long as the 20th Amendment is in force. Therefore, as an initial step, the government can repeal it as an attempt to show their sincerity,” he said.

Jayasuriya said that everyone should now unite to strengthen the depleted foreign reserves and ensure the economic stability of the country.

“Political parties must set aside narrow political agendas and commit themselves sincerely for the betterment of the country. During the all party conference, the agreement that must be arrived at is not on the forthcoming local government, provincial council, presidential or parliamentary elections. We must now unite to restore the lives of all Sri Lankans, strengthen the depleted foreign reserves and ensure the economic stability of the country”.

Given below are the excerpts of the speech he made in Anuradhapura. “We are honoured to be able to visit the ancient and sacred city of Anuradhapura and meet the most revered Maha Sangha as well as Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and other religious leaders in the area. It is also a great sense of strength to us to be able to converse and exchange ideas with scholars, intellectuals, professionals, farmers, workers, youth and those representing various sections of society from the area who have joined us today. The National Movement for Social Justice initiated through the leadership of the late Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera and the Collective for Ethnic and Religious Harmony which was formed to create a united society free of racial and religious differences in the country are together carrying out a great national responsibility.

“To that end, along with the blessings of the people, we are making a great effort to awaken the country by visiting various parts of Sri Lanka. There is no need for a lengthy explanation of the current situation in the country. The people are facing many immense pressures today. This unfortunate situation has arisen due to the shortage of foreign reserves, the depreciation of the rupee and the failure of the government to come up with a proper plan to come out of this abyss.

“Currently there is an acute shortage of essential food items and their prices have seen a sharp increase as never before. People are being forced to spend days in queues to obtain necessities such as milk powder, LPG gas, cement, and fuel. There is also a shortage of medicines and ordinary citizens are paying high prices to obtain necessary drugs. Neither is there any formalin to carry out the process of embalming when a death occurs. There is no gas to operate the country’s crematoriums. These are the issues we commonly hear and see.

“For how long can a country carry on this way? That is the question on the lips of many people today. But what is the possible solution? We are not attempting to either embarrass or overthrow the government or to incite the people. Instead, we endeavour to bring the country together to arrive at a practical solution.

“We are very pleased that the government has accepted the proposal put forward by eleven parties in parliament to build the country and will as a result hold a roundtable discussion soon. We sincerely hope for its success.

“All political parties must set aside narrow political agendas and sincerely commit themselves for the betterment of the country. The agreement that must be arrived at is not on the forthcoming local government, provincial council, presidential or parliamentary elections. We must now unite to restore the lives of all Sri Lankans, strengthen the depleted foreign reserves and ensure the economic stability of the country.

“The main responsibility in this process lies with the present government. First of all, these matters should be discussed in a friendly manner in a democratic context. But trust can never be built until the 20th Amendment continues to be in force. Therefore, as an initial step, the government can repeal it as an attempt to show their sincerity.

“The political witch hunt against those who oppose the government through the Upali Abeyratne Commission must also be halted. Independent Commissions must be depoliticised. At present, these institutions have been subjected to complete politicisation.

“A constitutional amendment or a new constitution must be introduced immediately so that all citizens can live with dignity and respect. The promise made by the President relating to this is long overdue. Therefore, the government must present their proposals to the public without delay and also bring them to the attention of the country and parliament.

“Internationally we have made more enemies than friends. In a day and age where people are facing many difficulties like today, we need to earn the respect and trust of the international community.

“This is essential for the future well-being of the country. We point out the issues that are important to the country with nothing but utmost sincerity and good intentions.

“The opposition may also have to make some political sacrifices for the country. But they can only be motivated to do so if the government too is honest. Can the support and coexistence of the people be sought if the government continues to seek revenge from leaders of the opposition while causing the destruction of democratic principles even as they hold on to the powers of the 20th Amendment and the two-thirds majority thereby impeding upon the rights of the people.

“Our message to our leaders and all citizens of Anuradhapura today is to consider this as the final opportunity to save the country and therefore reconcile for the good of the country. If not, our future generations will curse us. Therefore, we will continue to keenly observe the actions of the government.

As I stand on this sacred ground today, I pledge to the people that we will commit and put our full strength behind all efforts to save our motherland.”

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More than 6 bn worth of substandard drugs dispensed to patients



The Committee of Public Accounts (COPA) has disclosed that Rs. 6,259 million worth of drugs faced a quality failure from 2011 to 2020 due to improper storage. The COPA report has further revealed that 99% of such drugs had already been dispensed to patients when the condition was brought to attention. In that situation, it was not possible to recover the cost of substandard drugs from the suppliers, the Parliament said.

The Committee on Public Accounts has directed the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine to expedite the process of facilitating better storage of drugs to ensure their safety.

It has also been observed that the temperature in the warehouses, owned by the Medical Supplies Division, is maintained properly and that the medical supplies are stored in the corridors of the central drug warehouses and hospitals.

Furthermore, the Secretary to the Ministry has pointed out that if there is a system to detect the failure of drugs as soon as they are received, the loss can be recovered from the suppliers and if the quality testing of 60 drugs can be done by the State Pharmaceutical Corporation, this situation can be avoided to some extent.

These concerns and observations were contained in the first report of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament on COPA, which was tabled in Parliament recently (20) by Prof. Tissa Vitarana, the Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts.

The report contains information about the investigations of seven state institutions summoned before the Committee on Public Accounts and one Special Audit Report during the period from 04.08.2021 to 19.11.2021.

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CBSL Chief: Economy could be stabilised in year or so if …



By Hiran H. Senewiratne

The prevailing Balance of Payments (BoP) crisis could lead to a major social crisis as the available foreign reserves were only sufficient for a few weeks’ imports, Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe warned on Monday.

“The economy can be stabilised in the next 12 month if the IMF negotiations and debt restructuring are finalised within the next seven to eight months. Until then we have to support the poor people,” Dr. Weerasinghe said, addressing a seminar on the “State of the Economy and Talks with the IMF”. It was organised by the Press Club, together with the Press Institute, at Colombo Hilton.

The CB Governor said the current BoP crisis would worsen and, therefore the economic pain could only be minimised if essential policies and measures were implemented in an expeditious manner. But “IMF technical level virtual meetings are likely to conclude this week, and thereafter further discussion will take place to finalise everything,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.

Dr. Weerasinghe suggested that the monetary and fiscal authorities tighten the monetary policy by higher margins and fiscal policy by restoring tax rates to pre-2020 levels.

The Governor said, “We have three categories of creditors namely International Sovereign Bonds, which raise short term funds from global markets, which account for 35 percent of the government debt, while other two creditors are Paris Club and non-Paris Club (India and China).

Dr. Weerasinghe said that the country’s debt needed to be brought to a sustainable level. “For that purpose a debt sustainability analysis needs to be drafted with a fiscal policy for the IMF bailout”, he said.

Speaking about the country’s worsening economic fundamentals, Dr. Weerasinghe said: “The nation is currently experiencing a historically low economic growth and falling trend of per capita GDP since 2017 with rising levels of poverty. It is also running the highest fiscal deficits since 1988 with the lowest ever government revenue as a percent of GDP.

“Amid those developments Sri Lanka’ poverty level will increase, unemployment level soar and local industries will have to shut down due to restriction of importation of raw material. Therefore, we have to seek humanitarian assistance from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other bilateral and multilateral agencies”, the Governor said.

“We are seeking short-term bridging facilities from official creditors until an agreement is reached with creditors on restructuring,” he said.

In his presentation, Dr. Weerasinghe analysed the links between banking and the currency crises. He pointed out that the problems in the banking sector typically precede a currency crisis with the currency crisis deepening the banking crisis, thus activating a vicious spiral.

Sri Lanka also had the highest-ever government debt which was unsustainable at the moment. Debt dynamics might be worsening in the next few years unless the debt was restructured, he said.

Sri Lanka also recorded the highest rate of inflation in 12 years which was increasing sharply and was experiencing the highest-ever levels of money printing by the CBSL, he added

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Dragonfly thought to be extinct found again



By Ifham Nizam

Scientists have rediscovered Sri Lankan Clubtail (Anisogomphus ceylonicus), one of the rarest species of dragonflies in the country. The team that made the discovery comprised Amila Sumanapala of the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences, University of Colombo, T. Ranasinghe of the Butterfly Conservation Society of Sri Lanka, and D. Sumanapala of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Sri Jayewardenepura. According to lead scientist Amila Sumanapala Sri Lankan Clubtail is one of the rarest species of dragonflies.

First collected in 1859, it was only known from the original collection and another collection record made a century after in 1962. This species had not been found anywhere in Sri Lanka for close to 60 years until the team encountered a larva during a survey conducted in 2021.

Anisogomphus ceylonicus is one of the few Odonates of Sri Lanka with no photographic records of a living specimen available hitherto.

The present observation provides the first photographs of a live A. ceylonicus larva and the most recent documentation of the species. These observations, coupled with previous work (Lieftinck 1971, Bedjanič & van der Poorten 2013), provide an improved understanding of the species, which might enable further targeted surveys to be made

It was first discovered from Ramboda over 140 years ago based on a female specimen, which was originally described as Gomphus ceylonicus and later assigned to the genus Heliogomphus by F.C. Fraser (Bedjanič & van der Poorten 2013). Almost a century later, Lieftinck (1971) collected an immature male and its exuvia of a clubtail dragonfly from Rambukpath Oya, 10 miles northwest of Hatton in 1962 and described it as Anisogomphus solitaris. However, Bedjanič & van der Poorten (2013) recognized that H. ceylonicus is conspecific with A. solitaris, and thus reassigned it to the genus Anisogomphus. Since the discovery of the species, only these two records have ever been documented (Bedjanič et al. 2014), despite odonatological surveys and numerous biodiversity explorations conducted countrywide.

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