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Karu J urges national consensus on needed measures to address unprecedented crisis

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Conflicting views add to chaos

Immediate solutions needed for power, fuel and transport issues

Allow people to plan their lives around power cuts

Urgently alleviate woes of the people

Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, in his capacity of Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ), last week called on all Lankans to follow the example of Ukraine to formulate a common minimum program to respond to the country’s current unprecedented crisis.

“The fuel and electricity crises have disrupted the everyday lives of the people. The agriculture sector along with the economy has been completely destroyed. There appears to be a lack of consensus within the government on possible solutions, thereby further delaying the resolution of these many issues,” he said.

“Instead various parties to the government are presenting their own opinions on the matter adding to the existing chaos and confusion. The only obvious solution to face a catastrophe of this scale is to at least temporarily form a united national front. However, it can only be built if the government extends the hand of friendship to all other relevant parties.”

He said that NMSJ has launched a program prepared with the assistance of local and foreign academics and scholars under the leadership of renowned Sri Lankan scholar Prof. Rohan Samarajiva. A majority of the leading political leaders who participated in the discussion agreed that these proposals were suitable to be taken up for initial discussion.

“There was also a positive response from religious and civil society leaders. It is noteworthy that several members of the ruling party have also shown interest. The next few days of the week will be devoted to a public discussion entitled ‘A Minimal Common Programme to Respond to Sri Lanka’s Current Crisis’, Jayasuriya said. This will be followed by the presentation of a national resolution to the country.

Stressing that the government should take immediate action to alleviate the sufferings of the people, Jayasuriya called for immediate solutions to the issues in transportation and electricity. A former energy minister, he said the CEB can easily restore the power supply.

“If the railways and bus services collapse, the whole country will come to a stand still. It must be noted that the state apparatus is continuously failing to take decisions based on one point of view and is instead issuing statements expressing varying opinions and decisions leading to further chaos,” he said.

“For example, the President, the Minister of Finance, the Governor of the Central Bank, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) and the Ceylon Electricity Board are all expressing different views on fuel supply these days.”

Jayasuriya stressed it would be a relief to the people and allow them to plan their work around the power disruptions If they can stick to a proper time table for power disruptions in a specific area instead of announcing a lengthy time period during which they may experience many power outages, it would be a relief to the people and would allow them to plan their work accordingly.

He made the further point that during this harvesting season, the suffering of the farmers due to the lack of diesel is evident through media reports. Their grievances are heartbreaking. There is also a severe shortage of medicinal drugs in the country. This is a dangerous situation. Our people are beset not only by shortages of essential items, but also by escalating prices.

“In the month of January alone, food inflation has risen by 24%. The main reason for this is the excessive printing of currency. Just days ago, an unfortunate incident was reported where a father in the Welipenna area had taken his life after being unable to secure food for his children for nearly three days and how the wife was forced to sell two chairs to feed them,” he said. “We mention this incident only because we are aware that this is a situation prevalent across the country. Malnutrition is on the rise and needs to be addressed immediately. The contribution of the low-income and middle-class families cannot be disregarded.”

Noting that the rich have been given huge tax breaks, he said the government should realize that there is a serious social injustice here. This is the opinion of the majority in this country. Therefore, even in this dire situation, the government must be flexible and take the lead in the effort to save the country with the support of all.

He expressed confidence that the leaders of the opposition will cooperate and act in a responsible manner. However their support can be obtained not by summoning political dissidents to the BMICH and by retaliating through presidential commissions, but by initiating mutual cooperation. It is the duty of the government to earn their trust.

“Engaging in political revenge but telling people that they abide by the ‘One Country, One Law’ policy only to blatantly violate it will not invoke their trust. It should be understood that the people do not approve of that process of the government. Governments that come to power with a large majority must bear in mind that they are the custodians of a country and not its owners who in reality are the people of the country.

“Therefore, one should not regard the mandate given to him by the people as an arbitrary power. It should also be noted that the people, who are the real owners of the government, will not allow such arbitrary acts.”

He noted that at the last presidential election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa received 6.9 million votes while at least 6.2 million voted against him. Therefore, the government should have realized that introducing any constitutional amendment or drafting the constitution that would suit its political agenda and not the country such as the 20th Amendment would only lead to the deterioration of itself and the country.

“We hope that the authorities will now understand the reality and act with great patriotism and love for the country,” he concluded.

 



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More than 6 bn worth of substandard drugs dispensed to patients

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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 …

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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

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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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