by Rajan Philips
A political observer with an exceptionally sharp mind offered this online comment recently: “With little on offer as a political alternative, many of us seem to wallow in idle gossip and pin hopes on plain speculation.” Who would disagree? Except to add that gossip, speculations and outbursts are emanating more from within the government than from outside, indicating both frustration and helplessness in government ranks. As well, those who heralded the present government as once-in-a-generation of its kind – headed by the best ever non-political Sri Lankan to seek political office for the sake of the old country after forsaking the new, and those who sang hosanna to the highest from the outside, are now left with sugar on their faces. Literally. The sugar scam is not the only scam. And where there is no scam, there is rampant incompetence.
The question is how could a new government elected with unprecedented double majorities (one for the executive and another for the legislature) have come a cropper so early in its mandate? There was no want of goodwill. Even critics of Gotabaya Rajapaksa wanted the man to succeed as President. For the sake of the country. More so, after Covid-19 struck. And Covid-19 is no longer an excuse. If at all, the pandemic has become the biggest cauldron of examples for government confusion in decision making, crass sloppiness in dealing with medical professionals and scientists, and chaotic incompetence in rolling out Covid-19 vaccines.
One term too many?
One can see the manifestations of internal frustrations in Wimal Weerawansa’s warnings and outbursts, and in the responses and speculations of SLPP Parliamentarians. Mr. Weerawansa, before his latest outburst about Rishad Bathiudeen, was all about crowning President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as leader of the SLPP to let him learn the ropes of politics, as party leader, to become a successful president. The SLPPers, on the other hand, besides accusing Weerawansa of backstabbing and calling for his dismissal, have started speculating about a one-term presidency for Gotabaya Rajapaksa and musing about Basil Rajapaksa as the next patriotic presidential candidate with possible American affirmation.
What is going on? Who is getting tired of whom? After all the struggle of getting a two-thirds majority in parliament, is President Gotabaya Rajapaksa being coaxed and cajoled to limit himself to a single term? Or is it that he has had enough of this powerful but ineffectual presidential charade? Is one term too many even with a two-thirds majority?
Perhaps a more significant manifestation of the government’s internal troubles is in the work of the three parliamentary committees on – Public Finance (COPF), Public Enterprises (COPE) and on Public Accounts (COPA), and in the apparent audacity of their Chairmen, all government MPs (respectively – Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Charitha Herath and Tissa Vitarana), to act with some independence and without looking for directions from the executive. It is their persistence that is widely believed to have forced Finance Ministry officials to come clean with the chronology of decisions and import activities behind the nearly Rs. 16 billion swindle in importing sugar.
I am inclined to see some difference between the antics of Weerawansa and his SLPP detractors, on the one hand, and the workings of the three parliamentary committees, on the other. Taking note of this difference has some relevance to discussing the current political quagmire and the absence of serious alternatives. And the difference is that the Weerawansa/SLPP responses to the government’s paralysis are an indication of the tired and tatty state of the executive presidency as a political system regardless of who the incumbent president is. As against this, the workings of the parliamentary committees are indicative, no matter how slimly, of the possibilities of parliament in spite of the current presidential incumbent and the two-thirds majority he commands in the legislature.
Bond scam and Sugar scam
Looked at it another way, there are also differences between the way the executive and the legislature responded to the bond scam of the last government, and the way they are responding to the sugar scam of the present government. The last government used parliament to do a more prolonged cover-up job than the present one. The current parliament has done a far more effective policing job with the sugar scam than its predecessor did with the bond scam. The JVP which was on mute mode for most of the bond saga, is now breathing fire and burning the government’s sugar, and has taken the case of the stolen sugar all the way to the Supreme Court. UNP MPs who were all for coverup then until it was too late, are now all reborn SJBers demanding total accountability.
One might also notice other curious similarities and contrasts. There was a Central Banker, the then Governor, no less, Arjuna Mahendran, who was in the eye of the bond storm. There is an indirect connection to the Central Bank now, through the current Finance Secretary, S.R. Attygalle, who is also a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, and who has had an interesting career path since then. He was one of the principal public service beneficiaries of the Sirisena-coup government that lasted from October 31 to December 18 in the year of constitutional grace – 2018. President Sirisena appointed Mr. Attygalle as Secretary Treasury displacing Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga. When the Supreme Court pulled the plug on Sirisena’s childish coup, Attygalle had to give way to Samaratunga. But he was back within a year, and his was one of the first senior appointments by Gotabaya Rajapaksa when he became President in November 2019. Wheels within wheels? It is not only politicians who are caught in the web of unholy alliances, but high-post public servants are also not spared from them.
Back to sugar scam, Mr. Attygalle tried to make the far fetched argument to the Finance Committee that the government did not actually lose any money because of the reduction of import duty on sugar from 50 rupees to 25 cents per kilogram, because the government had not collected any money to lose! But that does not explain how the government set it up so beautifully that the state would not collect any money that should normally have flowed to its coffers. Here is the chronology from what has been quite well reported on the matter. In May 2020, the government raised the special commodity levy (SCL) from Rs 33 to Rs 50 per kilo – with all the good intentions of lowering imports, saving foreign exchange, boosting local production, and, lo and behold, fighting diabetes, obesity, and other sugar ailments. In less than five months, on October 13, the SCL was slashed from Rs 50 per kilo to, not Rs 33 but Rs 0.25, twenty five cents per kilo. The import floodgates were opened.
Between October 14 and February 20, 320,627MT (metric tonnes) of sugar was imported in four months, about 50 to 60% of annual sugar imports between 550,000 to 650,000MT. On November 10, under panic in the face of rising sugar prices and unable to control the flood of imports through licensing and permits, the government imposed maximum retail price (MRP) limits ranging between Rs 80 and Rs 90 per kilo for wholesale and retail sales of bulk and packeted sugar. But the price limits didn’t work either. Sugar prices were between Rs 118 and Rs 125 per kilo during the four month interval. The government forced Lanka Sathosa, the national retailer to sell at the maximum retail price after buying at much higher prices in the wholesale market. In the upshot, the helpless consumers were gouged, nobody knows how many diabetes patients benefited, and the government lost doubly in collections, at the customs gate and at the national retail counter. Yet it was no loss, by Finance Ministry accounting, because there was no money to lose. Remember Greek Bonds?
From Perpetual to Pyramidal
For whose benefit was this sham? The Finance Ministry has reportedly admitted that six major sugar importers potentially “earned a kind of additional profits.” The pie-chart on this page shows the major sugar importers during the October-February window and their import quantities. Leading the pack was Pyramid Wilmar Limited (PWL). An acknowledged giant in global sugar trade, PWL accounted for 40% of the sugar rush and reportedly diverted a shipment meant for another destination to sail to Colombo to take advantage of the slash in Sri Lanka’s import duty. It was not just another shipment that arrived on short notice but, as the Sunday Times reported last week, the largest sugar cargo to dock in Colombo in 30 years, with 26,000MT of sugar in 1,000 containers. PWL was also well positioned to benefit from the slashed duty, because unlike other importers, it was eligible to pay the 25 cents (instead of Rs 50) per kilo duty not only on new imports but also on old stocks held in its bonded warehouse.
It is not only sugar. The same sugar daddy is said to have had a trial run earlier with coconut oil. Except it was no trial run because the swindle was even bigger – Rs. 20 billion, according to reports citing SJB MP Patali Champika Ranawaka. To sugar and coconut oil – add rice, the nation’s staple, and turmeric, the popular Covid-19 neutraliser, and Sri Lanka has the textbook example of what Prof. WD Lakshman, the current Central Bank governor, has described as the government’s “alternative way” of managing the economy.
To elaborate, about a month ago , around February 12, Governor Lakshman was taking to task the “doom and gloom” critics of the government for their failure to appreciate “the government’s determination to move away from the, so far, heavy dependence on imports for foodstuffs.” He called it a “really significant long term policy approach despite in the short run there is an adverse impact in the prices.” He referred to the import ban on turmeric, the immediate price increase, and the eventual stabilization (apparently). “But now nobody is talking about turmeric,” he said. No Sir, now everyone is talking about sugar!
And rice too! There is some confusion in the government about the adequacy of rice/paddy stocks. On Friday, The Island editorial highlighted the confusion within the government whether there is or there isn’t a need to import rice. 100,000 MT of rice should be imported according to some government Ministers, but Basil Rajapaksa, the non-cabinet Task Force Minister has been assuring that there is plenty of paddy in the country. Hoarding is certainly the curse, but isn’t there anyone in the government who knows whether there is enough rice in the country or if it should be imported. As government priorities go, Dr. Tissa Vitarana issued this caution in his weekly Sunday Island statement: “Hunger needs to be overcome before highways and high life!”
Talking about high life and politics, the political connections of Pyramid Wilmar Limited in Sri Lanka are not unlike those of Perpetual Treasuries Limited that was the central entity in the earlier bond scam. Media reports say that the local agent of Pyramid Wilmar, is Sajaad Mohammaed Mowzoon, who is also the proprietor of Shangri-La Hotel. It is well known that it was at Shangri-La that Gotabaya Rajapaksa launched his saubhagya project under the auspices of Viyath Maga. Mr. Mawzoon is also reported to be having business connections to the Adani Group, India’s mover and shaker in port development business among other portfolios. The Adani group has been making waves between the East and the West Container Terminals at the Colombo harbour, and now we hear more than rumours of a potential business partnership between two powerful political benefactors in India and Sri Lanka.
And where high life wrongfully pursued will take you became evident in the Colombo High Court last week, with the indictment of former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and eleven others in connection with the 2016 Central Bank bond auctions. The Court also ordered to remand the accused who showed up till March 23, when the case will be taken up again. Those who stand accused deserve their day in court and to have what they say heard. But indictments in Sri Lanka are not what they used to be before the turn of the century. There is more public cynicism about indictments today than there is respect for them, for their impartiality and consistency. Even so, the indictments served last week are still a reminder that what is sauce for one political goose today can be sauce another goose tomorrow.
Twenty-five years of private sector-led renewable energy development
by Dr Tilak Siyambalapitiya
A policy change in 1995 to allow private investments in electricity generation into the grid, a standard agreement and a standard price for electricity produced, enabled such investments to pick-up faster than in other countries. The first mini-hydro power project with entirely private sector funding and private ownership commenced operations in May 1996.
The agreement and the price
Dubbed the “most investor friendly agreement in the world”, Sri Lanka’s renewable energy developers were offered, since 1996, a non-negotiable 15-year agreement (20-years for projects signed after 2008). The agreement says, literally, “I will buy all your electricity produced for the next 15 years, any day any time; I will not penalize you for delays in your project or for not producing electricity at all or producing less electricity than you promised; I will not ask you to start or stop your power plant”. There is no other agreement in the business world 25 years ago or now, where such agreements are offered to a seller.
Then the price. The agreement carries a price, which too is not negotiable. It says: “I will pay you a price that reflects the fuel saved in major power plants; in case fuel prices go down, I will not drop the price below 90% of the price when you signed; if the fuel prices go up, I will keep on increasing the prices without any limit”.
I shall buy all your all your product at the following price for 20 years. If you do not produce too, even when I need it badly, I will only greet you with a smile !
Government procurements have to be on competitive basis. This policy of competition was further reinforced by the Electricity Act 2009, required to be implemented by the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL). The legal validity of such renewable energy agreements and price offers, that make a mockery of rules of “competition”, has been debated in many quarters over the past 25 years.
Has it been good ?
Well, yes and no, depending on whom you speak to and your convictions. To the credit of the program, Sri Lanka’s renewable energy development accelerated after 1996. These are smaller power plants using hydropower, wind, wood and more recently, waste. If the government attempted to develop them through a state entity, excessive overheads and inefficiency would most likely creep-in. There would have been a politically appointed Chairman and a fleet of vehicles going up and down, to run a tiny minihydro.
On the other hand, had the state rigidly controlled what is developed and where, renewable energy projects developed would have been more efficient, well-engineered and certainly more environment friendly. Stories are many, where a private mini-hydro project agreed with the Central Environmental Authority to release water for downstream users, but later blocked it 100%. As the saying goes, “Sri Lanka’s streams and rivers are now flowing in tubes”, but we are proud about a vibrant renewable energy industry !
Renewable energy from such smaller private investments reached 1% of total in year 2000 and 4% by 2006. Buoyed by another policy change in 2007 that offered a contract for 20 years and an even more attractive prices, renewable energy from small power plants raced toward a 10% policy target for 2015. It reached the target indeed, with 11% of electricity produced in 2015 from the combined production in 147 minihydros, 15 wind and 3 each of grown biomass, wood waste and solar parks. Unlike many countries who make headlines by stating their renewable energy contribution in megawatt, Sri Lanka’s targets and achievement are stated in kilowatthour, honestly reflecting the true benefits to save fuel and to reduce emissions.
Continuing its race for development, by 2020 (provisional figures) electricity produced from smaller private renewable energy power plants reached 12%. Adding major hydros, the energy share from all renewable energy was 37% by 2020, a share unmatched by all countries and expatriate Sri Lankans that preach Sri Lanka on how to develop renewable energy.
Has the price been good to the investor?
The policy of paying renewable energy projects signed over 1996-2016 was to pay the value of fuel saved in the grid, calculated and published in advance every year. Agreements signed after 2007 enjoy an even more attractive pricing formula: a technology-specific, cost-reflective price. That means minihydros are paid a price to make that a profitable investment; wind power is paid to make that technology, a profitable investment.
Once signed, price paid does not change. If costs go up or down after signing, or bank interest rates go up or down, the price remains the same. Fortunately for all who signed in 2008-2009 or later, equipment costs and bank interest rates both have been on a downward trend. Projects that borrowed at 18% in 2018 possibly borrowed at 8% this year, but still enjoy the price paid calculated at 18% interest. By way of equipment costs, solar power has seen the deepest reduction in costs. More on that later.
What was the benefit to the public?
Why did the government offer such attractive rates and terms to private investors? Sri Lanka did not throw Rs 10 at renewable energy investors and say “do it if you can”. The key principle in the pricing policy was: price paid makes investments profitable (not just profitable but excessively profitable). The agreement still remains the “most investor friendly agreement” in the world.
In other words, the public of this country, through their electricity bills and through taxes, have paid for the investments, bank interest, and profits (above market rates), to make privately-owned renewable energy an excessively profitable venture. Other benefits of renewable energy need not be repeated here; they are all well known. So what is the benefit to the public who fully paid (and continue to pay) for these investments, of which the ownership is private?
It should be the longer-term benefit of cheaper renewable energy. That’s why the 2008 announcement on the revised policy said as follows: “Renewable energy, which is a natural resource, belongs to the State. Developers are provided with a high tariff to cover their expenses and to earn reasonable profits for an adequately long period (in this case the first fifteen years). Thereafter, the benefit of the resource should flow to the electricity customers, while continuing to provide an operating fee to the small power producers and full recovery of maintenance costs”.
The closest example is the CEB-owned fleet of hydropower plants, which are bigger. The familiar ones are Laxapana, Kotmale and Victoria, among a total of 15 power plants. The public of the country paid for those too, starting from 1950. How? Through electricity bills (because loans and government investments were apportioned between CEB and Mahaweli Authority), taxes and benefits foregone. The major hydros today produce at a cost of Rs 3.35 per unit of electricity. True, that except for Upper Kotmale, all are 20 years or more of age. The fleet of minihydros, too, as they mature into their contracts, after 15 years of good profits to investors, should deliver benefits to electricity customers. That’s why the 2008 announcement said: Therefore, once the developers’ costs and profits are paid, it is inevitable that in the long-term, renewable energy should flow into the national grid at prices significantly lower than the cost of thermal energy.
However, information published indicates that the principles on which small power producers were enabled in 1996 and then enhanced in 2008, are indeed being followed. CEB produces electricity from mature hydros at Rs 3.35 per unit (PUCSL assessment 2019). The price for mature hydropower in the private sector was Rs 5.38 per unit (CEB publication 2019), precisely following the principle of fairness: good profits to investor for 15 years, benefits to electricity customer in the longer term.
As more and more minihydros mature, later wind, biomass and solar projects mature, we should be seeing finally, that ALL renewables produce electricity at prices very significantly lower than all the alternatives. Renewables replace thermal power and we should be paid the same price, will not be an argument, now or then, or in the future. “My power plant is not so good, it does not have water, is not an argument”, because no one defined where to build the minihydro; the investor selected it.
The argument that private renewables can produce below the price of oil, gas or coal does not hold, then, now or in the future. Renewables were allowed because fossil fuels were expensive and bad. The price of fossil fuels comprise royalties, production and delivery costs. If one needs a comparison, royalties for renewables have to be paid to the “republic” (the treasury) and production costs paid by electricity customers. Since royalties are not charged for renewables, both CEB and private, then renewable energy prices should be compared only with production costs. The investment has already been fully paid by the republic.
I conclude with a quotation from the 2008 announcement: “Small power producers opting not to migrate to the new agreement by 30th April 2008, will be offered the tier 3 tariff announced for the relevant technology in the year in which the existing agreement expires, after its full tenure of 15 years is completed”. That means, retiring minihydros should be offered prices in the range of Rs 6 per unit.
It is yet to be seen whether the PUCSL and consumer rights groups are willing to fully and comprehensively understand the issue, step-in, and ensure that “renewable energy belongs to the republic”, as stated in the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority Act 2007.
The country’s streams are now flowing in tubes, but do benefits flow to the public who have fully paid the investors with profits?
Danger of disregarding Geopolitical Realities
Negotiating Agreements for Foreign Investments:
By Dr. S.W. Premaratne
Foreign Policy decision-maker, of a state, have to take into consideration the prevailing geopolitical environment of the international system, and of the region concerned, at a given time, when there is a foreign policy aspect involved in the decision that has to be taken regarding any issue Omission, or failure to give consideration to this aspect of the issue, can lead to disastrous consequences. Several examples from the recent political history of Sri Lanka can be given to illustrate this point.
Sri Lanka’s conduct of foreign policy, in the 1980s, is a clear example of the serious consequences of ignoring India’s concerns regarding Sri Lanka’s pro-West tilt in its foreign policy. Sri Lanka’s declared policy was non-alignment in maintaining relations with other states, specially the Big Powers in the West and the East. However, the J.R. Jayewardene government, that came to power, in 1977, sought to develop a closer relationship with the Western countries, led by the USA. The nature of the interactions between the diplomats of the USA and Sri Lanka, at the time, had given the impression to India that Sri Lanka was seeking the assistance of the USA for suppressing the Tamil militant movement in Sri Lank, fighting for the rights of the Tamil community. There were also reasons for India to suspect that there was an understanding between the Sri Lankan Government and the USA to allow the Trincomalee harbour to be used by the USA. It was this perception of India that Sri Lanka was following an anti-India foreign policy, endangering the security of India that motivated India to intervene militarily in the year 1987 to thwart the progress of the Vadamarachchi operation, aimed at militarily defeating the Tamil militant movement.
After aborting the progress of the Vadamarachchi operatio, the Indian government proceeded to compel the Sri Lankan Government to sign an Agreement – the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of July 1987 – to ensure that Sri Lanka respected India’s security concerns and other interests when seeking assistance from outside Powers for Sri Lanka’s economic development or national security.
India’s concerns regarding China’s excessive involvement in Sri Lanka’s development projects
Sri Lanka’s political leaders and diplomats, whenever they get an opportunity, express their affection for their Big Brother, India, and express the need for further strengthening the friendship for the mutual benefit of both countries. India’s perception, however, is that, especially after the change of government in 2005, there is an evolving special relationship between Sri Lanka and China posing a serious threat to the national security of India.
Sri Lanka felt intensely isolated from the international community after adopting the Resolution A/HRC/46/L. Rev. 1 against Sri Lanka, at the UNHRC, in Geneva, in March, 2021, especially because India also decided to support the core-group indirectly by abstaining from voting.
The only consolation for Sri Lanka now is China’s expression of willingness to further strengthen its strategic relationship with Sri Lanka by extending further development assistance to Sri Lanka, within the framework of the Belt end Road Initiative. Subsequent to a telephone conversation between the two leaders, the President of China and the President of Sri Lanka, in a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in Colombo, on March 30, 2021, it was stated that “China attaches great importance to the development of bilateral ties and stands ready to work with Sri Lanka to determine the strategic direction and achieve steady growth of the relationship. China stands ready to steadily push forward major projects, like the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port, and promote high quality Belt and Road Co-operation, providing robust impetus for Sri Lanka’s post pandemic economic recovery and sustainable development”. China projecting Sri Lanka as an intimate partner of the Belt and Road strategy indicates that Sri Lanka is distancing itself from the path of non-alignment and adopting an anti-Western and anti-India approach.
In the matter of obtaining foreign investments for development projects, Sri Lanka has failed to foresee the foreign policy implications of overreliance on China. The two massive development projects, initiated during the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, which came to power in 2005, were the Hambantota sea port and the Port City Project in Colombo. The amount of money invested for these two projects, by China, was so massive that Sri Lanka happened to sign an agreement for permitting the management and control of the Hambantota Port by the state-controlled company of China, under a 99-year lease agreement. The Management and control of the Colombo Port City area also has been granted to the Chinese construction company, under a 99-year lease agreement. Not only India, but also the USA and other Western countries have expressed serious concern regarding the involvement of China in strategically significant massive development projects in Sri Lanka. India’s perception now is that Sri Lanka is an aircraft carrier of China, stationed in the Indian Ocean, close to India. Hambantota Port is viewed as another pearl in the string of pearls maintained for containing India by China.
India is also concerned over the lack of interest on the part of the Sri Lankan Government to go ahead with the development projects regarding which agreement had been reached with India, during the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe coalition government. In May, 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Japan and India proposing the development of the East Container Terminal jointly, Sri Lanka and Ports Authority retaining 51 percent shares. However, the present Government deviated from that understanding and decided to nominate one Indian investor, Adani Group, disregarding Japan. But, the attempt of the Sri Lankan Government to involve the Indian Company in this project by offering 49 percent of the shares of the ECT was thwarted by the trade union action of the port workers, supported by an influential section of the Buddhist priests and also a section of the ruling alliance. The Sri Lankan government had no alternative but to respond to the demand of the trade unions by getting the Cabinet approval for developing the ECT only by the Colombo Port Authority, without involving India or Japan.
India has also expressed concern over the attitude of the Sri Lankan Government concerning the development and management of the Trincomalee oil tank farm. The lower farm has been managed jointly by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) via Lanka IOC Private Limited. The 2003 tripartite agreement signed by the Sri Lankan Government, LIOC and the CPC covers the entire tank farm. India is now concerned about the excessive delay in granting the Sri Lankan Government’s approval for commencing the development of the Upper Tank Farm, comprising 84 tanks.
Another joint venture, regarding which Sri Lanka sought the involvement of India’s Petronet LNG Ltd. Company, and also a Japanese investor, was the proposed liquefied natural gas LNG terminal that was to be set up near Colombo. Although Indian and Japanese Investors had indicated their willingness to join this project, as partners, the Sri Lankan Government has not yet given its final approval for commencing the construction work.
India is also very much concerned over the lack of progress in the reconciliation process initiated after the end of the war. India’s concern in this regard was expressed very effectively and in very clear language in a statement made by the Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar in the course of a media conference during his two-day visit to Sri Lanka in January, this year. In his statement the Indian Foreign Minister said: “As we promote peace and wellbeing in the region, India has been strongly committed to the unity stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. Our support for the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is long standing as indeed for an inclusive political outlook that encourages ethnic harmony. It is in Sri Lanka’s own interest that the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity, within a united Sri Lanka, are fulfilled. That applies equally to the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government on meaningful devolution, including the 13th Amendment to the Constitution”.
Sri Lanka should not consider that India’s interest and involvement in the post-war reconciliation process as a case of a foreign country intervening in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka illegally. India is guided by a mindset that there is a moral responsibility on her part to intervene and bring about a final settlement to the conflict in Sri Lanka.
Colombo Port City Economic Commission
Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill which was challenged in the Supreme Court, purported to establish an Economic Commission for the administration of the Port City, built by a construction company of the Chinese Government, adjacent to the Colombo Port. This Bill seeks to grant extensive powers to an institution called the Colombo Port Economic Commission, whose members will be appointed by the President of Sri Lanka. According to the provisions in the Bill, the supervisory power of the Parliament of Sri Lanka has been excluded, both regarding the manner of exercising the powers granted by the proposed legislation to the Commission, and also regarding the selection of persons to be appointed as members of the Commission.
Moreover, regarding the activities that take place within the Colombo Port City area, some institutions of the Government of Sri Lanka are excluded from exercising their authority. Dr. Wijedasa Rajapaksa, in his written submissions submitted to the Supreme Court, in connection with the petition filed challenging the Bill, makes specific reference to the Customs Ordinance. He gives the warning that there may be importation of prohibited substances such as drugs, weapons, etc. He points out that in the event of any violation of International Treaties and Conventions, within the Port City area, it is not the Commission but the Sri Lankan Government that is responsible.
In view of the intense power struggle between China on the one hand and India and other partners of the Quad, led by the USA on the other hand, for dominance in the Indian Ocean area, the Parliament of Sri Lanka passing legislation for permitting such a high degree of autonomy to an administrative authority that can be controlled by the Chinese government will be considered by India as a serious threat to its security. This pro-China foreign policy orientation will also be an obstacle for Sri Lanka to promote friendly relations with democratic countries in the West determined to thwart Chinese domination in the Indian Ocean region.
The Philippines and SL combine
Singer Suzi Croner (Fluckiger), who was a big hit in this part of the world, singing with the group Friends, continues to make her presence felt on TNGlive – the platform, on social media, that promotes talent from all corners of the globe.
She made her third appearance, last Saturday, May 1st, but this time she had for company Sean, from the Philippines, who, incidentally, was in the finals of The Voice of Switzerland 2020.
Their repertoire, for TNGlive, on the evening of May 1st, including hit songs, like ‘Something Stupid,’ ‘Let Your Love Flow,’ (Sean), ‘If You Can’t Give Me Love,’ ‘Your Man,’ (Sean), ‘Crazy,’ ‘Great Pretender,’ (Sean), ‘Amazing,’ and ‘Stand By Me.’
It was a very entertaining programme, and Sean certainly did prove why he needed to be a finalist at the prestigious The Voice of Switzerland 2020.
You can take in the TNGlive scene, on a regular basis, by joining the Public Group TNGlive, on social media (Facebook).
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