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Minister Cabraal says lockdowns as devastating as Covid-19

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister of Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal says that in spite pressure mounting on the govenrment to extend the current lockdown further, it should tread cautiously.

State Minister Cabraal, who served as the Governor of the Central Bank, from 2006 to 2015, said that lockdowns caused irreparable damage at a time the national economy was under severe pressure due to Covid-19. The lockdowns could be quite devastating and inflict unbearable losses on the economy, he noted.

Cabraal pointed out that those who relentlessly pushed for lockdowns didn’t take into consideration other vital factors. He said the people should strictly follow health guidelines and get vaccinated, as quickly as possible.

In addition to State Minister Cabraal, Aviation Minister and SLPP strongman in Gampaha, Prasanna Ranatunga, also opposed the lockdown.

Noting that a section of the government, too, had called for the lockdown, State Minister Cabraal urged all stakeholders to examine the situation in its entirety without focusing on selected factors.

The Island: State Minister, you emphasised several times how lockdown undermined the national economy. You also pointed out difficulties caused by it. However, the government not only declared a lockdown on August 20 for ten days, but extended it till Sept 6. Did you ask/advise the administration against it?

State Minister: Medical authorities have been constantly requesting the lockdown of the country in order to deal with the pandemic. Unfortunately, the counter argument setting out the economic damage that is caused as a result of such closure has not been presented adequately. That is why it’s important that the facts, figures and impact of a lockdown are known and understood, so that more informed decisions can be made in the future.

The Island: In 2018 and 2019 govt collected over Rs 1,900 as revenue. But, that figure dropped to little over Rs 1,300 bn in 2020. Can you blame that on Covid because the Opposition says the government lost over Rs 500 bn by doing away with a spate of taxes on addition to the reduction of duty on sugar to 25 cents from Rs 50 per kilo?

State Minister: In 2019, the government had estimated to collect about Rs. 2.2 trillion as revenue. However, due to the sharp contraction of the economy following the massive Easter Sunday carnage that sent shock waves across the world and debilitated the country’s vibrant tourism industry, the actual revenue dropped drastically to about Rs. 1.9 trillion only: a decrease of about Rs. 0.3 trillion! Hence, it was clear that the abnormally high rates of income taxes, VAT and other duties were counterproductive and were not yielding the estimated results. That is why the new government reduced the tax rates so that the business sector could be given a boost to grow fast and the economy could revive and recover. In fact, ifhad the government not reduced taxes at that time, the entire business sector would have collapsed because by that time, businesses were stagnant due to the high interest rates and high taxes. Unfortunately, however, the progressive policy measure of lowering all taxes including customs duties, did not lead to the intended consequence of the expected stimulation of the economy mainly due to the pandemic effect and lockdown. However, it must be said that the economic fallout from the pandemic would have been a lot worse and people driven to severe poverty and despair had the taxes not been reduced by end 2019. In fact, in such a scenario, the entire country may have even come to a grinding halt, with the industries and services sectors collapsing.



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JVP, too, moves court against deal with US company

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By Chitra Weerarathne and A.J.A. Abeynayake

The JVP yesterday (26) filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal requesting it to declare null and void a Cabinet decision to transfer 40 percent of the Yugadanavi Power Plant to US Company, New Fortress Energy Inc.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ceylon Electricity Board, West Coast Power (Pvt) Ltd, Lakdanavi Limited, the Monetary Board of the Central Bank, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation have been named as respondents among 43 others.

The JVP’s petition has come in the way of Colombo’s Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and Ven Elle Gunawansa, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya and the Federation of National Organisations (FNO) moving the court against the controversial deal with US energy company,The application has also sought a writ of mandamus on the respondents preventing them from taking any action with regard to the matter until the application is taken up and its examination is concluded.

Former JVP MPs Sunil Handunnetti and Wasantha Samarasinghe are the petitioners.

The petitioners state that the Cabinet decisions undermine the rule of law, the Constitution and democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution and several other statutes, and conventions of democratic governance and Cabinet of Ministers exercising executive powers.

The petitioners state that LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., is the largest power sector engineering company in the country. It was first incorporated in the 1980s as a joint venture of the Ceylon Electricity Board and a multinational group – ABB of Norway.

The Petitioners state that Lakdanavi (Pvt) Ltd., is a fully owned subsidiary of LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., and is a company specialised in engineering, procurement and construction and operations and maintenance in the energy and power generation sector.

They assert that the government has not properly explained particulars of the deal even to the Cabinet of Ministers when transferring the shares of the power plant to the American company.

They have also alleged that the government has not obtained the approval of Parliament for the agreement in question and that the relevant share transfer process has not been carried out in accordance with a formal tender procedure.

They have sought the Appeals Court to issue an order rescinding the decision taken to transfer the shares to the American company and the agreement signed by the government.

In addition, the General Secretary of the SJB MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara filed a Fundamental Rights application in the Supreme Court on 21 Oct., challenging the government decision to transfer 40 per cent of the Kerawalapitiya Power Plant to the US firm.

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Ex-Indian HC in Colombo during turbulent 1989-90 will be featured in next Pathfinder “In Conversation” webinar

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Ambassador Lakhan Mehrotra, former High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, will be featured in the next Pathfinder “In Conversation” webinar scheduled at 2.30 p.m. IST/SLST on Thursday 28th October.

Mehrotra will be interviewed by Bernard Goonetilleke, Chairman, Pathfinder Foundation. They will discuss the guest speaker’s publication ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’, which features his experience during the period 1989-1990, when he served as High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, during a politically turbulent era coupled with the separatist war in the north-east and an insurrection in the south.

His book, ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’ touches on the beginnings of the conflict, briefly follows on its evolution until it reached its peak in the early 1990s, and then takes the reader in detail through the author’s own experience in the country, nearly two years after the 1987 Indo-Lanka Agreement was signed and the Indian Peace Keeping Force had been inducted at the invitation of President J. R. Jayewardene, while President Premadasa, who succeeded President Jayewardene considered the presence of an Indian military contingent on his nation’s soil as an affront to its sovereignty. Soon after his election, the President issued an ultimatum for the IPKF to leave its shores by 29th July 1989 and threatened military action against it if it failed to do so, which brought the two nations to the brink of a military confrontation.

The High Commissioner’s intensive consultations and tireless interaction with the political leaders of Sri Lanka, the warring factions in the country’s north-east, and the governments in New Delhi and Colombo helped signing of the joint communique on 28th July 1989 on arrangements for phased withdrawal of the IPKF in March 1990 with due recognition of its contribution and sacrifices made to preserve the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the country. ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’ provides information that has never been divulged before. The “In Conversation” webinar will delve into these experiences of the High Commissioner; whose rather brief assignment was from April 1989 to June 1990.

Following his assignment that covered the most turbulent period of Sri Lanka in modern times, Ambassador Mehrotra served as Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs and as Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Africa before his retirement in 1992. Later, he served as UN Secretary General’s Personal Representative in Cambodia from 1997 to 2000 and as Head of the UN Diplomatic Mission in Jakarta for Peace Talks between Indonesia and East Timor.

Those who are interested in retracing the history of Sri Lanka should register in advance for this webinar through the link below:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_0nxJI2dPR8SCKK7k4hqDpg

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Cardinal lashes out at Minister known as Ten Percent

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His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith visits Sarakkuwa in the Pamunugama area where clearing of X-Press Pearl debris continuinues.Pic by Nishan S .Priyantha

By Norman Palihawadane and Nishan S. Priyantha

Monies taken in the form of commissions by forfeiting people’s welfare will never do any good to those who take them, says His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

“The biggest malady our society is afflicted with is the commissions earned by politicians through various deals. They take commissions from companies by depriving the people of their dues. Such money has blood on them and they would not do any good to those who take them,” the Cardinal said yesterday.

Speaking to journalists at the Sarakkuwa beach in Pamunugama during an inspection tour to witness the progress of cleaning work of the MV X-Press Pearl wreck the Cardinal said: “We have a Cabinet minister who is notoriously known as Mr. Ten Percent. Imagine the shame on this nation when there is such a minister taking ten percent of commission from every project he passes. The monies collected in that way would never bring out any good.”

The Cardinal said that the President, the Prime Minister and government institutions including the Ministry of Fisheries, coast conservation department, marine environment protection authority and urban development authority were duty bound to remove the wreck, clean the beach and the ocean. “In doing so, the government should be concerned about the interests of people, and not about the shipping company, its local agents or agents of the insurance companies. We demand that the government take this case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague and get full compensation for the people. We have information that the agents of companies have come down and are staying in Colombo exerting influence on various political leaders and officials. Their objective is getting out of this by paying a paltry sum. If the politicians and officials permit that we will take to the streets with people.”

The Cardinal said that there was information that Urban Development Authority officials were making plans to give away Muthurajawela to foreign companies. “Muthurajawela is a national asset and belongs to the people. The politicians have no right to sell them off to Korean or Chinese companies. We would not let that happen,” he said.

Associated with the Cardinal were Ven. Pahiyangala Ananada Thera, Chairperson of Marine Environment Protection Chairperson, bishops and other religious leaders.

The Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl caught fire off the coast of Colombo in May and sank while transporting 1,486 chemical containers from the Middle East with stops in India and Sri Lanka during its voyage to Singapore.

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