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MONLAR castigates govt. for not saving the poor from microfinance loan sharks

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The government is doing nothing to help the poor caught in a micro-credit trap, moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), Chinthaka Rajapakshe says.

Rajapakshe said that only the Parliamentary Committee on Gender Equality and some MPs, from both the government and Opposition, had shown some interest in the matter.

“We commend their interest. By the end of 2018, over 2.2 million Sri Lankans had taken microfinance loans amounting to Rs. 84.2 billion. We obtained this information from Microfinance Practitioners Association. This is a huge figure. Over 10% of Sri Lankans have taken these loans, almost always at very high interest rates. When one person in the family draws a loan, the entire family gets affected. So, we don’t know how many people are actually affected.”

Rajapakshe said MONLAR and a number of other organisations had been raising the issue for nearly half a decade, but successive governments had done little to address the issue.

“When they do, they come up with plans that benefit the lenders,” Rajapakshe said.

“Those affected by microcredit loans commenced a satyagraha at Hingurakgoda and it has dragged on for over a month. The government has taken no interest in it.”

In 2018, United Nations Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, visited the country and found that an overwhelming number of individuals who had obtained micro credit loans were women.

Rajapakshe said: “Bohoslavsky reported that women were pressured by collectors to exchange ‘sexual favours’ for instalments and that there are cases of borrowers who tried to sell their kidneys to repay the loans. Some leave their villages, suffer domestic violence as a punishment for the breach of contract or have to work much harder and longer to earn sufficient money to repay the debts. Some of them have committed suicide.”

Bohoslavsky’s report also says that while the universe of borrowers is broad, women in poor and war-affected areas are specially targeted by micro-finance financial institutions, which charge their loans with up to 220 per cent interest and apply compound interest.



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More heavy rain ahead for New Zealand’s largest city

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Auckland experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall on Friday (picture BBC)

BBC reported that residents in flood-hit northern New Zealand are bracing for more heavy rains as officials issued severe weather alerts.

At least four people have died and a state of emergency was declared in Auckland, which on Friday experienced its worst downpour on record.

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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled

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by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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Cardinal urges Catholics to fight for justice

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 By Norman Palihawadane

Today’s Church does not need ‘sacristy Catholics’ but a laity who fight for justice, says Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

Addressing a gathering at a ceremony to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Deva Dharma Nikethanaya, at Archbishop’s House auditorium, at Borella, last week, the Cardinal said that turning every layperson into a mature Christian, fit for leadership, should be the foremost duty of the Catholic Church. “Once the Catholic Church functioned as a Bishop-priest centered church and did only what the Bishop of the priest would say. We have to change the outlook of the Church. Today, we no longer need such sacristy Catholics. We need a laity who are ready to get down to the streets and fight for justice and do what is right for society,” the Cardinal said.

“The Church needs Christians who will commit themselves for Christ and follow his example. We do not need spoon-fed babies,” he said.

He said that the Bishops and Priests should not be afraid of handing over the responsibilities to the laity. “We should share our responsibilities with joy. The Church cannot continue otherwise. Understanding this situation, Pope Francis wants to change the priest-centres position that has become a theoretical doctrine in the church and to study how the church should change in a way that suits the present world.”

Apostolic Nuncio to Sri Lanka Rev Dr Brian Udaigwe and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference President Rt Rev Dr Harold Anthony Perera also addressed the gathering.

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