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MP Rahman ridicules SLN patrols, having allowed foreigners entry via BIA



Spike in Covid-19 cases: SJB blames SLPP for giving false sense of security

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) yesterday (3) said that the government owed an explanation regarding the Covid-19 explosion now threatening the entire country after repeatedly assuring that the epidemic was under control.

SJB Colombo District lawmaker Mujibur Rahman alleged that the government strategy gave a false sense of security to the public thereby resulting in automatic lowering of the guard. MP Rahman said that those who spoke on behalf of the government played politics with the pandemic.

They created an environment conducive for the people to go on pilgrimages to Kataragama and on holiday to Nuwara

Eliya during Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the MP pointed out.  The live television coverage of various events organized with the participation of artistes, models et al and avurudu beauty pageants deceived the people, the MP said.

The shocking revelation that the government allowed visitors from India in spite of the pandemic there being out of control proved those in power here threw caution to the wind, the former UNP lawmaker said.

Responding to another query, lawmaker Rahman questioned the rationale in the SLN stepping up surveillance at the Indo-Lanka Maritime boundary to prevent illegal immigrants while Indians were allowed in through the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). MP Rahman emphasized that he didn’t have an issue with Indians or people of any other nationality. But, the country was in such a precarious situation, the government couldn’t take things lightly, MP Rahman said.

In the run-up to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the government conveniently reported a far lower number of Covid-19 cases, MP Rahman said, adding that according to statements attributed to officials the situation continued to improve. Against the backdrop of threat posed by a new variant of Covid-19, the government on Feb 14 ruled out a lockdown, MP Rahman said. One-time Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara succumbed to Covid-19 at the IDH on the same day, the SJB spokesman said, adding that the total number of Covid-19 cases was placed at 801 on Feb 14. Lokubandara’s death was among 7 reported on that day, the MP said. Within the next few weeks the situation remained the same though closer to Sinhala and Tamil New Year reported cases dropped as a result of reducing the number of  tests conducted, MP Rahman said.

Rahman said that the government reported 197 Covid-19 cases on April 1, 183 on April 2, 135 on April 3, 122 on April 4, 137 on April 5, 158 on April 6, 190 on April 7, 309 on April 8, 183 on April 9, 268 on April 10, 225 on April 11, 225 on April 12, 185 on April 13, 99 on April 14, 167 on April 15 and 159 on April 16.

The MP said that the government allowed more foreigners in though Chief Epidemiologist Sudath Samaraweera on April17 said that due to an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 cases among those coming from abroad restrictions were necessary. The SJB spokesman asked whether the government heeded Dr. Samaraweera’s warning. On the day, the Chief Epidemiologist issued the warning, the government reported 204 fresh Covid-19 cases.

The government was so reckless in its Covid-19 strategy, declaration was made about the re-opening of schools in the Western Province as well as the Universities, the MP. However, at the same time the government exploited the deteriorating situation to cancel May Day rallies primarily because the SLPP led coalition was sharply divided over a range of contentious matters, MP Rahman said.

MP Rahman alleged that SLPP members largely depend on rhetoric to skip ongoing debate on deterioration of Covid-19 situation. Referring to a recent media briefing given by the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) and statement issued by Dr. Naveen Zoysa on behalf of the GMOA, MP Rahman said that the country faced an immense challenge. 

Who allowed interested parties to offer quarantine facilities to foreigners when Sri Lankans were arrested for not wearing face masks? MP Rahman asked.

 Rahman urged the government to reveal the outcome of second Covid-19 outbreak in late last year. No less a person than Attorney General Dappula de Livera PC, called for a probe on what he called ‘Brandix Cluster,’ the MP recalled. “Let there be an explanation soon on the part of the government,” Rahman said, urging the SLPP to take tangible measures to tackle the situation. MP Rahman said that the second Covid-19 eruption was also discussed in parliament. At one point, an attempt was made to fault Ukrainians over the epidemic eruption, the MP said.



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Police failure to contain May 2022 violence explained



Police inaction to prevent arson attacks against SLPP politicians in the Western province on May 9 may have been due to orders not to carry weapons to deal with protesters, a new investigation has revealed.A review of the role of the police at the time showed Senior Deputy Inspector General Deshabandu Tennakoon had ordered all officers under him to ensure that no personnel were issued with arms and ammunition in the run up to the May 9 violence.

In his two-page instructions to DIGs, SSPs, SPs, ASPs and officers in charge of all stations in the districts of Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha, Tennakoon had said no weapons or ammunition should be issued under any circumstances to officers deployed to deal with the protesters.

This order dated May 5 had not come to the attention of a three-member investigation panel headed by former navy chief Wasantha Karannagoda appointed to look into the security lapses. However, the panel had uncovered an order similar to that of Tennakoon issued by the then army chief Shavendra Silva.

Deploying police without even their own personal protection is seen as a violation of departmental orders and an internal investigation had begun, a top official source said.Meanwhile, the private residence of President Ranil Wickremesinghe was torched despite 400 air force men being deployed to protect it. The airmen did not open fire to deter a handful of attackers who scaled walls to enter the premises and set it on fire.

Instead of dealing with the arsonists, a police Special Task Force (STF) unit outside the Fifth Lane residence of Wickremesinghe attacked a television crew angering the protesters and encouraging more people to congregate there.

Several people identified through CCTV footage have already been arrested in connection with the arson at Wickremesinghe’s residence.However, action is yet to be taken against police and security personnel who failed to ensure law and order.

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SL will engage major T-bond holders for voluntary optimization: Governor



ECONOMYNEXT –Sri Lanka will not re-structure Treasury bills outside of central bank holdings and will engage with major T-bond holders for voluntary ‘optimization’ Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said.

“There will be some treatment on central bank held Treasury bills,” Governor Nandal Weeasinghe told a creditor presentation Thursday.

“Other Treasury bill holdings will not be treated. Treasury bonds we envisage voluntary optimization.”

Sri Lanka has to at least extend the maturities of bonds to reach a gross financing need target averaging 13 percent of GDP in 2027-2032 based on projections in an IMF debt sustainability analysis. Of that foreign debt service has be below 4.5 percent of GDP on average.

“Local currency creditors participation in a debt optimization will help reaching the DSA targets,” Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena said.

“Authorities are exploring options for domestic debt operations aimed at liquidity relief while preserving financial stability to avoid further eroding Sri Lanka’s repayment capacity.”

The government and advisors will “invite consultations with major T-bond holders to gauge options and constraints”, he said.Governor Weerasinghe and Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardene said Sri Lanka is likely to outperform the growth targets in the IMF debt sustainability analysis given past history. The IMF DSA is projecting 3.1 percent growth in the next few years.

Sri Lanka grew at rates around 4 to 5 percent during a 30 year war, but growth started to fall after serial currency crises hit the country under flexible inflation targeting with output gap targeting (monetary stimulus) during peacetime. In 2020 taxes were also cut for stimulus, going beyond open market operations and outright purchases of bonds seen earlier.

Meanwhile state spending went up from 17 to 20 percent of GDP under state expansionist revenue based fiscal consolation after spending based consolidation (cost cutting) was thrown out of the window from 2015 to 2019, critics say.

Sri Lanka is now trying to cut spending and excessive growth of the public sector, based on normal economic principles, to limit the burden of the unaffordable state on productive sectors and the poor, while preserving essential spending.According to the latest IMF program, fiscal consolidation will be “primarily” revenue based.

Sri Lanka’s Treasury bill and bond yields were higher than required due to uncertainty over whether they will be re-structured and the so-called ‘gilt’ status will no longer apply.

The lack of an early cut off date for domestic debt is a key problem in the IMF’s current debt resolution framework as domestic bond buyers are the last resort lenders after most foreign creditors stop lending, when the IMF says a country’s debt is no longer sustainable.

Download presentation from here.

Sri Lanka and debt advisors will engage with major Treasury bond holders, Weerasinghe said.

Key T-bond holders are Employment Provident Fund, Employment Trust Fund, insurance companies and banks.

Sri Lanka is also conducting an asset quality of review of banks.

Based on its results a debt optimization options will be offered paying attention to asset liability mis-matches, Weerasinghe said.

By preserving banking sector stability foreign investors are more likely to get repaid.

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BASL slams attempts to hinder Saliya Pieris, PC, appearing for a client



The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has issued a statement on the recent string of protests launched against former BASL President Saliya Pieris’s decision to represent a client who had retained him. In the statement signed by BASL President Kaushalya Nawaratne and Secretary Isuru Balapatabendi, the BASL noted that the protests in question not only hinders the senior lawyer’s right to represent a client, but also acts as an attack on the profession at large.

Further, they noted that Article 13(3) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka specifically guarantees every person the right to a fair trial and the right to be represented by a lawyer of their choice.

The BASL also cited the 2019 Supreme Court judgment delivered in a landmark case together with the Judicature Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Civil Procedure Code in favour of their argument. The Bar Association strongly demanded that the relevant authorities ensure that Pieris’s professional duties and safety remain unhindered.

Excerpts from text of the statement:

“The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) observes that there has been a series of organized protests in Colombo, in relation to Mr. Saliya Pieris PC, the Former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client.

“We are of the view that the said protest, not only seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law, but also an attack on the profession at large.

“In the case of Wijesundara Mudiyanselage Naveen Nayantha Bandara Wijesundara v Sirwardena and Others (SCFR 13/2019), the Supreme Court observed that: ‘The first piece of legislation passed by the Parliament soon after the promulgation of the 1978 Constitution was the Judicature Act No. 02 of 1978.

‘As the administration of justice in any civilized society cannot be effectively implemented without lawyers, the legislature in its wisdom, through the Judicature Act, established the legal profession. Thus, there is no dispute that the legal profession is a sine qua non for the due administration of justice in this country and for that matter in any civilized society. The said profession is essential for the maintenance of the Rule of Law and maintenance of law and order and its due existence is of paramount importance to the organized functioning of the society which is primarily the basis for the smooth functioning of the country as a whole.’

“Our constitution specifically guarantees the right to legal representation in Article 13(3) and

the Civil Procedure Code also provides for the right to legal representation in civil cases. Specifically, Section 24 of the Code allows parties to be represented by lawyers or other authorized representatives in court.

“Overall, Sri Lankan law recognizes and protects the right to legal representation, both in criminal as well as civil cases.

“Therefore, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka strongly demands that the authorities ensure that Mr. Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and, ensure his safety.”

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