The impact of shortages of essential items and people spending hours in queues was both economic and social, Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) said yesterday.
Jayasuriya said that many poor families do not have access to daycare or nurseries and when mothers waited in queues for kerosene, gas or other essential items, the children are left without supervision.
“As a result of these queues, the family structure has completely collapsed. This is a tragic situation,” Jayasuriya said.
The only silver lining for the country is the decline in the spread of the devastating Covid pandemic, he said. However every aspect of the daily life of many Sri Lankans hadbeen disrupted due to ongoing shortages of essential goods such as fuel, cement, gas and milk powder.
Experts of Jayasuriya’s statement: “It must be noted that had the government followed the advice of professionals and taken the necessary steps in a timely manner this unfortunate situation would not have arisen. When the country’s foreign reserves dwindled, the majority of the people was of the opinion that a loan of USD 500 million should not be repaid in one lump sum. Instead, it was suggested that only the interest should be paid and that advice should be sought from the International Monetary Fund or another institution on the repayment of the loan. The National Movement for Social Justice expressed and informed this opinion as well.
“However, the government was not willing to accept these sincere proposals. We also pointed out that allowing the rupee to float would be fair to those employed overseas and would encourage exports, and that the import process would reflect realistic prices. This would inevitably lead to the automatic reduction of unnecessary imports. Despite the delay, it is vital that the government realises this.
“In our opinion, one of the main reasons leading to the economic collapse is the government’s failure to maintain one viewpoint. It’s a significant weakness in governance. The 20th Amendment delegated full powers of government to one person and not to the Parliament. Therefore, it is the President with a two-thirds majority that is accountable to the people.
“But many promises made after the new government came to power are yet to be fulfilled.
1. Presenting the draft of the proposed new constitution within a year and eliminating the clause allowing dual citizens to work in government
2. Strengthening national and religious harmony while cooperating with the civil society
3. Protection of democracy and freedom of speech
4. Stop political revenge and give people their complete freedom
5. Reduction of the cost of living
“None of the above has been fulfilled. Constitutional proposals should be prepared not by a pro-government group of lawyers but by Parliament and the people. This is a serious shortcoming as well as a mistake.
“Revenge is still being extracted from political opponents through the Upali Abeyratne Commission. Wrongdoers are being released while leading figures of the opposition are facing investigations at the BMICH. This is an attempt to ruin their political careers. Acts of sabotage are openly taking place to disrupt meetings being held by the leader of the opposition and the leader of the National People’s Power. The ‘One Country, One Law’ policy of the government has become a mere farce. Talking about this itself is fruitless.
“The person who was responsible for the destruction of the palace of King Buwanekabahu and the Minister who forcefully entered the prison to issue death threats to prisoners have managed to remain free sans any investigation into these incidents. The people are highly critical of these transgressions. The Auditor-General conducted an inquiry into the sugar scam and it was stated at the Parliamentary Finance Committee that a fraudulent act had in fact occurred. However, these reports are now gathering dust. The alleged sugar scam on the face of it appears far greater than the Central Bank bond scam. While the Central Bank funds are now with the government, the fraudsters continue to be in possession of the funds obtained through the sugar scam.
“Just recently, the President, Minister of Finance and many others publicly assured the country’s citizens that power cuts would take place after 05 March. However, that promise held true only for a matter of hours. Currently, power cuts lasting up to seven hours are being imposed on the people.
“We are highlighting these important issues with utmost sincerity as under the 20th Amendment the responsibility for the people of this country lies with the President and no other. When the head of state fails to deliver on his promises, the trust of the people deteriorates and the reputation of the leader is damaged. The loss of confidence in future promises is also inevitable. Therefore, it is our belief that going forward it is wise to only speak of promises that can be fulfilled with certainty.
“We can recover from this disastrous situation. Countries that were reduced to ashes by World War II became powerful states because of their national consensus. We must follow the example of Germany and Japan. In 1991, India also faced a major economic crisis. There was a strict import restriction. Foreign reserves for imports were available only for 15 days.
“Prime Minister Narasimha Rao appointed Dr Manmohan Singh, a World Bank veteran as the Minister of Finance with full powers to do the needful. Well knowledgeable and independent economists were appointed to the Central Bank. Politicians were not allowed to disrupt the programme. Prime Minister Rao reached an agreement with fifteen political parties to form a “common programme to deal with the crisis”. This led to an immediate economic revival in India. The foreign exchange reserves, which were limited to 15 days, were increased to USD 100 billion by the year 2004.
“Today, their reserves are close to USD 650 billion. Despite the Covid pandemic, the Indian economy is growing rapidly. India is now an economic power in the world. China’s economy is also driven by world-renowned economists. In the 1980s, leader Deng Xiaoping sent Jiang Zemin who would later go on to become President to Sri Lanka to study the Public-Private Partnership model established by President J.R Jayewardene. During this trip, he only visited Sri Lanka and Singapore. I also had the opportunity to meet the Special Representative as the then Chairman of that joint venture. Even though many Sri Lankans are unaware of these facts, China still remembers this past.
The National Movement for Social Justice has also put forward a proposal to the Government and the people entitled “A Common Minimum Programme to Respond to Sri Lanka’s Current Crisis.” We hope these issues are brought to the attention of the country’s leaders and the people. We urge the government not to act with narrow intentions but to extend the hand of friendship to the country’s people instead. When 6.9 million citizens voted for the President, at least 6.2 million citizens did not approve of him. But he is now the head of state of all Sri Lankan citizens.”
PM blames ‘last administration’ for country’s current crisis
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Sky News that “the last administration is to blame” for the country’s current crisis.Protesters have clashed with police in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, as people demanded the resignation of the President and new Prime Minister.Demonstrations in the capital have been ongoing for the last two months as the public blames the country’s leadership for corruption and mishandling the economy.The Prime Minister said that the last administration “ran down the economy”.
“We have come to a point where we are bankrupt – which has never happened to Sri Lanka before,” he said in an interview with Sky News following his controversial appointment last week.
“We have no dollars, we have no rupees.”
On whether the President should resign, the veteran politician said it’s a “controversy” as the country is of split opinion.He added: “I suggested that after Sri Lanka passes the 21st amendment, the country should restore the original 19th amendment strengthening parliament – strengthening the powers of the prime minister.
“Then, all party leaders and the president should have a discussion and come to some arrangement on the future.”
Meanwhile, the recent unrest across the country has been sparked amid the country’s worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948, which has been blamed on a combination of COVID, rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by the president and his brother, until recently the prime minister.
“I can understand the anguish of the protesters – the young and the old,” Mr Wickremesinghe said.
“The young who see their future being taken away, and the old, who are suffering, the middle class, who see their lifestyle collapsing… farmers without fertiliser.
“There are many demonstrations outside police stations, petrol stations and other places. And it shows the anger, the despair, and the hopelessness that the people feel.”
He said that people, at the moment, “can’t bear the burden any longer”.
“We are certainly not in a very stable position,” he said.
Police have now arrested more than 800 people nationwide who are accused of ransacking property, looting and setting fire to MPs’ houses on 9 May.But human rights lawyers say in some cases police are jailing people who were out on the streets watching what was happening, rather than actively taking part in violence.The prime minister went on to say that the country faces a possibility of a food crisis due to the lack of fertiliser.Sri Lanka is near bankruptcy after announcing it had suspended up to $7bn (£5.6bn) in foreign loans due to be repaid this year because of a foreign currency crisis.It has led to limited imports with no gas in petrol stations. Other fuel, cooking gas, medicine and foods are in short supply forcing people to stay in long lines to buy the limited stocks.
“We are feeling the rise in the price of fuel – and we know it will go higher,” he said.
“Our main concern also is that we have not had fertiliser for cultivation, and this coming season, the rice cultivation season will not have the full production.
“Therefore from about August onwards, there is a possibility of a food crisis in Sri Lanka. That’s about the time when the global food crisis will also take place, and we will see how we will survive until about March next year.” – Sky News
SJB, FSP agree on common agenda
Focus on abolition of Executive Presidency
BY SHMAINDRA FERNANDO
SJB MP Kabir Hashim, MP, says the main Opposition party and the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) have recently agreed on the abolition of the Executive Presidency.Hashim yesterday (20) told The Island that they agreed on empowering Parliament at the expense of the Executive President.The SJB and FSP delegations met at the Opposition Leader’s Office at , Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha this week. The SJB delegation consisted of lawmakers, General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Kabir Hashim, Eran Wickremaratne and Mujubur Rahuman whereas the FSP was represented by Central Committee members, Pubudu Jagoda and Duminda Nagamuwa.The SJB, offshoot of the UNP, secured the recognition of the Election Commission in Feb 2020 while the FSP is yet to be registered as a political party.
Lawmaker Hashim said that the SJB was keen to discuss the current situation with all political parties represented in Parliament and out as part of the overall efforts to reach agreement on a common programme.Referring to the proposals made by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) to resolve the political crisis that would be a prerequisite for addressing the economic downturn, lawmaker Hashim said that the SJB and the FSP agreed on the need for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to agree on a timeline for him to step-down.Responding to The Island queries, one-time UNP Chairman said that the SJB could work together with the FSP on both political and economic issues. The talks took place amidst the FSP, the breakaway faction of the JVP, was consolidating its position as the spearhead of the ongoing protest campaign meant to force President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down.
MP Hashim said that they agreed to prepare a document meant for future cooperation. Asked whether they have scheduled another meeting with the FSP, the Kegalle District MP said that they were keen to prepare a working document before they next meet for talks.The top SJB spokesperson said that in spite of swearing in UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, the President was on a difficult wicket.Lawmaker Hashim said the SJB was also engaged in talks with the JVP though the deliberations weren’t at official level. “We are proceeding with efforts to finalize a common agenda meant to restore normalcy. We had talks with the BASL, industry leaders as well as civil society,” MP Hashim said.Asked whether the SJB had met Premier Wickremesinghe or sought a meeting with him, MP Hashim said that when Dr. Harsha de Silva raised a spate of issues at hand, especially the recent hard default, the Premier assured the Parliament that party leaders would be fully briefed pertaining to the current situation.Lawmaker Hashim was referring to the first occasion Sri Lanka experienced a hard default as the grace period for the International Sovereign Bonds (ISB) Coupon payment lapsed on May 18. Last month Sri Lanka announced a pre-emptive negotiated default ofall outstanding debt as at April 12.On April 18 the ISB Coupon worth $ 78 million fell due and those had 30 days to obtain “Consent Solicitation” from all ISB holders for payment suspension by May 18.
FSP spokesperson Pubudu Jagoda told The Island that the party discussed the developing situation with some political parties, including the SJB and ’43 Brigade’ led by SJB MP Patali Champika Ranawaka. The FSP delegation comprised Central Committee members, Pubudu Jagoda, Duminda Nagamuwa and Sanjeewa Bandara. MP Patali Champika Ranawaka and Attorney-at-Law Shiral Lakthilake represented the ‘43 Brigade.’Jagoda said that the ’43 Brigade’ was of the view the executive presidential system should be retained with necessary amendments.According to Jagoda, the Eksath Samajawadi Pakshaya and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) agreed that the executive presidency should be abolished. FSP leader Kumar Gunaratnam and Pubudu Jagoda had represented the party whereas Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, and Shanakiyan Rasamanickam represented the TNA.
Jagoda said that the current environment was conducive for building a common agenda that could accommodate the vast majority of political parties represented in Parliament and other groups bent on abolishing the executive presidency.He emphasized the pivotal importance of a common response to what Jagoda termed the government crackdown in Colombo, its suburbs and the provinces where over 1,000 persons had been arrested by the police in connection with the ongoing investigations into mob assaults ignited following unprovoked attacks on those demanding the resignation of the President and the Premier.
SJB, SLFP decry members switching sides as nine ministers are sworn in
question all-party tag, allege moves to bribe lawmakers
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Two Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmakers, Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara are among nine new Cabinet ministers sworn in yesterday (20).The swearing in ceremony took place at the President’s House as protests continued in front of the Presidential Secretariat demanding the resignation of President Rajapaksa.Two of the strongest critics of President Rajapaksa’s handling of investigations into the 2019 Easter Sunday massacre, the former UNP lawmakers joined the government following talks with UNP leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. UNP Leader and its National List member Wickremesinghe received the premiership on 12 May.
The SJB won 54 seats, including seven National Lists seats at the last general election.The SJB lawmakers visited Geneva in early March, 2022 at the beginning of the 49th session of the UNHRC, where Sri Lanka’s human rights record was strongly criticised. They had been also at the forefront of the SJB’s efforts to secure presidential pardon for ex-MP Ranjan Ramanayake, sentenced for contempt of court by the Supreme Court during the yahapalana administration.The other newly-appointed Cabinet ministers are Nimal Siripala de Silva (Ports, Shipping and Aviation), Susil Premjayantha (Education), Keheliya Rambukwella (Health), Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapkse, PC (Justice, Prisons, and Constitutional Reforms), Dr. Ramesh Pathirana (Plantations), Tiran Alles (Public Security) and Nalin Fernando (Trade, Commerce and Food Security). Except Tiran Alles who entered Parliament through the SLPP National List, others contested on the SLPP ticket.With the appointments made yesterday, the number of Cabinet ministers increased to 13. President Rajapaksa on May 14 swore in Prof. G.L. Peiris (Foreign Affairs), Dinesh Gunawardena (Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government), Kanchana Wijesekera (Power and Energy), and Prasanna Ranatunga (Urban Development and Housing). Except for MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena, the rest are SLPP members. But, Gunawardena, too, contested the last general election on the SLPP ticket while his son, Yadamini was accommodated on the SLPP National List.
SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara and SLFP Senior President Prof. Rohana Lakshman yesterday told The Island that their parties were strongly opposed to their members accepting ministerial posts.Both said that they had assured President Rajapaksa and Premier Wickremesinghe of their support for government economic recovery efforts while being in the Opposition. Prof. Lakshman insisted that Nimal Siripala de Silva taking up ministerial portfolio was contrary to the understanding reached with the current dispensation.The SLFP won 14 seats, including one National List seat at the last general election.Of the 13 lawmakers sworn in as ministers, Tiran Alles and Nalin Fernando representing the SLPP entered the Cabinet for the first time.
Among those accommodated in the Cabinet was Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, who was overlooked by the SLPP when the appointment of the original 30-member cabinet in terms of the 19th Amendment took place. Since then Rajapakse has been campaigning for the abolition of the executive presidency and on more than one occasion flayed President Rajapaksa. The lawmaker, in January this year shot off a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping urging him to stop Chinese economic invasion of Sri Lanka. In a 45-point letter to the Chinese leader, the lawmaker alleged that most of the Chinese funded projects had been wasteful and large commissions paid to the corrupt politicians and officials to secure such projects.After the 2020 general election which the SLFP won comfortably securing a 2/3rd majority in Parliament, MP Rajapakse refused to accept the State Ministry for Education. Susil Premjayantha, who accepted that ministry was sacked last early January this year within 24 hours after he criticised the government’s handling of the economy.
SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem on Thursday (19) accused the government of bribing Opposition lawmakers in a bid to secure their support. MP Hakeem questioned the government strategy while alleging that the original plan was to swear in a Cabinet of 15. Subsequently, the government planned a Cabinet of 18 and then they increased it to 22 ministers.PM Wickremesinghe assured Parliament on Thursday that members of the new Cabinet would not be entitled to minsterial salaries and perks.The Finance Minister has not been appointed. Ali Sabry, PC, served as the Finance Minister briefly after the removal of Basil Rajapaksa. Government efforts to persuade SJB’s Dr. Harsha de Silva, who is an economist to accept the finance portfolio have failed.
PM blames ‘last administration’ for country’s current crisis
SJB, FSP agree on common agenda
SJB, SLFP decry members switching sides as nine ministers are sworn in
‘Dates have the highest sugar content to fight Coronavirus’
U.S. Congress to probe assets fleecing by US citizens of Sri Lankan origin
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