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Opposition MPs, former Speaker urge govt. to have debt resheduled

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LSSP endorses collective repsonse

Ranil, Harini notable absentees at signing

Heads of COPE, COPF present but refrain from signing

MPs from five political parties and former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya have issued a joint statement urging the government to take immediate action to solve the economic crisis affecting Sri Lanka.

The current MPs and the former Speaker “recognizing the unprecedented nature of the economic challenges facing us” have sought “urgent, constructive, and sustainable solutions” to the pressing situation.

The joint statement was signed by the Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa, MPs R. Sampanthan, MA Sumanthiran, Shanakkiyan Rasamanikkam for Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Kabir Hashim, Dr. Harsha de Silva, Rishad Bathiudeen and Eran Wickramaratne of the SJB, MP Rauf Hakeem for SLMC and MP Mano Ganesan, for the TPA. SLPP MP Prof. Tissa Vitarana on behalf of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman of the National Movement for a Just Society have also signed the joint statement.

Full text of the statement titled ‘A collective response to our economic crisis’ said: “We the undersigned, recognising the unprecedented nature of the economic challenges facing us, seek urgent, constructive, and sustainable solutions to this pressing situation.

We note that:

(1) The country’s ratings have fallen to the level of being blacklisted In international credit markets. Since April 2020, Sri Lanka has been locked out of borrowing using International Sovereign Bonds (ISBs) in the international market,

(2) Repaying US dollar debt in this context means that the usable foreign reserves are down to below one month of imports — the lowest on record since independence.

(3) The ratio of interest on debt to government revenue was above 70% in 2020, a historical high for Sri Lanka, and amongst the highest in the world.

(4) The ratio of public debt compared to the value of Sri Lanka’s domestic production (GDP) is also the highest on record, at 120%. It skyrocketed, by almost 25 percentage points, in the last two years. Each of these situations by themselves would spell a serious economic challenge.

Occurring simultaneously, this pressing and historic economic crisis is threatening our future, in both the short term and long term.

We recognize that undoubtedly the government has a daunting task ahead, and as a country there is a need for us all to come together to overcome this challenge.

We acknowledge that Sri Lanka should take immediate measures to ensure strong social welfare for its people so that the poor and vulnerable communities are protected from the adverse impact of this economic crisis.

We further acknowledge the need for sound reform to the national economic policy that will address the root causes for this situation and ensure sustainable solutions to steer the country out of this unprecedented economic crisis, and forge an equitable and just solution for our future generations.

We are fully cognizant that Parliament has full control of public finance, and that each member of parliament has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the proper management of public finances in Sri Lanka.

In such a context, we recognize the best way forward for Sri Lanka is to immediately Initiate a multi-step process towards an orderly negotiated postponement and restructure of repayment of its sovereign debt. Sri Lanka can then correct its policies towards a path of sustainable economic growth and debt management, while also ensuring access to essential needs and goods for the Sri Lankan economy and its people. This will reduce the pain and hardship that is currently experienced due to the shortage of foreign currency. In any path forward, it is essential that the government takes measures to consider the difficulties of the poorest and the most vulnerable people in the country and provide them with adequate social security, protection, and relief.”



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Weerawansa’s wife sentenced to RI

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Lawyers appearing for Shashi Weerawansa, MP Wimal Weerawansa’s wife, yesterday (27) appealed against a Colombo Magistrate’s Court decision to sentence their client to two years rigorous imprisonment.Colombo Chief Magistrate, Buddhika Sri Ragala found her guilty of submitting forged documents to obtain a diplomatic passport circa 2010. The Colombo Magistrate’s Court also imposed a fine of Rs. 100,000 on Mrs. Weerawansa. If the fine is not paid she will have to serve an extra six months.

Additional Magistrate Harshana Kekunawala announced that the appeal would be called for consideration on 30 May.The case against Mrs. Weerawansa was filed by the CID after a complaint was lodged on 23 January 2015 by Chaminda Perera, a resident of Battaramulla.

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Unions predict end of energy sovereignty

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A government decision to allow all privately-owned bunker fuel operators to import and distribute diesel and fuel oil to various industries was a rollback of the nationalisation of the country’s petroleum industry and another severe blow to energy sovereignty of the country, trade union activist of the SJB Ananda Palitha said yesterday.Earlier, Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera Tweeted that ‘approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations provided in bulk’.Commenting on the decision, Palitha said that according to the existing law those companies only had the power to import, store and distribute fuel for ships. Those companies did not have the authority to distribute fuel inside the country, Palitha said.

“Only the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) can distribute fuel inside the country. There is a controversy about the licence given to the LIOC as well. If the government wants other companies to import fuel, it needs to change the laws. The Minister does not have the power to make these decisions. A few months ago the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration used to rush Bills that adversely affected the country through Parliament. Now, since they don’t have a majority in parliament, they are using the Cabinet to make decisions that are detrimental to the country’s interests.”

Palitha said that the controversial government move would further weaken the CPC, and that the ultimate aim of the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government was to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) purchase fuel from private distributors. With a weakened CPC and a CEB under the mercy of private companies, the Sri Lankan state would have little control over the country’s energy sector, he warned.

“The CEB already can’t pay the CPC, and therefore how can it pay private companies? It will have to sell its assets. This is another step in the road to fully privatise the energy sector. When this happens no government will be able to control inflation or strategically drive production through fuel and energy tariffs. The people will be at the mercy of businessmen and the government will only be a bystander,” he said.

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US Ambassador calls on Speaker

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U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung yesterday (27) called on Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena at the Parliament Premises.The U.S. Ambassador said that she hopes the government, including the new Prime Minister, would be able to bring about political stability and overcome the current economic crisis. The Ambassador also emphasized the need to carry out the political reforms desired by the people and to safeguard democracy in the country.

She also hoped to enhance relations between the two countries through the Sri Lanka-USA Parliamentary Friendship Association. She appreciated the role played by the Women Parliamentarians Caucus and discussed the need to increase the representation of women.The Speaker also expressed his gratitude to the United States of America for its continued support to strengthening democracy in Sri Lanka.This is the first meeting between Ambassador Chung and Speaker Abeywardena since her appointment as US Ambassador to Sri Lanka.Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake was also present on the occasion.

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