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PC polls should be held as early as possible – LSSP



As the pandemic will continue for considerable time

In the context of the global economic recession and the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone is looking forward to an economic, social and political revival that would usher in an era of peace, unity and equity with the dawn of the New Year.

A new SLPP-led Government was swept into power with a near two-thirds majority in the August 2020 general election. This was to support President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was elected in 2019 with a commitment to restore stability and with it a period of clean efficient governance. This should enable the country to emerge from the crisis. It will pave the way to put an end to poverty, hunger and malnutrition, unemployment and underemployment, and the uncontrolled rise of prices.

It would also put an end to the disruption and fear generated by the Covid-19 pandemic. But most of all to prevent the biggest danger of Sri Lanka’s economy being taken over through the MCC agreement.

With the closing of the MCC office in Colombo and the departure of the US staff, it would appear that the USA has given up its objectives, at least temporarily. This is a great victory for the people of Sri Lanka. The move by the Government to stop the import of what can be produced here, including luxury and non-essential items, is most welcome. It will help to reduce the loss of foreign exchange which has led to the depletion of our foreign reserves leading to massive borrowing and debt.

The long-term foreign debt crisis reached its peak during the 2015–2019 UNP Government period, and in 2019, the debt repayment amounted to US$ 4,500 million. This ate into our foreign reserves, which was only US$7,000 million. It also increased the pressure to borrow through the IMF and also look to the MCC grant, with unacceptable conditions.

While congratulating the Government for overcoming these problems without giving into these pressures, it would appear that this achievement is being undermined by various dodges and tricks being used to bring in banned imports with the connivance of some crooked officials and some others. This must be stopped as it will lead to further borrowing and Sri Lanka getting deeper into the debt trap.

It violates the Government statement that it will not borrow from abroad, and only accept foreign investment (FDI). For the latter to succeed a proper planning and investment environment has to be created, and in the plan FDI should complement our total development plan only where necessary.

For the development of the national economy, stress is correctly being placed on agriculture and food self-sufficiency. But this also requires industrial development, specially with value addition to local raw material. Unfortunately the foundation that I laid when I was Minister of Science and Technology from 2005 to 2015 is now in poor shape.

By getting back on the correct path of developing a national economy in the real interest of our country and the people, and resisting foreign imperialist pressures, the Government has paved the way to overcome some of our major problems. But sadly, some sectors that have an economic impact like the Covid-19 pandemic are being mishandled or even causing problems.

I am sorry the Minister of Health did not accept my proposals at the Health Advisory Committee Meeting in Parliament. Among others they were (a) the setting up of an All Party Leaders Committee to rally the whole country into a national movement to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic and, (b) that as the Covid-19 virus had gone beyond the “cluster” stage and was spreading within the community, it was necessary to establish a community- based approach with the emphasis on intensive health education, so that everyone is protected by observing the three health rules.

As the virus cannot multiply on its own, and soon dies out unless it gets into the live cells in the human respiratory tract, if this can be effectively prevented by everyone observing the three health rules with a proper understanding, the virus would even eventually die out in Sri Lanka, unless introduced again from abroad. I hope that the rapidly spreading new variants which have appeared abroad are not allowed to enter Sri Lanka on the basis of correct policy decisions.(c) A new lifestyle based on understanding and community action, supported by digital technology, can overcome the Covid-19 problem, provided all policy decisions are science based.(d) The Government must give the lead in organizing society to operate so that crowd gathering is avoided.

The Centre/Left Governments in Sri Lanka have by and large respected democracy. Constitutionally the sovereignty rests with the people and between elections it is expressed through chosen representatives in Parliament, in the Provincial Councils and in Local Government institutions. The LSSP would like to see this extended to real empowerment of the people through Village Councils with provisions for Constitutional protection (like the Panchayats in India), and through legally empowered Workers Advisory Councils and Village Committees (chosen by secret ballot).

It is sad to see that efforts are being made to delay the Provincial Council elections on one pretext or another. Some even want to do away with them. Neither Covid-19 nor allegations of lack of funds has any validity. The officials are profiting at the expense of the people who are being deprived of their right to elect their representatives and are being oppressed, without any representatives to act on their behalf at the provincial level. The Provincial Council elections should be held as soon as possible, as the Covid pandemic will continue for considerable time.

Tamil-speaking people, after the defeat of the LTTE, see the Provincial Councils as an adequate sharing of power, given some minor modifications that were acceptable to them at the APRC, within a single unitary state. More and more of them are learning Sinhala of their own free will. Despite efforts by some politicians to rouse a sense of grievance among Tamil speaking-people, it is losing ground. Unfortunately, Sinhala Buddhist majoritarianist tendencies are providing the sense of fear that can be exploited by extremists in the Tamil-speaking society. These must stop. Let wisdom prevail.

Prof. Tissa Vitarana




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Lanka to lend US$2.5bn to US and top-rated borrowers in 2023 under IMF deal: analysis



ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is projected to lend 2,533 million US dollars mainly to the US and Euro areas during an International Monetary Fund deal in 2023 including a mandatory 1.4 billion US dollars collected from exports and remittances, according to official documents.

Sri Lanka is expected to get two tranches of 331.2 million dollar (254 million special drawing rights each) in March and September 2023 from the IMF.In 2023 Sri Lanka has to repay 256.4 million dollars from an earlier IMF loan taken during an earlier currency crisis.

Net inflows from the IMF would be 406.12 million US dollars in 2023 if the first review is completed in September 2023.Sri Lanka has committed to collect at least 1.4 billion US dollars from remittances and exports and lend to the US and other developed nations during 2023 under the IMF deal.

A large volume has already been collected. An ad hoc peg is now operated under the IMF deal to buy dollars and export to the West, as ‘below-the-line outflows. Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves are usually loaned to highly rated sovereign or sovereign linked borrowers, mainly in the US.

But there have been amounts of Euro assets in Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves at times, triggering forex losses when the dollar to Euro parity changed.Under the IMF program there is a performance criterion to increase net international reserves by 1,948 million dollars during 2023.

Sri Lanka is also expected to repay a 200 million US dollar swap to Bangladesh during 2023, which will also raise the NIR.At the moment Sri Lanka’s central bank is in debt after borrowing from India, Bangladesh, India including on Asian Clearing Union dues as well as the IMF. Year end net international reserves would still be negative.

Sri Lanka’s gross reserves are expected to rise by 2.5 billion US dollars to 4.4 billion US dollars in 2023 indicating that the country will lend 2.5 billion US dollars to the US and other highly rated borrowers. It may include re-invested interest coupons.

Sri Lanka is also expected to get 650 million dollars from the Asian Development Bank and 250 million dollars from the World Bank as part of partner support for the IMF deal. Outside of core monetary reserves linked to reserve money, balances in Treasury accounts are also counted as forex reserves.

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BASL writes to IGP over protest against Saliya Peiris



The BAR Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has condemned a protest staged outside the Law of Chamber of BASL President Saliya Pieris, PC on Friday.The protest was staged against the representation of Saliya Pieris, PC for notorious Sri Lankan drug kingpin Nadun Chinthaka alias “Harak Kata”.

Condemning the protest, BASL said in a statement that Saliya Pieris, PC was only conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client.

“We are of the view the said protest seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law,” it pointed out.

The BASL called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to take action to ensure that Saliya Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and to ensure his safety.

Full text of the letter: ” We write with reference to an organized protest outside the chamber of Mr Saliya Pieris, President of the \Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

We have been made aware the said protest relates to Mr. Pieris conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client. We are of the view the said protest seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law.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.”

Further, Section 41 of the Judicature Act which has clearly set out the right of representation, and, has further shed light on the above mechanism established for implementing the administration of justice in the country.

It is as follows; Section 41 of the Judicature Act (Right of Representation)

(1) Every attorney-at-law shall be entitled to assist and advise clients and to appear, plead or act in every court or other institution established by law for the administration of justice and every person who is a party to or has or claims to have the right to be heard in any proceeding in any such court or other such institution shall be entitled to be represented by an attorney-at-law.

(2) Every person who is a party to any proceeding before any person or tribunal exercising quasi-judicial powers and every person who has or claims to have the right to be heard before any such person or tribunal shall unless otherwise”

Therefore, we strongly demand that you take action to ensure that Mr. Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and to ensure his safety.”

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State need not do business, says Ranil, seven SOEs to be divested



ECONOMYNEXT – The State need not engage in business as its mandate is to provide services such as education and maintain law and order, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said Thursday defending plans to divest government-held shares of seven state owned enterprises (SOEs).

At a discussion at the presidential secretariat on Thursday morning, Wickremesinghe responding to a question about the decision said that Sri Lanka must no longer hold on to corporations and enterprises owned by the government.

Sri Lanka has been spending more on the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) than it has on education, he said.The following seven SOEs will undergo the divestment of state-held shares: Sri Lankan Airlines Ltd including Sri Lankan Catering Ltd, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Ltd,

Canwill Holdings Pvt. Ltd., (Grand Hyatt Hotel), Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd., (Hilton Hotel Colombo), Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., including Litro Gas Terminals (Pvt) Ltd., (LPG retailing), and Lanka Hospital Corporation PLC

The State Owned Enterprises Restructuring Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilisation and National Policies will oversee the process, a statement said.

“Not all of them are loss making. But we do have to repay debt. You can’t keep these and pay back loans.

“If we can’t pay off our loans, we might have to sell something in the house and pay it,” said Wickremesnghe.

Asked why Sri Lanka should sell SOEs that aren’t making losses, he responded: “Why is the state engaged in business? That’s not our mandate. The state has no business engaging in business.”

“In what country is there a law that these (businesses) should be (held by the state)?” he added.

Noting that the crisis-hit nation is trying to embark on a path of recovery and rapid development, the president said Sri Lanka must follow India’s example.

“India is selling their airports, profit making ones. India has come to that stage. We have to go there too.”

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