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Popularity of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has collapsed, says SLOTS



‘Gota Go Home’ protest held yesterday in Colombo (26) pic by Jude Denzil Pathiraja

The popularity of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has collapsed, especially among women, the poor, urban and Sinhala adults, IHP Sri Lanka Opinion Tracker Survey (SLOTS) revealed.

SLOTS is run by the Institute for Health Policy (IHP) and the lead investigator is Dr. Ravi Rannan-Eliya.

“At the Institute for Health Policy (IHP), we have been tracking favourability of several institutions and political personalities since last year. The past two months has seen substantial declines in favourability of all politicians. This has affected politicians in both government, such as the President or Prime Minister, and opposition politicians, and in opposition, such as Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, JVP leader Anura Dissanayake and UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe. Also hit is the favourability of politicians who were previously popular, such as former minister, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, who has consistently remained the most popular politician we track,” he said.

However, the study has shown that the public displeasure is specific to politicians. Favourability of state institutions or other organisations, such as the Ministry of Health, the GMOA, or the armed forces, has remained positive and largely unaffected. These low levels of favourability of politicians may matter, since the willingness of the public to acquiesce in painful, but necessary, actions may depend on how they feel about the political leaders calling on them to sacrifice.

The survey report says that until early 2022, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s net favourability rating remained positive, although gradually slipping from the high +50 levels during the August–September 2021 lockdown to the low tens by January 2022.

“This can be contrasted with Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, whose net favourability was often negative throughout this period, largely because of high levels of unpopularity amongst better-off Sri Lankans. The President also maintained a higher favourability rating than Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, other ministers, and other opposition party leaders, although lower than a few ministers, notably Dr. Fernandopulle,” the report said.

Excerpts of the report: “That changed in the last two months: the President’s favourability ratings have cratered. His net favourability fell from +20 during February to below -80 during the first three weeks of April, meaning that for every member of the public who has a favourable opinion about him, there are now nine others who say they have an unfavourable opinion. This decline in favourability has been faster and more substantial than most other politicians. Consequently, during March-April, the President’s favourability rating (-40) fell below those of both Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa (-33) and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa (-26).

“Analysis of our data indicates that the most significant declines in the President’s favourability have been amongst women, the poor, urban and Sinhala adults. In the case of women, this has lost him the edge in favourability that he has long enjoyed over Sajith Premadasa. Women view both unfavourably now, but the President more than the Opposition Leader. The only segment of the population where the President has managed to retain his former favourability was the Southern Province, but elsewhere his favourability fell. Interestingly, his colleague, Dr Fernandopulle, former state health minister, not only managed to retain more of her favourability, but our data also indicates a significant gain in favourability amongst government employees. In contrast, Sajith Premadasa’s more modest decline in favourability was more dispersed, although he also suffered a further loss in favourability amongst women, albeit less than the President.

The current economic crisis that the country is now in will require adjustments that are difficult and painful in the short-term. Taxes need to go up and prices will increase for most things. Living standards will fall for most Sri Lankans in the short-term, whether we take action or not to improve our long-term prospects. How the burden of these painful adjustments will be distributed between poor and rich, how these sacrifices are communicated and justified to the public, how social cohesion is maintained, and social unrest is prevented will require effective and determined national leadership to make the correct choices, and to communicate clearly to the public. That is the need of the hour, but the evidence of widespread disillusionment with all politicians makes the challenge even greater. It points to the need for fresh thinking by the political establishment on how to make the correct choices on economic policy, and how to provide the leadership needed to sustain the painful measures that are undoubtedly needed over the coming months and years.”

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CB Governor: Lanka now in a position to pay for essentials



‘Inflation will not be as high as initially expected’

Inflation will not be as high as initially expected and there are signs of economy stabilising, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says.Dr. Weerasinghe said that during the past few months a number of initiatives had been made to improve the economy and they were yielding the desired results.

“During the last review, we thought the inflation would reach 70%. However, now we believe that the inflation will not be that high even with the electricity tariff hike,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe said that the severity of the shortage of foreign currency had lessened. The country was now in a position to import fuel, gas and medicines.

“This has become possible because of the decisions we took. Imports have decreased. Export revenue has somewhat increased. Even without short-term loans we have been able to meet our basic needs. This is a positive development,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.The CB Governor said that inflation driven by demand had lessened because the expansion of loans had been curtailed.The supply side inflation too would drop with price and foreign exchange stabilisation.

“Still the inflation is about 60% and that’s why we need to maintain the current high policy rates. Once the government adjusts the fiscal policy, tax, and presents the new budget, things will improve. I think you can also see this. We are seeing positives,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe also urged exporters to bring back the foreign exchange earnings, and that the Central Bank had taken steps to ensure that exporters abided by the CB regulations.

“The irregularities due to open accounts, hawala and undial are being controlled and the black market premium is dropping. The foreign exchange liquidity in the banking sector has increased,” he said.

The Governor added that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had made good progress. An IMF delegation was expected to visit Sri Lanka by the end of August to reach a staff-level agreement.After Sri Lanka reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF, it had to start engaging with its creditors on debt restructuring.

“Once we reach an agreement with the IMF the situation will improve further,” he added. (RK)

(See related stories in the business section)

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CID arrests Mervyn 15 years after he forcibly entered Rupavahini



By Norman Palihawadana

Former Minister Mervyn Silva was yesterday arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for forcibly entering the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and attacking some employees there in 2007.On 27 Dec. 2007, Silva and his associates entered the SLRC premises and assaulted its news director for not airing a speech he had made in Matara.

SLRC employees held Silva incommunicado for hours, and the police intervened to secure his release. A few weeks later, some of the workers involved in the incident came under goon attacks.Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President at the time.

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Aeroflot affair: flights yet to resume; MP questions status of probe into detention of SU 289



ByShamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka hadn’t been able yet to convince Russia to resume Aeroflot flights and tourists from there to Sri Lanka suspended in the wake of the detention of SU 289 at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on the afternoon of June 02, authoritative sources said.

Sri Lanka grappling with an unprecedented foreign exchange shortage desperately needs tourists from an important destination like Russia, which earlier accounted for a sizeable share of the incoming traffic. Responding to The Island queries, sources said that relevant authorities were in the process of looking into the issue at hand.Having summoned Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Moscow Janitha Abeywickrema Liyanage soon after the incident at the BIA, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning over the incident.

In the wake of the Russian warning, the then government took measures to lift restrictions imposed on the aircraft that was to be detained till June 16. The detained SU 289 was allowed to leave on June 06.Former Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera yesterday (18) told The Island that no holds barred investigation was required to ascertain the truth.

Lawmaker Weerasekera said that the government should inform the Parliament of the progress of the investigation and what steps it intended to take as well as measures already taken to mend relations with Russia.

The retired Navy Chief of Staff said that those in authority should investigate whether a court ruling issued in respect of a case filed by Ireland-based Celestial Aviation Trading Company Ltd., against Aeroflot had been manipulated by interested parties.

It transpired that no sooner High Court Judge, S. M. H. S.P. Sethunge, in the Commercial High Court of the Western Province, Attorney-at-Law Aruna de Silva accompanied a fiscal officer of the same Court to the BIA at lightning speed to deliver the ruling.

Lawyer de Silva appeared for the plaintiff with Avindra Rodrigo, PC, (litigation) of FJ & Saram, leading law firm from the colonial times. The law firm has previously declined to comment on this matter.High Court judge Sethunga is on record as having said that he didn’t order the BIA not to permit Aeroflot SU 289 to take off on the afternoon of June 02.

Attorney-at-Law Dasun Nagasena, Coordinating Secretary to Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC yesterday (18) said that the Justice Ministry recommended action against the Attorney-at-Law to the Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC. Nagasena said that the fiscal officer who served the Justice Ministry had been interdicted, pending further investigations. As regards the lawyer, it would be handled on the advice of the CJ, the official said. Responding to another query, the official said that the Justice Ministry hadn’t been informed yet of the progress of the investigations.

Ports, Shipping and Aviation Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra yesterday said that ministry officials on Wednesday (17) discussed ways and means of resuming Aeroflot flights with relevant authorities, including the Russian embassy. Ruwanchandra said they were hopeful reaching a consensus on this matter soon. The official said so in response to The Island queries.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President Saliya Pieris, PC, yesterday said that they could initiate an inquiry only on the basis of a formal complaint. He said so when The Island asked him whether the BASL initiated an inquiry into the lawyer’s conduct in this regard. The President’s Counsel said that normally the BASL wouldn’t launch an investigation into a matter inquired into by the CJ.

At the time of the BIA incident, Prof. G.L. Peiris had been the minister in charge of foreign affairs. Since the change of government, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has sworn in Ali Sabry, PC, as the new minister of foreign affairs.

Russia has pointed out that action was taken against SU 289 in spite of an assurance given by Sri Lanka in respect of regular flights to Colombo.Sri Lankan Airlines in late March suspended flights to Moscow in the wake of imposition of what the airline called operational restrictions in the wake of war between Russia and Ukraine.

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