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Prez: Crisis beyond govt. control

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Acknowledging that the growing difficulties experienced by the people, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has urged them to have faith in him. Blaming the foreign exchange crisis for the current predictment, the President said, in a pre-recorded speeech delivered last night, that he was aware of the shortages of essential items and increase in prices and sensitive to the many sufferings the people have to experience over the past two months.

Text of the President’s statement: “I know that this situation will continue for reasons beyond our control though we make maximum possible efforts with regard to these situations.

“I accept responsibility for the actions I take. Today, I am determined to make tough decisions to find solutions to the inconveniences that the people are experiencing. I have appointed a National Economic Council and an Advisory Committee to assist it. I will constantly monitor whether the decisions I make through this are implemented. Therefore, first of all I request you to have faith in the actions I will take on behalf of the people.

“I am well aware of the difficulties faced by the people. I was able to better understand and manage all the difficulties faced by the soldiers who were at the forefront of the war against the brutal terrorism and the innocent civilians who were affected by the war.

“Our country is not the only country in the world affected by the prevailing crisis situation. The entire world is engulfed with various hardships. Increasing shipping costs, rising commodity prices and shortages of certain goods caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are all beyond our control. However, we have adopted concessionary initiatives for the benefit of the people.

“This crisis was not created by me. When those who contributed to the creation of this crisis are criticizing the government in front of the people today, I am attempting to immediately resolve this crisis and provide relief to the people.

In a crisis situation like this, it is the responsibility of the politicians and intellectuals of a country to collectively find solutions to the issues.

The root cause of current issues is our foreign exchange crisis.

“The projected export earnings for this year is USD 12 billion, before the rupee was floated. According to the data of the last two months, we have to bear USD 22 billion as the import cost this year. Accordingly, this will result in a trade deficit of USD 10 billion.

Based on recent data, this year we will receive about USD 3 billion from tourism, as well as export services such as information technology, and USD 2 billion from remittances from expatriate workers. Accordingly, the trade deficit will be USD 5 billion.

Meanwhile, USD 6.9 billion will have to be paid in loan installments and sovereign bonds this year. Then there will be a deficit of USD 11.9 billion.

We expect to generate USD 2.5 billion from other grants and investments. Accordingly, there is a total deficit of USD 9.4 billion in foreign exchange.

However, once the rupee is floated, export earnings are expected to reach USD 13 billion. This will also reduce the cost of imports from USD 22 billion to USD 20 billion. If that happens, the trade deficit could be reduced to USD 7 billion. We should aim for this target.

“We can also expect USD 4 billion by providing export services and USD 5 billion in remittances from expatriate workers. Accordingly, our trade deficit will be USD 2.4 billion.

“We must take action to fill this deficit and increase our foreign exchange reserves.

To this end, we have initiated discussions with international financial institutions as well as with our friendly countries regarding repayment of our loan installments. The government is in discussions with various parties to implement a new method regarding this which will be beneficial to our country. Yesterday’s discussion with the International Monetary Fund was also held for this purpose.

Through those discussions, we hope to find a way to pay off our annual loan installments, sovereign bonds, and so on. Subsequent to my discussions with the International Monetary Fund, I have decided to work with them after examining the advantages and disadvantages.

“Due to some decisions I have taken in the recent past, we were able to control the import expenditure to a great extent. We suspended importing vehicles two years ago because we saw this issue in advance. In addition, we encouraged local industries. We also stopped the importation of many non-essential food items and took steps to cultivate those crops in our own country. Now we can witness the successful results of those initiatives.

“The most serious issue we face in controlling the cost of imports is the rapidly rising fuel prices in the world market. Generally, more than 20 percent of our import expenditure is spent on purchasing fuel. In the last few months alone, fuel prices in the world market have more than doubled. This is the reason why the increase in fuel prices in our country was inevitable. Fuel is widely used in our country not only for vehicles but also to generate electricity.

“This is why, I constantly took steps to discuss and encourage relevant agencies to use renewable energy sources as much as possible.

Therefore, by limiting the use of fuel and electricity as much as possible, the citizens too can extend their support to the country at this time. I hope that you will understand the responsibility lies with you at this challenging time.

The tourism industry, which was collapsed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is revving. The last two months have seen a clear increase in tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka.

Also, due to the acceleration of the government’s provision of infrastructure facilities in the IT and telecommunications sectors, the revenue generated through these sectors is increasing.

“We are a nation that has experienced many adversities and at the same time conquered those challenges throughout the history. We have faced foreign invasions, great famines, natural disasters and threats of terrorism. The way we dealt with the Covid-19 situation has been praised even by international organizations. However, we all need to understand that we have to face difficulties when implementing solutions for the issues for a certain period of time. Therefore, I urge all of you not to be discouraged but to unite as a nation to overcome this crisis.

You requested me to build a secure, disciplined, and a modern developed country, as well as a better education for your children. Almost two and a half years of my tenure were devoted to protect you and your child from the 4

pandemic. I will dedicate remaining period of my tenure to accomplish those original goals.

I urge the Cabinet, the Parliament and public officials to work together as a team to achieve our desired goal of providing a better country for our children with a great commitment.

I entered into politics on your invitation. All of you have placed an utmost trust in me. I will never betray the trust you have placed in me and protect it with a great commitment.”



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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