By Shamindra Ferdinando
Top Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya spokesman Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (13) alleged that President Ranil Wickremesinghe would not have taken on the judiciary without the backing from the ruling SLPP.
The former External Affairs Minister said so when the media sought his response to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa declaring the SLPP’s readiness to face local government polls at any time. The SLPP Chairman made the declaration at a public rally held in Moneragala over the weekend.
Prof. Peiris said that though the SLPP declared so, it worked closely with President Wickremesinghe to undermine the electoral process. The academic said that the UNP leader with just one MP in parliament couldn’t have pursued the high profile project without the SLPP’s support.
The rebel SLPP National List MP said that if the SLPP was genuinely ready to face the electorate, the party should ask the President to release funds required by the Election Commission.
Regardless of whatever the President and the SLPP say, the government parliamentary group both in and outside parliament challenged the Supreme Court directive, Prof. Peiris said.
Referring to a statement issued by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) in respect of declarations made by Premanath Dolawatte, MP, and State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe as regards the Supreme Court intervention, Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was trying to overwhelm the judiciary. The ex-minister strongly criticised the move to summon members of the judiciary before the House Privileges Committee.
Prof. Peiris said that both the UNP and the SLPP knew they would face heavy defeat at Local Government polls. They realised in the wake of such devastating loss, the government couldn’t prevent public movement for a national level election.
The ex-minister said that the current parliament didn’t reflect political environment in the country. Therefore a general election was needed to pave the way for a Parliament that would earn public respect. Instead of seeking a way out of the crisis, the government was trying to pit the legislature against the judiciary in line with Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa strategy.
Prof. Peiris said that as Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena was overseas, an Opposition delegation led by SJB and Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa took up issues at hand with Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapakse. Strongly condemning indiscriminate violence unleashed on protesting University students recently, Prof. Peiris alleged that Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa strategy was threatening the very basis of the Constitution.
Those at the helm of political power should realise that at the end of the day they couldn’t ignore the Supreme Court directive, Prof. Peiris said.
In spite of internal strife, the SLPP parliamentary group which consists of 120 MPs is the largest party in parliament and facilitated Wickremesinghe’s strategy, the ex-minister said. The President couldn’t last 24 hours without the SLPP’s backing, he declared.
GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.
The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.
Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.
Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.
While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.
Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.
Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.
Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.
Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.
Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.
Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.
Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.
LPBOA demands bus fare hike
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.
On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.
Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.
“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.
School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.
Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR
A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.
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