BY SARATH AMUNUGAMA
Despite the carping criticism ,particularly from the social media, SriLanka is one of the few countries which has survived the Corona epidemic relatively unscathed. According to the latest figures available while writing this article 85,695 persons have tested positive for the virus and over 80,000 have now finished their quarantine period. A total of 502 deaths have been recorded. While the numbers given daily of those infected is relatively unimportant, since it is only a reflection of the numbers tested which is a comparatively small sample of the total population or ‘’universe’’- to use statistical phraseology.
The more people are tested the more likely that the numbers would increase till the effects of isolation and vaccinations kick in. The number of deaths is relatively small when compared to the death toll in developed countries. Research has shown that Asians living in tropical zones are less likely to succumb to the virus. On the other hand with the onset of winter there was a steady increase of reported cases in countries with a cold climate.
The initial ‘’roll out‘’ of the vaccine has been quite successful with nearly 730,000 people especially in the ‘’At risk’’categories receiving the injection. Unlike in many other countries the numbers resisting getting the vaccine injection seems to be small which is a good sign. In many other countries in our region that is a major problem. If we can rapidly vaccinate a large segment of the population the pace of testing need not be a priority. It would be more reasonable to deploy our limited medical services to administer the vaccine. The rumour that there will be insufficient vaccines to go round seems to be disproved by the regular shipments that are arriving.
PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE
Sri Lanka is fortunate to have a good public medical service as the WHO has noted on several occasions. Since the introduction of the adult universal franchise our political leaders of different persuasions have all agreed on the need for an efficient public health service. The trauma of the Malaria epidemic of the 1930s led to the State Council supporting an extensive rural health programme which is associated with the name of George E de Silva, MSC for Kandy. He was the Minister of Health in the State Council and supported by Dr S A Wickremasinghe then of the LSSP and later of the Communist Party, became the ‘’Father of the Rural Health Scheme’’ which transformed the health standards of the disadvantaged village population.
It also laid the foundations of the demographic surge of the 40s and 50s, the results of which are seen in the overwhelming population configurations and economic planning dilemmas of our present times. Under this initiative Rural Hospitals were built all over the country. Midwives were appointed countrywide and pre-natal and post natal care was undertaken by the state. As a consequence there was a sharp drop in infant and maternal mortality and a rise in the years of life expectancy. A world renowned economist summarized this situation when he said ‘’Sri Lanka is third world country with a first world health service’.
Social scientists are aware of a debate that took place many years ago in the ‘’Demography‘’ journal regarding the reasons for the population surge in Sri Lanka. Some argued that this was due to the discovery of DDT and the elimination of Malaria,particularly in the Dry Zone with the introduction of colonization schemes. Others led by Ananda Meegama replied convincingly that this development was not mono-causal but depended on several innovations and policy packages associated with the Rural Health Schemes which were put in place by the State Council and continued by Parliament after Independence.
This debate drew attention of scholars to the welfare measures undertaken in our country. The Nobel prize winning Economist Amartya Sen wrote that SrI Lanka and Kerala had adopted a style of growth which could provide a model for the Third World. I must say however that whenever I met Dr Amartya Sen at meetings and discussed our situation he would say that his sanguine prognostications about Sri Lanka had been derailed by the failure to address the ethnic issue. His bets on SriLanka were off because we could not solve our ethnic problem.
I have always felt that George E de Silva has had a raw deal in our history writing. If CWW Kannangara has been lauded as the father of Free Education ,De Silva should receive a similar accolade as the Father of Free Health .
As shown above we have a health service we can be proud of. Even from the aspect of inoculations our health services have administered the polio vaccine and the triple vaccine countrywide and have been lauded by the WHO. Today no SriLankan child dies of these infections. The best example of our able medical service is Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle, State Minister of Health who was my State Minister when I was Minister of Science and Technology. As a specialist physician she boldly and courageously held her ground when other bigwigs of the Ministry were throwing holy water into rivers and swallowing magical potions in front of Television cameras. Never in the history of the Government health sector has there been an exhibition of such stupid behavior by political authorities. Another Minister is reported to have generously provided government funds for a nutmeg crushing machine to make more of the anti-covid brew. A few intelligent journalists blew this snake oil salesman’s credentials sky high when they reported that the gullible swallowers, including famously the lady Minister of Health, had contracted Corona and were hospitalized under intensive care.
In a noteworthy coincidence two of the ‘’peni’’ drinkers were struck by the virus within a few days. Mr Speaker who hosted the swallowing session in Parliament in the glare of publicity was shown a few days later meekly getting the anti -corona jab. But what took the cake was his statement published in the newspapers that he agreed to be vaccinated because he wanted to set an example. As a former MP who was continuously in the House for 26 years I was dismayed to find the Speaker’s office used to promote dubious products merely because an MP wished to accommodate one of his constituents.
Of late Speakers have tended to act as political leaders in waiting who have no hesitation in using their high office for personal benefit. That is another recent development contributing to public disenchantment with Parliament. [As a social scientist I was intrigued by the discovery via Baas Unnehe the snake oil salesman, that Kali – a fond abbreviation for Badrakali, the demoness- was a Tamil language speaker. When this ‘Peniya’’ lost his cool with the throng of supplicants surrounding him at home, he ,on behalf of Kali ,Shouted ‘’Poda Poda Poda ‘’at a woman who also responded in gibberish .A Tamil friend told me that ‘’poda’’ is ungrammatical Tamil when addressing a female.]
While there may have been a few mishaps which have been reported in the media, the vaccination programme has been carried out smoothly thanks to the public officials and the army. Many of my friends, admittedly over 60, were anxious that they would not be able to access the vaccine but in a couple of days were able to get it without much difficulty. Whatever may have been the instructions in most centres there was a queue for over sixties and the grama sevakas could recognize the people from their divisions. All in all the initial ‘’Roll Out’’seems to be successful without the usual absentees that have been reported in other countries.
Presumably it will now be extended to other parts of the country so that we can reach a proportion of coverages so that the ‘’herd tendency’’would make it possible for us to open the economy and the social life of the country. Medical Scientists have said that to reach such immunity about 70 percent of the population have to be vaccinated. I read with interest that Basil Rajapaksa had said that we should aim at such an immunization. As a small country we should find this possible and would help in positioning us as a lead country for investment and tourism. In this Isreal provides us with a good model.
Being a small country with good links to their compatriots in the scientific and business fields in the West, Israel has set a blistering pace in vaccinating its population. Sadly their racial policies have left out the Palestinians from the vaccination programme. This discrimination is so reminiscent of what Hitler did to their forefathers in the thirties and early forties. What we can learn from their vaccination programme however is the clear prioritization of access to the vaccine. They identified the over 60s as their target group based on demographic data and covered this category promptly. According to the Economist, hospitalization of the over 60 cohort dropped substantially after 70% of the number in that cohort was vaccinated by the Isreali government.
One of the grumbles about our vaccination programme, as seen in the letters to Editors, is shifting attention away from the over 60 cohort which is abnormally large in our particular demographic profile. By uncritically following the WHO guideline in this matter we seem to have ignored the ground realities of our demography. This was shown in the unanticipated demand from this category which had to be accommodated by hastily adding a separate queue for the over sixties in the vaccination centres.
Let me now turn to some basic issues which came to the fore due to the Covid pandemic. The first is the need to recognize the role of modern science. All too frequently our media has highlighted anti-scientific ‘’ mumbo Jumbo’’ to direct the conversation away from the need to establish a science based society in our country. Many people supported President Gotabaya Rajapaksa because he was a tech savvy modernizer. Unlike our other leaders he was not seen weighed against gold, half naked in a ‘’Thulbaram’’. [It is an irony that many of these Godmen or Pusaris died recently after contracting Corona.] Indeed unlike our politicians GR knew that wars cannot be won by making Pujas. You need manpower, planning and training, use of proper modern weapons, latest communications technology and research and logistical superiority to overwhelm an opponent who had access to top weapons experts worldwide.
I was a minister when the LTTE with superior weapons such as MBRLs were on the verge of driving our armed forces out of Jaffna peninsula. One of the reforms introduced by the GR-Fonseka team was to immediately get the latest weaponry. Unfortunately the leaders of the UNP, led by Ranil, could not understand any of this and were setting up the media to question the financing of those planes and weapons.
The discovery of the Covid vaccine is nothing short of a modern scientific miracle, says the Economist of February 2021. ’’To call vaccination a miracle is no exaggeration. A little more than a year after the virus was first recognized medics have already administered 148 million doses. Although the vaccines fail to prevent all mild and asymptomatic cases of Covid 19, they mostly seem to spare patients from death and the severest infections that require hospitalization, which is what really matters’’.
Another problem which is facing the country is the inefficient provincial health system. Many of our Chief Ministers were small time politicians who had very little idea of management. I am now revealing a secret that JRJ never wanted to appoint politicians as chief Ministers. His idea was to appoint senior public servants with a proven track record of management to run the newly established provincial councils.I remember that politicians like Dissanayake of Gampola lobbied against this saying that officials had no political savvy. Instead he proposed himself for the post of Chief Minister of Central Province and JRJ was made to change his mind by confidantes like Gamini and Ronnie de Mel.
Any investigation will show that the rural hicks who became Chief Ministers plundered the revenue of the provincial councils for salaries and perks for their colleagues. Money set apart for education and health were squandered to give jobs for the boys in order to get political mileage for their attempt to enter Parliament. This irresponsibility has led to a crisis in provincial education and health. Except perhaps in the North, the public in all other provinces want this subject reverted to the Central Government as the local education and health systems have broken down.
The health services in the provinces can effectively function at present because fortunately the Councils are dissolved. It is up to the Government to make a realistic assessment of the provincial council system which has been an utter failure in the Sinhala provinces. I would suggest the setting up of an international group of experts to evaluate the provincial council system which has been in operation for over 30 years. As I shall show later a streamlined health system will become a necessity in the ‘’Post-Covid World’’. A better framework for health and education, especially in rural areas must be evolved. An inquiry must be launched as to how the funds allocated to PCs have been misappropriated and wasted in political ‘’gift giving’’.
Scientists and economists are now talking of the ‘’New Coronormal’’. The epidemic has created a new normal with which we have to live. Says the Economist ‘’To the extent that medicine alone cannot prevent lethal outbreaks of Covid 19, the burden will also fall on behavior, just as it has in most of the pandemic. Habits like mask wearing may become part of everyday life. Vaccine passports and restrictions in crowded spaces could become mandatory. Vulnerable people will have to maintain great vigilance. Those who refuse vaccination can expect health education but limited protection. But even if Covid- 19 has not been completely put to rest, the situation is immeasurably better than what might have been. The credit for that goes to medical science.’’
Finally we cannot avoid the mega question of our attitude as a country and administration to the process of modernity. Though cranks and eccentric academics may muddy the waters we cannot avoid the thrust of modernization. All countries in this interrelated world follow a path to modernity which is time tested and, above all, practical. The covid virus has clearly shown the pathetic inability of non–science to address practical issues. While individuals may be delusional and call on gods like Natha to answer their prayers, real life is different and cannot succeed by rhetoric and speech-making. We need to get our priorities right and seek rational solutions. It is clear that countries that have successfully negotiated the modernization process can give a better life for the people Covid is a wake up call. I invite all concerned politicians, administrators, business people and academics to begin a discussion on the rational path to modernization which alone can lift us out of the morass in which we find ourselves now.
Twenty-five years of private sector-led renewable energy development
by Dr Tilak Siyambalapitiya
A policy change in 1995 to allow private investments in electricity generation into the grid, a standard agreement and a standard price for electricity produced, enabled such investments to pick-up faster than in other countries. The first mini-hydro power project with entirely private sector funding and private ownership commenced operations in May 1996.
The agreement and the price
Dubbed the “most investor friendly agreement in the world”, Sri Lanka’s renewable energy developers were offered, since 1996, a non-negotiable 15-year agreement (20-years for projects signed after 2008). The agreement says, literally, “I will buy all your electricity produced for the next 15 years, any day any time; I will not penalize you for delays in your project or for not producing electricity at all or producing less electricity than you promised; I will not ask you to start or stop your power plant”. There is no other agreement in the business world 25 years ago or now, where such agreements are offered to a seller.
Then the price. The agreement carries a price, which too is not negotiable. It says: “I will pay you a price that reflects the fuel saved in major power plants; in case fuel prices go down, I will not drop the price below 90% of the price when you signed; if the fuel prices go up, I will keep on increasing the prices without any limit”.
I shall buy all your all your product at the following price for 20 years. If you do not produce too, even when I need it badly, I will only greet you with a smile !
Government procurements have to be on competitive basis. This policy of competition was further reinforced by the Electricity Act 2009, required to be implemented by the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL). The legal validity of such renewable energy agreements and price offers, that make a mockery of rules of “competition”, has been debated in many quarters over the past 25 years.
Has it been good ?
Well, yes and no, depending on whom you speak to and your convictions. To the credit of the program, Sri Lanka’s renewable energy development accelerated after 1996. These are smaller power plants using hydropower, wind, wood and more recently, waste. If the government attempted to develop them through a state entity, excessive overheads and inefficiency would most likely creep-in. There would have been a politically appointed Chairman and a fleet of vehicles going up and down, to run a tiny minihydro.
On the other hand, had the state rigidly controlled what is developed and where, renewable energy projects developed would have been more efficient, well-engineered and certainly more environment friendly. Stories are many, where a private mini-hydro project agreed with the Central Environmental Authority to release water for downstream users, but later blocked it 100%. As the saying goes, “Sri Lanka’s streams and rivers are now flowing in tubes”, but we are proud about a vibrant renewable energy industry !
Renewable energy from such smaller private investments reached 1% of total in year 2000 and 4% by 2006. Buoyed by another policy change in 2007 that offered a contract for 20 years and an even more attractive prices, renewable energy from small power plants raced toward a 10% policy target for 2015. It reached the target indeed, with 11% of electricity produced in 2015 from the combined production in 147 minihydros, 15 wind and 3 each of grown biomass, wood waste and solar parks. Unlike many countries who make headlines by stating their renewable energy contribution in megawatt, Sri Lanka’s targets and achievement are stated in kilowatthour, honestly reflecting the true benefits to save fuel and to reduce emissions.
Continuing its race for development, by 2020 (provisional figures) electricity produced from smaller private renewable energy power plants reached 12%. Adding major hydros, the energy share from all renewable energy was 37% by 2020, a share unmatched by all countries and expatriate Sri Lankans that preach Sri Lanka on how to develop renewable energy.
Has the price been good to the investor?
The policy of paying renewable energy projects signed over 1996-2016 was to pay the value of fuel saved in the grid, calculated and published in advance every year. Agreements signed after 2007 enjoy an even more attractive pricing formula: a technology-specific, cost-reflective price. That means minihydros are paid a price to make that a profitable investment; wind power is paid to make that technology, a profitable investment.
Once signed, price paid does not change. If costs go up or down after signing, or bank interest rates go up or down, the price remains the same. Fortunately for all who signed in 2008-2009 or later, equipment costs and bank interest rates both have been on a downward trend. Projects that borrowed at 18% in 2018 possibly borrowed at 8% this year, but still enjoy the price paid calculated at 18% interest. By way of equipment costs, solar power has seen the deepest reduction in costs. More on that later.
What was the benefit to the public?
Why did the government offer such attractive rates and terms to private investors? Sri Lanka did not throw Rs 10 at renewable energy investors and say “do it if you can”. The key principle in the pricing policy was: price paid makes investments profitable (not just profitable but excessively profitable). The agreement still remains the “most investor friendly agreement” in the world.
In other words, the public of this country, through their electricity bills and through taxes, have paid for the investments, bank interest, and profits (above market rates), to make privately-owned renewable energy an excessively profitable venture. Other benefits of renewable energy need not be repeated here; they are all well known. So what is the benefit to the public who fully paid (and continue to pay) for these investments, of which the ownership is private?
It should be the longer-term benefit of cheaper renewable energy. That’s why the 2008 announcement on the revised policy said as follows: “Renewable energy, which is a natural resource, belongs to the State. Developers are provided with a high tariff to cover their expenses and to earn reasonable profits for an adequately long period (in this case the first fifteen years). Thereafter, the benefit of the resource should flow to the electricity customers, while continuing to provide an operating fee to the small power producers and full recovery of maintenance costs”.
The closest example is the CEB-owned fleet of hydropower plants, which are bigger. The familiar ones are Laxapana, Kotmale and Victoria, among a total of 15 power plants. The public of the country paid for those too, starting from 1950. How? Through electricity bills (because loans and government investments were apportioned between CEB and Mahaweli Authority), taxes and benefits foregone. The major hydros today produce at a cost of Rs 3.35 per unit of electricity. True, that except for Upper Kotmale, all are 20 years or more of age. The fleet of minihydros, too, as they mature into their contracts, after 15 years of good profits to investors, should deliver benefits to electricity customers. That’s why the 2008 announcement said: Therefore, once the developers’ costs and profits are paid, it is inevitable that in the long-term, renewable energy should flow into the national grid at prices significantly lower than the cost of thermal energy.
However, information published indicates that the principles on which small power producers were enabled in 1996 and then enhanced in 2008, are indeed being followed. CEB produces electricity from mature hydros at Rs 3.35 per unit (PUCSL assessment 2019). The price for mature hydropower in the private sector was Rs 5.38 per unit (CEB publication 2019), precisely following the principle of fairness: good profits to investor for 15 years, benefits to electricity customer in the longer term.
As more and more minihydros mature, later wind, biomass and solar projects mature, we should be seeing finally, that ALL renewables produce electricity at prices very significantly lower than all the alternatives. Renewables replace thermal power and we should be paid the same price, will not be an argument, now or then, or in the future. “My power plant is not so good, it does not have water, is not an argument”, because no one defined where to build the minihydro; the investor selected it.
The argument that private renewables can produce below the price of oil, gas or coal does not hold, then, now or in the future. Renewables were allowed because fossil fuels were expensive and bad. The price of fossil fuels comprise royalties, production and delivery costs. If one needs a comparison, royalties for renewables have to be paid to the “republic” (the treasury) and production costs paid by electricity customers. Since royalties are not charged for renewables, both CEB and private, then renewable energy prices should be compared only with production costs. The investment has already been fully paid by the republic.
I conclude with a quotation from the 2008 announcement: “Small power producers opting not to migrate to the new agreement by 30th April 2008, will be offered the tier 3 tariff announced for the relevant technology in the year in which the existing agreement expires, after its full tenure of 15 years is completed”. That means, retiring minihydros should be offered prices in the range of Rs 6 per unit.
It is yet to be seen whether the PUCSL and consumer rights groups are willing to fully and comprehensively understand the issue, step-in, and ensure that “renewable energy belongs to the republic”, as stated in the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority Act 2007.
The country’s streams are now flowing in tubes, but do benefits flow to the public who have fully paid the investors with profits?
Danger of disregarding Geopolitical Realities
Negotiating Agreements for Foreign Investments:
By Dr. S.W. Premaratne
Foreign Policy decision-maker, of a state, have to take into consideration the prevailing geopolitical environment of the international system, and of the region concerned, at a given time, when there is a foreign policy aspect involved in the decision that has to be taken regarding any issue Omission, or failure to give consideration to this aspect of the issue, can lead to disastrous consequences. Several examples from the recent political history of Sri Lanka can be given to illustrate this point.
Sri Lanka’s conduct of foreign policy, in the 1980s, is a clear example of the serious consequences of ignoring India’s concerns regarding Sri Lanka’s pro-West tilt in its foreign policy. Sri Lanka’s declared policy was non-alignment in maintaining relations with other states, specially the Big Powers in the West and the East. However, the J.R. Jayewardene government, that came to power, in 1977, sought to develop a closer relationship with the Western countries, led by the USA. The nature of the interactions between the diplomats of the USA and Sri Lanka, at the time, had given the impression to India that Sri Lanka was seeking the assistance of the USA for suppressing the Tamil militant movement in Sri Lank, fighting for the rights of the Tamil community. There were also reasons for India to suspect that there was an understanding between the Sri Lankan Government and the USA to allow the Trincomalee harbour to be used by the USA. It was this perception of India that Sri Lanka was following an anti-India foreign policy, endangering the security of India that motivated India to intervene militarily in the year 1987 to thwart the progress of the Vadamarachchi operation, aimed at militarily defeating the Tamil militant movement.
After aborting the progress of the Vadamarachchi operatio, the Indian government proceeded to compel the Sri Lankan Government to sign an Agreement – the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of July 1987 – to ensure that Sri Lanka respected India’s security concerns and other interests when seeking assistance from outside Powers for Sri Lanka’s economic development or national security.
India’s concerns regarding China’s excessive involvement in Sri Lanka’s development projects
Sri Lanka’s political leaders and diplomats, whenever they get an opportunity, express their affection for their Big Brother, India, and express the need for further strengthening the friendship for the mutual benefit of both countries. India’s perception, however, is that, especially after the change of government in 2005, there is an evolving special relationship between Sri Lanka and China posing a serious threat to the national security of India.
Sri Lanka felt intensely isolated from the international community after adopting the Resolution A/HRC/46/L. Rev. 1 against Sri Lanka, at the UNHRC, in Geneva, in March, 2021, especially because India also decided to support the core-group indirectly by abstaining from voting.
The only consolation for Sri Lanka now is China’s expression of willingness to further strengthen its strategic relationship with Sri Lanka by extending further development assistance to Sri Lanka, within the framework of the Belt end Road Initiative. Subsequent to a telephone conversation between the two leaders, the President of China and the President of Sri Lanka, in a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in Colombo, on March 30, 2021, it was stated that “China attaches great importance to the development of bilateral ties and stands ready to work with Sri Lanka to determine the strategic direction and achieve steady growth of the relationship. China stands ready to steadily push forward major projects, like the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port, and promote high quality Belt and Road Co-operation, providing robust impetus for Sri Lanka’s post pandemic economic recovery and sustainable development”. China projecting Sri Lanka as an intimate partner of the Belt and Road strategy indicates that Sri Lanka is distancing itself from the path of non-alignment and adopting an anti-Western and anti-India approach.
In the matter of obtaining foreign investments for development projects, Sri Lanka has failed to foresee the foreign policy implications of overreliance on China. The two massive development projects, initiated during the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, which came to power in 2005, were the Hambantota sea port and the Port City Project in Colombo. The amount of money invested for these two projects, by China, was so massive that Sri Lanka happened to sign an agreement for permitting the management and control of the Hambantota Port by the state-controlled company of China, under a 99-year lease agreement. The Management and control of the Colombo Port City area also has been granted to the Chinese construction company, under a 99-year lease agreement. Not only India, but also the USA and other Western countries have expressed serious concern regarding the involvement of China in strategically significant massive development projects in Sri Lanka. India’s perception now is that Sri Lanka is an aircraft carrier of China, stationed in the Indian Ocean, close to India. Hambantota Port is viewed as another pearl in the string of pearls maintained for containing India by China.
India is also concerned over the lack of interest on the part of the Sri Lankan Government to go ahead with the development projects regarding which agreement had been reached with India, during the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe coalition government. In May, 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Japan and India proposing the development of the East Container Terminal jointly, Sri Lanka and Ports Authority retaining 51 percent shares. However, the present Government deviated from that understanding and decided to nominate one Indian investor, Adani Group, disregarding Japan. But, the attempt of the Sri Lankan Government to involve the Indian Company in this project by offering 49 percent of the shares of the ECT was thwarted by the trade union action of the port workers, supported by an influential section of the Buddhist priests and also a section of the ruling alliance. The Sri Lankan government had no alternative but to respond to the demand of the trade unions by getting the Cabinet approval for developing the ECT only by the Colombo Port Authority, without involving India or Japan.
India has also expressed concern over the attitude of the Sri Lankan Government concerning the development and management of the Trincomalee oil tank farm. The lower farm has been managed jointly by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) via Lanka IOC Private Limited. The 2003 tripartite agreement signed by the Sri Lankan Government, LIOC and the CPC covers the entire tank farm. India is now concerned about the excessive delay in granting the Sri Lankan Government’s approval for commencing the development of the Upper Tank Farm, comprising 84 tanks.
Another joint venture, regarding which Sri Lanka sought the involvement of India’s Petronet LNG Ltd. Company, and also a Japanese investor, was the proposed liquefied natural gas LNG terminal that was to be set up near Colombo. Although Indian and Japanese Investors had indicated their willingness to join this project, as partners, the Sri Lankan Government has not yet given its final approval for commencing the construction work.
India is also very much concerned over the lack of progress in the reconciliation process initiated after the end of the war. India’s concern in this regard was expressed very effectively and in very clear language in a statement made by the Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar in the course of a media conference during his two-day visit to Sri Lanka in January, this year. In his statement the Indian Foreign Minister said: “As we promote peace and wellbeing in the region, India has been strongly committed to the unity stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. Our support for the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is long standing as indeed for an inclusive political outlook that encourages ethnic harmony. It is in Sri Lanka’s own interest that the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity, within a united Sri Lanka, are fulfilled. That applies equally to the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government on meaningful devolution, including the 13th Amendment to the Constitution”.
Sri Lanka should not consider that India’s interest and involvement in the post-war reconciliation process as a case of a foreign country intervening in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka illegally. India is guided by a mindset that there is a moral responsibility on her part to intervene and bring about a final settlement to the conflict in Sri Lanka.
Colombo Port City Economic Commission
Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill which was challenged in the Supreme Court, purported to establish an Economic Commission for the administration of the Port City, built by a construction company of the Chinese Government, adjacent to the Colombo Port. This Bill seeks to grant extensive powers to an institution called the Colombo Port Economic Commission, whose members will be appointed by the President of Sri Lanka. According to the provisions in the Bill, the supervisory power of the Parliament of Sri Lanka has been excluded, both regarding the manner of exercising the powers granted by the proposed legislation to the Commission, and also regarding the selection of persons to be appointed as members of the Commission.
Moreover, regarding the activities that take place within the Colombo Port City area, some institutions of the Government of Sri Lanka are excluded from exercising their authority. Dr. Wijedasa Rajapaksa, in his written submissions submitted to the Supreme Court, in connection with the petition filed challenging the Bill, makes specific reference to the Customs Ordinance. He gives the warning that there may be importation of prohibited substances such as drugs, weapons, etc. He points out that in the event of any violation of International Treaties and Conventions, within the Port City area, it is not the Commission but the Sri Lankan Government that is responsible.
In view of the intense power struggle between China on the one hand and India and other partners of the Quad, led by the USA on the other hand, for dominance in the Indian Ocean area, the Parliament of Sri Lanka passing legislation for permitting such a high degree of autonomy to an administrative authority that can be controlled by the Chinese government will be considered by India as a serious threat to its security. This pro-China foreign policy orientation will also be an obstacle for Sri Lanka to promote friendly relations with democratic countries in the West determined to thwart Chinese domination in the Indian Ocean region.
The Philippines and SL combine
Singer Suzi Croner (Fluckiger), who was a big hit in this part of the world, singing with the group Friends, continues to make her presence felt on TNGlive – the platform, on social media, that promotes talent from all corners of the globe.
She made her third appearance, last Saturday, May 1st, but this time she had for company Sean, from the Philippines, who, incidentally, was in the finals of The Voice of Switzerland 2020.
Their repertoire, for TNGlive, on the evening of May 1st, including hit songs, like ‘Something Stupid,’ ‘Let Your Love Flow,’ (Sean), ‘If You Can’t Give Me Love,’ ‘Your Man,’ (Sean), ‘Crazy,’ ‘Great Pretender,’ (Sean), ‘Amazing,’ and ‘Stand By Me.’
It was a very entertaining programme, and Sean certainly did prove why he needed to be a finalist at the prestigious The Voice of Switzerland 2020.
You can take in the TNGlive scene, on a regular basis, by joining the Public Group TNGlive, on social media (Facebook).
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