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Repeat of 2011 imbroglio?

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JVP fires first shot over likely university selection dispute this year

By Saman Indrajith

Thousands of students who had sat the 2019 GCE Advanced Level examination were in difficulty as the government failed to release their cut-off marks to select universities 14 months after the exam; JVP led Socialist Students Union said yesterday.

National Organiser of the SSU, Rangana Devapriya, addressing the media, at the JVP headquarters in Pelawatte said the government had taken more than one year to release the cut-off marks for the 2019 examination. “The cut-off marks should have been released before commencing this year’s GCE Advanced Level exam so that those who could not obtain enough marks could sit this year’s exam. They have been deprived of that chance.

In 2019 students sat the examination under two syllabuses. Therefore the marks would be released under two categories. There would be two types of district rankings, national rankings and Z-scores. When there are two categories of subjects, a single common Z-score cannot be made for both categories. When their exam results were released, the students had some idea of their district and national rankings, and it is natural for the top performers to await university admission. The authorities should have made known how many students would be admitted to universities by releasing the cut-off marks but they waited till this year’s exam started to do so.”

The SSU National Organiser said that the UGC had stated that they would decide the number of students to be selected to the universities on the basis of guidelines set by a Supreme Court decision in 2011. “This is a lie. In 2011, there were two cases with regard to Z-score before the Supreme Court. None of them said the students of both streams should be selected from a common list. The determination was about how the Z score should be calculated. It called two sets of Z-score rankings. Thereafter education authorities prepared separate Z-score rankings for the two syllabuses and prepared a combined list. Then hundreds of students filed eight fundamental rights cases. Finally, the Supreme Court directed that the students be enrolled on the basis of highest rankings in the district and national ranking lists.  That method led to the admission of 5,609 students in addition to the intake of 21,500 students in that year. That was a 26% increase. Now, the UGC has come out with a Combined Mean Score, which is an unfair method. We are against this unjust action and will fight for the students who have been deprived of their right to higher education owing to the actions of UGC authorities.

“In 2011, hundreds of students and parents went to courts. They waited for months and took to the streets. We hope that a similar situation will not arise again. We call upon the UGC and government to solve the problem faced by thousands of students without trying to hoodwink them.”



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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