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Sarath pooh-poohs Sarath’s plans

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB Gampaha District MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka on Wednesday questioned the feasibility of Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera’s plan to deploy the Civil Defence Force personnel to protect VIPs and to give compulsory military training to all above the age of 18 years.

Fonseka, participating in the adjournment debate in Parliament said: “We hear the Public Security Minister uttering various things these days. These are nothing but fairy tales. For example, he is proposing to give a six-month compulsory military training to all above the age of 18 years. That is not something possible because the government has no funds for that. Suppose we put this into practice. Then you have to give training to persons between 18 and 26 years. It is difficult for a person above the age of 26 years to undergo military training. There are around four million persons in that age group. The cost of giving military training to a single person for six months is Rs 750,000. Suppose we train 100,000 persons then the cost would be 75 billion rupees. Do you have funds for such an exercise? Are you talking of things that can be done?”

The Field Marshal said: “The Minister says that CSD personnel would be deployed for the close protection of the ministers and MPs. He proposes that the Ministerial Security Division personnel would be withdrawn from the VIP security details and the CSD personnel be deployed in their place. Around 98 percent of CSD personnel are those from the villages who had been serving as home guards. The home guards were given shotguns. They were mostly farmers. They were also allowed to keep those guns at their homes during the war. They were Sirisenas and Gnanapalas from the villages. Even grandmothers in some villages had shotguns. It was Kamalas and Nandawathies who were given the shotguns in that manner to protect villages. I like to ask my fellow MPs whether you would face the risk of handing over the protection of your lives to people of such calibre. It is not easy to train a person as a soldier. It is a very complex and difficult task. You cannot train every person to become a soldier. You have to select persons with special qualifications and physical abilities to become a soldier.”



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Sabry denies China caused SL debt crisis

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Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, has dismissed assertions that China caused the current economic crisis here.The Minister made Sri Lanka’s position clear in an interview with WION’s diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal. Asked whether Minister Sabry believed that the current economic crisis is due to China, its policy of debt crisis, the Minister has said: No, I don’t agree with that, which is a western phrase. We don’t agree with that. The Chinese never came and forced us to take money. Actually, we have gone and sought funds and they have respected that and invested in our country. They are the biggest investor in our country, we don’t agree with that phrase. Having taken the money we have put them into proper use or who so ever we can get in return is the issue for Sri Lankans, therefore we don’t associate with that kind of phrase, actually Chinese have been good friends for us and they have been the biggest investor in the country post conflict.

Commenting on Sri Lanka’s ties with China, WION quoted Sabry as having said: “Our relationship with Beijing is very strong for a long period of time, they have been our close friend. This year we have celebrated 70 years of economic ties with them, beginning with the Rubber Rice pact, we exported rubber to them and imported rice. So ours is a strong relationship and basically it has been a commercial relationship, economic relationship where they have come and invested heavily in Sri Lanka during a difficult period of time for us and during the 26 years of the conflict, during the last few years, Chinese supported us with supply of arms to get rid of the threat from one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations, the LTTE and in order to bring back peace to our country. In that context we have had a very good relationship with them. Sri Lanka always follows the dynamic, neutral foreign policy where we would want everyone to be a friend of Sri Lanka and enemy to none. That is our foreign policy, that is our relationship, so given this dynamic, we would continue the same thing but taking India’s sensitivities and security concerns to heart because that is very important for us.”

WION: How has the talks been with the IMF and has India played a role in facilitating the talks? I believe this is the 17th bailout you are trying to secure.

Ali Sabry: I started the negotiations with them, and they have studied, and staff-level agreement has been reached, prior action before the EFF, extended fund facility, we have agreed on. We have agreed and implemented some of those things. The EEF facility is for 2.9 billion, and the moment the IMF gets involved, it infuses confidence in the system, ADB, World Bank all come on the table, and we probably will be able to return to the money market, so that is why it is so important. India, had actually provided us with a lifeline during the most crucial time of our history, in terms of economy and those credit lines kept us going for a long period of time. I remember, when I was in Washington, your Finance Minister Sitharaman led your group and supported us in our discussion with the IMF and they have continued to do so. So it is important and Indian support is very critical to us. India has played a great role in supporting the neighbour in the most difficult time of its history.

WION: Why didn’t China offer financial assistance, as India did, during the recent crisis?

Ali Sabry: The Chinese also supported us just before the particular period of time, they also provided us with some financial facilities and credit line, also they did provide us some soft arrangement to bolster our reserves at the central bank, apart from that some humanitarian assistance also. We hope China will step up in providing us with debt restructuring assurances, along with India so that we can go to the IMF and resolve the matter once and for all and get back to the recovery path. So, it’s important for all creditors and all investors that Sri Lanka recovers and recovers fast. The longer the debt gets suspended, the longer it takes to recover. It is bad for all the creditors and investors; everybody understands that, including China.

WION: Has China offered to restructure…

Ali Sabry: We are still in discussions for that, they have been cooperative and part of the common platform where we share information, recently in Washington. They also took part on the virtual platform. So China, India, Paris club, and Japan are all cooperating with us, so we are in the final stage of trying to get the debt restructuring and assurances. We are hopeful all countries and all our friends will not let us down.

WION: Have you asked for more Indian support.

Ali Sabry:Not really, right now our economy has stabilized to some extent and we should be able to manage ourselves. Right now, we have reached out to India and the rest of the world, it’s not for aid or any more loans but basically investments. We are working with Indians and Indian companies and the government to work together in various areas for mutual interests, so that investment comes into the country and it will be beneficial for both Indians and Sri Lankans.

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Electricity users threaten legal action if power tariffs hiked again unilaterally by Minister

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CEB records Rs 6 billion profit in October

By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) recorded a profit of six billion rupees in October, Electricity Users Association (EUA) Secretary Sanjeewa Dhammika told the media yesterday.Dhammika said that if the CEB increased the price of electricity again, the EUA would take legal action.

“There are 6.5 million users of electricity and I urge the Minister of Power and Energy not to take them for granted. Minister Kanchana Wijesekera, on Thursday, told Parliament that they will increase the electricity tariff again,” he said.

The CEB made a profit of six billion rupees in October. Electricity was produced using water, coal, and renewable sources, he said.

“The average cost of electricity production was around five rupees. A unit of electricity was sold at around 32

rupees. The Minister says they are still making a loss. The Minister has no power to increase tariffs. The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) can only increase the tariff. The current Minister has said there is no need for a PUCSL. He wants to increase tariffs the way he wants, without oversight. We won’t allow that to happen. Apparently, he has asked the Cabinet to review tariffs, once in six months,” he said.

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Baglay reiterates India’s commitment in line with ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’

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Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay on Thursday (24) reiterated their commitment to Sri Lanka’s capacity building endeavours in line with India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’.

Baglay emphasized that training engagements between the Armed Forces have instilled a spirit of brotherhood and interoperability amongst the services and form the foundation of their abiding bonds. A large number of NDC India alumni in Sri Lanka have risen to the highest echelons of defence leadership, which testifies to the importance of nurturing these strong relations, according to a statement issued by the Indian High Commission here.

Baglay said so at an event to mark 50 years of association between National Defence College (NDC), India and Sri Lankan Armed Forces in Colombo. The special event celebrated the enduring bonds of cooperation, camaraderie and friendship between the militaries of India and Sri Lanka. Secretary of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff, Commanders of Sri Lanka Navy and Air Force along with other alumni and dignitaries from the Ministry of Defence and Sri Lanka Armed Forces graced the occasion.

Secretary of Defence, Gen (retd.) Kamal Gunaratne and High Commissioner Gopal Baglay jointly launched the webpage of the Alumni Association of NDC India in Sri Lanka at the event to facilitate closer and continued engagements between the two countries and the premier Indian defence institute. The webpage would be hosted on the website of High Commission of India (www.hcicolombo.gov.in/ndca) and act as a medium for the alumni to stay connected with their alma mater and keep abreast with the latest on defence cooperation between the two maritime neighbours.

As part of India’s unwavering commitment to capacity building of Sri Lanka Armed Forces and focus on regional cooperation, NDC India has made valuable contributions towards enhancing regional peace, security and stability and such forums effectively enable fostering of cordial and warm relationships between the two countries.

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