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Sirisena: Some were banned from attending NSC meetings as he did not trust them

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

President Maithripala Sirisena, yesterday, informed the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks that he had banned former IGP Pujith Jayasundara from the National Security Council (NSC,) ignoring the provisions of a gazette making the IGP’s presence compulsory at the NSC, because Jayasundara had breached his trust.

Sirisena said so during the cross-examination by Anura Meddegoda, PC appearing on behalf of the former IGP. Meddegoda brought the former President’s attention to the Gazette notification establishing the NSC. It lists the permanent members of the NSC.

According to the Gazette notification, the NSC shall consist of Secretary to the President, Defence Secretary, Heads of the Tri Forces, Chief of Defence Staff, IGP and the Director of State Intelligence Service (SIS).

Anura Meddegoda PC: “Earlier you said that as the President you could bring officials you trust to attend NSC meetings. Does the gazette say the President can do so?”

Sirisena: “It is not mentioned in the gazette notification, but the President can replace officials depending on circumstances. Trust is extremely important when governing a country.”

Meddegoda asked Sirisena whether the gazette notification listed out those who should attend the NSC and whether Sirisena, whilst being President was above the law.

“I was not above the law and I have always acted according to the law,” Sirisena responded.

Meddegoda said that the Supreme Court had ruled the removal of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet was unconstitutional.

The former President retorted that a leader had to consider things that were not written in law books when governing a country.

“So, you had worked beyond the country’s law?” Meddegoda asked.

“No, I worked according to the law,” Sirisena said.

Meddegoda questioned the former President’s decision not to conduct open inquiries on Islamic extremist activities.

The former President said that he had never taken such a decision and all the intelligence services including the SIS had to take the responsibility for not informing him of such threats posed by the Islamic extremists to the country.

Meddegoda asked, “As the President you always thought about the survival of the Yahapalana government, and you didn’t think about the country’s stability, did you?”

The former President said that the process of the yahapalana government collapsing had begun after the bond scams and he would have dissolved the Parliament at that time if he had been empowered to do so.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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