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SJB constituents struggling to cope with rebels



SLMC leader Hakeem reacts at Sunday’s meeting at Colpetty where the party called for written explanation from dissident members (pic courtesy SLMC)


SLMC: Dissident group that voted with SLPP in majority


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) has threatened disciplinary action against those who voted for the 20th Amendment on Oct 22, but it is struggling to cope with the situation as rebels are in the majority, according to political sources.

The expulsion of the rebel group was certainly not possible, sources said, pointing out that of the five-member SLMC group, four elected MPs, H. M. M. Harees (Digamadulla), Faizal Cassim (Digamadulla) , M.S.M. Thowfeek (Trincomalee) and Nazeer Ahamed  (Batticaloa) had switched their allegiance to the ruling SLPP. They are among the eight Opposition members who voted for the 20th Amendment, which was opposed by the SJB-led Opposition.

Parliament ratified the 20th Amendment with a two-thirds majority.

Of the five-member SLMC group, only Mahanuwara District lawmaker SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem voted against the 20th Amendment. All of them were elected to parliament on the SJB ticket.

SLMC Secretary M. Nizam Kariapper, PC, said that the party would decide on action once individual members submitted written explanations to the party leader and the Secretary by Dec 31, 2020. The office-bearers of SLMC high command announced the decision on Sunday (13).

Sunday’s meeting took place at the SLMC leader’s Kollupitiya residence. The discussion covered the conduct of the rebel group members subsequent to them voting for the 20th Amendment and the current political situation. Having received their explanations verbally, they were asked to provide their account in writing, sources said,

 In addition to the four SLMC lawmakers, four other Opposition members switched their allegiance to the SLPP. They are ACMC (All Ceylon Makkal Congress) member Ishak Rahuman (Anuradhapura), who contested on the SJB ticket, SJB National List MP Diana Gamage, Democratic People’s Front (DPF) member and SJB lawmaker A. Aravindh Kumar (Badulla) and Muslim National Alliance (MNA) MP Ali Sabri Raheem (Puttalam).

Taking part in the Sirasa Pathikada programme DPF leader Mano Ganesan yesterday (14) told interviewer Asoka Dias that disciplinary action would be definitely taken in respect of Aravindh Kumar. Former yahapalana minister Ganesan assured that the party would follow laid down procedure in dealing with the MP.

The SLMC, the ACMC and the DPF are constituents of the main Opposition party SJB. The SJB group includes seven National List MPs. Of the seven NL members, rebel Gamage is the only newcomer to parliamentary politics.

 Political sources said that SJB had been compelled to deal with one of its own MPs breaking ranks, while three of its constituents experienced serious trouble with the SLMC being the worst affected.


Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP



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



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



… 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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