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SLFP asks govt. to address SLPP constituents’ grievances or face consequences

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Senior Vice President of the SLFP Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa says the continuing mismanagement of the affairs of the ruling coalition is causing turmoil.

“The deepening crisis we are in should be examined against the breakdown in basic discussions at party level,” Prof. Piyadasa, told The Island, underscoring the urgent need to address the issues affecting the coalition.

Due to the absence of a proper dialogue among constituent parties of the SLPP, the government was moving in the wrong direction and conducting its affairs in a messy manner at the expense of political stability, Prof. Piyadasa said.

Prof. Piyadasa warned of dire consequences unless the SLPP took meaningful measures expeditiously to address the grievances of the constituent parties. Responding to another query,

Prof. Piyadasa emphasised that the SLPP shouldn’t treat constituent parties according to the number of seats each secured at the last parliamentary election in August 2020.

The SLFP with 14 seats, including one National List is the second largest party in the SLPP led coalition. The SLPP obtained 116 seats.

Appreciating an opportunity the SLFP recently had to make representations to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as regards problems experienced by the party, Prof. Piyadasa emphasized the need for a mechanism wherein all constituents could take up issues. Noting that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in spite of being the President, didn’t hold a position in the SLPP, Prof. Piyadasa urged the ruling party to take the constituent parties as well as the public into confidence.

Asked to explain, Prof. Piyadasa stressed the responsibility on the part of the government to acknowledge the precarious economic situation. The raging Covid-19 epidemic had caused a debilitating setback to the national economy, Prof. Piyadasa said, drawing attention of the government to take into consideration choking of key revenue sources-remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad, tourism and garment and other exports.

Wouldn’t it be better for the government to take the public into confidence and explain the financial crisis the country was experiencing? Prof. Piyadasa asked.

The academic questioned the rationale in some government spokespersons declaring that the national economy was on a sound footing. Such declarations sounded foolish against the backdrop of Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila warning of banking sector collapse and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa acknowledging the daunting challenge in settling annual foreign debt amounting to USD 4 bn.

Prof. Piyadasa said that the SLFP shouldn’t be expected to blindly throw its weight behind the SLPP. Pointing out that there hadn’t been consultations at party level after the 2019 and 2020 presidential and parliamentary polls, respectively,

Prof. Piyadasa called for a serious re-assessment of the overall coalition strategy.

Asked whether the SLFP was considering future options, Prof. Piyadasa said that party leader Maithripala Sirisena, MP was engaged in consultations with the party at district level. Referring to consultations, the former President had in Galle, Puttalam and Ratnapura, Prof. Piyadasa said that Kandy would be the next venue. At the grassroots level, both members and supporters believed the party shouldn’t hesitate to take a path of its own unless the SLPP changed its style of governance, Prof. Piyadasa said.

The academic however, acknowledged that some of those who represented the party in the government at a higher level felt the need for the continuation of the existing arrangement. But, district level consultations underscored the growing disenchantment among the electorate, the one-time SLFP General Secretary said.

In the run-up to 2019 presidential election, Prof. Piyadasa functioned as the Chairman of the SLFP as the then President Sirisena didn’t want to exercise powers as the leader of the party.

Prof. Piyadasa alleged that the SLPP caused quite a crisis by responding brashly to various situations. There couldn’t have been a better example than demanding Energy Minister Gammanpila to resign over the increase in the fuel prices. “All of us were surprised over Minister Gammanpila being attacked over the unpopular decision taken by a committee chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with the participation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who held the finance portfolio,” Prof. Piyadasa said.

The SLPP shouldn’t make the mistake of trying to intimidate and dominate constituent political parties, Prof. Piyadasa said. The SLFP backed the enactment of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution at the expense of the 19th Amendment though the party remained committed to abolishing of the executive presidential system.

Having informed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of his predicament, the SLFP leader Maithripala Sirisena refrained from voting for the 20th as he was one of the architects of the 19th enacted in 2015, the SLFP senior Vice President said.

According to Prof. Piyadasa, the incumbent government deteriorated in a very short period as those in authority acted in an irresponsible and reckless manner.

Prof. Piyadasa said that the government was in a bind though an influential section seemed to be unable to recognize the ground situation.

Commenting on the growing controversy over the recent death of a 16-year-old domestic servant Ishalini as a result of an incident at the former minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s Bauddhaloka Mawatha residence, Prof. Piyadasa emphasized whoever in power would have to inquire into the real problems. Thousands of children wouldn’t have sought employment as domestic servants if their parents could provide for them, Prof. Piyadasa said, urging all political parties represented in parliament to address grievances of the community.

“We are in such a desperate situation that no political party can take advantage of the deterioration of the national crisis,” Prof. Piyadasa said.



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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE

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Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm

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By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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