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SLFP to re-think role in ruling alliance says party secy.



“Things are heating up…..problems are piling”

ECONOMYNEXT – The public is losing confidence in the government and its coalition partner, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) may soon have to take a call on whether or not to go it alone at the upcoming provincial council elections, a party senior said.

SLFP Vice President Prof Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa told EconomyNext that the SLFP has yet to decide whether to contest the PC polls as a partner of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)-led alliance.

With the national New Year approaching, Piyadasa said, “things are heating up” in the country as the prices of goods continue to rise.

“Then there is the coconut oil issue and the sugar issue. Coconut oil is something that is fundamental to Avurudu celebrations. Problems are piling up, not easing,” he said.

Piyadasa was referring to a controversy surrounding imported coconut oil that is allegedly contaminated with high levels of aflatoxin, a carcinogenic substance, as well as the so-called sugar scam which opposition parties claim has cost the country Rs 15.9 billion in tax revenue.

SLFP leader and former President Maithripala Sirisena has made it clear that the party wishes to form an SLFP government in the future, said Piyadsa.

“We are working towards that end,” he said.

On March 18, Piyadasa told EconomyNext that that the SLFP party rank and file have raised concerns about broken promises within the alliance.

“Our Urban Council members at the grassroots level weren’t given money to do their council work. They couldn’t even put up a lamp-post. So there is huge pressure from the lower levels of the party,” he said.

“We have to do something about this immediately. We cannot go on like this,” he added.

The party is currently accepting nomination papers for the provincial council polls. The deadline for applications has been extended to April 15 after which, he said, the party will start organizing in all districts.

“The cabinet has said elections should be held, but we still don’t know what under what law they plan to hold the election.”

Last month, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said the PC polls must be held soon either under the previous Provincial Councils Elections Act or under the proposed new (Amendment) Act with its “complications” removed.

The presidential secretariat quoted Rajapaksa as saying the Amended Provincial Councils Act which included a new delimitation of the constituencies, a quota for women candidates and other changes “had been defeated by the former government which proposed it.”

Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court determined that the PC polls can be held under either the old or new system but upon the amending legislation being passed. The Rajapaksa government has yet pass amendments to the (Amendment) Act to conduct the elections under the previous proportional representation system.

All nine provinces in Sri Lanka are currently being run by their respective governors following the end of their five-year terms at various points. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has also called for the early conduct of polls, a sentiment echoed by India. The provincial councils are a legacy of the Indo-Lanka accord signed in 1987.

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SF claims thousands of police and military personnel leaving



By Saman Indrajith

Thousands of police and military personnel had left the services recently as they did not want to carry out illegal orders, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told Parliament yesterday. According to the war-winning army commander 200 policemen have resigned during the past two months and 25,000 soldiers have left the army during the last two years.

“We urged the law enforcement and military officials not to follow illegal orders. We will reinstate them with back pay,” he said.

Fonseka also urged the President and the government MPs not to take people for fools.

“Sri Lanka owes 55 billion dollars to the world. Ranil’s plan is to borrow another seven billion during the next four years. So, in four years we will owe 62 billion to the world.

Ranil and his ministers ask us what the alternative to borrowing is. These are the people who destroyed the economy and society. They must leave. Then, we will find an alternative and develop the country,” he said, adding that the IMF loans had made crises in other nations worse.

“Ranil says that by 2025, we will have a budget surplus as in Japan, Germany and South Korea. These countries are economic power houses, and this comparison is ludicrous.”

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CEB hit by exodus of technical staff



By Shiran Ranasinghe

At least five technical personnel of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) resigned daily for overseas employment, a senior CEB official said.They included electrical engineers, electricians and foremen, he added.

“Most of them are quitting due to the economic crisis while others are simply disillusioned. Trained and experienced technical staff are in high demand in many countries,” he said.

CEB United Trade Union Alliance President Ranjan Jayalal said that the CEB had lost about 2,000 employees in recent times due to the above reasons.

“We had about 24,000 such personnel a few months ago. Now the number has come down to 22,000. A number of people had to retire on 31 December, 2022.

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Sajith questions sudden decision to charge Rs. 225,000 from students following NDES



By Saman Indrajith

The government had decided to charge Rs 225,000 from those enrolling at the Institute of Engineering Technology, Katunayake under the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA), Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said yesterday in Parliament.

Premadasa said that the institute awards the National Diploma in Engineering Sciences (NDES) and no fee was charged from students until 2023.The IET awards the National Diploma in Engineering Sciences under the three major fields of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, and eight sub-fields.

“This is an institute that has created over ten thousand tier two engineers. NDES is a four year programme,” he said.

The opposition leader said that the sudden decision to charge 225,000 rupees from students at a time when the average Sri Lankan family is facing significant economic challenges is unfair.

“This institute offered free tuition. We should continue this tradition. A large number of engineers are leaving the country and we need to ensure that we have a continuous supply of engineers to ensure we can maintain our essential technical services,” he said.

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