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SLPP rebels question legality of Prez, AG meeting EC members as accusations grow over bid to postpone LG polls



By Shamindra Ferdinando

The SLPP rebel group, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, yesterday (09), questioned the legality of President Ranil Wickremesinghe twice meeting members of the Election Commission (EC) to discuss the scheduled Local Government polls.

Prof. G. L. Peiris said President Wickremesinghe shouldn’t have summoned them as he was a leader of a political party contesting the election.

President Wickremesinghe met EC members late last year and on January 05 this year.

The former Foreign Minister raised this issue while addressing the media at Nawala, close on the heels of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration that the EC was sharply divided over the conduct of the poll amidst continuing economic instability.

Displaying a gazette notification, dated Dec 29, 2022, issued by the EC, pertaining to the nominations for the LG polls, Prof. Peiris pointed out that contrary to claims by the President and various other government spokesmen the EC was unanimous in its decision.

A senior spokesperson for the EC confirmed the meetings. According to him, all five members namely Nimal Punchihewa (Chairman), M.M. Mohamed, S,B. Divaratne, K.P.P. Pathirana and Mrs. P.S.N. Charles attended hitherto not reported first meeting. However, Pathirana had not been present at the second meeting as he was receiving medical treatment. Director General, EC Saman Sri Ratnayake has attended both meetings.

Alleging that the EC was under tremendous government pressure, Prof. Peiris said that it could be dealt with in terms of the Penal Code.

Referring to Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC’s role in the whole affair, the former top law academic stressed that the government Chief Legal Officer shouldn’t get involved at all. Prof. Peiris questioned the AG’s participation in a meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe on January 05.

The former Law Professor referred to two Supreme Court rulings given by one-time Chief Justice Priyasath Dep and the late justice Mark Fernando to underscore that scheduled LG polls couldn’t be put off.

In terms of the Constitution, new LG bodies have to be established by March 20, 2023.

Alleging that the government has been engaged in a propaganda campaign to justify planned postponement of LG polls on the basis of unavailability of funds, the ex-Minister said that the postponement of elections was not the prerogative of the President, Cabinet-of-Ministers or the Finance Ministry.

Acknowledging the continuing economic hardships experienced by the population, Prof. Peiris challenged the government to remove all 39 State Ministers to save much needed funds.

Prof. Peiris said that the Supreme Court would take up on January 18 two petitions filed by the Opposition seeking the apex court’s intervention. Samagi Jana Balavegaya, two SLPP rebel groups, the SLPP and TNA have moved the Supreme Court.

Attorney-at-Law Punchihewa has declared that nominations would be accepted from January 18 to 21.

Prof. Peiris pointed out that the UNP was determined to put off polls as it realized the certain defeat it would suffer. In spite of the SLPP being the largest political grouping in parliament even after three groups of its MPs declared intention to operate independently, it was in total disarray, the former minister said.

Therefore, the Wickremasinghe-Rajapaksa government’s ongoing efforts to put off the election was understandable, he pointed out.

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Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves up by USD 2billion over the past year – Acting Finance Minister




Acting Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya during a press conference held today (21) at the Presidential Media Center, focusing on the theme of ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country’ said that over the past year, the government successfully increased the country’s foreign reserves from 1.8 billion dollars to 3.8 billion dollars.

He added that in August 2022, the exchange rate stood at Rs. 361 per dollar, but by August 2023, one dollar could be acquired for Rs. 321. This shift is not the result of artificial control but rather a reflection of the rupee’s value adjusting in response to supply and demand for the dollar, which holds significant economic importance.

The interest rate for deposits, previously at 14% in 2022, has been lowered to 11%, while the loan interest rate, previously at 15.5%, has been reduced to 12% this year. Notably, last year, the primary account deficit was Rs. -247 billion, but this year it has turned into a surplus of Rs. 27 billion. This marks the first surplus in the primary account balance in over 40 years.

Tourist arrivals, which numbered 496,430 in 2022, have surged to 904,318 during the first two quarters of this year. Equally impressive is the growth in tourism earnings, which rose from 832.6 million US dollars in 2022 to 1,304.5 million US dollars in the first two quarters of this year, reflecting a remarkable 56.7% increase compared to the previous year.

In the past year, the amount of money remitted by Sri Lankans living abroad to Sri Lanka has surged from 2,214.8 million US dollars to 3,862.7 million US dollars this year, marking a remarkable 74.4% increase according to data from the Ministry of Finance.

On August 1, 2022, the QR code system was introduced as a measure to manage petroleum demand due to foreign exchange shortages. This led to a significant disparity between normal demand and supply, resulting in a notable increase in diesel consumption by 28% and petrol consumption by 83% in June 2023, when the QR system was partially relaxed. However, as of September 1, the QR code system, which directly impacts economic growth, has been completely lifted.

Upon assuming office, President Ranil Wickremesinghe faced a daunting challenge of addressing a 14-hour power outage, which had a direct impact on the economy. Presently, the government ensures a continuous and stable electricity supply to the population.

As of August 23, 2023, there were 1467 imported goods banned due to foreign exchange shortages. Currently, the ban applies to only 279 items. Furthermore, the import of vehicles, which had been halted in 2020, now includes buses and trucks for public transport.

In April 2022, the country faced difficulties in meeting its debt obligations. However, the government has since secured the first installment under the International Monetary Fund’s Extended Credit Scheme, contributing to stabilizing the country’s economy compared to the previous year.


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President Wickremesinghe meets US President Joe Biden in New York




President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted President Ranil Wickremesinghe and first lady Maithri Wickremesinghe for dinner on Thursday

President Joe Biden of the United States and President Ranil Wickremesinghe engaged in a cordial meeting  in New York on Thursday (20).

The high-profile meeting took place amidst a lavish dinner hosted by President Biden, for all the heads of state who had participated in the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly.


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Ministerial Consultative Committee unanimously consent to canceling the nominations submitted for the Local Government Elections




The Ministerial Consultative Committee on Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils & Local Government chaired by  Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena as well as the Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government  unanimously consented to cancel the nominations submitted for the Local Government Elections given that those who have submitted nominations have faced great difficulties due to the postponement of the elections.


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