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SLPP rebels, too, prescribe debt restructuring as pressure mounts

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NFF leader Weerawansa handing over the SLPP rebels’ proposals on how to overcome the current crisis to SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera as MPs Gevindu Kumaratunga and Vasudeva Nanayakkara look on. (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

Review Yugadanavi deal

Probe sought on massive scams, proposals to strengthen state revenue

By Sirimantha Ratnasekera and Shamindra Ferdinando

A group of rebel SLPP MPs, yesterday (02) urged the government to initiate talks with relevant parties to restructure debt immediately or face the consequences.

The group stressed that the proposed foreign debt, except sovereign bonds (debt securities) issued by Sri Lanka to raise capital for spending needs should be restructured.

The government has repeatedly rejected the Opposition’s calls for debt restructuring over the past two years.

Pointing out that the loans obtained from international capital markets, at a higher rate, comprised 47 percent of the total debt, the grouping urged the government to desist from repeating the mistake. Instead, loans should be sought from foreign governments, the grouping said, at the unveiling of their road-map meant for economic recovery at the Monarch Hotel, Sri Jayewardenepura, Kotte.

The Democratic Left Front, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the Communist Party of Sri Lanka, the National Freedom Front, the National Congress, the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, the Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya, the Vijaya Dharani Jathika Sabhawa, the Eksath Mahajana Pakshaya and the Yuthukama civil society organisation, endorsed what the SLFP leader, former President Maithripala Sirisena, called National Declaration.

Except for Ven. Atureliye Rathana Thera, who represented Ape Jana Bala Pakshaya in Parliament, all others were constituents of the SLPP. However, State Minister Vidura Wickremanayake, who had been quite critical of failures and shortcomings on the part of the government, attended the event.

The rebel group emphasised the need to be transparent in the releasing of foreign exchange required for imports, priority for the import of raw materials for industries here, and curbs on issuance of duty free vehicle permits for a five-year period.

Among the proposals that had been made, with a view to consolidating the national economy, was an appeal to reconsider the controversial agreement with the US-based New Fortress Energy company to transfer 40 percent shares of the Yugadanavi power station.

Ministers Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila, who backed the petitions filed by several parties, including the Samagi Jana Balavegaya and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, against the Yugadanavi deal, addressed yesterday’s gathering.

The rebel group made several specific proposals to overcome the daunting challenges in the energy sector that would be necessary to address foreign currency issues.

Referring to the disruption of life, due to the foreign currency crisis that had deprived Sri Lanka of a continuous supply of petrol and diesel, Energy Minister Gammanpila said that unless tangible measures were taken to address these issues expeditiously, no one would be able to prevent riots.

Minister Weerawansa said that the destabilisation of the country, due to the developing crises, could pave the way for external interventions.

The dissident group also called for far reaching and specific measures to curb waste, corruption and irregularities as part of the overall efforts to enhance public sector revenue. Reference was made to the massive scams in duty on sugar and coconut oil imports, and required amendments to the Bribery Act to enable fresh proceedings in respect of Treasury bond scams, in terms of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry findings.

The group also called for an immediate end to relief provided to importers of sugar, coconut oil, flour, milk powder and the introduction of a suitable pricing formula. Duty/taxes should be imposed in a way that wouldn’t be detrimental to local producers, and not a burden to the consumers, as well.

Alleging that the government hasn’t implemented 57 recommendations made by the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Defence, the rebel group asked for tangible measures to implement them all. The group made specific proposals in this regard.

The group proposed resumption of import of fertiliser to meet the requirement.

While underscoring the need to consolidate and further strengthen state revenue, the dissident group proposed that direct and indirect taxes should be 30 and 70 percent, respectively.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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