In the context of the deepening global economic crisis, Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange (forex) situation is not improving. The slight increase in exports has been undermined by increased imports, specially aggravated by the need to import vaccines to meet the Covid-19 crisis. Also the decision to restrict import of luxuries and non-essentials is not being enforced effectively. The result is that with more foreign borrowing our foreign debt is increasing.
Annual repayment of debt has reached US$ 4.5 billion, with interest repayment alone amounting to US$ 1.0 billion. Neither the Government nor the people appear to realize the gravity of the forex situation and do not act accordingly. Our import policies need to be tightened. The Government has failed to explain to the people the magnitude of the crisis and the need to tighten the belt at all levels, setting a proper example from the top to conserve our forex. The result is the forex crisis.
But internally too the economic crisis is deepening accompanied by social, political and health crises. The hunger crisis is severe with many people having only one meal a day. The loss of income due to closure of factories and offices and loss of self-employment is a major factor. In addition, many have had pay cuts. Another major cause is the rise in the cost of goods, especially essentials like food. This has led to inability to buy essentials and increasing poverty and hunger.
In fact, studies indicate that 60% of people have incomes below the poverty line. The level of malnutrition has gone up to 18%. Thus, correction of the hunger problem should be given first priority by the Government. I appeal to the new Finance Minister to ascertain the families faced with poverty and hunger and supply dry rations to them as the first priority.
The Covid-19 pandemic is liable to expand with the spread of the more virulent Delta variant in the country. There has to be a country-wide people-based campaign to curb this. Covid committees should be established in every village and slum.
These should detect Covid cases early and institute cluster control measures, and ensure that every person strictly observes the four health guidelines (prevent crowding, ensure social distancing, ensure that masks are worn when out of home, and effective washing of hands).
Covid committees have to be set up in schools as necessary. Ensure that all the vulnerable people in society who are liable to get severe diseases or die (elderly over 60 years and those with serious chronic diseases) are vaccinated.
Imported chemical fertilizer should be continued for this period (kanna) of cultivation so that farmers do not suffer. Organic fertilizer should be produced adequately meanwhile and be introduced country-wide thereafter.
Another major problem is the high cost of food and other essentials. The revival and strengthening of cooperatives, producers and consumers is the only way out. This would prevent profiteering by middlemen. The introduction of the new solidarity concept which ensures that ownership of enterprises is given to the employees alone, would result in successful outcomes e.g. the paddy fields in Kerala, India. The strengthening of the state sector in marketing e.g. the Marketing Department, CWE etc would also help.
Measures like these will help to overcome poverty and hunger and eliminate malnutrition. I urge the Government to think and act on these lines to improve the condition of the people and make the country more productive and the people happier.
JVP, too, moves court against deal with US company
By Chitra Weerarathne and A.J.A. Abeynayake
The JVP yesterday (26) filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal requesting it to declare null and void a Cabinet decision to transfer 40 percent of the Yugadanavi Power Plant to US Company, New Fortress Energy Inc.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ceylon Electricity Board, West Coast Power (Pvt) Ltd, Lakdanavi Limited, the Monetary Board of the Central Bank, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation have been named as respondents among 43 others.
The JVP’s petition has come in the way of Colombo’s Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and Ven Elle Gunawansa, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya and the Federation of National Organisations (FNO) moving the court against the controversial deal with US energy company,The application has also sought a writ of mandamus on the respondents preventing them from taking any action with regard to the matter until the application is taken up and its examination is concluded.
Former JVP MPs Sunil Handunnetti and Wasantha Samarasinghe are the petitioners.
The petitioners state that the Cabinet decisions undermine the rule of law, the Constitution and democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution and several other statutes, and conventions of democratic governance and Cabinet of Ministers exercising executive powers.
The petitioners state that LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., is the largest power sector engineering company in the country. It was first incorporated in the 1980s as a joint venture of the Ceylon Electricity Board and a multinational group – ABB of Norway.
The Petitioners state that Lakdanavi (Pvt) Ltd., is a fully owned subsidiary of LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., and is a company specialised in engineering, procurement and construction and operations and maintenance in the energy and power generation sector.
They assert that the government has not properly explained particulars of the deal even to the Cabinet of Ministers when transferring the shares of the power plant to the American company.
They have also alleged that the government has not obtained the approval of Parliament for the agreement in question and that the relevant share transfer process has not been carried out in accordance with a formal tender procedure.
They have sought the Appeals Court to issue an order rescinding the decision taken to transfer the shares to the American company and the agreement signed by the government.
In addition, the General Secretary of the SJB MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara filed a Fundamental Rights application in the Supreme Court on 21 Oct., challenging the government decision to transfer 40 per cent of the Kerawalapitiya Power Plant to the US firm.
Ex-Indian HC in Colombo during turbulent 1989-90 will be featured in next Pathfinder “In Conversation” webinar
Ambassador Lakhan Mehrotra, former High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, will be featured in the next Pathfinder “In Conversation” webinar scheduled at 2.30 p.m. IST/SLST on Thursday 28th October.
Mehrotra will be interviewed by Bernard Goonetilleke, Chairman, Pathfinder Foundation. They will discuss the guest speaker’s publication ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’, which features his experience during the period 1989-1990, when he served as High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, during a politically turbulent era coupled with the separatist war in the north-east and an insurrection in the south.
His book, ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’ touches on the beginnings of the conflict, briefly follows on its evolution until it reached its peak in the early 1990s, and then takes the reader in detail through the author’s own experience in the country, nearly two years after the 1987 Indo-Lanka Agreement was signed and the Indian Peace Keeping Force had been inducted at the invitation of President J. R. Jayewardene, while President Premadasa, who succeeded President Jayewardene considered the presence of an Indian military contingent on his nation’s soil as an affront to its sovereignty. Soon after his election, the President issued an ultimatum for the IPKF to leave its shores by 29th July 1989 and threatened military action against it if it failed to do so, which brought the two nations to the brink of a military confrontation.
The High Commissioner’s intensive consultations and tireless interaction with the political leaders of Sri Lanka, the warring factions in the country’s north-east, and the governments in New Delhi and Colombo helped signing of the joint communique on 28th July 1989 on arrangements for phased withdrawal of the IPKF in March 1990 with due recognition of its contribution and sacrifices made to preserve the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the country. ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’ provides information that has never been divulged before. The “In Conversation” webinar will delve into these experiences of the High Commissioner; whose rather brief assignment was from April 1989 to June 1990.
Following his assignment that covered the most turbulent period of Sri Lanka in modern times, Ambassador Mehrotra served as Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs and as Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Africa before his retirement in 1992. Later, he served as UN Secretary General’s Personal Representative in Cambodia from 1997 to 2000 and as Head of the UN Diplomatic Mission in Jakarta for Peace Talks between Indonesia and East Timor.
Those who are interested in retracing the history of Sri Lanka should register in advance for this webinar through the link below:
Cardinal lashes out at Minister known as Ten Percent
By Norman Palihawadane and Nishan S. Priyantha
Monies taken in the form of commissions by forfeiting people’s welfare will never do any good to those who take them, says His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.
“The biggest malady our society is afflicted with is the commissions earned by politicians through various deals. They take commissions from companies by depriving the people of their dues. Such money has blood on them and they would not do any good to those who take them,” the Cardinal said yesterday.
Speaking to journalists at the Sarakkuwa beach in Pamunugama during an inspection tour to witness the progress of cleaning work of the MV X-Press Pearl wreck the Cardinal said: “We have a Cabinet minister who is notoriously known as Mr. Ten Percent. Imagine the shame on this nation when there is such a minister taking ten percent of commission from every project he passes. The monies collected in that way would never bring out any good.”
The Cardinal said that the President, the Prime Minister and government institutions including the Ministry of Fisheries, coast conservation department, marine environment protection authority and urban development authority were duty bound to remove the wreck, clean the beach and the ocean. “In doing so, the government should be concerned about the interests of people, and not about the shipping company, its local agents or agents of the insurance companies. We demand that the government take this case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague and get full compensation for the people. We have information that the agents of companies have come down and are staying in Colombo exerting influence on various political leaders and officials. Their objective is getting out of this by paying a paltry sum. If the politicians and officials permit that we will take to the streets with people.”
The Cardinal said that there was information that Urban Development Authority officials were making plans to give away Muthurajawela to foreign companies. “Muthurajawela is a national asset and belongs to the people. The politicians have no right to sell them off to Korean or Chinese companies. We would not let that happen,” he said.
Associated with the Cardinal were Ven. Pahiyangala Ananada Thera, Chairperson of Marine Environment Protection Chairperson, bishops and other religious leaders.
The Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl caught fire off the coast of Colombo in May and sank while transporting 1,486 chemical containers from the Middle East with stops in India and Sri Lanka during its voyage to Singapore.
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