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State Minister of Regional Cooperation tells regional colleagues the difficult situation Lanka is facing

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State Minister of Regional Cooperation, Tharaka Balasuriya recently told colleagues from China, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan that the country faced a significant shortfall in resources in the wake of the second wave of the coronavirus.

Balasuriya also appreciated the support received from countries including China, which provided equipment and medical supplies, and urged regional countries to increase cooperation on a number of areas.

Among these are sharing of rapid testing equipment, ventilators and experiences in diagnostics, treatment and medicine; early access to a vaccine that is affordable to developing countries; closer cooperation and sharing of experiences on border control, cross border transmission, containment measures at points of entry and emergency response; assistance and sharing of experiences on economic recovery including debt relief and cooperation to ensure smooth functioning of industrial and supply chains.

The Chinese Embassy in Colombo said in a media statement that on November 10 2020, China, Sri Lanka together with Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan held a vice foreign ministerial-level video conference on COVID-19 response, chaired by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui. Regional Cooperation State Minister of Sri Lanka Tharaka Balasuriya, Foreign Secretary Of Bangladesh Masud Bin Momen, Foreign Secretary of Nepal Bharat Raj Paudyal, Foreign Secretary of Pakistan Sohail Mahmood joined the online discussion.”

“In the opening remarks, Vice Minister Luo Zhao said that the second wave of COVID-19 epidemic is hitting the world and the global economy is in a deep recession. As developing countries and friendly neighbours, the five countries face similar challenges in responding to the epidemic and restoring their economies. We should consolidate the consensus on fighting COVID-19, continue cooperation, and transmit the “positive energy” of regional countries facing challenges. The Chair of the conference gave an introduction on China’s latest achievements and experience in the fight against COVID-19, as well as China’s economic recovery and efforts to accelerate the establishment of a “dual circulation” development pattern in which domestic economic cycle plays a leading role while international economic cycle remains its extension and supplement.”

“State Minister Balasuriya briefed other four countries about Sri Lanka’s strategies and achievements in the fight against pandemic. Among the multiple measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid19 includes localized lockdowns, limiting inter-district travel, and discouraging movement of individuals. In addition, steps have also been taken to introduce the ‘work from home’ concept to schools, universities and also places of work to prevent social isolation. He also praised the very effective public health system throughout the country, as well as the effective contribution of the public by cooperating with the authorities and adhering to health guidelines.”

“Other parties appreciated China’s material assistance, experience sharing and commitment to make the COVID-19 vaccine an international public good. All five countries expressed their commitment to unite to fight against the epidemic, deepen cooperation in jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative, maintain the stability of industrial and supply chains, promote economic recovery and improve people’s livelihood, and jointly promote the building of a community of human health. They also agreed that the meeting was useful and constructive and looked forward to the next round for further discussion.”

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There’s nothing prescribed as Parliament has failed to enact legislation for contempt of court — Sumanthiran

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TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran, in an intervention in Parliament, said he was privileged to appear for Ranjan Ramanayake, a clean, honest politician in the Supreme Court and he was proud of that.

Nevertheless, Ranjan Ramanayake was convicted and sentenced. The sentence of four years’ rigorous imprisonment was unprecedented and exceptionally severe, and Parliament has a responsibility in this regard because we have not enacted a law for contempt of court, the MP noted.

At the outset, he said, “I want to flag one or two issues concerning the responsibility of the Parliament in this regard. But before I do that I am bound by law and tradition to disclose my interest in the matter. I am the counsel who appeared for Hon. Ranjan Ramanayake in the Supreme Court”.

This has an implication to the article in the constitution that the Hon. Leader of the Opposition just mentioned because it says for an offense for which the prescribed punishment is two years or more. But there’s nothing prescribed, nothing prescribed in the law because for long Parliament has failed to enact legislation for contempt of court, the TNA MP said.

Although there had been in the public as well, a lot of instances where drafts have been made, we have not done that – that is one. And by failing to do that, it has been like the freedom of the wild ass; anything can be given as a sentence and that is not a good thing.  I don’t want to go into the merits of the case or anything like that, but in this case Parliament has to take steps, to enact a law, he further said.

English law is supposed to be the substantive law because we don’t have a statute law now, and in English law itself scandalizing the court is no longer an offence of contempt of court. But unfortunately the court disregarded that, and has misdirected itself – that’s my position, Sumanthiran continued.

“But I want to bring to your notice a serious lacuna in the law with regard to a statue for contempt of court that has resulted in this unprecedented injustice to an honest Member of Parliament”, he added.

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Colombo share market gallops to all time highs

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The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) galloped last week with the benchmark All Share Price Index (ASPI) hitting an all time high on Monday and improving on that performance on subsequent trading days to close the week at 8,463 points on Friday. The more liquid S&P Index that normally trails the ASPI also gained sharply though less so than the benchmark index.

Brokers and analysts attributed the surge to prevailing low interest rates and said that people holding funds in fixed interest instruments have seen greater potential in the stock market and have so far not been proved wrong.

“Take the case of vehicle importers,” said one businessman. “With imports disallowed, cash that would have been once used to replenish inventory becomes available for investment elsewhere. The stock market is a magnet for such funds.”

Also, many companies have resorted to a share split strategy to make their shares both more liquid and more affordable on the market.

“Take the example of a fifty-rupee share split into two. Theoretically, it should then trade at Rs. 25 a share after the split. But often it does better than that at no cost to the company that had split the share because its stated capital remains what it was,” explained and analyst.

“It’s different in the case of bonus shares or scrip issues as they are called where reserves are capitalized to pay for the new shares priced at realistic values.”

Last week the Hayleys conglomerate announced share splits in over a dozen group companies. These ranged from each share being split into ten in the parent company (Hayleys) and thriving subsidiaries like Haycarb and Dipped Products while other companies like Kingsbury split a share into two.

Brokers and analysts said that the current market surge was largely driven by the Dhammika Perera controlled Hayleys and the Ishara Nanayakkara controlled LOLC groups.

Last week Hayleys announced over a dozen share splits including in its recently acquired Singer Group companies. The majority of these involved dividing each share into two though at Singer Sri Lanka each share will be split into three.

The biggest share split ever proposed is one that is pending at EB Creasy (EBC) where each share is to be split into 100. The seldom traded EBC share is quoted at the top end of the CSE sharelist. Analysts said the massive split is intended to pump liquidity into the share and make it more affordable.

“There’s a lot of retail play in the market right now with new investors who recently took some risk doing very nicely in this bull run,” a broker said.

The CSE hit rock bottom after a seven-week closure in March last year.

 

 

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Covid-19 has now spread geographically across SL

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In small numbers to an extensive region

Pandemic situation in Western Province improves

by Suresh Perera

Though there are no big Covid-19 clusters at present, the dreaded virus has spread geographically across the country due to the unrestricted movement of people, a senior medical official said.

“The transmission of the contagion in small numbers to an extensive region was inevitable in a society which remains ‘open’ with inter-provincial travel happening on a daily basis”, says Dr. Hemantha Herath, Deputy Director of Public Health Services.

He said the spillover from the Western province was expected as there was an outflow of people to other districts particularly during the festive season.

“I am not blaming anybody, but a lockdown was not viable when taking into account the economic consequences and the livelihoods of the people. We could have imposed a curfew to restrict travel during the New Year, but we have to consider the fallout of such a measure”, he noted.

It true that geographically numbers have increased within a wide area, but the numbers are small and there are no big clusters as seen at Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda, the senior medical official explained.

Asked whether the pandemic has translated into a community spread as considerable positive cases continue to emerge on a daily basis, Dr. Herath replied, “no, that has not happened. If the Covid-19 situation was beyond control, we would have made a social and community transmission declaration”.

He said the pandemic situation in the Western province has improved with a dip in positive cases. However, the spillover is evident by the jump in figures at provincial level.

“We knew there was a risk, but we had to take it as locking down the country was not the solution

For example, if a Covid-19 patient infects two persons per day, there will be 200 positive cases within 100 days and one can imagine the critical situation that will emerge if the trend is allowed to continue, Dr. Herath continued.

“We are now managing under 1,000 cases per day”, he said, while assuring that the right mechanism is in place to identify positive cases through PCR and rapid antigen screening and place them under medical treatment, isolate and quarantine first contacts of patients”, he further said.

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