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Sumanthiran claims govt. has violated Constitution by spending money without parliament sanction



By Saman Indrajith

The Appropriation Bill 2020 was a cover-up for various illegal acts committed by the government during the recent past, TNA Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran said in Parliament on Thursday (12).

 Participating in the debate on the bill, the MP said: “Today we are debating a very strange Bill. It is called the Appropriation Bill for 2020, and we are debating it in the month of November 2020.”

 He said that an Appropriation Bill should have been debated and approved prior to the financial year concerned. “It is only then the executive obtains the approval of Parliament to draw from the consolidated fund, borrow and generally administer the finances of the country. Article 148 of the Constitution very clearly says that the Parliament will have full control over public finance. No tax rate or any other levy will be imposed by any local authority or any other public authority except by or under the authority of law passed by Parliament or of any existing law. So, there is no law for the financial year 2020.

“So, what can a resolution under Article 150 sub article 2 authorize? It can only authorise the drawing from the Consolidated Fund for public services only. That too is for specified public services only, as stated in Article 152. Those funds cannot be used for any developmental work.

“Now during this financial year, we have had two such resolutions passed. One covering the periods 1st Jan 2020 until 30th April 2020 passed in October last year, and another covering the period 1st Sept 2020 to 31st December 2020. Now even those two resolutions passed by this House can only be used for specified public services and not anything else.

“All of us know that this is not how finances have been handled in the country for this year. There has been a severe need to give the general public who were affected in several areas Rs. 5000 each in the month of April and May. None of those were public services. But all those expenditures were met and developmental activities carried out. All this was in violation of the very strict limitation imposed by the Constitution.

“This is a blatant violation of the Constitution by the government. We are trying to legitimise grave illegal and unconstitutional acts that have been purported in this country. The Appropriation Bill 2020 before the House today is not a covering approval; it is not ratification. It is something that can only be done legally. If something is done legally then you can ratify and grant covering approval for it. But illegal acts cannot be handled in that manner. This is the sorry state we are in today.”

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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP



By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms



Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations



… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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