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Time for home-grown solutions over; Seek international support immediately – Dr. de Silva

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SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva told a media briefing on Monday that the country was in complete disarray. Fuel was rationed, there were daily power cuts, shortage of dollars was preventing import of essentials, including medicine, and food would be rationed next.

“Economic collapse is imminent if we continue to go this way and it is almost similar to a broken car rumbling along before it completely comes to a halt,” he said.

“The government has no idea what they are doing, on one side Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa states that he is ready to engage with the creditors but on the other hand, the Governor of the Central Bank reiterates to international media that there is no need to engage with the IMF. Independent economists and the opposition have repeatedly stated that home-grown solutions will not fix this and we need to seek international support immediately. As far back as November 2020, in my response to the budget speech, I stated that we need to engage with the IMF, in order to restructure our debt due to artificially created problems. Beginning with the tax cuts, that resulted in almost LKR 600 bn losses, followed by the ban of chemical fertilzer, exacerbated our economic situation. In the 2019 December Article 4 report by the IMF, they highlighted that we had substantially recovered from the crash due to the 2018 constitutional Coup as well as the Easter Attacks in 2019, therefore our debt was still sustainable. However, they also stated that if drastic changes were made to our government policies, our debt would be unsustainable, as it is today.

“At this juncture, even the IMF alone will not be able to solve this problem. There are three ways in which one can look at this type of crisis. First, one being if Sri Lanka’s debt was sustainable, we would not have to restructure our debt. We could have chosen to stabilize our macro-economy by bringing in crucial economic reforms while paying our debt. Secondly, in the case that our debt sustainability was uncertain, we could have opted for a light-restructuring or short-term reprofiling, at which we would put off our interest payments for a short time. In the third scenario, which I believe we are currently in, our debt would be deemed unsustainable, thus we will not be able to reprofile and would need to make drastic reforms as well as initiate a debt-restructuring programme with our creditors. In this scenario, there are three types of creditors that we would need to engage with including; senior creditors (World Bank, ADB, IMF),

bilateral creditors (China, India, Japan, Paris Club) and private creditors (Insurance funds, hedge funds, mutual funds, etc). We will not be able to initiate any debt-restructuring programme with bilateral and private creditors without engaging with the IMF first and gaining their confidence.

The government’s reluctance to engage with the IMF is an ideological difference. Statements being made that the IMF will impose rules and regulations are unfounded. They will only agree or deny the working plan submitted by the government. If we don’t agree with the terms they propose, we should be able to present a better plan. It is almost similar to an individual seeking a loan from a bank. The bank manager will not give you the plan to pay off your loan, instead, they will review your finances and deem its feasibility. Moreover, the government’s reluctance also stems from the fact that they know the IMF will not approve their political programme for local council elections. Initially, they tried to print money to fund their political activities, however, due to high inflation rates they are constrained. Subsequently, they decided to tax the EPF and the ETF to pump LKR 100 bn to their local councillors but we were able to block that initiative. If they have a little bit of decency and sympathy for the people of this country, they will abandon this electioneering programme and most importantly abandon corruption to save the little bit of money we have left!

“On the 25 February, the IMF will present its analysis of the Sri Lankan economy in Washington, DC. According to publicly available stats and figures of the government, we believe that our debt is unsustainable and thus no home-grown solution nor the tourists queuing up to get into bars in the South will be able to solve this. The shortage of dollars has resulted in a shortage of oil, which has translated into a power shortage. We cannot go on much longer, as these problems have also led to instability within the local banking system. A certain government minister has stated that we should establish a ‘Thel Potha’ similar to the ‘Hal Potha’, where are we heading without any sustainable solutions? We urge the government to present the IMF Article 4 report to Parliament for us to have a constructive debate and come to a working plan, regardless of political affiliations. Moreover, GSP+ may be in jeopardy as well due to actions taken by this government. The vital export sector is the only thing that is holding us above water. We have to go beyond political biases and find a solution to this economic mismanagement immediately.”



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Wimal asks for PSC probe into top officials’ complicity in violence

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Colombo HC lawyers concerned over shocking developments

By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, MP, says a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) should be appointed to investigate the role played by IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Public Security Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. (retd.) Jagath Alwis in the recent SLPP hothead attack on those demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, including Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Weerawansa yesterday (18) told The Island that Parliament should inquire into the unprovoked attack that triggered an extremely violent response by the public as well as those awaiting an opportunity to unleash violence on selected group of lawmakers on 09 May.

The former Industries Minister said he was confident that Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, would look into the issues at hand.

Responding to another query, Weerawansa said that Senior DIG Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon’s claim that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary had interfered with his (Tennakoon’s) plan to disperse the SLPP mobs couldn’t be easily dismissed.

MP Weerawansa declared, in Parliament on Tuesday (17), that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry dissuaded the Senior DIG from performing his duties although he had received specific instructions from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to stop the march on Galle Face. The former JVPer questioned whether those conspirators wanted to show the world the failure on the part of the police and the armed forces to maintain law and order.

Asked whether police headquarters and the Public Security Ministry had responded to his accusations, Weerawansa said he hadn’t been contacted by them so far.

Pointing out that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), inquiring into 09 May turmoil had recorded Senior DIG’s statement, Weerawansa said that the outfit could issue an interim statement on the matter.

The Colombo High Court Lawyers’ Association said that the shocking revelation, made in Parliament, should be expeditiously inquired into.

The Association’s President Attorney-at-Law Lakshman Perera said that the ongoing investigations had taken an unexpected turn in the wake of high profile specific allegations pertaining to the conduct of the IGP, as well as the Public Security Ministry Secretary. Pointing out that the HRCSL and the CID had already recorded DIG Tennakoon’s statement, pertaining to the incidents, and the officer was among a group of 22 persons slapped with a travel ban by the Fort Magistrate, lawyer Perera said that the CID couldn’t turn a blind eye to accusations directed at the head of the department as well as Secretary to the relevant ministry.

Lawyer Perera said that investigations couldn’t be completed without verifying accusations made in Parliament.

Lawmaker Weerawansa said that the question was on whose behalf the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary intervened at a time the country was under emergency and after the Senior DIG in charge of Colombo received specific instructions from the President himself.

Although the SLPP goons did not shed any blood or cause any serious injuries, unlike the well-organized mobs that caused havoc across the country thereafter, MP Weerawansa said that he couldn’t comprehend why the police and the armed forces allowed the situation to develop to an extremely dangerous level.

The HRCSL in its initial reaction to the unprovoked attacks on those who had been demanding the resignation of the government condemned the violence caused by a group of people who made it very clear that violence was their intention.

HRCSL Chairperson retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe said: “The failure of the police to prepare for this eventuality and prevent and manage the violence and destruction is a gross failure of public order. There must be an immediate inquiry into this matter. The inaction of the police to prevent the clash is condemned.”

The Island brought the latest developments to the notice of the HRCSL yesterday as MP Weerawansa said that those who conspired and planned the project that involved those at the helm of Temple Trees then and the SLPP should be arrested. The conspirators shouldn’t be allowed to escape justice while the CID arrested those who carried out the actual attacks.

Police spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the department couldn’t respond to what transpired in Parliament. Acknowledging that he was aware of the allegations made in Parliament, Attorney-at-Law Thalduwa said in case their response was sought through proper channels, whatever the queries would be answered.

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Dr. Pathirana says IGP, Public Security Ministry Secy. allowed goon attacks

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Galle District parliamentarian Dr. Ramesh Pathirana has reiterated that IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Secretary to the Public Security Ministry, Maj. General (retd) Jagath Alwis had facilitated the 09 May unprovoked attack on anti-government protesters.

The former Minister Pathirana declared in Parliament yesterday (18) that National Freedom Front (NFF) leader MP Wimal Weerawansa’s allegation, pertaining to the origins of the violence, was true.

Dr. Pathirana said that he was among those who had brought supporters to attend a meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The vast majority of those who attended the Temple Trees meet on May 09 wanted to thank the war-winning President as he gave up active politics, the MP said. However, some unscrupulous members had instigated the participants there.

Dr. Pathirana said he had been at Temple Trees at that time and as he feared violence could erupt due inflammatory speeches, contact was made with Senior DIG in charge of Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon. Dr. Pathirana said that the senior police officer had assured him that the police were ready to face the situation and confident of preventing those who attended the Temple Trees function from reaching Galle Face.

“Thereafter, I left Temple Trees for a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. There were several other members. When trouble erupted, President Rajapaksa immediately got in touch with Senior DIG Tennakoon, who revealed he had been asked not to use force by the IGP himself.”

Dr. Pathirana said the President had asked the senior law enforcement officer why he didn’t carry out instructions issued by him (the President).

The Galle District MP emphasised that the IGP and the Secretary to the Public Security Ministry were responsible for the violence at Kollupitiya and Fort police areas which triggered violence in many parts of the country. (SF)

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New Deputy Speaker not from Rajapaksa political dynasty

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Newly-elected Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa said that he was not a member of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s clan.

The Hambantota District Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmaker said so when The Island asked him whether he, too, was a member of the Rajapaksa family now under fire over the continuing political-economic-social turmoil.

Rajapaksa polled 109 votes at a secret vote held in Parliament on Tuesday (17) to secure the Deputy Speaker’s post. MP Rajapaksa defeated Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Kaviratne, who polled 78 votes.

The SLPP rebel group members refrained from voting for Rajapaksa after the top SLPP leadership ignored their appeal to fill the vacancy through consultations with the SJB.

Rajapaksa succeeded SLFP’s Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, who quit the post twice, the second occasion after beating SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar at a secret vote.

Deputy Speaker Rajapaksha said that he had served as the Chairman of the Ambalanthota Pradeshiya Sabha in 1997. Subsequently, he became a member of the Southern Provincial Council.

Asked whether he was a resident of the Rajapaksas’ home base, Deputy Speaker said that he was from Pallerotta, Ambalantota. (SF)

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