Connect with us

News

‘UNHRC missive exposes UK duplicity in grave accountability matters’

Published

on

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Wartime Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama says that the leader of Sri Lanka Core Group at the Geneva–based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) the United Kingdom’s policy of double standards has been challenged by no less a person than UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

Bogollagama said that the Bachelet warning couldn’t have been issued at a better time as the UK stepped up pressure on Sri Lanka over accountability issues. The former FM was responding to Bachelet’s declaration on April 12 that the proposed new Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, in its current form, would undermine key human rights obligations that the UK has committed itself to respect.

The UK is a member of the UNHRC. Bogollagama pointed out that Bachelet had called for amendments to the proposed Bill to ensure that it didn’t protect British personnel deployed overseas for acts of torture and other serious international crimes.

The Bill is now reaching its final stages in the legislative process, and will shortly be debated again by the House of Lords, the UK’s upper chamber, where amendments may still be made.

In the run-up to the Geneva vote on a resolution spearheaded by the UK on March 23, SLPP Chairman and former External Affairs Minister Prof G.L. Peiris questioned the rationale in British actions. Prof Peiris asked how the UK sought protection for its armed forces deployed outside their territory whereas it sought punitive measures against Sri Lanka for fighting terrorism in its own land.

Bogollagama said that British double standards should be examined taking into consideration the UK’s current membership in the UNHRC as well its role as the leader of Sri Lanka Core Group. The Core Group members include Germany and Canada.

Bogollagama who served as the Foreign Minister during the fourth phase of the war (2007-2010) alleged that the UK adopted an extremely hostile position primarily because of domestic political reasons. Wikileaks disclosed the true extent of Tamil Diaspora influence on the British political establishment, Bogollagama said. So much so, the UK allowed the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) to announce its formation in the House of Commons in early 2010, the former Minister said. Would the UK accept Geneva advice as regards the proposed Bill, Bogollagama asked, those who voted for the resolution moved against Sri Lanka and abstained to realise that the UK’s stand in respect of Colombo was political.

The UK succeeded the US as Sri Lanka Core Chair in 2018 after the latter quit the Geneva body in a huff calling it a cesspool of political bias.

The purpose of the controversial British Bill is stated as being “to provide greater certainty for Service personnel and veterans in relation to claims and potential prosecution for historical events that occurred in the complex environment of armed conflict overseas.” British Forces played significant roles in the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bill seeks to achieve this, in particular, by introducing new preconditions for the prosecution of alleged offences covered by the Bill.

“As currently drafted, the Bill would make it substantially less likely that UK service members on overseas operations would be held accountable for serious human rights violations amounting to international crimes,” the UNHRC statement dated April 12 quoted Bachelet as having said.

It stated that in its present form, the proposed legislation raises substantial questions about the UK’s future compliance with its international obligations, particularly under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), as well as the 1949 Geneva Conventions. These include obligations to prevent, investigate and prosecute acts such as torture and unlawful killing, and make no distinction as to when the offences were committed.

Responding to another query, Bogollagama said that Bachelet’s statement exposed the British hypocrisy. While demanding accountability on the part of Sri Lankan military on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes accusations, the British deprived Geneva of wartime dispatches (January-May 2009) from its High Commission in Colombo in a bid to facilitate the campaign against Sri Lanka, former minister Bogollagama said.

The British exposed their hostile intentions when London turned down Sri Lanka’s request to hand over those dispatches to Geneva, the ex-lawmaker said, urging the government to continuously highlight the need for examination of all available evidence by the proposed new Geneva inquiry unit appointed at a cost of USD 2.8 mn.

Bachelet’s request to the UK was interesting, Bogollagama said. The former minister was referring to Bachelet’s appeal: “I urge UK legislators in both Houses of Parliament, and the Government, to take these concerns fully into account when reviewing the Bill, and to ensure that the law of the United Kingdom remains entirely unambiguous with regard to accountability for international crimes perpetrated by individuals, no matter when, where or by whom they are committed.”



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest News

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2024 Article IV Consultation with Sri Lanka and Completes the Second Review Under the Extended Fund Facility

Published

on

By

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed the second review under the 48-month Extended Fund Facility (EFF) Arrangement, allowing the authorities to draw SDR 254 million (about US$336 million). This brings the total IMF financial support disbursed so far to SDR 762 million (about US$1 billion). The Executive Board also concluded the 2024 Article IV Consultation with Sri Lanka.

The EFF arrangement for Sri Lanka was approved by the Executive Board on March 20, 2023 (see Press Release No. 23/79) in an amount of SDR 2.286 billion (395 percent of quota or about US$3 billion. The first review of the EFF was completed by the Executive Board on December 12, 2023 with disbursements of SDR 254 million (about US$337 million; see Press Release No. 23/439).

The EFF-supported program aims to restore Sri Lanka’s macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability, mitigate the economic impact on the poor and vulnerable, rebuild external buffers, safeguard financial sector stability, and strengthen governance and growth potential.

Signs of economic recovery are emerging. Real GDP expanded by 3 percent (y-o-y) in the second half of 2023. May 2024 inflation was 0.9 percent and gross international reserves increased to US$5.5 billion by end-April 2024. The primary balance improved to a surplus with tax revenue increasing to 9.8 percent of GDP in 2023. Despite improvements in non‑performing loans, pockets of vulnerabilities remain in the banking sector.

The recovery remains gradual, and the medium-term growth potential hinges on appropriate policy settings. Growth is projected to recover moderately in 2024-25 given constrained bank credit and fiscal consolidation, while facing uncertainties around the debt restructuring and policy direction following the elections. Inflation is expected to temporarily increase due to one-off factors. The current account is expected to remain positive in 2024, driven by improved tourist arrivals and remittances. Domestic risks could arise from waning reform momentum, especially on revenue mobilization. External risks are associated with intensified regional conflicts, commodity price volatility, and a global slowdown. Slow progress in debt restructuring could widen financing gaps.

Following the Executive Board’s discussion,  Kenji Okamura, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, issued the following statement:

“Sri Lanka’s performance under its Fund-supported program remains strong. All quantitative targets were met, except for the marginal shortfall of indicative target on social spending. Most structural benchmarks were either met or implemented with delay. Reforms and policy adjustment are bearing fruit. The economy is starting to recover, inflation remains low, revenue collection is improving, and reserves continue to accumulate. Despite these positive developments, the economy is still vulnerable and the path to debt sustainability remains knife-edged. Important vulnerabilities associated with the ongoing debt restructuring, revenue mobilization, reserve accumulation, and banks’ ability to support the recovery continue to cloud the outlook. Strong reform efforts, adequate safeguards, and contingency planning help mitigate these risks.

“To restore fiscal sustainability, sustained revenue mobilization efforts, promptly finalizing the debt restructuring in line with program targets, and protecting social and capital spending remain critical. Advancing public financial management will help enhance fiscal discipline, and strengthening the debt management framework is also needed.

“Monetary policy should continue prioritizing price stability, supported by a sustained commitment to refrain from monetary financing and safeguard central bank independence. Continued exchange rate flexibility and gradually phasing out the balance of payments measures remain critical to rebuild external buffers and facilitate external rebalancing.

“Restoring bank capital adequacy and strengthening governance and oversight of state-owned banks are top priorities to revive credit growth and support economic recovery.

“The authorities need to press ahead with their efforts to address structural challenges to unlock long-term potential. Key priorities include steadfast implementation of the governance reforms; further trade liberalization to promote exports and foreign direct investment; labor reforms to upgrade skills and increase female labor force participation; and state-owned enterprise reforms to improve efficiency and fiscal transparency, contain fiscal risks, and promote a level playing field for the private sector.

Executive Board Assessment

Executive Directors commended the authorities’ strong performance under the Fund‑supported program, noting that reforms are bearing fruit. The economy has started to recover, inflation remains low, revenue collection is improving, and reserves continue to accumulate. Directors underscored, however, that important vulnerabilities and uncertainties remain, including with respect to the ongoing debt restructuring and the upcoming elections. Against this backdrop, they called on the authorities to continue strengthening macroeconomic policies to restore economic stability and debt sustainability and to sustain the reform momentum to promote long‑term inclusive growth.

Directors underscored that restoring fiscal sustainability requires additional revenue measures underpinning the 2025 Budget, further tax administration reforms, as well as limiting tax exemptions and making them more transparent. They called for protecting growth‑enhancing and social spending, and for improving the social safety net. Directors welcomed the submission of the new Public Financial Management bill to Parliament, which would strengthen fiscal discipline and establish a solid fiscal framework. They noted that further efforts to strengthen the debt management framework are also needed. Directors welcomed the progress on achieving cost‑recovery in energy pricing, noting its criticality for containing risks from state‑owned enterprises (SOEs).

Directors welcomed the progress made to advance debt restructuring to restore Sri Lanka’s debt sustainability. They called for a swift finalization of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Official Creditor Committee and final agreements with the Export‑Import Bank of China. Directors stressed the importance of seeking comparable, transparent, and timely completion of restructurings with external private creditors consistent with program targets.

Directors emphasized that maintaining price stability remains the top priority for monetary policy, which requires anchoring inflation expectations, continuing to refrain from monetary financing, and the gradual unwinding of government security holdings as markets allow. They also stressed the importance of strengthening central bank independence. Directors underscored the need to continue building external buffers, while maintaining exchange rate flexibility to facilitate external rebalancing and preserve the credibility of the inflation targeting regime. They called for gradually phasing out the balance of payments measures.

Directors underscored the need to strengthen financial sector resilience to support the recovery. They called for swift completion of the restructuring of remaining domestic law, foreign currency loans and for adequate recapitalization of commercial and state‑owned banks. Directors welcomed the enactment of the Banking Act amendments and emphasized the importance of their effective implementation to enhance supervision and the governance of state‑owned banks. They also called for further efforts to strengthen the anti‑money laundering and counter‑terrorism financing framework.

Directors stressed that pressing ahead with governance and structural reforms, supported by development partners and IMF capacity development, is crucial to unlock growth potential. They welcomed the publication of the authorities’ action plan on the key governance reforms recommended in the Governance Diagnostic Report and called for its steadfast implementation. Directors also recommended prioritizing reforms to further liberalize trade, improve the investment climate and SOE efficiency, reduce gender gaps in the labor market, and mitigate climate vulnerabilities.

Sri Lanka: Selected Economic Indicators 2021–2029

 

  2021 2022   2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029  
         
   
GDP and inflation (in percent)      
Real GDP 4.2   -7.3   -2.3   2.0   2.7 3.0 3.1 3.1 3.1  
Inflation (average) 1/ 6.0   45.2   17.4   7.0   5.8 5.4 5.2 5.1 5.0  
Inflation (end-of-period) 1/ 12.1   54.5   4.0   6.9   5.5 5.4 5.2 5.1 5.0  
GDP Deflator growth 8.0   47.5   17.5   9.8   6.9 5.4 5.2 5.1 5.0  
Nominal GDP growth 12.6   36.6   14.8   11.9   9.8 8.5 8.5 8.3 8.3  
                             
Savings and investment (in percent of GDP)        
National savings 33.0   27.6   33.9   32.5   31.0 31.3 31.9 31.8 31.8  
  Government -7.3   -6.4   -6.0   -3.4   -1.0 -0.1 0.3 0.7 0.7  
  Private 40.4   34.0   39.9   35.9   31.9 31.4 31.6 31.1 31.0  
National investment 36.7   28.6   30.8   32.1   32.1 32.4 32.8 32.7 32.6  
  Government 7.4   5.5   3.7   5.0   5.1 5.2 5.1 5.2 5.2  
  Private 29.4   23.1   27.1   27.1   27.0 27.3 27.7 27.5 27.4  
Savings-Investment balance -3.7   -1.0   3.1   0.5   -1.1 -1.2 -0.9 -0.9 -0.8  
  Government -14.7   -11.9   -9.6   -8.4   -6.0 -5.3 -4.8 -4.5 -4.4  
  Private 11.0   10.9   12.8   8.8   4.9 4.1 3.9 3.6 3.6  
                           
Public finance (in percent of GDP)      
Revenue and grants 8.3   8.4   11.1   13.6   15.1 15.3 15.4 15.4 15.4  
Expenditure 20.0   18.6   19.4   20.9   20.3 19.9 19.5 19.2 19.2  
Primary balance -5.7   -3.7   0.6   1.0   2.3 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.3  
Central government balance -11.7   -10.2   -8.3   -7.3   -5.2 -4.6 -4.1 -3.8 -3.8  
Central government gross financing needs 31.0   34.1   27.8   24.9   23.7 20.5 16.6 13.1 11.9  
Central government debt 102.7   115.9   109.8   108.8   108.4 108.3 106.6 103.2 100.1  
Public debt 2/ 114.8   126.3   115.7   114.2   113.1 112.5 110.2 106.5 103.1  
                             
Money and credit (percent change, end of period)                            
Reserve money 35.4   3.3   -1.5   18.8   11.0 8.5 8.5 8.3 8.3  
Broad money 13.2   15.5   7.3   14.9   10.4 8.5 8.5 8.3 8.3  
Domestic credit 19.5   18.8   -1.2   9.3   3.6 2.5 2.3 2.4 6.7  
Credit to private sector 13.1   6.4   -0.8   7.2   9.2 9.3 9.5 9.4 9.3  
Credit to private sector (adjusted for inflation) 7.2   -38.8   -18.2   0.2   3.4 4.0 4.3 4.3 4.3  
Credit to central government and public corporations 26.5   31.1   -1.6   11.0   -0.9 -3.4 -4.7 -5.5 3.2  
                             
Balance of Payments (in millions of U.S. dollars)                            
Exports 12,499   13,106   11,911   12,913   13,624 14,261 14,903 15,591 16,384  
Imports -20,638   -18,291   -16,811   -20,059   -22,565 -23,706 -24,362 -25,255 -26,363  
Current account balance -3,285   -744   2,644   412   -926 -1,031 -804 -819 -840  
Current account balance (in percent of GDP) -3.7   -1.0   3.1   0.5   -1.1 -1.2 -0.9 -0.9 -0.8  
Current account balance net of interest (in percent of GDP) -2.1   0.1   4.3   2.8   1.3 1.1 1.5 1.6 1.5  
Export value growth (percent) 24.4   4.9   -9.1   8.4   5.5 4.7 4.5 4.6 5.1  
Import value growth (percent) 28.5   -11.4   -8.1   19.3   12.5 5.1 2.8 3.7 4.4  
   
Gross official reserves (end of period)  
In millions of U.S. dollars 3,139   1,898   4,387   5,605   7,174 9,262 13,466 15,105 15,286  
In months of prospective imports of goods & services 2.0   1.2   2.4   2.7   3.3 4.1 5.8 6.2 6.3  
In percent of ARA composite metric 24.7   16.3   37.8   47.9   58.6 73.1 100.2 108.7 108.5  
Usable Gross official reserves (end of period) 3/        
In millions of U.S. dollars 1,565   462   2,951   4,169   7,174 9,262 13,466 15,105 15,286  
In months of prospective imports of goods & services 1.0   0.3   1.6   2.0   3.3 4.1 5.8 6.2 6.3  
In percent of ARA composite metric 12.3   4.0   25.4   35.6   58.6 73.1 100.2 108.7 108.5  
External debt (public and private)                            
In billions of U.S. dollars 58.4   57.4   52.7   53.6   55.6 58.0 62.3 64.0 65.8  
As a percent of GDP 65.9   77.0   62.5   61.1   64.4 65.7 68.5 67.2 65.0  
                             
Memorandum items:                            
Nominal GDP (in billions of rupees) 17,612   24,064   27,630   30,917   33,958 36,839 39,959 43,287 46,869  
Exchange Rate (period average) 198.8   322.6   327.5      
Exchange Rate (end of period) 200.4   363.1   323.9      
Sources: Data provided by the Sri Lankan authorities and IMF staff estimates.
IMF Communications Department
   

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading

News

Parliament in the dark about Speaker’s claim that sittings cost taxpayers Rs. 15m a day

Published

on

Mahinda Yapa

…recurrent and capital expenditure for 2023 Rs 3,616,201,443

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Parliament says it cannot confirm Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s claim that a day’s proceedings cost the taxpayer as much as Rs 15 mn.

The Parliament emphasised that as in the case of other government corporations and departments, a day’s expenditure couldn’t be calculated.

The House said so in response to The Island query pertaining to a statement made by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena in Parliament on March 20, this year. Responding to a series of questions that had been submitted to Parliament in terms of the Right to Information (RTI) Act No 12 of 2016, the Parliament didn’t have the required data to back Speaker Abeywardena’s claim.

The Island asked Parliament as to how Speaker Abeywardena calculated a day’s expenditure at Rs 15 mn as the House previously declared it couldn’t confirm Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunga’s declaration that a day’s proceedings cost the taxpayer Rs 10 mn.

Minister Ranatunga, on Dec 10, 2023, alleged that the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) wasted Rs 10 mn by sabotaging the special debate on the VAT (Amendment) Bill conducted on that day.

The SLPP heavyweight said so during a heated argument with SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa.

During Karu Jayasuriya’s tenure as the Speaker (2015-2019) the UNPer is on record as having said that a day’s proceedings cost the taxpayer over Rs 4 mn.

Parliament responded to a set of queries posed by The Island on March 22, 2024 ,well after the stipulated period to answer RTI queries.

However, the Parliament disclosed that the recurrent and capital expenditure of Parliament for 2023 were Rs 3,574,101,968 and Rs 42,099,475 respectively. Hence the total expenditure Rs. 3,616,201,443.

Parliament declined to respond to several questions claiming either Parliament didn’t have the relevant data or they were irrelevant. The questions included one on the expenditure incurred during the Budget debate last year (Nov 13-Dec 08, 2023).

The House declined to compare the expenditure of Sri Lanka’s Parliament and that of regional Parliaments.

The Speaker, on March 20, declared that a three-day no-confidence motion against him over the enactment of the Online Safety Bill wasted as much as Rs 45 mn at the rate of Rs 15 mn per day.

The Parliament couldn’t say how much food and electricity cost the taxpayer. According to the response received for the RTI query, the Parliament opened on all week days though the sittings were held a maximum of eight days a month.

Continue Reading

News

Russia expects GoSL to continue with neutral foreign policy

Published

on

CDS General Shavendra Silva, his wife Sujeewa with Russian Ambassador Levan Dzhagaryan at Russia Day celebrations. Fourth from left Alexander Dyagilev, Senior Counsellor and Alexey Bonarev, Military Attache.

Ambassador comments on 2024 prez poll

Russian Ambassador Levan Dzhagaryan said that regardless of the outcome of the presidential election later this year in Sri Lanka, the Russian Federation expected the new government to continue with what he called independent neutral foreign policy and preserve the continuity in friendly relations with Russia.

Declaring that Russia had never meddled in domestic affairs here, Ambassador Dzhagaryan said that they hoped the elections would be conducted in a peaceful manner and result in further enhancement of stability and growth.

The Ambassador said so at the Russia Day celebrations at Galle Face Hotel on Tuesday (11). The Russia Day falls on June 12.

Among the distinguished gathering were former Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa,

Chief of Defence Staff General Shavendra Silva, Defence Secretary General Kamal Gunaratne and diplomatic representatives.

Ambassador Dzhagaryan said: “June 12 symbolizes a future-oriented Russia, successful development of its economy, improvement of social security, consolidation of the friendship between the peoples of the Russian Federation, strengthening of its position on the international arena as well as reminds of great victories and accomplishments of many generations of our predecessors.”

Referring to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Ambassador said: “The start of the Special military operation in Ukraine was a response to the blatant ignorance by the West of security concerns of Russia, and the abandonment by the West of its commitments. It is also a response to the genocide perpetrated by the Kiev regime against civilians in Donbass, including citizens of the Russian Federation. The operation is not aimed against civilians in Ukraine. The goal is to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes. Ukraine and the Ukrainian people have been turned into an instrument of Western policy to destabilize Russia. This operation will last till all its aims, pointed by our President Vladimir Putin, are reached. Our cause is just, and we will win. No doubt.

The Russian-Sri Lankan relations provide a good example of sincere friendship and mutual understanding that can exist between two countries. Our states have similar approaches to important foreign policy issues. Sri Lanka supports Russia’s initiatives at the UN General Assembly, including resolutions on countering the glorification of Nazism, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, backs up our efforts to promote international information security, arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation. Russia, in its turn, has always supported Sri Lanka in all international fora, particularly in the United Nations Human Rights Council. And, of course, we deeply appreciate its balanced position on the Ukrainian issue despite all the pressure and efforts to incline Sri Lanka to Western side of the conflict.”

Continue Reading

Trending