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US wants President Gotabaya to fulfill promises made at his inauguration

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…Pompeo blames Easter Sunday attacks on ISIS

Referring to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s inaugural speech in Anuradhapura in last November, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo yesterday (28) said that the US expected Sri Lanka to take tangible measures to promote accountability, justice, and reconciliation.

Addressing the media at the Foreign Ministry after having met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Pompeo reminded that President Rajapaksa stated he was the president of all citizens, not of only those who voted for him. Pompeo said: “And as our two nations move forward, the United States is counting on those words to hold true. We fully expect that Sri Lanka will fulfill its pledges to take meaningful, concrete steps to promote accountability, justice, and reconciliation.”

The Secretary of State said: “My overall message in both engagements was very clear: The United States seeks to strengthen our partnership with democratic, peaceful, prosperous, and fully sovereign Sri Lanka. Our new embassy, for instance, is nearing completion. It’s a sign of our commitment to the country and to the people of Sri Lanka, and we of course spend a good deal of time talking about our cooperation in defeating the pandemic that came from Wuhan, China.

The United States has donated now just over $6 million in COVID assistance to Sri Lanka, and early in the pandemic, Sri Lankan factories and garment manufacturers quickly filled hundreds – hundreds of orders for high-quality PPE, and we are grateful for this output which saved American lives. Thank you so much.

President Trump is working hard with our private sector to develop vaccines and therapeutics to beat this virus and benefit our peoples and indeed the peoples of the entire world. We’ll need the power of private industry to regain our economic footing now and in the future, and we look forward to working with the people of Sri Lanka on that matter.

We talked about this a great deal. We talked about our economic relationship, great American companies that are here today. Brands like Coke and Oracle and IBM are here certifying – or excuse me, creating high-quality jobs. These American companies are the most reliable partners on the planet. They’re accountable to the law, they’re transparent, they’re assets to the communities in which they operate.

And as I conveyed today, good governance, transparency in policy consistently will attract even more American investment. Those principles are deeply consistent with Sri Lanka’s history, its heritage as the oldest democracy in Asia.

We also had a wide-ranging discussion on our security cooperation which helps keep some of the world’s most vital sea lanes open, as the minister recognized, in addition to our joint trainings. I’m proud that Sri Lankan officers received training at the United States institutions like West Point, my alma mater, and I’m also proud the United States has donated two Coast Guard cutters that are now Sri Lanka’s navy patrolling your waters.

Indeed, a strong, sovereign Sri Lanka is a powerful and strategic partner for the United States on the world stage. It can be a beacon for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Look, that’s quite a contrast to what China seeks. We see from bad deals, violations of sovereignty and lawlessness on land and sea that the Chinese Communist Party is a predator, and the United States comes in a different way. We come as a friend and as a partner.

Finally, this afternoon, I’ll travel – it’s important for me to take a moment to go and visit the Shrine of St. Anthony, one of the five sites that were attacked by ISIS on Easter Sunday of 2019. I’ll shortly have the chance to pay my respects to the hundreds of victims of evil terrorists, including five Americans. I’m proud that the State Department has offered substantial counterterrorism assistance to help Sri Lankans bring killers of Americans and their own people to justice. These Easter Sunday attacks represent the kind of sectarianism that Sri Lankans are ready to leave behind forever. Sri Lankans of all backgrounds – Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims alike – want a peaceful nation where their human rights are respected.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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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

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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

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… 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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