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US will provide two maritime surveillance aircraft gratis to SLAF

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The United States (US) government has agreed to provide two maritime surveillance aircraft to Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF), under Foreign Military Sales Contract, to strengthen the maritime surveillance capability in Sri Lankan Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to ensure maritime security in the region.

The surveillance aircraft were sent according to a request made by present Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Sudharshana Pathirana after assuming duties at office for a dedicated maritime surveillance aircraft on Gratis basis (with relevant surveillance equipment on board).

SLAF requested Beechcraft 360ER is a twin-turboprop aircraft produced by Textron Aviation and is a light transport aircraft certified by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). SLAF has been operating Beechcraft B-200 aircraft, an earlier version of the Beechcraft family, for decades and has ample experience in operating and maintaining these aircraft. The established operational and maintenance capabilities are one of main advantages that SLAF possesses in future operation of new B-360ER aircraft.

These aircraft will be deployed at a time when there is a growing need to respond to maritime disasters such as MT New Diamond and X Press Pearl, assisting deep sea rescue missions, monitor illegal fishing activities and to assist Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) in combating transnational crimes including human smuggling as well as drug trafficking in EEZ.

This aircraft will incorporate next generation technologies that enhance the operational capabilities and state-of-art surveillance equipment worth millions will be provided along with aircraft FOC basis which is an invaluable contribution in terms of funds as a result of long term discussions between the Commander of Air Force and US Embassy in Sri Lanka. This will enhance the maritime surveillance capability of SLAF in the Indian Ocean region.

Textron Aviation Inc., Wichita, Kansas was awarded the total contract by US Department of Defence (DOD) and the first aircraft will be delivered in late 2022 or early 2023 to SLAF. The project will be completed in September 2025 after delivery of second aircraft as confirmed by US DOD.



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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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