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‘We formed a new political party because the UNP was not listening to us’  – SJB MP Mayantha Dissanayake



By Saman Indrajith

The main opposition SJB, which marks its first anniversary tomorrow (15) expressed optimism of forming the next government within three and half years as the trust people placed on the incumbent government is eroding fast.

In an interview with The Sunday Island, parliamentarian Mayantha Dissanayake, the leader of SJB’s youth wing ‘Samagi Tharuna Balawegaya’, said the primary reason for forming the SJB was because “we felt that as a country we have to unite. There are political forces in the country that came into existence — some came to power by dividing the nation, while others were either very nationalistic or racist”.

He further said: “They wanted to get what could be termed the ‘populist vote’ and come to power. We felt that we have to be a uniting force in the country. We felt that we have to create a political force as Sri Lankans to be Sri Lankans. What is the Sri Lankan dream, what are the aspirations of young Sri Lankans in this country?”.

“We must be able to attract expatriate Sri Lankans to come back to the country. We felt there has to be a political party, a political force that is able to unite us as Sri Lankans without racism”, the MP stressed.

He added: “In those ideals, we felt that we have to have a political party that would do that. We wanted to create a party with the true ideals of the UNP. “We also felt that the UNP had drifted away from its true ideals and original vision. We wanted a political party. We also felt that UNP sitting MPs needed a young and dynamic leadership. We felt that leader is Sajith Premadasa, a true Sri Lankan, who loves the country, loves the nature and who wanted to something for Sri Lanka.

“We thought it was high time as the Grand Old Party was not listening to us in that light. So we felt we must create a new political party. That was the birth of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya”.

Dissanayake said the government has been in power for almost one and half years. The promises given and the aspirations of 6.9 million people who had voted for the government have not been fulfilled. It is really sad and pathetic situation politically where this country is heading. This government has fallen short of expectations. In fact they sold a nationalistic dream. They sold a fable, a myth, that this country was in danger and for national security Gotabaya Rajapaksa should come to power and has to be the President. That was the myth and the dream that was sold.

However, unfortunately the government has not fulfilled any of the pledges given economically. As a country, we are far worse than where he had been one and half years ago. Internationally, we are far worse than we were then. Forests are being cleared on an unprecedented scale. The President has given powers to District Secretaries through a circular on clearing forests. The original circular to preserve the forests was issued by former President Ranasinghe Premadasa, he noted.

Earlier, Mahinda Rajapaksa asked the people to tighten their belts. The cost of living is skyrocketing. The rupee value against the dollar is depreciating on a daily basis. Where is this country heading? In spite of the people’s aspirations, the promises and pledges, the government has failed, the MP said.

“It’s not just one leader or leadership of the party that make all the decisions. We make collective decisions so we are looking at how can build the economy and how we will be addressing the aspirations of people”, he continued.

He said economically, the country is in a bad way. The government is printing money, saying there’s a cash flow problem. Actually it is a much worse than a cash flow problem. We are unable to borrow money from foreign sources that we have been borrowing.

There is no government to government development taking place now. The government is borrowing commercial loans which they cannot repay. So the economic situation is really dire, he warned.

“In terms of international relations, we are alone and highly dependent on China. We promise China many things at the cost of angering our biggest neighbor India. Then we have made many promises to India to balance China. By that we have angered other neighbouring countries. The government cannot really balance. Sri Lanka has been always balanced with regard to regional countries and super powers. I think the decisions are made in an ad hoc manner. In international relations, one cannot ad hoc in foreign policy. There should be a strong foreign policy on how we are going to deal with India, with China and with the Americans, Russians etc”, Dissanayake continued.

“We are also in a bad situation with regard to human rights charges against us in Geneva. The government has not sent anyone to Geneva. What I had heard is that the Sri Lankan delegation was to leave for Geneva but one of the prominent members of the delegation was denied a visa because of his human rights record. Therefore the entire delegation could not go. Therefore there is not anybody from the government in Geneva right now apart from our ambassador there to handle and negotiate. This situation could have been handled in a more professional manner if we had a better foreign policy”, the MP said.

All that Geneva is asking for is to be truthful about allegations on human rights violations. The easiest and the quickest solution for that was the LLRC report completed during the time of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. If we implement the recommendations of the report and take steps in the right direction, this problem would have been solved in a rather efficient and quicker manner. You must give the devil his due, he added.

“The previous government, the yahapalana government handled the international relations far better than this government. I am not saying that they were perfect. But they were far better than what this government is doing. And I think in a future government headed by our party we would with our experiences and our knowledge our contacts and our history we would do a much better job in our international relations than this government”, he noted.

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GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets



Prof. G.L

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.

The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.

Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.

Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.

While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.

Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.

Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.

Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.

Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.

Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.

Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.

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LPBOA demands bus fare hike



By Rathindra Kuruwita  

Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.

On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.

Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.

“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.

School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.

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Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR



A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.

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