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Women parliamentarians submit motion seeking PSC to probe gender based discrimination



By Saman Indrajith

The Women Parliamentarians Caucus has submitted a motion seeking the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee to look into gender based discriminations and violations of women’s rights in the country.

The motion now entered in the latest Addendum to the Order Book of Parliament says that the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus chaired by Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, has resolved the necessity of setting up a mechanism to advocate and mainstream gender equity and equality through their representation, lawmaking, budgeting and oversight functions.

As a result of their resolve they seek for House’s approval to set up a PSC to “look into and report to Parliament its recommendations to ensure gender equity and equality with special emphasis on looking into gender based discriminations and violations of women’s rights in Sri Lanka.

The motion has been signed by Dr Fernandopulle and MPs Dr Seetha Arambepola, Rohini Kumari Wijerathna, Pavithradevi Wanniarachchi, Thalatha Atukorale, Geetha Samanmale Kumarasinghe, Kokila Gunawardene, Muditha Prishanthi, Rajika Wickramasinghe, Manjula Dissanayake, Dr Harini Amarasuriya and Diana Gamage.

The motion says that Article 12 of the Fundamental Rights Chapter of the Constitution recognizes that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law and Article 12(4) provides for affirmative legislative or executive action for the advancement of women’s rights.

The government has ratified several international legal instruments that promote gender equality inter alia Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Ensuring gender equity and equality and empowering all women and girls have become important in the context of sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations for which Sri Lanka is a signatory.

 The PSC is expected to make recommendations in respect of the following in order to address gender based discrimination ensuring that gender equity and equality is promoted and respected, and all women and girls are empowered in Sri Lanka:

(a) hearing grievances of women on all sorts of gender based discriminations including employment, promotional opportunities and harassments in work place; (b) reviewing and advocating for the allocation of adequate domestic resources in all sectors and at all levels, and access to improved gender equity and equality in Sri Lanka; (c) scrutinizing and reviewing relevant laws, ensuring gender mainstreaming to prevent discrimination and negative impact on the lives of women and girls; (d) lobbying with relevant line Ministries and authorities to ensure gender responsive planning and budgeting; (e) undertaking awareness campaigns and encouraging information dissemination on matters related to achieving equality among men and women; (f) lobbying and advocating for more women representation in decision-making bodies on national, provincial and local level, in public, civil society and in private sectors; (g) reviewing measures for integration of gender equality principles at National, Provincial and Local levels; (h) encouraging public-private partnerships to improve gender equity and equality in Sri Lanka; (i) sharing expertise and experiences among countries at regional and international levels and reviewing lessons learnt from other Parliaments; and (j) consideration of all matters which are connected with or incidental to the above matters. 2. (a) That the Committee and its Chair shall be appointed by the Speaker; and (b) That notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 101 of the Parliament, the Committee shall consist of not more than twenty five (25) Members comprising all members of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus in Parliament and other Male Members of Parliament representing all political parties. 3. That the Committee shall have the power to— (a) fix its quorum; (b) summon any person to appear before it, to require any person to procure any document or record, to produce and receive all such evidence, written or oral, as the Committee may think it necessary for the fullest consideration of the matters referred to above; (c) obtain the services of specialists and experts in the relevant fields to assist the Committee; and (d) make interim reports from time to time and to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of Parliament.”

The Committee shall present its report to Parliament within a period of one year from the first meeting of the Committee or within such further period as Parliament may grant. The report of the Committee, once tabled in Parliament shall be referred to the Ministers in charge of relevant subjects who shall submit their observations and steps taken therein contained to the House within a period of eight (08) weeks, the motion said.

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Govt. eases restrictions on foreigners as Covid-19 rips through country



DGHS, IGP informed of SLTDA decision

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In what many thought was a shocking decision, the Tourism Ministry yesterday (16) declared that tourists would be able to travel across the country despite movement restrictions in force since last Thursday (14) to control the rapid spread of Covid-19.

 Tourism Ministry, in a statement issued yesterday afternoon (16) quoted Director General of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Dhammika Wijesinhe as having said that the foreigners in the country could travel in what she called a bio bubble. Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr Asela Gunawardena and IGP C.D. Wickremaratne had been informed of the arrangements, she said.

The announcement was made as the government struggled to cope with an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 positive cases as well as deaths. It came close on the heels of Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga declaring that the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) wouldn’t be closed. When The Island sought an explanation from the Tourism Ministry how such a decision was taken regardless of tough quarantine laws and health guidelines in place to control the spread of rampaging Covid-19 epidemic, an authoritative official said that the Ministry issued a statement received from the SLTDA.

DG Wijesinghe said that those individuals and firms responsible for bringing in tourists had been instructed to strictly follow health guidelines or face the consequences.

Declaring that tourism has been categorized as an export industry, DG Wijesinghe said that the SLTDA stepped in the wake of complaints that foreigners experienced difficulties as a result of travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the latest Covid-19 eruption.

The Tourism Ministry further quoted the official as having stressed that arrangements were now in place to ensure tourists could travel in a bio bubble without hindrance.

Police headquarters said that after the lifting of ‘lockdown’ on Monday at 4 am, travel restrictions from 11 pm to 4 am on a daily basis during May would continue.

GMOF (Government Medical Officers’ Forum) spokesperson Dr. Rukshan Bellana said that the government seemed hell-bent on causing further chaos. Having allowed influential parties to bring in foreigners for quarantine in the country, the government caused the deterioration and now restrictions were done away at the risk of further intensification of the spread of the virus.

Dr. Bellana recalled how the government permitted the England cricket tour of Sri Lanka to go ahead in January this year at a time the UK was in a grave crisis over a new deadlier variant of Covid-19 spreading there and also allowed groups of Ukrainians in when Ukraine was in lockdown.

Responding to another query, Dr. Bellana pointed out that the shocking declaration that restrictions would not apply to foreigners meant that the government was yet to comprehend the gravity of the situation.

Dr. Bellana said that the government seemed to be blind to the fact that the death toll was on the verge of passing 1,000 and the cases nearing 150,000. If those at the helm of administration really believed tourists could move across the country safely in bio bubbles let them create the same for others, Dr. Bellana said.

According to the GMOF, the government was pulling in different directions in the absence of a cohesive strategy to meet the daunting Covid-19 challenge. The failure to understand the need to apply the same set of quarantine laws and health guidelines to all was one of the primary reasons for the deterioration of the problem.  Dr. Bellana asked how the government did away with restrictions while the doctors reported the detection of at least six Covid-19 variants.

Dr. Bellana said that he expected experts would oppose the government’s short-sighted policies.

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Gaza conflict: Parliament calls for truce; govt. silent yet



By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List MP Dr. Suren Raghavan, on behalf of the Sri Lanka-Palestinian Parliament Friendship Association has urged the government and the Opposition to join the international community in calling for an immediate cessation of violence in the latest conflict involving Israel and Hamas.

The recently formed Association in a statement issued on May 13 called for cessation of hostilities in Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Association represents both government and the Opposition.

Citing international media reports, the Association expressed concerns over suffering of civilians on both sides due to military action during the month of Ramazan. Dr. Raghavan, the only SLFPer accommodated on the SLPP National List made reference to indiscriminate rocket attacks carried out by Hamas and Israeli air strikes.

The Foreign Ministry yesterday (16) acknowledged the government was yet to issue a statement on the situation in Gaza.

According to international media reports, an Israeli airstrike on Saturday destroyed a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press offices in the Gaza Strip. The airstrike came about an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to leave the building. The building houses the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments.

Meanwhile, Israel Solidarity Movement (ISM) strongly condemned Hamas for attacking civilian targets in Israel. Calling Hamas a terrorist organization, the ISM pointed out that terrorists used Palestinians as a human shield while attacking Israeli civilians.  Pointing out that Hamas actions had placed the Palestinian community in peril, the IMS recalled how Sri Lanka suffered during the war against the LTTE. Making reference to sufferings caused by 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, the ISM stood solidly with those who backed whatever Israeli action taken to neutralize the Hamas challenge.

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Central Bank: No immediate threat of inflation rise from monetary expansion



By Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka was currently experiencing high monetary expansion, but the Central Bank did not expect an acceleration of inflation in the near future, Economic Research Director at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara told The Island yesterday.

Answering a query on the broad money growth and its wider implications, Dr. Amarasekera said, “At the end of 2020, broad money expanded by 23.4% compared to the end 2019. The extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic required increased credit to the government from Sri Lanka’s banking system, and the historically low interest rate structure also resulted in a pickup in the growth of credit to the private sector in the second half of the year. This policy driven expansion in broad money supply was essential for the country to dampen the effects of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.”

“As the Sri Lankan economy is operating below its potential, we do not project a demand-driven acceleration in inflation in the near term. Even the relatively high economic growth projected for 2021 will be partly driven by the low base in the previous year, and therefore, it is unlikely that there will be an overheating of the economy in 2021 as well, although we envisage a monetary expansion of 21%.”

“However, as the authority responsible for the money stock of the country, the Central Bank remains cautious about any excessive expansion in money growth. Nevertheless, the close relationship between money and inflation that we used to see in the past is no longer in existence. For example, during the most part of a period of single digit inflation that Sri Lanka experienced since 2009, broad money growth has remained above 15%. The breakdown of the close relationship between money growth and inflation is also one reason for the Central Bank to move away from a monetary targeting framework towards a flexible inflation targeting framework to conduct monetary policy. Anchoring of inflation expectations has also helped curb the inflationary effects of exchange rate movements as well. Many other countries have also experienced similar situations.”

“When the economy recovers and demand conditions improve, the Central Bank will take appropriate action to make necessary policy adjustments to ensure the continuation of inflation at the desirable levels of mid-single digits without disrupting the growth process,” Dr. Amarasekara said.

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