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“You resigned because you could not govern”: Sumanthiran tells ministers

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Gota must go home, there’s no other way

By resigning at a time when people are suffering from immense economic calamities, the ministers have accepted that they are unable to govern the country, TNA MP, M.A. Sumanthiran said in Parliament on Thursday.

“What’s the situation in the country? The situation in the country is that the people can’t live – they have no food to eat, people don’t have fuel, children can’t go to school, they have come on to the streets; that’s the situation in the country.

“And then in order to handle that situation what has the government done? The government has resigned, all members of the Cabinet have tendered their resignations. Now what does that mean? That means, that they accept, they are unable to govern the country,” he said.

“However, some members of the government say that they still have the mandate to govern. If that is the case, why did the cabinet resign then”, he asked.

“Now having conceded that you have failed, you are now standing up here talking big. The country is in a very serious crisis – you must go! And when I say you must go – the leader must go.  I mean, if after all of these days you have not understood what the people are saying, if you think that by removing the Minister of Finance or a state minister tendering his resignation with effect from May 1, or some other measure, that’s not sufficient,” he said.

Sumantiran said that there are serious issues with regard to the finances of the country. For a long time the government insisted that they will not go to the International Monetary Fund.

“However, you have eventually caved in and you have gone. And yesterday the IMF issued a statement, I am going to read it from the Reuters news report. It says “IMF staff is looking forward to programme discussions with the authorities including during the visit of the newly appointed Finance Minister to Washington later this month”.

Now where is the newly appointed Finance Minister? I mean the one most important post there must be in the government today, if you are to deal with the situation out there, if you are to deal with the dollar crisis, if you are to deal with the escalating prices, if you are to deal with the shortage of food, the shortage of Medicines – it is the Minister of Finance. And you don’t have a Minister of Finance. You have decided to go to the IMF but who is to go? You have brought this country to bankruptcy,” he said.

He added: “You have brought this country to bankruptcy. I am reminded of something that I learned as to the word “bankruptcy”. When in ancient Greece, when there were lenders in the market place, they sat on benches – “Banku” in Sinhala, that’s how the word came “Bankuwala wadiwela hitiya” they lent more than they could actually afford, at the end of the day when they did not have money to give back, people came, took that bench and broke it into two. “Bankus ruptus” that’s bankruptcy.

“So people have now come to take your chair, your throne – what you thought was the Rajapaksa throne – and they are breaking it into two. They are chasing you away from the government so the trader – the banker – the “Bankus ruptus” and he was chased away that’s what they are doing. Because you have made the country bankrupt.

“How did that happen? “Yes it happened over a long period of time; you borrowed.  But the last trigger, the trigger that sent you down the slippery slope, from which you are unable to climb back up, happened in December 2019. When President Gotabaya Rajapaksa became the President and wanted to hold the parliamentary elections very soon, he thought ‘okay with this wind we will capture power, coming to parliament as well’ and announced a series of tax cuts. Lowered the rates of VAT, increased the threshold for income tax, corporate tax, etc.

“Now, the analysis shows that by one act alone 25% of the revenue to the country was lost. What is worse? 33% of the taxpayers got out of that tax net. And that is how everybody reckoned that you will not be able to meet the balance of payments; your ratings dropped, and today at the public finance committee it was confirmed that in April 2020 we were shut out of the financial markets – we were blacklisted.

“Two years ago, we were blacklisted, but you did not tell the people that. Your mismanagement, your eagerness to win the elections by giving freebees, sweeteners to the people, that caused it. Once you were shut out of the international financial markets, it was the slope from which you could never climb back.

“That’s why the country is in this situation. At least now the people have woken up. That’s why they are saying ‘Go Gota, go home’ that’s why they are calling on the President to go. Because it was the act of the President that triggered this collapse. He must go, if this is a democratic country, if you have ears to hear, then listen; anyone in the government ranks, if you actually have ears, tell your President to go. The Constitution has made provisions when the president resigns how the country will be governed. All that will happen. But until he goes people will not relent, I can tell you that.”

“This is not something that any political party has organized, and I must tell the Chief Government Whip not to try what President JR Jayewardene tried in 1983. Putting the blame on the left forces of the country, driving them back underground.

“That’s what happened to the JVP who had joined the mainstream by then, President Jayewardene said Naxalite forces, Vasudeva Nanayakara went underground, Vijaya Kumaratunga was arrested, JVP went underground.

“This morning, the Chief government Whip tried that with JVP, please don’t do that. No political party has done this. This is the People’s Movement; this is something unprecedented; this country has never seen this before. That is why you are in shock. This is happening organically and people will not relent until Gota goes home.



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Weerawansa’s wife sentenced to RI

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Lawyers appearing for Shashi Weerawansa, MP Wimal Weerawansa’s wife, yesterday (27) appealed against a Colombo Magistrate’s Court decision to sentence their client to two years rigorous imprisonment.Colombo Chief Magistrate, Buddhika Sri Ragala found her guilty of submitting forged documents to obtain a diplomatic passport circa 2010. The Colombo Magistrate’s Court also imposed a fine of Rs. 100,000 on Mrs. Weerawansa. If the fine is not paid she will have to serve an extra six months.

Additional Magistrate Harshana Kekunawala announced that the appeal would be called for consideration on 30 May.The case against Mrs. Weerawansa was filed by the CID after a complaint was lodged on 23 January 2015 by Chaminda Perera, a resident of Battaramulla.

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Unions predict end of energy sovereignty

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A government decision to allow all privately-owned bunker fuel operators to import and distribute diesel and fuel oil to various industries was a rollback of the nationalisation of the country’s petroleum industry and another severe blow to energy sovereignty of the country, trade union activist of the SJB Ananda Palitha said yesterday.Earlier, Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera Tweeted that ‘approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations provided in bulk’.Commenting on the decision, Palitha said that according to the existing law those companies only had the power to import, store and distribute fuel for ships. Those companies did not have the authority to distribute fuel inside the country, Palitha said.

“Only the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) can distribute fuel inside the country. There is a controversy about the licence given to the LIOC as well. If the government wants other companies to import fuel, it needs to change the laws. The Minister does not have the power to make these decisions. A few months ago the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration used to rush Bills that adversely affected the country through Parliament. Now, since they don’t have a majority in parliament, they are using the Cabinet to make decisions that are detrimental to the country’s interests.”

Palitha said that the controversial government move would further weaken the CPC, and that the ultimate aim of the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government was to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) purchase fuel from private distributors. With a weakened CPC and a CEB under the mercy of private companies, the Sri Lankan state would have little control over the country’s energy sector, he warned.

“The CEB already can’t pay the CPC, and therefore how can it pay private companies? It will have to sell its assets. This is another step in the road to fully privatise the energy sector. When this happens no government will be able to control inflation or strategically drive production through fuel and energy tariffs. The people will be at the mercy of businessmen and the government will only be a bystander,” he said.

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Modi government moves to ‘solve’ Katchatheevu issue

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The Narendra Modi government is mulling restoring the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island of 285 acres, sandwiched between India and Sri Lanka in the Palk Bay, with the BJP hoping the move could lift its political fortunes in the southern state.The government will push Sri Lanka to implement “in letter and spirit” the 1974 agreement reached between Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, then prime ministers of India and Sri Lanka, on the island.This will have to be done by withdrawing the “Executive Instructions” issued in 1976 without questioning Sri Lanka’s “sovereignty” over Katchatheevu, sources aware of the internal discussions in the BJP told the Indian newspaper, Deccan Herald.

Sources added that the discussions were “ongoing” at “various levels” including reaching out to Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka. The recent visit of TN BJP chief K Annamalai to Sri Lanka is also part of the outreach. Many feel the instructions issued in 1976 “superseded the provisions of the legally valid” pact between India and Sri Lanka, thus making Katchatheevu a subject of dispute in the Palk Bay.While the 1974 agreement gave away Katchatheevu, which was part of the territory ruled by the Rajah of Ramanathapuram, to Sri Lanka, the 1976 pact drew the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka in the Gulf of Mannar and Bay of Bengal.

“We cannot disturb the agreement signed in 1974. We are now finding ways and means to implement the agreement in letter and spirit. All we plan is to ask Sri Lanka to invoke Article 6 of the Katchatheevu pact. If Sri Lanka agrees, the issue can be sorted through Exchange of Letters between foreign secretaries of both countries,” a source in the know said.Another source said the time is “ripe” to push forward on the issue. “With fast-changing geopolitical situation in the region, we believe Sri Lanka will slowly come around and accept the rights of our fishermen,” the source said.

“The opinion within the party is that time is ripe to push this cause, with Sri Lanka beginning to realise that India can always be relied upon, given PM Ranil (Wickremesinghe) is pro-India.”

Articles 5 and 6 of the 1974 agreement categorically assert the right to access of the Indian fishermen and pilgrims to Katchatheevu and state that the “vessels of Sri Lanka and India will enjoy in each other’s waters such rights as they have traditionally enjoyed therein”.

However, fishermen from India were prohibited from fishing in the Sri Lankan territorial waters around Katchatheevu in 1976 following the signing of an agreement on the maritime boundary. The battle for fish in the Palk Bay has often ended in Indian fishermen being attacked by Sri Lankan Navy for “transgressing” into their waters.The BJP, which is yet to make major inroads in Tamil Nadu, feels a “solution” to the long-standing issue will give the party the much-needed momentum ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and provide a chance to get into the Tamil psyche. Political analysts feel that it might also allow the BJP to needle the DMK and the Congress by pointing out that it has restored the rights “surrendered by them,” to Tamil fishermen

Senior journalist and Lanka expert R Bhagwan Singh said: “If BJP succeeds in its efforts, it will certainly help the saffron party in the coming elections.”

But a source said the move will “take time”. “We don’t want to rush and create an impression we are forcing Sri Lanka. We will take it slow. We will take every stakeholder into confidence and reach an amicable settlement with Sri Lanka. All we want to do is restore traditional rights of our fishermen,” the source said.CM Stalin also raised the issue at an event on Thursday, telling Modi that this is the “right time” to retrieve Katchatheevu.

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