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Wednesday February 28th, 2024

Adverse weather in Sri Lanka takes 22 lives; climate change disrupting weather patterns?

Sinharaja forest/Rainforest Protectors Trust

ECONOMYNEXT – The death toll of prevailing adverse weather conditions in Sri Lanka has increased to 22, with over 62,000 people affected in various ways, the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said as at least one official blamed drastic changes in weather patterns on man-made climate change.

According to DMC Director General Major General Sudantha Ranasinghe, 13 had drowned and six were struck by lightning.

Ranasinghe told reporters on Wednesday (10) that a majority of the drowning incidents were the result of carelessness on the part of the victims.

“Most of these deaths were preventable, but these people attempted dangerous feats knowing that the water pressure was high,” he said.

There have also been reports of people who had gone missing after wandering into forests, said Ranasinghe.

“Such actions, knowing full well the prevailing disaster situation, have put their lives as well as the lives of the search parties in danger,” he said, warning that legal action will be taken against groups who travel to areas deemed dangerous under the current weather conditions.

According to the DMC, the Kegalle, Kurunegala, Jaffna and Kandy districts have recorded rainfall exceeding 100 millimetres during the last 24-hour period.

Director General of Department of Meteorology Athula Karunanayaka said prevailing weather is expected to continue for the next 48 hours.

Karunanayaka said low pressure area in the south-east Bay of Bengal thatwas indirectly responsible for the heavy rainfalls in the country is now moving towards the southern part of India.

“After November 13, we will experience the inter monsoon season, where we will see a clear sky in the morning and by evening rain and heavy rains will occur,” Karunanayaka said.

“This is the second inter monsoon we experience in Sri Lanka that normally occurs during October and November months. But due to the situation in Bengal and Arab seas, and storms and low pressure tides that occurred in those areas, we are experiencing the current changes in our weather.”

Director General of the National Building Research Organisation (NBRO) Asiri Karunawardena said 115 possible land slide areas are under NBRO observation and renewed warnings have been released.

Level one warning

  • Kalutara – Ingiriya, Walallawita and Horana District Secretariat Divisions
  • Galle – Nagoda, Neluwa, Yakkamulla, Kadawath sathara and Akmeemana District Secretariat Divisions
  • Rathnapura – Kiriella, Alapatha, Nivithigala and Kuruwita District Secretariat Divisions
  • Matale – Palpola, Matale and Yatawatta District Secretariat Divisions
  • Nuwara Eliya – Walapane, Ambagamuwa, Hanguranetha and Kothmale District Secretariat Divisions
  • Gampaha – meerigama, Aththanagalla and Dompe District Secretariat Divisions

Level two

  • Badulla – Passara and Ella District Secretariat Divisions
  • Colombo –Seethawaka and Padukka District Secretariat Divisions
  • Kalutara – Mathugama, Agalawatta, Bulathsinghala, Palindanuwara and Dodangoda District Secretariat Divisions
  • Galle – Baddegama abd Elpitiya District Secretariat Divisions
  • Rathnapura – Ayagama, Rathnapura, Eheliyagoda and Kalwana District Secretariat Divisions
  • Matale – Raththota and Ukuwela District Secretariat Divisions
  • Kandy – Pathadumbara, Minipe, Meda dumbara, Pujapitiya, Ududumbara, Delthota, Hatharaliyadda, Akurana, Panwila and Kundasale District Secretariat Divisions

Level three (red alert/evacuate)

  • Kegalle – Yatiyanthota, Ruwanwella, Mawanella, Aranayaka, Bulathkohupitiya, Dehiowita, Rambukkana, Kegalle and Galigamuwa District Secretariat Divisions
  • Kandy – Harispaththuwa, Doluwa, Yatinuwara, Udapalatha, Pasbage korale, Gangawata Korale, Udunuwara and Gangaihala korale District Secretariat Divisions
  • Kurunegala – Mallawapitiya, Ridigama, Alawwa, Narammala, Mawathagama and Polgahawela District Secretariat Divisions

DMC chief Ranasinghe said if any person or family refuses to evacuate areas highly prone to landslides, under the power vested upon the government agent of the area, authorities can use force to evacuate the family or person for their own safety.

The DMC breakdown of the affected numbers is as follows:

  • Number of affected districts: 17
  • Number of divisional secretariats affected: 126
  • Death: 22
  • Missing: 01
  • Number injured: 05
  • Total number of relief centers: 23
  • Total number of families in relief centers: 384
  • Total number of persons in relief centers: 1498
  • Total number of families in relatives’ homes: 1020
  • Total number of persons in relative homes: 3,537
  • Total number of families affected: 17,481
  • Total number of affected people: 62,247
  • Total number of partial damage: 960
  • Totally damaged number: 18

Ranasinghe said, while providing the necessary facilities, the DMC has already started to evaluate the damages to pay compensation for the affected families.

Meteorology chief Karunanayaka said the drastic changes in the weather are due to the increase of global warming that is mainly caused by human activity around the world. He called for a global campaign in order to reduce natural disasters.

“With green house emissions, deforestation and industrialisation, global warming has accelerated. According to the latest findings, global warming has increased by 1-1.5 degrees Celsius in the past decade. This is a new challenge scientists are facing,” Karunanayaka said.

He further said the government has taken measures to increase the productivity of the Department of Meteorology and related organisations.

“For this purpose, a loan from the World Bank has been passed, but implementation has been delayed due to the COVID-19 situation,” he said. (Colombo/Nov10/2021)

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Sri Lanka confident of “smoother” IMF second review: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s second review for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan would be smoother than the first as the government has implemented many reforms required for the economic recovery, State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe said.

An IMF mission will visit Sri Lanka on March 7 and will engage in the review of second tranche of the $3 billion IMF loan for two weeks, he said.

“The second review will commence on the 7th of March, and we are very confident that will be a smoother review than the first review,” Semasinghe told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Wednesday (28).

He said the the first review was difficult because of hard policy decisions taken by the government in the initial stages.

The global lender completed the first review of the 48-month Extended Fund Facility (EFF) on December 12 before disbursing $337 million to support the island nation’s economic policies and reforms.

The IMF after the first review said Sri Lanka’s performance under the program was satisfactory while “all but one performance criteria and all but one indicative targets were met at end-June”.

Sri Lanka implemented most structural benchmarks due by end-October 2023, though some with delay. (Colombo/Feb 28/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s religious leaders need to cultivate harmony: Prez

ECONOMYNEXT – The responsibility of cultivating harmony rests significantly on the shoulders of religious leaders, Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said.

“While politicians often pursue power, religious leaders strive to maintain their positions, frequently resorting to the perilous avenues of racism and bigotry. This unfortunate trend has plagued our country since the 1930s, yielding disastrous outcomes,” Wickremesinghe was quoted by his media division as saying at the ‘Religions to Reconcile’ national inter-religious symposium, organized by the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, held today (28) at the Bandaranaike International Conference Hall (BMICH).

“Our nation has endured the bitter consequences of racism and religious extremism, culminating in a devastating conflict.

“With the military conflict resolved, Sri Lanka’s political challenges are now receiving attention, necessitating a renewed focus on coexistence,” Wickremesinghe said, adding that steps are being taken to resolve land disputes, address the issue of missing persons, release certain individuals, and initiate a delimitation of powers.

The President’s speech:

Having acknowledged the intrinsic connection between religion and reconciliation, our nation has endured the bitter consequences of racism and religious extremism, culminating in a devastating conflict. Following the cessation of hostilities, our main objective has been to foster coexistence among all communities.

The responsibility of cultivating harmony rests significantly on the shoulders of religious leaders. It is imperative that we remain mindful of our intentions. While politicians often pursue power, religious leaders strive to maintain their positions, frequently resorting to the perilous avenues of racism and bigotry. This unfortunate trend has plagued our country since the 1930s, yielding disastrous outcomes that require no further explanation.

Take Singapore, for example, where the absence of racism and bigotry has contributed to its rapid development despite its diverse linguistic landscape. With the military conflict resolved, Sri Lanka’s political challenges are now receiving attention, necessitating a renewed focus on coexistence, a topic also being deliberated in Parliament.

Mr. Karu Jayasuriya, served as the Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Religious Affairs and Co-Existence when he was serving as the Speaker. This committee was established in response to conflicts involving Muslims in March 2018, as well as incidents in Galle in 2017 and Beruwela in 2014. Various proposals were put forth by these committees to address these issues, and consensus was reached on their implementation. It’s crucial that we uphold this agreement and continue working collaboratively to resolve these challenges.

Towards the close of last year, numerous Buddhist monks and Tamil leaders presented the Himalaya Declaration, a document we are currently adhering to. As we move forward, the final phase entails fostering synergy, particularly through discussions with Tamil political parties and MPs, aimed at addressing lingering issues. Steps have been initiated to resolve the matter of missing persons, with further updates forthcoming in the near future. Additionally, arrangements have been made for the release of certain individuals held in connection with these matters.

The primary concern at present revolves around the fate of the missing persons. To address this issue, we’ve presented and successfully passed a bill in Parliament to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Numerous reports from Disappearance Commissions have been reviewed, and one report authored by Judge A.H.M.D.Nawaz was selected.

Following the approval of the draft for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged his support for these initiatives. Similar assistance is being extended by other nations as well, enabling us to advance these critical endeavours.

Addressing the on-going political challenges, our attention is directed towards resolving land disputes, particularly in regions like Jaffna where tensions persist between villagers and the Wildlife Department. Similar conflicts also arise in areas such as Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa, and Mahianganaya. We aim to address these issues through inclusive dialogue, involving all concerned parties. Furthermore, I have instructed to proceed in accordance with the 1985 map. Additionally, I anticipate meeting with Tamil MPs in Parliament next week to discuss these matters further. Following consultations with the security forces, agreements have been reached to release more land, providing a pathway forward in our efforts.

Another pressing issue is the delimitation of powers. A key demand is the empowerment of the 3rd list of devolution, with an emphasis on not interfering with police powers at present, leaving them open for future consideration. The Land Act is slated for presentation, and there are no objections to the delegation of other subjects in the 3rd list. However, securing the necessary consensus with other parties in Parliament to achieve a two-thirds majority remains crucial.

Simultaneously, discussions are underway regarding the implementation of the Provincial Board of Education. Proposals have been made to establish provincial professional training institutes in each province. Additionally, plans are underway to appoint provincial-level committees to lead the modernization of agriculture, establish a tourism board, and undertake related initiatives.

Additionally, the work of five provincial ministries is expected to be distributed among twenty ministries. This restructuring cannot simply resemble a general ministry, so officials are currently deliberating on adjusting their structure accordingly.

I eagerly anticipate addressing the final aspect of this matter, the decentralized budget, once all parties have convened. There’s also a call for a secondary board, akin to a Senate, which the government does not oppose. However, such an initiative would need to coincide with the framing of a constitution, potentially requiring a referendum. I also intend to engage in discussions on this topic with other party leaders.

These measures aim to lay the groundwork for a new era in our country. Religious leaders have been entrusted with significant responsibilities in this endeavour. I am confident that further discussions on these matters will yield fruitful outcomes.

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 310.00/15 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 310.00/15 to the US dollar Wednesday, from 310.25/50 on Tuesday, dealers said.

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.60/80 percent from 10.60/75 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.00 percent up from 11.80/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2028 closed stable at 12.00/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.20/50 percent from 12.25/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed stable at 12.25/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2031 closed at 12.55/75 percent down from 12.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/90 percent down from 12.55/13.00 percent. (Colombo/Feb28/2024)

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