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Saturday June 3rd, 2023

BBS proposals will make it to ‘one country, one law’ task force: Sri Lanka hardline monk

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s controversial Buddhist monk Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero said on Monday (01) that recommendations by his ultranationalist outfit the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) will make it to the proposals to be made by the recently appointed presidential task force titled ‘One Country, One Law’.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed the firebrand monk to lead the 13-member task force last week to come up with proposals to implement one law for all Sri Lankans abolishing all other personal laws including Muslim marriage law and some other regional laws that had existed for centuries in Sri Lanka.

Gnanasara’s appointment comes as the administration is facing rising protests over a ban on agrochemicals and rising inflation with money printing worsening the fallout from a Coronavirus pandemic.

In his first press conference as the head of the task force, Gnanasara thero said the BBS had spoken about unethical conversions, destruction of archaeological monuments and cultural invasion.

“Today we have got a result of all our hard work. The president’s attention has been drawn to speak about these issues emphatically,” he told a news briefing organised by the Presidential Media Centre for handpicked journalists.

“We will have to discuss the same things we spoke about as the BBS within this gazette as well and include them in the bill,” the monk said.

For many speculative questions posed to him by journalists, the monk said he will answer after February 28, 2022, when the task force submits its report to the president. He will be fair by all, he said.

In 2012, Gnanasara thero was allegedly at the forefront of an anti-Muslim campaign which called on the majority Sinhalese to boycott Muslim-owned businesses.

The United States in 2014 cancelled a visa issued to the monk while social media platform Facebook blocked his account after his group’s alleged involvement in violence against Sri Lanka’s minority Muslims in the Western coastal town of Aluthgama.

He was later arrested for contempt of court in 2018 during the previous administration but was later pardoned by President Maithripala Sirisnena.

Critics have said Gnanasara Thero has been used to create a rift between the Sinhala majority and Muslim minority for political reasons. But the monk has denied the allegation and has said Sri Lanka’s Sinhala majority has issues that have been ignored by politicians, issues that he had tried to address.

Gnanasara said not all court cases against him were individual acts carried out by his person, but  rather due to his intervention on behalf of people who did not have a voice.

“All those court cases are politically motivated,” he said.

“Politicians want the issues to remain the same,” said the monk who in 2019 said the Buddhist clergy should decide Sri Lanka’s parliament.

“We have been talking about tourism development and economic development. If you want to do that, national security should be secured and the bond among all ethnicities must be ensured.

“We have a number of suggestions. If we can put all these together and stand up, that will be the day we will rise as a nation. That is why we struggled,” he said.

The Presidential Task Force led by him has come under severe criticism for not including ethnic minority Tamil representation. President Rajapaksa has agreed to include Tamil representation though Gnanasara said the priority is not that.

“We are trying to create a framework at the moment. We can discuss and agree later,” he said.

Gnanasara thero was praised by some quarters after the Easter Sunday attack in 2019 as he had purportedly warned strongly against rising Islamic extremism said to be linked with foreign Islamist military groups such as ISIS.

President Rajapaksa had promised One Country, One Law in his election manifesto, which laid much emphasis on national security, particularly in the wake of the Easter bombings.

The monk also blamed the country’s public officials for the current situation of not passing the required laws that could help the country prevent another ethnic riot.

“We always blame politicians, but public administrative officials should be responsible for 70-80 percent of the current issues,” he said.

The monk said a request for a law on publications to ensure no wrong opinions are created has not been done because of public officials’ dragging their feet on the issue.

“So, it is not the sir who has failed. It is the public officials who have failed,” he said, ostensibly referring to President Rajapaksa who has come to be referred to as ‘sir’ on social media. (Colombo/Nov01/2021)

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Sri Lanka to ramp up weekend fuel deliveries after petrol price cut

More deaths reported at Sri Lanka fuel queues

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation will be operating on the weekend to complete all fuel deliveries to end vehicle queues forming outside fuel stations after the price revision earlier in the week, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said.

“Instructions have been given to CPC and Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals to continue fuel deliveries on Saturday and Sunday this week to supply sufficient stocks to all fuel stations,” Minister Wijesekera said in a TWITTER.COM MESSAGE

“To reduce expenses on overtime, CPC and CPSTL have not been operating on Sundays and public holidays in the last 4 months,” Wijesekera said.

“Non-placement of orders by fuel stations from last Saturday, anticipating a price reduction, not maintaining minimum stocks, immediate increase in demand by consumers after the price revision, and quota increase have created shortages in the fuel stations.”

The Minister in April 2023 said all fuel stations would be required to maintain a minimum of 50 percent of stock tank capacity.

“I have asked CPC to review and suspend the license of fuel stations that had not maintained minimum stocks.” (Colombo/ June 02/ 2023)

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Sri Lanka bonds yield up at close, rupee at 291.75/292.50 against the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s bonds closed steady on Friday, dealers said, following the central bank’s decision to cut its main policy rate by 250 basis points.

The Spot US dollar closed at 291.75/292.50 rupees, dealers said.

The rupee opened at 290.25/75 to the US dollar Thursday and closed at 292.50/295.50 to the US dollar.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 24.70/90 percent up from 24.50/90 percent a day earlier, dealers said.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 25.75/26.25 percent up from 25.00/26.00 percent a day earlier.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2025 closed at 27.00/30 percent, up from 26.30/27.00 per cent at last close.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 20.25/21.00 percent, up from 20.00/40 per cent at last close.
(Colombo/ June 02/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s shares edge up on positive macroeconomic sentiments

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares closed higher in trade on Friday, over positive macro-sentiments encouraging investors to redeem their interest towards buying, an analyst said.

The main All Share Price Index was up 0.72 percent or 62.19 points to 8,753.80,  while the most liquid index S&P SL20 was up 0.68 percent or 16.87 points to 2,487.29.

Sri Lanka’s inflation in the 12-months to May 2023 has eased to 25.2 percent from 35.3 percent a month earlier according to a revised Colombo Consumer Price Index calculated by the state statistics office.

Prior to the Monetary Policy investors were quite optimistic that inflation is to lower and interest rates will decrease and since exp, an analyst said.

Sri Lanka Central Bank is waiting for the government proposal on the domestic debt restructuring (DDR), the central bank governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said amid uncertainty over DDR and speculations over instability in the banking sector.

“On debt restructuring, the borrower is the ministry of finance’s treasury. Certainly we will announce what the strategy will be. We are waiting for a government proposal,” Weerasinghe said.

Sri Lanka’s investors are waiting on assurances to be made on debt restructuring and optimization, Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said, “It is up to the government to clear the uncertainty, because from our side we have done that part.”

The central bank cut the key policy rates by 250 basis points to spur a faltering economic growth as inflation was decelerating faster than it projected.

The speculation of DDR has hit the market and the risk premium has kept the market lending rates well above the central bank’s policy rates. The government has yet to present its plans on DDR.

Weerasinghe said the central bank has done its best to reduce the risk premium through bringing down the market lending rates while keeping the policy rates unchanged.

Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe has discussed progress of International Monetary Fund program and debt restructuring during a visit of Deputy Managing Director Kenji Okamura, statement said.

“The discussion primarily focused on the progress of the IMF program between Sri Lanka and the IMF,” a statement from President’s office said.

“Attention was also paid to the on-going debt restructuring negotiations.”

However Officials from IMF have said Sri Lanka has to focus on expanding taxes.

“We discussed the importance of fiscal measures, in particular revenue measures, for a return to macroeconomic stability,” Deputy Managing Director Kenji Okamura said in a statement.

The finance ministry this week issued rules requiring everyone above 18 year of age to register to pay income tax.

“I was encouraged by the authorities’ commitment to negotiate a debt strategy in a timely and transparent manner.

The market generated a revenue of 738 million rupees, while the daily average was 1 billion rupees.

Top gainers in trade were Vallibel One, LOLC Finance and Browns Investment. (Colombo/June02/2023)

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