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Friday December 9th, 2022

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 bond yields end higher, kerb dollar Rs370/371

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bonds yields ended up and the T-bills eased on active trade on Friday, dealers said.

The US dollar was 370/371 rupees in the kerb.

“The bond rates went up, however more interest was seen in the short term bills by the investors” dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.90/32.20 percent on Friday, up from 31.25/70 percent at Thursday’s close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 30.30/31.30 percent steady from 30.30/31.00 percent.

The three-month T-bills closed at 30.75/31.30 percent, down from 32.00/32.25 percent.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions was at 363.18 rupees against the US dollar unchanged.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 371.78 and 372.00 for small transactions, data showed.

Buying rates are between 361.78 – 362.00 rupees. (Colombo/Dec 09/2022)

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Foreign minister, US ambassador discuss future assistance to crisis-hit Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT — In a meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Ali Sabry and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung discussed ways in which the United States can continue to support Sri Lanka going forward, the Ambassador said.

Chung tweeted Friday December 09 afternoon that the two officials had reflected on the “twists and turns” of 2022, at the meeting.

Minister Sabry was recently in Washington D.C. where he US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

A foreign ministry statement said the two officials held productive discussions at the Department of State on December 02 on further elevating bilateral relations in diverse spheres, including the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations which will be marked in 2023.

Incidentally, Sri Lanka also celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence from the British in 2023, and President Ranil Wickremesinghe has given himself and all parties that represent parliament a deadline to find a permanent solution to Sri Lanka’s decades-long ethnic issue.

The US has been vocal about Sri Lanka addressing concerns about its human rights record since the end of the civil war in 2009 and was a sponsor of the latest resolution on Sri Lanka passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Unlike previous resolutions, this year’s iteration makes specific reference to the country’s prevailing currency crisis and calls for investigations on corruption allegations.

In the lead up to the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, Minister Sabry Sri Lanka’s government under then new president Wickremesinghe does not want any confrontation with any international partner but will oppose any anti-constitutional move forced upon the country.

On the eve of the sessions on October 06, Sabry said countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, who led the UNHRC core group on Sri Lanka, are greatly influenced by domestic-level lobbying by pressure groups from the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.

These pronouncements notwithstanding, the Wickremesnghe government has been making inroads to the West as well as India and Japan, eager to obtain their assistance in seeing Sri Lanka through the ongoing crisis.

The island nation has entered into a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an extended fund facility of 2.9 billion dollars to be disbursed over a period of four years, subject to a successful debt restructure programme and structural reforms.

Much depends on whether or not China agrees to restructure Sri Lanka’s 7.4 billion dollar outstanding debt to the emerging superpower. Beijing’s apparent hesitance to go for a swift restructure prompted Tamil National Alliance MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam to warn of possible “go home, China” protests in Colombo, similar to the wave of protests that forced the exit of former pro-China President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The TNA will be a key player in upcoming talks with the Wickremesinghe government on a solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)

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India smogs out Sri Lanka’s China tower observers


ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Chinese-built Lotus Tower has halved visitors to its observation deck an official said as dirty air flowing from India triggered air quality warnings and schools in the capital closed.

“Masks are mandatory at the observation deck and roughly around 50 to 60 can go up to the observation deck at a time, time limits have not been altered and still persists at 20 minutes for observation,” the official told EconomyNext.

Prior to the smog, 120 observers were permitted at once to the deck.

However, even after limitations the Lotus Tower has continued to draw visitors, and revenues are coming in, the official said.

The tower built with a Chinese loan by the cash rich Telecom Regulatory Commission has been described by critics as a white elephant that eats the money earned from telecom operators mainly as spectrum fees.

Sri Lanka’s National Building Research Organization (NBRO) said India air heavily polluted with particulate matter was flowing across the island into a depression in the South West Bengal Bay. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)



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