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Friday June 9th, 2023

Chandrika doesn’t know “whether to laugh or cry” at the fate of the SLFP

Happier times: Ex-Presidents Chandrika Kumaratunga and Maithripala Sirisena pictured here two years ago/PMD release

ECONOMYNEXT – Chandrika Kumaratunga says she “doesn’t know whether to laugh or to cry” when she sees what has happened to her beloved Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

“It is the party that I grew up with, it is the party that fed me and its supporters brought me to power for eleven years,” the former President said in her first official public reaction to the massive victory that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna won in this month’s Parliamentary General Election.

“I have been looking for the SLFP all over the place, but I can’t find it anywhere,” she said with wry humour.

She blamed former President Maithripala Sirisena for “destroying the party, a process that was begun by Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mahinda began the rot and did it subtly but Sirisena finished it off in the most base and dirty way,” she said.

Finally, Sirisena was hoping for a plum Ministry but went away empty-handed, she said.

And the Ministries that the rest of the SLFP MPs have been given are a joke, she said.

“There are no institutions under them, so how can they do any work?” she asked.

“How can they help their supporters? If they can’t help them, then the party is finished.”

The General Secretary of the SLFP has been given a State Ministry of Batik and Handlooms.

But she appeared optimistic that 16 SLFP members had won seats.  “We got much fewer nominations, but almost everyone who contested won,” she claimed.

“They had a hard time, as the SLPP members campaigned against them,” she said. “Mostly it was the members who had left the SLFP and joined the SLPP,” she said.

Kumaratunga also bemoaned the fact that the United National Party (UNP) had also lost badly.

“Today the UNP has broken up and its pieces are lying everywhere,” she said.

“It is sad that the UNP and the SLFP the two oldest and strongest parties in the country that safeguarded democracy in this country for so long have met this fate,” she said.

The Opposition is extremely weak as they have no strong leader, she said.

“It has been proved that a party with a strong leader can win elections. I don’t agree with Mahinda Rajapaksa’s policies or his way of doing things, but he is a strong leader.”

She says today’s politics has reduced the relationship the citizen has with their leaders to one that everybody has to kneel down before those in power to beg for what is rightfully theirs.

“After they have skinned their knees and can’t kneel down anymore they will get nothing.”

Despite her criticism, Kumaratunga ruled out an active role in politics for her in the future.

“The last time they dragged me back to build a coalition to make a change. But the two people that were put in charge to ensure that change took place destroyed that completely.”

“I will not do that ever again.”  (Colombo, August 15, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana


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Sri Lanka facing unknown claims over halted airport terminal, Rs15bn in bills

ECONOMYNEXT – State-run Airport and Aviation Services of Sri Lanka, has 15 billion rupees of bills and unknown additional claims after a contractor suspended work on a Japan funded terminal, following a sovereign default.

Sri Lanka ran out of foreign reserves in April 2022 after two years of money printing by macro-economists to mis-target interest rates for stimulus (output gap targeting) and defaulted amid forex shortages.

“Due to suspension and termination, there will be severe financial impacts to AASL..” the agency said in its annual report, which was noted in an emphasis of matter by Sri Lanka’s Auditor General.

The costs included delay charges to the Contractor, cost of plant and materials ordered with additional warehouse charges, cost for the care of works (safety, operational, environmental), costs for maintenance of incomplete works at the site, loss due to deterioration of the material, cost of demobilization and fixed rentals of temporary works, contractor’s equipment, cost of repatriation of the contracts staff and labor employed.

There could contractor’s claims arising out of suspension and termination, possible litigation charges by the subcontractors, which will be back charged by the main contractor,

Japan’s Taisei Corporation has already submitted bills of 6.35 billion yen (15.8 billion rupees at balance sheet date).

There could contractor’s claims arising out of suspension and termination, possible litigation charges by the subcontractors, which will be back charged by the main contractor, the report said.

A final claim has not yet been made.

Meanwhile Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told parliament this week that Japan had agreed to resume the project after debt re-structuring is complete.

After Sri Lanka’s government defaulted a circular was issued not to settle loans obtained by government entities.

AASL has said it had funds to continue to service loans, and informed the Treasury and the Japan International Co-operation Agency.

“Despite the circular issued by General Treasury, Company in writing communicated to JICA as well as to General Treasury that we are expecting to make loan repayments and continue the project as company has enough funds,” the company said.

“However at that time JICA requested an endorsement from Ministry of Finance regarding the capability of loan repayments.

“Since that endorsement was not available due to IMF restructuring programme, constructor temporally suspended the project.” (Colombo/June09/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s Peoples’ Leasing to buy 33-pct of First Capital

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s People’s Leasing and Finance said it had entered into an agreement with Janashakthi Limited to buy a 33 percent stake in First Capital Holdings Plc for 4.95 billion rupees.

People’s Leasing will pay 37.10 rupees for a share of First Capital Holdings.

The transaction is subject to approval of the central bank and other regulatory authorities applicable to the two parties, the company said in a stock exchange filing.

If the transaction goes ahead People’s Leasing will make a mandatory offer to minority shareholders. (Colombo/June08/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s police, health workers mostly violate rights of LGBTQ community – report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s law implementing police officials and health workers among the top in violating the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), according to a study, citing the complaints at the local Human Rights Commission and police.

A study conducted by Bridge to Equality, a civil rights group concerned over LGBTQ in Sri Lanka, shows that 160 rights violation cases reported to the police out of a total 235  during the 18 month period through March 31, 2023, are involved with police and health sector workers.

The data showed that police have been the perpetrators in 96 rights violation cases, while 64 cases are involved with health workers including medical officers.

“The analysis shows that some LGBTQ persons are reluctant to go to the authorities (such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka or the Police) due to the existing penal laws and various social stigmas that continues to exist in the society,” the Bridge to Equality said in the conclusion of the report based on the 235 complaints.

“These stigmas may include inaccurate perceptions that LGBTQ persons are psychologically unwell or that it is a trend or ‘lifestyle’ that conflicts with the Sri Lankan culture.”

The human rights violations have been involved with article 12 of the constitution which is involved with equality before the law and protection from discrimination, followed by article 11 which is linked to protection from torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.

The LGBTQ community also faces unlawful arrest, the report said.

Sri Lanka’s Penal Code, which states that “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” is a criminal offence” makes gayism  and lesbianism against the country’s law.

Meanwhile, the transgender community has been targeted by another section of the Penal Code which criminalises “pretending to be some other person.”

Civil groups such as the Human Rights Watch and iProbono have said that individuals in the LGBTQ+ community have been subjected to forced anal and vaginal exams as well as being subjected to homophobic slurs from hospital staff.

The Health Ministry admitted that its workers have been violating the rights of LGBTQ.

“The LGBTQ+ community has been subjected to physical, verbal and sexual harassment by those in the medical field,” Anwar Hamdani, Director of Tertiary Care Services at the Ministry of Health, told EconomyNext.

Police Spokesman Nihal Thalduwa said only transgender people are legalized in Sri Lanka.

“Others are not legally accepted in the country. That’s how the police get included in this. Take lesbian as an example. There can be some who like it. However, even if there are people who are in favour of that, if some people complain about it, since it is not legally accepted then the police will have to take actions against it,” Thalduwa told EconomyNext.

“Since it is illegal, police will have to act on the existing law.  Police do not have anything against it if that is legal. Maybe because of that there may be a perception saying the police are harassing them. But it is not like the police are going after individuals and harassing them.”

“However, when it comes to transgender issues the Police commissioner has issued circulars asking all police officers to take necessary precautions to not to harm the individuals privacy.”

While the repeal of the Penal Code that criminalizes gayism and lesbianism is currently in the process of being debated in parliament, convictions against those in the community are being carried out by the police.

“Other than a transition between genders, LGBTQ+ activity is unlawful in the country,” Thalduwa said.

“Therefore, those who are against the LGBTQ+ community look to the police to curb these activities. Because of its unlawful nature, convictions are being carried out.” (Colombo/June 08/2023)


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