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Tuesday January 31st, 2023

Committee to study PCoI report panned by Church and Opposition

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith adressing the faithful at Katuwapitiya.

ECONOMYNEXT – The six-man committee appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Committee of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday attacks has a wide mandate but has already been panned by critics.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith whose congregants were the main target of the blasts has said that some members of the committee had limited education.

“Some of them have not even passed their Ordinary Level examinations,” he sniffed demanding that a copy of the report be handed over to him so that he may know what the findings are.

“The report was prepared by people with great intellectual capabilities, how can we let this committee report on that,” the Bishop said.

The committee comprises government Ministers and is headed by the President’s older brother Chamal Rajapaksa. The other members are Johnston Fernando, Udaya Gammanpila, Ramesh Pathirana, Prasanna Ranatunga and Rohitha Abeygunawardena.

In a media release issued on Monday, the Presidential Secretariat said that the committee has been entrusted with identifying “the overall process including the measures that need to be taken by various agencies and authorities” to avert a repeat of a national catastrophe of such magnitude.

The release added that the members were “selected considering factors such as their political maturity, experience and high level of knowledge in various fields.”

“These recommendations cannot be successfully implemented by any entity single-handedly,” the release said.

The President’s office said that events such as this “opens the door to external interference that is detrimental to the country’s sovereignty and stability. In order to ensure peace and security as well as economic prosperity within the territory of the State of Sri Lanka, all avenues leading to recurrence of such extremist violence must entirely be closed.”

It went on to say this “requires a complete cessation of religious extremism and associated terrorist violence, hate speech aiming different ethnic communities and foreign funding for such groups.”

The statement noted that the PCoI has “identified what each state institution and authority should do and the level of priority to be given to each task to achieve these broad objectives. If the existing administrative machinery is not adequate to follow the recommended course of action, necessary amendments need to be made in the administrative mechanism. The responsibility entrusted with the Parliamentary Committee appointed by the President is to study in-depth the content of the Report of the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks and to report on how action should be taken to prevent such a tragedy from happening again and to ensure long-lasting peace, security and stability in Sri Lanka.”

Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya Member of Parliament Manusha Nanayakkara criticized the process charging that the President has appointed a committee so that he can implement what he wants from the recommendations.

“Is it that the government is trying to protect the masterminds behind the attacks? Why doesn’t the government allow Zaharan’s wife to finish her testimony to relate what led up to the attack? Why don’t they bring back Sara the wife of one of the attackers from India and question her?” he asked.

The President’s office says the “prosecution and trial of the accused as per the recommendations of the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks will take place in accordance with the standard judicial procedures.” (Colombo, February 23, 2021)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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Sri Lanka shares down for 2nd day as tax hike, delay in Chinese debt assurance weigh

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged down on Tuesday as worries over delay in financial assurances from China which is mandatory for a $2.9 billion dollar IMF loan and rise in protests against tax hike kept investors in check, analysts said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) edged down by 0.28 percent or 24.62 points to 8,865.05. It fell for the second session after hitting more than three-month high.

“The market is looking for more macro cues because of faster Chinese debt assurance was expected. The market is also hit by fall in corporate earnings due to high taxes,” an analyst said.

China has given an initial response on debt re-structuring to Sri Lanka though analysts familiar with the process say it is not a ‘hard assurance’ sufficient for the IMF program to go through.

The International Monetary Fund is working with China on extending maturities of Chinese loans to defaulted countries like Sri Lanka, as there is resistance to hair-cuts, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told reporters on January 14.
The earnings for first quarter are expected to be negative for many corporates with higher taxes and rising costs. However, investors had not expected earnings to be low in the December quarter because of year end pick ups on heavy counters, the analyst said.
Earnings in the second quarter of 2023 are expected to be more positive with the anticipation of IMF loan and possible reduction in the market interest rates as the tax revenue has started to generate funds.

However, the central bank said the IMF deal is likely in the first quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 dropped by 0.64 percent or 17.74 points to 2,764.51 points.

The central bank has said it could cut interest rates in future when the country sees fall in inflation, which has already started decelerating.

The market saw a turnover of 1.7 billion rupees, slightly lower than the month’s daily average of 1.8 billion rupees and while being significantly lower than 2022’s daily average turnover of 2.9 billion rupees.

The bourse saw a net foreign inflow (NFI) of 93 million rupees extending the net offshore buying to 413 million rupees so far this year.

Top losers were LOLC, Royal Ceramics Limited and Hayleys. (Colombo/Jan31/2023)

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Sri Lanka exports fall in December as global recession weighs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s merchandise exports earnings fell 9.7 percent in December year-on-year as the island nation saw a drop in buying from its key export destinations which are facing a looming recession after the Russia-Ukraine war.

The earnings from the merchandise exports recorded $1.04 billion  in December 2022 compared to the same month in the previous year as per the data released by the Sri Lanka Customs.

“This was mainly due to the decrease in export earnings from Apparel & Textiles, Tea, Rubber based Products, and Coconut based Products, Food & Beverages, Spices & Essential Oils and Fisheries products,” the Export Development Board (EDB) said in a statement.

“The reason for this decline was due to the ongoing recession in major markets due to rising cost of production, energy etc. Imports declined sharply due to inflation and demand for goods and services are reduced.”

However, Sri Lanka saw a record export earning of $13.1 billion in 2022 due to increased demand in the key exports throughout the year

Earnings from all major product sectors except Electrical & Electronic components as well as Diamonds, Gems & Jewellery fell in December.

Exports of Apparel & Textiles decreased by 9.6 percent to $480.3 million in December 2022.  Export earnings from Tea fell by 3 percent to $107.3 million, Rubber and Rubber Finished products dropped 20.3 percent to $74.5 million,

However, export earnings from the Electrical & Electronics Components increased by 16.18 percent to $42.9 million in December 2022, while Diamond, Gems & Jewelry jumped 35.7 percent to $30.8 million. (Colombo/Jan31/2023)

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Sri Lanka records over 6,000 dengue cases in first three weeks of January

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka recorded over than 6,000 dengue cases in the first three weeks of January 2023 after a spell of heavy monsoon rain though a drop in cases is likely from February, officials said.

Health officials identified 6,204 dengue patients by January 22, up from 5,793 recorded in the corresponding period last year.

“A rise in cases can be observed in the November-January period with the heavy rain due to the northeast monsoon,” an official from the National Dengue Control Unit told EconomyNext.

Of all reported cases, 46.3 percent were from the Western Province, official reports showed.

Akuressa, Batticaloa, Eravur, Trincomalee, Madampe, Badulla, Eheliyagoda, Kegalle, Kalmunai North and Alayadivembu MOH areas were identified as high-risk areas for dengue during the third week of January by the health officials.

“We are expecting a decline in dengue cases soon. The Western province is always in the top position with the highest number of dengue cases. Apart from that, we are seeing a higher number of cases during this period in areas like Puttalam, Jaffna districts. A certain number of cases have also been recorded in the Kandy district,” the official said.

“Usually the cases peak in December, but they decline by February. This year, too, we are facing this scenario. There is an increase of dengue during the months of November, December and January”.

Due to the economic situation in the country, the Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) in an earlier report said, diesel and pesticides are not being provided by the ministry.

However, rejecting the allegation, the official from the NDCU said the government has provided enough funds for get the necessary pesticides but it is being used according to a scientific method to avoid building a resistance in the dengue mosquito.

“The recommendation is to do the fogging if there is a dengue outbreak or if there are few patients reported from the same locality.

“If you use this pesticide haphazardly, the mosquitos will develop resistance against it,” the official said, adding that there are adequate stocks of the chemical available. (Colombo/ Jan 31/2023)

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