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Sunday January 29th, 2023

Easter Attacks: Church calls off protests but will the victims get justice?

MOURNING FOR EASTER VICTIMS – Worshippers at St Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya on July 1st when the Church reopened after the Easter bombings/Pathum Dhananajana EconomyNext

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church has called off its month-long protest campaign to demand justice for the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks by Muslim extremists which killed nearly 270 people and plunged the country into a serious economic and political crisis.

Several weeks ago the Church asked the congregants to pray for Justice for the victims and last Sunday the faithful were asked to attend services dressed in Black a colour they wear only for funerals.

Normally the faithful will attend church dressed in their “Sunday best” and share a festive meal with their families, but the pain they have suffered in the Easter attacks and the callous indifference of successive governments over the horrific suicide blasts has motivated them to mourn publicly.

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, who openly endorsed Rajapaksa administrations in the past led these protests and voiced his own frustrations at the inactions of the current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to bring justice to the Catholic community.

However, earlier in the week the Bishops Conference was presented with the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the blasts which they accepted.

Catholics have been urged to continue to recite a special prayer for Justice.

BLACK SUNDAY – Last Sunday Catholics across the country staged protests after services

Cardinal Ranjith partial to the Rajapaksas

Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, has shown a distinct partiality to the Rajapaksa family and has exhorted his flock to accept life “under the Buddhist tent.”

Rajapaksa announced his candidature days after the Easter blasts, promising that “National Security” would be a priority. Be it by fortune or design, he found the best mood for the launch of his campaign.
Rajapaksa promised the Catholics justice leading them to wholeheartedly support his candidature.

A nation horrified that a new beast had entered their homes ten years after Vellupillai Prabhakaran had died in the Eastern Sands, rushed to follow this new pennant.

The shambolic and dysfunctional “Yahapalanaya” government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is certainly to be blamed for its lax attitude where proper actions were not taken even after intelligence from Indian agencies described the date, the form and the targets of the Easter attacks weeks before they occurred.

When the Supreme Court ruled against Sirisena’s Constitutional coup in October 2018, restoring Ranil Wickremesinghe back to the post of Prime Minister, the former did not convene the National Security Council for months.

Sirisena was also away from the country even though he had been informed, as witnesses say of the imminent attack. What’s more, despite being the President of the country, and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, he failed to immediately return to the country, when the country faced a national emergency.

Then-President Maithripala Sirisena visits the bombed-out Katuwapitiya Church days after the attack. The Presidential Commission has called for punitive action/PMD Photo

The Commission wants action against President Sirisena

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the blasts recommends that the former President be held responsible and legal action taken against him.

It faults Wickremesinghe for his attitude, but does not recommend punitive action against him, though I believe, he too must share the blame.

If he was not being briefed by the Intelligence Agencies, then he should have informed Parliament. His distant and unfeeling attitude towards his serious responsibilities should consign him to the bins of history.

Also, the behaviour of his Cabinet Ministers who addressed a Press Conference the morning after, gleefully placing the blame on Sirisena for the tragedy as a shaken nation mourned, was shocking beyond belief.

Former Army Commander and current Samagi Jana Balavegaya Member of Parliament, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka made a key speech during last week’s debate in Parliament on the Easter Sunday massacre.

In his speech, Fonseka stated he disagrees with some members of the government who state that since Zaharan Hashim, the leader of the National Thowheed Jamaat which carried out the attacks is dead, the “chapter should be closed.”

But the government’s own Minister for Public Security, Retired Admiral Sarath Weerasekere is claiming that the mastermind behind the strikes was Maulvi Naufer, a Qatar-based Islamic teacher.

What is beyond doubt is that Zaharan and several of his operatives were on the government payroll, as Intelligence Agents after the LTTE conflict ended. Fonseka is one among others who have pointed out that these persons had been recruited to the undercover operative ranks of the previous Rajapaksa administration, after the elimination of the Tamil Tigers.

The Co-Cabinet Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have admitted that these men were on the Intelligence payrolls.

Prof Rajan Hoole in his book “When the Deep State Gets out of its Depth” published shortly after the Easter attacks, meticulously documents the numerous times Zaharan and others were arrested by Police and produced before Magistrates only to be released time and time again.

Fonseka also revealed details of Zaharan’s travels between 2013 and 2016, before the Sirisena administration took office, where he is alleged to have gone to Syria and established contacts with the Islamic State.

BUDDHIST FORCE – Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero leads a march in Kandy

Did the former Rajapaksa regime foster extremists on both sides?

Political Analyst Gamini Viyangoda writing in the Anidda Newspaper this week asks the question of whether the previous Rajapaksa administration actively fostered the Muslim extremist groups such as Zaharan’s as well as Sinhala-Buddhist supremacists such as the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) led by Galagodaththe Gnanasara Thero.

He theorizes that “fostering both Sinhala-Buddhist supremacists on the one hand and a reactive Muslim extremism on the other was the secret policy of the previous Rajapaksa administration.”

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry recommends that action be taken against the BBS for fostering a culture of communal hate enabling the growth of Islamic extremism.

Muslim leaders such as Hilmy Ahamed of the Sri Lanka Muslim Council have long held the belief that the current government’s irrational insistence on the enforced cremation of the remains of Muslims who perish of the Covid 19 virus was designed to push the youth of the community towards extremist violence.

“We are asking the Maulvis (Clerics) preaching in the mosques on Fridays to continue to exhort the youth not to take to violence but to continue to pray. They must understand that the government wants them to take to extreme measures,” he told EconomyNext.

Justice Minister Mohamed Ali Sabry, the most prominent Muslim Member of the government, has also warned of the rise of extremism over the burial issue.

The government continued to ignore World Health Organisation guidelines as well as a special Expert Committee tasked with making recommendations about burials and cremations and persisted with the practice of burning the bodies.

Pressure from the UNHRC

That changed just about a week ago, in the face of UNHRC targeted sanctions, which if passed could affect many high ranking officials in the country.

Cremation is abhorrent to all those who follow the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam who frequently pray “save us from the fires of Hell.”

The policy was changed in Sri Lanka after Muslim countries around the world baulked at opposing a resolution against Sri Lanka being proposed at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) currently ongoing in Geneva if the cremation policy remained unchanged.

On the first days of submissions earlier this month the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) spoke strongly against cremation and placed Sri Lanka’s Muslims alongside oppressed Islamic communities in countries such as Palestine.

The resolution championed by European and North American states and unchallenged by India and some Asian countries will enforce targeted sanctions against key personalities in Sri Lanka, but does not seek to punish the country as a whole.

Sri Lanka will need the Muslim countries’ support to prevent the resolution from going through.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

President Rajapaksa will not be able to implement the recommendations

But the Gotabaya administration will find it difficult to act on the recommendations of the Presidential Commission.

It is certainly not in a position to take any action against Sirisena, as the Sri Lanka Freedom Party led by the former President holds 14 seats in Parliament and may well withdraw support from the ruling Nidahas Podujana Peramuna coalition if such action is taken.

So, to further prolong acting on the recommendations, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed six members from his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna to review the commission’s report. Various government Ministers too are urging further investigations into the attacks.

Catholic Human Rights activist Ruki Fernando in a column published on our website bemoans the lack of justice for the many victims of state terror, ranging from Ahimsa Wickrematunga daughter of slain journalist Lasantha to those who died in the Navaly Church bombing decades ago. He also questions why when the Colombo Archdiocese took no action over the Navaly church bombing, several missing clergy and other attacks which involved Catholics, the Cardinal has chosen to protest the Easter Sunday massacre.

Sri Lanka has become notorious for appointing Presidential Commissions, raising the hopes of victims, only to dash them all, when the reports are shelved to gather dust. When aggrieved victims then seek external assistance, they are labelled anti-patriotic.

It looks like Cardinal Ranjith’s quest too may end up on the same heap of scrap but how will he face his faithful flock? (Colombo, March 12, 2021)

By Arjuna Ranawana

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  1. Wannithantri says:

    Seems Cardinal has agreed to a Game of SOFT BALL with the Rajapakse

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  1. Wannithantri says:

    Seems Cardinal has agreed to a Game of SOFT BALL with the Rajapakse

Sri Lanka operators seek higher renewable tariffs, amid exchange rate expectations

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s renewable companies say they need tariff of 40 to 45 rupees a unit to sell power to the Ceylon Electricity Board and the agency owes them tens of billions of rupees for power sold in the past.

The association has strong exchange rate expectations based on the country’s dual anchor conflicting monetary regimes involving flexible inflation targeting with a reserve collecting target.

“In the coming year of course because of the rupee devaluation, I think the solar energy sector might require tariffs closer to RS 40 or RS 45, hydropower will also require tariffs on that scale,” Prabath Wickremasinghe President of the Small hydropower Developers Association told reporters.

“I think right now what they pay us is averaging around RS 15 to RS 20.”

Some of the earlier plants are paid only 9 rupees a unit, he said. The association there is potential to develop around 200 Mega Watts of mini hydros, 700 to 1000MW of ground mounted soar and about 1,000 rooftop solar.

In addition to the rupee collapse, global renewable energy costs are also up, in the wake of higher oil prices in the recent past and energy disruption in Europe.

The US Fed and the ECB have tightened monetary policy and global energy and food commodity price are now easing.

However in a few years the 40 to 45 rupee tariffs will look cheap, Wickremesinghe pointed out, given the country’s monetary policy involving steep depreciation.

From 2012 to 2015 the rupee collapsed from 113 to 131 to the US dollar. From 2015 to 2019 the rupee collapsed from 131 to 182 under flexible inflation targeting cum exchange rate as the first line of defence where the currency is deprecated instead of hiking rates and halting liquidity injections.

From 2020 to 2022 the rupee collapsed from 182 to 360 under output gap targeting (over stimulus) and exchange rate as the first line of defence.

“The tariffs are paid in rupees,” Wickremasinghe said. With the rupee continuing to devalue in other 5 years 40 rupees will look like 20 rupees.”

Sri Lanka has the worst central bank in South Asia after Pakistan. Both central banks started with the rupee at 4.70 to the US dollars, derived from the Reserve Bank of India, which was set up as a private bank like the Bank of England.

India started to run into forex shortages after the RBI was nationalized and interventionist economic bureaucrats started to run the agency. Sri Lanka’s and Pakistan’s central bank were run on discretionary principles by economic bureaucrats from the beginning.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka was set up with a peg with gold acting as the final restraint on economic bureaucrats, but it started to depreciated steeply from 1980 as the restraint was taken away.

Now under so-called ‘exchange rate as the first line of defence’ whenever the currency comes under pressure due to inflationary policy (liquidity injections to target an artificially low policy rate or Treasuries yields) the currency is depreciated instead of allowing rates to normalize.

Eventually rates also shoot up, as attempts are made to stabilize the currency which collapses from ‘first line of defence’ triggering downgrades along the way.

After the currency collapse, the Ceylon Electricity Board, finances are shattered and it is unable to pay renewable operators.

Unlike the petroleum, which has to stop delivery as it runs out of power, renewable operators continue to deliver as their domestic value added is higher.

However they also have expenses including salaries of staff to pay.

The CEB which is also running higher losses after the central bank printed money and triggered a currency collapse, has not settled renewable producers.

“In the meantime, we have financial issues with the investors and CEB owns more than 45 million rupees in the industry,” Warna Dahanayaka, Secretary of Mini Hydro Association, said at the conference.

“We can’t sustain because we can’t pay the salaries and we can’t sustain also because of the bank loans. Therefore, we are requesting the government to take the appropriate action for this matter.”

Sri Lanka and Pakistan have identical issues in the power sector including large losses, circular debt, subsidies due to depreciating currencies.

In Sri Lanka there is strong support from the economists outside government for inflationary policy and monetary instability.

The country’s exporters, expatriate workers, users of unofficial gross settlement systems, budget deficits and interbank forex dealers in previous crises have been blamed for monetary instability rather than the unworkable impossible trinity regime involving conflicting domestic (inflation target) and external targets (foreign reserves).

The country has no doctrinal foundation in sound money and there is both fear of floating and hard peg phobia among opinion leaders on both sides of the spectrum regardless of whether they are state or private sector like any Latin American country, critics say.


South Asia, Sri Lanka currency crises; only 2-pct know monetary cause: World Bank survey

A World Bank survey last year found that only 2 percent of ‘experts’ surveyed by the agency knew that external monetary instability was generated by the central bank. Most blamed trade in severe knee jerk reaction. (Colombo/Jan29/2023)

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Sri Lanka top chamber less pessimistic on 2023 GDP contraction

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s top business chamber said it was expecting an economic contraction of up to 2 percent in 2023, which is much lower than projected by international agencies.

“The forecast of 2023 is quite negative in terms of the international forecasters,” Shiran Fernando Chief Economist of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce told a business forum in Colombo.

“Our view is that there will be some level of contraction, may be zero to two percent. But I think as the year progresses in particular the second half, we will see consumption picking up.”

The World Bank is projecting a 4.2 percent contraction in 2023.

In 2022 Sri Lanka’s economy is expected to contract around 8 to 9 percent with gross domestic product shrinking 7.1 percent up to September.

Most businesses have seen a consumption hit, but not as much as indicated, Fernando said.

“Consumption is not falling as much as GDP in sense and we are seeing much more resilient consumer,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s economy usually starts to recover around 15 to 20 months after each currency crisis triggered by the island’s soft-pegged central bank in its oft repeated action of mis-targeting rates through aggressive open market operation or rejecting real bids at Treasuries auctions. (Colombo/Jan28/2023)

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Acuity Knowledge Partners with Sri Lanka office to be bought by Permira

ECONOMYNEXT – Permira, an investment fund with operations in Europe, US and Asia is buying a majority stake in Acuity Knowledge Partners, which has a 500 seat center in Sri Lanka for a undisclosed sum.

Equistone Partners Europe, from which Permira is buying the stake will remain a minority investor, the statement said.

In 2019, Equistone backed a management buyout of Acuity from Moody’s Corporation.

Acuity Knowledge Partners says it serves a global client base of over 500 financial services firms, including banks, asset managers, advisory firms, private equity houses and consultants.

“Despite the current challenges for the financial services sector, we have experienced continued growth and a strong demand for our solutions and services,” Robert King, CEO of Acuity Knowledge Partners, said.

“Given the significant demand within the financial services sector for value-added research and analytics, and the need for operational efficiency, with Permira’s deep experience in tech-enabled services and its global network, I am confident the business will continue to flourish.”

London headquartered Acuity has offices in the UK, USA, India, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, China and Dubai, UAE.

Equistone was advised on the transaction by Rothschild & Co and DC Advisory, and Latham & Watkins acted as legal counsel. Robert W. Baird Limited served as financial advisers to Permira, and Clifford Chance is acting as legal counsel.

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