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Saturday June 3rd, 2023

Easter Tragedy: Four months on

Today marks four months since 259 men, women and children paid the ultimate price for the negligence, irresponsibility and sheer incompetence of the powers that be. Four months to the day since those entrusted with the lives of our citizens – the very people that pay their salaries – let them down in ways that redefine betrayal.

Four months have passed, and the friends and families left behind have yet to see anyone of significance held accountable. Not one person of real power, despite ample evidence to their culpability, has seen the inside of a jail cell for their blatantly criminal negligence that led to so much devastation, their petty bickering that literally tore people apart. And as the national preoccupation with elections intensifies, it’s looking less and less likely that the loved ones of the victims will see justice anytime soon.

Just yesterday, members of the Presidential Commission appointed to probe the Easter Sunday attack blamed the bombings on security lapses and delayed information sharing between security agencies. Testifying before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that’s carrying out its own investigation, the commission members said the first intelligence report on the attack was received on 5 April, over two weeks before the incident. A lack of coordination between agencies, they told the PSC, resulted in the tragedy.

To say that this is only the tip of the iceberg would be an understatement. The level of incompetence and negligence that resulted in the most horrific terrorist attack in recent memory, one imagines, goes much deeper. Much of the blame can be laid squarely at the door of the highest echelons of power. The toxic relationship between the President and the Prime Minister, which had been deteriorating for some time and hit rock bottom in October last year, ensured that the groundwork was laid for the entire security apparatus to crumble. The fact that there was no genuine effort at reconciliation by either party, even in the face of such senseless violence, only served to remind us that the ruling class of this country cannot be relied upon to set aside party politics in the interest of the people – not even in times of national tragedy. The Opposition too, true to form, wasted no time in capitalising on the attack and fanning the flames of communal tension to clear a path to state power. The hapless public, battered, bruised and betrayed, had nowhere to turn.

Four months on, questions remain. There is no reason to believe that those who allowed this devastation will face any kind of justice. There is no sign that the elites whose lust for power, whose deliberate abuse of deep-seated divisions, whose constant appeal to the baser instincts of a generation moulded by violence will answer for their crimes. Crimes that paved the way for Zahran Hashim and his misguided followers to take so many innocent lives.

No amount of scapegoating toothless bureaucrats will change the undeniable truth that the political establishment of this country unforgivably failed the people it claims to represent. No amount of finger-pointing or holier-than-thou posturing – government or opposition, layman or clergy – will wash away the blood on their hands. A crucial election is round the corner, and the people are once again faced with the unenviable task of choosing the least objectionable of a truly reprehensible lot. The mood of the country has predictably changed, and the Easter Sunday attack – and the anti-Muslim violence that came in its wake – are fast becoming a distant memory. Just four months later, those who laid down their lives are in danger of being forgotten, of becoming yet another statistic. One hopes, however, that come December, the voters keep their fire alive.

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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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