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Friday March 31st, 2023

Elected Sri Lanka ruling party MP to resign for diplomatic posting in US: source

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ECONOMYNEXT – Elected ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) parliamentarian Mahinda Samarasinghe has decided to vacate his seat and take up an ambassador post in the United States, a source close to the MP said on Saturday (18).

“He opted for the US ambassador post,” the source, who has been involved with Samarasinghe’s political career for more than a decade, told EconomyNext.

Local media, however, said he will be appointed as the ambassador for the US and Mexico. Samarasinghe was not immediately available for comment.

The ex MP was elected from the island nation’s Western coastal district of Kalutara in the 2020 parliamentary poll. He polled the least preferential votes out of the eight SLPP legislators elected to parliament.

Kalutara district SLPP candidate Wadduwage Manju Lalith Varna Kumara is next in the list to succeed Samarasinghe, a party source said.

Before his resignation, Samarasinghe was on a three month leave from parliament that was approved by the legislature. He has attended only 48 parliament sessions out of a total 93 so far held since the 2020 election.

Before joining politics, he was in the foreign service and served as the first secretary to the Sri Lanka High Commission in Australia as well as a counselor for the Sri Lankan Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva during the 1980s.

Samarasinghe entered active politics in 1988 and was elected to the parliament in 1994 under center-right United National Party (UNP). He crossed over to the then government side in 2006, joining the ranks of the center-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

He had served as minister of Labour, Disaster Management, Plantation, Skills Development, as well as Ports and Shilling in his parliamentary career. He, as Port Minister, signed the Chinese-built $1.5 billion Hambantota port deal to be handed over to China in 2018 on a 99-year lease.

Samarasinghe is the third SLPP legislator to resign from the parliament since July.

Already Jayantha Ketagoda resigned to make way for Basil Rajapaksa, younger brother of both president and prime minister, to become the finance minister in July. Last week, Ajith Nivard Cabraal resigned to take up the position of central bank governor at the request of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Samarasinghe defected from the Rajapaksa camp after the 2015 presidential poll defeat and joined former president Maithripala Sirisena. He lost the parliamentary election later in 2015, but Sirisena appointed him under the national list.

Samarasinghe’s name was in the Wikileaks quoted by then US ambassador to Colombo Robert Blake in 2007.

The cable said Samarasinghe had expressed concern that the President and his two brothers have rendered his human rights and humanitarian access efforts ineffective and that he would not sacrifice his political career to become “part of a white wash” for the Government of Sri Lanka’s (GSL) recent human rights violations. (Colombo/Sep18/2021)

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Sri Lanka tax hike: no response from president, professionals to discuss next steps

GMOA Secretary Haritha Alutghe

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s trade unions and professional associations who have been agitating against an International Monetary Fund (IMF) backed progressive tax hike will meet to discuss further union action after a letter to the president went unanswered.

Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) secretary Dr Haritha Aluthge told reporters on Friday March 31 that the unions will meet as the self-styled Professionals’ Trade Union Alliance (PTUA) collective which have so far been organising strikes and demonstrations demanding a revision of the taxes.

The PTUA has been awaiting a promised meeting with President Ranil Wickremesinghe for some days now. Aluthge previously said on Monday that if the meeting did not materialise, the unions would be compelled to go on strike.

The issue has become stagnant due to government inaction, said Aluthge at Friday’s press conference.

“The PTUA informed the president in writing yesterday for the last time to please understand the gravity of this situation and to immediately give us a meeting and present the government’s interim solution, through which the government can take measures to ease the sense of tension among professionals,” he said.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss an “interim solution” to the professionals’ grievances over the progressive income tax hike until a reported revision that’s due in six months when the country’s recently approved 17th IMF programme comes up for review.

“Sadly, there has still been no response,” the GMOA official said.

All unions and professional associations will meet Friday evening together with a number of other unions to discuss further action, he added.

The privately-owned English-language weekly newspaper The Sunday Times reported on March 26 that the IMF had indicated the possibility of revising some of the taxes imposed as part of the IMF’s staff-level agreement with Sri Lanka when the programme comes up for review in six months.

According to the newspaper, IMF officials had conveyed this to representatives of trade unions during a virtual roundtable held last Friday March 24. The virtual meeting was held on the initiative of the IMF and was attended by trade unions and professional associations representing the PTUA including the GMOA. (Colombo/Mar31/2023)

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Sri Lankan transport associations cut haulage and transportation fees after fuel price cut

ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka Association of Container Transporters and fuel bowser owners has decided to reduce the haulage charges and transportation fee, after the government cut the auto diesel prices by 80 rupees, association officials said.

“Due to the recent reduction in Auto Diesel price from March30, 2023, the committee has decided to reduce haulage charges by 7 percent,” association said.

Sri Lanka Private Petroleum Tanker owners has also decided to reduce the transportation fee of fuel by 8 -10 percent from April onwards.

“We will be meeting with the association members and will be deciding on exactly how much we will be reducing,” the General Secretary of the association Nimal Amarasekera told EconomyNext.

“We hope to reduce it by 8-10 percent and will be applied.”

Meanwhile United Lanka Fuel Transport Bowser Owners Association said, the price reduction will be done, and the specific amount will be calculated using the cost per kilometer for a transporting bowser.

“We have different types of bowsers such as 13,200 litre and 19,800 litre likewise,” Association President K.W. Charles told EconomyNext.

“So the cost per kilometer per bowser is different and after we calculate only we can give a specific percentage.

“It will come to effect from this month and the payments for the next month will be based on the new prices.”

Charles said, this is only based on the price reduction of fuel, however several costs as maintenance and spare part costs should also be considered when deciding the transportation cost, which is also being discussed with the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation.

Sri Lanka slashed fuel prices with effect from Wednesday (29) midnight, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said, after a protest by trade unions of state-run fuel retailer Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) resulting in queues at filling stations due to supply disruption.

The price of Petrol 92 Octane will be slashed by 15 percent or 60 rupees to 340, Petrol 95 Octane 95 will be reduced by 26.5 percent or 135 rupees to 375, Auto Diesel by 19.8 percent or 80 rupees to 325, and kerosene by 3.3 percent or 10 rupees to 295. (Colombo/ March31/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s shares edge up in mid day trade

Stock Market. Free public domain CC0 image.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged up in mid day trade on Friday, Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) data showed.

All Share Price Index was up 1.09 percent or 100.69 points to 9,329.19, while the most liquid index was up 1.23 percent or 32.86 points to 2,697.12.

The market generated a turnover of 895 million rupees.

Top gainers during mid day trade were Commercial Bank, Hatton National Bank and Expolanka. (Colombo/Mar31/2023)


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