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Friday February 23rd, 2024

EU stresses need of individual rights after Sri Lanka military attack on peaceful protesters

ECONOMYNEXT – The European Union has stressed the need of upholding freedom of opinion and expression and individual rights of Sri Lankan citizens after the military brutally attacked peaceful protesters, a day after President Ranil Wickremesinghe took oath as the leader of the island nation.

The military attacked protesters who were above to hand over the presidential secretariat which they occupied on July 9 just before former leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country fearing for his file. The protesters then burnt the private house of then prime minister Wickremesinghe and stormed into the prime minister’s official residence four days later.

Wickremesinghe soon after being elected said legal action will be taken against those who have occupied the public properties like presidential secretariat and prime minister’s official residence.

The military attack has raised concern over President Wickremesinghe’s new government’s handling of the protest. Wickremesinghe in the past has been supportive of the protest and voice against removal of the protesters from the same site.

Protesters have said they do not recognize Wickremesinghe as the country’s president because he never got a people’s mandate. Wickremesinghe was elected as the president by the parliament and he entered the parliament through a bonus seat after losing  at the August 2020 parliamentary poll.

“Following Sri Lanka’s Parliament swift action to elect Ranil Wickremesinghe as new President of the country in the wake of President Rajapaksa’s resignation, the EU underlines the need of upholding freedom of opinion and expression and individual rights of Sri Lankan citizens in the process of a democratic, peaceful and orderly transition,” the EU said in a statement.

“In the light of reports of unnecessary violence against protestors, the EU stresses the importance of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and condemns the unwarranted use of force against peaceful demonstrators.”

Wickremesinghe met envoys of the US, UK, Canada, and EU on Friday after the attack. Sources who met him said the new president was more focused on his house and the books, which were burnt by the protesters on July 9 than the bigger political issues.

The EU is Sri Lanka’s major trading partner and its trade concession GSP plus has helped the island nation’s top export garments to earn over $5 billion annually.

The GSP plus is already under review for an extension.

“The re-introduction in 2017 of preferential access to the European Single Market under the GSP+ scheme has been essential for Sri Lanka’s economic development.” it said.

“The EU expects the new Government to work in full compliance with its GSP+ commitments. Current and future cooperation programmes (EUR 70 million) are being aligned with Sri Lanka’s most pressing needs.”

“In addition to delivering medicines through the EU’s Joint Civil Protection Mechanism, member states and the EU are closely monitoring food security on the island in order to fund actions targeting the most vulnerable communities.”

The EU has continuously urged Sri Lanka to address its past human rights violations and take initiatives to prevent such violations in the future as well. The EU insisted to abolish the country’s decades old anti-terrorism law under Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who amended the act to satisfy the bloc.

Sri Lanka is already facing an international probe over its past human rights violations by the United Nations Human Rights Council which has already started gathering evidence.

Diplomats have told Economy Next the brutal attack on protesters is likely to be added to the country’s human rights violation in the upcoming September session. (Colombo/July 23/2022)

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  1. Prageeth says:

    In what way you describe the protest is peaceful? By storming government buildings and destroying it, and being a nuisance to the public or setting ablaze rivals homes?

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  1. Prageeth says:

    In what way you describe the protest is peaceful? By storming government buildings and destroying it, and being a nuisance to the public or setting ablaze rivals homes?

Sri Lankans may need to wait for Monetary Board meeting minutes despite new Act

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankans may have to wait more time to read the meeting minutes of the Central Bank’s Monetary Board, a top official said, despite a new act that has made the central bank to be more transparent and accountable for its decisions.

Many central banks including the United States’ Federal Reserve, India’s Reserve Bank, and Bank of Mexico release the minutes of their monetary policy meeting to ensure transparency.

The new Central Bank Act passed by the Parliament in line with the guidance by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) includes measures for Sri Lanka’s central bank to be more transparent and accountable.

These measures include releasing the Monetary Policy Report every six months and the first such report was released on February 15.

However, the central bank has not taken a decision to release the minutes of the Monetary Board meetings on the monetary policy.

“Going forward, one day this could happen,” Chandranath Amarasekara, Assistant Governor at the Central Bank told reporters on Wednesday (21) at a media briefing.

“Right now, we have just started working on the new Central Bank Act. We are not there yet. There is no such decision on releasing minutes yet.”

The central bank in the past printed billions of rupees to keep the market interest rates artificially low and provide cheap funding for successive governments to propel a debt-driven economy.

It’s decision, however, led Sri Lanka into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2022 with sovereign debt default.

It also propped up the rupee currency artificially in the past to maintain a stable exchange rate at the expense of billions of US dollars. The move also contributed for the economic crisis and later the central bank was forced to allow over 60 percent depreciation in the rupee in March 2022.

However, none of the top central bank officials was held responsible for wrong decisions to hold interest rates artificially low with money printing and propping up the rupee. (Colombo/Feb 23/2024)

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Amid mass migration, Sri Lanka to recruit volunteers as English teachers

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka is planning to appoint foreign and expatriate volunteers to teach English for Sri Lanka students, the Ministry of Higher Education said, amid thousand of teachers migrating to other countries after the island nation’s unprecedented economic crisis.

Over five thousand teachers have left the country with the Education Ministry permission using the government’s circular of temporarily leaving state jobs while tens of thousands of teachers have left the country without informing the relevant authorities, Education Ministry officials say.

That had led to an acute teacher shortage in the country.

Suren Raghavan, the State Minister for Higher Education said the shortage has aggravated because most of the graduates who have an English degree become writers and join the private sector due to higher salary.

“They do not join government schools. This is a problem all over the country which is why we need to have an online system,” Raghavan told EconomyNext.

Separately he said on Thursday at a press conference that he had spoken to Canadian and Australian High Commissions to get the assistance of where their English teachers who have experience in teaching English as a second language in South Asia.

He also said that there is a number of teachers in the Unite Kingdom have shown interest in teaching English and they have experience in teaching in other Asian countries such as Burma and India while the teaching would be done free of charge.

The new move also comes at a time when the country’s English literacy rate is on the decline, according to the Minister.

President Ranil Wickramasinghe announced the English-for-all initiative three months ago with plans to improve English literacy at school and university level. (Colombo/Feb 23/2024)

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Sri Lanka tea production up 1.4-pct in Jan 2024, exports up 6.8-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s tea production was up 1.4 percent to 18.73 million kilograms in January 2024, with high growns falling and low and mid growns rising, industry data shows.

High grown tea in January 2024 was 3.56 million kilograms, down from 3.36 million, medium growns were 2.6, up from 2.5 million kilograms and low growns were 12.56 million, up from 12.32 million kilograms last year.

Exports, including re-exports were up 6.88 percent to 18.76 million kilograms, industry data published by Ceylon Tea Brokers show.

Export earnings were reported at 102 million US dollars, up from 99.5 million dollars last year. The average FOB price was 5.45 US dollars a kilo down from 5.67 dollars last year.

Tea in bulk was 8.5 million kilograms valued at 12.79 billion rupees, tea in packets was 7.8 million kilograms valued at 13.1 billion rupees and tea in bags was 1.8 million kilos, valued at 5.06 billion rupees.

The top buyer was Iraq with 2.5 million kilos, up from 2.1 million last year followed by the UAE with 1.99 kilos, up from 1.86 million last year.

Russia bought 1.98 million kilos, down from 2.0 last year, Turkey bought 1.72 million kilos, from 2.3 million last year, while Iran bought 1.32 million, up from 614 million last year. (Colombo/Feb23/2024)

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