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Tuesday January 31st, 2023

Forced quarantine of protestors: Teachers’ unions in Sri Lanka refuse to teach online

ECONOMYNEXT – Eighteen school teacher unions in Sri Lanka will refrain from conducting online classes from Monday (12) in protest of what they call the forced quarantine of 16 union members.

The Ceylon Independent Teachers’ Services Union (ITSU) and 17 other unions representing school principals and teachers that were engaged in online distance education in light of the pandemic are now on strike in solidarity with the quarantined activists, the union said in a joint statement.

Among the unions’ demands is the release of Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) secretary general Joseph Stalin and 15 others who the unions charge were forcibly sent off to a quarantine centre in Mullaitivu after they were released on bail Friday afternoon (09).

The teachers’ unions also demand solutions to teacher principal salary anomalies and problems in online teaching.

Meanwhile, Director of Catholic Schools Fr Gamunu Dias said on Sunday that the Catholic schools will also not hold online classes from Monday and will join the teachers protest as they stand for the rights of education in the country.

Sri Lanka police arrested over 40 protestors in Colombo and elsewhere last Thursday (08) for allegedly violating quarantine regulations, even as government supporters were seen celebrating the swearing in of Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa by lighting firecrackers and  gathering in small groups.

A majority of the arrests were made at a protest held near parliament in Sri Jayawrdenapura, Kotte, against the proposed Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) bill.

Related: Sri Lanka police arrest over 45 for organising protests in violation of ban

Thirty-one people including Stalin were arrested near the parliament roundabout. The protest was jointly organised by the Inter-University Students Federation (IUSF), the Sri Lanka Teachers’ Union and the Frontline Socialist Party.

The protestors were granted bail but were subsequently packed off in buses to be quarantined, citing a comminuque from Health Services Director General Dr Asela Gunawardena that protests and public meetings must be temporarily banned in light of the COVID-19 situation.

On Friday, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa questioned the legal basis for directing individuals who were released on bail without even a COVID test.

“Police arrested the protestors and produced them in court where they were given bail,” Premadasa told parliament.

“But without a PCR or antigen test, not even with a public health inspector (PHI) checking them, the police, contravening all these rules and regulations, decided to quarantine them. That should have been done by a health official, not the police.

“How do they decide to quarantine people who got bailed, without doing an antigen or PCR test?” he said.

Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekara responded that the decision to quarantine the protestors were taken by PHIs. However, media reports quoting PHI Union Chairman Upul Rohana said no such consultation had taken place.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka said Sunday (11) that authorities should not use quarantine rules to suppress peaceful protest, violating constitutional rights of the people, especially when they were bailed out by courts.

Related: Bar Association of Sri Lanka warns against using quarantine to suppress peaceful protest

The top United Nations official in Colombo also said Sri Lanka should not use quarantine rules to suppress peaceful protest.

Related: UN says Sri Lanka should not use Coronavirus quarantine to suppress peaceful protests

(Colombo/July12/2021)

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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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