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Thursday December 1st, 2022

ICJ, academics, request Sri Lankan authorities to respect prominent lawyer’s human rights

DEVASTATED TOWN – Minuwangoda with remains of damaged Muslim-owned businesses in post Easter Sunday violence/ Pathum Dhananjana EconomyNext

ECONOMYNEXT – Acknowledging the need to conduct thorough investigations into any alleged offence, a collective of academics, lawyers, clergymen and human rights activists requested the Chief Justice yesterday to intervene in the allegedly arbitrary detention of attorney-at-law Hejaaz Hizbullah.

“We request the Hon Chief Justice to take note of the apparent interference by law enforcement authorities in the right of an officer of the Supreme Court to practice his profession freely and make necessary interventions to ensure attorneys-at-law are able to perform their functions without fear,” the collective said in a statement.

The statement was signed by 117 individuals representing the following institutions: the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners, Families of the Disappeared, the Human Rights Office, Kandy, the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement, and the Right to Life Human Rights Centre.

The group also called upon the authorities to “respect Hizbullah’s due process rights, in particular to grant immediate access to his lawyers to receive instructions, provide reasons for his arrest as well as evidence that the arrest is not arbitrary and produce him before a magistrate immediately.”

Hizbullah was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) on April 14 under provisions in the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). According to a habeas corpus application filed by his father Naina Hizbullah on April 17, five persons posing as Health Ministry officials had entered the lawyer’s residence and interrogated him in handcuffs. They had then demanded access to two case files he had worked on – a decade prior, according to some media reports – and, having recorded a statement, took him into CID custody.

Police spokesman SSP Jaliya Senaratne subsequently told reporters that the senior lawyer was arrested in connection with last year’s Easter Sunday bombings

The citizen collective in their statement claimed that, to date, Hizbullah has not been informed of the reason for the arrest nor has he been granted access to his lawyers except in restricted circumstances for about fifteen minutes and in the presence of a CID officer.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on April 21 called upon the Sri Lankan authorities to respect human rights in the conduct of their investigation of the April 2019 bombings, including ensuring that investigations into the alleged involvement of Hizbullah are conducted in accordance with due process and fair trial guarantees under international law.

Specifically, the ICJ said, the authorities must specify the charges against him, grant him full and immediate access to a lawyer, and investigate the circumstances of his arrest for potential rights violations.

“No one questions the Government’s need and obligation to investigate the horrendous Easter Sunday attacks, but these investigations must be conducted in a way that is consistent with international law and the Sri Lankan Constitution,” ICJ Asia-Pacific Director Frederick Rawski said.

“Not serving Hizbullah a remand order as required by law and denying him full and confidential access to legal counsel is unacceptable and in violation of international standards on the right to liberty,” he added.

The ICJ’s call was echoed by the citizen activist collective.

“While acknowledging the need to conduct thorough investigations into any alleged offence, in this instance, prima facie it appears that the detainee has been denied due process rights.

“The fact that Mr Hizbullah has not been allowed to meet his lawyers without the presence of CID officers despite a written request submitted on April 15 is cause for grave concern as the right to legal representation is an important element of the right to due process, to which every person is entitled according to Article 13 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Unimpeded access to legal counsel is also a statutorily guaranteed right to any person arrested in Sri Lanka.”

The signatories were particularly troubled by the CID officers’ allegedly demanding access to the lawyer’s case files which they said is a severe impingement of attorney-client privilege, as well as of Hizbullah’s right to practice his profession freely.

“Such blatant disregard of the due process rights of an officer of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka and what appears to be his right to practice his profession freely, have a chilling effect on all legal professionals in Sri Lanka, as it creates fear they will be penalized for meeting with persons who are alleged to have committed offences as part of performing their duties as attorneys- at- law,” the statement said. (Colombo/Apr23/2020)

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Sri Lanka’s inflation eases to 61-pct in November

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s 12-month inflation in the capital Colombo fell to 61 percent in November 2022 from 66 percent in October as price stabilized after interest rates were allowed to go up and the exchange rate was pegged around 360 to the US dollar.

The widely watched Colombo Consumer Price Index fell absolutely 0.5 percent to 242.6 points in November after falling .04 percent in the October.

Food prices fell 1.5 percent after falling 2.0 percent a month earlier. The sub-index containing gas fell 0.5r percent and transport fell 3.6 percent.

But some services continued to go up, as relative prices adjusted to the steep fall in the currency after two years of money printing to suppress rates.

Health costs went up 5.7 percent. Furnishing and routine maintenance rose 0.4 percent.

Sri Lanka’s central bank hiked policy rates to 15.5 percent in April and pulled back on longer term money printing, allowing market rates to go to around 30 percent.

The exchange rater is pegged around 363 rupees with a surrender rule where banks are forced to sell dollars to the central bank for new liquidity.

The ongoing currency and inflation crisis is the worst in the history of the central bank.

Sri Lanka’s Latin America style central bank was set up in 1950 giving powers to the country’s macro-economists the power to mis-target rates, create currency crisis and high inflation. (Colombo/Nov30/2022)

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Sri Lanka shares close at one-month high

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares closed at one month high on Wednesday gaining for the fourth session on news that government is in talks with ADB and World Bank to get a 1.9 billion dollar loan facility, brokers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) closed 3.3 percent or 276.02 points higher at 8,651.23, highest index gain in since November 01.

“Investor participation improved on the back of confirmed talks with multilateral and bilateral lenders including world banks and ADB for USD 1.9Bn after IMF board level agreement is reached,” First Capital Market Research said in it’s daily note.

Former Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy said in a forum on Monday that the government is in discussion with ADB and World Bank to get loans of 1.9 billion US dollars after a reform program with International Monetary Fund is approved

A policy loan now being discussed with the World Bank may bring around 700 million US dollars, Coomaraswamy told a business forum organized by CT CLSA Securities, a Colombo-based brokerage.

The Asian Development Bank may also give around 1.2 billion US dollars most of which will be budget support, he said.

The market witnessed a turnover of 3.3 billion rupees, higher than this year’s daily average turnover of 2.9 billion rupees. This is the highest turnover generated since October 04.

In the last few sessions market gained after Central bank governor said market rates should eventually ease despite the fears of a domestic debt restructuring as inflation falls, increased liquidity in dollar markets, and the inter-bank liquidity improves.

In the past sessions, the index continued to fall on the speculation of a local debt restructuring although no proper decision has been taken so far.

The market saw a foreign inflow of 39 million rupees. The total net foreign inflow stood at 18.33 billion rupees so far for this year.

The more liquid index S&P SL20 closed 3.4 percent or 89.78 points higher at 2,730.08.

The ASPI has fallen 0.5 percent in November after losing 13.4 percent in October.

It has lost 29.2 percent year-to-date after being one of the world’s best stock markets with an 80 percent return last year when large volumes of money were printed.

Sampath Bank pushed the index up to close at 10.9 percent to 36.6 rupees.

Other top gainers were Browns Investment gained 15.4 percent to close at 7.5 rupees and LOLC gained 9.4 percent to close at 411.3 rupees.(Colombo/Nov30/2022)

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Sri Lanka bonds, T-bills ease, overall market dull

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s treasury bonds eased and T-bill yields fell on the speculation on talks with ADB and World Bank to obtain financial aid but the over all market was dull on Wednesday while the Central Bank’s guidance peg remained unchanged, dealers said.

“During the day, secondary market witnessed some buying interest on the back of speculations on yields easing while talks about financial aid from ADB and World Bank further strengthened interest,” First Capital Market Research said in it’s daily note.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 32.00/60 percent on Wednesday, down from 32.30/90 percent on Tuesday.

A bond maturing on 07.07.2025 bond closed at 30.80/31.30 percent up from 30.30/31.25 percent on Tuesday.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 31.00/30 percent down from 31.10/31.30 percent on Tuesday.

The three-month T-bills closed at 32.30/33.25 percent, down from 32.60/33.00 percent.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions remained unchanged at 363.19 rupees against the US dollar.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 371.79 and 372.10 for small transactions, data showed.

Buying rates are between 361.79 – 362.00 rupees. (Colombo/Nov 30/2022)

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