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Thursday December 8th, 2022

IshiniGate: Instagram star breaks her silence says cyberattacks “are overwhelming”

Social Media Influencer Ishini Weerasinghe breaks her silence

ECONOMYNEXT-A Canadian Social Media influencer who raised tens of thousands of dollars for victims of the Easter Sunday attacks is saying she is working with gofundme.com to identify a fresh charity in Sri Lanka to assist those in need after the blasts.

Ishini Weerasinghe, 21, a model and Instagram star, started a gofundme.com page to collect money for the victims of the attacks on the day of the blast and raised CAD82, 882 (Approximately LKR11,520, 600) in a short time.

Weerasinghe, who has an Instagram following of 173,000 people at last count, came under attack on Social Media by some users who called her a fraud saying that none of the money she collected has reached the numerous victims and their families 17-months after the blasts.

The social media hashtag #IshiniGate has been trending on Social Media since then.

Her accusers speculated that she had spent the money on plastic surgery for breast enhancement and a new car.

In a statement released yesterday, Weerasinghe said that that she had had surgery to “correct a deformity” in 2018 and also purchased her vehicle the same year many months before her gofundme.com drive.

Among the accusations was that she had paid for a new house, a charge she denies as she lives with her parents in the house which they had built and have lived in for the past 11 years in South Edmonton, in Alberta.

In an interview with EconomyNext, Weerasinghe who is of Sri Lankan origin says she does not want to be “directly involved in the charity work but we are looking for someone competent to do so.”

Gofundme.com in a letter to Weerasinghe commiserated with her about the attacks on Social Media and gave her two options saying they could return the money to the donors but recommended that she work with the website to find a suitable charity in Sri Lanka to work with.

Of the total cash collected Weerasinghe chose to transfer a sum of CAD 20,000 in June 2019 to the Alpha Trust in Sri Lanka which organizes and conducts social work and projects around the country.

The remaining cash, amounting to CAD68, 882 she told EconomyNext, “is in a separate bank account in Canada.”

Alpha Trust is the charity arm of the Foursquare Gospel Church, at which her parents worship in Edmonton.

However, for various reasons Alpha Trust could not aid victims, Weerasinghe and the Trust said.

Alpha Trust in a statement released on Facebook said: “in order to adhere to the request of Ms Weerasinghe, members of the Alpha Trust team embarked on the mission of communicating with the church in Batticaloa and other people on the ground, to ascertain the needs of those directly affected by the bombing.”

“However, after extensive interviews and fact-finding, they reported back to Ms Weerasinghe that all victims who needed immediate, short term and long-term medical care were categorized and were being taken care of by Government organisations, relevant affected churches, International NGOs and Blue-chip companies who also came to the immediate assistance of the victim,” it said.

Hence, Alpha Trust requested to return the funds to her as per their policy of only utilizing funds strictly for the specific purpose it was sent for by the donor.

Subsequently, in November 2019 Weerasinghe had informed Alpha Trust of a planned visit by her and her family to Sri Lanka for a family wedding and instructed the Alpha Trust to return the funds directly to her as she had directly made contact with some victims who needed urgent medical assistance and would like to work directly with them.

“On arrival, Ms Weerasinghe requested Alpha Trust to return the funds within 36 hours and the Alpha Trust trustees agreed to relax their strict policy method and process of returning the funds and made it available to her at short notice,” the statement said.

So Alpha Trust has refunded an amount of Rs 2,585,091.43 after deducting the taxes and their travelling expenses the statement said.

EconomyNext has verified that Weerasinghe has provided assistance to three recipients in the Negombo area through a local church group. However getting the records of how around LKR1.5mn was spent has “been pushed back by Covid,” she says

“The receipts are there. The survivors know that they were told to keep their medical receipts from the moment we started working with them for documentation purposes. The earliest person we have employed said he can meet with them and gather all the receipts and deliver it to me is by the end of this month,” she said.

EconomyNext spoke to the person who is tracking down the recipients. He spoke on condition of anonymity and said that there are at least three people he has contacted who have received help for medical treatment and another to whom payments have been made for the construction of a house.

He said that one woman has been given LKR50,000 for surgery due to hearing loss, another family which lost their mother was given LKR50,000 for school supplies and money has been set aside for furniture.

Another girl who has a serious skin condition from shards of glass was given LKR100,000 for the course of injections and mother was given money for physiotherapy as she is unable to walk due to injuries.

An orphaned girl has been pledged LKR1,000,000 to finish building her family house.

“We will be continuing to help the victims on our own account and social welfare efforts further onwards. The cyberbullying, harassment and threats from the community recently from creating false accusations about the work that I have done with no proof, has become overwhelming for me and my family,” she said.

(Colombo/Oct02/2020)

With additional reporting by Arjuna Ranawana

Comments (2)

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  1. anuradha ranasinghe says:

    i know this comment would not be published. But, it is nice to see how the scammer turns her self into the victims. All the posts online are only asking her for the receipts which she has been unable to give after 1 ½ years later. What else proof does anyone needs to prove that she’s a scammer?

  2. Guy Ramsoondar says:

    Does anyone actually believe this? She deserves to be arrested for this theft

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Comments (2)

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. anuradha ranasinghe says:

    i know this comment would not be published. But, it is nice to see how the scammer turns her self into the victims. All the posts online are only asking her for the receipts which she has been unable to give after 1 ½ years later. What else proof does anyone needs to prove that she’s a scammer?

  2. Guy Ramsoondar says:

    Does anyone actually believe this? She deserves to be arrested for this theft

Sri Lanka in deep talent drain in latest currency crisis

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka businesses are facing a drain of talent, top business executives said as the country suffers the worst flexible exchange rate crisis in the history of its intermediate regime central bank and people lose hope.

“We are seeing a trend towards migrating,” Krishan Balendra, Chairman of Sri Lanka’s John Keells Holdings told an economic policy forum organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

“We have seen an impact mainly on the tourist hotels side, quite an exodus of staff (migrating) to countries we have not seen in the past. 

“We have seen people go to Scotland, Ireland. It has usually been the Middle East and Maldives. Australia seems like a red hot labor market at the moment.”

Sri Lanka’s rupee collapsed from 200 to 360 to the US dollar after macro-economists printed money to suppress rates.

Sri Lanka operates a ‘flexible exchange rate’ where errors in targeting interest rates are compensated by currency depreciation especially after the 1980s.

Classical economists and analysts have called for the power to mis-target rates and operate dual anchor conflicting monetary regimes should be taken away to prevent future crisis.

Currency crises are problems associated with flexible exchange rate central banks which are absent in hard pegs and clean floats.

“Something new we are seeing is that older people, even those in their 50s, which was a surprise, are looking at migrating,” Balendra said.

Businesses are trying to retain talent as real wages collapse.

Balendra said as businesses they see some stability returning and based on past experience growth is likely to resume, and they were communicating with the workers.

“We have a degree of conviction that the economy should get better, its the stability phase now and it will get better going forward so without the way our businesses are placed we should see good growth,” Balendra said.

“We can’t chase compensation that’s just not practical and we are not trying to do that especially if people are looking to immigrate but what we can do is show the career opportunities in the backdrop of the situation that people would rather stay here because its home.” 

Sri Lanka unit of Heineken says it is also trying to convince workers not to leave, with more success.

“We are all facing the effects of brain drain and it’s not just the lower levels… What we are doing is a balance of daring and caring,” Maud Meijboom-van Wel – Managing Director / CEO, Heineken Lanka Ltd told the forum.

“Why I say daring is, you have to be clear in what you can promise people, when you make promises you have to walk the talk. So with the key talents and everyone you need to have the career and talent conversations.

“I am a bit lucky because I am running a multinational company so my career path goes beyond Sri Lanka so I can say if you acquire certain skills here, then you can move out of here and then come back too, that is a bit easier for me but it starts with having a real open conversation with walking the talk – dare and care.” (Colombo/Dec7/2022)

 

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Despite losses, Sri Lanka to resume “park & ride” transport after complaints  

ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka’s state-run Transport Board will resume its loss-making City Bus service from January 15, 2022 Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena said, after the service abruptly discontinued with the state-run firm’s director board citing losses.

The City Bus service was introduced in 2021, under the government of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, from Makubura to Pettah and Bambalapitiya.

The service was started to reduce the number of automobiles travelling to and from Colombo and suburbs by providing a comfortable, convenient and safe public bus transportation for passengers and riders who use cars and motorcycles as their means of transportation.

During the time period in which the service was initiated, there were 800 hundred vehicles that would be parked and would use the system, Gunawardena, who is also the Transport Minister, said.

The service was later collapsed due to inconsistencies in scheduling and it was completely stopped after

“Without informing the Secretary or the Minister of the relevant Ministry, the Board of Directors have come to a conclusion that this is loss making route and must be halted,” Gunawardena said.

“The users of the City Bus service brought to our notice and therefore I gave the Secretary to the Ministry of Transport the approval to start the City Bus service from January 15.”

“If we stop all loss making transport services then massive inconveniences will occur to the people in far parts of the island.”

The chairman of the state run Ceylon Transport Board has been asked to handover the resignation letter by the Minister Gunawardana citing that the head has failed to implement a policy decision approved by the government. (Colombo/ Dec 06/2022)

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Sri Lanka may see rates falling next year: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s interest rates are high and hurting small businesses in particular but interest rates are required to maintain stability, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“One is, all of you want to know what’s going to happen to the interest rates?,” President Wickremesinghe told an economic policy forum organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

“I wish I know. The governor has told me that the inflation has peaked. It’s coming down. You all understandably want some relief with the interest rates to carry business on.”

“I understand that and appreciate the viewpoint. It’s not easy to carry business on with such high interest rates. On the other hand, the Central Bank also has to handle the economy. So maybe sometimes early next year we will have a meeting of minds of both these propositions.”

Sri Lanka’s interest rates are currently at around 30 percent but not because the central bank is keeping it up. The central bank’s overnight policy rate is only 15.5 percent but the requirement to finance the budget deficit and roll over debt is keeping rates up.

Rates are also high due to a flaw in the International Monetary Fund’s debt workout framework where there is no early clarity on a whether or not domestic debt will be re-structured.

After previous currency crises, rates come down after an IMF deal is approved and foreign loans resume and confidence in the currency is re-stabilished following a float.

This time however there has been no clear float, though the external sector is largely stable and foreign funding is delayed until a debt re-structure deal is made.

Sri Lanka’s external troubles usually come because the bureaucrats do not believe market rates are correct when credit demand picks up and mis-uses monetary tools given in 1950 by the parliament to suppress rates, blowing the balance of payments apart.

The result of suppressed rates by the central bank are steep spikes in rates to stop the resulting currency crisis.

A reserve collecting central bank has little or no leeway to control interest rates (monetary policy independence) without creating external troubles, which is generally expressed as the ‘impossible trinity of monetary policy objectives’.

However, it has not prevented officials from trying repeatedly to suppress rates, perhaps expecting different results.

After suppressed rates – supposedly to help businesses – trigger currency crises, the normalization combined with a currency collapse leads to impoverishment of the population.

The impoverishment through depreciation leads to a consumption shock, which also leads to revenue losses in businesses.

The suppressed rates then lead to bad loans.

In the 2020/2022 currency crisis the sovereign default has also led to more problems at banks. Several state enterprises also cannot pay back loans.

“…[T]he bad debt that is being carried by the banks is mainly from the private sector or the government sector,” President Wickremesinghe said.

“Keep the government sector aside. We’re dealing with it. How do you handle it? Look, one of our major areas of are the small and medium industries. You can’t allow them to collapse, but they’re in a bad way.”

Classical economists and analysts have called for new laws to block the ability to central bank to suppress rates in the first place so that currency crises and depreciation does not take place in the first place.

Then politicians like Wickremesinghe do not have to take drastic and unpopular measures to fix crises and there will be stability like in East Asia.

Sri Lanka had stability until 1950 when the central bank was created by abolishing an East Asia style currency board. The currency board kept the country relatively stable through two World Wars and a Great Depression.

In 1948 after the war (WWII) was over “we stood second to Japan” Wickremesinghe said.

“But we started destroying it from the sixties and the seventies,” he said. :We started rebuilding an economy, which was affected by a (civil) war, and thereafter the way we went, is best not described here.”

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