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Sunday December 10th, 2023

Karu: “Sri Lanka only democracy to face the COVID crisis without a legislature”

Karu Jayasuriya

ECONOMYNEXT – Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is warning the government that creating a constitutional crisis at this time would dangerously destabilize and delegitimize the country.

In a public statement Jayasuriya urged the government and the opposition to “come together in good faith,” to resolve the issues.

Jayasuriya pointed out that the government and the Elections Commission do not agree about the holding of the elections on or before May 28.

The commissioners have said they cannot put together the government machinery to run an election.

The government however wants to hold the poll.

He added that “Sri Lanka is the only democracy to face COVID-19 crisis without a legislature to pass laws and financial appropriations to combat the pandemic and its economic consequences.”

The full statement is as follows:

As the former Speaker, I have recently been contacted by religious and political leaders, parliamentarians, academics, civil society and trade union representatives and members of the public seeking clarification on the impasse between the Election Commission and Executive on parliamentary elections.

Sri Lanka and the world are faced with an unprecedented health and economic crisis. As the prospect of a constitutional crisis further compounding the plight of our country is a matter of grave national concern, I am setting out my position publicly rather than replying to each query individually.

  1. On 2nd March 2020, His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved Parliament by
    proclamation, calling for parliamentary elections to be held on 25th April 2020, and for the new Parliament to meet on 14th May 2020.
  2. On 21st March 2020, the Election Commission invoked its authority in terms of Section 24 (3) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, announcing that the poll for the parliamentary election cannot be taken on 25th April 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Sri Lanka.
  3. Article 70 (5) (a) of the Constitution requires that upon the dissolution of Parliament, the new Parliament shall be summoned to meet on a date not later than three months after the date of the proclamation that dissolved Parliament, which must happen by 2
    nd June 2020.
  4. On 31st March 2020, 1st April 2020 and 6th April 2020, letters were exchanged between the Election Commission and the Secretary to the President indicating that:
  5. It is the position of the Election Commission that the prevailing situation and logistical
    constraints prohibit parliamentary elections from being held in time for the new Parliament
    to be summoned to meet by 2nd June 2020.
  6. The government is of the view that there is not necessarily any impediment to holding
    parliamentary elections on or before 28th May 2020.

Every country in the world is putting political differences aside and uniting to face this threat. Sri Lanka is the only democracy to face COVID-19 crisis without a legislature to pass laws and financial appropriations to combat the pandemic and its economic consequences.

It is my opinion that the government and opposition must engage with the Election Commission and with each other urgently and in good faith. If there are any precautions or new laws that the Commission determines would allow it to safely hold elections in time, these must be explored immediately.

In the event holding elections in time is not possible, a constitutional crisis must be avoided at all costs. Such a crisis entails the risk of delegitimising and destabilising our country and could gravely impact Sri Lanka’s prospects of obtaining economic relief.

In the interest of the nation, I appeal to the government, opposition, and other stakeholders to set aside their political differences and to take urgent and meaningful steps to avoid an unnecessary third crisis for our country. (Colombo, April 18 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana


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ADB USD200mn loan for Sri Lanka economic stabilization efforts

ECONOMYNEXT – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US 200 million dollar concessional loan to Sri Lanka to help stabilize the country’s finance sector.

The Financial Sector Stability and Reforms Program comprises two subprograms of IS 200 million dollars each, according to a statement by the ADB.

“The program’s overarching development objective is fully aligned with the country’s strategy of maintaining finance sector stability, while ensuring that banks are well-positioned for eventual recovery,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono was quoted as saying in the statement.

“The expected development outcome is a stable financial system providing access to affordable finance for businesses in various sectors of the economy.”

The ADB statement continues:

“Subprogram 1 targets short-term stabilization and crisis management measures that were implemented in 2023, while subprogram 2 is planned to be implemented in 2024 and focuses on structural reforms and long-term actions to restore growth in the banking sector.

The program will help strengthen the stability and governance of the country’s banking sector; improve the banking sector’s asset quality; and deepen sustainable and inclusive finance, particularly for women-led micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.

According to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest review, Sri Lanka’s economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization, although a full economic recovery is not yet assured.

The program is a follow-on assistance from ADB’s crisis response under the special policy-based loan that was approved for Sri Lanka in May 2023.

It is aligned with the fourth pillar of the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility provided to Sri Lanka to help the country regain financial stability.

It is also in line with the government’s reform agenda, including strengthening the operational independence of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) and its designation as the country’s macroprudential authority.

In designing this subprogram 1 loan, ADB has maintained close coordination and collaboration with the IMF to design targeted regulatory reforms for the banking sector—including the asset quality review—and with the World Bank on strengthening the deposit insurance scheme.

“The loan is accompanied by a $1 million grant from ADB’s Technical Assistance Special Fund to provide advisory, knowledge, and institutional capacity building for Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance and CBSL.”

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Sri Lank in blackout as power grid hit by cascading failure

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka suffered a blackout as Saturday evening as the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board grid was hit by a cascading power failure.

The cascading failure is believed to have been triggered by the failure of the Kothmale-Biyagama transmission line.

“The Ceylon Electricity Board wishes to inform our customers that due to the failure of Kotmale – Biyagama main transmission line, an island wide power failure has occurred,” CEB Spokesman Noel Priyantha said.

“Step by step restorations are underway and it may take few hours to completely restore the power supply.”

With hydro plants running flat out, a outage of the line tends to create a big imbalance in the demand and supply, leading to tripping of more lines and generators.

Lines can trip due to lightening strikes, or equipment failures.

Sri Lanka last suffered a cascading failure in December 2021, due to the failure of the same transmission line.

RelatedSri Lanka power blackout as grid hit by cascading failure

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Sri Lanka to host regional Food and Agriculture Organization conference

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will host the 37th session of the Asia Pacific Regional Conference (APRC) of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), from February 19-22, 2024 in Colombo.

The Conference will bring together agriculture ministers and officials from 46 countries across the region to discuss challenges in food and agriculture.

“The 37th APRC will provide a vital platform for regional collaboration, benefitting the agricultural landscape, fisheries sector and environment of Sri Lanka,” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said at a press briefing on Friday (8) to announce the conference.

FAO has had an active presence in Sri Lanka for over 40 years. “FAO has supported the country in the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and the development of the fisheries sector for growth and climate resilience,” Vimlendra Sharan, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives said.

“The APRC conference will be an opportunity to highlight the innovative approaches introduced in partnership with the government.”

By hosting APRC, Sri Lanka hopes to demonstrate the country’s dedication to the growth of sustainable agriculture, and showcase its commitment to sustainable agricultural development.

The APRC agenda will include a forum on agritourism, especially requested by the Sri Lankan government.

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