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Tuesday May 30th, 2023

National Christian Council is “deeply concerned” about the 20A

ECONOMYNEXT – The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) is expressing deep concern about the manner in which the 20th Amendment to the Constitution is sought to be introduced and several substantive provisions of the amendment itself.

In a statement issued yesterday October 13, NCCSL called upon the Government to “preserve those parts of the 19th Amendment that promote the independence of key institutions and accountable governance.”

“Since one of the main objectives of a constitution is to protect and empower the people vis-a-vis the government, all amendments to the 20th Amendment should be made accessible to the public so that their views can be considered before the Amendment is debated in Parliament,” it said.

The NCCSL brings together all Protestant Christian Churches and Nine Ecumenical Organisations.

The statement criticised the manner in which the Amendments have been brought in and decry the promise to make Committee Stage changes to the proposals.

“This violates basic features of transparency, accountability and constitutionalism and betrays the promise made by several Government ministers that the public will be informed and consulted before constitutional amendments were introduced,” it said.

The NCCSL proposed that the positive aspects of the 19th Amendment be retained and deplored the disregard shown to “the recommendations made since the mid-1980s in favour of the importance of de-politicising key democratic institutions notably by the Presidential Commission on Youth Unrest (1990) and the concerted campaign since the constitution was adopted in 1978, led by a wide cross-section of political forces and civil society groups, to introduce greater checks and balances on the office of the executive presidency by curtailing the President’s wide powers of appointment.”

It said that the “introduction of a weak Parliamentary Council to replace the Constitutional Council is a retrogressive step. The President is only required to seek the observations of the Council. This in effect gives the President sole discretion to appoint persons to the superior courts and all the independent commissions. This will undermine their independence.”

It went on to say that the 19th Amendment established the Audit Commission and the National Procurement Commission to ensure that corruption, political patronage and abuse of power was reduced. It also provided that the funds allocated to the offices of the President and the Prime Minister were subject to audits like all other ministries and departments. “The removal of these features by the 20th Amendment lacks any justification.”

The reintroduction of provisions to enable the legislature to introduce “urgent bills”, a provision that has been subject to abuse by successive governments for decades, undermines basic norms of constitutionalism, accountability and the democratic rights of the people.

(Colombo, October 14, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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Sri Lanka food producers on countdown; 6-months to reduce trans fat content

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan food manufacturers only have another six months to reduce the amount of trans fat in food items as the government plans to ban high trans-fat food from January 2024 onwards, an official said.

“A six-month grace period has been given to existing manufacturers, sellers and distributors whose products contain trans-fat,” an official of the Ministry of Health told EconomyNext requesting anonymity.

According to a Ministry of Health gazette issued on… a person shall not sell, offer for sale, expose or keep for sale or advertise for sale, any packaged food product containing trans-fat unless the total amount of trans-fat of such food product per 100 grams or 100 milliliters of the food product is declared on the label of such packaged food product.

However, these regulations will not be applicable for export oriented food products.

Trans-fat is a type of fat that has certain chemical properties and is usually found in processed foods such as baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, shortening, margarine, and certain vegetable oils.

Eating trans-fat increases blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has praised Sri Lanka for enacting a legislation on trans-fat to protect health and prevent premature deaths from coronary heart disease, a statement from the WHO said.

“Eliminating trans-fats from food supplies is a cost-effective measure with enormous health benefits,” the statement quoting Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia said.

“By enacting legislation on trans-fat, Sri Lanka has once again demonstrated its resolve to protect and promote the health of its people”.

The regulations are coming into effect as Sri Lanka is struggling with food insecurity as the country recovers from its worst economic crisis.

However, an improvement in food security across all provinces has been recorded, according to an assessment by a Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) of two UN agencies. (Colombo/ May 30/2023)

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India extends under utilized $1 bln credit facility to Sri Lanka by one year 

ECONOMYNEXT – India has extended a $1 billion credit facility to Sri Lanka by another year after the loan that was given to help the crisis-hit island nation to continue import of essentials was not fully utilized in the 12 month period originally agreed, officials said.

Sri Lanka faced with a looming sovereign default signed the credit facility in March 2022 for one year through March 2024. However, the full $1 billion had not been utilized yet.

The Facility has been used for urgent procurement of fuel, medicines, food items and industrial raw materials, as per the requirements and priorities of Sri Lanka.

“The initial agreement was signed in 2022 March and out of the 1000 million US dollars allocated materials were imported for $576.75 mil,” Shehan Semasinghe, State Finance Minister said in his official twitter platform.

“The agreement is extended for the remaining $423.25 mil. We will prioritize the import of essential medicines till March 2024.”

Indian High Commission in Colombo said the State Bank of India (SBI) has extended the tenure of the $1 billion Credit Facility provided to Sri Lanka in response to a request from the Government of Sri Lanka.  (Colombo/May 30/2023)

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Sri Lanka President cleared to discuss cancelled LRT after soured Japan relations

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe discuss resuming a Japan funded. Light Rail Transit (LRT) project cabinet spokesman said, as the island nation is in the process of mending ties with Tokyo.

However, any such deals are likely to take place after the debt restructuring and Sri Lanka starts to repay its foreign loans to come out of default, analysts say.

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa unilaterally cancelled the 1.5 billion US dollar LRT and East Container Terminal (ECT) projects in 2021. Japan agreed to fund the LRT project while it was one of the tripartite members of the ECT project along with India and Sri Lanka.

The abrupt cancellation hit the diplomatic ties between the two countries and Sri Lankan government officials have said Japan had given the project to Sri Lanka at a very lower financing cost.

President Wickremesinghe returned from Japan late last week after having met top officials of the Japanese government including its prime minister.

“In recent history, due to the stopping of several agreements and proposals suddenly, President Wickremesinghe went to Japan after creating the background to clear some of the worries we have,” Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena told the weekly media briefing.

“Before he went, he got the approval from the cabinet to resume the discussion on the light railway project. He got the approval from the cabinet to get parliament approval for bilateral agreements signed or any other investments project. Any change or cancellation of a project could be done only with the approval of the parliament.”

Japan has backed Sri Lanka under Wickremesinghe’s presidency after the island nation declared sovereign debt default. (Colombo/May 30/2023)

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