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Sunday August 14th, 2022

No-faith motion against Sri Lanka energy minister: The aftermath

SJB rally – file photo

ECONOMYNEXT – The no-confidence motion moved against Sri Lanka’s energy minister by the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) on Tuesday (20) backfired on the opposition, ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Dilan Perera said.

“This motion, which was an attempt to fish in what was presumed to be troubled waters – in the belief that there were factions forming in the government – ended up boomeranging on the opposition itself,” Perera told reporters Wednesday (21).

The government comfortably and convincingly defeated the motion Tuesday evening, with 61 MPs voting in favour of and 152 against.

“Opposition members, within the House itself, ended up pointing fingers at each other. As [United National Party MP] Ranil Wickremesinghe said, it was the opposition’s inability that was exposed by this move,” he added.

Perera was referring to a remark by Wickremesinghe in parliament yesterday that though he would vote in favour of the no-faith motion against Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, he believed the opposition should instead be voting against all cabinet ministers.

Main opposition SJB MP S M Marikkar moved the no-confidence motion against Gammanipla Monday (19) morning over the latter’s role in the recent, highly controversial fuel price hike.

An amendment proposed by Wickremesinghe that the motion include the entire cabinet was rejected by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena Tuesday morning, prompting the former to the motion had resulted in bringing government MPs together.

“Now all the minsters have united. The government is collectively ready to show its strength,” he said.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led National People’s Power (NPP), too, voted in favour of the motion but against its better judgement. NPP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake told parliament that the motion was politically unsound. NPP MP Dr Harini Amarasuriya told EconomyNext on Tuesday that the move had given increasingly disillusioned government MPs a rallying cry.

At Wednesday’s SLPP media briefing, MP Perera said that it was the opposition that lost whatever confidence it had commanded.

“So who failed?” he said.

Not opting to lick its wounds, the SJB took to the streets.

Speaking at a protest in Divulapitiya on Wednesday, SJB and opposition leader Sajith Premadasa accused two thirds of Sri Lanka’s parliament voting in favour of the fuel price hike.

“Yesterday, two thirds of parliament – all of them government MPs – said it’s fine to increase fuel prices,” he said.

SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka echoed his leader’s sentiment.

“The government raised their hand yesterday to defeat the pulse of the people. The people will make their judgement known when the time comes,” he said.

Asked why some opposition MPs were absent during the vote, Fonseka said only MP Harin Fernando, who he said is unwell, was not present.

“Everyone else was there,” he said.

Fonseka further said all parties in the opposition who voted with the SJB will stand with the party in any election to defeat the government, including the next presidential polls.

“Except maybe Ranil Wickremesinghe,” he added.

SJB MP Hesha Withana told a press conference the same day all “patriotic political forces” in the country will rally behind Premadasa’s leadership. Withana scoffed at a reporter’s suggestion of a Wickremesinghe candidacy, quoting in response a line from the popular Sinhala song ‘heena thibunata kotiiyak’ (‘to have ten million dreams without a cent in hand’).

Meanwhile, Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) leader Kumar Gunaratnam said his party plans to hold talks with the JVP, the Tamil National Alliance, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which is still part of the ruling coalition, the Lanka Samasamaja Party and the communist party in the coming days.

Gunaratnam told reporters Wednesday that the Rajapaksa administration has adopted a foreign policy that is “dragging Sri Lanka to a conflict between regional powers”, with a deep economic crisis to boot.

The Rajapaksa administration is following a foreign policy that is dragging Sri Lanka to a conflict between regional powers. A pro China policy has been adopted in a way that will add to the tensions between India and China.

“Against this political and socioeconomic backdrop, politics in Sri Lanka has reached a decisive juncture. The status quo has to change,” he said. (Colombo/Jul21/2021)

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Sri Lanka coconut auction prices continue to climb

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s average coconut prices grew 3.7 percent to 64,618.23 rupees for 1,000 nuts at the last auction held on Friday August 12, official data showed.

The highest price was 62,900 rupees for 1,000 nuts, while the lowest was 57,000 rupees at the auction conducted by Sri Lanka’s Coconut Development Authority.

Buyers offered 1,019,395 nuts at the auction and sold 576,906.

Exports of coconut-based products have risen by 12 percent in January to June to 434.48 million dollars from a year earlier, data show. (Colombo/Aug13/2022)

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Chinese tracking vessel cleared to dock at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port

Hambantota Port

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has given the green light to Chinese tracking vessel Yuang Wang 5 to dock at the Chinese-built Hambantota Port from August 16 to 22.

Sri Lankan authorities had first given clearance to the Chinese vessel on July 12, to make a port call at the Hambantota Port from August 11 to 17​ for replenishment purposes.

However, following a diplomatic standoff after concern about the tracking vessel’s anticipated arrival were reportedly raised by the US and India, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry requested China to defer the port call until “further consultations”.

A report by Sri Lanka’s privately owned Times Online news website said Saturday August 13 morning that the foreign ministry has authorised the docking of the ship.

Related:

Sri Lanka permits entry to controversial Chinese tracking vessel Yuang Wang 5

The ministry’s official statement released Saturday evening confirmed that the ship has been given clearance to dock at the Hambantota Port for the new dates August 16 to 22.

“The Ministry wishes to reiterate Sri Lanka’s policy of cooperation and friendship with all countries. Security and cooperation in the neighbourhood is of utmost priority. It is Sri Lanka’s intention to safeguard the legitimate interests of all countries, in keeping with its international obligations. The Ministry is deeply appreciative of the support, solidarity and understanding of all countries, especially in the current juncture when the country is in the process of addressing severe economic challenges and engaging in multiple domestic processes to ensure the welfare of the Sri Lankan people,” the ministry said, without naming the stakeholder countries. (Colombo/Aug13/2022)

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Sri Lanka looking to provide relief to bona fide protestors: justice minister

Pix by T.N.Nawas

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has entrusted the process of identifying individuals who engaged in violence during the widespread anti-government protest to a “different group”, as there is a “practical issue” with separating those individuals, the island nation’s Justice Minister said.

“There is a problem. This is not a legal issue; it is a practical issue because the Aragalaya consists of several groups. In fact even the police has difficulty identifying who were genuinely involved in the peaceful struggle and the others who came from outside and caused some violence,” said Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksha, speaking to EconomyNext on Wednesday August 10.

“We needed assistance in identifying those who [protested] bona fide. We want to give them relief; [not] take any legal action against them.”

Sri Lanka saw a massive uprising against the government’s inability to protect people from a debilitating economic crisis caused by wrong economic policies. The public took to the streets to demand the resignation of then President Gotabaya Rajapaksha and a stop to Sri Lanka’s systemic corruption.

Most protestors focused on sustained protests in several areas of the island, particularly the GotaGoGama agitation site in front of the President’s Secretariat.

However there were incidents of violence that saw houses of ruling party MPs looted and burned down and public property damaged. President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s private residence was also burned down in July, while he was Prime Minister and protestors were occupying the Official Residence of President Rajapaksha, who had by then fled the country.

Wickremesinghe declared a State of Emergency shortly after, granting the forces power to arrest anyone suspected of engaging in violent behaviour.

However, many of the arrested protestors allege that they were not part of the “violent minority”.

“This was such a peaceful protest. When the Bastille was stormed there was not a brick left in the place,” said one protestor.

The protestors subsequently handed over the occupied government buildings to the authorities, and have now wrapped up the occupation segment of the protests following to a court order.

Activists both local and international are asking the government to repeal the State of Emergency, but Wickremesinghe has not indicated that he plans to do so anytime soon.

The Supreme Court meanwhile has granted leave to proceed to a Fundamental Rights Petition filed by former Human Rights Commissioner of Sri Lanka Ambika Satkunanathan.

Satkunanathan tweeted Friday August 12: “The Supreme Court granted leave to proceed in Articles 12(1) and 14(1) in the fundamental rights petition I filed challenging the declaration of the state of emergency and the emergency regulations.”

Though Satkunanathan had filed the petition for other allegedly violated Articles, the Supreme Court will only be proceeding with Articles 12(1) and 14(1) which deal with equality under the law and freedoms of speech, expression and assembly.

Several prominent protestors have been jailed under the Emergency laws, and on Wednesday August 10 the Immigration Department cancelled the visa of a Scotswoman who had documented the protests.

Minister Rajapaksha said that he had met with protestors, and discussed the situation regarding arrests.

“We are in the process [of identifying protestors]. We entrusted that to a different group on the advice of the president and we will do that in the following days,” he said.

“The police will have to take action only against those who engage in vandalism,” he said. (Colombo/Aug13/2022)

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