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Thursday February 29th, 2024

Protests continue in Sri Lanka over teachers’ salary demands, KNDU bill; two arrested

File photo of IUSF protest

ECONOMYNEXT – With no solution in sight to a long-running salary anomaly, school teachers and principals in Sri Lanka were on strike Wednesday (04) for the 24th consecutive day.

Discussions between teachers’ unions and Minister of Education Prof G L Peiris on Tuesday (03) failed, with the teachers claiming the minister had not offered a satisfactory solution to the crisis.

Related: Sri Lanka to address teachers’ salary anomalies in November budget, no quick fix: Minister

Teachers have been taking to the streets since early June, as part of trade union action over the issue and in opposition to a controversial defence university bill. Daily protests in different parts of the island organised by teachers’ unions attracting large crowds of teachers have led to fears of new outbreaks of COVID-19.

Wednesday saw unions organise make their way to the president’s office in Colombo in vehicle parades from five different location: Nawaloka grounds, Negombo, Kadawatha expressway entrance, Pannipitiya Dharmapala College, Moratuwa town, Galle and Kandy.

Teachers also defied a government order to all state public servants to return to work on Monday (02), ending a work-from-home spell over COVID-19.

“We will continue to strike until we get a solution,” Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) general secretary Joseph Stalin told reporters.

In solidarity with the teachers, other parties, unions and associations have either joined or have organied their own protests, with a repeal of the controversial Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) bill chief among their demands.

Two protestors were arrested on Tuesday at a protest participated by the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) and others near the parliament complex in Sri Jayawardenapura, Kotte.

Protestors claimed that the bill is threatening free education in Sri Lanka and is an attempt to militarise tertiary education in the country.

Police said administrative secretary of the Frontline Socialist Party Chameera Koswatta and a member of the Public Movement for Free Education was arrested for damaging public property during the protest.

The arrested protestors will be produced before the Kaduwela magistrate court on Wednesday, police said.

The Maharagama Police Officer in Charge (OIC) has also been injured in a tense situation that arose at the protest, according to police spokesman Senior Deputy Inspector General (SDIG) AJith Rohana.

Rohana said the Maharagama OIC sustained injuries when the protestors had tried to cross the barricades on the road leading to parliament.

The officer has lost two of his fingers in the incident, the SDIG said.

“He has undergone surgery and is receiving further treatment at the moment. A special police investigation is under way,” Rohana said.

Meanwhile Minister Chamal Rajapaksa told parliament on Wednesday that KNDU bill will not be debated in parliament this Friday (06).

Related: Sri Lanka p’ment will not debate controversial defence university bill this week


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Sri Lanka’s RAMIS online tax collection system “not operatable”: IT Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s online tax collection system RAMIS is “not operatable”, and the Ministry of Information Technology is ready to do for an independent audit to find the shortcomings, State IT Minister Kanaka Herath said.

The Revenue Administration Management Information System (RAMIS) was introduced to the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) when the island nation signed for its 16th International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme in 2016.

However, trade unions at the IRD protested the move, claiming that the system was malfunctioning despite billions being spent for it amid allegations that the new system was reducing the direct contacts between taxpayers and the IRD to reduce corruption.

The RAMIS had to be stopped after taxpayers faced massive penalties because of blunders made by heads of the IT division, computer operators and system errors at the IRD, government officials have said.

“The whole of Sri Lanka admits RAMIS is a failure. The annual fee is very high for that. This should be told in public,” Herath told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Thursday (29)

“In future, we want all the ministries to get the guidelines from our ministry when they go for ERP (Enterprise resource planning).”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government said the RAMIS system will be operational from December last year.

However, the failure has delayed some tax collection which could have been paid via online.

“It is not under our ministry. It is under the finance ministry. We have no involvement with it, but still, it is not operatable,” Herath said.

“So, there are so many issues going on and I have no idea what the technical part of it. We can carry out an independent audit to find out the shortcomings of the software.”

Finance Ministry officials say IRD employees and trade unions had been resisting the RAMIS because it prevents direct interactions with taxpayers and possible bribes for defaulting or under paying taxes.

The crisis-hit island nation is struggling to boost its revenue in line with the target it has committed to the IMF in return for a 3 billion-dollar extended fund facility. (Colombo/Feb 29/2024) 

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Sri Lanka aims to boost SME with Sancharaka Udawa tourism expo

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is hosting Sancharaka Udawa, a tourism industry exhibition which will bring together businesses ranging from hotels to travel agents and airlines, and will allow the small and medium sector build links with the rest of the industry, officials said.

There will be over 250 exhibitors, with the annual event held for the 11th time expected to draw around 10,000 visitors, the organizers said.

“SMEs play a big role, from homestays to under three-star categories,” Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman, Chalaka Gajabahu told reporters.

“It is very important that we develop those markets as well.”

The Sancharaka Udawa fair comes as the Indian Ocean island is experiencing a tourism revival.

Sri Lanka had welcomed 191,000 tourists up to February 25, compared to 107,639 in February 2023.

“We have been hitting back-to-back double centuries,” Gajabahu said. “January was over 200,000.”

The exhibition to be held on May 17-18, is organized by the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators.

It aims to establish a networking platform for small and medium sized service providers within the industry including the smallest sector.

“Homestays have been increasingly popular in areas such as Ella, Down South, Knuckles and Kandy,” SLAITO President, Nishad Wijethunga, said.

In the northern Jaffna peninsula, both domestic and international tourism was helping hotels.

A representative of the Northern Province Tourism Sector said that the Northern Province has 170 hotels, all of which have 60-70 percent occupancy.

Further, domestic airlines from Colombo to Palali and the inter-city train have been popular with local and international visitors, especially Indian tourists. (Colombo/Feb29/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 309.50/70 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 309.50/70 to the US dollar Thursday, from 310.00/15 on Wednesday, dealers said.

Bond yields were slightly higher.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.50/70 percent down from 10.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.10 percent from 11.90/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 12.20/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.30/45 percent up from 12.20/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.35/50 percent up from 12.25/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.55/13.00 percent up from 12.50/90 percent. (Colombo/Feb29/2024)

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