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Saturday May 25th, 2024

Ranjan tapes jump to Sri Lanka foreign relations from domestic affairs

ECONOMYNEXT – Several recordings tabled by legislator Ranjan Ramanayake not only contained conversations involving domestic affairs but also foreign relations, Sri Lanka’s parliament was told, as government members objected to their contents being made public.

Opposition members vigorously opposed what they said were attempts to ‘suppress’ the tapes, since they were seen as damaging to the ruling party and any blocking will set a bad precedent over the rights of members to table documents in the future.

Government member Wijedasa Rajapaksha said the speaker should not make the contents of the tapes public as they were said to contain obscene conversations, though agreement had been reached at an earlier meeting among party leaders to remove some sections and release the contents.

The Speakers name will go down in history with a black mark if the contents were made public, Rajapaksha said.

The tapes that were broadcasted over television and social media appeared to show Ramanayake allegedly in conversations with judges, reporters, female colleagues, starlets, and other personalities.

Some of the more racier conversations were released over social media.

Foreign Affairs

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa said there were some conversations in the tabled recordings where senior politicians were talking in disparaging terms about certain foreign countries.

“These conversations may damage foreign relations,” he warned.

He said there was no question of party leaders approving the tabling the tapes since they were already tabled.

Other members said there were alleged conversations involving wives of ministers and they should not be made public. The people involved were not in parliament, they said.

If the House opposes the release of the tape, he can consider it, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna leader Anura Dissanyake objecting said he opposed anyone trying to stop members from tabling documents.

“When the tapes were originally tabled nobody raised objections,” he said.

“Only now objections are being raised.”

Representatives from parties had gone over the tapes to gauge what contents should be redacted.

JVP legislators dismissed claims that releasing the tapes would bring the house to disrepute.

There had been occasions when chili was thrown and other acts had happened within parliament but no action had been taken, his colleague Bimal Ratnayake

Bad Precedent

Ratnayake said it will set a bad precedent, if the tapes were suppressed.

“The time will come when opposition members will have to seek government permission to table documents,” he warned.

Ratnayake said he had no objection to any ‘unparliamentary’ language from being removed from the contents as is the usual custom.

The legislator at the centre of the debate Ranjan Ramanayake, who had apparently taped over 100,000 telephone conversation which are now in police custody, said he was currently in remand sandwiched in between Udayanga Weeratunga and Kapila Chandrasena though he had not stolen anything.

Ramanayake said it was not correct to block him from releasing the tapes, when others were broadcasted over the media.

“Tapes had been taken and broadcasted over television. Some carefully chosen tapes were broadcasted,” he said.

“I also have a right to make public tapes to show the true situation. If I cannot come to the Speaker to redress my grievance to whom should I go?” he asked.

His colleague Harin Fernando said attempts were now being made to suppress Ramanayake’s tapes after cherry-picked tapes were released on the media and it was wrong to suppress the tapes according to the wishes of government members.

The speaker said there seems to be two opinions on the issue. (Colombo/Feb18/2020-SB)

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Sri Lanka power outages from falling trees worsened by unfilled vacancies: CEB union

HEAVY WINDS: Heavy rains and gusting winds have brought down trees on many location in Sri Lanka.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s power grid has been hit by 300,000 outages as heavy winds brought down trees, restoring supply has been delayed by unfilled vacancies of breakdown staff, a union statement said.

Despite electricity being declared an essential service, vacancies have not been filled, the CEB Engineers Union said.

“In this already challenging situation, the Acting General Manager of CEB issued a circular on May 21, 2024, abolishing several essential service positions, including the Maintenance Electrical Engineer in the Area Engineer Offices, Construction Units, and Distribution Maintenance Units,” the Union said.

“This decision, made without any scientific basis, significantly reduces our capacity to provide adequate services to the public during this emergency.

“On behalf of all the staff of CEB, we express our deep regret for the inconvenience caused to our valued customers.”

High winds had rains have brought down trees across power lines and transformers, the statement said.

In the past few day over 300,000 power outages have been reported nationwide, with some areas experiencing over 30,000 outages within an hour.

“Our limited technical staff at the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) are making extraordinary efforts to restore power as quickly as possible,” the union said.

“We deeply regret that due to the high volume of calls, there are times when we are unable to respond to all customer inquiries.

“We kindly ask consumers to support our restoration teams and to report any fallen live electrical wires or devices to the Electricity Board immediately without attempting to handle them.

The union said there were not enough workers to restore power quickly when such a large volume of breakdowns happens.

“We want to clarify that the additional groups mentioned by the minister have not yet been received by the CEB,” the union said.

“Despite the government’s designation of electricity as an essential service, neither the government, the minister in charge, nor the CEB board of directors have taken adequate steps to fill the relevant vacancies or retain current employees.

“We believe they should be held directly responsible for the delays in addressing the power outages due to the shortage of staff.”

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Melco’s Nuwa hotel to open in Sri Lanka in mid-2025

ECONOMYNEXT – A Nuwa branded hotel run by Melco Resorts and Entertainment linked to their gaming operation in Colombo will open in mid 2025, its Sri Lanka partner John Keells Holdings said.

The group’s integrated resort is being re-branded as a ‘City of Dreams’, a brand of Melco.

The resort will have a 687-room Cinnamon Life hotel and the Nuwa hotel described as “ultra-high end”.

“The 113-key exclusive hotel, situated on the top five floors of the integrated resort, will be managed by Melco under its ultra high-end luxury-standard hotel brand ‘Nuwa’, which has presence in Macau and the Philippines,” JKH told shareholders in the annual report.

“Melco’s ultra high-end luxury-standard hotel and casino, together with its global brand and footprint, will strongly complement the MICE, entertainment, shopping, dining and leisure offerings in the ‘City of Dreams Sri Lanka’ integrated resort, establishing it as a one-of-a-kind destination in South Asia and the region.”

Melco is investing 125 million dollars in fitting out its casino.

“The collaboration with Melco, including access to the technical, marketing, branding and loyalty programmes, expertise and governance structures, will be a boost for not only the integrated resort of the Group but a strong show of confidence in the tourism potential of the country,” JKH said.

The Cinnamon Life hotel has already started marketing.

Related Sri Lanka’s Cinnamon Life begins marketing, accepts bookings

(Colombo/May25/2024)

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Sri Lanka to find investors by ‘competitive system’ after revoking plantations privatizations

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will revoke the privatization of plantation companies that do not pay government dictated wages, by cancelling land leases and find new investors under a ‘competitive system’, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said.

Sri Lanka privatized the ownership of 22 plantations companies in the 1990s through long term leases after initially giving only management to private firms.

Management companies that made profits (mostly those with more rubber) were given the firms under a valuation and those that made losses (mostly ones with more tea) were sold on the stock market.

The privatized firms then made annual lease payments and paid taxes when profits were made.

In 2024 the government decreed a wage hike announced a mandated wage after President Ranil Wickremesinghe made the announcement in the presence of several politicians representing plantations workers.

The land leases of privatized plantations, which do not pay the mandated wages would be cancelled, Minister Siyambalapitiya was quoted as saying at a ceremony in Deraniyagala.

The re-expropriated plantations would be given to new investors through “special transparency”

The new ‘privatization’ will be done in a ‘competitive process’ taking into account export orientation, worker welfare, infrastructure, new technology, Minister Siyambalapitiya said.

It is not clear whether paying government-dictated wages was a clause in the privatization agreement.

Then President J R Jayewardene put constitutional guarantee against expropriation as the original nationalization of foreign and domestic owned companies were blamed for Sri Lanka becoming a backward nation after getting independence with indicators ‘only behind Japan’ according to many commentators.

However, in 2011 a series of companies were expropriation without recourse to judicial review, again delivering a blow to the country’s investment framework.

Ironically plantations that were privatized in the 1990s were in the original wave of nationalizations.

Minister Bandula Gunawardana said the cabinet approval had been given to set up a committee to examine wage and cancel the leases of plantations that were unable to pay the dictated wages.

Related

Sri Lanka state interference in plantation wages escalates into land grab threat

From the time the firms were privatized unions and the companies had bargained through collective agreements, striking in some cases as macro-economists printed money and triggered high inflation.

Under President Gotabaya, mandating wages through gazettes began in January 2020, and the wage bargaining process was put aside.

Sri Lanka’s macro-economists advising President Rajapaksa the printed money and triggered a collapse of the rupee from 184 to 370 to the US dollar from 2020 to 2020 in the course of targeting ‘potential output’ which was taught by the International Monetary Fund.

In 2024, the current central bank governor had allowed the exchange rate to appreciate to 300 to the US dollar, amid deflationary policy, recouping some of the lost wages of plantations workers.

The plantations have not given an official increase to account for what macro-economists did to the unit of account of their wages. With salaries under ‘wages boards’ from the 2020 through gazettes, neither employees not workers have engaged in the traditional wage negotiations.

The threat to re-exproriate plantations is coming as the government is trying to privatize several state enterprises, including SriLankan Airlines.

It is not clear now the impending reversal of plantations privatization will affect the prices of bids by investors for upcoming privatizations.

The firms were privatized to stop monthly transfers from the Treasury to pay salaries under state ownership. (Colombo/May25/2024)

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