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Saturday March 2nd, 2024

Ranjangate: The next stage begins

So who’s afraid of Ranjan Ramanayake?

We all should be.

Let me explain.

Recordings of Ramanayake’s phone conversations with people ranging from starlets, politicians and models to the CID Director and a couple of judges are now being released selectively by unknown bodies who have got their hands on them.

What this has done on one hand is to perturb Colombo’s high society, with many wondering whether they called or received a call from the loquacious sneaky actor-politico who taped their conversations.

Lesser mortals have been listening to the smutty conversations and salacious gossip being distributed and been momentarily distracted from the high cost of living and the realization that no VAT does not mean cheaper stuff.

But on the more serious side, what is revealed in the content of the calls is a threat to the rule of law, as commentators such as Dr. Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council have pointed out.

If police investigations, court decisions and many other important matters could be influenced by a cosy cabal of politicians and other influencers then the credibility of the system is at stake.

Ranjan Ramanayake being arrested in the first instance/

We have always known at the back of our minds that the high and mighty get off with literally murder, but these leaked tapes have taken the lid off the can, and we can now see the squirmy worms inside.

As the initial shock effect of the leaked tapes of the phone conversations wore off, more questions have arisen.

The most important was asked by Ramanayake’s lawyer Asha Kumari Kahawatte who queried the Nugegoda Magistrate’s Court on Friday, Jan 17, as to how the tapes, which were seized from the politician’s residence and sealed as court productions ended up in the public domain.

The Prosecutor, Deputy Solicitor-General Dileepa Pieris, said that a CD containing the taped conversations had been given to the police before they raided the MPs residence. He also pledged to take legal action against any officer who had leaked the tapes.

Additional Magistrate H U K Pelpola then ordered that the Attorney General to personally investigate how the recordings were leaked.

Government Spokesman, Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, on the day of Ramanayake’s first arrest said the police did not raid the MPs house looking for an unlicensed weapon but for the tapes.

Ramanayake was initially arrested because the license had expired on his government-issued personal weapon. He was granted bail at that time but was re-arrested on Jan 14, on a charge of interfering with the judiciary, based on his alleged conversations with two judges.

In fact, the initial raid, which Ramanayake broadcast live on his Facebook page, showed the police searching the house behaving as though they did not know what they were looking for.

The police spokesman Superintendent Jaliya Senaratne had already denied reports that they were responsible for leaking the tapes. He backed Aluthgamage’s statement that police were already in possession of a CD with the phone conversations, adding that the police were looking for “more such material” in the MPs house.

So we are still in the dark how the leak took place, and who is selectively releasing them on social media.

(By the way, many of the tapes appear to have been edited, particularly the smutty and cringe-worthy alleged conversation between Ramanayake and fellow MP Hirunika Premachandra. The latter’s peal of laughter in response to a sexually explicit observation by Ramanayake is repeated at different times in the conversation. Both Premachandra and Ramanayake have stated that this was not the conversation they had.)

We can only speculate on why these selected recordings have been released.

A hint of what may have led to the release of the tapes was given in some of the Sinhala Sunday papers this weekend.

One report in the Sunday Divaina said that a “group of young MPs” from the government were asking that certain cases where convictions were handed down during the past government be re-opened and investigations conducted to see whether judges were influenced because of the tapes.

The state-owned “Silumina” speculated whether judges should be arrested for giving biased verdicts. Other reports said that some judges had been placed under surveillance.

All these news stories pointed at particular cases. One is the murder conviction of former MP Duminda Silva and the other is the so-called “Sil-redi case” where the former Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunge and former Chairman of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Anusha Pelpita were convicted of misappropriation.

Both men are out on bail pending an appeal filed against the sentence. Weeratunge is currently an honorary adviser to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Despite this, there are rumblings of concern in the government ranks as well, because there may be some taped conversations that Ramanayake has had with some prominent Ministers. Already in the public domain is a conversation with Sashi, wife of Minister Wimal Weerawansha where the lady disassociates herself from her hubby’s politics.

No doubt Ramanayake must be condemned by right-thinking people for having these conversations, sometimes asking leading questions, recording the calls without the other knowing and then saving them for posterity on compact discs.

But this is Sri Lankan politics and we are not surprised at the depths our politicians descend to.

In the meantime, Ramanayake is fighting back. Despite being behind bars, Ramanayake appeared in a Police uniform – after all he is an actor – and launched a new YouTube channel, promising that ALL the tapes will soon be on it un-edited.

The fun never stops.

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Sri Lanka eyes SOE law by May 2024 for better governance

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is planning to pass a Public Commercial Business (PCB) Act improve governance of state-owned enterprise by May 2024 as part of an anti-corruption efforts following an International Monetary Fund assessment.

Sri Lanka’s state enterprises have been used by politicians to give ‘jobs of the boys’, appropriate vehicles for personal use, fill board of directors and key positions with henchmen and relatives, according to critics.

Meanwhile macro-economists working for the state also used them to give off-budget subsides or made energy utilities in particular borrow through supplier’s credits and state banks after forex shortages are triggered through inflationary rate cuts.

The government has taken billons of dollars of loans given to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation from state banks.

There have also been high profile procurement scandals connected to SOEs.

An SOE Reform Policy was approved by Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers in May 2023.

The Public Commercial Business (PCB) Act has now been drafted.

A holding company to own the SOEs will be incorporated and an Advisory Committee and Board of Directors will be appointed after the PCB law is approved, the statement said. (Colombo/Mar01/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 308.80/90 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 308.80/90 to the US dollar Friday, from 309.50/70 on Thursday, dealers said.

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.65/75 percent up from 10.50/70 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.05 percent from 11.90/12.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 12.15/35 percent down from 12.20/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.25/40 percent up from 12.30/45 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.30/45 percent down from 12.35/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/13.00 percent from 12.55/13.00 percent. (Colombo/Mar1/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close up 0.37-pct, Expo to de-list

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed up 0.37 percent on Friday, and SG Holdings, the parent company of Expolanka Holdings Plc, said it was taking the company private.

Expolanka is the largest listed company on the Colombo Stock Exchange.

“Expolanka Holdings PLC has, at the Board Meeting held on 1st March 2024, considered a request from its principal shareholder and resolved to initiate the de-listing of the Company’s shares from the Official List of the Colombo Stock Exchange subject to obtaining necessary shareholder approval and regulatory approvals,” the company said in a stock exchange filing.

As per arrangements with SG Holdings Global Pte Ltd, the Company’s majority shareholder, it will purchase its shares from shareholders who may wish to divest their shareholding in the Company at a purchase price of Rs 185.00 per share. The share closed up at 150.50.

The broader All Share Index closed up 0.37 percent, or 39.47 points, at 10,691; while the S&P SL20 Index closed down 0.64 percent, or 19.59 points, at 3,037.

Turnover stayed above the 1 billion mark for the sixth consecutive day, registering 1.4 billion.

Crossings in Melstarcorp Plc (135mn) up at 89.50, Hatton National Bank Plc (64mn) up at 158.00, Hemas Holdings Plc (53mn) up at 75.00 and Central Finance Company Plc (26mn) up at 103.50, added significantly to the day’s turnover.

“The upward trend is continuing, with more retail buying also coming in, the number of trades was more than 10,000 today,” a market participant said. “Investors are looking for undervalued stocks and buying in quantities.” (Colombo/Mar1/2024).

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