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Wednesday June 19th, 2024

Registering tamed elephants: Conservationists cry foul over Cabinet paper

Conservationists and animal rights groups are up in arms over an alleged Cabinet proposal approved earlier this month to release illegally captured baby elephants that are now in Wildlife Department custody back to their captors.

Justice for Animals, a group of conservationists working under the Sri Bodhiraja Foundation, accused the Government yesterday (21) of the move.

Wildlife Protection Society (WPS) Secretary Nayanaka Ranwella told reporters at a jointly organised press conference that, if implemented, the proposal would not only worsen the plight of elephants in Sri Lanka but also undermine every effort made by conservationists to protect the country’s dwindling elephant population.

“This proposal was recently presented to the Cabinet with the signatures of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Wildlife Minister John Amaratunga and [former Wildlife] Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera. We believe all three of them did it intentionally,” said Ranwella.

The Cabinet paper in question was a joint memorandum presented by the Prime Minister’s Office together with the Ministry of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs. The memorandum, approved by Cabinet on 1 October, contained provisions on the regulation and transfer of possession of tamed elephants in the custody of the National Zoological Gardens and the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) pending investigations and court cases. 

The conservationists point to a provision in the Cabinet proposal that they find particularly problematic, which recommends formally registering tamed elephants under existing owners, irrespective of whether or not said owners hold a licence or ‘Sannas Pathra’ for their respective elephant.

Ranwella argues that this could lead to illegally captured elephants being returned to their captors. The memorandum also proposes dismissing current legal proceedings through a nolle prosequi, he said.

“Through this, the efforts of a lot of people will be undermined. Waylayers will be able to own elephants — animals considered public property in Sri Lanka. There was an instance where a baby elephant named ‘Rani’ that was released to the Lunugamvehera National Park from the Yala Elephant Transit Home was stolen. The history of elephants in this country has been a bloody one, and through this proposal they’re trying to give life to that bloody history again,” said Ranwella.

The activist also accused the previous government of allowing illegal activity relating to elephants.

“Under the Rajapaksa government, the situation was even worse. According to the statistics we have, baby elephants were brought to Colombo in Defenders and Nissan Patrols. From what we know, around 15 baby elephants died in this process. Even the Edward Dissanayake committee report noted that these baby elephants were captured after brutally killing their mothers,” Ranwella added.

Speaking to RepublicNext, however, Minister Amaratunga dismissed concerns raised by the rights groups regarding the new Cabinet paper.

“I deny the accusations. There is no truth in it,” he said.

“Nothing will be carried out during the election period,” the Minister added.

Meanwhile DWC Director General M. G. C. Sooriyabandara acknowledged receipt of the paper, adding that a committee was appointed to implement its directives.

However, he declined to comment on whether it could mean a return of illegally captured baby elephants to their owners.

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Central banks expect to increase gold reserves after buying 1,037 tonnes in 2023: Survey

ECONOMYNEXT – About 29 percent of central banks in the world intended to increase their gold reserves in 2023, up from 24 percent in 2023 and just 8 percent in 2019, a survey by the World Gold Council showed.

“The planned purchases are chiefly motivated by a desire to rebalance to a more preferred strategic level of gold holdings, domestic gold production, and financial market concerns including higher crisis risks and rising inflation,” the WGC said.

About 81 percent of 70 central banks that responded to the survey expected global central bank holdings of gold to go up, from 71 percent in 2023.

While in prior years, gold’s “historical position” was the top reason for central banks to hold gold, this factor dropped significantly to number five this year.

This year, the top reason for central banks to hold gold is “long-term store of value / inflation hedge” (88%), followed by “performance during times of crisis” (82%), “effective portfolio diversifier” (75%) and “no default risk” (72%).

Concerns about sanctions were listed as by 23 percent of emerging market central banks (0 advanced).

De-dollarization as a reason to hold gold gained ground, but was not among the main reasons.

About 13 percent of emerging market central banks listed de-dollarization as one of the reasons to buy gold up from 11 percent last year and 6 advanced nations said the same from zero last year.

Around 49 percent of central banks expected gold reserves to be moderately lower five year from now in the 2024 survey, against 49 percent in 2023 and 38 percent in 2022.

About 13 percent of central banks surveyed said US dollar reserves would be significantly lower in the 2024 survey, up from 5 percent in 2023 and 4 percent in 2022. (Colombo/June18/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes weaker at 304.75/305.40 to US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed weaker at 304.75/305.40 to the US dollar Tuesday, down from 304.15 to the US dollar Friday, dealer said, while some bond yields edged up.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has weakened amid unsterilized excess liquidity from earlier dollar purchases.

Excess liquidity fell from as high as 200 billion rupees, helped by some sales of maturing bills and also allowing some term contracts to run out.

However the central bank has started to inject liquidity again below its policy rate to suppress interest rates.

On Tuesday 30 billion rupees was printed overnight at an average yield of only 8.73 percent.

Separately another 25 billion rupees was printed till June 25 at 8.09 percent to 9.05 percent, which was still below overnight the policy rate of 9.5 percent.

Nobody has so far taken the central bank to court for printing money beyond overnight at rates lower than the overnight rate.

Sri Lanka operates an ad hoc exchange rate regime called ‘flexible exchange rate’ which triggers panic among market participants, as the central bank stays away when spikes in credit either creates import demand or unsterilized credit is used up.

“If large volumes of unsterilized liquidity is left, the exchange rate has to be closely defended to prevent speculation involving early covering of import bills and late selling of exports proceeds,” EN’s economic columnist Bellwether says.

“Just as an appreciating or stable exchange rate leads to late covering of import bills, a falling rates leads to immediate covering of import bills.

“Keeping exchange rates stable is a relatively simple exercise but it is difficult to do so if short term rates are also closely targeted with printed money, as liquidity runs out, as if the country had a free float and no reserve target.”

“When there is a large volume of excess liquidity remaining (except those voluntary deposited for long periods by risk averse banks) the the interest rates structure is under-stated compared to the reported reserves.

“Interest rates would be a little higher than seen in the market if the liquidity was mopped up and domestic credit and imports were blocked to prevent the reserves from being used up.”

In East Asia there is greater knowledge of central bank operational frameworks, though International Monetary Fund driven flawed doctrine are also threatening the monetary stability of those countries, critics say.

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Vietnam selling SBV bills to stabilize the Dong, as Sri Lanka rupee also weakens

Sri Lanka’s rupee started to collapse steeply after the IMF’s Second Amendment in 1978 along with many other countries as flawed operational frameworks gained ground without a credible anchor.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed at 10.10/30 percent up from 10.05/30 percent Friday.

A bond maturing on 15.10.2027 closed at 10.60/57 flat from 10.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 11.15/35 percent, up from 11.05/20 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed at 11.80/90 percent unchanged.

A bond maturing on 15.10.2030 closed at 11.90/12.00 percent.

A maturing on 10.12.2031 closed at 11.95/12.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.10.2032 closed at down at 11.95/12.10 percent, down from 12.00/10 percent. (Colombo/Jun14/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Chamber links up with Gujarat Chamber

ECONOMYNEXT – The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce has signed an agreement with the Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SGCCI) to increase trade cooperation between India and Sri Lanka.

The MOU was signed by CCC CEO Buwanekabahu Perera, SGCCI President Ramesh Vaghasia, in the presence of Dr Valsan Vethody, Consul General for Sri Lanka in Mumbai, India.

“With the signing of the MoU, … the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and SGCCI aim to facilitate trade between the two countries via initiatives such as trade fairs and delegations, business networking events, training programmes,” the Ceylon Chamber said in a statement.

“This partnership will open doors for Sri Lankan businesses to explore opportunities in Surat’s dynamic market and enable the sharing of expertise and resources between the two regions.”

Established in 1940, SGCCI engages with over 12,000 members and indirect ties with more than 2,00,000 members via 150 associations. It promotes trade, commerce, and industry in South Gujarat.

The region’s commercial and economic centre Surat has risen to prominence as the global epicenter for diamond cutting and as India’s textile hub, and is ranked the world’s 4th fastest growing city with a GDP growth rate of 11.5%

Surat’s economic landscape is vibrant and diverse. As India’s 8th largest and Gujarat’s 2nd largest city, it boasts the highest average annual household income in the country.

The nearby Hazira Industrial Area hosts major corporations like Reliance, ESSAR, SHELL, and L&T. (Colombo/Jun18/2024)

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