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Sunday October 1st, 2023

Seventeen ships turned back after Colombo Port anti-tax protests, claims minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Seventeen ships en route to the Colombo Port had turned back as a result of a recent anti-tax protest organised by port unions, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva said, claiming that one protesting port worker earns over 170,000 rupees a month.

The minister told parliament on Wednesday March 08 he held talks with all port unions whose demand was that the government stop taxing their pay.

“I explained to them that the government cannot change the agreement it has reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Please also note that a port worker’s salary is over 170,000 rupees,” he said.

Hundreds of port workers held a protest on January 30 against an IMF-prescribed progressive tax policy. The protest was part of a series of agitation campaigns organised by trade unions and professional associations representing various sectors demanding that the government revoke the gazette that announced the new taxes.

Minister de Silva was responding to a statement by main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Thushara Indunil Amarasena who told parliament that the government was not interested in resolving the root cause of the protests.

“You complain about the outcome that is protests. But protests rise as a result of selling useful and profitable assets cheaply. It would be more prudent to treat the cause rather than the symptom,” said Amarasena.

Minister de Silva claimed that 17 ships had turned back as a result of the protest.

“Neighbouring ports are waiting to attract our business. The result of the protests will be the strengthening of those ports and the collapse of ours,” he said. (Colombo/Mar08/2023)

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Sri Lanka National Christian Council opposes Online Safety Bill

ECONOMYNEXT – The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) in a statement on the Online Safety Bill, said that the existing legal regime is adequate to deal with instances of harmful speech, making it unjustifiable to enact such “stringent laws”.

The Council called upon the government to withdraw the bill immediately.

The body expressed “deep concern” over the proposed bill, detailing its potential to curtail freedom of speech and how, according to the Council, the piece of legislature is inconsistent with the principles of democracy.

“The bill proposes the establishment of an entity named the Online Safety Commission without provisions to guarantee its independence and impartiality,” the statement said.

Chapter 3 imposes restrictions on online communication of certain statements, many of which are vague and overbroad, leaving room for executive control and the curtailing of legitimate criticism and dissent that are basic features of democracy, the statement said.

“The laws granting wide discretion to the executive and its investigative agencies with expansive reach have been misused in the past.”

The Council said that the bill was not drafted with the process of public consultation and discussion, which might have ensured the bill would be less draconian in nature.

“The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka calls upon the government to withdraw this anti-human rights and anti-democratic bill immediately.” (Colombo/Sep30/2023)

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Sri Lanka to implement new vehicle revenue licence issuing system

ECONOMYNEXT – A new system of issuing vehicle licences called eRL 2.0 is to be implemented in 5 provinces, excluding the Western Province, from 3 October onwards.

The new system is to be implemented beginning in the North West, South, North Central, Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces, respectively. The existing vehicle licence issuing system eRL 1.0 will continue to be used in the Western Province.

The issuing of revenue licences islandwide at Department of Motor Traffic head offices and regional branches will be temporarily halted on October 2.

The facility of obtaining vehicle permits online will also be temporarily halted on 6 October till midnight.

The Sri Lanka Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and the Provincial Motor Traffic Departments are working to modernize the current vehicle revenue license issuance system.

The implementation of the new eRL 2.0 system is expected to be an important step in the digitalisation of Sri Lanka. (Colombo/Sep30/2023)

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Sri Lankan Airlines flights cancelled as aircraft grounded

ECONOMYNEXT – State-run SriLankan Airlines has apologized to passengers who were stranded as multiple aircraft were grounded at the same time.

The airline said it has strict procedures which requires aircraft to be grounded when technical issues are discovered.

“Unfortunately, in this case we suffered a number of groundings at the same time,” the airline said.

“We apologize for the disruption and inconvenience caused and assure all our loyal customers that we are working diligently to minimize such occurrences moving forward.”

The airline said it was booking passengers on other airlines while some have been accommodated at hotels. (Colombo/Sept30/2023)

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