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Tuesday April 16th, 2024

Sri Lanka acting president vows to restore 19th amendment, establish law & order

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s newly sworn in Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe plans to facilitate a full restoration of the 19th amendment to the constitution and establish law and order in the face of what he calls an emerging fascist threat before parliament elects the next president.

In a recorded statement released shortly after his swearing in on Friday July 15, Wickremesinghe called for unity, consensus and prioritising the ongoing economic crisis over party politics.

“People expect a change in the political system. An important part of this change is restoring the 19th amendment fully. I have started the initial process of presenting a draft bill to parliament for this purpose.

“I will set the stage in this brief period for the new president elected next week to enact the 19th amendment,” he said.

Wickremesinghe did not indicate whether this meant the planned 22nd amendment will be amendment. The 19th amendment, originally enacted under his premiership in the Yahapalana government, somewhat significantly clipped the wings of Sri Lanka’s all-powerful executive presidency and strengthened parliament. The 20th amendment brought under former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa went beyond bringing back these powers, resulting in a weakened parliament.

The acting president said he will take immediate steps to establish law and order in the country. He had previously blamed “fascist” elements in Sri Lanka’s youth-led protest movement for inciting and causing violence. Protestors had been demanding the resignation of ex-President Rajapaksa since March, over his role in Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since Independence. Since some weeks into his appointment as prime minister, many of the protestor groups, collectively known as the aragalaya (or struggle), have been demanding Wickremesinghe’s resignation too. His private residence was burn down on July 09.

“I will take immediate steps to establish law and order in the country. I 100 percent accept the right to peaceful protest. But there are those trying to engage in sabotage. It has also been reported that some groups are trying to influence MPs in next week’s vote in parliament.

“We will create the space for MPs to independently express their views. They will be provided full security. We will not allow any group to destroy parliamentary democracy under any circumstance,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s parliament is expected to elect a new president from among its membership on July 20.

“There are groups that try to undermine democracy and set the country ablaze through fascist means. It’s groups like this that stole two weapons with ammunition from the army stationed near parliament. Twenty-four troops have been injured, two of them severely.

“I don’t believe real aragalya would do that. But there is a big difference between aragala protestors and rioters. Rioters will be dealt with under the law,” warned Wickremesinghe.

The acting president said those who have been with the argalaya from the start have also expressed their opposition to the violent elements.

“Together with them, we’re committed to upholding law and order and democracy. I’m committed to protecting the constitution, and I will never allow or abet anything that goes against the constitution. Nor will I work outside the constitution.

“A breakdown in law and order will impact the economy. Fuel, power and water supply and food supply can crumble,” he added.

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is worsening, with shortages in fuel and other essentials as well as daily power outages have critically disrupted economic activity and heaped untold hardships on the public. Wickremesinghe made no mention of ongoing negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Meanwhile, protestors are threatening to up the ante in their demand for “Ranil go home”. Wickremesinghe believes that rogue elements within the aragalaya – whom he describes as fascists – are threatening to destabilise the country before the economy could recover. He has appointed a committee comprising military top brass to contain the situation.

“They have total freedom to take legal action with no political interference,” he said.

Wickremesinghe reiterated a call for an all-party government and urged all parties represented in parliament to arrive at a consensus on the matter as soon as possible.

“We must set aside party and political differences and unite for the country. So put your personal ambitions aside. Give priority to the needs of the country. Think more about protecting the country than about protecting individuals,” he said.

Who will be Sri Lanka’s ninth president is anybody’s guess. At this point, various contenders have expressed interest, opposition leader Sajith Premadasa among them. It may well end up being Wickremesinghe himself if the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), which stall holds a majority in parliament, decides to vote for him come July 20.

“First we need a country to do politics. So I ask all political parties and groups to act with the country and the people in mind. First, let’s save the country and the people from this crisis situation. After that, we can get into party politics,” he said.

Wickremesinghe also announced two surprise decisions that have little to do with the present crisis: prohibiting the use of the words ‘his excellency’ when referring to the president and abolishing the presidential flag.

“A country only needs one flag; just the national flag. We must go forward under one flag,” he said.

He urged all parties and citizens to think deeply and impartially about the current crisis.

“The stage has been set for the country to embark on a new journey with a fresh approach. There is more space now for creating a society free of corruption and for uplifting our motherland. It is our duty to make the most of that,” he said.

“As citizens, let’s all be party to this,” he added. (Colombo/Jul15/2022)

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IMF urged Sri Lanka to preserve “hard earned gains” after economic crisis: State FinMin

ECONOMYNEXT – The International Monetary Fund has urged Sri Lanka to preserve the hard earned gains after an unprecedented economic crisis under the global lender’s programme, State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe said.

The Sri Lankan delegation led by Shehan Semasinghe met Kenji Okamura, the Deputy Managjng Director of the IMF on the first day of the IMF and  World Bank Spring meeting.

“Mr. Okamura commended the Sri Lankan authorities on strong programme implementation and excellent reform progress. He emphasised the need to preserve the hard earned gains Sri Lanka has experienced since the beginning of the IMF programme and continue strong ownership,” the State Minister said in his X (Twitter) platform.

He said the Sri Lankan delegation including Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe and Secretary to the Treasury Mahinda Siriwardana explained the recent socio-economic developments to Okamura.

He also affirmed the IMF top official on the authorities’ commitment to ensuring continuity and consistency of macroeconomic policies and reforms undertaken under the programme. (Colombo/April 16/2024)

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Sri Lanka State FinMin meets BCIU in US; discusses post-crisis investment prospects 

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe met Business Council for International Understanding( BCIU) in Washington on the sideline of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings late on Monday and discussed investment prospects in the island nation which is gradually recovering from an unprecedented economic crisis.
“Our discussion centered on the potential that Sri Lanka offers for international investors. Explored various sectors, including education, tourism, renewable energy, agriculture and technology, where strategic investments can drive sustainable economic growth and development,” Semasinghe said in his X (Twitter) platform. 
“We reviewed the current macro-economic landscape of Sri Lanka, including recent reforms that have transformed to results. Glad to concluded the forum by marking constructive dialogue and a shared commitment to support the economic development of Sri Lanka.” 
“We thank participants, stakeholders holders and global partners for the significant interest shown in unlocking the full potential of the Sri Lankan economy and fostering greater international understanding and cooperation.” (Colombo/April 16/2024) 
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India allows Sri Lanka to import 10,000MT of onions

ECONOMYNEXT – India has relaxed an export ban allowing 10,000 metric tonnes of onions to be shipped to Sri Lanka, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.

“The exemption for Sri Lanka reiterated India’s Neighbourhood First policy, adding to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year festivities here,” the statement said.

Onion prices went up in Sri Lanka after India and Pakistan banned exports.

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade has issued a notice allowing National Co-operative Exports Limited to ship 10,000 MT of onions.

The UAE has also been allowed to import 10,000MT of onions on top of 24,400MT already permitted.

A large Indian and South Asian expat community lives in the UAE. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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