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Thursday February 29th, 2024

Sri Lanka cabinet nod for draft amendment bill for Online Safety Act

ECONOMYNEXT — Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers has approved a proposal to formulate a draft amendment bill to incorporate revisions to the controversial Online Safety Act.

A statement from the Government Information Department said on Tuesday February 13 that the proposed draft bill will based on “revisions recognised through further discussions with eminencies in the field who had forwarded with proposals for relevant amendments” (sic).

The statement said the provisions of the online security act are being implemented at present. There were media reports over the weekend of an arrest, citing a speech made by Minister of Public Security Tiran Alles, who claimed an individual had been arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) under the new law.

However, police spokesman DIG Nihal Thalduwa has denied this.

“No one has been arrested under the online safety act. We haven’t even appointed a commission yet,” Thalduwa told EconomyNext on Monday February 12.


Sri Lanka Police deny arrest under online safety law


“Since the amendments submitted at the committee sessions in the Parliament with regard to the said draft bill should be made in par with the decision of the Supreme Court, there had been no opportunity to introduce proposed amendments furnished by the eminencies in the field,” the statement said.

The legal draftsman has been directed to put together the draft amendment bill in this light, the statement added.

The enactment process of the Online Safety Act (OSA) has been called into question by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), which said the process raises serious questions on law-making and its impact on constitutional democracy.

Urging the government to replace the act with a law that “genuinely addresses” concerns on online safety, CPA said on February 07 that the process of drafting the OSA was shrouded in secrecy. The rushed manner of its passage raises questions as to the intentions of the government in enacting a law that has significant implications for fundamental rights and the rule of law in Sri Lanka, it said.

“CPA has previously commented on the substance and process followed with the Bill and challenged its constitutionality. In light of recent events surrounding the enactment of the OSA, CPA condemns the enactment of such a draconian law that can further limit freedom of speech and the right to dissent,” the organisation said.

Enactment process of Sri Lanka’s online safety act raises questions on law-making: CPA


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Sri Lanka’s RAMIS online tax collection system “not operatable”: IT Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s online tax collection system RAMIS is “not operatable”, and the Ministry of Information Technology is ready to do for an independent audit to find the shortcomings, State IT Minister Kanaka Herath said.

The Revenue Administration Management Information System (RAMIS) was introduced to the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) when the island nation signed for its 16th International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme in 2016.

However, trade unions at the IRD protested the move, claiming that the system was malfunctioning despite billions being spent for it amid allegations that the new system was reducing the direct contacts between taxpayers and the IRD to reduce corruption.

The RAMIS had to be stopped after taxpayers faced massive penalties because of blunders made by heads of the IT division, computer operators and system errors at the IRD, government officials have said.

“The whole of Sri Lanka admits RAMIS is a failure. The annual fee is very high for that. This should be told in public,” Herath told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Thursday (29)

“In future, we want all the ministries to get the guidelines from our ministry when they go for ERP (Enterprise resource planning).”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government said the RAMIS system will be operational from December last year.

However, the failure has delayed some tax collection which could have been paid via online.

“It is not under our ministry. It is under the finance ministry. We have no involvement with it, but still, it is not operatable,” Herath said.

“So, there are so many issues going on and I have no idea what the technical part of it. We can carry out an independent audit to find out the shortcomings of the software.”

Finance Ministry officials say IRD employees and trade unions had been resisting the RAMIS because it prevents direct interactions with taxpayers and possible bribes for defaulting or under paying taxes.

The crisis-hit island nation is struggling to boost its revenue in line with the target it has committed to the IMF in return for a 3 billion-dollar extended fund facility. (Colombo/Feb 29/2024) 

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Sri Lanka aims to boost SME with Sancharaka Udawa tourism expo

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is hosting Sancharaka Udawa, a tourism industry exhibition which will bring together businesses ranging from hotels to travel agents and airlines, and will allow the small and medium sector build links with the rest of the industry, officials said.

There will be over 250 exhibitors, with the annual event held for the 11th time expected to draw around 10,000 visitors, the organizers said.

“SMEs play a big role, from homestays to under three-star categories,” Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman, Chalaka Gajabahu told reporters.

“It is very important that we develop those markets as well.”

The Sancharaka Udawa fair comes as the Indian Ocean island is experiencing a tourism revival.

Sri Lanka had welcomed 191,000 tourists up to February 25, compared to 107,639 in February 2023.

“We have been hitting back-to-back double centuries,” Gajabahu said. “January was over 200,000.”

The exhibition to be held on May 17-18, is organized by the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators.

It aims to establish a networking platform for small and medium sized service providers within the industry including the smallest sector.

“Homestays have been increasingly popular in areas such as Ella, Down South, Knuckles and Kandy,” SLAITO President, Nishad Wijethunga, said.

In the northern Jaffna peninsula, both domestic and international tourism was helping hotels.

A representative of the Northern Province Tourism Sector said that the Northern Province has 170 hotels, all of which have 60-70 percent occupancy.

Further, domestic airlines from Colombo to Palali and the inter-city train have been popular with local and international visitors, especially Indian tourists. (Colombo/Feb29/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 309.50/70 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 309.50/70 to the US dollar Thursday, from 310.00/15 on Wednesday, dealers said.

Bond yields were slightly higher.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.50/70 percent down from 10.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.10 percent from 11.90/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 12.20/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.30/45 percent up from 12.20/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.35/50 percent up from 12.25/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.55/13.00 percent up from 12.50/90 percent. (Colombo/Feb29/2024)

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