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Sunday February 25th, 2024

Sri Lanka Cabinet Spokesman backs rehabilitation law to protect fundamental rights

Pix by T.N.Nawas

ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka’s Cabinet Spokesman and Minister Bandula Gunawardena said new laws and amendments to the existing laws should be brought in to protect fundamental rights of the people while promising “Bureau of Rehabilitation Bill” to be constitutional.

Rights groups and civil society groups have raised concerns over the new bill tabled in the parliament last month citing that would establish a new administrative structure controlled by the Defense Ministry to operate “rehabilitation” centers staffed by military personnel.

“The government will never enact any laws against the constitution,” Minister Gunawardena told reporters at a weekly cabinet briefing when asked over the concerns and criticism raised over the proposed bill.

He said the Supreme Court will send its observation on any bills brought to parliament if anybody challenges in the Court.

However, he said new laws and amendment to the existing laws should be brought to protect fundamental rights of every person.

“I am a citizen of this country. But a large number of my fundamental rights have been violated. My rights to travel freely and live where ever I want have been ensured by the constitution,” Gunawardena told referring to May 9 violence which resulted in anti-government protesters burning and attacking houses of at least 73 mainly ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna lawmakers.

“Without doing any wrongdoing, the house of an unarmed person like me was burnt. So my fundamental rights have been violated. If there is a situation like that, then we have to amend the laws dealing with the fundamental rights or new laws should be brought in. that’s my opinion.”

Many local and international human rights groups have raised concerns over the new bill at a time the government has agreed to repeal a draconian anti-terrorism law – Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The European Union had warned Sri Lanka of not renewing a lucrative trade concession that helped the island nation’s top exporter garments, if the PTA is not repealed.

The new Bureau of Rehabilitation bill has emphasized the need and the importance of regulating the rehabilitation of the “misguided combatants, individuals engaged in extreme or destructive acts of sabotage and those who have become drug dependent persons.

The new bill comes as protesters who brought down the previous government in July are being arrested and questioned under the guise of “public property damage”, civil society officials and rights groups say.

“The Sri Lankan government’s proposed ‘rehabilitation’ efforts appear to be nothing more than a new form of abusive detention without charge,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“The Rehabilitation Bill would open the door widely to more torture, mistreatment, and endless detention.”

Ganguly accused President Ramil Wickremesinghe of “pursuing abusive and repressive policies that make it difficult for Sri Lanka’s international partners to wholeheartedly back desperately needed economic measures”.

“Foreign governments should make clear that they will support the urgent needs of the Sri Lankan people, but they will also take action through targeted sanctions and other measures against those committing serious human rights violations.” (Colombo/Oct18/2022)

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Sri Lanka could get US$500mn from ADB in 2024

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka could receive 500 million US dollars in support from the Asian Development Bank in 2024 based on the progress of policy reforms, Country Director of the Manila-based lender, Takafumi Kadono said.

The ADB expect to go to its Board around March or April with a 100 million US dollar power sector loan subject to the cabinet of ministers of approving a revised electricity reform bill.

A 100 million dollar loan to support SMEs could also be approved in the early part of the year. Sri Lanka is setting up a credit guarantee agency to support credit for small firms.

A 200 million dollar credit for financial sector was also slated for the year. The ADB gave the first tranche of the financial sector policy loan late last year.

A $100mn for the water sector could also be approved later in the year.

Sri Lanka could get around 200 to 300 million US dollars a year at the lowest rate, or concessional ordinary capital resources (COL) rate of 2 percent.

The balance of would come at the ordinary capital resource rate linked to SOFR.

The ADB has also started work on a ‘Country Partnership Strategy’ for Sri Lanka covering the 2024-2028 period, Kadodo said. (Colombo/Feb25/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy based on friendship: Min

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none, its Minister of Foreign Affairs has said.

“Non-alignment means not becoming a bystander. Non-alignment means you are not forced or coerced into a camp to take sovereign decisions… you make your own choices. Whether it is commercial, security, regional or otherwise,” M U M Ali Sabry said on X (twitter).

“I have repeatedly stressed that sovereignty is the right to have your own opinion on what’s right and wrong, and to stand by your principles. Our multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none,” Sabry was quoting from his speech at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) Foreign Policy Forum, on the theme ‘Reassessing Non-Alignment in a Polarised World’.

Sri Lanka is one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The strategically located island has been increasingly walking a fine line between opposing global factions as it seeks to come out of a financial crisis. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank Dec net down on tax provisions

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank of Ceylon reported profits of 6.9 billion rupees from the December 2023 quarter down 21 percent, despite an improvement in net interest income and lower provisions, amid a change in tax provisions.

Pre-tax profits were 8.89 billion rupees up from 2.4 billion rupees. There was a 6.4 billion tax reversal last year compared to a 1.7 billion rupee tax charge this year.

Commercial Bank reported earnings of 5.26 rupees for the quarter. For the year to December 2023 earnings were 16.07 rupees per share on total profits of 21.1 billion rupees, down 11.3 percent.

Net fee and commission income was down 1.2 percent to 6.1 billion rupees.

Net interest income went up 16.8 percent to 25.5 billion rupees, with interest income rising marginally by 1.3 percent to 73.0 billion rupees and interest expense falling 5.45 percent to 47.5 billion rupees.

Loans and advances to customers grew 4.06 percent to 1.17 billion rupees in the year to December. Debt and other financial instruments fell 10.5 percent to 649 billion rupees.

Financial assets measured and fair value through other comprehensive income was at 287 billion rupees, up from 117 billion rupees.

Impairment charges were 13.1 billion rupees, down from 19.6 billion rupees last year.

Gross assets were up 6.45 percent to 2.36 billion rupees. Net assets were up 5.51 percent to 214 billion rupees. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

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