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Sunday December 10th, 2023

Sri Lanka cabinet to appoint parliamentary panel over Channel 4 revelation – minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers has decided to appoint a special parliamentary committee to look into the Channel 4 documentary claim that the current intelligence chief Suresh Sallay was complicit in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, Labour Minister Manusha Nanayakkara said.

Major General Sallay hatched the plot while working for the directorate of military intelligence with the objective of creating instability to clear the way for Rajapaksas to return to power, The Times newspaper said on Monday, based on the UK-based Channel 4 documentary.

“As a responsible government, yesterday the cabinet decided on this and there will be an announcement on a special parliamentary committee,” Nanayakkara told the parliament when the opposition questioned about the latest Channel 4 documentary.

“In addition to this, internationally, if any investigations are required, the cabinet discussed yesterday to go ahead with it. We will not hesitate to act on this.”

However, he said such videos by Channel 4 have been released in the past to make Sri Lanka’s human rights position at United Nations sessions worse.

“What is clear is that whenever the Geneva Human Rights Council is scheduled to meet, videos like this are brought in, continuously,” he said.

“We have to analyse the evidence presented in this video. We won’t hesitate to act on it or discuss it.”

Analysts have said the carnage clearly favoured Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election in November. Rajapaksa expressed his willingness to contest in the presidency within five days of the Easter bombing.

Sallay was promoted as head of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) no sooner Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power in November 2019. He was given a one-year service extension by President Ranil Wickremesinghe recently.

Islamic extremists set off suicide bombings at two Catholic churches, a Christian church and three luxury hotels. The attacks were later claimed by the Islamic State group.

In the Channel 4 video, a whistle blower who has already left the country identified as Azad Maulana, a former top aide of current minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan, had spoken of Sallay planning the attacks for about three years.

There was no immediate official response from Sallay or the SIS.

Sri Lankan authorities failed to act on warnings issued by an intelligence agency in neighbouring India 17 days before the coordinated suicide bombings, according to several investigations into the attacks.

Accusations of the involvement of Sri Lankan intelligence operatives has already been reported to courts. However, this is the first time Sallay is directly accused of plotting the attacks.

Sri Lanka’s weekly newspaper, The Sunday Times said, in a letter to Channel 4, Sallay called the allegations “outright false” and denied any contact with the individuals who spoke to the film-makers.

“He said he was not in Sri Lanka on the dates the alleged contact with the bombers was made.” (COLOMBO, Sept 5/2023)

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ADB USD200mn loan for Sri Lanka economic stabilization efforts

ECONOMYNEXT – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US 200 million dollar concessional loan to Sri Lanka to help stabilize the country’s finance sector.

The Financial Sector Stability and Reforms Program comprises two subprograms of IS 200 million dollars each, according to a statement by the ADB.

“The program’s overarching development objective is fully aligned with the country’s strategy of maintaining finance sector stability, while ensuring that banks are well-positioned for eventual recovery,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono was quoted as saying in the statement.

“The expected development outcome is a stable financial system providing access to affordable finance for businesses in various sectors of the economy.”

The ADB statement continues:

“Subprogram 1 targets short-term stabilization and crisis management measures that were implemented in 2023, while subprogram 2 is planned to be implemented in 2024 and focuses on structural reforms and long-term actions to restore growth in the banking sector.

The program will help strengthen the stability and governance of the country’s banking sector; improve the banking sector’s asset quality; and deepen sustainable and inclusive finance, particularly for women-led micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.

According to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest review, Sri Lanka’s economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization, although a full economic recovery is not yet assured.

The program is a follow-on assistance from ADB’s crisis response under the special policy-based loan that was approved for Sri Lanka in May 2023.

It is aligned with the fourth pillar of the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility provided to Sri Lanka to help the country regain financial stability.

It is also in line with the government’s reform agenda, including strengthening the operational independence of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) and its designation as the country’s macroprudential authority.

In designing this subprogram 1 loan, ADB has maintained close coordination and collaboration with the IMF to design targeted regulatory reforms for the banking sector—including the asset quality review—and with the World Bank on strengthening the deposit insurance scheme.

“The loan is accompanied by a $1 million grant from ADB’s Technical Assistance Special Fund to provide advisory, knowledge, and institutional capacity building for Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance and CBSL.”

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Sri Lank in blackout as power grid hit by cascading failure

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka suffered a blackout as Saturday evening as the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board grid was hit by a cascading power failure.

The cascading failure is believed to have been triggered by the failure of the Kothmale-Biyagama transmission line.

“The Ceylon Electricity Board wishes to inform our customers that due to the failure of Kotmale – Biyagama main transmission line, an island wide power failure has occurred,” CEB Spokesman Noel Priyantha said.

“Step by step restorations are underway and it may take few hours to completely restore the power supply.”

With hydro plants running flat out, a outage of the line tends to create a big imbalance in the demand and supply, leading to tripping of more lines and generators.

Lines can trip due to lightening strikes, or equipment failures.

Sri Lanka last suffered a cascading failure in December 2021, due to the failure of the same transmission line.

RelatedSri Lanka power blackout as grid hit by cascading failure

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Sri Lanka to host regional Food and Agriculture Organization conference

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will host the 37th session of the Asia Pacific Regional Conference (APRC) of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), from February 19-22, 2024 in Colombo.

The Conference will bring together agriculture ministers and officials from 46 countries across the region to discuss challenges in food and agriculture.

“The 37th APRC will provide a vital platform for regional collaboration, benefitting the agricultural landscape, fisheries sector and environment of Sri Lanka,” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said at a press briefing on Friday (8) to announce the conference.

FAO has had an active presence in Sri Lanka for over 40 years. “FAO has supported the country in the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and the development of the fisheries sector for growth and climate resilience,” Vimlendra Sharan, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives said.

“The APRC conference will be an opportunity to highlight the innovative approaches introduced in partnership with the government.”

By hosting APRC, Sri Lanka hopes to demonstrate the country’s dedication to the growth of sustainable agriculture, and showcase its commitment to sustainable agricultural development.

The APRC agenda will include a forum on agritourism, especially requested by the Sri Lankan government.

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