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Friday January 27th, 2023

Sri Lanka Easter bombings: UN human rights office welcomes Supreme Court verdict

ECONOMYNEXT – Welcoming the Supreme Court verdict on Sri Lanka’s 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has urged the government to provide full reparations to the victims, establish the truth and ensure justice.

“Whilst no amount of compensation can ever erase the suffering and pain of the victims and families, this judgment marks a step in the victims’ struggle for recognition of the harm suffered and their rights to truth, justice and reparation. The UN Human Rights Office calls on the Government to ensure that victims receive adequate compensation and that they and their representatives are fully consulted in the disbursement of the funds,” the OHCHR said in a statement on Wednesday January 18.

The UN has on multiple occasions called for justice for Easter victims and for an independent probe on the attack. The bombings, carried out by Islamist terrorists, have been shrouded in mystery in Sri Lanka with several parties including the Catholic Church claiming that there was a politically motivated “grand conspiracy” behind it, though evidence has so far been scarce. However, the failure to act on prior intelligence has been well established.

On January 12, the Supreme Court ordered former President Maithripala Sirisena, four other senior defence and intelligence officials and the State to pay compensation totalling 311 million rupees, the equivalent of roughly 850,000 US dollars, to victims of the Easter Sunday bombings that killed 269 people and injured over 500.


Sri Lanka ex-president Sirisena ordered to pay compensation for Easter Sunday victims

The unprecedented verdict was welcomed by Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church which also anticipates criminal proceedings against some of the respondents.

Head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said on January 13 that he was “very happy” with the verdict and expressed his hope that it will mark the beginning of a new era where equality before the law is entrenched in society and no public official or politician operates above the law.

In its statement, the OHCHR noted that, in a previous decision, the Supreme Court had found that proceedings against incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was the Prime Minister at the time of the attacks, could not continue given the immunities that he enjoys while in office.

“In its judgment, the Court expressed ‘shock and dismay’ at the lack of ‘oversight and inaction’ by the security and intelligence officials – ruling that the former President and his top security officials had failed to prevent the attacks, despite detailed intelligence suggesting such attacks were imminent,” the UN statement said.

“The UN Human Rights Office reiterates its recommendations to the Government of Sri Lanka to release the complete findings of previous inquiries into the Easter Sunday bombings and to establish a follow-up independent, thorough and transparent investigation with international assistance and the full participation of victims and their representatives and to hold all those responsible fully to account,” it added.

The court odered ex President Sirisena pay a sum of 100 million rupees, former police chief Pujith Jayasundara and former State Intelligence Service (SIS) Director Nilantha Jayawardena 75 million rupees each, former Defence Ministry Secretary Hemasiri Fernando 50 million rupees and former Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Sisira Mendis 10 million rupees as compensation.

The State was also ordered to pay one million rupees as compensation to the victims.

President’s Counsel Shamil Perera who appeared for the archbishop said that he expects criminal proceedings will be filed by the Attorney General against Sirisena, Jayawardena and Mendis as soon as possible.

The prelate has been crusading for justice for the families of the victims in a relentless campaign that saw the church hint at a conspiracy behind the attack. On more than one occasion, he openly berated the government of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for what he claimed was its lethargy and lack of interest in investigating the case.

Though the church is satisfied with the Supreme Court’s verdict, Cardinal Ranjith said the church will not give up the fight until the masterminds of the attack are brought to justice. Only after a full investigation has been complicated can there be true justice, he said.

“This is an important step in the journey to find that truth.”


Sri Lanka Easter attacks: Church happy with court verdict, anticipates criminal proceedings


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Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite rising costs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite higher taxes, rising costs like energy, officials said as the country goes through the worst currency crisis in the history of its intermediate regime central bank.

High inflation following a collapse of the currency has reduced real incomes of customers.

“There are many factors to consider, especially with the last price increase we did in last year did not resulted in a significant increase in revenue” Pradeep De Almeida · Group Chief Technology Officer at Dialog Axiata said at the launch of its Future zone at Lotus tower.

In September,2022 following an electricity tarrif hike dialog increased its tariffs on Mobile, Fixed Telephone, Broadband Plans and Value Added Services (Prepaid and Postpaid) by 20 percent while tariffs on all Pay Television Services were raised 25 percent.

Value Added Tax (VAT) was also raised by the government from 12 percent to 15 percent on all Telecommunications and Pay TV services.

“Even though we increase the prices we only saw around 8-9 percent increase in revenue,” Almeida said.

“That is because many users cut off their usage to limit the spending”.

Dialog will increase efficiencies and manage costs in an attempt to avoid prices increases for customers, he said.

Over the 24 months to December 2022, Sri Lanka;s central bank has generated inflation of 76 percent, based on the Colombo Consumer Price Index official data shows. Following the currency collapse, more power tariff hikes are planned.

“We are trying to mainly bear the cost from our side. We are getting a massive support from our parent company Telekom Malaysia International,” Navin Peiris, Group Chief Enterprise Officer at Dialog told EconomyNext.

“Therefore as of now, there is no plan to increase prices”. (Colombo/Jan 26/2023)

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Sri Lanka shares fall at market close on profit taking

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares fell on Thursday as profit taking entered the market mainly on financial and diversified sectors, brokers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) fell 0.13 percent or 11.50 points to close at 8,926.56.

“The market was trading on dull trade mainly due to profit taking,” an analyst said.

“Also we saw investors taking a sideline as quarterly reports started to come”.

The earnings in the first quarter of 2023 are expected to be negative with revised up taxes and an imminent electricity tariff hike.

Earnings in the second quarter are expected to be more positive with the anticipation of IMF loan and possible reduction in the market interest rates as the tax revenue has started to generate funds.

The central bank’s policy decision was expected and investors have been eying on IMF deal with hopes of rapid economic recovery from the current unprecedented economic crisis, however since the market gained in the last sessions profit taking has come about, analysts said.

The market has been on a rising trend on the hopes of a faster IMF deal. However, the central bank government said the IMF deal is likely in the quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 fell  0.33 percent or 9.21 points to 2,798.

LOLC had seen some attention by investors as the firm disposed 90,256,750 shares held with Agstar PLC at 15-17.50 rupees a share.

The market witnessed a turnover of 1.2 billion rupees, lower than the month’s daily average of 1.9 billion rupees.

Expolanka dragging the market down closed 2.36 percent down at 186.7 rupees a share. Sampath bank fell 1.41 percent to close at 42 rupees a share while Royal Ceramic Lanka closed 2.59 percent dwn at 30.1 rupees a share.


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Sri Lanka bonds yields steady at close

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bond yields were steady at close on Thursday, dealers said, while a guidance peg for interbank transactions by the Central Bank remained steady.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.00/20 percent unchanged from the last close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 26.60/90 percent, up from 28.50/70 percent on Wednesday.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 28.60/85 percent, up from 28.50/60 percent at the last close.

The three months bill closed at 29.75/30.25 percent unchanged from the last close.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank US dollar transactions appreciated by another 2 cents to 362.14 rupees against the US dollar.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers at 360.49 rupees on Thursday, data showed.  (Colombo/Jan 26/2022)

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