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Monday February 6th, 2023

Sri Lanka foreign minister claims entire cabinet opposed COVID-19 cremations, blames media

File photo of Minister Ali Sabry with former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

ECONOMYNEXT — A controversial decision by Sri Lanka under the presidency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2020, 2021 to cremate victims of COVID-19 including Muslims and Christians was built on a lie propagated by two individuals using the media, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said stopping short of a mea culpa and claiming that the entire cabinet had opposed the move.

“It was unfortunate Sri Lanka chose to deny burial of COVID-19 victims when all the evidence suggested otherwise. It was a decision that was devoid of logic, science and empathy, and one that should not have been made,” Sabry tweeted on Wednesday November 30.

The minister has faced harsh criticism from human rights defenders and from members of the Muslim community for what they claim was his silence in the face of the inhuman, unscientific decision.

The government’s stubborn insistence on cremating Muslim and Christian victims of the virus, going against the religious believes, drew widespread condemnation and the concern of Muslim countries and leaders.

Related:

International concern that Sri Lanka continues to cremate Muslim Covid dead

In a speech made in parliament on Tuesday, Sabry claimed that the cabinet at the time had been united in its opposition to the decision. He did not, however, explain why no minister went on record speaking up against it at the time, or even later.

“There were many allegations levelled against me, especially from the Muslim community, that I did nothing. But I know I brought this up at cabinet meetings on five occasions.

“Everyone in the cabinet was of the view that if everyone in the world was [allowing burials], if the WHO had recommended it, why wouldn’t we? We would be seen as a barbaric country,” said Sabry.

“Let’s not blame everything on politicians,” he added. A doctor and a known female academic had gone on the media claiming that if COVID-19 bodies were buried, the virus could leak out millions of years from now, the minister said.

“But the 11th grade science book tells us that for a virus to be alive for more than 24 hours, it needs a live cell.

“Who lied and made a thing out of it? It was the media that did it. Some media personnel were our personal friends. We called them and asked them why they were propagating this lie. But they too were powerless to reverse the narrative,” the minister said.

In his speech, Sabry bemoaned what he called the “complete loss” of support from the Middle East.

“We cannot go it alone in this complex world. We need to connect with everyone,” he said. (Colombo/Nov30/2022)

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  1. Thambiya says:

    Do you call yourself a Muslim? Blaming the media for cremation?
    Never utter word about your former racist boss.

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  1. Thambiya says:

    Do you call yourself a Muslim? Blaming the media for cremation?
    Never utter word about your former racist boss.

Sri Lanka to address SME tax problems at first opportunity: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Problems faced by Sri Lanka’s small and medium enterprises from recent tax changes will be addressed at the first opportunity, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said.

Business chambers had raised questions about hikes in Value Added Tax, Corporate Income Tax and the Social Security Contribution Levy (SSCL) that’s been imposed.

It should be explored on how to amend the Inland Revenue Act, Siyamabalapitiya said, adding that the future months should be considered as a period where the country is being stabilized.

Both the VAT and SSCL are effectively paid by customers, but the SSCL is a cascading tax that makes running businesses difficult.

In Sri Lanka SMEs make up a large part of the economy, accounting for 80 per cent of all businesses according to according to the island’s National Human Resources and Employment Policy.

(Colombo/ Feb 05/2023)

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Sri Lanka revenues Rs158.7bn in Jan 2023 up 51-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government revenues were 158.7 billion rupees in January 2023 but expenditure and debt service remained high, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

In January 2022 total revenues were Rs104.5 billion according to central bank data.

Sri Lanka’s tax revenues have risen sharply amid an inflationary blow off which had boosted nominal GDP while President Ranil Wickremesinghe has also raised taxes.

Departing from a previous strategy advocated by the IMF expanding the state and not cutting expenses, called revenue based fiscal consolidation, he is attempting to do classical fiscal consolidation with spending restraint.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has presented a note to cabinet requesting state expenditure to be controlled, Gunawardana told reporters.

State Salaries cost 87.4 billion rupees.

Pensions and income supplements (Samurdhi program) were29.5 billion rupees.

Other expenses were 10.8 billion rupees.

Capital spending was   21 billion rupees.

Debt service was 377.6 billion rupees for January which has to be done with borrowings from Treasury bills, bonds and a central bank provisional advance of 100 billion rupees, Gunawardana said.

Interest costs were not separately given. (Colombo/Feb05/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices down for second week

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices fell for the second week at an auction on January 31, with teas from all elevations seeing a decline, data showed.

“In retrospect, the decline in prices would be a price correction owing to the overall product quality and less interest from some key importers due to the arrival of cargo at destinations ahead of schedule,” Forbes and Walker tea brokers said.

The weekly sale average fell from 1475.79 rupees to 1465.40 rupees from a week ago, according to data from Ceylon Tea Brokers.

The tea prices are down for two weeks in a row.

High Growns

The High Grown sale average was down by 20.90 rupees to 1380.23 rupees, Ceylon Tea Brokers said.

High grown BOP and BOPF was down about 100 rupees.

“Ex-Estate offerings which totalled 0.75 M/Kg saw a slight decline in quality over the previous week” Forbes and Walker said.

OP/OPA’s in general were steady to marginally down.

Low Growns

In Low Grown Teas, FBOP 1 was down by 100 rupees and FBOP was down by 50 rupees while PEK was up by 150 rupees.

The Low Growns sale average was down by 8.55 rupees to 1547.93 rupees.

A few select Best BOP1s along with Below Best varieties maintained.

OP1                     Select Best OP1’s were steady, whilst improved/clean Below Best varieties maintained.   Others and poorer sorts were easier.

PEKOE                 Well- made PEK/PEK1s in general were steady, whilst others and poorer sorts were down.

Leafy and Semi Leafy catalogues met with fair demand,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“However, the Small Leaf and Premium catalogues continued to decline.

“Shippers to Iran were very selective, whilst shippers to Türkiye and Russia were fairly active.”

This week  2.2 million Kilograms of Low Growns were sold.

Medium Growns

Medium Grown BOP and BOPF fell by around 100 rupees

The Medium Growns sale average was down by 33.40 rupees to 1199.4 rupees.

“Medium CTC teas in the higher price bracket witnessed a similar trend, whilst teas at the lower end were somewhat maintained subject to quality,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“Improved activity from the local trade and perhaps South Africa helped to stabilize prices to some extent.”

OP/OPA grades were steady while PEKOE/PEKOE1 were firm, while some gained 50-100 rupees at times.

Well-made FBOP/FBOPF1’s were down by 50-100 rupees per kg and more at times.

(Colombo/Feb 5/2023)

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