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Friday March 31st, 2023

Sri Lanka former finance minister Mangala Samaraweera passes away

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s former finance minister Mangala Samaraweera passed away Tuesday (24) in a private hospital where he was being treated for coronavirus, a coordinator for the former minister said.

The 65-year-old politician contracted COVID-19 earlier this month and was receiving intensive care unit (ICU) treatment at the Lanka Hospital, despite being fully vaccinated.

When unconfirmed reports surfaced last week that Samaraweera had succumbed to the virus, sources close to him said he was in fact on the mend and was responding well to treatment.

Samaraweera had held key portfolios in the cabinets of former presidents Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena, all of whom he helped bring to power, earning him the reputation of being a king-maker.

An outspoken politician hailing from the Matara district, Samaraweera left parliamentary politics in 2020, focusing his abilities on forming a broader alliance of like-minded, independent liberal thinkers.

Most recently, he made headlines for his remark at the launch of a new movement named True Patriots that the main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) are two sides of the same coin.

Related: Sri Lanka ruling party and main opposition two sides of the same coin: ex foreign minister

To the critics of his tenure as minister of finance, Samaraweera said: “Even though I am a textile designer, I was able to bring fiscal discipline in this country as the finance minister for the first time since 1953.”

“I am always proud of two things. The first one is that, through the Sudhu Nelum Mal Movement (a peace movement under President Kumaratunga in the 1990s), I was able to help and reconstruct the Jaffna library and hand it over to the people. I am also proud of privatising Sri Lanka’s telecom sector. Before 1997, everybody had to wait 10-12 years to get a telephone line,” he said at what would be his final press conference.

Samaraweera was also known for being a staunch defender of minority rights and a vocal proponent of liberal democracy. He often courted controversy, being one of a handful of Sri Lankan politicians to openly challenge cultural norms and their self-appointed purveyors.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose election as president in 2005 Samaraweera was instrumental in, said Sri Lanka has lost a great leader.

Expressing his condolences, SJB and opposition leader Sajith Premadasa tweeted: “Dear Mangala Samaraweera, you were a man of the age who respected humanity and was committed to the vision you believed in according to your conscience. May you attain Nibbana!”

The United National Party (UNP), of which he became a member after defecting from the Rajapaksa camp, said he was a loyal servant of Sri Lanka who had served the public nearly 40 years.

“The services rendered by Samaraweera to the people of Matara and the country have and will be enjoyed by numerous generations. He built his career on the principles of democracy and freedom, values that he fought to ensure all Sri Lankans enjoyed,” the party said.

The former minister’s colleague in the Yahapalana cabinet Dr Harsha de Silva tweeted the following:

Newly appointed health minister Keheliya Rambukwella tweeted: “In yet another tragic outcome of the #COVID19SL pandemic, my colleague Mangala Samaraweera has passed away. It is the loss of another great leader, a true political maverick. We may not have agreed on policy, but he always had my respect. #RIP

The ruling SLPP, too, expressed its condolences.

The opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) said though they disagreed ideologically, Samaraweera never resorted to racism for political gain.

“A free thinker in politics, he stayed true to his principles even when doing so would be politically disadvantageous to him,” the JVP said in a Facebook post that was shared by party leader and MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake. (Colombo/Aug24/2021)



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Sri Lanka tax hike: no response from president, professionals to discuss next steps

GMOA Secretary Haritha Alutghe

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s trade unions and professional associations who have been agitating against an International Monetary Fund (IMF) backed progressive tax hike will meet to discuss further union action after a letter to the president went unanswered.

Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) secretary Dr Haritha Aluthge told reporters on Friday March 31 that the unions will meet as the self-styled Professionals’ Trade Union Alliance (PTUA) collective which have so far been organising strikes and demonstrations demanding a revision of the taxes.

The PTUA has been awaiting a promised meeting with President Ranil Wickremesinghe for some days now. Aluthge previously said on Monday that if the meeting did not materialise, the unions would be compelled to go on strike.

The issue has become stagnant due to government inaction, said Aluthge at Friday’s press conference.

“The PTUA informed the president in writing yesterday for the last time to please understand the gravity of this situation and to immediately give us a meeting and present the government’s interim solution, through which the government can take measures to ease the sense of tension among professionals,” he said.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss an “interim solution” to the professionals’ grievances over the progressive income tax hike until a reported revision that’s due in six months when the country’s recently approved 17th IMF programme comes up for review.

“Sadly, there has still been no response,” the GMOA official said.

All unions and professional associations will meet Friday evening together with a number of other unions to discuss further action, he added.

The privately-owned English-language weekly newspaper The Sunday Times reported on March 26 that the IMF had indicated the possibility of revising some of the taxes imposed as part of the IMF’s staff-level agreement with Sri Lanka when the programme comes up for review in six months.

According to the newspaper, IMF officials had conveyed this to representatives of trade unions during a virtual roundtable held last Friday March 24. The virtual meeting was held on the initiative of the IMF and was attended by trade unions and professional associations representing the PTUA including the GMOA. (Colombo/Mar31/2023)

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Sri Lankan transport associations cut haulage and transportation fees after fuel price cut

ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka Association of Container Transporters and fuel bowser owners has decided to reduce the haulage charges and transportation fee, after the government cut the auto diesel prices by 80 rupees, association officials said.

“Due to the recent reduction in Auto Diesel price from March30, 2023, the committee has decided to reduce haulage charges by 7 percent,” association said.

Sri Lanka Private Petroleum Tanker owners has also decided to reduce the transportation fee of fuel by 8 -10 percent from April onwards.

“We will be meeting with the association members and will be deciding on exactly how much we will be reducing,” the General Secretary of the association Nimal Amarasekera told EconomyNext.

“We hope to reduce it by 8-10 percent and will be applied.”

Meanwhile United Lanka Fuel Transport Bowser Owners Association said, the price reduction will be done, and the specific amount will be calculated using the cost per kilometer for a transporting bowser.

“We have different types of bowsers such as 13,200 litre and 19,800 litre likewise,” Association President K.W. Charles told EconomyNext.

“So the cost per kilometer per bowser is different and after we calculate only we can give a specific percentage.

“It will come to effect from this month and the payments for the next month will be based on the new prices.”

Charles said, this is only based on the price reduction of fuel, however several costs as maintenance and spare part costs should also be considered when deciding the transportation cost, which is also being discussed with the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation.

Sri Lanka slashed fuel prices with effect from Wednesday (29) midnight, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said, after a protest by trade unions of state-run fuel retailer Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) resulting in queues at filling stations due to supply disruption.

The price of Petrol 92 Octane will be slashed by 15 percent or 60 rupees to 340, Petrol 95 Octane 95 will be reduced by 26.5 percent or 135 rupees to 375, Auto Diesel by 19.8 percent or 80 rupees to 325, and kerosene by 3.3 percent or 10 rupees to 295. (Colombo/ March31/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s shares edge up in mid day trade

Stock Market. Free public domain CC0 image.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged up in mid day trade on Friday, Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) data showed.

All Share Price Index was up 1.09 percent or 100.69 points to 9,329.19, while the most liquid index was up 1.23 percent or 32.86 points to 2,697.12.

The market generated a turnover of 895 million rupees.

Top gainers during mid day trade were Commercial Bank, Hatton National Bank and Expolanka. (Colombo/Mar31/2023)


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