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Sunday December 10th, 2023

Sri Lanka Freedom party celebrates 72nd anniversary amid inner turmoil

ECONOMYNEXT – The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), amid some internal turmoil, celebrated its 72nd anniversary on Sunday September 03, with a number of speakers including ex-president Maithripala Sirisena hinting at possible future alliances.

Addressing a gathering that included Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Sirisena said that all political parties in Sri Lanka are undergoing various crises.

“Nominations must be called for a presidential election by October next year. But about 60 percent of the population have yet to decide whom to vote for in a future election,” he said.

The former president did not cite a specific survey for this finding.

When the country is in the midst of a serious political and economic crisis, said Sirisena, bringing it out of that crisis becomes a challenge. A president, a cabinet of ministers or parliament alone can resolve the crisis.

“From the president to the last citizen we must be of one mind and one goal to run the country with a plan, in order to move out of the crisis,” he said.

“Citizens of this country still haven’t been able to say we’re all Sri Lankans. Political movements have not been modernised sufficiently,” he added.

Sirisena blamed an explosion of political parties and movements over the years for what he called the disruption of unity in the country.

“More political parties have emerged creating further division in the country. Political factions have emerged that treat their party supporters as their slaves,” he said.

“This increase in political parties has disrupted the unity in this country. Some political groups have become welfare associations. Political parties mustn’t be charity organisations,” he said.

Last Thursday, August 31, the SLFP chairman invited MPs from all parties to form a common alliance. He also suggested that he is open to running for president in 2024.

In attendance at the SLFP’s 72nd anniversary celebration event were, among others, SLFP “dissidents” who had elected to “support” President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s efforts to revive the crisis-hit economy by accepting cabinet portfolios. Notable among the participants were Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera.

The event was held under the theme “let’s unite and prepare for change”.

Speaking at the event, Prime Minister Gunawardena said” “The country has once again reached political stability. The law has been stabilised. The economy has stabilised.”

Gunawardena also commended the broad consensus that the SLFP was building for a future Sri Lanka.

Aviation Minister Siripala told the crowd that the SLFP’s founding slogan “sanga, veda, guru, kamkaru” is now outdated.

“Let’s all think about the country before the party. Before we bring in other parties, we in the party must first unite,” he said.

“What party isn’t broken? [President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party] is split. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are all divided. There are many crises like this.

“We must unite and show our strength. Otherwise there is no difference between us and other parties,” he said, calling party membership to identify those within its ranks who try to obstruct it.

MP Duminda Dissanayake said a “big change” is on the cards for the SLFP.

“But it’s too early to tell what that change is. In potlicis, when we do things, we can’t always talk about everything in public.

“There are some political leaders who still hold the same views they did years before. But President Sirisena is a leader who is capable of change and can see the future. There is a big change coming. You must all be ready at the grassroots level for that change,” said Dissanayake.

SLFP general secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara said a crisis situation exists in the party due to difference of opinion.

“We are engaged in talks to resolve that crisis. Today we’re in the middle of a massive geopoltical crisis.

“We must all come to one mind and we have to either do politics in the government or in the opposition. We have to choose one,” he said.

“Our leader has brought us together with great difficulty. So there is no need to have problems between us,” he added.

On August 31, Jayasekara responded to reports that sections of the party are conspiring to have him removed from the position. This was following a last-minute decision to shift the SLFP’s 72nd anniversary celebrations from Kurunegala, his electorate, to Colombo.

Speaking to reporters after Thursday evening’s party meeting, Jayasekara said he only learnt Thursday evening about the decision. Asked if it is true that the party’s general secretary doesn’t know what’s going on in his own party, he said: “I didn’t know before. But I know today.”

If Sirisena and the SLFP central committee no longer wishes to have him on board, Jayasekara said, he is happy to leave.

“I’ll remain in the party, though,” he said.

“There is no pushback against me from the bottom. It’s a few at the top level who want me out so they can go and plug this party to [President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP)],” he said. (Colombo/Sep04/2023)

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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.”
(Colombo/Dec9/2023)

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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.
(Colombo/Dec9/2023)

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