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Monday April 15th, 2024

Sri Lanka imposes indefinite police curfew ahead of protest to oust president

Pro-government loyalists attacked peaceful protestors at GotaGoGama

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka imposed local indefinite police curfew in some areas of capital Colombo and a town near the island nation’s main airport from 2100 hours of Friday, a day ahead of a protest to force President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign after his failures to ensure supplies of essentials like fuel, cooking gas, and kerosene oil.

The local police curfew was imposed in the North, South, central Colombo, Mount Lavinia, and Nugegoda in the district of capital Colombo while the same was imposed in Negombo near the island nation’s main airport and Keleniya in the adjoining district of Gampaha.

“People residing in these police divisions should stay inside their houses and it is hereby informed that breaching the curfew rule will be considered as disrupting the law and order and tough actions will be taken against them,” the police said in a statement.

The police announcement came as thousands of people were expected to participate in the protest near President Rajapaksa’s official residence where his movement has been limited since April first week.

The protesters have warned of prolonged and aggressive protests if Rajapaksa does not resign.

Rajapaksa’s wrong economic policies and a chemical fertilizer ban have led the country to an unprecedented economic crisis and a looming food shortage. The protesters have been agitating for the past 3 months across the country demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation.

The economic crisis also has led to shortage of dollars which in turn has resulted in shortage of essential like fuel, cooking gas, kerosene oil, medicines, and some other essential food amid extended power cuts. The government has announced that it could not supply fuel for two weeks through July 10 though the fuel shipment arrivals show the shortage will not end in the foreseeable future.

The prolonged protests saw the resignation of cabinet twice, resignation of prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, former central bank governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa from the legislator post, and resignation of former treasury secretary S R Attygala.

Despite the curfew, the protesters said they will continue the agitation on Saturday as planned.

“Curfew won’t stop us. This is Gotabaya’s old idealogy, last time also we came to the streets. He can expect the same tomorrow,” Nipun Tharaka, a protester told Economy Next.

“We aren’t scared of their gunshots, tear gas and water canons, hit us or kill us. We are ready. We came to the protest with a mindset to sacrifice ourselves and that hasn’t changed, we’re ready.”

W.P Harin, 26 said he was ready to be killed if Rajapaksa deployed military and give shooting order.

“We are not scared. They have tear gassed us more than 5 times in the last 100 days. I got attacked by Mahinda (Rajapaksa’s) supporters and police arrested me for engaging in protests, but still I continue our fight,” he said.

Legal experts and opposition legislators challenged the police curfew order.

“There’s no law in Sri Lanka that provides for or allows imposition of anything called a “police curfew”,” Viran Corea, a lawyer tweeted.

“Any action to prohibit the freedom of movement and thereby the right to peaceful protest on such a non-existent basis is illegal and a denial of citizens’ fundamental rights.” (Colombo/July 08/2022)

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Iran President to visit Sr Lanka on April 24 anid rising tension, inaugurate Omaoya power project

ECONOMYNEXT – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will arrive in Sri Lanka on April 24 on a one-day official visit to inaugurate Tehran-assisted $529 million worth Uma Oya multipurpose development project with 120MW hydro power generation capacity, official sources said.

The announcement on President Raisi’s visit comes two days after Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel in its first direct attack on Israeli territory, a retaliatory strike that raised the threat of a wider regional conflict.

“The President is visiting to inaugurate the Omaoya project. He will be on a one-day visit,” an official at Iran embassy in Colombo told EconomyNext.

A Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry official confirmed the move.

This is the first time an Iranian President coming to Sri Lanka Iranian after then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit in April 2008.

The Omaoya project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2015, but had been delayed several times due to unexpected issued faced during the project cycle and funding issue after the United States imposed economic sanctions on Iran and economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

The project was started in 2010 and the funding was to be received as loan grant from the Iranian government. However, Iran was able to provide $50 million before the sanctions. Sri Lanka has to bear the cost after the sanctions.

The project includes storing water in two reservoirs with dams before being brought through a 23 km tunnel to two turbines located underground and generating hydro power with a capacity of 120 megawatts and added to the national grid.

After power generation, the water is expected to be brought to three reservoirs while supplying water to 20,000 acres of old and new paddy fields in both the Yala and Maha cultivating seasons.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the construction was signed between the two countries in 2007 while Sri Lanka’s Cabinet approved the execution of the contract agreement between the Executing Agency, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management (MOIWM) of the GOSL and Iran’s FARAB Energy and Water Projects (FC).

When commencing the project on March 15, 2010, the scheduled date of completion of the project was on March 15, 2015. But the schedule completion date was extended to December 31, 2020 due to the unexpected water ingress into the head race tunnel and followed by social impacts.

The trade between the both countries suffered after the US sanctions. However, Sri Lanka inked a deal in December 2021 with Iran to set off export of tea to Iran against a legacy oil credit owed by state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to the National Iranian Oil Company.

Sri Lanka owes $251 million for crude imported before the US imposed sanctions on Iran. (Colombo/April 15/2024)

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Sri Lanka to discuss two contentious points with bondholders: report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka and sovereign bondholders are to discuss two matters in the near future which the two sides failed to reach agreement at March talks in London, a media report quoting a top aide to President Wickremesinghe as saying.

Sri Lanka and bondholders had discussed four matters on restructuring international sovereign bonds in late March and agreement had been reached on two, President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake was quoted as saying on state-run ITN television.

A restructuring proposal by bondholders was not in line with IMF requirements, and Sri Lanka had sent a counter proposal, he said.

The matters will be discussed at round of talks in the near future.

Sri Lanka was optimistic of reaching an agreement with the bondholders before June, officials have said.

According to matters already in the public domain, sovereign bond holders are keen to get a bond tied to dollar gross domestic product, as they feel IMF growth projections are too low.

In past re-structuring so-called value recovery instruments, a type of warrant, gave their owners extra payments if a country did better than expected and were tied to items like oil prices.

Bondholders had initially proposed bond which would have a lower hair cut initially, and it will have additional hair cuts if growth is low (about 3.1 percent) as projected in an IMF debt sustainability analysis. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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BIMSTEC Secretary General visits Sri Lanka, discusses regional cooperation

ECONOMYNEXT – The Secretary General of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), discussed measures to enhance regional cooperation, during his visit to the island last week.

Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, Secretary General of BIMSTEC visited Sri Lanka from 07 – 12 April 2024, following his assumption of office as Secretary General of BIMSTEC in January this year.

The Secretary General “met with senior officials of relevant Ministries/Agencies to discuss measures to enhance regional cooperation under various BIMSTEC initiatives,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Several BIMSTEC countries have bilateral trade agreements, such as Sri Lanka and India, Thailand and Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, but no collective regional agreement to enable intra-regional leverage.

During the visit, Secretary General Pandey held discussions with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and paid courtesy calls on the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Secretary General Pandey participated at an event on “Regional Cooperation through BIMSTEC” organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute (LKI) on 9 April. (Colombo/April15/2024)

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