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Tuesday September 26th, 2023

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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Future SJB govt to “refine” Sri Lanka’s agreement with IMF: Harsha de Silva

ECONOMYNEXT – A future government led by the incumbent main opposition party the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) will “refine” Sri Lanka’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), SJB legislator Harsha de Silva said.

The MP tweeted Monday September 26 morning that a closed-door discussion between the SJB and an IMF team that’s currently in Sri Lanka to review the ongoing programme was productive and had focused on governance, transparency and equity in the reform process.

“It was a good discussion. We were quite frank,” said de Silva in a clip he shared of him speaking to the privately owned NewsFirst network.

“Yes, we said we agree as the SJB that we need to work with the IMF, and that we accept that large-scale economic reform will have to take place. That was the baseline.

“However, the leader of the opposition said that, under our government, certain modifications will have to happen,” said de Silva.

The MP, who also chairs the parliament’s Committee on Public Finance (COPF), said this is because the people “obviously see that there is inequity in the implementation of this agreement”.

News footage of the SJB’s latest round of talks with the IMF team showed that SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa along with de Silva and a handful of his colleagues in the party were joined by former Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MPs who were vocal supporters of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. MPs Nalaka Godahewa and G L Peiris also seen joining a group photo with the IMF and the SJB lawmakers.

The SJB was among the first to demand that the then government of ex-President Rajapaksa approach the IMF before Sri Lanka’s currency crashed in 2022. Over the months since incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s administration embarked on an IMF-prescribed reform agenda, the opposition party has adopted a more critical position on the international lender.

In May,  SJB MP Kabir Hashim speaking at a public event in Monaragala alluded to a unique vision his party possesses with regard to macroeconomic development that doesn’t necessarily include the IMF.


Sri Lanka’s SJB no longer enamoured of IMF, promises new govt in three moons

The SJB’s position with regard to the IMF programme, Sri Lanka’s 17th so far, has been less than consistent. The party, which was among the first to call for a deal with the iInternational lender at the onset of the island nation’s worst currency crisis in decades, abstained from voting for the agreement in a vote taken in parliament in April.

While the SJB hasn’t quite had a drastic departure from its original pro-IMF stance, the party has been increasingly vocal of late about the socioeconomic impact of the deal.

SJB leader Premadasa earlier this year reportedly said a future SJB government would not be obligated to honour deals made by the incumbent government headed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe. MP de Silva explained later that what his party leader had meant was that Sri Lanka must negotiate terms favourable to the country when dealing with the IMF. (Colombo/Sep26/2023)

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Sri Lanka cabinet okays appropriation bill for 2024 budget

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers had approved a draft Appropriation Act for 2024, the state information office said.

The Finance Minister’s proposal to gazette the bill and table it in parliament was approved by the cabinet.

Presenting the appropriation bill is the first stage of presenting a budget for 2024,

The appropriation bills set outs the expenditure plans for each ministry.

The budget proposals, made in November is called the second reading of the Appropriation Act. (Colombo/Sept24/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s MEPA to get 28.5 mn rupees from Singaporean AEPW, for beach clean up

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) is to receive 5.7 million rupees a year, for five years, from Singapore-based marine waste solutions provider, Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), to maintain 8 beach cleaner machines.

The donation is meant to support MEPA clean coastal areas across Sri Lanka, using BeachTech Hydro Sweepy beach cleaner machines, previously donated by the organisation.

The oil industry-founded non-governmental organisation donated the 8 beach cleaners worth about US$180,000 to MEPA in the wake of the 2021 MV X-press Pearl ship disaster.

The machines manufactured by Kässbohrer Geländefahrzeug AG, a German company, are effective at cleaning up plastic nurdles and other types of potentially harmful non-biodegradable waste, minimising human contact with hazardous materials.

As a significant amount of money is spent for the deployment of these machines for beach cleaning activities, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste has agreed to provide the funds for the upkeep of the machines for a period of five years.

With this financial donation, the Maritime Environment Protection Authority will be able to continue using these machines without interruption to clean identified beaches in the future. (Colombo/Sep26/2023)

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