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Friday January 27th, 2023

Sri Lanka loses vote at UN Human Rights Council

FILE PHOTO – United Nations Human Rights Council/

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka lost a vote at the United Nations Human Rights Council today as the 47 members voted 22 to 11 to impose a resolution that will empower the UN to collect and store information that could lead to international criminal proceedings.

Fourteen members of the council, including India, Nepal and Japan abstained while China, Pakistan and Bangladesh supported Sri Lanka. The Resolution was introduced by the United Kingdom and among the proponents were Canada and the European Union states.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told reporters shortly after the vote that the session had been a “victory for Sri Lanka because 14 members had abstained so only 22 out of the 47 members supported the resolution.”

The resolution does not impose any sanctions on Sri Lanka as a country. The concrete result of the vote is that the UN will create an office with an annual budget of USD2.8 million to collect information about war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the country.

The Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu told EconomyNext that the loss was a “foreign policy fiasco when you consider those who voted in support of Sri Lanka.”

In a statement made shortly before the vote was taken Sri Lanka’s Ambassador C A Chandraprema said that the scope of the resolution violates the United Nations Charter and accused the proponents of the resolution of politicizing the issues.

China which also supported Sri Lanka said that there was “interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka” in the Council proposing this resolution and urged members to oppose it.

The Philippines, which was roundly criticized by a number of Human Rights organisations for alleged extra-judicial killings, supported Sri Lanka calling for dialogue rather than a hostile resolution.

But the 22 yes votes was what most observers had predicted would happen on the eve of the vote. The supporters of the resolution had hoped for a few more yes votes so that there would have been a clear majority of yea votes.

The Sri Lankan government conducted a flurry of diplomatic moves over the past few weeks with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa visiting Bangladesh and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa making phone calls to the Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to get Muslim countries to support it.

Proposing the resolution to the Council the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet pointed out that 12 years after the separatist war ended “domestic initiatives have repeatedly failed to ensure justice for victims and promote reconciliation. Despite commitments made in 2015, the current Government, like its predecessor, has failed to pursue genuine truth-seeking or accountability processes,” she said.

Earlier Bachelet had released a damning report on Sri Lanka accusing the armed forces and the LTTE of grave Human Rights violations.

She said the “impact on thousands of survivors, from all communities, is devastating. Moreover, the systems, structures, policies and personnel that gave rise to such grave violations in the past remain – and have recently been reinforced.”

In her report, the High Commissioner had noted that the space for civil society and independent media, which had grown significantly, is now rapidly shrinking in Sri Lanka.

“The independence of the judiciary, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the National Police Commission and other key bodies has been deeply eroded by the recently adopted 20th Constitutional Amendment,” she said.

“The growing militarization of key civilian functions is encroaching on democratic governance. The continued failure to implement comprehensive reforms – or to vet personnel – leaves in place security and military officers who have been implicated in alleged grave crimes and violations,” she said.

The government had continued with its policy of forced cremations of the remains of all Covid 19 dead, despite serious objections raised by the Muslim and some Christian communities. It also disregarded recommendations by a panel of experts appointed by the Health Ministry that burial, which is the preferred method for these religious groups, could be allowed.

However, when seeking the votes of the Muslim countries in Geneva the government reversed the policy and the OIC allowed its members to vote for Sri Lanka.

Bachelet said successive Government commissions have failed to credibly establish the truth and ensure accountability. “Indeed, the Government has obstructed investigations and judicial proceedings into emblematic human rights cases,” she said.

“By repeatedly failing to advance accountability for past human rights violations committed, and by withdrawing its support for the Council’s resolution 30/1 and related measures, the Government has largely closed the door on the possibility of genuine progress to end impunity through a national process,” she added. (Colombo, March 23, 2021)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite rising costs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite higher taxes, rising costs like energy, officials said as the country goes through the worst currency crisis in the history of its intermediate regime central bank.

High inflation following a collapse of the currency has reduced real incomes of customers.

“There are many factors to consider, especially with the last price increase we did in last year did not resulted in a significant increase in revenue” Pradeep De Almeida · Group Chief Technology Officer at Dialog Axiata said at the launch of its Future zone at Lotus tower.

In September,2022 following an electricity tarrif hike dialog increased its tariffs on Mobile, Fixed Telephone, Broadband Plans and Value Added Services (Prepaid and Postpaid) by 20 percent while tariffs on all Pay Television Services were raised 25 percent.

Value Added Tax (VAT) was also raised by the government from 12 percent to 15 percent on all Telecommunications and Pay TV services.

“Even though we increase the prices we only saw around 8-9 percent increase in revenue,” Almeida said.

“That is because many users cut off their usage to limit the spending”.

Dialog will increase efficiencies and manage costs in an attempt to avoid prices increases for customers, he said.

Over the 24 months to December 2022, Sri Lanka;s central bank has generated inflation of 76 percent, based on the Colombo Consumer Price Index official data shows. Following the currency collapse, more power tariff hikes are planned.

“We are trying to mainly bear the cost from our side. We are getting a massive support from our parent company Telekom Malaysia International,” Navin Peiris, Group Chief Enterprise Officer at Dialog told EconomyNext.

“Therefore as of now, there is no plan to increase prices”. (Colombo/Jan 26/2023)

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Sri Lanka shares fall at market close on profit taking

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares fell on Thursday as profit taking entered the market mainly on financial and diversified sectors, brokers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) fell 0.13 percent or 11.50 points to close at 8,926.56.

“The market was trading on dull trade mainly due to profit taking,” an analyst said.

“Also we saw investors taking a sideline as quarterly reports started to come”.

The earnings in the first quarter of 2023 are expected to be negative with revised up taxes and an imminent electricity tariff hike.

Earnings in the second quarter are expected to be more positive with the anticipation of IMF loan and possible reduction in the market interest rates as the tax revenue has started to generate funds.

The central bank’s policy decision was expected and investors have been eying on IMF deal with hopes of rapid economic recovery from the current unprecedented economic crisis, however since the market gained in the last sessions profit taking has come about, analysts said.

The market has been on a rising trend on the hopes of a faster IMF deal. However, the central bank government said the IMF deal is likely in the quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 fell  0.33 percent or 9.21 points to 2,798.

LOLC had seen some attention by investors as the firm disposed 90,256,750 shares held with Agstar PLC at 15-17.50 rupees a share.

The market witnessed a turnover of 1.2 billion rupees, lower than the month’s daily average of 1.9 billion rupees.

Expolanka dragging the market down closed 2.36 percent down at 186.7 rupees a share. Sampath bank fell 1.41 percent to close at 42 rupees a share while Royal Ceramic Lanka closed 2.59 percent dwn at 30.1 rupees a share.


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Sri Lanka bonds yields steady at close

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bond yields were steady at close on Thursday, dealers said, while a guidance peg for interbank transactions by the Central Bank remained steady.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.00/20 percent unchanged from the last close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 26.60/90 percent, up from 28.50/70 percent on Wednesday.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 28.60/85 percent, up from 28.50/60 percent at the last close.

The three months bill closed at 29.75/30.25 percent unchanged from the last close.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank US dollar transactions appreciated by another 2 cents to 362.14 rupees against the US dollar.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers at 360.49 rupees on Thursday, data showed.  (Colombo/Jan 26/2022)

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