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Tuesday May 30th, 2023

Sri Lanka military, foreign service under foreign nationals during Rajapaksa regime: Ranil

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s military and the diplomatic service had been under foreign nationals during the ousted Rajapaksa regime, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said defending the appointment of a Singapore national to head the country’s central bank.

Wickremesinghe said former Defence Secretary Gothabhaya Rajapaksa was a US citizen who had renounced any allegiance to Sri Lanka.

He said the US oath of allegiance required those seeking citizenship to also bear arms and defend the country against other people.

He was responding to questions by opposition legislator Dinesh Gunewardene whether Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran who is at the centre of scandal over awarding government bonds to his son-in-law company at high interest rates was a citizen of Singapore and his loyalty to Sri Lanka.

The parliament’s Committee on Public Accounts is now probing the deal.

Gunewardene asked whether Mahendran had renounced loyalty to Sri Lanka and whether he had taken a fresh oath before taking up the post of governor.

He also asked whether there are "ample grounds for invoking Section 16 ( c ) of the central bank’s law which says that the governor can be removed if he has done anything which in the opinion of the President is manifestly opposed to the objects and interests of the Central Bank.

Wickremesinghe said during the Rajapaksa administration the foreign secretary was Palitha Kohona, an Australian citizens who had pledged allegiance to the Queen of England.

Wickremesinghe said Mahendran was a born, went to school and worked in Sri Lanka before going to Singapore.

He said Mahendra fled to the country to escape with his life the Rajapaksa regime, along with a number of others including journalists.

He said several legislators were also killed during the last regime.

Wickremesinghe charged opposition legislators of hounding an intellectual of the minority community.

Gunewardene said Wickremesinghe had not answered his questions and instead, went on a trip, but if there was an election people will give an answer.

Chief Government whip Lakshman Kiriella said the question had been asked and answered many times and they were ready for an election and challenged the opposition to put forward a motion to that effect.

Kiriella had asked all those who wanted parliament to be dissolved to stand up.


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Sri Lanka cabinet approves President’s proposal to resume Japanese LRT after soared ties 

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to resume the unilaterally cancelled Japan funded Light Rail Transit (LRT), cabinet spokesman said, as the island nation is in the process of mending ties with Tokyo.

However, any such deals are likely to take place after the debt restructuring and Sri Lanka starts to repay its foreign loans to come out of default, analysts say.

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa unilaterally cancelled the 1.5 billion US dollar LRT and East Container Terminal (ECT) projects in 2021. Japan agreed to fund the LRT project while it was one of the tripartite members of the ECT project along with India and Sri Lanka.

The abrupt cancellation hit the diplomatic ties between the two countries and Sri Lankan government officials have said Japan had given the project to Sri Lanka at a very lower financing cost.

President Wickremesinghe returned from Japan late last week after having met top officials of the Japanese government including its prime minister.

“In recent history, due to the stopping of several agreements and proposals suddenly, President Wickremesinghe went to Japan after creating the background to clear some of the worries we have,” Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena told the weekly media briefing.

“Before he went, he got the approval from the cabinet to resume the discussion on the light railway project. He got the approval from the cabinet to get parliament approval for bilateral agreements signed or any other investments project. Any change or cancellation of a project could be done only with the approval of the parliament.”

Japan has backed Sri Lanka under Wickremesinghe’s presidency after the island nation declared sovereign debt default. (Colombo/May 30/2023)

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Sri Lanka to tighten grip on television with broadcast law

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has formulated a broadcast authority law to regulate electronic media which will be made public soon, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

“The draft prepared by a cabinet subcommittee under Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa has discussed with various parties will be given to all media institutions and broadcast media,” Gunawardana said.

“We do not have to hide or force anyone. A legal framework that can be acceptable to all for all sectors.”

“In a week or two Minister Wijedasa will discuss with state and private stakeholders.”

At the moment Sri Lanka has issued frequencies without conforming to an “international procedures”, he said.

In Sri Lanka television frequencies are issued under a state television act.

Successive administrations in Sri Lanka has since around 1980 mis-used state television duopoly which including for conducting elections according to critics.

Private television as well a raio emerged around the 1990s and has since over shadowed state media.

There have been calls by ruling party politicians from time to time to control private media. There is now calls to control social media.

At a Committee on Public Accounts meeting of the Department of Government Information, ruling coalition legislators called for regulation of television content. (Colombo/May30/2023)

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Sri Lanka rupee at 296.75/297.25 to dollar at open, bond yields steady

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee opened at 297 /297.50 against the US dollar in the spot market on Monday, while bond yields were steady, dealers said.

The rupee closed at 296.75 /297.25 to the US dollar on Monday after opening around 296.50 /297.50 rupees.

A bond maturing on 01.09.2027 was quoted at 26.50/75 percent steady from Friday’s close at 26.50/65 percent.

Sri Lanka’s rupee is appreciating amid negative private credit which has reduced outflows after the central bank hiked rates and stopped printing money. (Colombo/ May 29/2023)

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