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Sunday December 10th, 2023

Sri Lanka opposition leader demands international probe into Easter bombings

FILE PHOTO – Navy personnel guarding the Kochchikade shrine after the Easter Sunday attacks/Pathum Dhananjana EconomyNext

ECONOMYNEXT – Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has called for an international investigation into Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings, while the government has also indicated its willingness to launch a fresh probe in the wake of a sensational documentary aired by the UK’s Channel 4.

Hours after the documentary was aired, Premadasa told parliament Tuesday September 05 morning that a domestic investigation into Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings will never uncover the attack’s masterminds, demanding that the government facilitate an international probe.

“This is shameful. A foreign investigation and foreign media outlet has asked our officials to find the masterminds of the Easter attack,” said Premadasa.

“I don’t mind that [Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic church] asked to vote against me [at the 2019 presidential election]. If he said that, it was because of their disappointment. The catholic community feels that to this day,” he said.

The opposition leader expressed his scepticism of domestic probes into the Easter attacks, which killed 269 people and injured over 500.

“I don’t believe the masterminds can be found in a domestic investigation. This needs an international investigation,” his voice rising.

“I’d like to ask this government if it has the backbone to implement that international investigation,” he said.

Labour Minister Manusha Nanayakkara told parliament that the cabinet of ministers had proposed on Monday that a fresh report be submitted to a parliamentary select committee on the attack.

“The cabinet also discussed government assistance in the event an international investigation was needed.

“This government will in no way hesitate to act,” said Nanayakkara.

However, the MP, who together with Tourism Minister Harin Fernando, was a vocal critic of the previous government’s investigations into the bombings, questioned the timing of the Channel 4 documentary.

“Channel 4 videos like this come out in time for United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva,” he said.

“[But] we must definitely study the facts in this video,” he added.

The documentary in question, aired Monday night, claimed that Sri Lanka’s current intelligence chief was complicit in the attack.

The documentary had cited a “whistleblower” identified as Azad Maulana, a former top aide of chief minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan.


Sri Lanka’s Suresh Sallay complicit in Easter bombings: report

In July 2022, Sri Lanka’s Catholic church rejected a call by then Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe to review a probe into the bombings and enlist the help of UK police authorities to carry out an impartial investigation.

Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, a spokesman for the Colombo archdiocese, said at the time that Wickremesinghe had enough opportunity to seek international assistance in investigating the attack.


Sri Lanka Catholic church rejects acting president’s call to review Easter attack probe

The attacks were blamed on a group of local jihadists although the bombings were belated claimed by the Islamic State group led at the time by the internationally-wanted Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who was later killed in a US bombing in Syria six months later. (Colombo/Sep05/2023)

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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.”

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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.

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