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Sunday April 14th, 2024

Sri Lanka opposition leader vows to bring millions to the streets

SJB protestors at Galle Face, Nov 16

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has vowed to bring millions to the streets in defiance of a controversial statement by President Ranil Wickremesinghe that he would use the military to block another uprising.

Speaking at an event organised by the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) in Negombo on Saturday November 26, Premadasa said the SJB under his leadership would defeat efforts by the Wickremesinghe government to quell protests.

“The president and government groups are saying in parliament that if another people’s struggle comes, they will suppress it using the military. That they will use the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to suppress the struggle. We’re not prepared to be cowards,” said Premadasa.

“We’re told to obtain permission to go on a political march on the road. If this is a challenge, the SJB and the SJB alliance under the leadership of Sajith Premadasa, [are prepared] to come out to the road in the millions. We will defeat these hollow boasts of the government using the power of the people,” he said.

Addressing parliament last week, President Wickremesinghe said the authorities will block any unlawful protests aimed at toppling the government. The state forces and a state of emergency would be used for this purpose, he said. However, peaceful protests may continue as long as permission is obtained from the police, he said.

President Wickremesinghe, who had long maintained the image of a democrat and a statesman, has been under fire both locally and internationally ever since he assumed the presidency for an alleged intolerance of protest.

He has been courting controversy since his ascend to Sri Lanka’s all powerful executive presidency, with activists, civil society groups, human rights defenders and opposition legislators critcising him for what they claim has been a crackdown on peaceful protest – the same series of youth-led peaceful protests that unseated his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa, landing him the highest seat of power in the land.

His recent pronouncements on human rights activists have not helped matters.

Wickremesinghe and his defenders, however, claim that he is still a liberal democrat who respects the right to free speech and peaceful assembly, and that he only wants to stop the more extremist elements that they claim have hijacked the protests with a view to toppling the government through a violent revolt. These groups, government spokesmen and other backers of the president claim, are attempting to destabilise the country at a time when stability is crucial to economic recovery.

Government members and other critics of the SJB, meanwhile, argue that the main opposition party is using the Aragalaya to their own political ends and are criticising Wickremesinghe in bad faith. They claim that Premadasa and his party have forgotten or are pretending to have forgotten how the opposition leader was almost ambushed and attack by more violent elements within the protest movement on May 09.

Critics of the SJB also question the purported popularity of the party and its leadership with the public. Analysts question the party’s capacity to bring millions out on to the streets as claimed by the SJB leadership.

The party, however, is prepared to show its strength at an upcoming election, whichever one comes first.

The president, meanwhile, has said he has no plans to dissolve parliament anytime soon. A parliamentary election, according to him, may have to wait till Sri Lanka’s economy has sufficiently recovered.

The SJB and opposition parties have condemned this announcement as an undemocratic attempt at suppressing the people’s rights. (Colombo/No28/2022)

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  1. Adrian says:

    It appears that the whole of the political system in Sri Lanka is turning against each party. Yes, the whole process of the so called democracy in the island seems to be turned up-side-down to ministers and the peoples own advantage. However, it high time this government started to conduct their constitution with its laws in a RIGHT-NESS manner, instead of wrong-ness.
    This is bad news for the recovery of a beautiful country which has a lot of wealth in it to be explored. The financial situation here is diabolical and unfortunately it is the middle and lower class which suffer financial hardship. Furthermore, it is very sad to hear of the unrest and turmoil where the average person takes the law into their own hands and starts stealing to make their own ends meet.

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Adrian says:

    It appears that the whole of the political system in Sri Lanka is turning against each party. Yes, the whole process of the so called democracy in the island seems to be turned up-side-down to ministers and the peoples own advantage. However, it high time this government started to conduct their constitution with its laws in a RIGHT-NESS manner, instead of wrong-ness.
    This is bad news for the recovery of a beautiful country which has a lot of wealth in it to be explored. The financial situation here is diabolical and unfortunately it is the middle and lower class which suffer financial hardship. Furthermore, it is very sad to hear of the unrest and turmoil where the average person takes the law into their own hands and starts stealing to make their own ends meet.

LGBTQIA+ Rights: Europe and South Asia See Similar Discriminatory Practices

ECONOMYNEXT – The rights and protections of the LGBTQIA+ community have been fraught with challenges and continue to be so, despite the many gains achieved in recent years.

Nor are those handful of rights universally applied, a recent discussion which looked at the European and South Asian perspectives on same-sex rights and unions revealed. Most developed nations have introduced protections for those identifying as LGBTQIA+, and a view from a distant lens paints a picture of tolerance. Yet, a closer look at the European arena throws up the many gaps that are evident in the application of the law.

In the so-called conservative South Asian nations, changes to legislation are slow to be implemented. That may come as a surprise, for, contrary to popular belief, same-sex relationships were culturally acceptable in the South Asian region and is not a Western concept points out Ruhaan Joshi, a Public Policy Practitioner from India.

Society’s view on same-sex relationships dimmed with the imposition of Western values and the criminalisation of such relationships with the advent of colonial rule.

While the LGBTQIA+ communities in South Asian countries currently battle to have same-sex relationships decriminalised and their unions legally accepted, the irony is that countries that first made such relationships punishable by law have moved on to be more welcoming, though some discriminatory practices continue.

Joshi was part of a discussion themed ‘On Being Queer and LGBTQIA+ in South Asia and Europe, held in Germany on April 9 this year. The discussion which included the release of two papers which examined the rights and protections of the LGBTQIA+ community in Europe and South Asia, respectively, was organised by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

Joining Joshi in the discussion were lawyer and parliamentarian Premnath C Dolawatte from Sri Lanka, Milosz Hodun, President, Projekt Polska Foundation, Poland, Michael Kauch, a Member of the European Parliament and RENEW Europe Group and Inaya Zarakhel, a Dutch-Pakistani actress and an activist on Queer Rights, who moderated the discussion. The two papers were presented by Hodun and Joshi, respectively.

In his opening remarks, Kauch pointed out that while the view of the liberals is that the rights recognized in one member nation of the EU must be accepted by all member countries, that is not the ground reality, the issue of Rainbow families being a case in point.

In the context of the European Union, though the Court of Justice has ruled on the freedom of movement of those in same-sex partnerships and their families, the ruling is not universally applied by member nations.

In Italy, and some European nations, surrogacy which helps childless couples to become parents is illegal. In other situations where same-sex parents are of different nationalities a child in that union faces restriction of movement or the possibility of being stateless if one parent hails from a country where such parental rights are not recognised.

Hodun meanwhile stated that in Poland transgender persons must first sue their parents for the gender assigned to them at birth, to have their gender marker changed on documents.

Some countries such as Russia and Azerbaijan resort to State-sponsored homophobia, and in many instances politicians and political parties promote such biases to boost their voter base it was pointed out. Even where laws are in place for the protection of LGBTQIA+ rights, there is no political will to implement them.

In Europe where migrants arrive in droves seeking asylum, and are frowned upon by many of those countries, LGBTQIA+ members face even more discrimination Hodun says, both by other refugees and governments, where most often the state ignores the situation despite the guidelines issued by the UN and the European Court of Justice. Hate speech and hate crimes too are on the rise he adds stating that at least 80 per cent go unreported.

Increasingly the LGBTQIA+ community has experienced a diminishing of their safe spaces as right-wing and populist governments are elected across the globe. Taking a dig at feminism, meanwhile, Kauch states that though feminists uphold a woman’s right to opt for an abortion, they take a different approach on the topic of surrogacy.

Dolawatte who waded into unchartered waters when he presented a Private Member’s Bill to decriminalise same-sex relationships through an amendment to section 365 of the Penal Code and the repealing of section 365A in its totality, is hopeful that the Bill will pass its third reading. It’s been an uphill battle he says, referring to the case filed in the Supreme Court against the Bill. The court ruled in his favour.

He had little or no support from his own party members, but says the President of the country, and younger party members are with him on this issue. Apart from making Sri Lanka a safe space, it would encourage foreign nationals identifying as LGBTQIA+ to visit without fear, and thus boost tourism he opines.

As Joshi states society has come a long way from when LGBTQIA+ were made fun of and were subject to violence to the positive portrayal in movies. Such movies are also well-received by society. Transgender identity has a distinct recognition in South Asian religious beliefs. Hijra, Khwaja Sara or Kinnar are some names given to transgender folk and they have, since ancient times been an accepted group in society. On the one hand, there’s Afghanistan and the Maldives which make no allowances for the LGBTQIA+ community, while Nepal became the first South Asian nation in 2023, to register a same-sex marriage, Joshi states. In most South Asian nations, the courts have ruled in favour of relaxing the rules against this community, and, like in Europe, it is the governments that drag their feet.

For governments to change their stance, society must take the lead in fighting for the unconditional dignity of the individual, freedom of movement, and safeguarding the tenets of democracy, he says adding that it must also run parallel with the LGBTQIA+ community looking beyond themselves at issues that impact democratic values, and the societal restrictions non-LGBTIQIA+ groups face, such as opposition to inter-caste marriage and the right to adopt outside their caste systems and equal access to many other privileges.

While the panellists advocated working together across the global divide as a step towards achieving equal rights for all, Dolawatte also called for caution; too much pressure on such issues from Europe he said may not be welcome, and must be handled with care.

With right-wing and populist governments getting elected across the globe, Kauch claims the forthcoming EU elections will prove crucial in deciding how future and current governments ensure tolerance and diversity amongst their citizenry.

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Sri Lanka making new economic laws to embed structural reforms

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is making new laws and also revising old legislation following a comprehensive review of past experience and lessons learned, Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana has said.

Most of these new laws focus on structural changes of the existing executive and administrative structures, Siriwardana was quoted as saying in a speech to ministry officials on April 08.

The laws related to public finance, procurement, public private partnerships, state enterprises and also a law on the offshore economy.

The following new laws are being made:

a. Public Financial Management Bill
b. Public Debt Management Bill
c. Economic Transformation Bill
d. Management of State Owned Enterprises Law
e. Public Private Partnership (PPP) Law
f. Investment Law
g. Public Procurement Bill
h. Unified Labor Law Bill
i. Food Security Bill
j. Public Asset Management Bill
k. Microfinance and Credit Regulatory Authority Bill
l. Secured Transaction Bill
m.Offshore Economic Management Bill
n. New law for facilitating proposed agricultural land lease programme
Public Service Employment Bill
o. Sri Lanka Accounting and Standard Monitoring Act

Changes are planned to the following laws

a. Amendments to Agrarian Development Act
b. Amendments to Excise Ordinance
c. Amendments to Customs Ordinance
d. Amendments to Finance Act
e. Amendments to Foreign Exchange Act. Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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After PM’s Chinese visit, US NSA talks to Sri Lanka President’s advisor on peace, security

ECONOMYNEXT – The United States National Security Advisor (NSA) Jake Sullivan held talks with Sri Lanka President’s Senior Advisor on National Security Sagala Ratnayaka focusing on regional security issues this week.

The conversation between the two comes days after Sri Lanka Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena ended an official visit to China in which he met President Xi Jinping and his counterpart Li Qiang in Beijing amid discussions over further investments in Sri Lanka and concerns over banning Chinese research ships.

The United States along with India is highly concerned over increasing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, which is located in a strategic location in the Asia.

China already owns a port and a proclaimed land next to the main Colombo port in Sri Lanka and analysts say the Beijing’s ownership of assets has raised doubts if China is planning to use Sri Lanka as a military base. China has denied this and said its relationship with Sri Lanka is only based on commercial aspects.

The discussion between Sullivan and Ratnayaka focused on a range of crucial topics aimed at bolstering bilateral relations between the two nations, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

“Central to their discussion was the unwavering U.S. commitment to supporting Sri Lanka’s security and sovereignty,” the PMD said in a statement.

“Acknowledging Sri Lanka’s ongoing endeavours, Sullivan emphasized the importance of completing the fiscal, monetary, and governance aspects of the IMF program.”

The US along with India has raised possible threats of increasing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, government officials have said. Both  countries see China as a security threat to the Indian Ocean region, they say.

“The conversation also delved into future prospects for collaboration between the two countries, exploring avenues for enhanced cooperation in various spheres,” the PMD said.

“Sullivan conveyed his keen interest in fostering continued engagement with Sri Lanka, underscoring the mutual objective of advancing peace and security in the region.”

“This dialogue marks a pivotal moment in U.S.-Sri Lanka relations, demonstrating a shared commitment to promoting stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.” (Colombo/April 13/2024)

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