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Sunday March 26th, 2023

Sri Lanka panel recommends granting permission to relatives to commemorate war dead

ECONOMYNEXT – Permitting Sri Lankans in the North and East to commemorate their kith and kin killed in the country’s 26-year war in private was among the proposals by a presidential commission appointed look into alleged human rights violations.

“Terrorists are not allowed to be commemorated but the commission has recommended to grant the right to commemorate the death of a relative [that] occurred during the war, in private,” the President’s Media Division (PMD) said after the commission handed over its second interim report to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday (18).

The 107-page report included appraisal of the previous commissions’ findings and a way forward. It was handed over to the president by Supreme Court Judge A H M D Nawaz, the head of the commission.

On January 21 last year, President Rajapaksa appointed a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate, inquire into and report or take necessary actions on findings of preceding commissions or committees appointed to investigate human rights violations, serious violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and other such offences.

The first report of the commission was submitted to the President on July 21, 2021, ahead of the last year’s United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session. The second report has been handed over just days before the 49th UNHRC session scheduled for next week.

The latest report has also recommended the immediate investigation of the findings of the Paranagama Commission appointed in 2015 and to file a court case or provide compensation accordingly.

The Paranagama Commission investigated the complaints regarding missing persons, alleged abductions and disappearances in the North and East of Sri Lanka during the period June 10, 1990 to May 19, 2009 in order to identify persons responsible and initiate legal proceedings against them.

By June 2015, the Paranagama Commission had received more than 21,000 complaints.

The Paranagama Commission’s mandate was expanded to address the facts and circumstances surrounding civilian loss of life and the question of responsibility for violations of international law during the conflict that ended in May 2009.

Commission Chairman Nawaz said that the final report can be submitted to the President by next June.
Sri Lanka is likely to face fresh scrutiny on the current government’s probe into the 2019 Easter Sunday attack and alleged suppression of religious freedom in Sri Lanka at the upcoming UNHRC session in addition to alleged war crimes, diplomats told EconomyNext.

The 107-page second interim report has taken testimonies from 75 residents in the former northern war zone of Jaffna and Kilinochchi districts into account .

Human rights activists say debt-ridden Sri Lanka has been gearing up to appease the UNHRC and the European Union. The activists that spoke to EconomyNext are concerned about the timing of the latest presidential commission report.

The government recently expressed its willingness to amend the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), as the island is at risk of losing the annual GSP Plus trade concession worth over 500 million USD from the European Union. The concessions were a valuable asset that has helped uplift the country’s fisheries and garments industries.

Complicating the country’s delicate standing in the international sphere, Colombo Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith recently said that the Sri Lankan Catholic church will be working closely with the Vatican to provide justice to the victims of the Easter Sunday bombings, claiming that the government has failed in its investigations.

With the 49th UNHRC session scheduled to commence next week. Sri Lanka is seeking allies and ways to appease the international community, as the country’s allegedly spotty human rights record is set to be put under the microscope once again. (Colombo/Feb22/2022)

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Sri Lanka seeks to settle India ACU debt, credit lines over 5-years

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has requested India to settle payments due to the country under the Asian Clearing Union mechanism and credit lines given in 2022 over 5 years, Indrajit Coomaraswamy, an advisor the island’s government said.

Sri Lanka is negotiating with India to settle the money over a 5-year period, Coomaraswamy, a former central bank governor told an online forum hosted by the Central Bank.

“Our request from the Indians is to settle it over five years,” he said. “That I think is still in the early stages of negotiation. The same with the one billion line of credit.”

Sri Lanka’s central bank owed the ACU 2.0 billion US dollars to the Asian Clearing Union according to a year end debt statement, issued by the Finance Ministry.

Sri Lanka owned India, 1,621 million dollars according to ACU data by year end, excluding interest.

India has given a 1 billion US dollar credit line to Sri Lanka as well a credit line for petroleum.

Sri Lanka in March 2024 has paid 121 million US dollar out of a 331 million US dollar IMF tranche to settle an Indian credit line.

Indian credits were given after the country defaulted in April 2022 as budget support/import when most other bilateral lenders halted giving money. (Colombo/Mar26/2023)

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Sri Lanka coconut auction prices up 1.16-pct

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s coconut auction prices went up by 1.16 percent from a week ago at an auction on Thursday, data showed.

The average price for 1,000 nuts grew to 83,219.45 from 82,260.58 a week earlier at the weekly auction conducted by Sri Lanka’s Coconut Development Authority on March 23.

The highest price was 92,500 rupees for 1,000 nuts up from the previous week’s 90,600 rupees, while the lowest was 76,500 also up from 70,000 rupees.

The auction offered 900,010 coconuts and 583,291 nuts were sold. (Colombo/Mar 26/2023)

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Sri Lanka in talks for billion dollar equivalent Indian rupee swap

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in talks with India for a billion US dollar equivalent Indian rupee central bank swap, to facilitate trade, Indrajit Coomaraswamy, ad advisor to the government said.

“The amount is still uncertain it could be up to the equivalent of a billion US dollars,” Coomaraswamy told an online forum hosted by Sri Lanka’s central bank.

The money will be used to facilate India Sri Lanka trade, he said.

India has been trying to popularize the use of Indian rupees for external trade and also encouraged Sri Lanka banks to set up Indian rupee VOSTRO accounts.

However the first step in popularizing a currency for external trade is to get domestic agents, especially exporters, to accept their own currency for trade, like in the case of the US or EU, analysts say.

India’s billion US dollar credit to Sri Lanka given during the 2022 crisis is settled in Indian rupees (transaction need).

However the Indian government itself has chosen to denominate it in US currency for debt purposes (future value).

In most South Asian nations, receivers of remittances are willing to accept domestic currencies, leading to active VOSTRO account transactions.

Sri Lanka is expected to repay a 400 million US dollar swap with the Reserve Bank of India next year under an International Monetary Fund backed program for external stability and debt re-structuring.

Central bank swap proceeds sold to banks, which are then sterilized with inflationary open market operations, can trigger forex shortages and currency crises, analysts warn.

Sri Lanka went to the International Monetary Fund after two years of inflationary monetary operations by the central bank’s issue department (money printed to suppress interest rates) triggered the biggest currency crisis in its history and external sovereign default.

Sri Lanka had gone to the IMF 16 times with similar external troubles except for the April 2003 extended fund facility under Central Bank Governor A S Jayewardene which was a purely reform-oriented program with the World Bank (PRGF/PRSP) program at a time when he was collecting reserves with deflationary monetary policy and perhaps the lowest inflation since the Bretton Woods collapsed. (Colombo/Mar26/2023)

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