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Tuesday February 27th, 2024

Sri Lanka PM wants TNA MP’s speech probed; ‘aragalaya’ has blood on its hands, says ex-PM

ECONOMYNEXT – A vote of condolence on a murdered Sri Lankan government MP on Friday (10) saw Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe calling for an inquiry on an opposition legislator and ex-PM Mahinda Rajapaksa claiming that the country’s protesting youth have blood on their hands.

Noting the parliamentary tradition of a vote of condolence on a deceased MP, Wickremesinghe said it was regrettable that one MP had remained silent during Friday morning’s round of speeches commemorating the life of MP Amarakeerthi Atukorale.

Atukorale was murdered by a violent mob on May 09 on his way home from Colombo after an unprovoked attack on peaceful protestors by government supporters triggered a wave of retaliatory violence islandwide. The offices and private residences of a number of MPs, predominantly government, were torched my mobs around the country.

Referring to the parliament’s Hansard record for May 20, Wickremesinghe said opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam had said the houses were burnt down for voting for bills harmful to the country such as the 20th amendment to the constitution and the 2021 budgets.

“This means that the houses were burnt because of an opposing view,” said Wickremesinghe.

Wickremesinghe said opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Kumar Welgama, an early and prominent critic of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, had not voted for any government bill. Welgama was assaulted by a mob in Homagama, but according to Wickremesinghe the attack was carried out not by residents but by outsiders. The prime minister said many investigations have pointed to outsider involvement in the arson attacks reported across the island.

Wickremesinghe took issue with the tone of MP Rasamanickam’s impassioned speech on May 20.

“He said ‘it’s because the people’s mandate was betrayed that this happened. Remember that.’ Remember that? How can an MP say that?”

Recalling past assassinations of parliamentarians such as former foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, WIckremesinghe said while those MPs had their critics outside the House, those inside were united in their condemnation of their murders irrespective of party difference.

“Now it’s happening inside.

“Is he condoning these arson attacks? Is murder being condoned? Is the attack on Welgama being condoned?”

The premier also seemed to connect Rasamanickam, a protest outside parliament, and the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), a breakaway faction of the opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) that some government MPs have accused of being behind the violence – an allegation the party denies.

“When parliament was surrounded, they came and said ‘nothing happened to us’. The previous day there is a picture with Kumar Gunaratnam of the FSP,” said Wickremesinghe.

“No one opposes the FSP engaging in democratic work. But what about when they go beyond that?

“Is this what’s happening in this parliament?”

If Rasamanickam does not withdraw his statement by next week, said the prime minister, the Speaker must investigate his remarks and put the matter before a committee.

“Such things cannot happen in this house,” he said.

Rasamanickam has yet to respond to the PM’s speech. Since he was sworn in as prime minister, the TNA MP has become a harsh and vociferous critic of Wickremesinghe, suggesting that the latter had stepped up not to save Sri Lanka from its worsening economic crisis but to save the Rajapaksa family.

TNA MP M A Sumanthiran, too, has been openly critical of Wickremesinghe.

Meanwhile, former PM Mahinda Rajpaaksa, whose supporters triggered the orgy of violence on May 09, said the protestors have blood on their hands.

“It is true that the people are frustrated. It’s true that they want to protest. But there are political forces directing people to violence. I believe MP Atukorale’s murder took place as a result of this.

“Not only was he stripped and beaten. His body wasn’t allowed to be taken out either. It was also ordered to burn his body on the road,” said Rajapaksa, recalling similar public executions that took place in Sri Lanka during the 1988/’89 southern insurgency by the JVP.

“What did he do to deserve that?

“He never hurt anyone in the Aragalaya (‘the struggle’, or people’s protest) or anyone else.

“An aragalaya that killed an innocent man like that can no longer be innocent. There’s blood on their hands,” he said. (Colombo/Jun10/2022)

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Sri Lanka president appoints Supreme Court-faulted official as police chief after CC clearance

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed Deshbandu Tennakoon as the 36th Inspector General of Police (IGP) of the country after the Constitutional Council (CC) cleared the official who along with three other police officers were asked by the Supreme Court to compensate 2 million rupees in a fundamental rights case last year.

“President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed Deshbandu Tennakoon as the IGP in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution,” the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

The island nation’s Supreme Court on December 14 ordered Tennakoon when he was the Acting IGP and three other officials to pay a compensation of 500,000 rupees each for the violation of the fundamental rights of an individual.

The Supreme Court also instructed the Police Commission to take disciplinary action against the said Police officers after it considered the petition filed by W. Ranjith Sumangala who had accused the Police officers of violating his fundamental rights during his detention at Mirihana Police Station in 2011.

The Supreme Court held that the four police officers violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner by his illegal arrest, detention and subjection to torture at the Mirihana Police Station, which was under the supervision of Tennakoon at the time of the arrest.

President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake presented the official appointment letter to Tennakoon on Monday (26) at the Presidential Secretariat.

When Tennakoon was asked over if the Supreme Court decision would have an impact on his appointment as the IGP last week, he declined to comment, saying that it was a Supreme Court matter and he does not want to say anything about it.

Tennakoon was also criticized by Colombo Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith when he was appointed as the Acting IGP citing allegations against him related to security lapses leading up to the Easter Sunday attacks which killed at least 269 in April 2019.

However, Tennakoon rejected the allegations. (Colombo/Feb 26/2024)

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No water tariff hike in Sri Lanka this year: Minister

Millennium Challenge Corporation Photo.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s planned water tariff formula is ready, and the government will implement it this year only if the formula’s tariff is lower than the current price, Water Supply Minister Jeevan Thondaman said.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government has been implementing IMF-led pricing policies on utilities and the Water Supply Ministry has already come up with a formula.

“There is a water tariff formula in place right now and we are waiting for it to be drafted and seek approval from the cabinet,” Thondaman told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Monday.

“Once this water tariff formula is in place, there will be an annual revision with an option of biannual review.

The formula has been developed with the help of the Asian Development Bank. The formula includes electricity and exchange rate among many others as components like the fuel formula.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) increased the water tariff in August 2023, claiming that the operating cost had been increased owing to high interest payment for bank loans and increased electricity prices.

The last year revision saw the consumers paying 30-50 percent increase from the existing water bill.

Minister Thondaman said he will implement the new formula this year only if there is a reduction.

TARIFF CUT WILL BE IMPLEMENTED 

“We will have to wait to see what the formula is. If the formula shows us there needs to be a reduction in the water tariff, we can implement it. But if there is an increase, why should we burden the people when we are on a road to recovery?” he said.

He said a group of experts including University Professors are working on the formula and the numbers.

“Once they come with the number, we will have to take a decision on whether we are going to impose on the people or not,” he said.

“We have already spoken to the Asian Development Bank and informed them we have established the formula. But according to the ADB requirement of this policy-based loan, the implementation period is only in 2025.”

“But right now, you want to take the approval for the formula for sustainability.”

The Energy Ministry is considering a drastic slash in electricity tariff soon. Thondaman said the exact numbers will be decided on after the finalized electricity tariff.

However, he said that as per the formula, there has to be a up to 10 percent increase in the water tariff as of now.

“Given the current formula set up, there must be around a 9-10 percent increase. It was actually at 14 percent. What we have done is since it is at 14 percent, we also did a calculation to see how we can do a cost cutting,” he said.

“So, despite our cost cutting measures, there will be an increase of 9 or 10 percent. But we will not be imposing it as of now because this year is meant to be policy sector reforms. Next year is meant to be the implementation.”

“As per August 2023 water tariff hike, we are able to come close to sustainable. So right now, there is no issue in the water sector. But a formula eventually needs to be established.” (Colombo/Feb 26/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 310.80/311.00 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 310.80/311.00 to the US dollar Monday, from 310.95/311.05 on Thursday, dealers said.

Bond yields were down.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed stable at 10.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.80/90 percent down from 11.90/12.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2028 closed at 12.00/12.15 percent down from 12.10/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.20/70 percent from 12.20/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.30/70 percent down from 12.40/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2031 closed at 12.60/80 percent from 12.45/13.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/90 percent from 12.50/13.30 percent. (Colombo/Feb26/2024)

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