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Sunday December 10th, 2023

Sri Lanka police arrests 12 protestors outside parliament; opposition demands release

The sun sets over the Parliament at Shri Jayewardenepura

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka police arrested 12 people near the parliament complex on Wednesday (04) allegedly for obstructing the vehicles of MPs.

Police Media told EconomyNext that the group were arrested by officers on duty near the parliament, but was unable to confirm what police station the protestors had been taken to.

Footage aired on the privately owned NewsFirst network showed protestors being forced into a police bus, even as protestors shouted angrily that they had a right to protest. A police officer at the site was heard shouting back that hooting at MPs was a violation of their parliamentary privileges.

Main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Patali Champika Ranawaka told parliament that the arrested people had arrived at the parliament gate to hand over a letter to the Speaker.

“After this was communicated to parliamentary officials, the Speaker’s media secretary to went to the gate and accepted the letter on the Speaker’s behalf,” said Ranawaka.

According to Ranawaka, the group were taken to the Maharagama police station.

“I asked the speaker to intervene in this matter and find out on what basis these people were arrested after the letter was accepted by his media secretary,” the MP said.

Commenting on the arrests, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) called on the government, the police and the armed forces to act with restraint.

“It should be noted that those engaged in lawful exercise of their right to protest cannot be arrested. We reiterate that the right of the public to protest in a peaceful manner must be respected and upheld. We also stress that such protests must be peaceful at all times,” the BASL said in a statement.

SJB and opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, meanwhile, said freedom of expression must be upheld in Sri Lanka as a priority.

“This is a democratic country. Do these protesters lose their freedom after giving a letter to the speaker?” Premadasa asked parliament.

“I request the speaker to call the police station and ask them to release these people. Expressing their opinions is a fundamental right of the people. If they lose that freedom, they will go for other actions,” he said.

Protests have erupted across Sri Lanka against the government over its handling of Sri Lanka’s worsening economic crisis. Finance Minister Ali Sabry told parliament on Wednesday that Sri Lanka’s usable foreign reserves were down to 50 million US dollars and it may take six months to wrap up a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). (Colombo/May04/2022)


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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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