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Monday December 5th, 2022

Sri Lanka president invites Tamil parties to discuss issues, wants resolution by February

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has invited all Tamil political parties to a discussion on issues faced by the Tamil community with a view to resolving them with no foreign intervention by the country’s 75th Independence Day.

Speaking in parliament on Thursday November 10, Wickremesinghe extended an open invitation to parties that represent the Tamil community in parliament to a discussion scheduled for next week to take up issues facing the Tamils and to “resolve these issues amicably without outside interference, prior to the 75th independence celebrations next year”.

According to reports, President Wickremesinghe is keen on prioritising reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The privately owned The Sunday Times reported on November 06 that a ministerial team is to be appointed to draw up the “broad outlines of what such a project should encompass”. This will later form the basis of discussions with all stakeholders, the English weekly reported.

The team will be headed by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and will comprise Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda and Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe. The team will meet every Monday, immediately after the weekly cabinet session so it could finish its task early.

The Wickremesinghe administration has shown some interest in making progress on the reconciliation front, though critics say that progress has been slow with respect to issues such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), Sri Lanka’s controversial anti-terror law, resolution to missing persons’ cases and alleged land grab.

However, as Sri Lanka goes through its worst currency crisis in decades which sparked a wave of protests that saw the ouster of former President Gotabaya Rajajapaksa, the Wickremesinghe government has expressed interest in going ahead with a home-grown solution to the country’s national question.

These developments come in the wake of the tough new resolution passed on Sri Lanka by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Ahead of the UNHRC vote, Foreign Minister Sabry said a truth-seeking mechanism that’s acceptable to the international community will be established after a report has been submitted by a presidential commission of inquiry.

In his speech in parliament on Thursday, President Wickremesinghe noted that his cabinet will present new laws to parliament early next year on the proposed Truth & Reconciliation Commission, a new Counter Terrorism Act and new legislation against corruption.

“We’re also discussing the problems faced by the people in the North.

“We have already released some prisoners. There are more to be released,” he said, adding that a national award-winning Tamil writer who has been behind bars for 16 years under provisions of the PTA may also be extended that relief if he is found guilty in an ongoing case.

“We’re talking with the foreign minister and the former president. We want to solve this problem,” he said.

Wickremesinghe said 2,000 files on missing persons have been completed so far.

“We’re willing to appoint more panels to start inquiries. That’s the only way that we can get them. Next week we’ll have a discussion with the MPs from the north on the procedure.

“I hope my good friend (opposition MP) Gajen Ponnalabam will also join us. If we go even half way, it’ll be a victory,” said Wickremesinghe.

The president said his government also has plans for economic development in the north and the east that were ravaged by 26 years of war between government forces and the separatist Tamil Tigers.

“I’m getting an assessment done of the renewable energy potential in the north and the possibility of green hydrogen. You get green hydrogen on a competitive basis, your whole northern economy comes up. We have to look into this. The bulk of our renewable energy will be from Puttalam to Trincomaleee,” he said.

In February this year, the Ministry of Energy in the then government hired Greenstat Hydrogen India (Pvt) Ltd, a unit of Greeenstat AS, Norway to study the use of hydrogen for transport.

Related:

Sri Lanka hires Greenstat India to study hydrogen driven transport

“There are other developments. In Trinco, and down to the east for tourism; a fair number of developments that we want to do,” Wickremesinghe added.

The president said his government is determined to resolve the crisis by February next year. Experts who have studied Sri Lanka’s long-running ethnic conflict say it is a complex, multidimensional political issue and it is unclear how grievances of the Tamil community, particularly from the last phase of the war, can be resolved in such a short time.

“We want to settle this. All of us are Sri Lankans. So let us all get together and make it a point…

“We want to resolve this issue by our 75th independence. No one wants interference in this country. We can resolve our issues and go forward, and that is our plan,” said Wickremesinghe. (Colombo/Nov10/2022)

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Time right for elections, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna ready to face any poll: Basil

File photo: SLPP national organiser Basil Rajapaksa

ECONOMYNEXT — The time has come for an election in Sri Lanka and the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is ready to face any election, SLPP national organiser Basil Rajapaksa said, dismissing claims that the party has come to fear elections in the face of growing unpopularity and increased factionalisation.

Speaking to reporters at an event held in Colombo Monday December 05 morning to mark the fourth anniversary of the party’s media centre, Rajapaksa handwaved off assertions that the SLPP has splintered in the wake of the mass protests that ousted his brother and former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“No, our party hasn’t fragmented, not the way this cake was cut,” he said, pointing to the cake that was cut to celebrate the media centre’s anniversary.

“There may be some [dissenters], but we are with the people,” said Rajapaksa.

Political analysts, however, note that the once mighty SLPP has indeed fractured to at least four or five distinct factions. One group, according to party sources, is with President Ranil Wickremesinghe who is keen to involve younger SLPP legislators in his economic reform agenda. The second is with former Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma who launched an unsuccessful bid for the presidency and was roundly defeated by Wickremesinghe at the July 19 presidential vote in parliament. The third group now sits as independent MPs in parliament, while a fourth faction are with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the SLPP patriarch.

There is another group that remains loyal to Basil Rajapaksa, though all but one SLPP legislator voted for the 21st amendment to the constitution that prohibited dual citizens from entering parliament. Rajapaksa, a dual citizen with US passport, recently returned to the island after a private visit to his second home.

The former finance minister, who resigned after a wave of protests that demanded his departure along with that of his presidential brother, for their alleged role in Sri Lanka’s prevailing currency crisis, the worst in decades, was in a jovial mood at the anniversary event on Monday and was seen heartily indulging reporters who were throwing loaded question after loaded question at him.

Asked about future plans of the SLPP, Rajapaksa quipped that they couldn’t be revealed to the media at this stage.

“However, time has come for an election. It’s difficult to say how it will be at present, but as a party, we’re ready to face any election,” he said.

Rajapaksa’s apparent confidence in facing an election is in direct contrast to speculation that the SLPP is banking on President Wickremesinghe’s refusal to dissolve parliament anytime soon. Opposition lawmakers have accused Wickremesinghe of providing sanctuary and promising security to the deeply unpopular party by not calling early elections.

“We have won every election we faced so far. We are thankful to the Sri Lankan people for that. If we were unable to meet their expectations 100 percent, we regret that. We will correct any shortcomings and will work to fulfill the people’s aspirations,” said Rajapaksa.

Asked if he is going to remain in active politics despite the blanket ban on dual citizens, the former minister said, again with a chuckle: “Active politics… well, I’m not in governance anymore. Governance [for me] has been banned by the 21st amendment. So no, I’m not in governance, but I am in politics,” he said.

Pressed about possibly entering parliament again, he said: “How can I?”

Nor is Rajapaksa saddened by the development, he claimed. “No, I’m happy about it,” he said.

The former two-time finance minister, noted for his clash of views with Wickremesinghe when the latter was invited by then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for a round of discussions on economic recovery, was cautiously complimentary when asked about the new president. It was the SLPP’s backing that guaranteed Wickremesinghe his lifelong ambition.

“I think that selection was the correct one. We have maintained from the start that all of us in government or opposition must be able to freely engage in politics,” he said, referring to assurances that the president has purportedly given SLPP parliamentarians that they will not face the kind of retaliatory mob violence that engulfed the nation on May 09 after alleged SLPP goons attacked peaceful anti-government protestors in Colombo.

A reporter asked if Rajapaksa believes the incumbent president is capable of taking the country on the right path to recovery?

“The first task was accomplished, by allowing us to engage in politics and to get on the streets. There are economic and other issues, and we have high hopes that they will be resolved,” he said. (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

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Sri Lanka proposed power tariff not to recover past losses: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – The government has not proposed a power tariff increase to recover past losses, Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera in response to a statement attributed the head of the power regulator commission.

“The proposal that was presented was for an automatic cost reflective tariff mechanism to be implemented to supply uninterrupted power & to recover the current cost of power supply,” Minister Wijesekera said in twitter.com message.

“Govt has not proposed to recover past loses of CEB from a tariff revision…”

The cabinet of ministers had given the nod tariff revisions twice a year to prevent large losses from building up as in the past.

The Public Utilities Commission has disputed costs protected for the power utility saying the petroleum utility was keeping large margins in selling fuel.

The government in a budget for 2022 also proposed to tax surcharge to recover losses.

The regulator also disputed power demand forecasts.

Also read; Sri Lanka regulator disputes CEB costs, demand projections for 2023

The PUCSL cannot increase tariffs to recover past losses, Chairman Janaka Ratnayake said. (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

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Sri Lanka’s shares gain in mid market trade

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged up in mid day trade on Monday (05), continuing the positive run for seven straight sessions on news over a possible debt restructuring from Paris Club, analysts said.

All Share Price Index gained by 0.69% or 60.10 points to 8,829, while the most liquid shares gained by 0.96% or 26.59 points to 2,801.

“The market was pushed up over the news of a potential 10 year debt moratorium,” analysts said.

The Paris Club group of creditor nations has proposed a 10-year debt moratorium on Sri Lankan debt and 15 years of debt restructuring as a formula to resolve the island nation’s prevailing currency crisis. 

Related – Paris Club proposes 10-year moratorium in 15-year Sri Lanka debt re-structure: report

The market generated a revenue of 2.1 billion rupees.

Top gainers during 1130 hours were Expolanka, Browns Investment and LOLC.  (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

 

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