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Friday January 27th, 2023

Sri Lanka President is not mastermind of Easter attack: Secretary

Police and Ambulances outside the Shrine of St Anthony in Kochchikade after the Easter Sunday attacks

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s top defence official Wednesday announced that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was not the “mastermind” of the Easter Sunday carnage that many claim was the catalyst for his ascendency.

General Kamal Gunaratne told a press conference organised by the Presidential Media Division that there was no basis for the allegations against Rajapaksa, a political non-entity at the time, who announced his candidacy two days after the April 2019 suicide bombings that killed at least 279 people.

The attacks were blamed on a group of local jihadists although the bombings were belated claimed by the Islamic State group led at the time by the internationally-wanted Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who was later killed in a US bombing in Syria six months later.

“There are lot of allegations on social media that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the main mastermind of the Easter attacks,” Gunaratne said. “There is no truth in those allegations. It is a despicable attempt at making political gains”

He also denied allegations that the country’s current head of intelligence, Major General Suresh Sallay, was also involved in instigating the National Thowheed Jamath leader Zahran Hashim to carry out the audacious bombings. Sallay was previous the head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI).

He said many linked Sally to the bombings because he was also a member of the minority Muslim community. Hundreds of Muslims were detained following the Easter Sunday attacks and some are still in detention without charges.

“It is unfair to make those allegations. As far as I know, Sally, a ‘golaya’ (student ) of mine from the time of being a cadet to major general. He can’t speak a word of Tamil or Arabic. He has not read the Koran, only the “Sally” part of his name is Muslim. He is not a radical.

“His two children have Sinhala names. He is married to a Sinhala-Buddhist lady,” Gunaratne said adding that Sallay who currently heads the State Intelligence Service, the country’s premier spy agency, was an asset to the country and the “jaaythiya” (race).

Sallay was performing a ”bodi pooja” at the “Uda maluwa” of Anuradhapura (Sri Maha Bodhi) when Gunaratne went there during the opening of the Sandahiru Seya temple recently, he said.

He also flatly denied that the suicide bomb leader was funded by the directorate of military intelligence (DMI) during a previous Rajapaksa administration when Sallay headed the DMI. Government minister had previously admitted that several Thowheed Jamath groups as well as the BBS, the Bodu Bala Sena group were supported by intelligence agencies. Zahran Hashim had broken away from one such Thowheed Jamath groups and formed his own.

In October, Sallay filed a complaint against Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith’s spokesman father Cyril Gamini Fernando over allegations that he (Sallay) played a key role in nurturing Zaharan Hashim. (COLOMBO, December 15, 2021)

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  1. Surath 720 says:

    Only a credible judicial process can decide who the masterminds were. In the absence of such a process rumours and loose talk will continue. No amount of character certificates issued by Defence Sec will stop people’s suspicions, fair or not. DS should not act the judge, jury and the executioner.

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  1. Surath 720 says:

    Only a credible judicial process can decide who the masterminds were. In the absence of such a process rumours and loose talk will continue. No amount of character certificates issued by Defence Sec will stop people’s suspicions, fair or not. DS should not act the judge, jury and the executioner.

Sri Lanka shares fall at market close on profit taking

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares fell on Thursday as profit taking entered the market mainly on financial and diversified sectors, brokers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) fell 0.13 percent or 11.50 points to close at 8,926.56.

“The market was trading on dull trade mainly due to profit taking,” an analyst said.

“Also we saw investors taking a sideline as quarterly reports started to come”.

The earnings in the first quarter of 2023 are expected to be negative with revised up taxes and an imminent electricity tariff hike.

Earnings in the second quarter are expected to be more positive with the anticipation of IMF loan and possible reduction in the market interest rates as the tax revenue has started to generate funds.

The central bank’s policy decision was expected and investors have been eying on IMF deal with hopes of rapid economic recovery from the current unprecedented economic crisis, however since the market gained in the last sessions profit taking has come about, analysts said.

The market has been on a rising trend on the hopes of a faster IMF deal. However, the central bank government said the IMF deal is likely in the quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 fell  0.33 percent or 9.21 points to 2,798.

LOLC had seen some attention by investors as the firm disposed 90,256,750 shares held with Agstar PLC at 15-17.50 rupees a share.

The market witnessed a turnover of 1.2 billion rupees, lower than the month’s daily average of 1.9 billion rupees.

Expolanka dragging the market down closed 2.36 percent down at 186.7 rupees a share. Sampath bank fell 1.41 percent to close at 42 rupees a share while Royal Ceramic Lanka closed 2.59 percent dwn at 30.1 rupees a share.

(Colombo/Jan26/2023)

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Sri Lanka bonds yields steady at close

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bond yields were steady at close on Thursday, dealers said, while a guidance peg for interbank transactions by the Central Bank remained steady.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.00/20 percent unchanged from the last close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 26.60/90 percent, up from 28.50/70 percent on Wednesday.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 28.60/85 percent, up from 28.50/60 percent at the last close.

The three months bill closed at 29.75/30.25 percent unchanged from the last close.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank US dollar transactions appreciated by another 2 cents to 362.14 rupees against the US dollar.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers at 360.49 rupees on Thursday, data showed.  (Colombo/Jan 26/2022)

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Sri Lanka central bank workers protest tax hike as governor defends painful measures

ECONOMYNEXT – Employees of Sri Lanka’s Central Bank have joined a week-long “black protest” campaign organised by state sector unions against a sharp hike in personal income tax, even as Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said painful measures were needed for the country to recover from its worst currency crisis in decades.

President of the Central Bank Executive Association Jayadu Perera told EconomyNext on Friday January 26 that while the protesting CBSL staff were not opposed to paying taxes, they take issue with the unprecedented increase which came into effect in the new year.

Perera claimed that the tax he paid in December had increased six-seven fold.

“This is true for most public servants, and we cannot bear this burden,” he said.

“This is a very unfair tax since it is the professionals of this country that make all the sacrifices,” he added.

Perera complained that Sri Lanka’s ruling class maintain high living standards and enjoy all the luxuries while subjecting workers like him to an “extremely unfair and unjust” tax.

Opposition to Sri Lanka’s newly increased direct taxes has been rising, with a number of unions and professional associations taking to the streets demanding that the decision is reversed.

The government, however, defends the tax hike arguing that it is strapped for cash as Sri Lanka, still far from a complete recovery, is struggling to make even the most basic payments, to say nothing of the billions needed for public sector salaries.

Economists say Sri Lanka’s bloated public service is a burden for taxpayers in the best of times, and under the present circumstances, it is getting harder and harder to pay salaries and benefits.

Defenders of the tax hike say that the road to recovery is a painful one, and Central Bank chief Weerasinghe, meanwhile, told reporters at the monthly monetary policy review on Wednesday January 25 that the country would have to take certain painful measures to come out of the crisis.

Asked about the trade union action organised by his staff – with most employees dressed in black – Weerasinghe joked that he too was in black but said in a more serious vein that at CBSL, anyone was free to exercise their democratic right to protest.

He also stressed that taxation is not under the purview of the Central Bank whose primary obligation is monetary policy.

The CBSL staff, however, continues to protest.

“This tax increase was implemented without any discussion with workers who are the victims of this policy,” claimed Perera.

Acknowledging the country’s dire financial straits, he said: “But why must only the professionals make sacrifices? Why not the politicians?”

Another worker who did not wish to be named claimed that he was left with just 10,000 rupees after tax.

“This an intolerable burden laid upon our heads. We will continue this protest until they give us relief. Today we did it during the lunch break. In the future we will do more,” he said.

Other workers who shared these sentiments told EconomyNext that most of them have debt obligations of their own and once they have settled loans, interest and other bills, a large income tax is the last straw.

“We have our own personal commitments. All we say is that taxation should be fair, transparent and equitable. Show us the rulers that are being taxed the same way,” said one CBSL worker.

Sri Lanka’s new tax regime has both its defenders and detractors. Critics who are opposed to progressive taxation said it serves as a disincentive to industry and capital which can be invested in business. They argue that a flat rate of taxation is implemented where everyone is taxed at the same rate.

Others, however, contend that the new taxes only affect some 10-12 percent of the population and, given the country’s economic situation, is necessary, if not vital.

Critics of the protesting workers argue that most of the workers earn high salaries that most ordinary people can only dream of, and though there may be some cases where breadwinners could be taxed more equitably, overall, Sri Lanka’s tax rates remain low and are not unfair. (Colombo/Jan26/2023)

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