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Friday January 27th, 2023

Sri Lanka president pledges full implementation of 13th amendment; TNA sceptical

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has pledged a full implementation of the 13th amendment to the constitution as a solution to the country’s decades-long ethnic issue, though the opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is spectical.

TNA parliamentarian M A Sumanthiran told EconomyNext on Monday January 16 that successive governments have made the same promise for 35 years, to no avail.

“Nobody takes it with any seriousness because it has been constantly promised. It’s a question of implementing it. The president with his executive powers can do it,” he said.

President Wickremesinghe told a gathering at the National Thai Pongal Festival in Jaffna on Sunday that a Social Justice Commission will be established to “build a country where everyone can live in harmony, by solving the problems of the people belonging to all sections of the population.”

In his speech, Wickremesinghe assured the audience that the ever elusive full implementation of the amendment will be finally realised.

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry also told an Indian news network in November that Sri Lanka is keen on implementing the amendment.

The 13th amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution emerged from the controversial Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 as a purported solution to the worsening ethnic conflict, four years after war broke out. Provincial councils came in the wake of this amendment, though land and police powers have yet to be devolved to the provinces as originally envisioned. Both Sinhalese and Tamil nationalists have historically opposed the amendment, the former claiming it devolved too much, the latter complaining it didn’t devolve enough.

President Wickremesinghe in November 2022 expressed his intention to find a final solution to the ethnic issue by February 04 this year when Sri Lanka celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence from the British.

This deadline is now appearing increasingly unrealistic, with talks between the government and the TNA being less than successful.

“Talks have not been successful. In fact, there is disappointment because several things had been promised to be finalised by January, but hardly anything has been done,” said Sumanthiran.

As recently as Sunday January 15, the MP claimed, the government had made repeated assurances of releasing prisoners and military-occupied land, but there is still no progress on this front.

“There is no delivery on the ground yet.”

Asked if the TNA would welcome a fully implemented 13th amendment, the Jaffna district legislator said any provision that’s already in the constitution must be implemented.

“The law of the country must prevail,” he said.

It will not be the final solution being sought by the TNA, however.

“What we’re talking about is meaningful power sharing arrangements. If you can’t even implement what is already in the constitution, then what hope is there?”

Sumanthiran said the president has had many opportunities to resolve the issue.

“I don’t think he’ll be able to do it this time either, but we won’t stand in the way. We will help as much as possible,” he said.

Southern opposition parties have also pledged their support for a meaningful final solution, the MP claimed.

However, the position of Sri Lanka’s main opposition the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and the leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led National People’s Alliance (NPA) have yet to make their positions clear. Meanwhile, critics of the TNA argue that the alliance does not speak for all Tamil voters and that there are diverse views within the Tamil political establishment vis-à-vis a solution to grievances of the community.

Asked what the proposed final solution will look like from the TNA’s perspective, Sumanthiran reiterated that it will involve a “meaningful power sharing arrangement.”

“There have been certain blockages in implementing power sharing arrangements. Those must be removed,” he said, referring to existing mechanisms as enabled by the constitution.

The TNA has on previous occasions touted federalism as a possible solution to the ethnic issue, and according to Sumanthiran, the alliance is still committed to it.

“Our proposal is that it must be a federal constitution. There is no question about that. We may not insist on the word federal being used, but certainly it must have the features of a federal constitution,” he said.

Federalism has been a highly controversial and politically inflammable idea in Sri Lanka over the years, with many nationalist or even some moderate parties in the south vehemently opposing the very suggestion of it. It is unclear whether this stance has softened over the 13 years since the end of the war, but to date no Sinhalese-dominated party – the SJB and JVP included – has come out in support for it.

However, Sumanthiran is hopeful that other opposition parties will be open to a lasting solution that is in line with provisions of the constitution.

“They’ve all agreed to full implementation of the provisions of the constitution,” he said.

If the southern parties change their mind, they will have gone back on their word, he added.

Though the TNA is far from optimistic of the success of the ongoing talks, Sumanthiran said the alliance will continue to engage.

“We’re going through the process, so as not to be blamed for the breakdown in talks,” he said, adding the TNA is awaiting a report that’s due Tuesday January 17. (Colombo/Jan16/2023)

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  1. Thanga says:

    If Ceylon would have had a federal constitution from the very beginning the country would have prospered like Singapore. Singapore with 75% Chinese has declared 4 languages as official, including Tamil spoken by only 5% of the populace. The Sinhalese leaders thought that by depriving Tamils of their fair share in governance, the Sinhalese will prosper. This has been wrong as the present economic meltdown indicates.

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  1. Thanga says:

    If Ceylon would have had a federal constitution from the very beginning the country would have prospered like Singapore. Singapore with 75% Chinese has declared 4 languages as official, including Tamil spoken by only 5% of the populace. The Sinhalese leaders thought that by depriving Tamils of their fair share in governance, the Sinhalese will prosper. This has been wrong as the present economic meltdown indicates.

Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite rising costs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite higher taxes, rising costs like energy, officials said as the country goes through the worst currency crisis in the history of its intermediate regime central bank.

High inflation following a collapse of the currency has reduced real incomes of customers.

“There are many factors to consider, especially with the last price increase we did in last year did not resulted in a significant increase in revenue” Pradeep De Almeida · Group Chief Technology Officer at Dialog Axiata said at the launch of its Future zone at Lotus tower.

In September,2022 following an electricity tarrif hike dialog increased its tariffs on Mobile, Fixed Telephone, Broadband Plans and Value Added Services (Prepaid and Postpaid) by 20 percent while tariffs on all Pay Television Services were raised 25 percent.

Value Added Tax (VAT) was also raised by the government from 12 percent to 15 percent on all Telecommunications and Pay TV services.

“Even though we increase the prices we only saw around 8-9 percent increase in revenue,” Almeida said.

“That is because many users cut off their usage to limit the spending”.

Over the 24 months to December 2022, the central bank has generated inflation of 76 percent, based on the Colombo Consumer Price Index official data shows.

Dialog will increase efficiencies and manage costs in an attempt to avoid prices increases for customs, he said.

“We are trying to mainly bear the cost from our side. We are getting a massive support from our parent company Telekom Malaysia International,” Navin Peiris, Group Chief Enterprise Officer at Dialog told EconomyNext.

“Therefore as of now, there is no plan to increase prices”. (Colombo/Jan 26/2023)

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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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