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Thursday August 11th, 2022

Sri Lanka president rejects claims of protester crackdown amid continuous arrest

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe denied wide claims of a crackdown on protesters and said he will allow non-violent protests amid continuous arrests of protesters who were instrumental in forcing former leader to resign.

Rights groups and activists have said President Wickremesinghe has been cracking down the protesters after he succeeded to win a parliament vote to become the president on July 20.

Before 24 hours of his oath taking, military brutally attacked protesters within and near presidential secretariat which was occupied by the agitators for 13 days. Police have said the eviction came after repeated requests from protesters to leave the public properties occupied by them.

The July 22 attack and gradual arrests of a number of protesters with some raids under the state of emergency have led rights groups to blame Wickremesinghe for a heavy hand on protesters, who indirectly helped him to become the president of the country.

“Some groups are trying to spread a huge propaganda through social media that I am hunting down the protesters,” Wickremesinghe told in his policy statement when he delivered in the parliament.

“But it is not true. I will not allow any kind of prejudice to the peaceful activists. I will establish an office to protect the peaceful protesters and support them,” he said.

Many protesters accuse Wickremesinghe of acting on behalf of former Rajapaksa first family. Wickremesinghe has been critical of protesters after some of them violently broke into his private house and burnt it on July 9. Since then he has claimed that he does not have a house to stay.

Wickremesinghe said this struggle was “conducted on a non-violent basis and creative manner” and those activists did not commit any act of violence.

“Although, later this non-violence was suppressed and violence emerged, with certain politicized groups that became stakeholders. By indulging in violence the protests turned towards terrorism.”

“I do not allow violence and terrorism. However will protect non-violence and democracy.”

“Peaceful struggle is a fundamental right. I accept those rights.”

He said a peaceful activist can call a 24 hour dedicated line and file a complaint if any injustice occurs to the person and a committee headed by a retired judge will examine such complaints and take necessary measures, accordingly.

“LAW IS THE SAME” FOR ALL

“If there are individuals who have participated in such illegal activities either unknowingly or due to the influence of others, a plan will be prepared to act sympathetically towards them,” he said.

“However, if there are individuals who intentionally violate the law and engage in violent and terrorist acts, legal action will be taken against them. I will not allow anyone to act outside the law. The law is the same for you, me and everyone.”

Before his throne speech, the US-based Human Rights Watch, has warned that Sri Lanka’s government’s crackdown on peaceful dissent appears to be misguided amid a heightened surveillance and threats of violence on lawyers and media after several prominent protesters and social media activists arrested.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the crackdown appears to be an “unlawful attempt to divert attention from the need to address the country’s urgent economic crisis”.

However, Wickremesinghe said his government was only implementing the law of the land.

“The law will be applied equally to the people who attacked the peaceful protesters on 09th May and those who are engaging in violence and terrorism under the guise of the struggle. I will ensure that there is no political intervention in this process,” he said.

On Wednesday, the police arrested a trade union leader for not honouring a court order and ordered the protesters to vacate the protest site by Friday (05).

He also requested the people not to stay in unauthorized places anymore the peaceful strugglers to vacate the unauthorized places and assist to maintain law and order.

“I will take measures to make the change required to build the Sri Lankan nation. I will implement social and political reforms requested by the nation, with the cooperation of all the citizen,” he said referring to the “system change” long demanded by the youth-led protesters.

Protesters shrugged off Wickremesinghe’s comments on protecting non-violent protests.

“He has started to suppress the freedom of expression of the people in the name of implementing law and order. One of the main demand of the protest is law should be equal to all. Wickremesinghe needs to prove this by investigating Rajapaksas and all the corruption alleged MPs,” a protester told Economy Next asking not to be named.

Many activists and his former allies have blamed Wickremesinghe of being soft on some corruption cases against Rakjapaksa family members when he was the prime minister from 2015-2019. He has, however, denied such allegations. (Colombo/Aug 03/2022)

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Sri Lanka cancels visa of Scotswoman who documented anti-govt protests

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Department of Immigration and Emigration has cancelled the visa of Kayleigh Fraser, a Scotswoman who had been documenting the country’s anti-government protests on social media.

Immigration officers had approached Fraser at her home on August 02 and confiscated her passport.

“This is what will happen if you raise your voice against state violence in Sri Lanka,” Fraser wrote on Wednesday August 10, posting a letter ordering her to leave the country by August 15.

“I am proud to have been a part of this. I am proud to have met so many of you. I have… so many social enterprises I want to work on here that I know will benefit so many,” Fraser said on Instagram.

“Deporting me is a massive, massive mistake for this country. The love I have for it and its people appears to be a threat to the current rulers. Does that sound right to you?”

Fraser posted that she was not prepared for the financial cost of flights and relocation, and that all her funds were in Sri Lankan currency, and that banks were not allowing foreign transactions.

Police spokesperson Nihal Thalduwa had told a privately owned news organisation that Fraser was sharing “negative content” about Sri Lanka via her social media.

“It is not right for a foreign national to be in our country and share such mass negative content. She is not a media personnel either, to cover the protests and GotaGoGama,” he has said.

Fraser has been vocal about state sanctioned violence against protestors.

News of Fraser’s deportation has caused a small riot on social media, with many protestors voicing out their support for the foreigner who documented and showed support next to them.

Seemingly indiscriminate arrests of protestors aided by an ongoing State of Emergency have both angered and frightened Sri Lankan protestors, and many active protestors have gone into hiding to evade arrest.

Some protestors said they were “taking a break” or “distancing themselves” due to continued harassment.

However, the authorities maintain that all arrests are in accordance with the law. The government has pointed to acts of retaliatory mob violence on May 09 and the forced occupation of government buildings by protestors on July 09.

“They are calling us terrorists for holding placards. This was such a peaceful protest, the only terrorism carried out was by the government against the people,” said an active protestor, who preferred not to be named.

Fraser wrote that Sri Lankans should not forget that they got to the streets for a system change.

“Live in such a way that your children will thank you for the world they inherit,” she said.

“It’s not over till it’s over. I have an unbelievable amount of high profile people fighting this order for me to leave.”(Colombo/Aug11/2022)

 

 

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Sri Lanka to acquire 35,000MT of petrol; unloading on Aug 12

ECONOMYNEXT-  Sri Lanka to receive a cargo of 35,000 metric tonns of petrol on Thursday August 11 with unloading scheduled for Friday, Minister of Power & Energy Kanchana Wijesekara said.

Wijesekara tweeted that the ship will arrive at the Colombo port Thursday night, and that the payment for the cargo had been completed with the support of the Central Bank by Wednesday.

The minister had said earlier on Wednesday that a separate cargo of crude oil is also expected on Saturday August 13, and from August 19 onwards, locally produced fuel is expected to be released to the market from the Sapugaskanda refinery.

Meanwhile, in an earlier report, Lanka IOC, a local unit of the Indian Oil Corporation (OIC), said a vessel carrying 30,000 metric tons of fuel for LIOC is scheduled to arrive between August 10 and 15.

Related: Three shipments of fuel to arrive in Sri Lanka by mid, end July, August: Lanka IOC

Meanwhile, Wijesekara said that 5.7 million people have signed up for the QR-code facilitated National Fuel Pass.

From July 21 up to now, Wijesekara said, a total of 54.9 million litres of fuel had been sold through 1,053 CPC fuel stations while 207 LIOC stations have sold 11.26 million litres of fuel. (Colombo/Aug11/2022)

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MPs nominated to Sri Lanka’s parliamentary committee on public finance

The sun sets over the Parliament at Shri Jayewardenepura

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s parliament has appointed members to its Committee on Public Finance, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said.

According to his announcement made in parliament on Wednesday August 10, in terms of the provisions of the Standing Order 121 of Parliament, MPs Bandula Gunawardana,  Vidura Wickramanayaka,  Nalin Fernando,  Anura Priyadharshana Yapa,  Vijitha Herath,  Duminda Dissanayake,  Shehan Semasinghe,  Premitha Bandara Tennakoon and Harsha de Silva have been appointed.

Indika Anuruddha Herath,  Siripala Gamalath, Seetha Arambepola, Suren Raghavan,  M A Sumanthiran,   Kavinda Heshan Jayawardhana,  Mujibur Rahuman,  Harshana Rajakaruna,  Chaminda Wijesiri,  Isuru Dodangoda,  Anupa Pasqual and  (Prof) Ranjith Bandara also have been appointed to serve as members in the Committee on Public Finance.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe tabled a proposed framework during his time as Prime Minister under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for sectoral oversight committees in parliament with the objective of increased bipartisan parliamentary involvement in governance and policy-making.

Wickremesinghe told parliament on July 06 that under such a system, the entire parliament irrespective of party difference will participate in governance.

On July 06, he said he had approached former Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayauriya to formulate a proposal on activating the sectoral oversight committees.

Sectoral Oversight Committees shall function for the duration of Parliament and conduct its inquiries notwithstanding any adjournment or prorogation of Parliament, according to the parliament website.

The Committee of Selection shall determine the subjects and functions to be allocated to each Sectoral Oversight Committee.

The Sectoral Oversight Committees shall have the power to examine any Bill, any subsidiary legislation including Regulation, Resolution, Treaty, Report or any other matter relating to subjects and functions within their jurisdiction.

The Parliament, any Committee or a Minister may refer any matter to a Sectoral Oversight Committee having jurisdiction over the subject or function for its consideration and report. (Colombo/Aug11/2022)

 

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