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Saturday May 25th, 2024

Sri Lanka protest site started to oust Prime Minister

Protestors at Mynagogama

ECONOMYNEXT – Protesters in Sri Lanka who have been camping outside the president’s office for 19 days in a row demanding that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa step down have set up a new protest site outside Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s official residence Temple Trees demanding his resignation.

Named “Myna Go Gama” – Myna (as in the bird) being a recently established nickname for the PM – the new site takes after the main protest site at the Galle Face Green named Gota Go Gama. The new site was opened after police failed to obtain a court order preventing its establishment near the Galle Road entrance of Temple Trees. A number of luxury hotels and embassies exist on this particular stretch of road.

Police had parked four buses and a truck to prevent protesters sitting on the pavement by Temple Trees. However, the organisers got creative and found a gap between a bus and truck to put up a tent and start their agitation to oust the second-most powerful Rajapaksa, who was Sri Lanka’s president from 2005 to 2015.

Protesters hung an old picture of Rajapaksa with a Hitleresque toothbrush moustache on a nearby lamp post, with two small white flags hoisted on either side of the picture, presumably signifying death. Some of the protestors stuck their anti-Rajapaksa placards on the buses parked nearby.

Many protesters said they found it difficult to voice their demands because of loud Buddhist pirith chanting coming out of the PM’s residence. The chanting was drowning out the protestors’ voices to the point even their comments to the media were barely audible.

Placards carried slogans like “you destroyed the feature we dreamt of” and “We need justice for Rambukkana killing”, referring to a police shoot in the central district of Kegalle that left a protestor dead.

Widespread protests started around Sri Lanka following shortages of essentials like milk powder, medicines, fuel, and cooking gas amid extended power cuts. A police attack on a March 31 protest, President Rajapaksa’s declaration of emergency law followed by a 36-hour curfew, and temporary a social media ban aggravated middle class youth who had never been to a protest.

Meaningful protests

Many people now see the protests as something meaningful because they have already delivered some results which they see as positive.

The protests have forced the resignation of the previous cabinet and central bank governor who had stubbornly resisted seeking IMF assistance in addressing the economic crisis.

They have also precipitated the resignation of all Rajapaksas from their ministerial positions excepts for the president and prime minister so far.

“A couple of us at Gotagogama decided to come and have an organised protest here, because we wanted to show that the protests are not violent or destructive,” Chamara Jayakody, a 29-year old tourism sector employee told EconomyNext.

“The Government wants to create a picture that protesters were causing social instability, but that is not the case. We encourage people to join us in this collective fight. Our problem is not only with Gotabaya Rajapaksa, but this entire system.”

“There are no jobs anymore. People can’t even pluck coconuts because people don’t have the money to hire them. That is how low we have fallen.”

The “MynaGoGama” is just 2.1km away from the main protest site at GotaGoGama.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa, who had been widely respected and almost deified by the majority Sinhala Buddhists for his leadership role in ending Sri Lanka’s 26-year war, is fast losing his appeal, analysts say.

Political crisis

The economic crisis has now turned into a political crisis with the demand for the resignation of both President and Prime Minister Rajapaksa on the rise.

Some protestors shouted “Old Mahinda, go home’ while screamed leveled allegations of corruption under him.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa has responded to his critics and said he can even run with the youth and that he still follows his physical exercise routines. The 76-year old veteran politician on Tuesday (26) said he will not resign unless somebody removes him.

Ven Pussiyankulame Sumanarathana Thera, a monk from Sri Lanka’s North-central district of Anuradhapura had travelled to Colombo after he heard that protesters were backed by some parties with vested interest and extremists.

“I came all the way from Anuradhapura because I heard these protests were backed by NGOs and extremists. But what i saw was that the protesters are from all walks of life who are affected by the ongoing economic crisis. I don’t think the Sri Lankan people will let politicians steal in this manner again, or use racism as a tool to gain political power,” he said.

“People are enduring much hardship to be here, they sleep in tents, and the rain often leaks through,the ground gets muddy and it is mostly impossible to sleep. People who see me often offer a comfortable place for me to pass the night, but a revolution has to be done from the site of the struggle, and I and everyone else will be here until the end, enduring all the hardships.”

Most other demonstrators said they were there to support the youth of the country and the people who are going through hardships due to these crisis.

“I used to do import and export business and we have enough meals to eat too but I am here everyday because I want to support the youth. Rajapaksas have stolen our country,” said a mother of two.

Rajapaksas have denied corruption allegations, claiming all charges are fabricated by opposition parties. However, many Rajapaksa critics have said the first family always used the government as their family business. (ColomboApr26/2022)

Comments (2)

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  1. Lakdasa De Silva says:

    Bus Service
    Is there a bus service from ” Gota Go Gama” to ” Myna Go Gama” ?

  2. John Perera says:

    When people finally realize that the president is not only corrupt but is war criminal ……then we will really start to see the beginnings of a new and decent Sri lanka.

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Lakdasa De Silva says:

    Bus Service
    Is there a bus service from ” Gota Go Gama” to ” Myna Go Gama” ?

  2. John Perera says:

    When people finally realize that the president is not only corrupt but is war criminal ……then we will really start to see the beginnings of a new and decent Sri lanka.

Melco’s Nuwa hotel to open in Sri Lanka in mid-2025

ECONOMYNEXT – A Nuwa branded hotel run by Melco Resorts and Entertainment linked to their gaming operation in Colombo will open in mid 2025, its Sri Lanka partner John Keells Holdings said.

The group’s integrated resort is being re-branded as a ‘City of Dreams’, a brand of Melco.

The resort will have a 687-room Cinnamon Life hotel and the Nuwa hotel described as “ultra-high end”.

“The 113-key exclusive hotel, situated on the top five floors of the integrated resort, will be managed by Melco under its ultra high-end luxury-standard hotel brand ‘Nuwa’, which has presence in Macau and the Philippines,” JKH told shareholders in the annual report.

“Melco’s ultra high-end luxury-standard hotel and casino, together with its global brand and footprint, will strongly complement the MICE, entertainment, shopping, dining and leisure offerings in the ‘City of Dreams Sri Lanka’ integrated resort, establishing it as a one-of-a-kind destination in South Asia and the region.”

Melco is investing 125 million dollars in fitting out its casino.

“The collaboration with Melco, including access to the technical, marketing, branding and loyalty programmes, expertise and governance structures, will be a boost for not only the integrated resort of the Group but a strong show of confidence in the tourism potential of the country,” JKH said.

The Cinnamon Life hotel has already started marketing.

Related Sri Lanka’s Cinnamon Life begins marketing, accepts bookings

(Colombo/May25/2024)

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Sri Lanka to find investors by ‘competitive system’ after revoking plantations privatizations

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will revoke the privatization of plantation companies that do not pay government dictated wages, by cancelling land leases and find new investors under a ‘competitive system’, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said.

Sri Lanka privatized the ownership of 22 plantations companies in the 1990s through long term leases after initially giving only management to private firms.

Management companies that made profits (mostly those with more rubber) were given the firms under a valuation and those that made losses (mostly ones with more tea) were sold on the stock market.

The privatized firms then made annual lease payments and paid taxes when profits were made.

In 2024 the government decreed a wage hike announced a mandated wage after President Ranil Wickremesinghe made the announcement in the presence of several politicians representing plantations workers.

The land leases of privatized plantations, which do not pay the mandated wages would be cancelled, Minister Siyambalapitiya was quoted as saying at a ceremony in Deraniyagala.

The re-expropriated plantations would be given to new investors through “special transparency”

The new ‘privatization’ will be done in a ‘competitive process’ taking into account export orientation, worker welfare, infrastructure, new technology, Minister Siyambalapitiya said.

It is not clear whether paying government-dictated wages was a clause in the privatization agreement.

Then President J R Jayewardene put constitutional guarantee against expropriation as the original nationalization of foreign and domestic owned companies were blamed for Sri Lanka becoming a backward nation after getting independence with indicators ‘only behind Japan’ according to many commentators.

However, in 2011 a series of companies were expropriation without recourse to judicial review, again delivering a blow to the country’s investment framework.

Ironically plantations that were privatized in the 1990s were in the original wave of nationalizations.

Minister Bandula Gunawardana said the cabinet approval had been given to set up a committee to examine wage and cancel the leases of plantations that were unable to pay the dictated wages.

Related

Sri Lanka state interference in plantation wages escalates into land grab threat

From the time the firms were privatized unions and the companies had bargained through collective agreements, striking in some cases as macro-economists printed money and triggered high inflation.

Under President Gotabaya, mandating wages through gazettes began in January 2020, and the wage bargaining process was put aside.

Sri Lanka’s macro-economists advising President Rajapaksa the printed money and triggered a collapse of the rupee from 184 to 370 to the US dollar from 2020 to 2020 in the course of targeting ‘potential output’ which was taught by the International Monetary Fund.

In 2024, the current central bank governor had allowed the exchange rate to appreciate to 300 to the US dollar, amid deflationary policy, recouping some of the lost wages of plantations workers.

The plantations have not given an official increase to account for what macro-economists did to the unit of account of their wages. With salaries under ‘wages boards’ from the 2020 through gazettes, neither employees not workers have engaged in the traditional wage negotiations.

The threat to re-exproriate plantations is coming as the government is trying to privatize several state enterprises, including SriLankan Airlines.

It is not clear now the impending reversal of plantations privatization will affect the prices of bids by investors for upcoming privatizations.

The firms were privatized to stop monthly transfers from the Treasury to pay salaries under state ownership. (Colombo/May25/2024)

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300 out of 1,200 Sri Lanka central bank staff works on EPF: CB Governor

ECONOMYNEXT – About 300 central bank staff out of 1,200 are employed in the Employees Provident Fund and related work, Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said, with the function due to be transferred to a separate agency after a revamp of its governing law.

“When it comes to the EPF there is an obvious conflict of interest. We are very happy to take that function out,” Governor Weerasinghe told a forum organized by Colombo-based Advocata Institute.

“We have about 300 staff out of 1,200 including contract staff, almost 150 of permanent staff is employed to run this huge operation. I don’t think the central bank should be doing this business,”

The EPF had come under fire in the past over questionable investments in stocks and also bonds.

In addition, the central bank also faced a conflict of interest because it had another agency function to sell bonds for the Treasury at the lowest possible price, not to mention its monetary policy functions.

“There has been a lot of allegations on the management of this fund. This is the biggest fund of the private sector; about 2.6 million active, I think about 10 million accounts.

“When it comes to EPF, obviously there’s another thing. We obviously have, in terms of resources, on the Central Bank, that has a clear conflict because we are responsible for the members.

“We have to give them a, as a custodian of the fund, we have to give them a maximum return for the members.

“For us to get the maximum return, on one hand, we determine the interest rates as multi-policy. On the other hand, we are managing public debt as a, raising funds for the government.

“And on the third hand, this EPF is investing 90 percent in government securities. And also, interest rates we determine, and they want to get the maximum interest. That’s a clear conflict, obviously, there’s no question.”

A separate agency is to be set up, he said.

“It’s up to the government or the members to determine to establish a new institution that has a trust and credibility and confidence of the members that this institution will be able to manage and secure an interest and give them a reasonable return, good return for their lifetime savings,” Governor Weerasinghe said.

“The question is that how whether we have whether we can develop that institution, whether we have the strong institution with accountability and the proper governance for this thing.

“I don’t think it should be given completely to a private sector business to run that. Because one is that here we have no regulatory institution. Pension funds are not a regulated business.

“First one is we need to establish, government should establish a regulatory agency to regulate not only the EPF business fund, there are several other similar funds are not properly regulated.

“Once we have proper regulations like we regulate banks, then we can have a can ensure proper practices are basically adopted by all these institutions.

“Then you can develop an institution that we who can run this and can be taken back by the Labour Department. I’m not sure Labour Department has the capacity to do all these things.”

While some EPF managers had come under scrutiny during the bondscam and for questionable stock investments, in recent years, it had earned better returns under the central bank management than some private funds that underwent debt restructuring according to capital market analysts with knowledge of he matter. (Colombo/May24/2024)

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