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Monday December 5th, 2022

Sri Lanka protesters occupy near president’s office to continue agitation

ECONOMYNEXT – Hundreds of Sri Lankan protesters occupied near the president’s office for the second night on Sunday as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa defied calls to resign amid an increasing public protest after his policy mismanagement resulting in the country’s worst economic crisis since the independence in 1948.

Protesters shouted slogans against Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family members as many protesters held placards written as ”Give us out stolen money back”.

The key protest near president’s office opposite to Chinese-built Port City came after police used tear gas and water cannons to disburse protesters in a March 31 demonstration near President Rajapaksa’s private residence.

Security in Colombo was tightened and official residences of President Rajapaksa and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, were cordoned off with multiple barriers.

Many people in their personal vehicle came to the protest site and expressed their solidarity while voluntarily donating food and water for the protesters.

They also had placards saying “This is our country, not your ATM”, “Country is for sale, Gota fail”, “Give us our stolen money back”, “If you steal our dreams, we won’t let you sleep”, and “Audit all politicians immediately”.

The protest entered into the second day of the long new year holiday. Millions of Sri Lankan Sinhala and Tamil people will celebrate the traditional new year on Wednesday and Thursday and government offices will reopen on April 18.

Many protesters told Economy Next that they expect to continue the protests throughout the holidays, “until Rajapaksa resigns”.

Some protesters waved black flags with white letters saying “Go Home Gota”, the campaign theme of the protesters who have gathered via social media.

New protesters were seen joining the group, while some others voluntarily supplied food and water for the crowd.

Similar protests demanding President Rajapaksa’s resignation  also took place in many places of the country while Sri Lankan expatriates in Australia, the United States, Canada, Italy, and Japan also held similar protests asking Rajapaksa to resign.

Sri Lanka’s Catholic community observed silent protest after the mass on Palm Sunday, the first day of Easter.

The Catholics carried placards saying “It started with a crisis and will end with a crisis”, referring to the Easter Sunday attack in 2019 in which Islamist militants’ suicide attacks killed 269 people mainly Christians. The attack helped Rajapaksa to ensure the victory in the presidential poll.

It was the first time people rose against the Rajapaksa dynasty which has dominated Sri Lankan politics in the last 18 years.

People across the country suffered due to President Rajapaksa’s economic mismanagement and resulted in a drop in crop harvest which threatens a looming food shortage and depletion of foreign reserves.Severe shortage of dollars has resulted in lower imports of cooking gas, fuel, milk powder, and medicinal drugs.

It also led to extended power cuts as the country failed to import required fuel in the face of severe dollar shortage. 

Rajapaksa’s overnight ban on agro chemicals hit the agriculture sector and farmers have said they are angry because the president never consulted them or apologized for his wrong policy.

Meanwhile sources close to President Rajapaksa said he is likely to appoint a cabinet with young legislators from his party with a face lift after he has got confirmation that he has the backing of at least 117 ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) legislators in the 225-member parliament.

Political analysts say anything below the resignation of President Rajapaksa or removing all his powers will not ease the protests.

Meanwhile, some supporters of President Rajapaksa’s party staged protests in three areas of the country demanding the president not to resign. (Colombo/April 10/2022) 

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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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