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Tuesday July 23rd, 2024

Sri Lanka stocks close down 1.7-pct, recoups steep intra-day losses

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka stocks closed down 1.7 percent Thursday, recovering from a steep intra-day fall that pushed the benchmark index down 6.4 percent triggering two trading halts, and recouped some losses as buying interest returned to some stocks, brokers said.

Sri Lanka’s benchmark All Share Price Index fell 134.6 points to close at 7,653.55 on the back of 2.9 percent a day earlier.

The S&P SL20 index of more liquid stocks fell 0.82 percent or 25.42 points to close at 3,062.28 after gaining some of the losses after market reopened at 12.48 hours.

Trading was halted twice as an index of liquid stocks fell 8.13 percent triggering circuit breakers.

Stocks have lost 295 billion rupees in value since last Friday, data show.

The benchmark index fell to a low of 7,215.90 points or over 1,000 points over four trading days, before picking up as buying interest returned to some stocks, brokers said.

Punters who had bought on margin and on broker credit were trying to reduce their exposure with many, except late comers sitting on large profits.

They were also spooked as over-hyped earnings expectations raised by some punters and splits disappointed, market participants. Colombo stock started to fall after record turnover of 23 billion rupees including the purchase of shares in a subsidiary of Brown and Company.

Market turnover was 4.3 billion rupees with 49 stocks gaining and 161 falling.

Sri Lanka’s stocks gained over 30 percent in January driven by several months of money printing, which had pushed up excess liquidity in money markets, lowered interest rates and triggered import controls, which had made many businessmen engaged in productive import trade jobless.

As the rupee came under pressure from liquidity and reserves were lost, foreign investors have been steadily exiting.

Vallibel One fell 4.70 rupees to close at 52.00 rupees a share contributing most for the fall of ASPI and Expolanka Holdings closed 2.00 rupees down at 47.20 rupees.

LOLC Holdingsfell 10.25 rupees to close at 397.50 rupees, LOLC Finance, a part of LOLC, fell 30 cents to close at 6.50 rupees. Brown and Company gained 6.50 rupees to close at 185.00 rupees while Browns investments fell 10 cents to close at 5.40 rupees.

Hayleys and several units which have declared splits are under a trading pause.

Subsidiaries of Hayleys group, The Kingsbury Plc closed 10 cents down at 12.00 rupees while Unisys Engineering closed 2.20 rupees down at 2.20 rupees, and Singer Industries Ceylon closed 3.80 rupeesdown at 89.20 rupees.

John Keells Holdings fell 2.75 rupees to close at 152.00 rupees.

Royal Ceramic Lanka closed 14.00 rupees down at 280.25 rupees, Lanka tiles fell 14.75 rupees to close at 185.50 rupees, Lanka Walltiles closed 10.50 rupees down at 192.00 rupees while Lanka Ceramic closed 2.50 rupees up at 148.25 rupees.

Hatton National Bank closed 4.50 rupees down at 134.75 rupees, Commercial Bank of Ceylon fell 1.70 cents to close at 85.80 rupees while DFCC Bank closed 90 cents up at 64.90 rupees and Sampath Bank closed 1.25 rupees up at 165.00 rupees.

Nations trust bank fell 1.40 rupees to close at 58.30 rupees and Seylan Bank fell 90 cents to close at 51.90 rupees and Pan Asia Banking Corporation fell 60 cents to close at 16.50 rupees.

Central Finance Company fell 3.00 rupees to close at 105.00 rupees, Alliance Finance Company fell 1.00 rupees to close at 53.80 rupees and Citizens Development Business Finance fell 4.00 rupees to close at 115.00 rupees.

Sinhaputhra Finance closed 70 cents down at 7.50 rupees a share, Softlogic Finance closed 20 cents down at 11.00rupees a share and Housing DevelopmentFinance fell 50 cents to close at 40.00 rupees.

Cargills Ceylon fell 25cents a share to close at 234.75 rupees while Hemas Holdings fell 1.80 rupees to 87.20 rupees, Distilleries Company fell 30 cents to close at 19.70 rupees and Ceylon Grain Elevators fell 1.00 rupees to close at 150.75 rupees while Melstacorpgained 1.10 rupees a share to close at 53.30 rupees.

In the hotel sector Eden Hotel Lanka fell 10 cents to close at 10.80 rupees while Sigiriya Village hotel closed 50 cents down at 35.80 rupees, John Keels Hotelsclosed 40 cents down at 10.70 rupees a share andAitken Spence Hotel holdings fell 10 cents to close at 31.90 rupees.

Ceylon Tobacco Company fell 15.25 rupees to close at 1,085.00 rupees and Piramal Glass Ceylon closed 20 cents down at 9.20 rupees and Ceylon Cold storesclosed 10.75 rupees down at 664.00 rupees.

Carson Cumberbatch fell 19.25 rupees to close at 279.00 rupees while Access Engineering fell 30 cents to close at 25.00 rupees.

Nestle Lanka closed 13.75 rupees down at 1,156.25 rupees and Aitken Spence Plc closed 1.90 rupees down at 62.30 rupees.

Sunshine Holdings gained 3.90 rupees to close at 83.90 rupees a share.

Richard Pieris and Company closed 20 cents down at 14.40 rupees.

Sri Lanka Telecom closed 60 cents down at 35.50 rupees and Dialog Axiata closed 10 cents down at 12.10 rupees.

The Capital Goods Industry which was the most active fell 2.4 percent today. (Colombo/Feb 11/2021)

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Sri Lanka to introduce digital program for foreign workers facing problems

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will introduce a digital program via smart phones for migrant workers to report any concerns while employed abroad, Minister of Labor and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara said.

“We will have a digital program that is accessible from their smart mobile phones where domestic workers can notify us if they have not got their salary or if they have fallen into some trouble,” Nanayakkara said in parliament on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka has sent 301,000 domestic workers and 360,000 skilled workers abroad, Nanayakkara said.

Several workers, especially domestic workers, face abuse at the hands of foreign employers.

Nanayakkara said that the government only receives 0.001 percent of complaints with regard to abuse.

“We can only act on complaints received from people who go through legal channels. We are educating those who go through the Foreign Employment Bureau on how to escalate complaints.” (Colombo/Jul23/2024)

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Sri Lanka cabinet approves apology from Muslims for COVID-19 cremation ahead of election

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal to tender apology for the grievance caused for ethnic minority Muslims due to the cremation of bodies during the Covid-19 pandemic, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said.

The move comes ahead of the upcoming presidential poll in which Muslim votes are likely to become crucial for all candidates.

The government of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa led by current ruling party Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna (SLPP) forced Muslims and Christians to cremate the dead bodies of those who died of Covid-19 in 2020.

The   Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which includes Islamic states globally raised the forced cremations issue at the 46th United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in February 2021 after the SLPP government rejected repeated requests by local and global Islamic bodies.

The policy was later reversed, but the move hit diplomatic ties with Middle Eastern and OIC nations which is the highest source of employment for Sri Lankan expatriates.

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa later said the decision was based on expert advice. Rajapaksa who was seen as an anti-Muslim leader was heavily criticized for his decision ahead of 2020 parliamentary polls while his elder brother and then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa declined to discuss the issue with Muslim parties which asked to reverse the decision.

Hundreds of Muslims were cremated during the Covid-19 period before Rajapaksa government allowed a separate burial ground for Muslim Covid-19 victims in the Eastern town of Oddamavadi.

“A joint Cabinet Paper presented by Ministers Ali Sabry, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe & Jeevan Thondaman apologising for the grievance caused to the Sri Lankan Muslim community due to the cremation of bodies during the Covid-19 pandemic, approved by the Cabinet,” Minister Sabry  tweeted quoting Cabinet Spokesman.

Already President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Estate Infrastructure Minister Jeevan Thondaman had tendered an apology in the parliament. The latest cabinet move is a formal and official apology.


Along with the apology, the Cabinet approved proposed law on burial or cremation of dead bodies on religious discretion.

“As stipulated in the guidelines published by the Ministry of Health on the Clinical Management of COVID19, cremation was made compulsory in removal of the dead bodies of the persons who died due to the COVID-19 virus. The decision created displeasure among the various religious groups and human right activists especially Muslim religious persons,” a government document on the cabinet decision showed.

“The studies made in this respect have been confirmed that the faeces and the urine are the primary source of transmission the virus but not with the safe burial. Therefore, in order to prevent arisen of such condition in future, attention has been drawn to introduce a law, a certain person or relations to be selected the burial or cremation of the dead person at their discretion.”

“Further, it has been seemed that introduction of new laws is appropriate to donate the dead bodies to the Medical Faculty, if necessary.”

“Accordingly, Cabinet of Ministers has approved the joint proposal presented by the Minister of Justice, Prison affairs and Constitution Reforms, Minister of Foreign affairs to instruct legal Draftsman in order to prepare a draft for the introduction of new law.”

Rajapaksa’s arrogant policy led the OIC and Middle East nations to reject Sri Lanka’s repeated requests for credit lines and loans to buy oil before the country collapsed following an unprecedented economic crisis in 2022.

Minister Sabry faced harsh criticism from human rights defenders and from members of the Muslim community for what they claimed was his silence in the face of the inhumane, unscientific decision by the Rajapaksa government.

The Rajapaksa government’s stubborn insistence on cremating Muslim and Christian victims of the Covid-19 virus was against the communities’ religious beliefs and drew widespread condemnation and concern of Muslim countries and leaders.

Rajapaksa, after the economic crisis hit the country, was forced to flee in the face of massive protests against him in July 2022. (Colombo/July 23/2024)

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Fireworks erupt in parliament over Sri Lanka’s VFS Global controversy

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s parliament erupted in heated debate after government legislators raised a privilege issue against Committee on Public Finance Chair Harsha de Silva, who last week tabled report on a controversial visa deal with the IVS-GBSVFS Global, consortium.

Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa questioned the propriety of raising a privilege issue against a Committee chairman, who was acting under powers derived from the Constitution, saying it amounted to challenging the Speaker himself.

Related Sri Lanka visa deal with IVS-VFS be cancelled or revised, forensic audited: COPF Chief

Sri Lanka’s Department of Immigration had awarded a visa issuing monopoly to IVS-GBS-VFS Global without tender which was charging 25 dollars per visa compared to an earlier 1 dollar by Mobitel, and it should be terminated or revised, de Silva said presenting a report earlier this month.

Privilege Over VFS Report

State Minister Shehan Semasinghe said de Silva had presented a defective and false report misleading parliament saying among other things that the report was unanimously approved by the COPF membership.

As a result, privileges of 16 members had been broken, and misleading a parliamentary committee was a punishable offence and de Silva should be referred to the privileges committee.

De Silva said he severally and individually rejected the charges and all views of the members were attached to the final report and he would stand down as COPF chair until the matter was decided.

“This was not done secretly. There were three weeks for members to respond,” de Silva said.

“There was a debate about the tourism arrival numbers, which was included. If I am to be imprisoned, do it. I am not afraid. Give me an opportunity and I will show how each word is true.

Semasinghe said there was no desire on the part of government members to remove de Silva from the COPF.

Government member Nimal Lanza said that he was under the impression that tourist arrivals had fallen due to the VFS deal but there was an increase this year. There was no desire to imprison de Silva, he said.

Verbal Exchange

Public Security Minister Tiran Alles said five years of data was given, and there was an increase in tourism arrivals. And after April there were 53,000 tourists under new categories, which brought revenues of 1.4 billion rupees.

The report was also attached as an addendum, de Silva said.

Minister Alles questioned why the Deputy Speaker was allowing a debate over the VFS deal which would now attract media headlines.

“If you are allowed, all our members must be allowed to speak,” he said.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa said if competitive tenders were called, there would not have been a charge of 25 dollars per visa as Mobitel was charging only one dollar.

Premadasa said he was responding due to charges made against de Silva and claims that he had committed a punishable offence. The opposition leader questioned how his microphone was muted.

Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa said while it was fair to allow de Silva to respond to the initial charge, a long debate should not have been allowed on the matter and also the contents of the report.

“The second bad precedent is this. It is not important whether it is Harsha de Silva or not. There are many committees. Can the Chairman of a Committee be called over a privileges issue?

“Under the Constitution there are powers to make standing orders. It is implemented through the 1953 Privileges Act. The Chairmen have certain powers. The Chairman has acted under the limits of his powers.

Parliament Undermined

Minister Rajapakshe said while there may be errors in a report, the Parliament’s powers were diminished if privilege questions were raised against Chairmen of a committee who carried out there duties.

“There may be errors in the report. We have seen that. But I am raising a question on the constitution.

“In this way, in whatever Committee, if he did his official duties, if he is made an accused in another committee of the same parliament and there is an investigation, it is the parliament’s power that is degraded.

“So it is the confidence people have in the parliament that is reduced. There is a legal question here. The Chair should consider whether it is possible to raise a question like this

“Ultimately the final responsibility of all these Committees rests with the Speaker. It is the Speaker’s powers that are delegated to the Chairman of a Committee.

“So, this challenge is made against the Speaker. How is the Speaker doing this?

“If the next day, the COPE, or COPA issues a report, someone asks to put him in the punishment log (dandu kanda) or to do whatever and calls him to the privileges committee.

“What are you going to ask at the Privileges committee? What punishment are you going to give? (Colombo/July23/2024)

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