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Sunday May 19th, 2024

Sri Lanka to conclude most SOE sales by August; Srilankan by Sept

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is expecting to conclude all the transactions related to divestiture of State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) by August this year under an ambitious reform process, the government-led State-Owned Enterprises Restructuring Unit (SOERU) said.

However, the divestiture of loss-making Srilankan Airlines is likely to be concluded by September, it said.

The SOERU has already called for bids for Request for Qualification (RfQ) to divest Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd, Canwill Holdings Pvt Ltd, Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, Litro Gas, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Life Ltd., Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation General Ltd., and Srilankan Airlines.

Out of these, deadlines for the submission of RfQs for Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd, Canwill Holdings Pvt Ltd, Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, Litro Gas, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Life Ltd., and Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation General Ltd. have now closed whilst for Srilankan Airlines it remains open until April 22, the SOERU said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has strongly asked for SOE reforms to reduce losses in those institutions. However, Sri Lanka has yet to conclude reform in any of the select SOEs despite the island nation has declared bankruptcy two years ago. The process has been slow amid opposition from some political parties and trade unions.

“It is envisaged that all transactions other than Srilankan Airlines will be concluded by August 2024. The timeline for SriLankan airlines is likely to extend to end September 2024,” the SOERU said in a statement.

“In parallel to the divestiture process, work has been done to set up a structured, efficient and well governed process to manage the SOE sector going forward.”

“This is part of the overall reform program of the government and aims to transform SOEs in to well governed, competitive and financially disciplined entities that provide citizens with essential goods and services effectively and efficiently without being a drain on public finances.”

It said the setting up of a 100% state owned Holding Company that in turn will hold all of government shares in commercial businesses is at the heart of these reforms.

“The policy includes a sound mechanism to ensure the appointment of qualified, experienced and capable persons to the boards of both the Holding Company and SOEs.”

“Similarly, it lays down principles and policies around governance, financial discipline and disclosures which the Holding Company and all SOEs will need to adhere to. Work is currently on-going to draft a Public Commercial Businesses Act to give legal effect to these reforms.”

The SOERU also said discussions were held with leaders of the main political parties, trade unions, religious leaders and media professionals on the divestiture of the SOEs.

“If the underperforming, debt-ridden, Sri Lankan economy is to transition into a competitive, dynamic and prosperous environment, SOE reforms are non-negotiable,” it said.

“These reforms will ensure that resources are released for investment in essential but under-resourced public service obligations such as education, healthcare, energy, transportation and digitization.”

“Without these reforms public funds will continue to be wasted on poorly managed entities that, in the first place, don’t need the state’s involvement.” (Colombo/April 18/2024)

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Sri Lanka seeks to draw youth into agri-entrepreneurship with 1.6bn funding

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Agriculture and Plantation Industries has earmarked 1.6 billion rupees for the establishment of 160 model farms across the island, that are to be owned and operated by youth agri-entrepreneurs.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Plantation Industries has taken steps to allocate 1,600 million rupees to establish 160 villages in 25 districts with 6 youth agri entrepreneurship villages in each district,” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera was quoted in a statement.

“Arrangements have been made to provide an amount of one million rupees to each village under the first phase.”

The Minister said the aim of the program is to attract youth to agriculture and to introduce them to new agricultural technology, so they could target local markets and exports.

Under the initiative vegetables, fruits, plantation crops, and fish are to be harvested, and livestock products are to be produced in the villages. (Colombo/May18/2024)

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Sri Lanka Navy nabs fishermen engaged in illegal fishing

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Navy apprehended eight persons engaged in illegal fishing in the seas off Ambalanpokkanei, Mullaitivu, Poduwakattu, and Trincomalee, this week.

“The operations also led to the seizure of 3 dinghies and unauthorized fishing gear employed for these illegal acts,” it said in a statement.

“The Sri Lanka Navy remains vigilant and conducts operations to combat illegal fishing in its sea and coastal areas, with a view to supporting legal fishing activities.”

The fishermen were engaging in light-coarse fishing and using unauthorized fishing nets.

They were intercepted by the SLNS Gotabaya and SLNS Walagamba of the Eastern Naval Command.

The individuals were identified as residents of Mullaitivu, Kuchchaveli and Poduwakattu, aged between 21 to 53 years.

The fishermen, dinghies and unauthorized fishing gear were handed over to the Assistant Directorate of Fisheries – Mullaitivu, and the Fisheries Inspector of Trincomalee for legal action, the Navy said. (Colombo/May18/2024)

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Fifteen years after the end of the war, victims still await justice at Mullivaikkal: Amnesty

ECONOMYNEXT – Speaking at a commemoration marking the 15th anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s internal armed conflict on 18 May 2009, which culminated in the brutal Mullivaikkal offensive where countless civilian lives were lost, Secretary General at Amnesty International Agnès Callamard said:

“Today’s anniversary is a grim reminder of the collective failure of the Sri Lankan authorities and the international community to deliver justice to the many victims of Sri Lanka’s three-decade-long internal armed conflict.

It is sobering to stand in the same place where, 15 years ago, countless civilian lives were lost during the last days of the war.

Ahead of this event, we have witnessed clampdown on the memory initiatives, including arrests, arbitrary detentions and deliberately skewed interpretations of the Tamil community’s attempts to remember their people lost to the war. Authorities must respect the space for victims to grieve, memorialise their loved ones and respect their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

UN investigations have found credible evidence of crimes under international law and other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by those on both sides of the conflict, yet there has been little in the way of an independent or impartial national inquiry into such serious crimes.

Meanwhile, the families of those who were forcibly disappeared during the conflict have been left to search desperately for their loved ones. It is truly heartbreaking to hear from victims how long they have been demanding justice in vain.

The Sri Lankan government is best placed to provide answers to the victims, however numerous domestic mechanisms to establish accountability in the last 15 years have been mere window dressing.

The report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released earlier this week too reiterates the gaping deficits in Sri Lanka’s accountability initiatives that has contributed to impunity remaining deeply entrenched.

Tens of thousands of victims and their families continue to suffer in anguish as they await truth, justice, and reparations. We stand in solidarity with them here in Mullivaikkal today.”

Background:

During the internal armed conflict from 1983 to 2009, Sri Lankan government forces and their armed political affiliates committed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and acts of torture against Tamils suspected of links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The LTTE also launched indiscriminate suicide attacks on civilian targets like buses and railway stations, assassinated politicians and critics, and forcibly recruited children as fighters.

Violations of international human rights and humanitarian law peaked in the final months of the conflict, most notably in May 2009 when some 300,000 displaced civilians were trapped between the warring parties.

It was at Mullivaikkal, a small village in Mullaitivu district in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, where the final offensive between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE took place, killing at least 40,000 civilians according to UN estimates.

Each year, on 18 May, a memorial event at Mullivaikkal brings together thousands of war-affected Tamils to commemorate those lost to the war and demand justice and accountability.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) this week released a report on accountability for enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka.
(Colombo/May18/2024)

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