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Friday June 2nd, 2023

Sri Lanka to hold ground at UNHRC vote on Oct 06: foreign minister

Mohamed Ali Sabry PC/Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has decided to hold its ground at the latest United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva, expressing strong opposition to a newer and tougher resolution to be taken up for a vote on Thursday October 06.

Noting that the odds are stacked heavily against the island nation what with powerful Western nations lobbying hard for votes, Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said on Wednesday that his government is particularly opposed to operative paragraph number 8, which he claimed is directly in confrontation with Sri Lanka’s constitution.

The paragraph reads: “Recognises the importance of preserving and analysing evidence relating to violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes in Sri Lanka with a view to advancing accountability, and decides to extend and reinforce the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve information and evidence and to develop possible strategies for future accountability processes for gross violations of human rights or serious violations of international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka, to advocate for victims and survivors, and to support relevant judicial and other proceedings, including in Member States, with competent jurisdiction.”

Speaking to journalists in the run-up to the Thursday’s vote, Minister Sabry said over a Zoom call from Geneva that countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, who lead the UNHRC core group on Sri Lanka, are greatly influenced by domestic-level lobbying by pressure groups from the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.

“This is not a fair reflection of the people’s will. This is heavy lobbying. This is geopolitics,” he said.

The composition of the UNHRC has changed and many countries that previously voted in support of Sri Lanka are no longer members of the council, said Sabry, indicating that the country will fare poorly at Thursday’s vote.

The minister complained that neither the West nor the diaspora groups are ever satisfied with the steps taken by Sri Lanka under successive governments to promote reconciliation through its own homegrown mechanisms and are determined to perpetually keep the “small country” trapped.

“Whatever you deliver, they will continue with a new theme and this will remain,” he said, falling back on Sri Lanka’s usual defence that human rights are being used as a tool of control.

With the exception of the Yahapalana government period from 2015 to 2019, Sri Lanka has, since 2009, taken a defensive if not confrontational approach to handling the UNHRC’s attempts to hold the state accountable for human rights violations alleged to have taken place in the final phase of a brutal 26-year with the separatist Tamil Tigers.

Minister Sabry said in September that Sri Lanka’s government under new president Ranil Wickremesinghe – who, incidentally, was prime minister in the Yahapalana government – does not want any confrontation with any international partner at the 51st UNHRC sessions but will oppose any anti-constitutional move forced upon the country.


Sri Lanka does not want confrontation at UNHRC, but will oppose anti-constitutional moves

In his address to journalists on the eve of the vote, Sabry said that Western machinations notwithstanding, Sri Lanka is committed to establishing a truth-seeking mechanism of its own and will go ahead with efforts at reconciliation that are in line with the constitution and do not violate the country’s sovereignty or the independence of the judiciary. Proponents of an external mechanism, however, have questioned the reliability of any internal investigation.

A truth-seeking mechanism that’s acceptable to the international community will be established after a rapport has been submitted by a presidential commission of inquiry, he said.

The Prevention of Terrosism Act (PTA), Sri Lanka’s controversial anti-terror law, already amended in April will also be repalced with new legislation, he added.

The PTA and its use in detaining anti-government protestors have also been highlighted in the new UNHRC resolution.

Sabry complained that countries like the US, the UK, Canada and Germany do not acknowledge measures taken by Sri Lanka over the years such as the rehabilitation and release of 12,9000 Tiger cadres who had surrendered to the army and the release of some 94 percent of Tamil-owned land previously occupied by the military.

The Tamil people of the country’s north and east, claimed Sabry, are not asking for a hybrid court or foreign judges but for employment opportunities and economic assistance.

The minister reiterated his government’s opposition to operative paragraph 8, which he called dangerous and a “targeted act against war heroes”.

“We cannot agree to this. We can’t do it even if we do agree,” he said, noting that having foreign judges investigate Sri Lankan troops or having troops prosecuted abroad would be a violation of the constitution.

“Since 2009, the peace benefits have been enjoyed by everybody, be they Sinhalese, Tamil, or Muslim. There has been massive development in various parts of the country. Until the unfortunate recent economic crisis, Sri Lanka was on a good path. People have now forgotten,” he said, adding that the dividends of peace are “everywhere”.

The latest UNHRC resolution on “promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka”, sponsored by 26 countries, also makes reference to the country’s prevailing currency crisis.

Operative paragraph 13 calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to “address the ongoing economic crisis, including by investigating and, where warranted, prosecuting corruption, including where committed by public and former public officials, and stands ready to assist and support independent, impartial and transparent efforts in this regard.”

Minister Sabry said Sri Lanka objects to this too, on the grounds that the UNHRC has no jurisdiction on economic matters.

“We are all agreed that economic reform is needed. But is that the specialisation of the UNHRC? That’s the area of the IMF and the World Bank. We have been perpetually put here. They’re interfering in everything, whether it’s within their purview or not,” he said.

Next they’ll say they need to investigate cricket, he added.

“What we’re saying at this crucial juncture is [that Sri Lanka needs] unity international support. We don’t want division and polarisation in the council,” said Sabry.

“We have engaged the core group and told them that we need time and space to deliver,” he added. (Colombo/Oct05/2022)

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Sri Lanka to ramp up weekend fuel deliveries after petrol price cut

More deaths reported at Sri Lanka fuel queues

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation will be operating on the weekend to complete all fuel deliveries to end vehicle queues forming outside fuel stations after the price revision earlier in the week, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said.

“Instructions have been given to CPC and Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals to continue fuel deliveries on Saturday and Sunday this week to supply sufficient stocks to all fuel stations,” Minister Wijesekera said in a TWITTER.COM MESSAGE

“To reduce expenses on overtime, CPC and CPSTL have not been operating on Sundays and public holidays in the last 4 months,” Wijesekera said.

“Non-placement of orders by fuel stations from last Saturday, anticipating a price reduction, not maintaining minimum stocks, immediate increase in demand by consumers after the price revision, and quota increase have created shortages in the fuel stations.”

The Minister in April 2023 said all fuel stations would be required to maintain a minimum of 50 percent of stock tank capacity.

“I have asked CPC to review and suspend the license of fuel stations that had not maintained minimum stocks.” (Colombo/ June 02/ 2023)

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Sri Lanka bonds yield up at close, rupee at 291.75/292.50 against the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s bonds closed steady on Friday, dealers said, following the central bank’s decision to cut its main policy rate by 250 basis points.

The Spot US dollar closed at 291.75/292.50 rupees, dealers said.

The rupee opened at 290.25/75 to the US dollar Thursday and closed at 292.50/295.50 to the US dollar.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 24.70/90 percent up from 24.50/90 percent a day earlier, dealers said.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 25.75/26.25 percent up from 25.00/26.00 percent a day earlier.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2025 closed at 27.00/30 percent, up from 26.30/27.00 per cent at last close.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 20.25/21.00 percent, up from 20.00/40 per cent at last close.
(Colombo/ June 02/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s shares edge up on positive macroeconomic sentiments

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares closed higher in trade on Friday, over positive macro-sentiments encouraging investors to redeem their interest towards buying, an analyst said.

The main All Share Price Index was up 0.72 percent or 62.19 points to 8,753.80,  while the most liquid index S&P SL20 was up 0.68 percent or 16.87 points to 2,487.29.

Sri Lanka’s inflation in the 12-months to May 2023 has eased to 25.2 percent from 35.3 percent a month earlier according to a revised Colombo Consumer Price Index calculated by the state statistics office.

Prior to the Monetary Policy investors were quite optimistic that inflation is to lower and interest rates will decrease and since exp, an analyst said.

Sri Lanka Central Bank is waiting for the government proposal on the domestic debt restructuring (DDR), the central bank governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said amid uncertainty over DDR and speculations over instability in the banking sector.

“On debt restructuring, the borrower is the ministry of finance’s treasury. Certainly we will announce what the strategy will be. We are waiting for a government proposal,” Weerasinghe said.

Sri Lanka’s investors are waiting on assurances to be made on debt restructuring and optimization, Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said, “It is up to the government to clear the uncertainty, because from our side we have done that part.”

The central bank cut the key policy rates by 250 basis points to spur a faltering economic growth as inflation was decelerating faster than it projected.

The speculation of DDR has hit the market and the risk premium has kept the market lending rates well above the central bank’s policy rates. The government has yet to present its plans on DDR.

Weerasinghe said the central bank has done its best to reduce the risk premium through bringing down the market lending rates while keeping the policy rates unchanged.

Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe has discussed progress of International Monetary Fund program and debt restructuring during a visit of Deputy Managing Director Kenji Okamura, statement said.

“The discussion primarily focused on the progress of the IMF program between Sri Lanka and the IMF,” a statement from President’s office said.

“Attention was also paid to the on-going debt restructuring negotiations.”

However Officials from IMF have said Sri Lanka has to focus on expanding taxes.

“We discussed the importance of fiscal measures, in particular revenue measures, for a return to macroeconomic stability,” Deputy Managing Director Kenji Okamura said in a statement.

The finance ministry this week issued rules requiring everyone above 18 year of age to register to pay income tax.

“I was encouraged by the authorities’ commitment to negotiate a debt strategy in a timely and transparent manner.

The market generated a revenue of 738 million rupees, while the daily average was 1 billion rupees.

Top gainers in trade were Vallibel One, LOLC Finance and Browns Investment. (Colombo/June02/2023)

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