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Monday December 5th, 2022

Sri Lanka’s arrested uni student protestors will not be detained under PTA: PM

ECONOMYNEXT – Twenty-five university students who were arrested at a protest in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Tuesday August 30, will not be detained under the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), according to Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Responding to a question by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, Gunawardena told parliament on Wednesday August 31 that the government had been informed by police that the students were arrested under the country’s normal law and detention orders (DOs) will not be issued.

The students were arrested at a protest organised by the Inter-University Student Federation (IUSF) Tuesday afternoon. The prime minister said that the organisers’ had only notified the police of the location the protestors would be convening at and not where they would be headed. A protest march ensued and the students were met with police tear gas and water cannon fire.

Raising the matter in parliament the following morning, Opposition Leader Premadasa said the student body was exercising its freedom of expression and its right to protest.

“IUSF members were brutally attacked and tear gassed, and 25 of them were arrested for no reason. I wish to ask the prime minister if there are no fundamental rights in this country anymore? Is it against the law to protest on the streets?” said Premadasa.

The opposition leader said the government was calling for an all-party government, all the while engaging in “state terrorism”.

“We’re ready to join an all-party mechanism, but not to take up cabinet positions,” he added.

He asked Gunawardena for an assurance that the arrested university students would not be detained under the PTA.

The controversial anti-terror law, which temporarily cost Sri Lanka the EU’s GSP Plus trade concession in 2010, is once again under scrutiny after it was enforced to arrest and detain protestors involved in the Aragalaya (Struggle) protest movement that caused a sitting president to resign. Three other activists including IUSF Convenor Wasantha Mudalige are already in detention under provisions of the PTA – a move widely criticised by human rights activists, opposition lawmakers and foreign governments.


Sri Lanka’s anti-terror law under scrutiny again as protestor detention continues


Premadasa said no private or public property was damaged during Tuesday’s IUSF protest.

“We saw that it was in fact the police that were affected by their own tear gas,” he added.

With the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) sessions coming up in Geneva, where Sri Lanka’s human rights record will once again go under the microscope, analysts say the government’s recent alleged crackdown on protestors will be a focal point in the discussions.

“Geneva session begins this September. Have you forgotten about the UNHRC session coming up? We don’t want the country to be at risk. We want to help the country and the people and the government with regard to the Geneva question. But how can we help when there is such barbarism?” said Premadasa.

“We’re not in the habit of going to other countries and complaining about Sri Lanka. But what are supposed to do when there is such savagery and state terrorism?

“Don’t do this. This is called ‘illan kanawa’ (asking for it),” he said.

Responding to Premadasa, Prime Minister Gunawardena said police had not been notified by the IUSF about their planned movements.

“It’s not just about the fundamental rights of one person, but about the rights of everyone else [that may be infringed]. We’re committed to an environment in which no one is [disturbed or harassed],” said Gunawardena.

The police has an obligation to investigate disturbances to the public, he added.

However, anyone arrested on Tuesday will be treated under the country’s standard laws and will not be detained under the PTA, the prime minister said.

“It is good that this question was asked.

“We will work with the country’s normal law and not the PTA,” he said.

On August 23, the government  announced the introduction of a new ‘national security act’ with more “relaxed” provisions to replace the PTA.


Sri Lanka to replace controversial anti-terror law with new ‘National Security Act’


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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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Sri Lanka bond yields slightly down

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s bond yields were slightly down at open on Monday while t- bills were inactive, dealers said.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions was at 363.18 rupees against the US dollar, appreciated from 363.19 rupees on Friday.

“Only one bond is being quoted today, and the rest remaining unquoted” a dealer said.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 quoted at 29.30/30.00 percent down from 29.50/75 percent at Friday’s close.(Colombo/ Dec 03/2022)

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Sri Lanka should prioritize RCEP , not small FTAs: economist

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka should make joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) a priority instead of trying to negotiate multiple smaller deals, an economist has said.

“We do not have the bandwidth in government and the technical resources to do multiple trade agreements,” Anushka Wijesinghe an economist who has been involved in trade told a business forum in Colombo.

“I think RCEP should be number one priority, rather than three or four tiny bilateral goods agreements.”

Sri Lanka is trying negotiate a free trade deal with China and expand an existing one with India.

Data show that Sri Lanka has been able to boost exports with FTAs.

Sri Lanka has high tariff protection which ultimately backfire.

Sri Lanka has protectionist business interests their profits from overpriced goods have had priority over ordinary consumers and overall economic efficiency that comes from free trade.

Sri Lanka also has monetary instability, which has worsened under flexible inflation targeting, with a series of currency crises coming in rapid successions.

Forex shortages from mis-targeted interest rates under flexible or discretionary monetary policies have discredited free trade and liberalization in general and strengthened the hands of economic nationalists, analysts say.

The country also has monetary instability, which makes life difficult not only for investors but all economic agents.

Over the past two decades Sri Lanka’s exports have not grown as much as competitors. (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

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