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Saturday May 18th, 2024

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 suffers over $138mn foreign outflow from govt bonds in 2024 after rate cuts

ECONOMYNEXT – Foreign investors have dumped 41.6 billion-rupee ($138.6 million) worth of Sri Lanka government securities in the first 20 weeks of 2024, the central bank data showed, after reduction in the key policy interest rates.

The foreign holding in Sri Lanka’s treasury bills and treasury bonds fell to 75.9 billion rupees on the week ended on Friday (17), May 2024, from 117.4 billion rupees on the week ended on December 29.

The central bank rate has reduced the key policy rates by 50 basis points so far in 2024, extending the rates cut by 700 basis points since June last year.

The rupee appreciated 9.1 percent in the first four months, but the gain failed to attract foreign investors amid a dragged debt restructuring negotiation with external private creditors.

Currency dealers said lackluster demand for dollars due to dampened imports with heavy controls, boom in both tourism revenue and remittances have helped to increase the dollar liquidity in the market, leading to the appreciation of the local currency.

The dealers said foreign investors can earn capital gain if they had bought government securities before the appreciation and now the offshore investors might be selling their bonds.

“They are also discouraged by policy rate cut because that will reduce their returns from the rupee bond investments,” a currency dealer said.

The yield in 12-month T-bills has fallen 336 basis points in the first four months of this year, the central bank data showed.

The central bank also reduced the Statutory Reserve Ratio (SRR) of commercial banks by 200 basis points in August last year to boost liquidity in the market with an aim to reduce market interest rates.

Under tough International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditions for its $3 billion loan program, the central bank raised key monetary policy rates in 2022 and last year to bring down inflation which hit over 70 percent in 2022. The inflation has fallen to the lower single digit now.

The rupee has appreciated to around 300 against the US dollar this week from around 330 level early in November. The local currency was at 365 rupees against the US dollar in early 2022. Depreciation causes capital loss for foreign investors. (Colombo/May 18/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s ‘Sancharaka Udawa’ tourist fair seeks to involve universities

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ‘Sancharaka Udawa’ tourism fair kicked off this week to promote interaction between industry stakeholders and relevant Government bodies, including the Tourist Police, and also universities.

“Several universities, including Colombo, Uva Wellasa, Kelaniya, Sabaragamuwa and Rajarata were given free stalls to facilitate student interaction with industry professionals,” Chairman of the Sancharaka Udawa Organising Committee, Charith De De Alwis said in a statement.

The event takes place today (18) at the BMICH and houses stalls for hoteliers, tour and transport services, with a goal of attracting 10,000 visitors.

Organized by the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) and the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), the 11th edition of Sancharaka Udawa offers a platform for both B2B and B2C sectors.

“Sancharaka Udawa houses over 170 exhibitors and a footfall of more than 10,000 visitors,” De Alwis said.

This year’s edition will include participants from outbound tourism sectors to facilitate capacity building. The event provides networking opportunities for industry newcomers and veterans.

“The networking platform offers opportunity for small and medium-sized service providers integrating them into the broader tourism landscape. The anticipated outcome is a substantial increase in bookings particularly for regional small-scale tourism service providers.” (Colombo/May18/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s CEB sells LTL shares to West Coast IPP for Rs26bn

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Electricity Board has sold shares of an affiliate to West Coast Power Company Limited, an independent power producer giving profits of 25.9 billion rupees in the March 2024 quarter, interim accounts showed.

The sale has been carried out as a transfer.

“Twenty-eight percent (28-pct) of share ownership of CEB within LTL Holding’s equity capital has been transferred to West Coast Power Company Ltd for a total consideration of Rs 26 billion as part of a partial settlement of outstanding dues…” the March interim accounts said.

“This transaction resulted in a net gain of Rs25.9 billion rupees which has been recognized and reflected in the ‘Gain from Share Disposal’ in the individual financial statement in CEB.”

LTL Holdings is a former transformer making unit of the CEB set up with ABB where the foreign holding was sold to its management.

The firm has since set up several IPPs.

West Coast Power operates a 300MW combined cycle IPP in Kerawalapitiya promoted by LTL group liked firms in which both the Treasury and Employees Provident Fund also have shares.

Its operational and maintenance contract is with Lakdhanavi, another private IPP. The firm has been paying dividends.

The capital gain from the transfer of shares helped the CEB post profits to 84 billion rupees for the March 2024 quarter.

CEB reported gross profits of 62.7 billion rupees from energy sales and 30.6 billion rupees in other income and gains in the March 2024 quarter. Other income was only 3.1 billion rupees in last year. (Colombo/May18/2024)

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