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Monday April 22nd, 2024

Sri Lanka’s “elderly” MPs must resign to make way for youth protestors: bus union chief

File Picture of protest

ECONOMYNEXT – President Ranil Wickremesinghe must see to it that at least five “elderly” MPs vacate their parliamentary seats to make way for representatives of Sri Lanka’s youth-led protest movement, Chairman of Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) Gemunu Wijeratne said

Speaking to reporters on Monday August 01, Wijearatne suggested that five key individuals from the ‘Aragalaya’ (Struggle) protest movement must enter parliament through the national list.

Sri Lanka’s youth have been demonstrating against the government’s handling of the country’s economic crisis since April and their protests saw the ouster of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who fled the country on July 13.

One of the demands of the Galle Face protestors is more youth participation in parliament. Wijearatne told EconomyNext that “elderly” members of parliament should resign of their own accord to make way for new personalities with new ideas.

We have ministers that can’t walk and we expect them to be able to run a country. So I make this suggestion in good faith, to give the young generation a chance to have their voices heard.”

“The president must decide which parliamentary seats will be replaced,” he said.

A majority have been asking for elections after President Wickremesinghe was sworn in, the private bus union chief said.

“Even if there is an election under this proportional representation voting system, the youth will never be able to get elected to parliament, because every day it’s the same wine in a new bottle,” he said.

Wijeratne, who is not directly affiliated with the Aragalaya, said he’s making this proposal as a solution to Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since Independence. He claimed he has been a witness to injustice and disparity within the system, hence his call for youth leadership in Sri Lanka.

S V Nadarajah, a protestor who has been in the struggle since its inception, is not hostile to Wijeratne’s proposal.

“Most politicians are in their retirement age and there is no inflow of new ideas nor any vision. When the youngsters enter parliament, it will change,” she said, adding that the younger generation is looking to join active politics.

“Sri Lanka is following 74-year-old politics which doesn’t work for today,” she said.

However, not all protestors are interested in entering parliament and working with the establishment. Chathura Bandara, a frequent protestor, said: “Five members of the Aragalaya against 220 existing members of parliament will not, once again, be a reflection of the people.”

One of the main arguments of the anti-government protestors is that the current parliament is not representative of the public and that the present set of rulers are not in touch with the people and their hardships.

“If we wanted to join the parliament, we would have campaigned during elections. That is not what we want. We want a system change, but we don’t want a system change with the existing 225 [members of parliament],” said Bandara.

Despite some setbacks, sections of the Aragalaya are persistent with their demand that President Wickremesinghe also vacate his office. This has been particularly the case since what critics claimed was an unprovoked attack on peaceful protestors on July 22 when the military allegedly attacked protestors at Galle Face and forcefully evicted them the Presidential Secretariat even after a prior notice that they would be leaving.

“We didn’t come to protest to fill a vacant seat in parliament,” says Melanie Gunathilaka, an occupant at Galle Face who has been protesting since April..

Wickremesinghe was elected president by parliament with 134 votes out of 225. On Sunday July 31, he renewed his call for an all-party government to lead Sri Lanka out of its economic crisis.

A Wall Street Journal interview on Sunday saw him reiterate his call for political stability.

Related:

Political stability will help Sri Lanka turn a corner, president tells WSJ

The president has also controversially claimed that the Aragalaya has been hijacked by what he calls fascist elements aiming to destabilise the country. He has pointed to acts of violence including acts of arson and the killing of government MP Amarakeerthi Atukorala as evidence.

Since the protest is a decentralised movement with the participation of a wide array of citizens, said Gunatillake, some may be fond of the idea getting into parliament. But this was go against the core demands of the Aragalaya, she said.

“This is a move to bring new young faces with the bunch of old faces. You can’t have new when you’re surrounded by the old,” she said. (Colombo/Aug01/2022)

Comments (1)

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  1. Rubu Fernando says:

    There definitely must be certain criteria for MP’s.
    1. Minimum a university edcation
    2. Proficent in all 3 languages – English a must
    3. No more than 65 years of age
    4. Must have a proven track record
    5. No crimial records, including traffic violations
    6. Should follow a minimum 3 month course on parliamentary norms, behavior rules and etiquett and pass a rigid test
    7 Basically follow the Singapore model.

    Ministers of the cabinet should be subject matter experts with education, knowlege of the subject and experience from corporate.

    Government should vacate from owning and operating businesses and MP chit system of recruitment to Government jobs cease forthwith. Government should not be in the business of providing employment – it should be left to free market enterprises to do so.

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Rubu Fernando says:

    There definitely must be certain criteria for MP’s.
    1. Minimum a university edcation
    2. Proficent in all 3 languages – English a must
    3. No more than 65 years of age
    4. Must have a proven track record
    5. No crimial records, including traffic violations
    6. Should follow a minimum 3 month course on parliamentary norms, behavior rules and etiquett and pass a rigid test
    7 Basically follow the Singapore model.

    Ministers of the cabinet should be subject matter experts with education, knowlege of the subject and experience from corporate.

    Government should vacate from owning and operating businesses and MP chit system of recruitment to Government jobs cease forthwith. Government should not be in the business of providing employment – it should be left to free market enterprises to do so.

IMF official: Sri Lanka’s road ahead is challenging, critical to keep up with reform momentum

ECONOMYNEXT –International Monetary Fund’s First Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinath said Sri Lanka’s future with many reforms are challenging, but it is critical to keep up with the reform momentum.

Gopinath stated this after meeting the island nation’s State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe, and Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena on the sideline of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington.

“I commended them on hard-won economic gains in the past year. The road ahead is challenging and it’s critical to keep up with the reform momentum,” Gopinath wrote on her X platform.

Under IMF programme, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has implemented a raft of hard reforms including higher taxes.

Sri Lanka agreed to the IMF programme after it declared bankruptcy with sovereign debt default in April 2022.

Semasinghe after the meeting tanks Gopinath for acknowledging Sri Lanka’s economic progress.

“Our discussion was insightful and productive, and we appreciate the opportunity to delve into the challenges and opportunities ahead,” the State Finance minister said in his X platform.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to our reform agenda and eagerly anticipate continued collaboration with the IMF to advance our shared goals.”

Sri Lanka was compelled to go for IMF after the unprecedented economic crisis which was followed by a political crisis that ousted former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government who were legitimately elected.

The IMF programme has included reforms in state-owned enterprises, fiscal sector and financial sectors to ensure debt sustainability.

The global lender also has pledged its support to speed up the island nation’s lingering debt restructuring process with private creditors including sovereign bond holders. (Colombo/April 22/2021)

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Another 21 spectators were injured Sunday, and hospitalized and at least four were critical, police said.

Thousands of people come to watch the Fox Hill Super Cross race, which is usually held in April, as large numbers of people head to the cooler climes in the hills.

According to footage taken by spectators one car overturned on the side of the track.

Sri Lanka’s Newsfirst television said Marshalls were waving flags to caution other vehicles, when another car went off the track and crashed into spectators. (Colombo/April21/2024)

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“The strides made in our economic recovery and financial stability have been acknowledged as significant advancements towards our country’s prosperity by our stakeholders and international partners,” Minister Semasinghe said in an x.com (twitter) post after attending the meetings.

“Further, it was heartening to note the widespread appreciation and support for Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring process.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to reaching the restructuring targets and confident of smooth progress in the continued good-faith engagements for a speedy debt resolution that will ensure debt sustainability and comparability of debt treatment.”

Sri Lanka ended a first round of talks with sovereign bondholders in March without striking a deal but some agreement on the basis for a deal.

An initial deal with bilateral creditors have been reached, but they may be awaiting a deal with private creditors to sign formal agreements.

International partners have appreciated reforms made under President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister Semasinghe said.

“It was great to engage in productive bilateral discussions with all of whom appreciated the recent economic developments, progress in debt restructuring, strengthening of tax administration, and ongoing governance reforms,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has been allowed to re-appreciate by the central bank amid deflationary monetary policy, bringing tangible benefits to people in the form of lower energy and food prices, unlike in past IMF programs.

Electricity prices were cut as a strengthening currency helped reduce the cost of coal imports.

Related Sri Lanka central bank mainly responsible for electricity price cut

The currency appreciation has also allowed losses to the Employment Provident Fund imposed to be partially recouped, helping old workers near retirement, as well as raising disposable incomes of current wage earners on fixed salaries.

Related Sri Lanka EPF gets US$1.85bn in value back as central bank strengthens rupee

The IMF, which was set up after World War II to end devaluations seen in the 1930s after the Fed’s policy rate infected other key central banks, started to actively encourage depreciation after a change to its founding articles in 1978 (the Second Amendment).

The usefulness of money as a store of value, or a denominator of current and future values then decline, leading to loss of real savings, real wages and increases in social unrest.

Before that, members who devalued more than 10 percent after printing money for growth or any other reason, faced the threat of suspension from the organization as punishment.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has appreciated to around 300 to the US dollar now from 370 after a surrender rule was lifted in March 2023.

But there is no transparency on the basis that economic bureaucrats are allowing the currency to gain against the US dollar (the intervention currency of the central bank).

The rupee is currently under pressure, despite broadly prudent monetary policy, due to an ‘oversold position’ in the market after recent appreciation made importers and banks to run negative open positions as the usefulness of the currency as a denominator of future value declined with sudden strenghtening. (Colombo/Apr21/2024)

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