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Monday March 4th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s Equal Ground, Canada HC join hands in LGBTQI film festival

ECONOMYNEXT – Equal Ground, a non-profit promoting sexual minority rights in Sri Lanka, and the Canada High Commission in Colombo have jointly organised a queer film festival to highlight issues faced by the LGBTQI community in the island.

The Abhimani Queer Film Festival 2022 will commence on Friday (25) with an online screening of popular Indo-Canadian film director and screenwriter Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Funny Boy, the acclaimed debut novel of Sri Lankan-Canadian writer Shyam Selvadurai.

Established in 2006, Abhimani is the oldest International Queer Film Festival in South Asia, and  is the only film festival in Sri Lanka that focuses on stories related to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) community. The festival aims to entertain and educate the wider public on the community and the issues it faces, according to Equal Ground.

Selvadurai’s Funny Boy, which won the Canada First Novel Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction, is the coming-of-age story of Arjie Chelvaratnam, a queer, Tamil boy from Colombo who grapples with his sexual orientation, against the backdrop of racial tension.

The film adaptation stars Sri Lankan actors Brandon Ingram, Nimmi Harasgama, Rehan Mudannayake, Shivantha Wijesinha along with Indian stars Ali Kazmi, Agam Darshi and Seema Biswas. Though the movie has been well received critically, some commentators took issue with its casting choices for not being representative of the Tamil community. The movie has also been controversial for its allegedly problematic use of the Tamil language by non-Tamil actors.

Sexual literacy among Sri Lankans is low. A video surfaced in August 2021 of a police training in Kandy, where a counsellor was heard making homophobic remarks to a packed audience of junior policemen and women. The offending video, which was shared on social media on August 02, showed the woman posing the question “Would you like your child to be a victim of a homosexual?” to which the audience replied “no” in unison.

Sri Lanka has not recognised LGBTQI rights legally, and the island nation’s four-decades-plus-old constitution only mentions men and women.

Sri Lankan Penal Code criminalises voluntary “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” which is used to discriminate against LGBTQI individuals.

These laws are a by-product of the British legal system. While politicians like the late Mangala Samaraweera attempted to destigmatise queerness, political opponents have actively undermined such efforts.

Despite outrage from the international community, conversion therapy is still rampant in Sri Lanka, and most government forms only carry the male and female options for gender.

No government in power has legitimately accepted LGBTQI rights, as such move would be seen as hurting religious sentiments.

While gay and transgender characters appear in Sri Lankan media, they are usually used for comedic effects or promote negative stereotypes.

However, in news welcomed by the LGBTQI community, the Court of Appeal on December 08 last year granted leave to proceed for a writ petition filed against the police over the aforesaid police training video.

Related: LGBTQI activists in Sri Lanka welcome major court decision amid urgent need for reform


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Sri Lanka’s CEB reports Rs61bn profit for 2023 with Dec quarter gains

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Electricity Bord has reported a profit of 61.2 billion rupees for the year to December 2023, turning around from a loss of 298 billion last year, with all the profits coming in the last year amid heavy rain and price hike, interim accounts show.

The CEB reported profits of 77.9 billion rupees for the December quarter, compared to a loss of 182 billion rupees last year.

About 94 billion rupees in losses were forex losses, coming from the central bank, which printed money to suppress rates and triggered a steep currency collapse in a failed float with a surrender rule.

CEB revenues rose 55 percent to 156 billion rupees in the December quarter, cost of sales fell 45 percent to 78 billion rupees amid heavy rains, giving a gross profit of 78.2 billion rupees for the quarter.

In the year to December, CEB revenues were 606.6 billion rupees, up 96 percent from 308 billion rupees, while cost of sales rose from 444 billion rupees to 506 billion rupees. Gross profits were 99.6 billion rupees.

At group level, which includes LTL Holdings, profits were 75 billion rupees for the year, with income taxes of 6.3 billion rupees, provided.

CEB consolidated profits were 68.4 billion rupees, with other shareholders of subsidiaries accounting for 7.2 billion rupees.

Equity was 498 billion rupees at company level by December 31, with 126 billion rupee capital contribution as well as profits earned in the last quarter. (Colombo/Mar05/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee opens at 308.20/50 to the US dollar

Sri Lanka stocks reversed its falling trend and gained for the first time in six sessions on Tuesday closed stronger on Tuesday (21).

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee opened at 308.20/50 to the US dollar Monday, from 308.80/90 on Friday, dealers said.

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 01.08.2026 was quoted stable at 10.90/11.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 was quoted at 11.90/12.00 percent from 11.90/12.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 was quoted at 12.20/30 percent from 12.15/35 percent.

The Colombo Stock Exchange opened up; The All Share was up 0.60 percent at 10,755, and the S&P SL20 was up 1.24 percent at 3,077. (Colombo/Mar4/2024)

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Sri Lanka central bank swaps top $3.2bn by December

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s central bank borrowed US dollars from various counterparties through swap transactions, which had topped 3.2 billion US dollars by December 2024, official data show.

The net short position, including swaps disclosed by the central bank, grew by over almost 1.28 billion US dollars from December 2022 to 3,280 million dollars.

The gross position grew from 2,263 million dollars to 3,280 million US dollars over the year.

The central bank supported some state banks with dollars to cover their dollar exposures, which had since been paid back.

By December reported gross reserves of the central bank was 4,491 million US dollars, against swaps of 3,280 billion US dollars.

Swaps of around 1500 related to the People Bank of China.

Swaps allow a central bank to increase gross reserves, without raising domestic interest rates.

Swaps with domestic counterparties lead to liquidity being injected into money markets, which can be mopped if domestic credit growth is moderate.

At the moment many private banks have large dollar positions invested outside the country, which cannot be used for transactions domestically because of a money monopoly given to macro-economists. (Sri Lanka repays debt or collects reserves of U$5bn via banking system since rate correction)

However unwinding swaps after private credit has picked, or engaging in swaps after private credit has picked up, may lead to money being injected to maintain the policy rate, leading to excess credit by banks and balance of payments deficits and or currency collapses, analysts say.

Central bank swaps in the third quarter of 2018 led to a collapse of the currency under the ‘exchange rate as the first line of defence’ policy peddled to Sri Lanka, critics have said earlier.

Domestic currency proceeds of swaps were the primary ammunition to bust East Asian currencies in 1997-98.

Any depreciation after the swap proceeds have been used for imports (effectively mis-targeting rates) a central bank will run a forex loss.

The PBOC however had put a rule, preventing the use of the swap after gross reserves fell below 3 – months of imports, preventing Sri Lanka from getting into further trouble through the use of official reserves for private imports.

Sri Lanka’s central bank also used borrowings from the Reserve Bank of India, via the Asian Clearing Union to run BOP deficits.

Losses from exposed dollar positions of central banks which have gained ‘independence’ from fiscal rules and parliaments and engaged in macro-economic policy, including the Fed, have led to taxpayers bearing the losses in the end.

Swaps were invented by the Fed in the early 1960s, as it deployed macro-economic policy (printed money for growth) threatening its gold reserves and the Bretton Woods system.

Sri Lanka has other borrowings also, including from the IMF, which has made net foreign assets of the central bank negative. (Colombo/Mar05/2024)

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