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Thursday February 22nd, 2024

Sri Lanka’s ex-defence secretary indicted over Rs 11.4 billion arms scandal

ECONOMYNEXT, Sri Lanka’s anti-graft panel on Wednesday charged former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and seven others, including three ex-navy commanders, for illegally allowing a private floating armoury.

The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) filed action against Rajapaksa and six others for allowing private Avant Garde Maritime Services to operate the armoury and provide sea marshal services.

"The former defence secretary had no authority to grant such permission," a spokesman for CIABOC told reporters. "By doing so, he caused Avant Garde to illegally earn Rs11.4 billion  in revenue."

Former additional secretary to the defence ministry Damayanthi Jayaratne, who has since fled the country; former defence ministry military liaison officer retired general Palitha Fernando; retired general K. B. Egodawela; and former navy commanders Somathilaka Dissanayake, Jayanath Colombage and Jayantha Perera were charged before the Colombo chief magistrate.

The head of Avant Garde, retired major Nissanka Senadhipathi is also being charged under tough bribery and corruption laws.

After months of delay in carrying out investigations, President Maithripala Sirisena in November last year ordered that weapons aboard two floating armouries at the Galle harbour be taken over by the navy.

The business that was initially done by the navy had been handed over to Avant Garde by Rajapaksa.

It was an operation previously carried out by the navy that was subsequently handed over to Avant Garde through a defence ministry-established private security arm known as Rakna Araksha Lanka Limited (RALL).

The vessel Avant Garde, which shares the same name of the company, was seized by the navy on October 5 outside the Galle harbour following several discrepancies about its lethal cargo, the crew, and their route and final destination.

Former Law and Order minister Tilak Marapana, who defended Avant Garde and eventually resigned after allegations of conflict of interest, had claimed ignorance of weapons whose serial numbers had been erased or changed while onboard the Avant Garde vessel.
(COLOMBO, August 31, 2016)

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Sri Lanka to consolidate all vocational training institutes into one college: president

ECONOMYNEXT — Sri Lanka plans to consolidate all vocational training institutes in the country into a single vocational college, offering contemporary subject-related courses, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

Speaking at an observation tour at the Ratmalana Lalith Athulathmudali Vocational Training Centre on Thursday February 22, Wickremesinghe highlighted the need to restructure vocational education to align with the demands of the modern world.

A statement from the president’s office said quoting the president that such restructuring is needed to ensure that Sri Lanka’s youth are equipped to excel in the competitive global job market.

According to the statement, Wickremesinghe had also outlined to students at the institute the government’s plans for a swift digital transformation and the prioritisation of advancements such as Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“He expressed optimism about Sri Lanka’s trajectory in embracing evolving technologies,” the statement said.

A University of Vocational Technology was established in 2008 under the University of Vocational Technology Act Number 31 of 2008. The institute has the same legal and academic status as any other national university in Sri Lanka.

According to former Vice-Chancellor of University of Vocational Technology Dr T A Piyasiri, Sri Lanka sees a 30 percent dropout rate in its tertiary education sector.

One reason dropouts were high among those who joined state-owned tertiary education institutes after leaving school, was that they were free, he said speaking at an event in December 2023.

“The reasons for the dropouts; The first is that students have found employment – 21.5 percent of students have dropped out for employment. The second reason is economic hardships, and the third is incorrect choice by students,” said Piyasiri.

According to World Bank Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives Chiyo Kanda, around 20 percent of Sri Lankan school graduates go on to further education while one-third of them enroll at training colleges.

Half of Sri Lanka’s students do not receive a post-secondary education, or tertiary education, including college, university, and vocational courses.

Related:

Sri Lanka tertiary education dropouts at 30pct: Vocational training professional

(Colombo/Feb22/2024)

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ADB country chief hopes Sri Lanka could sustain policy reforms despite elections

ECONOMYNEXT – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) expects Sri Lanka not to reverse its International Monetary Fund-led policy reforms despite elections soon, the ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono said.

The island nation has witnessed repeated reversals of policy reforms in the past due to greedy politicians who misled  the people to vote for them by sowing the seeds of subsidy mentality with unsustainable debts at expensive borrowing costs, economists say.

That led the country into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2022 with a sovereign debt default. Sri Lanka is still struggling to come out of the crisis.

The IMF has strictly placed some reforms including in state sector enterprises, fiscal and monetary sectors.

Sri Lanka has implemented the painful IMF reforms so far including higher personal income taxes, but economists have raised concerns over the sustainability of the current reforms due to possible changes in the policies in the event of a new president or government comes to power after democratic elections.

“If that kind of reversal happens, we also cannot justify our support,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono told EconomyNext on late on Wednesday.

“We do expect these policy reforms to be sustained. So that is our expectation. That is the premise which we are providing our budget support. If they reverse, the whole premise will be collapsed. That kind of policy reversal cannot happen.”

The island nation had sought IMF bailout package for 17 times including the ongoing support. However, the authorities have failed to complete most of the past IMF loan disbursements due to politically motivated contradiction with the global lender’s tight fiscal policies.

Sri Lanka has shown some signs of recovery in the third quarter of 2023 with the economic growth turned to positive from contraction for the first time in seven quarters.

However, opposition political parties have promised to revisit the IMF deal if they come to power.

Higher taxes, soaring cost of living, and lack of salary hike have made President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government unpopulour among the public, analysts say.

Wickremesinghe has said the country will hold both presidential and parliamentary election by 2025.

Some government politicians have told EconomyNext that the higher taxes would be eased from April and the authorities will try their best to meet the IMF conditions for the third disbursement in June this year.

The presidential polls should be held by October this year, but opposition parties have said President Wickremesinghe is in the process to delay the poll.

However, Wickremesinghe’s office last week said Presidential Election will be held “within the mandated period”, without giving an exact time.

It also said the General Election will be held next year, “according to the current timeline”. (Colombo/Feb 22/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 310.95/311.05 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 310.95/311.05 to the US dollar Thursday, from 311.30/50 on Wednesday, dealers said.

Bond yields were down.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.60/80 percent from 10.65/85 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.05 percent from 12.05/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2028 closed at 12.10/25 percent from 12.20/35 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.20/95 percent from 12.45/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.40/95 percent from 12.35/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2031 closed stable at 12.45/13.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/13.30 percent from 12.50/13.20 percent. (Colombo/Feb22/2024)

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