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Tuesday February 27th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s “fascist threat” must be contained, says Acting President Wicrkremesinghe

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is facing a “fascist threat” that needs to be contained, newly appointed Acting President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said, announcing a curfew and state of emergency after hundreds of protestors took control of the Prime Minister’s office.

In a video statement released Wednesday July 13 afternoon, Wickremesinghe said he has appointed a committee comprising military commanders and the police chief to enforce the curfew and state of emergency.

Citing intelligence reports, Wickremesinghe claimed that factions of Sri Lanka’s newly emergent anti-government protest movement – known as the aragalaya (or struggle) – had plotted to seize and occupy the president’s and prime minister’s official residences and offices as well as the parliament complex.

Last Saturday, July 09, tens of thousands of protestors congregated in Colombo Fort in an attempt to force the ouster of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has now fled to the Maldives. At the time of writing, protestors are  occupying the PM’s office in addition to the President’s House, the PM’s official residence Temple Trees, and the Presidential Secretariat.

“We had received intelligence that even if the president left, sections of the aragalaya had planned to seize the PM’s office, to surround the air force commander’s house for providing the president an aircraft to fly to the Maldives, and to surround the houses of the army and navy commanders as well.

“The plan was to seize power. There was also a plan to surround parliament. The speaker had met with the chief of defence staff who had agreed to protect the parliament complex, so they didn’t get a chance to go there today,” said Wickremesinghe.

Wednesday’s group of protestors, numbering thousands, were met with stiff resistance by police but managed to break through barricades and storm the building.

“They have no reason at all to enter the prime minister’s office,” said Wickremesinghe.

“What they want is to prevent me as acting president together with the speaker from electing a new president. They want to elect their candidate,” he said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said earlier on Wednesday that the president will be sending his resignation letter within the day and that the election of a new president from the current parliament will go ahead as planned on July 20.

Wickremesinghe complained of the extraconstitutional methods that he said some protestors are resorting to.

“Some have said there is no point in consulting parliament or the country’s constitution but to do what they say instead. Parliament is what gives expression to people’s sovereignty and franchise. The country’s constitution cannot be torn up. Some even said we don’t need a constitution. That’s anti-constitutional,” he said.

“They’re attempting to spread fascism in this country. Some of our mainstream parties have joined this today,” he added.

Wickremesinghe said party leaders had already met by Wednesday afternoon to discuss the situation that would emerge upon the president’s resignation. He had already pledged to resign as PM when an all-party government is formed, he said, and it was agreed to reconvene on Friday July 15.

“Those who wished to be nominated agreed to speak to other MPs for their support. There was a democratic environment in the country,” he said.

The prime minister said he was advised by the security establishment to declare curfew and a state of emergency, which are now both under way, to contain the protests that sprang up earlier in the day and are still ongoing.

“We must eliminate this fascist threat. Ordinary citizens’ houses must be protected,” he said.

“They cannot be allowed to occupy the president’s house, Temple Trees, presidential secretariat and misplace the documents contained within them. So I have advised the defence establishment to enforce curfew and emergency and bring the situation back to normal.”

The committee has been given all the powers needed to carry out its mandate with no political interefence, said Wickremesinghe.

“I ask all of you, this is your future. It’s a time to protect the law and the peace, for you and for your children. I ask you to therefore fully cooperate with the forces and the police,” he said.

Meanwhile,

opposition leader Sajith Premadasa claimed authorities have launched a campaign of suppression on the people.

He asked whether President Rajapska had actually resigned or whether prime minister Wickremesinghe did not hear the call of the people.

“I am asking the young people to protest without causing harm,” he said. “Do not lay a hand on public or private property. I am asking dear security forces not to be pawns of an oppressive regime,” he said.

Ex-President Maithripala Sirisena said an unstable situation had emerged and the quickest way to solve it was for Wickremesinghe to resign without creating conflicts between the people and security forces.

“I am pleading in the name of God for Ranil Wickremesinghe to resign fast,” he said. (Colombo/Jul13/2022)

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Sri Lanka president appoints Supreme Court-faulted official as police chief after CC clearance

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed Deshbandu Tennakoon as the 36th Inspector General of Police (IGP) of the country after the Constitutional Council (CC) cleared the official who along with three other police officers were asked by the Supreme Court to compensate 2 million rupees in a fundamental rights case last year.

“President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed Deshbandu Tennakoon as the IGP in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution,” the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

The island nation’s Supreme Court on December 14 ordered Tennakoon when he was the Acting IGP and three other officials to pay a compensation of 500,000 rupees each for the violation of the fundamental rights of an individual.

The Supreme Court also instructed the Police Commission to take disciplinary action against the said Police officers after it considered the petition filed by W. Ranjith Sumangala who had accused the Police officers of violating his fundamental rights during his detention at Mirihana Police Station in 2011.

The Supreme Court held that the four police officers violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner by his illegal arrest, detention and subjection to torture at the Mirihana Police Station, which was under the supervision of Tennakoon at the time of the arrest.

President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake presented the official appointment letter to Tennakoon on Monday (26) at the Presidential Secretariat.

When Tennakoon was asked over if the Supreme Court decision would have an impact on his appointment as the IGP last week, he declined to comment, saying that it was a Supreme Court matter and he does not want to say anything about it.

Tennakoon was also criticized by Colombo Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith when he was appointed as the Acting IGP citing allegations against him related to security lapses leading up to the Easter Sunday attacks which killed at least 269 in April 2019.

However, Tennakoon rejected the allegations. (Colombo/Feb 26/2024)

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No water tariff hike in Sri Lanka this year: Minister

Millennium Challenge Corporation Photo.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s planned water tariff formula is ready, and the government will implement it this year only if the formula’s tariff is lower than the current price, Water Supply Minister Jeevan Thondaman said.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government has been implementing IMF-led pricing policies on utilities and the Water Supply Ministry has already come up with a formula.

“There is a water tariff formula in place right now and we are waiting for it to be drafted and seek approval from the cabinet,” Thondaman told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Monday.

“Once this water tariff formula is in place, there will be an annual revision with an option of biannual review.

The formula has been developed with the help of the Asian Development Bank. The formula includes electricity and exchange rate among many others as components like the fuel formula.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) increased the water tariff in August 2023, claiming that the operating cost had been increased owing to high interest payment for bank loans and increased electricity prices.

The last year revision saw the consumers paying 30-50 percent increase from the existing water bill.

Minister Thondaman said he will implement the new formula this year only if there is a reduction.

TARIFF CUT WILL BE IMPLEMENTED 

“We will have to wait to see what the formula is. If the formula shows us there needs to be a reduction in the water tariff, we can implement it. But if there is an increase, why should we burden the people when we are on a road to recovery?” he said.

He said a group of experts including University Professors are working on the formula and the numbers.

“Once they come with the number, we will have to take a decision on whether we are going to impose on the people or not,” he said.

“We have already spoken to the Asian Development Bank and informed them we have established the formula. But according to the ADB requirement of this policy-based loan, the implementation period is only in 2025.”

“But right now, you want to take the approval for the formula for sustainability.”

The Energy Ministry is considering a drastic slash in electricity tariff soon. Thondaman said the exact numbers will be decided on after the finalized electricity tariff.

However, he said that as per the formula, there has to be a up to 10 percent increase in the water tariff as of now.

“Given the current formula set up, there must be around a 9-10 percent increase. It was actually at 14 percent. What we have done is since it is at 14 percent, we also did a calculation to see how we can do a cost cutting,” he said.

“So, despite our cost cutting measures, there will be an increase of 9 or 10 percent. But we will not be imposing it as of now because this year is meant to be policy sector reforms. Next year is meant to be the implementation.”

“As per August 2023 water tariff hike, we are able to come close to sustainable. So right now, there is no issue in the water sector. But a formula eventually needs to be established.” (Colombo/Feb 26/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 310.80/311.00 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 310.80/311.00 to the US dollar Monday, from 310.95/311.05 on Thursday, dealers said.

Bond yields were down.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed stable at 10.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.80/90 percent down from 11.90/12.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2028 closed at 12.00/12.15 percent down from 12.10/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.20/70 percent from 12.20/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.30/70 percent down from 12.40/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2031 closed at 12.60/80 percent from 12.45/13.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/90 percent from 12.50/13.30 percent. (Colombo/Feb26/2024)

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