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Saturday April 20th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s IUSF mocked online as anti-private uni poster becomes meme

ECONOMYNEXT – A protest organised by Sri Lanka’s Inter University Student Federation (IUSF) against proposed higher education reforms has drawn ridicule on social media with a poster for the protest becoming a meme overnight.

The poster in question was shared on the IUSF’s official Facebook page on Tuesday August 08, saying “no” to what the IUSF calls “degree shops”, in reference to private universities and higher education institutes in Sri Lanka, whose existence the IUSF has historically opposed.

The poster received some 14,000 reactions from Facebook users, out of which over 13,000 were ‘haha’ reacts, indicating universal mockery.

It did not take long for the poster to become a meme template, with hundreds if not thousands of shares almost overnight.

A few examples follow:

The IUSF’s demonstration, scheduled for 12.30pm on Wednesday August 10, is specifically against a proposal to abolish the existing University Grants Commission (UGC) and replace it with a new National Higher Education Commission.

The IUSF argues that the move would pose a threat to free education, based entirely on the fact that it will pave the way to private universities.

The government plans to make education a commercial commodity in line with neoliberalism and the wishes of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a spokesman for the IUSF claimed in a Facebook video.

The spokesman also claimed that the proposed reforms would extend to the school system too.

A parliamentary Select Committee chaired by Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has reportedly recommended in a report that the proposed National Higher Education Commission comprise 11 members representing academia and other professions appointed by the president subject to approval by the Constitutional Council.

Rajapakshe has reportedly said that opportunities for higher education should be expanded to match the labour market.

The IUSF’s chief demand at Wednesday’s protest is to repeal the minister’s report.

Other demands include the abolition of private medical colleges and leaving the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and the Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) alone in Sri Lanka’s IMF-prescribed domestic debt restructuring (DDR) exercise.

The IUSF was a key player in the 2022 anti-government protests that brought about the resignation of then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during Sri Lanka’s worst financial crisis since independence from the British. The popular protest movement, known as the Aragalya, or the Struggle, which began originally as an organic and low-intensity people’s protest, quickly became a mass movement after the IUSF and its political backers assumed a leadership role.

The protests were largely peaceful until supporters of then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa launched an unprovoked attack on the protestors in Colombo on May 09, which triggered a wave of retaliatory mob violence. One government MP was killed and the residences and offices of several MPs were torched, nearly turning the country into a state of anarchy. No one has claimed responsibility for the incidents.

The administration of President Ranil Wickremesinghe which took over in July soon began to crack down on the protests. People who had stormed and continued to occupy government buildings were forcibly evicted with some arrests, and repeated arrests of then IUSF convener Wasantha Mudalige proved controversial with opposition parties and human rights activists crying foul.

Over the last decade or so, the IUSF’s popularity with the public has ebbed and flowed, with its approval likely peaking during the Aragalaya. However, the public have been largely indifferent if not unsympathetic to the student bodys’ protests and marches against private education.

The reaction to the IUSF’s latest protest, judging by the vast majority of comments appearing on their Facebook page and elsewhere, indicate that most ordinary citizens are not overly comfortable with the IUSF”s appropriation of the Aragalaya, though they were indeed useful in getting an unpopular president out. (Colombo/Aug10/2023)

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Sri Lanka discussing giving extra land, water for Chinese oil refinery

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in discussions with China’s Sinopec to give extra land and assure water supplies after the company decided to expand the capacity of a planned oil refinery in Hambantota, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said.

“There are concerns on how the water supply is going to be provided for the refinery,” Minister Wijesekera told reporters Friday.

The refinery will need more land and also revise conditions in a Board of Investment agreement, he said.

Read more
Sinopec to double capacity of new refinery in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota

Recommendations and decisions from Sri Lanka’s side had already been sent and Sinopec is expected to revert back in May.

“We are hoping to sign the agreement once everyone has agreed,” Wijesekara said.

The principle agreements are expected to be signed by June, he said.

The refinery could sell up to 10 percent of its output in the domestic market.

“There is no commitment by the government to purchase anything,” Minister Wijesekera said. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes weaker at 302.00/50 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 302.00/50 to the US dollar in the spot forex market on Friday, down from 301.50/302.00 a day earlier, dealers said.

There was increased demand for dollars after the central bank bought 715 million dollars from forex markets. In the previous two months it was buying on average about 200 million US dollars, leaving market participants and bank in a ‘oversold’ position.

There were some official dollars sales Friday dealers said.

READ Sri Lanka rupee quoted wide to US dollar as peg inconsistencies flare up

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed at 11.30/40 percent down from 11.35/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.95/12.05 percent up from 11.90/12.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2028 closed stable at 12.15/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed stable at 12.30/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.10.2032 closed stable at 12.40/50 percent. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close down, banks trade down

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed down on Friday, data on its site showed.

The broader All Share Index closed down 0.38 percent, or 44.80 points, at 11,753; while the S&P SL20 Index closed down 0.53 percent, or 18.46 points, at 3,456.

Turnover was at 1.4 billion. The diversified financials (Rs366mn) and banks (Rs266mn) sectors continued to see selling pressure.

“This was possibly due to uncertainty around the bond discussions,” market participants said.

With the exception of Sampath Bank Plc (up at 77.50) all other banks traded down in the day. Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc was down at 104.50, Hatton National Bank Plc was down at 188.50, and DFCC Bank Plc was down at 77.00.

LOLC Finance Plc saw the most trades and closed up at 6.40. Another LOLC company, Browns Investments Plc, also saw high traded volumes and closed up at 5.60.

Softlogic Capital Plc was up at 7.00, and Softlogic Holdings Plc was up at 11.20. A trading suspension imposed on SHL.N0000 was lifted effective today as the company submitted the annual report for the year ended 31st March 2023.

However, shares of the Company will remain in the Watch List “due to Qualified Audit Opinion and Emphasis of matter on going concern in the Independent Auditor’s Report in the Audited Financial Statements for the year ended 31st March 2022.”

Dialog Axiata Plc, which announced its merger with Bharti Airtel Thursday, saw its share price close up at 11.90.

“There was some traction on index heavyweights,” market participants pointed out.

Top contributors to the APSI included Aitken Spence Plc (up at 134.50), Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc (up at 1,245.25, and Lion Brewery (Ceylon) Plc (up at 1,048.50).

There was a net foreign inflow of 5 million. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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