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Sunday September 24th, 2023

Sri Lanka’s TRC draft has nothing to solve Tamils’ concerns – Sumanthiran

TNA MP M A Sumanthiran/Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT – A new draft on Sri Lanka’s Truth Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has failed to meet minimum expectations in addressing the concerns of ethnic minority Tamils who have lost their loved ones in what they allege as forced disappeared, in the final stage of the war, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) legislator M A Sumanthiran said.

Thousands of people, mostly Tamils in Sri Lanka’s north and east, went missing during the civil war, which Tamils refer as “enforced disappearances”, citing that their relatives surrendered to the state military on the request of the government.

Most of the relatives of the disappeared people have been demanding for justice since the end of the war, but the government has failed to take any action on the disappeared people in the last 14 years since the end of the war. Tamils living in Western nations have pushed the United Nations Human Rights Council through their respective governments to address the enforced disappearance through a resolution.

Though Sri Lanka has opposed external intervention into the probe of alleged war crimes, it has been seriously considering a South African model Truth Reconciliation Commission (TRC) since 2016. Both Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry recently visited South Africa to emulate the model.

“On the ground, nothing is happening,” Sumanthiran, 59-year old legislator from Sri Lanka’s northern Jaffna district told EconomyNext in an interview on Friday.

“They (government) are trying to bring in some laws, but then again they are not trying to consult anybody. They came up with a draft on TRC and asked me to comment. But there was nothing to comment. One doesn’t know why it is there. There is nothing about accountability or amnesty.”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government wants to introduce a National Unity and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka Act as part of its initiatives towards ethnic reconciliation.

Sumanthiran said the thousands of relatives have already given evidence and faced questions in at least 15 commissions to seek the truth on what happened to their relatives.

The government of former president Maithripala Sirisena created Office of Missing Person (OMP), Office for Reparations, and Office for National Unity and Reconciliation among many to address the alleged past human rights violations.

“The OMP has been conducting investigations. But also there is no movement forward. That also asking the same questions again and again,” the lawyer-turned-politician said.

“Same people who appeared before Paranagama Commission, are asked to appear again and again,” he said referring to a Commission that investigated complaints of abductions and disappearances; and to investigate and inquire into alleged serious violations of human rights respectively during the armed conflict.

The last UN resolution against Sri Lanka was passed last year giving the economic crisis-hit South Asian nation some more time to address lack of accountability for past violations and many unresolved cases of enforced disappearances among many (Colombo/June 2/2023)

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Sri Lanka India industrial zone around Trinco, maritime links mooted

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ports Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva had highlighted the desire of both the Governments to work closely to develop the industrial zone at Trincomalee, after accepting an invitation to participate in a maritime summit.

The Global Maritime India Summit (GMIS) will be held in India from October 17-19, 2023 at Mumbai where Sri Lanka has been invited at a partner country.

At a curtain raiser event on September 22, India’s High Commissioner in Colombo, Gopal Baglay had said both countries were working on enhancing sea connectivity according to a vision document launched during a recent visit of the President of Sri Lanka to India.

Minister de Silva will lead a delegation from Sri Lanka to the summit.

Secretary to the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Government of India, T K Ramachandran said the Global Maritime India Summit aims strengthen the Indian maritime economy by promoting global and regional partnerships and facilitating investments.

The event will give an opportunity to the Government of Sri Lanka to attracting greater investment from India in development of its maritime infrastructure, Ramachandran said.

It will also facilitate greater business to business interactions. (Colombo/Sept24/2023)

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Sri Lanka brings back import para tariff on milk

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has brought back an import para tariff called the Ports and Airports Levy, to several grades of milk powder.

Milk powder has been removed from a list of PAL exemptions, making them liable for a 10 percent tax.

The PAL para tariffs are also a contentious issue in terms of export competitiveness, and the government has previously given undertakings that they will be eliminated.

Trade freedoms of the poor figure in an IMF/World bank reform program with the governments.

Milk is a protein rich food, in a country where children of poor families are facing stunting and malnutrition.

Economic nationalism is seen at high levels in food, with several businessmen are pushing for trade protection, amid an overall autarkist (self-sufficiency) ideology, going directly against policies followed in East Asia, which the same as hold up as examples.

Sri Lanka keeps dairy product prices up ostensibly to bring profits to a domestic dairy company and farmers.

Sri Lanka also keeps maize prices up, ostensibly to give profits to farmers and collectors. (Colombo/Sept22/2023)

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Sri Lanka govt warns liquor manufacturers: pay defaulted tax or lose licence

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka government which is struggling to raise the state revenue despite   higher taxes, has warned liquor manufacturers to pay defaulted taxes or lose their licence.

The government is now getting tough with past tax defaulters amid concerns over falling short of this year’s revenue target agreed with the International Monetary Fun (IMF).

“Liquor manufacturing firms owe us 660 crore rupees (6.6 billion rupees),” Siyambalapitiya told  reporters on Thursday (21).

“Most of this or around a third is the only excise tax amount to be paid. The rest is penalty. If a liquor manufacturer does not pay on time, we impose a penalty of 3 percent per month This means 36 percent (penalty) per annum,” he said.

“We have given them deadline to repay the basic excise taxes. If they don’t pay, we will cancel their licence.”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government committed an ambitious revenue target among many other reforms to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return to a $3 billion loan package.

However, the revenue could face a short fall of 100 billion rupees, State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said.

A new Central Bank Act also has legally prevented the government of printing money at its discretion as  in the past.  (Colombo/September 24/2023)

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