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Monday December 11th, 2023

Uproar in Sri Lanka parliament over opposition MP’s electric torch

The sun sets over the Parliament at Shri Jayewardenepura

ECONOMYNEXT – Government and opposition MPs in Sri Lanka traded raucous allegations and jibes Thursday (24) morning when Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawarena seemingly saw a sinister plot in an electric torch brought to the chamber by opposition MP Harin Fernando.

Gunawardena called for an investigation into the “devices” brought by an opposition MP, claiming that their components, if mixed with other substances, could be used in the triggering of a chemical reaction.

Raising a point of order, the minister said bringing in items that are not included in the list of objects allowed in the parliament premises poses a threat to the security of the House and the MPs themselves.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said party leaders had already agreed not to bring in objects that aren’t permitted within the premises. This decision will prevail, he said.

Main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Harin Fernando, a vocal critic of the government’s investigations into the Easter bombings, said Gunawardena was referring to three electric torches he had brought.

“I brought a torch because of the power cuts. There’s nothing wrong with that. How is one supposed to use the bathroom when there are no lights? That’s why I brought a torch,” he said.

Sri Lanka is in the midst of a power crisis brought about by a forex shortage triggered by excess money printing. Daily power cuts have now exceeded four hours a day, though power supply to parliament is usually uninterrupted.

“There is never total darkness in parliament. If they came knowing in advance that there would be total darkness, we would need a second investigation into that,” responded Gunawardena.

“This is an illegal act. Ban it immediately,” he called on the speaker, his voice rising as MPs were heard shouting themselves hoarse.

Gunwardena, his own voice now high-pitched, said: “Our security will be under threat if this is permitted.” (Colombo/Feb24/2022)

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Sri Lanka’s ousted utilities regulatory chief convinced he’ll be president

ECONOMYNEXT — Sri Lanka’s former public utilities regulatory chief Janaka Ratnayake, who was removed in May following a parliamentary vote, has confirmed that he intends to run for president.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday December 11 in the wake of an hours-long island-wide power outage the previous evening, Ratanayake said he will be the definite winner at a future presidential poll.

“I announced [my intention to run] officially on December 07, my birthday. I’m definitely coming as a presidential candidate. That’s not all, I’m the definite president at a future presidential election,” he said.

Ratnayake, in his first media appearance in months, was responding to questions about newspaper advertisements published on December 07 announcing his future candidacy.

Sri Lanka’s parliament on May 24 opted to remove the former chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), with 123 members voting in favour. This marked the first time a head of an independent government commission was sacked by Sri Lanka’s parliament.

Power & Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara, who had been at loggerheads with the regulatory chief, said at the time that the official had acted obstinately without the concurrence of fellow commission members.

The minister levelled five charges against Ratnayake, the first twoof  which were based on a February 10 verdict by the Court of Appeal rejecting an application filed by the offiical against an electricity tariff hike. Opposition legislators slammed the decision saying it undermined independent commissions.

Ratnayake’s presidential ambitions have been known for some time. A day before parliament voted to remove him, he told reporters: “If I can change the country, I will definitely join politics, because my intention is to serve the people and what is right.”

Ratnayake had blocked delayed a tariff hike in early 2023, resulting in losses to the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), Minister Wijesekara claimed at the time. The PUCSL had als onot enabled tariff hikes for nine years, requiring its governing law to be changed, Wijesekera said.

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Sri Lanka wants university research to lead to commercially viable products

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ministry of industries wants to ensure commercially-ready products and services are produced by university research, by facilitating partnerships with factories and entrepreneurs.

After a currency crisis, Sri Lanka’s government is in a drive to boost its trade balance by increasing exports.

“Our export basket hasn’t changed recently, partly because our small and medium entrepreneurs don’t have sufficient research and development facilities (like the multinationals) to innovate their products for the export market,” Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Industries, Chaminda Pathiraja said.

“At the same time, state universities and research institutes produce a large amount of research findings yearly, which end up sitting in those institutions; they don’t reach the industry,” Pathiraja said at a press briefing to announce a program on commercialization of new products and research, to be held tomorrow at the Waters Edge.

The networking forum will bring innovators and manufacturers together to focus on the commercialization of research for the value added tea, coir, spice, dairy products, gem and jewellery and packaging products industries.

“We want to encourage collaboration, through programs like our University Business League etc, so that the research output can be commercialized, and what is produced by our factories can increase in quantity and quality. We must focus on the export market.”

The objective of this program, he said, was to reduce the gap in acquiring innovators’ ideas and skills by the investors, and ultimately boost the manufacturing sector’s efficiency in alignment with the export market.

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Sri Lanka rupee opens at 327.00/50 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee opened at 327.00/50 to the US dollar on Monday, from 327.00/30 Friday, dealers said.

On the Colombo Stock Exchange, both indices opened up: The All Share Price Index 0.28 percent at 10,823, and the S&P SL20 0.35 percent at 3,113.85.

Bond yields were up.

A bond maturing on 01.08.2026 was quoted at 14.05/20 percent from 14.05/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.01.2027 was quoted at 14.05/20 percent from 14.10/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 was quoted at 14.20/50 percent from 14.20/35 percent.

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