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Saturday March 2nd, 2024

Vote reveals stark racial divide between North and South

Around a month before the presidential elections, former Minister and Civil Servant Dr Sarath Amunugama, told reporters in Colombo that it was the candidate “with the majority of the majority who could secure the minorities.”

Amunugama, who is by training an Anthropologist was one of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s spokesmen and he was responding to a question about the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s relationship with the minorities in the country from a reporter.

On Saturday Nov 16, the minority regions of the country voted heavily in favour of Rajapaksa’s opponent Sajith Premadasa despite the SLPP’s numerous efforts to woo religious and ethnic minorities.

This left a stark difference in the returns of the elections. The North and the East dominated by Tamils and Muslims voted 80 to 20 in favour of Premadasa and the Southern, Uva and North Central Provinces dominated by Sinhala voters heavily for Rajapaksa.

A member of Premadasa’s Party, Economic Reforms Minister Harsha de Silva said “I feel so sad for this country. There is such division in this country.Never have we had so many in the north, so little in the South,” he told our sister website economynext.com

But Nivard Cabraal, Central Bank governor in the last Rajapaksa administration says and part of the party’s policy team will look at the numbers and provide solutions. “We are at the moment examining the voting patterns of different districts we would take into consideration the messages that emanate from those patterns as well,” he said.

As President, this will be one of the main challenges for Rajapaksa. He acknowledged it by saying; “as we usher in a new journey for Sri Lanka, we must remember that all Sri Lankans are part of this journey” in a tweet after he accepted the win. Later in another speech he said he is “aware that I am now the President for all Sri Lankans and I will ensure that all Sri Lankans, not only those who voted for me but those who voted against me as well, and I will work for all.”

But the map of the electoral results is a reminder as to how divided we are.  No doubt the minorities were reacting to the actions of the SLPP, because the party has acted in a racially biased manner on numerous occasions.

The party has admitted through President’s Counsel Mohamed Ali Sabri that its activists were responsible for the allegations against a House Officer in the Kurunegala Hospital Dr Shafi Siyabdeen whom they accused of rendering thousands of Sinhala Buddhist women sterile by damaging their fallopian tubes. A police investigation into the allegations

The Kurunegala Municipal Council which is controlled by the SLPP voted to shut down Beef shops in the city where hundreds of thousands of Muslims live. And another SLPP controlled council at Wennappuwa banned Muslim traders from the weekly fair.

Activists and Muslim leaders told RepublicNext during the Presidential campaign that would be no anti-Muslim violence during the Presidential elections. Women’s activist Sumika Perera told RepublicNext “that is because they know they cannot win the Presidency without the Muslim votes.” Former Army Commander General Mahesh Senanayake who contested the Presidency warned that Muslims would be targeted after the poll.

During the campaign SLPP activist Prof Channa Jayasumana of the Raja Rata University complained in a speech delivered at a public event that if he discusses the Shafi case he gets calls telling him to “stop talking about this subject.” He complained that the Nationalist Movement had no freedom during elections.

President-elect Rajapaksa has vowed to change this and no doubt the world is watching.

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Sri Lanka eyes SOE law by May 2024 for better governance

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is planning to pass a Public Commercial Business (PCB) Act improve governance of state-owned enterprise by May 2024 as part of an anti-corruption efforts following an International Monetary Fund assessment.

Sri Lanka’s state enterprises have been used by politicians to give ‘jobs of the boys’, appropriate vehicles for personal use, fill board of directors and key positions with henchmen and relatives, according to critics.

Meanwhile macro-economists working for the state also used them to give off-budget subsides or made energy utilities in particular borrow through supplier’s credits and state banks after forex shortages are triggered through inflationary rate cuts.

The government has taken billons of dollars of loans given to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation from state banks.

There have also been high profile procurement scandals connected to SOEs.

An SOE Reform Policy was approved by Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers in May 2023.

The Public Commercial Business (PCB) Act has now been drafted.

A holding company to own the SOEs will be incorporated and an Advisory Committee and Board of Directors will be appointed after the PCB law is approved, the statement said. (Colombo/Mar01/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 308.80/90 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 308.80/90 to the US dollar Friday, from 309.50/70 on Thursday, dealers said.

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.65/75 percent up from 10.50/70 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.05 percent from 11.90/12.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 12.15/35 percent down from 12.20/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.25/40 percent up from 12.30/45 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.30/45 percent down from 12.35/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/13.00 percent from 12.55/13.00 percent. (Colombo/Mar1/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close up 0.37-pct, Expo to de-list

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed up 0.37 percent on Friday, and SG Holdings, the parent company of Expolanka Holdings Plc, said it was taking the company private.

Expolanka is the largest listed company on the Colombo Stock Exchange.

“Expolanka Holdings PLC has, at the Board Meeting held on 1st March 2024, considered a request from its principal shareholder and resolved to initiate the de-listing of the Company’s shares from the Official List of the Colombo Stock Exchange subject to obtaining necessary shareholder approval and regulatory approvals,” the company said in a stock exchange filing.

As per arrangements with SG Holdings Global Pte Ltd, the Company’s majority shareholder, it will purchase its shares from shareholders who may wish to divest their shareholding in the Company at a purchase price of Rs 185.00 per share. The share closed up at 150.50.

The broader All Share Index closed up 0.37 percent, or 39.47 points, at 10,691; while the S&P SL20 Index closed down 0.64 percent, or 19.59 points, at 3,037.

Turnover stayed above the 1 billion mark for the sixth consecutive day, registering 1.4 billion.

Crossings in Melstarcorp Plc (135mn) up at 89.50, Hatton National Bank Plc (64mn) up at 158.00, Hemas Holdings Plc (53mn) up at 75.00 and Central Finance Company Plc (26mn) up at 103.50, added significantly to the day’s turnover.

“The upward trend is continuing, with more retail buying also coming in, the number of trades was more than 10,000 today,” a market participant said. “Investors are looking for undervalued stocks and buying in quantities.” (Colombo/Mar1/2024).

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