An Echelon Media Company
Wednesday December 6th, 2023

Voting begins in crucial poll

From seven am today Sri Lankans will go to the polls to elect a new President at 12, 845 polling stations across the island.

As of this writing, it looks like the most peaceful and incident-free election in many years, an achievement of the creation of an Independent National Elections Commission and Police Commission. Those were two key reforms Sri Lankans voted for in 2015.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa campaigning in Colombo/SLPP Media

The battle between the contestants is also a struggle to replace Sri Lanka’s septuagenarian leadership with younger leaders.

In the fray are Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 69, the former Secretary to the Ministry of Defense and the nominee of the Rajapaksa family dominated Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.

Sajith Premadasa surfs the crowd/Amitha Tennekoon RepublicNext

His most serious challenger Sajith Premadasa 52, representing the United National Party-led New Democratic Front is from a different generation. Also in the race is the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna leader, 50-year-old Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who is the nominee of the National People’s Movement.

The 32 other contestants range from former Army Commander General Mahesh Senanayake to Environmental Activist Dr Ajantha Perera and businessman Rohan Pallewatte. The Elections Commission has noted that “at least eight” candidates are “dummies” put up by the leading candidates to have more polling and counting agents looking after their interests.

During the relatively short campaign, the debate has centred on several key issues. Rajapaksa has promised “discipline and national security” as well as a string of freebies such as fertilizer and jobs for the poor. Rajapaksa has also been media unfriendly, appearing at just the one Press Conference and shunning interviews.

Anura Kumara Dissanayake greets supporters in Tangalle/JVP Media

Premadasa has opened up a robust conversation on Human Rights, particularly Women’s Rights and swung his party’s priorities back to its roots by promising a Social Democratic agenda that replaces the Neo-Liberalism expounded by the UNP leadership over the past decade.  

Dissanayake’s promise has taken the debate even further advocating a greater depth, and spread of the Rights message and brought up the usually unspoken issue of Gay Rights. Both last-named candidates and “outlier” contestants have been accessible to Media and have taken part in informal debates aired on TV.

Chief Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya (r) and Commission Member Ratnajeevan Hoole/File

Looming over the entire election process is the biggest ballot paper the Elections Department has had to deal with because there are 35 candidates in the running. It is twice the size of the average ballot paper and has created a logistical nightmare, making the regular existing ballot boxes redundant. Validating, counting, folding and bundling these votes will be a challenge, delaying the announcement of the final result may be as late as Monday evening according to some estimates.

In case none of the candidates gets the magic 50 per cent plus one required to win the presidency, officials will open ballots cast for the other candidates to count the preferential votes, causing further delay.

Last evening, Nov 15, Chief Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya reported that all Presiding Officers at Polling stations had reported to their respective District Officers with their ballot papers. “They have fulfilled expectations,” Deshapriya said in a statement released to Media around 8pm.

The blip, Deshapriya said, was around 65 officials designated to work at the Colombo Royal College centre where Ballot Boxes were being issued, had fallen ill last afternoon Nov 15, due to food poisoning. He said that they were admitted to hospital and are expected to be discharged this evening.

Deshapriya also sought to ease the minds of democracy activists who expressed concerns that the Armed Forces may man roadblocks. Activists had warned that the Forces might set up roadblocks to prevent voters reaching the polling booths. Deshapriya said that the Military would be involved only to assist the Police.  “I can guarantee that the Armed Forces will not play a part in the election process,” he said.

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Sri Lanka rupee closes stronger at 327.40/90 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 327.40/90 to the US dollar on Tuesday, from 328.10/30 the previous day, dealers said.

Bond yields were stable.

A bond maturing on 01.06.2025 closed at 13.60/70 percent from 13.70/14.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.08.2026 closed at 13.90/14.00 percent from 13.90/14.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.01.2027 closed at 14.00/15 percent from 14.00/14.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 14.10/20 percent from 14.20/35 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 14.20/35 percent, from 14.25/45 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 14.10/35 percent, from 14.05/40 percent. (Colombo/Dec5/2023)

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Sri Lanka stocks close down as investor sentiment dips

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed down on Tuesday, CSE data showed.

The All Share Price Index was down 0.40 percent, or 43.50 points, at 10,700.09.

The S&P SL20 index was up 0.43 percent, or 13.32 points, at 3,054.41.

Turnover was at 711 million. The capital goods sector contributed 172 million, the food, beverage and tobacco sector contributed 140 million, and banks 113 million of this.

Top positive contributors to the ASPI in the day were John Keells Holdings Plc (up at 193.00), Richard Pieris And Company Plc (up at 19.80), and Nation Lanka Finance Plc, (up at 0.40).

Negative contributors were Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc (down at 89.70), Sampath Bank Plc (down at 71.00), and Central Finance Company Plc, (down at 106.00). (Colombo/Dec5/2023).

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Sri Lanka plans to reduce number of school grades from 13 to 12

ECONOMYNEXT – The Ministry of Education proposes to reduce the number of school grades from 13 to 12, according to a government information department statement.

“Every child will be given the opportunity to finish school in 17 years through the proposed new education reforms,” education officials were quoted as saying after a discussion on budget allocations.

Under the proposed system, pre-school education will be at the age of 4 years, the primary section between grades 1-5, junior section between grades 6-8, and senior section between grades 9-12.

The General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level Exam (GCE O/L) is proposed to be conducted in grade 10, and the Advanced Level Examination in grade 12.

It has also been decided to reduce the number of mandatory subjects at the GCE O/L Exam from 9 to 7.

Three new subjects, information and communication technology (ICT), technical and professional skills, and religion and values will be made mandatory and included in those 7 subjects. (Colombo/Dec5/2023)

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