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Friday December 9th, 2022

What is holding back Sri Lankan Women from entering politics: Lihini Fernando decodes

ECONOMYNEXT – Despite Sri Lankan women having progressed by breaking boundaries in many fields, their participation in the country’s politics has remained abysmal.

United National Party municipal councillor from Moratuwa, Lihini Fernando, says that even though politics is very cut-throat, women would still enter if there is a streamlined process to ease their participation.

She also called for political will from male-counterparts to bridge the gender gap in politics in an interview with EconomyNext.

A first step she says is enforcing a 25 per cent female and youth quota in provincial councils and parliament.

If we look at the number in the recently dissolved eighth Sri Lankan parliament from 2015-2020, only 5.7 per cent of members were women, and the situation will remain unchanged in the upcoming parliament election too.

The major parties have the largest gender-disparity.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) led by Sajith Premadasa both have nominated just one woman each from the Colombo electoral district while in other districts there were maximum two women contesting from each party.

According to Fernando, about 40 women are running for this year’s election and out which 20 are from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) –led National People’s Power, only the female politicians who volunteered are contesting.

The women’s quota was first introduced in the Local Government elections in 2018 where 25 per cent female participation was made mandatory.

Fernando says this pushed political parties to bring in the numbers but there is no regulation as such for Parliamentary General elections and only the female politicians who volunteered are contesting.

“I want to emphasize that the quota of 25 per cent women in parliament should be regularized going forward in provincial councils and then even 25 per cent of women and youth in parliament has to be mandatory,” Fernando said.

A quota will ensure women’s participation

She also emphasized the dire need for an Election Campaign Finance Act in the country.

“For example, one of the reasons why women are fewer in the major parties is because of finances, if you want to run an election campaign you have to have a lot of money.  I do not think women who come in have that amount of money to spend, making it one of the clear drawbacks.”

“JVP women don’t have the pressure because their ecosystem and way of running the campaign is different but if you take the main parties like SLPP and SJB you will need money to run a campaign.”

According to Lihini, it costs about 25 million rupees to campaign throughout the whole district.

“I don’t think a new lady who comes into politics will have that sort of a muscle or mechanism. Which is one of the drawbacks,” she pointed out.

Lihini questions why 25 per cent of the national list for women was not made mandatory.

“I am very sad about this because, during the presidential election, all candidates who came forward said they will bring in all these regulations. It doesn’t have to be a regulation; you can implement if you want” Fernando said.

“Even the national list they can say 25 per cent should be mandatory for women so you can bring in corporate sector women, activists, women who are strong on their legislature to make reforms, but it is not happening.

“I think politicians do not have the will. They do not want to give the position to the women. I say this very strongly, sadly women must fight with men to get their place. Even though we are 52 per cent of the population we must ask the men to recognize us. Women must be way more rebellious to escalate this and find their way.”

India and Pakistan have made progress in bridging the gender gap

In Pakistan the Election Act of 2017 mandated three key areas to improve female participation. First, the Act mandated that returns from any constituency where women’s turnout was less than or equal to 10 per cent be nullified.  Second, it criminalized the practice of preventing a woman from voting in or contesting an election. Third, it required all political parties to list female candidates in at least five per cent of their non-reserved national and provincial assembly seats.

Similarly, in the Constitution of 1973 of Pakistan, 10 seats were reserved for women for a period of ten years from the commencing day of the Constitution or holding of the third general elections to the general election to the National Assembly, whichever occurred later.

In 1985 these ten seats were increased to twenty and in 2002 the reserved seats were increased to sixty by General Pervaiz Musharaf.

On the other hand, India has no legislative quota for female legislators in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament). While national parties are not required to have female contestants in general elections, a constitutional provision demands that 33 per cent of village council seats be reserved for women. The main goal of these constitutional provisions is to close the gender gap at the lowest level. A quota system at the lowest level might allow for ambitious women to be prepared for political office at the outset of their careers. It also makes the public more accepting of women leaders.

Sons and daughters of “political families” get seats

Fernando said, “what has happened in the Sri Lankan political scenario is it is dominated by a set of people and once they leave their sons and daughters come into politics even if they are qualified or not they automatically get that ticket.”

“If you take the last parliament, there were 15 MPs below 40-years and out of the 15, 12 were somebody’s son or daughter. Only three people came from independent sources. That is the sad irony of politics.”

She also pointed out that it is hard for professionals to get into politics. “For instances, I’m a lawyer and because of my profession I’m doing politics and able to fund myself at the same time but people who are working in the private sector for them to come into politics they have to quit their jobs.”

“If we are serious about bringing in young and educated people into politics then there needs to be some sort of mechanism to do so, such as if there are organizations set up and these people are funded.” (Colombo, July 27, 2020)

 

 

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Sri Lanka shares fall on profit taking after nine sessions

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares slipped on Friday after gaining for nine straight sessions reverting from its highest gain in more than seven weeks on profit taking, brokers said.

“Bourse regressed to red ending the 9-day winning streak as investors resorted to book profits in blue chip counters,” First Capital Market Research said in it’s daily note.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) closed 0.54 percent or 47.84 points lower at 8,843.90.

The market witnessed a turnover of 1.6 billion rupees, lower than this year’s daily average turnover of 2.9 billion rupees.

The market saw a net foreign inflow of 1 million rupees. The total net foreign inflow stood at 22 billion rupees so far for this year.

The Paris Club group of creditor nations has proposed a 10-year debt moratorium on Sri Lankan debt and 15 years of debt restructuring as a formula to resolve the island nation’s prevailing currency crisis.

The government is in discussions with Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank to get loans of 1.9 billion US dollars after a reform program with the International Monetary Fund is approved.

A policy loan now being discussed with the World Bank may bring around 700 million US dollars, Coomaraswamy told a business forum organized by CT CLSA Securities, a Colombo-based brokerage.

The Asian Development Bank may also give around 1.2 billion US dollars most of which will be budget support, he said.

In the last few sessions, market gained after the Central bank governor said interest rates should eventually ease despite the fears of a domestic debt restructuring as inflation falls, increased liquidity in dollar markets, and the inter-bank liquidity improves.

The more liquid index S&P SL20 closed 0.59 percent or 16.77 points lower at 2,827.72.

So far in December ASPI gained 2.2 percent.

The ASPI gained 0.5 percent in November after losing 13.4 percent in October.

It has lost 27.6 percent year-to-date after being one of the world’s best stock markets with an 80 percent return last year when large volumes of money were printed.

John Keells Holdings pulled the index down to close at 1.5 percent lower at 147 rupees.

Aitken Spence lost 2.0 percent to close at 141 rupees and Commercial Bank closed 1.4 percent down at 50.50 rupees a share. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)

 

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Sri Lanka bond yields end higher, kerb dollar Rs370/371

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bonds yields ended up and the T-bills eased on active trade on Friday, dealers said.

The US dollar was 370/371 rupees in the kerb.

“The bond rates went up, however more interest was seen in the short term bills by the investors” dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.90/32.20 percent on Friday, up from 31.25/70 percent at Thursday’s close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 30.30/31.30 percent steady from 30.30/31.00 percent.

The three-month T-bills closed at 30.75/31.30 percent, down from 32.00/32.25 percent.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions was at 363.18 rupees against the US dollar unchanged.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 371.78 and 372.00 for small transactions, data showed.

Buying rates are between 361.78 – 362.00 rupees. (Colombo/Dec 09/2022)

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Foreign minister, US ambassador discuss future assistance to crisis-hit Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT — In a meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Ali Sabry and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung discussed ways in which the United States can continue to support Sri Lanka going forward, the Ambassador said.

Chung tweeted Friday December 09 afternoon that the two officials had reflected on the “twists and turns” of 2022, at the meeting.

Minister Sabry was recently in Washington D.C. where he US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

A foreign ministry statement said the two officials held productive discussions at the Department of State on December 02 on further elevating bilateral relations in diverse spheres, including the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations which will be marked in 2023.

Incidentally, Sri Lanka also celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence from the British in 2023, and President Ranil Wickremesinghe has given himself and all parties that represent parliament a deadline to find a permanent solution to Sri Lanka’s decades-long ethnic issue.

The US has been vocal about Sri Lanka addressing concerns about its human rights record since the end of the civil war in 2009 and was a sponsor of the latest resolution on Sri Lanka passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Unlike previous resolutions, this year’s iteration makes specific reference to the country’s prevailing currency crisis and calls for investigations on corruption allegations.

In the lead up to the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, Minister Sabry Sri Lanka’s government under then new president Wickremesinghe does not want any confrontation with any international partner but will oppose any anti-constitutional move forced upon the country.

On the eve of the sessions on October 06, Sabry said countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, who led the UNHRC core group on Sri Lanka, are greatly influenced by domestic-level lobbying by pressure groups from the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.

These pronouncements notwithstanding, the Wickremesnghe government has been making inroads to the West as well as India and Japan, eager to obtain their assistance in seeing Sri Lanka through the ongoing crisis.

The island nation has entered into a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an extended fund facility of 2.9 billion dollars to be disbursed over a period of four years, subject to a successful debt restructure programme and structural reforms.

Much depends on whether or not China agrees to restructure Sri Lanka’s 7.4 billion dollar outstanding debt to the emerging superpower. Beijing’s apparent hesitance to go for a swift restructure prompted Tamil National Alliance MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam to warn of possible “go home, China” protests in Colombo, similar to the wave of protests that forced the exit of former pro-China President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The TNA will be a key player in upcoming talks with the Wickremesinghe government on a solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)

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