Half of Sri Lanka believes local political forces involved in Easter attacks

Over 50% of Sri Lankans say local political forces were involved in the Easter attacks, according to a survey carried out by Verité Research.

More than half of the Sri Lankan population – 53% – believes local political forces were involved in the Easter Sunday attacks carried out in 2019.

Those surveyed were given the following three views prevalent in the country about who was behind the attacks, and asked to select the one they most agreed with.

1) It was carried out by Sri Lankan extremists who were working with dangerous foreign forces

2) It was carried out by Sri Lanka extremists who were working with local political forces.

3) It was carried out by Sri Lankan extremists who were working with both local political forces and dangerous foreign forces

53% believed local political forces were involved — 30% selected the second answer, and 23% selected the third answer.

Only 8% believed that it was carried out without the involvement of local political forces (the first answer). A high percentage, 39%, said they have no opinion or refused to comment.

Survey methodology:

The poll was conducted in October 2023 and was based on an island-wide, nationally representative sample of responses from 1,029 Sri Lankan adults.

The poll has a maximum error margin below ±3% at a 95% confidence interval.

Syndicated Surveys is a survey instrument by Verité Research and the polling partner was Vanguard Survey (Pvt) Ltd. Syndicated Surveys also provides other organisations with the opportunity to survey the sentiments of the people of Sri Lanka through this poll.

US welcomes Sri Lanka’s debt deal with creditor nations

The United States has welcomed the in-principle agreement reached between Sri Lanka and the Official Creditor Committee (OCC) on specific financing terms to restructure the island nation’s debt in line with the parameters set in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program.

Taking to X (formerly Twitter), the US Ambassador in Colombo, Julie Chung said this agreement supports a viable path to economic stability for Sri Lanka.

Chung emphasized that the agreement on debt restructuring and sound economic policies are crucial for the timely release of the next tranche of the IMF’s bailout package, which she said would provide the much-needed financial support for continued economic stabilization, recovery, and the improvement of public services, benefiting the people of Sri Lanka.

The ambassador reiterated that the United States stands by Sri Lanka for a sustainable recovery.

On Wednesday (Nov.29), both the OCC and the Sri Lankan government confirmed the in-principle agreement the two sides have reached for debt treatment.

In its statement, the OCC has commended the Sri Lankan authorities for their continuous efforts in implementing the reforms necessary for their country’s return to a sustainable path.

Following the launch of a common platform in April 2023 for talks among bilateral creditors to coordinate restructuring of Sri Lanka’s debt, the OCC was formally formed on May 09 with 17 countries to respond to the Sri Lankan authorities’ request for a debt treatment. It is co-chaired by India, Japan and France (as the chair of the Paris Club). Since its formation, the OCC has engaged extensively with the Sri Lankan authorities, the IMF, the World Bank as well as China, and Sri Lanka’s private creditors.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Finance Ministry revealed that the agreement covers approximately USD 5.9 billion of outstanding debt and consists of a mix of long-term maturity extension and reduction in interest rates.

The IMF on Thursday (Nov.30) said the agreement will pave the way for its Executive Board to consider clearing the first review of the four-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement in December and unlock the next tranche of the loan which amounts to about USD 334 million in funds.

“We look forward to the Executive Board taking up this review by mid-December and the continuation of our productive collaboration with Sri Lanka in the period ahead,” Peter Breuer, IMF’s mission chief for Sri Lanka, said in a statement.

The debt deal between the OCC and Sri Lanka comes about a month after the island nation’s agreement with China’s Export-Import (Exim) Bank covering approximately USD 4.2 billion of outstanding debt,

Sri Lanka plunged into its worst financial crisis in seven decades last year after its foreign exchange reserves dwindled to record lows.

But since locking down the IMF bailout of $2.9 billion in March, the South Asian island nation has managed to partly stabilize its economy, bring down runaway inflation and rebuild currency reserves.

After receiving the IMF money, Sri Lanka stands to receive further funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank, bringing the total amount to around USD 900 million.

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Sri Lanka families of the missing join international conference

Around 700 families of missing persons from around the world connected to share their experiences at the third International Conference for Families of Missing Persons on November 21-23.

The forum brought together families whose loved ones have gone missing due to armed conflict, migration, or other situations of violence.

“Thirty-seven families of missing persons from all communities in Sri Lanka joined from Colombo, Vavuniya and Batticaloa to share their experience and exchange their views with families from other countries,” a statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sri Lanka said.

The event was hosted by ICRC delegations and Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies through 44 conference hubs around the world.

“The conference provided a virtual platform for families to see how others around the world are coping with the uncertainty, understand the challenges, learn about the support services available to them and how families can help each other.”

The participating families were also given the opportunity to interact with the Global Alliance for the Missing, a group of 12 member states established in 2021 to advocate on the issue of missing persons at diplomatic level.

The conference highlighted the urgency of providing answers about the fate of missing persons, the importance of the participation of families of missing persons in the search process, and the need for dignified treatment of families of missing persons.

The significance of keeping the issue of missing persons on national and global agendas was also pointed out.

Sri Lanka has seen tens of thousands of its citizens disappear without a trace in several insurgencies over the last five decades, most notably during the civil war.

Seven investors offer to develop Mattala Airport into profit-making venture: Minister

At least seven investors have made offers to develop the Mattala International Airport into a profit-making venture, Minister of Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva told Parliament today.

The Minister said there have been offers to start up assembling and repairing aircraft at Matala Airport.

“The losses of Mattala Airport have been reduced to Rs 1.5 billion and is the lowest losses since the airport started operations,” the Minister said.

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100 Sri Lanka hospitals on verge of closure due to doctor shortage

About 100 rural hospitals are on the verge of closing down due to the lack of doctors, representatives of the Government Medical Officers had said in a meeting with Health Minister Ramesh Pathirana.

A committee under the Director General of Health with members of the GMOA was appointed to look into the matter, according to a statement from the state information office.

Most of the hospitals which were in danger of closing were in the Northern Province, Puttalam and Nuwara Eliya, the statement said.

The problem came from doctors going abroad, retiring, getting transfers or leaving the service.

Instructions were given by Minister Pathirana to immediately appoint doctors to the hospitals.

Steps would be taken to re-open about 40 hospitals that were closed, the statement said.

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‘Insult to Easter attack victims’: Catholic Church deplores Tennakoon’s appointment as Acting IGP

The Sri Lankan Catholic Church has deplored the appointment of Senior DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon as the Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP).

Addressing a media briefing today (Nov.29), Spokesperson of the Colombo Archdiocese Rev. Fr. Cyril Gamini said the Catholic Church deems this appointment ‘an insult’ to the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks.

“The appointment made by the President [Ranil Wickremesinghe] is condemned by His Eminence the Cardinal [Malcolm Ranjith]. At the same time, we vehemently oppose it. We consider this appointment a disgrace to the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks.”

When asked if the Catholic Church has any recommendations for the post of the police chief, Rev. Fr. Gamini responded, “We have no special name to nominate. It is the President who has to make a nomination to the Constitutional Council.”

Speaking further, he expressed doubts as to whether the police would be able to maintain their own discipline, let alone the discipline of the country, following the appointment of new Acting IGP Tennakoon.

Sri Lanka – Paris Club official creditors reach debt deal

Sri Lanka and the official creditor committee has agreed on a debt restructuring deal, the Paris Club Secretariat said.

“The OCC and Sri Lanka agreed on the main parameters of a debt treatment consistent with those of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement between Sri Lanka and the IMF,” the statement said.

“This agreement will allow the IMF staff to present to the IMF Executive Board the first review of Sri Lanka’s EFF arrangement and open the way for approval of the second disbursement under the arrangement

“The OCC also expects that the Sri Lankan authorities will continue to engage with their private creditors to find as soon as possible an agreement on terms at least as favourable as the terms offered by the OCC”


November 29, 2023

Following the launch event in April 2023, 17 countries formally formed, on May 9, an Official Creditor Committee (OCC) co-chaired by India, Japan and France (as chair of the Paris Club) to respond to the Sri Lankan authorities’ request for a debt treatment. The committee includes India and Hungary in addition to Paris Club creditors. Since then, the OCC has engaged extensively with the Sri Lankan authorities, the IMF, the World Bank as well as China, and Sri Lanka’s private creditors.

The OCC and Sri Lanka agreed on the main parameters of a debt treatment consistent with those of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement between Sri Lanka and the IMF. This agreement will allow the IMF staff to present to the IMF Executive Board the first review of Sri Lanka’s EFF arrangement and open the way for approval of the second disbursement under the arrangement. The OCC commends the Sri Lankan authorities for their continuous efforts in implementing the reforms necessary for their country’s return to a sustainable path.

The OCC stands ready and looks forward to formalizing this agreement in the coming weeks in a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sri Lankan authorities. The OCC expects other bilateral creditors to consent to sharing, in a transparent manner, the information necessary for the OCC to evaluate comparability of treatment regarding their own bilateral agreement. The OCC also expects that the Sri Lankan authorities will continue to engage with their private creditors to find as soon as possible an agreement on terms at least as favourable as the terms offered by the OCC.

These engagements will ensure that the overall debt treatment granted to Sri Lanka is consistent with the IMF program parameters.

Background notes

1. The Paris Club was formed in 1956. It is an informal group of official creditors whose role is to find coordinated and sustainable solutions to the payment difficulties experienced by borrower countries. The members of the Paris Club which are part of the Official Creditor Committee are representatives of countries with eligible claims on Sri Lanka: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States of America.

2. Representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the Word Bank as well as China attend the OCC meetings. Other observers include the Asian Development Bank, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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No Democratic Logic To Hold Provincial Council Elections In 2025 -By Jehan Perera

The government is facing an uphill task to rebuild the country which continues to be in a state of economic and moral decline which was evident in parliamentary proceedings last week. The initial hopes of a quick transition from the economic and moral decline that accompanied the pre-Aragalaya period ended with the accession of President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the presidency. The president made skillful use of the security forces in the first instance and the parliamentary majority thereafter to restore the old order, government rule and stabilize the economy, albeit at a much lower level of economic well being. But this won for him and the government the support of those sections of the population who could still live their regular lives and the international community who did not want Sri Lanka to fall prey to rival powers.

The Central Bank governor has expressed confidence that Sri Lanka will receive the second tranche of the IMF loan before the end of the year. He has made this prediction despite the failure of the government to meet the basic IMF conditions, which include reducing the gap between revenues and expenditures. The ability to access IMF funds despite not conforming with its conditions is indicative of favoured status. The budget prepared by the government shows a widening of the chasm that are mitigated by optimistic predictions of increased tax revenues. The government has signally failed to deliver on the IMF’s “governance diagnostic” which highlighted the need for much greater efforts to tackle corruption and to be transparent in the signing of new contracts.

If social media reports and personal anecdotes are to be believed, corruption is thriving at all levels. Agreements with international companies continue to be entered into with little being known of the terms and conditions, and even the debt restructuring agreement with China continues to be a secret.

But there continues to be a belief amongst sections of the Sri Lankan population and international community alike that the present unsatisfactory governance needs to be tolerated until the country makes the transition to self-sustaining economic growth. There is concern that any change of government at the present time would jeopardise the economic and political stability that the country has achieved despite the unconvincing evidence to the contrary. The general population is expressing its lack of confidence in the future by fleeing abroad and giving votes of no-confidence in every public opinion poll they can.

Not Trusted

Despite the government’s continued hold on undisputed power, and skillful use of its parliamentary majority and security forces to enforce governmental rule, it is not able to show that it has the backing of the majority of the general population. The government’s policies seem to have the support of the business and upper social classes whose position is that there is no better alternative at present, a view that is echoed in diplomatic circles. But this sentiment is not reflected in public opinion polls that equally consistently reveal that the government and its leadership get less than 20 percent of the support and even much less. This accounts for why the government has resolutely defied calls for the holding of local government and provincial council elections, the latter which are long overdue.

The president’s announcement that presidential and parliamentary elections will be held next year may be a recognition that the government has come to the realization that it cannot continue to justify holding on to power without obtaining a fresh people’s mandate. The proposed budget is an indication of the government’s preparation for those elections. There are efforts in it to provide benefits for different sections of the people, though whether these promises will materialize is another question due to paucity of resources. President Wickremesinghe has pledged to provide tens of thousands of farmer families with free hold title to the land they currently cultivate under state leases. The motivation to obtain the vote of people by providing them with economic benefits is one of the key features of the democratic process not only in Sri Lanka but worldwide.

However, the skillful use of state power to provide economic benefits, utilizing the parliamentary majority to come up with news laws and use of the security forces to enforce those laws are not the only ingredients for success in governance. The general population needs to trust those who are in power. This trust comes from consistency in word and deed. One of the features of the present government is that deeds do not follow words. The exemplary anti-corruption legislation is being used to catch those at the lower levels of the hierarchy but those at the higher levels continue to escape. The recent Supreme Court decision that apportions blame for the economic crisis that plunged vast numbers of people into poverty has not been acted upon and there is no indication at the present time that it will be acted upon.

Unresolved Problem

There are two other areas where the government needs to rebuild the trust of the people. First is to convince them that the burden of economic recovery will be apportioned justly and equitably. The restructuring of the EPF and ETF pension funds which affected the poorer sections of the people adversely while the sparing of the banking (and corporate) sector may have been motivated by the fear that the collapse of the banking sector was a real possibility. However, the evidence that is now coming out, as demonstrated in parliament by the opposition, that huge amounts of loans taken by companies have been absorbed by the banks is unconscionable. The government needs to promise that it will rectify this and other such inequities as soon as possible including the tax holidays to favoured companies. The recent parliamentary debates have provided the opportunity for the opposition to make presentations that highlight the need for consistency.

The second area that needs to be addressed is the ethnic conflict in the country. This is a problem that has receded into the background of the national discourse, due to the overwhelming nature of the economic crisis. The wrong that was done to the Tamils of recent Indian origin at Independence has still not been rectified. They continue to be the poorest and most neglected community in the country. An issue that is scarring the Tamil and Muslim people at the present time is the takeover of grazing lands in the east by people from outside the area. One of the root causes of the country’s economic crisis is that huge amounts of resources were devoted to fighting a war that need not have taken place if there had been policies that promoted inter-ethnic justice and equity. The security forces continue to extract a large part of the budget.

There is a need to convince the ethnic and religious minorities that they are a part and parcel of the polity and treated as equal citizens. The provincial council elections cannot be postponed for another two years. There was no democratic basis for the president stating that local government and provincial council elections will be held in 2025, the year following the presidential and parliamentary elections. In fact, this would be a violation of the election laws as both these elections are long overdue. Sri Lanka is not a unique country when it comes to having different ethnic and religious communities. Other countries have them too, but most of those countries, especially those that are economically successful, have found ways to resolve their differences through dialogue and power sharing that benefits the entire society. Provincial council elections have not been held for over five years. The residents of those areas have no government to protect them. This is not the way to build trust that will unify the people with the government to uplift the economy.

Delaying elections sets a bad precedent – PAFFREL

The People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections said that it is disappointing to note that Sri Lankan authorities have not taken action to call for the Local Government Elections which have been delayed for over eight months, with no justifiable reason.

They had expressed their concerns over the matter in a letter to Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

The People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections notes that of the Rs. 10 Billion that was requested by the Election Commission to conduct the Local Government Election, a sum of Rs. 1 Billion had already been spent for the preliminary efforts of the said election.

It added that if the election for which nominations were also called is not held for whatever reason, it can be considered a waste of Rs. 1 Billion in public funds.

In the letter to the Prime Minister, PAFFREL questions whether it is justifiable to waste public funds in such a manner, at a time when the country is going through a very serious economic crisis.

PAFFREL pointed out that it is disappointing that the priority given to welfare and development activities is not given to elections so that the mandate guaranteed by the constitution can be executed.

Pointing out that only 3.7% of the money allocated in the budget will be spent on conducting a fair and free election, PAFFREL noted that indefinitely delaying the opportunity given to the people to exercise their franchise, sets a negative precedent.

Therefore, they request that the Prime Minister to take the necessary measures to release money to the Election Commission and hold the local government polls as planned, in order to secure the people’s franchise.

Japan extends Rs. 238 Mn to demining projects

Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Mizukoshi Hideaki signed the grant contracts of two demining projects under the scheme of “Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects.”

The agreements were signed with Mines Advisory Group and HALO Trust.

The Government of Japan has provided a total sum of US$ 729,925 (approx. Rs. 238 million) for these two projects with MAG and the HALO Trust to extend its support for humanitarian demining activities in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.

Japan has been a major donor in demining activities in Sri Lanka since 2002, and the total amount of assistance exceeds US$ 44 million.

It is expected that these projects by MAG and HALO will together contribute to resettlement and livelihood support for a total of 10,977 IDPs (internally displaced people) in the Northern and Eastern provinces.

The development of the conflict-affected areas is one of the priority areas of Japan’s official development assistance policy to Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Mizukoshi strongly reiterated that the Government of Japan has been committing its role as a leading donor in demining activities and will continue to provide the necessary support to achieve “Mine-Impact-Free Sri Lanka”

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