Reforms or a revolution?

The political situation of the country is in a state of extreme confusion. It can be said that the nature of the political power struggle in Sri Lanka has assumed a new and awfully complex form since the recent public uprising that caused the two Rajapaksa brothers to lose their positions. The series of events related to the Aragalaya that caused Mahinda to lose the post of Prime Minister and Gotabaya to lose the Presidency has led the people to believe that even a public uprising outside a parliamentary election could bring about a change in the government.

This situation has resulted not only in giving a new recognition to the Peratugami Party (The Frontline Socialist Party – FLSP) which stands for an arbitrary revolution outside the established constitutional framework but also to change the traditional dimensions of the political power struggle. The Aragalaya can be considered as a powerful public protest movement that initially arose from the people themselves without having the influence of political parties, against manifold and unbearable hardships that they had to suffer in the face of the country plunging into a state of bankruptcy.

Certain characteristics of the Aragalaya

But the Aragalaya, the mass protest movement soon fell into the grip of various political parties, power groups and even various foreign forces, directly and indirectly. This situation increased the strength, appearance and the public base of the Aragalaya enhancing its ability to hold onto it persistently. The social oppression based on the issues of caste, ethnicity, religion and gender worked as an important factor that strengthened the Aragalaya. There was a close interrelationship developed between the activists of the Aragalaya and the YouTubers.

The YouTubers functioned both as guides to the Aragalaya and the conveyors of its message to the masses through the Internet, simultaneously. At the same time, the YouTube reporting also served as an important means of generating a considerable income for them. In order to maximise their income, most of the YouTubers ran their reporting, resorting to the ways that aroused the sentiments of the viewers and exaggerated the incidents in violation of the accepted principles and ethics of reporting. Many of them painted an emotional picture often with profane and subliminal effects of the incident instead of offering the public a realistic picture of the Aragalaya.

The slang language used by many of them in reporting, which was intentionally meant to hurt, insult, slur and offend, could be considered as a derogatory and lumpen-style language. This derogatory language has already become the popular language style used in public debates; it appears to have pervaded across the debates of the Parliament also, to some extent.

The military arm of the struggle

It is said that there was a military hand also behind the incidents that influenced the removal of Mahinda first, and Gotabaya subsequently from the positions they held. It was not something heard at the time, but a story that came up later. If it is true, it can be said that the political power struggle in Sri Lanka has assumed a more complicated and destructive face than what has been analysed at the beginning of this article.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, who had only one seat in the Parliament was first elected as Prime Minister and then elected the President by the Parliament, can be considered as a wonderful event that happened during this crisis. It seems that Ranil believed that he would be able to make the main opposition also a part of the government to overcome the crisis. A large number of people left the Aragalaya after he was elected the President. Consequently the scale of the struggle diminished to a large extent, but there was a group that stayed with it to continue the struggle.

Since then the Peratugami Party became the main Party that led the struggle while the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF), the largest student led organisation in Sri Lanka became the main organisation that mobilised the manpower needed for the struggle. The new president soon became a political figure that came under strong protest of the Aragalaya activists as he followed a strict policy to suppress the protest movement continued by them.

With the arrest and detention of Wasantha Mudalige, the convener of the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF), under the Anti-Terrorism Act, he has become the most distinguished leader of the Aragalaya now. It seems that the President has thought that the Aragalaya could be ended by adopting a policy of isolating and attacking the activists of the Peratugami party. But it was not possible to do so as the leader of the SJB stood for the protection of the Peratugami party.

Real nature of the power struggle

The government of the Podujana Peramuna, despite having the majority in the parliament, is in a dilapidated state where it has lost the public acceptance to a large extent, following Mahinda and Gotabaya being deprived of the premiership and the presidency respectively. It seems that a large group of members of the ruling party have rallied round President Ranil Wickremesinghe. In terms of public acceptance, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) can be considered as the most powerful party in the opposition at the moment. The JVP can be considered the next most powerful party in the Sinhala areas.

The Peratugami party can be considered as a party that has recently entered the political power groups through the Aragalaya. The followers of the Peratugami party stand for a socialist state. They strongly expect to secure power through a people’s revolution without depending on a constitutional framework. Compared to the previous JVP, it can be considered as a small political movement, but due to the Aragalaya, it can be said to have been able to change that situation to some extent and grow its strength to a certain level, although not as big as the JVP.

The SJB, with the view to overcoming the pressure it has had from the JVP, opted to cooperate with the Peratugami party which the JVP considered to be an opponent of them. This situation strengthened the power base of the Peratugami party and created a situation where it was not easy to suppress them. That is why the President’s policy of isolating the Peratugami party and attacking them proved to be ineffective. Due to the alliance built between the Peratugami party and the SJB, the supporters of the SJB are also actively involved in the protest movements launched by the Peratugami party. It has led to giving a prominent look to the Peratugami party.

It seems that the Peratugami party has a closer relationship with Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka than it has with the SJB. Sarath Fonseka is a person who has supported the Aragalaya and continues to do so, and thinks that there is nothing wrong in seizing power outside the constitutional framework, if it is possible, and for the sake of the common good. Accordingly, it seems that there have been major changes in the political thinking of the main opposition party in the country. When all these trends are taken together, it appears that the political power struggle in Sri Lanka is pushing itself beyond the traditional democratic path. Under the circumstances, there is a possibility that the political power struggle will be pushed into a situation that will cause big conflicts and chaos in the struggle for power.

The path to be chosen

The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) expects an early parliamentary election, but it is unlikely that the President will allow it. The President can dissolve the Parliament after two and a half years if he wants to; but if the president does not do so, then the parliament can be dissolved by a resolution passed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the parliament. Needless to say, that would be impossible. Although the president was elected by the parliament, he has all the powers of a president. He could be removed from office only by an impeachment passed by a two-thirds majority. Needless to say, that too, is not possible.

It seems that the president, while rescuing the country from the balance of payments crisis, and effecting important reforms that will have a positive impact on the public, is looking forward to building a large public base and holding the next presidential election before the parliamentary elections and winning it. Does the opposition possess the ability or patience to remain out of power until the elections are held as stipulated in the constitution? Otherwise, if the opposition attempts to seize power through a public uprising, it could certainly lead to a great devastation.

After the country fell into bankruptcy, what the government, the main opposition and all political parties should have done was to join hands and direct the country towards adopting a reform program that would lead to a profound and positive change in the system to overcome the failure, bankruptcy and collapse facing the country. There was a possibility of holding an election as a part of the proposed reform program. But, due to narrow attitudes and greed for power that reign in the political arena, the country is now moving on a path of chaos, instead of moving onto the path of reforms which the country needs badly at the moment.

If an attempt to seize power outside the constitutional framework succeeds, it will invariably cause a great destruction to the country. Even if a powerful attempt to seize power outside the constitutional framework is defeated, that too, will cause great destruction to the country. The country can be prevented from plunging into such an unfortunate and extremist position, only by choosing the path of reforms instead of the path of revolution.

Source: Daily FT

Political reforms need to accompany economic reforms in SL: Samantha Power

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator Samantha Power yesterday emphasised that political reforms need to accompany economic reforms in Sri Lanka.

USAID Spokesperson Jessica Jennings said Samantha Power met with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Ali Sabry yesterday to further USAID’s understanding of the Government of Sri Lanka’s priorities and reforms to address the country’s economic crisis.

The two discussed how USAID can support a viable path forward for Sri Lanka’s recovery and growth.

Administrator Power, who visited Sri Lanka in September, reiterated the U.S. commitment to supporting Sri Lanka to help resolve its complex crisis, including addressing the urgent needs of Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable and marginalized communities.

She underscored that political reforms need to accompany economic reforms in Sri Lanka. USAID remains committed to further cultivating its longstanding partnership with Sri Lanka to help secure peace and prosperity, Jennings said.

Source: Daily Mirror

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Majority Ampara women-headed households seek reparations

During the sittings of Office on Missing Persons (OMP) held in the Ampara District from Monday (28 November) until Wednesday (30 November), 80% of the families that have applied for compensation are mostly women-headed families looking for financial support.

An official from the OMP told The Morning on 30 November that while 160 cases were invited to testify before the Office, 151 had made submissions. Around 42 cases out of the 151 are of former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres who went missing during the war and families who have been looking for their whereabouts, the official said.

“Some families have now identified through others who saw the dead bodies that their missing family members had died during war. Therefore, such families which are mostly women-headed have obtained death certificates already, and have recently applied for compensation to obtain financial support,” the official said.

Around four cases were of child soldiers who were forcibly taken by the LTTE and thereby went missing when they were of the ages of 15 or 16 years, the official said.

The official also noted that most of these families are women-headed and are facing financial difficulties due to unemployment. Thus they are in need of empowerment.

“They have lost their breadwinners and are facing financial challenges in managing their needs. They are in need of livelihood support and empowerment,” the official added.

The OMP is conducting sittings in Kilinochchi since yesterday (1) and will go on till tomorrow (3).

Meanwhile, noting that most of the cases referred for compensation in cases related to missing persons are from the Eastern Province, sources from the OMP stated on 24 November that families have consented to reparation due to the current economic crisis. An official from the OMP earlier told The Morning that so far, 411 cases were referred to the Office for Reparations to pay compensation, among which 241 cases were considered ready to obtain the payment, while some 73 cases were compensated recently.

“The highest number of cases referred for compensation to the Office for Reparations are mainly from the Eastern Province,” the official added.

The official also said that so far, the OMP had concluded inquiries into 1,653 cases.

Source: The Sunday Morning

China welcomes Sabry’s rebuttal of ‘Debt-Trap’

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian has welcomed Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry’s strong rebuttal to the narrative about the so-called Chinese “debt trap” in Sri Lanka.

Speaking to reporters on Monday (28), he reiterated that China’s assistance to Sri Lanka is never attached with any political strings, and it never seeks any selfish political gains in China’s investment and financing in Sri Lanka.

China fully relates to the difficulties and challenges faced by Sri Lanka and supports relevant financial institutions in discussing with Sri Lanka and properly resolving them. We have all along provided support to Sri Lanka’s socioeconomic development as long as our ability permits,: he added.

“This year marks the 65th anniversary of China-Sri Lanka diplomatic relations, and the 70th anniversary of the Rubber-Rice Pact. It is of great significance of building on past achievements and working for fresh progress. China will work with Sri Lanka to carry forward the traditional friendship, cement strategic mutual trust, deepen and expand practical cooperation, and consolidate and expand China-Sri Lanka strategic cooperative partnership to better deliver benefits to the two countries and the two peoples,” he also noted.

Source: News 1st

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TNA says Tamils allowed to commemorate war dead

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) says President Ranil Wickremesinghe did not obstruct Tamils who commemorated the victims of the war.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa Governments have often blocked such attempts.

However, TNA MP and TELO Leader Selvam Adaikalanathan told Parliament today that several events were held yesterday to commemorate the victims of the war.

However, he said that apart from a few incidents, most events were held without any obstructions.

The MP hailed President Ranil Wickremesinghe for allowing the events to take place and give reconciliation a chance.

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Easter attacks suspect murdered in Colombo

The suspect linked to the Easter Sunday attacks, who was out on bail, was murdered in Colombo, in broad daylight, today.

The 38-year-old man was stabbed by unknown individuals in Mattakkuliya this morning.

According to the Police, the assailants had arrived in a car and carried out the crime.

The victim was rushed to the Colombo National Hospital but was pronounced dead in hospital.

Source: Colombo Gazette

Stalin writes to Jaishankar after Sri Lanka arrests more fishermen

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has written to Indian External Affairs S. Jaishankar seeking his intervention after the Sri Lanka Navy arrested another 24 Indian fishermen.

The Sri Lanka Navy said that the Navy and Sri Lanka Coast Guard conducted a special operation in the Northern waters to chase away Indian trawlers from Sri Lanka’s waters last evening.

The operation led to the seizure of 05 Indian trawlers with 24 Indian fishermen, poaching in the island’s waters off the Kovilan Lighthouse, Kareinagar, Jaffna, the Navy said in a statement.

The trawlers and the 24 Indian fishermen were brought to the Kankesanthurai Harbour and were handed over to the Mailadi Fisheries Inspector for onward legal proceedings.

The Navy said it has detained 35 Indian trawlers and arrested 252 Indian fishermen during operations conducted so far this year.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin wrote to Indian External Affairs S. Jaishankar and requested him to urge the Sri Lanka Navy not to arrest Indian fishermen

Stalin also sought the early release of all the Indian fishermen and the release of the boats in Sri Lankan custody.

Source: Colombo Gazette

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Russia is a reliable friend: Prime Minister

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said Russia is a reliable friend who consistently stands for Sri Lanka’s sovereignty at international forums.

Welcoming the new Russian Ambassador Levan S. Dzhagaryan, who called on him at the Prime Minister’s Office, he recalled the Soviet support to industrialisation of Sri Lanka setting up steel factory at Oruwela and tyre factory in Kelaniya decades ago. The Prime Minister also mentioned about the scholarships offered to Sri Lanka at Lumumba and Moscow universities for hundreds of Sri Lankan students who serve the nation now. The Ambassador assured the Prime Minister that Russia would extend its fullest support to Sri Lanka’s economic progress in every field.

They held detailed discussions on potential for Russian large scale investments in Sri Lanka.

Secretary to the Prime Minister Anura Dissanayake was also present at this discussion.


People in North, East leaving country due to dire economic situation: Ali Sabry

People in the North and East tend to leave the country due to the dire economic situation where some have gone to Tamil Nadu, Vietnam and Ukraine in the last six months.

He told Parliament that some 302 Tamils have fled to Vietnam and seven to Ukraine.

He said 85 of those in Vietnam have agreed to come back and said the Ministry would facilitate their return.

Responding to a remark made by Parliamentarian Selvam Adaikkalanathan, the minister said a publicity mechanism was needed to educate the people in the North and East on the dangers of seeking refugee status and not to get caught to human trafficking.

“We want to inform them, if they go on refugee status or on a wrong passport and get caught to trafficking, they will have to suffer,” he said.

Written by Ajith Siriwardana and Yohan Perera

Sri Lanka exports down 8.8-pct in Oct, apparel falls 13-pct

Sri Lanka’s export earnings in October 2022 drops 8.18 percent to 1,094 million dollars compared to the same period last year due to a decrease in earnings from apparels, eat, rubber, coconuts as the key export market are going high inflation and an energy crisis.

“This was mainly due to the decrease in export earnings from Apparel & Textiles, Tea, Rubber based Products, Coconut based Products, Spices & Essential Oils and Fisheries sector. Further, the impact of global crisis also affecting to decrease export earnings of major products,” Exports Development Board said in it’s report.

In the ten months to October, exports were up 9.33 percent to 11 billion US dollars.

“For the next six months, there is a very low number of orders,” a senior official at EDB told Economy Next.

“Hence the currency coming in is a little bit low but based on the trend it is like one billion a month during these last ten months and up to October, we have received over 10 billion of export revenue and first being the apparel.”

Sri Lanka is currently in the worst currency crisis in the history of the island’s soft-pegged central bank with the rupee collapsing from 200 to 360 in a failed attempt to float the currency (suspend convertibility) with a surrender rule in place.

At 370 the surrender rule and dollars sales continue.

Exports of Apparel & Textiles fell 13.19 percent to 441.89 million dollars in October 2022.

Tea exports in October fell 0.76 percent to 108.7 million US dollars.

“We have to be very agile these days because markets are changing and our traditional markets, especially the western markets going forward might be disrupted a little more,” another official at EDB said.

“So we have to now look at alternate markets because there is a global disruption in exports and imports and the only way out is to find other markets.”

Export earnings from Rubber based products have decreased by by 6.10 percent to 86.3 million dollars, EDB said exports of pneumatic & Retreated Rubber Tyres & Tubes did not perform well.

Coconut products fell 7.12 percent to 72.41 million dollars.

Export of Seafood dipped by 20 percent to 19.56 million dollars. Crabs exports have done well, EDB said.

Source: Economy Next

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