Committee on Public Finance approves a 400-acre special textile production zone in Eravur

A new special textile production zone of 400 acres capable of bringing economic and social benefits to the country has been approved by the Committee on Public Finance chaired by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Member of Parliament.

At the Committee meeting held Monday, it was disclosed that the Board of Investment (BOI) coordinating with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce will implement the project to establish this special textile production zone in the Eravur area of Batticaloa District for local and foreign textile manufacturers under the Strategic Development Act No. 14 of 2008.

Commenting in detail, the Director General of the Board of Investment Pasan Wanigasekara informed the Committee that two factories in Eravur have already expressed their willingness to start production of high-quality garments for the foreign market.

State Minister (Dr.) Nalaka Godahewa said it would be unfair if these factories are given additional benefits compared to the other factories in the country. (Prof.) Ranjith Bandara, Member of Parliament also pointed out that it will be like giving away an open check so that only the relevant companies will have unlimited opportunities.

Speaking on the occasion Secretary to the Treasury, Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle said that the zone was targeted at local and foreign textile manufacturers, not for the purpose of establishing garment factories.

The Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, acknowledged the importance of such investment opportunities in view of the situation facing the country. However, this special textile manufacturing zone to be established in the Eravur area under the amendment was approved by the Committee as it is imperative that all textile manufacturers be given equal opportunities and tax relief.

In addition, under the Strategic Development Act No. 14 of 2008, the commencement of commercial operations of the Joint Holiday Resort Project, Glennie Street, Colombo 02, Western Province by the Ministry of Economic Policy and Plan Implementation was approved at the Committee. Accordingly, a period from October 2, 2021 to December 31, 2022 will be given for this purpose.

Also, the Committee approved the total expenditure of the National Audit Office for the 2022 Budget Estimate.

Auditor General W.P.C. Wickramaratne said that an international training center for his office was to be built in Horana and that it would be most convenient if funds could be provided for that.

S.R. Attygalle pointed out that the Cabinet is not prepared to allocate funds from the budget for new constructions.

The Chairman Anura Priyadarshana Yapa acknowledged the need of National Audit Office but noted that there are a number of buildings that are not already in use in many government institutions.

Chairman of the Committee Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, State Minister (Dr.) Nalaka Godahewa, Members of Parliament (Dr.) Harsha de Silva, (Prof.) Ranjith Bandara and officials were present at the committee meeting held online.

Central Bank says Sri Lanka can manage if GSP is withdrawn

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka says the country can manage with certain policy changes, in the event the EU GSP Plus facility is withdrawn.

The Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal said that all stakeholders have been assured that Sri Lanka will be in a position to deal with the situation if the trade facility is withdrawn.

He said that the Central Bank will implement the necessary policy changes to deal with the situation that may arise if the EU GSP Plus facility is withdrawn.

The Governor also said that the bank will support a fuel price hike.

He said that there is a rapid rise in the price of fuel in the world market and that cannot be controlled by Sri Lanka.

Cabraal said that a fuel price hike will help address certain vulnerabilities in the economy.

Sri Lanka in India’s embrace – newsin.asia

India and Sri Lanka now appear to be shedding doubts and reservations about each other and getting closer in multiple ways simultaneously. India’s urgency to counter China and Sri Lanka’s economic compulsions have combined to bring about top-level ‘to and fro’ visits in quick succession.

Close on the heels of a fruitful three-day visit of the Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Sri Lanka in the first week of October, comes the five-day visit of the Indian army chief Gen.M.M.Naravane which began on October 12. This will be followed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s visit to Kushinagar in North India on October 20, to participate in the inauguration of the Kushinagar International Airport. The airport will be inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian and Lankan leaders are expected to have talks on the sidelines of the event.

 

It has been a long-standing wish of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the first international flight to land in Kushinagar should be a Sri Lankan Airlines flight. He would be doubly pleased to have the Sri Lankan President himself on board the first international flight with a delegation of 125 Buddhist monks in tow.

Kushinagar is where the Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana (or release from saṃsāra, karma and rebirth). To Buddhists, Kushinagar is as sacred as Buddha Gaya where the Buddha attained Enlightenment. Archaeological excavations led by C.L. Carlyle in the early 1870s, had revealed the main stupa in Kushinagar. A 6.10-meter-long statue of a reclining Buddha was discovered in 1876. In 1903, A Burmese monk, Chandra Swami, made the disused Mahaparinirvana temple into a living shrine.

 

Shringla Clears Decks

During his visit earlier in the month, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardan Shringla had giving finishing touches to a new scheme to strengthen bilateral economic and political links which had slackened despite the relentless efforts of successive Indian diplomats.

Economic relations particularly were in the doldrums. India-suggested and mutually agreed development projects were languishing while Chinese projects were forging ahead both in volume and speed. Even Indian projects which were within India’s grasp like the Eastern Container Terminal at Colombo, were snatched away. The coal-fired power plant in Sampur and the LNG project in Kerewelapitiya also slipped out.

While the Indians complained of Sri Lanka’s lack of interest, Sri Lankans complained of slow follow-up action on the part of Indian parties.

However, a variety of factors led to a change in the outlook in Sri Lanka. The COVID-19-triggered economic slowdown, the financial/dollar crunch it created here, and the possibility of losing the lucrative American market and the European GSP Plus tariff concession, led to the Rajapaksa regime’s taking a softer line towards the US, EU and their allies India and Japan.

This automatically led to some distancing from China. While China was useful for accessing big loans, the market for Sri Lankan products were in the US, EU and India and not China.

Although it is not known if any news projects for India are in the Sri Lankan pipeline, Indian Foreign Secretary Shringla, Lankan President Gotabaya and Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa had all shown keenness to increase Indian private sector investments in the island. Both government appear keen to make these plans work this time around.

To make up with India, the US$ 700 million project to build and run the Western Container Terminal in Colombo port has already been given to the Adanis of India. More recently, a decision was taken to give a US$ 400 million stake in the LNG plant in Kerawelapitiya to the American company ‘New Fortress Energy’ to strengthen ties with the US. More US investments are expected, especially in the tourism sector.

Politically, Sri Lanka wishes to be a non-aligned and neutral country to ward off the possibility of becoming a theater of war between the US and India on the one hand (as partners in QUAD) and China on the other. With the creation of the AUKUS and the gifting of nuclear submarines to Australia by the US, any war here could well become a nuclear war. This is why President Gotabaya Rajapaksa proposed to the Indian Foreign Secretary that New Delhi should support Sri Lanka’s bid to make the Indian Ocean a Zone of Peace.

It is not clear if New Delhi would go along with this as it has hitched its geopolitical security wagon to the US vis-à-vis China. But if New Delhi is to keep Colombo in its fold, it has to address the latter’s anxieties and recognize its yearning for strategic autonomy.

On its part, belligerent China is in no mood to relax its anti-India stand. Replying to a question about Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu’s recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh, which China calls “South Tibet”, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “ The Chinese government has never recognized the so-called Arunachal Pradesh established unilaterally and illegally by the Indian side, and is firmly opposed to the Indian leader’s visit to the area concerned.”

India and China are at loggerheads in Sri Lanka and also Afghanistan where China supports the Taliban government and India opposes it.

 

Gen.Naravane’s Visit

The ongoing visit of the Indian army chief, Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane, fits into New Delhi’s bid to more forcefully and consistently engage Sri Lanka in multifarious ways. As Gen.Naravane himself said here on Wednesday: “As matured democracies, the quality interaction among the elected leaders in both countries is mirrored by similar interactions by both militaries.”

Gen. Naravane then highlighted the importance of modernizing both the Indian and Sri Lankan military organizations to suit international standards and to be geared to meet with different types of emerging threats, including cyberattacks.

Talks between him and Lankan Army Commander Gen.Shavendra Silva, also focused on the ongoing ‘Mithra Shakti’ training exercise where both armies are engaged. The visiting Indian Army Chief assured support for continuity and broadening of training programs in India. Gen.Naravane offered the Indian army’s technical assistance for upgrading the military requirements of the Sri Lanka Army.

Lankan Army’s New Profile

Several Indian army chiefs had visited Sri Lanka before Gen. Naravane. But the latter’s visit would stand out because he would be seeing a changed Lankan army. The present Lankan army, thanks to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, is part and part of the country’s civil administration unlike the previous Lankan armies and other armies in South Asia. The Lankan army is now used in regular infrastructure construction, urban development, COVID-control, Health Administration among other activities. Retired Majors General were appointed to head Customs, Civil Aviation and Ports departments. The Defense and Foreign Secretaries are retired high ranking military personnel. When the pandemic struck, Army Commander Gen.Shavendra Silva was put in charge of COVID-19 containment and he did a “splendid” job, as Gen.Naravane said on Wednesday.

In his most recent address to the public at Saliyapura, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa justified the appointment of military officers saying that he wanted jobs done. He has faith in the army as he was himself a Lt.Colonel during the war.

With Sri Lanka being pushed into the Indo-Pacific geopolitical vortex because of the sharpening conflict between the entrenched powers (US, UK, India, Japan and Australia) and the emerging power (China), the Sri Lankan army could acquire a different profile to tackle the new situation.

In fact, intensifying geopolitics with a strong military dimension could affect all armies in the region. Against this background, it will be worthwhile to study the development of the Sri Lankan army and other armies in the region. In this context, there is a need for these armies to engage with each other.

This has been recognized by Gen. Naravane. On Wednesday, he noted that high-level political engagements between India and Sri Lanka are being matched by high-level military engagements.

Sri Lanka reports 21 Covid-19 deaths on Thursday, toll rises to 13,429

Sri Lanka Thursday reported 21 deaths due to COVID-19 after the figures were confirmed by the Director General of Health Services on Wednesday, October 13.

Among the deaths reported today, 15 are of males and 06 of females. The majority of deaths – 16- are of elderly people in the 60 years and above age group. A male below 30 years of age also succumbed to the disease.

According to the data reported by the Government Information Department, the total deaths due to Covid-19 since the pandemic began last year has now risen to 13,429.

MP Rishad Bathiudeen granted bail

Former Minister and Wanni district parliamentarian Rishad Bathiudeen, who was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and remanded for over six months in connection with a case related to the Easter Sunday attack, has been granted bail today.

Colombo Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage released Rishad Bathiudeen on two sureties of Rs. 5 million each when the Magistrate’s Inquiry into the case was called back to court today (14).

The CID arrested MP Bathiudeen on 24 April 2021 and had obtained court permission to detain and question under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) on charges of aiding and abetting the Easter Sunday attackers.

Opposition parliamentarians including former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe raised the issue of Bathiudeen’s continued detention in parliament last week and requested the Speaker to inform the House if there are any evidence to justify the allegations against the MP.

G.L. Peiris stresses importance of GSP+ to diplomats

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, in an address to the Colombo-based diplomatic community yesterday (13), had stressed on the importance of the European Union’s (EU) Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) trade concession to the Sri Lankan economy.

According to a Foreign Ministry press release, Prof. Peiris had said that he was satisfied with the discussions that were held with the delegation of the EU GSP+ Monitoring Mission, and had added that the continuation of the GSP+ is vital for the Sri Lankan economy, not only in the apparel sector, but also in other areas of bilateral trade.
“Covid-19 dealt a significant blow to our plans and we need to recover,” Prof. Peiris had added.

However, he had expressed his satisfaction at the improvement of the Covid-19 situation in the country due to the ongoing successful vaccination drive and had therefore sought the assistance of the diplomatic community to revive tourism activity.

Prof. Peiris made these remarks at a meeting with all Colombo-based diplomats at the Foreign Ministry yesterday.

The European Parliament, earlier this year, called on the Government of Sri Lanka to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979 as amended and the European Commission to consider the temporary withdrawal of the GSP+ from Sri Lanka if it is not done.

The EU GSP+ Monitoring Mission visited Sri Lanka during the first week of October and met with a number of officials and organisations, both within and outside the Government, in this regard.

The GSP+ gives Sri Lanka preferential access to markets in the EU. It was withdrawn in 2010 after the EU identified three major shortcomings with respect to United Nations human rights conventions (the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child) related to the scheme of the GSP+, which is not only a special incentive agreement for sustainable development but also for good governance. It has been identified that the GSP+ especially benefits the fisheries and apparels industries.

“Sri Lanka Could Be On Its Path To Hyperinflation If Central Bank Continues To Print Money”: Prominent Economist Warns

Former Central Bank Deputy Governor and Prominent Economist W.A. Wijewardena said Sri Lanka could be on its way to “hyperinflation” should the Central Bank failed to adopt necessary corrective measures at this point in time.

“After cancelling the gazettes, the repressed inflation in Sri Lanka is now becoming open inflation,” Wijewardena said, in a Facebook post.

“But it could be kept as a one-time price increase if CBSL does not validate it by printing new money. If it continues with printing new money, its progression to a hyperinflation cannot be avoided’ the former Central Bank Deputy Governor added.

He also added that this was true for the exchange rate which too has been repressed at Rs 203 against USD.

Sri Lanka teachers and principals to continue strike

The Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin says that the trade union action of the Teachers’ and Principals’ Trade Union Alliance will continue.

The decision was taken following a discussion held by the trade union officials today (13).

“Obviously, we have decided to continue our trade union action as the Teachers’ and Principals’ Alliance. If our demands are not granted by the 21st we will make a decision whether the Teachers’ and Principals’ unions will go to work when the schools are opened on 21st,” Mr. Stalin said.

He said the teachers’ strike on online teaching is enters 94th day today and the issue could have been resolved sooner if the authorities held the discussions sooner.

“The Cabinet passed the resolution of the Sub-Committee on August 30. How long after this the discussion took place? We continually asked for a discussion. This is due to the delay in giving a meeting,” the trade union leader said.

The discussion held between Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the teachers’ and principals’ trade unions Tuesday at the Prime Minister’s office ended without a solution, according to the trade union representatives.

Another contempt application against Ratwatte

An application was filed at the Mannar High Court (HC) yesterday (13) seeking an order to summon former Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation State Minister Lohan Ratwatte over being in alleged contempt of court, in connection with the latter’s reported intimidation of a group of prisoners at the Anuradhapura Prison on 12 September.

This application comes a few days after a similar application was filed at the Vavuniya HC on 6 October by the legal representation of three prisoners who are being detained under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979 as amended (PTA) at the Anuradhapura Prison, seeking an order to summon Ratwatte over being in alleged contempt of court in connection with the said incident.

Attorney-at-Law (AAL) K.S. Ratnavel, representing a detainee, who is alleged to have been threatened by Ratwatte, told The Morning yesterday that a case was being heard in the Mannar HC against the accused under the PTA. He added that while the case has been ongoing for a few years, the Mannar HC had ordered that the accused be held at the Anuradhapura Prison.

“We have made one submission for Ratwatte to be charged over committing the offence of contempt of court. In that, we have noted that this prisoner was committed to prison by the order of the Mannar HC and that anything affecting him would therefore be interfering with the judicial procedures,” Ratnavel said.

Another submission they have made is for Ratwatte to be charged for allegedly committing offences and serious crimes under the Penal Code, namely, attempted murder and torture, which are also offences punishable under the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) Act No. 22 of 1994 as amended.

Meanwhile, adding that a judge or a parliamentarian can only go to visit a prison between 5.30 a.m. and 5 p.m. under the Prisons Ordinance, Ratnavel claimed that Ratwatte however, had gone to the Anuradhapura Prison on that day after 6 p.m. “Accordingly, he has violated the Prisons Ordinance and also compelled the prison officials to act in violation of it by taking these prisoners out of the cells. Therefore, in the application, we requested that action be taken in this regard as well,” he added.

In the application, they have also requested that the said accused be transferred from the Anuradhapura Prison to the Jaffna Prison as the said incident could endanger his life. However, the accused was, according to Ratnavel, not allowed to be transferred to the Jaffna Prison and was instead ordered to be given maximum security inside the Anuradhapura Prison.

The application also requested to conduct an inquiry into the incident on 12 September by summoning the relevant Superintendent of the Anuradhapura Prison and other Prisons Department officials. The Mannar HC has then ordered the Prisons Commissioner General (CG) to submit a report on the incident to the Mannar HC on 30 November 2021, the next court date.

The said application has been supported by AAL S. Thanikumar.

On 12 September 2021, an inebriated and pistol-brandishing Ratwatte had flown in a helicopter to the Anuradhapura Prison, where he had allegedly summoned a group of Tamil political prisoners detained under the PTA (reports state between eight to 16 such prisoners), and ordered them to kneel, and had proceeded to threaten two of them at point blank range, telling them to accept their offence/s and to submit to authority.

Prior to this incident, on 6 September, Ratwatte had, together with a group of friends, also under the influence of liquor, allegedly forcibly entered the Welikada Prison premises after 6 p.m. and proceeded to view the gallows. As per Section 39 of the Prisons Ordinance, an MP who wishes to pay a visit to a prison can only do so between the hours of 5.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m.

The Prisons Department, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) have since commenced investigations into the incidents, whilst Justice Minister, President’s Counsel M.U.M. Ali Sabry appointed HC Judge (Retd.) Kusala Sarojani Weerawardena to independently inquire into the incidents.

Ratwatte resigned from the post of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation State Minister on 15 September, and he is claimed to have, as per a Tweet by the President’s Spokesman, accepted responsibility for the incidents at the Welikada and Anuradhapura Prisons. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the same Tweet mentioned, had accepted the said resignation. However, in subsequent statements made to the media, Ratwatte, who remains the Gem and Jewellery-Related Industries State Minister, had denied all allegations made against him.

Sri Lanka drops charges against former navy Commander over killings of Tamil youth

The charges against former Navy Commander Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda over the alleged abduction and killings of Tamil youth in 2008 were dropped today.

. The Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam informed the Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar today that the state will not pursue the charges against former Navy Commander, who was indicted in 2019.

Karannagoda, who was named as the 14th Defendant in the case filed against the abduction and disappearance of 11 youths in Colombo and suburbs in 2008 and 2009, had filed a petition before the Court of Appeal seeking the annulment of the indictment filed against him by the Attorney General.

Mr. Karannagoda in his petition pointed out that the manner in which he was connected to the case was against the law and that there was no evidence against him.

The Appeals Court had accordingly issued an interim order against hearing the charges levelled against him.

When the petition was taken up today, the Attorney General informed that the indictment against him would be dropped.

The case is set to be heard on November 03.