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

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.


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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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The Economist : Prediction on Sri Lanka

Elections are likely to be held in Sri Lanka well before the 2024 deadline, the British weekly newspaper, The Economist has predicted.

According to the prediction, Sri Lanka’s economy will contract, but by less than in 2022.

The prediction has been made in The Economist’s new publication, “The World Ahead 2023”.

“President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed the presidency in July 2022, will struggle to confront the public discontent that forced the resignation of his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” the report said.

The report also points out that protesters see Ranil Wickremesinghe as a stooge for the Rajapaksa clan, particularly since he chose Dinesh Gunawardena as the Prime Minister, an ally of the Rajapaksa family.

“Protests and strikes will weigh on the government and elections are likely well before the 2024 deadline” it added.

The Economist’s other predictions include:

GDP growth : – 0.2%

GDP per head : US$ 4,230

Inflation : 66.4%

Budget Balance (%GDP) : – 4.2

Population : 21.7m

Source: Newswire

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President invites for talks & orders land grabbing at the same time – TNPF

President Ranil Wickremesinghe speaks about a dialogue to resolve the national question, but at the same time orders the military’s acquisition of lands owned by the Tamils, charges Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) leader Gajendra Kumar Ponnambalam.

The president has invited Tamil parties for talks that are expected next month.

MP Ponnambalam questioned if Tamils could expect solutions from a racist, Sinhala-Buddhist supremacist regime.

He also said public life and the economy would continue to slide under the present administration in the absence of rule of law and justice.

Wimal’s first meeting in N’eliya attacked

A seminar to mark the advent of the Supreme Lanka Council in Nuwara Eliya yesterday (27) came under attack hours before it was due to begin.

In the early hours of the morning, a group had come to the venue and destroyed the display boards for the event.

Organisers lodged a complaint with Hanguranketha police which accuses the SJB organiser for the area Jayalath Dissanayake, who is also the brother of SLPP MP S.B. Dissanayake, of being responsible.

Despite the incident, the SLC held the meeting with its chairman Wimal Weerawansa presiding.

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Free Chinese diesel for farmers, fishermen

The 10.6 million liters of diesel donation by China will be provided free of charge, said the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka.

Fuel will be given free to 232,749 farmers for harvesting 342,266 hectares paddy fields across Sri Lanka in Maha season 2022/23 (20L/hectare)

In addition, the 3,796 fishing vessels below 40 feet in Sri Lanka (1,000L/vessel) will also be given free diesel courtesy from China.

Sri Lanka opposition leader vows to bring millions to the streets

Sri Lanka opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has vowed to bring millions to the streets in defiance of a controversial statement by President Ranil Wickremesinghe that he would use the military to block another uprising.

Speaking at an event organised by the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) in Negombo on Saturday November 26, Premadasa said the SJB under his leadership would defeat efforts by the Wickremesinghe government to quell protests.

“The president and government groups are saying in parliament that if another people’s struggle comes, they will suppress it using the military. That they will use the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to suppress the struggle. We’re not prepared to be cowards,” said Premadasa.

“We’re told to obtain permission to go on a political march on the road. If this is a challenge, the SJB and the SJB alliance under the leadership of Sajith Premadasa, [are prepared] to come out to the road in the millions. We will defeat these hollow boasts of the government using the power of the people,” he said.

Addressing parliament last week, President Wickremesinghe said the authorities will block any unlawful protests aimed at toppling the government. The state forces and a state of emergency would be used for this purpose, he said. However, peaceful protests may continue as long as permission is obtained from the police, he said.

President Wickremesinghe, who had long maintained the image of a democrat and a statesman, has been under fire both locally and internationally ever since he assumed the presidency for an alleged intolerance of protest.

He has been courting controversy since his ascend to Sri Lanka’s all powerful executive presidency, with activists, civil society groups, human rights defenders and opposition legislators critcising him for what they claim has been a crackdown on peaceful protest – the same series of youth-led peaceful protests that unseated his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa, landing him the highest seat of power in the land.

His recent pronouncements on human rights activists have not helped matters.

Wickremesinghe and his defenders, however, claim that he is still a liberal democrat who respects the right to free speech and peaceful assembly, and that he only wants to stop the more extremist elements that they claim have hijacked the protests with a view to toppling the government through a violent revolt. These groups, government spokesmen and other backers of the president claim, are attempting to destabilise the country at a time when stability is crucial to economic recovery.

Government members and other critics of the SJB, meanwhile, argue that the main opposition party is using the Aragalaya to their own political ends and are criticising Wickremesinghe in bad faith. They claim that Premadasa and his party have forgotten or are pretending to have forgotten how the opposition leader was almost ambushed and attack by more violent elements within the protest movement on May 09.

Critics of the SJB also question the purported popularity of the party and its leadership with the public. Analysts question the party’s capacity to bring millions out on to the streets as claimed by the SJB leadership.

The party, however, is prepared to show its strength at an upcoming election, whichever one comes first.

The president, meanwhile, has said he has no plans to dissolve parliament anytime soon. A parliamentary election, according to him, may have to wait till Sri Lanka’s economy has sufficiently recovered.

The SJB and opposition parties have condemned this announcement as an undemocratic attempt at suppressing the people’s rights.

Sri Lanka hopeful of unlocking IMF deal in January 2023

If Sri Lanka misses the December target, which now appears to be bit of a stretch, the country could still activate the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rescue package to unlock US$ 2.9 billion over a four-year span as very good progress is being made in the debt restructuring front, particularly with the country’s bilateral lenders.

Speaking to media last week, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe shrugged off certain reports which claimed that Sri Lanka could not activate the deal till next March if the December target is missed.

“The December target appears a bit optimistic as of now. But if we miss that, we still have time until January,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe said that IMF Board meetings happen at least three days a week with many items in their agenda and thus missing the December target is not a big deal.

In a presentation made to creditors in September, the timelines drawn up by the Sri Lankan authorities showed that they expected to receive IMF Board approval for the staff-level agreement reached in early September by mid-December or early January 2023 after obtaining financing assurances from the bilateral creditors by mid-November.

To expedite the process, the authorities are promoting an adhoc bilateral platform for the Paris Club and non-Paris Club creditors to come together to give their financing assurances to the IMF, having debated among themselves.

The majority of Sri Lanka’s bilateral credit is held by the two non-Paris Club countries China and India.

“We are very confident in the way the discussions are going ahead in getting their assurances. So, the IMF can submit the proposal to the Board sooner,”said Dr. Weerasinghe, expecting the assurances to be forthcoming in the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, the financing assurances from private creditors would mean Sri Lanka is making a ‘good faith’ effort to reach a collaborative agreement with them which includes engaging in early dialogue and sharing relevant information on a timely basis.
They have formed two creditor committees – one consisting of 100 members of international investors and another consisting of eight local private banks holding slightly in excess of a billion dollars worth ISBs.

Besides obtaining creditor assurances, Sri Lanka also has to make good on some prior actions such as raising taxes, as part of its revenue-based fiscal consolidation efforts, raise interest rates to contain consumption and investments and end monetary financing, allow greater foreign exchange rate flexibility, strengthen Central Bank independence, and embark on reforming state-owned enterprises.

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