Revision of Mannar Port Land Boundaries Announced

The Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Aviation has announced plans to revise the land boundaries of Mannar Port due to issues with the previously gazetted limits. Secretary K.D.S. Ruwan Chandra stated that the new boundaries, to be published in the Gazette, will exclude the Mannar Naval Base, unlike the previous limits.

Posted in Uncategorized

Easter attacks: NPP vows to properly institute legal action under its govt.

The National People’s Power (NPP) says that, under its administration, proper legal action will be instituted against those implicated, either directly or indirectly, in the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks that killed more than 250 people and injured hundreds of others.

This promise comes days ahead of the fifth anniversary of the coordinated suicide bombings which falls on April 21.

In a statement, the NPP highlighted that the government has an obligation towards the victims of this heinous act while raising questions as to whether this has been properly fulfilled.

The party also presented a 7-point action plan that it intends to implement under a future NPP government to serve justice to the Easter attack victims.

Poverty has increased from 11% to 26% during past four years

Poverty in Sri Lanka has increased over the past four years, from 11 percent in 2019 to 26 percent in 2024, and the country needs ‘robust and credible structural reforms,’ says the latest report released by the World Bank.

The WB report, titled ‘Sri Lanka Development Update 2024: Bridges to Recovery,’ says that more than a quarter of the Sri Lankan population living in poverty and unprecedented economic crisis that engulfed the country in 2022 had affected the masses. “Households have adopted risky coping strategies to deal with lower incomes and price pressures, including using savings, taking on more debt, and limiting their diets. Food insecurity rose during the second half of 2023, with 24 percent of households being food insecure.”

It has found that food insecurity and malnutrition have increased, while poverty has doubled and the inequalities have widened. “Approximately 60 percent of households experienced a decline in income due to reduced work hours or job losses. The implementation of recent structural reforms, including cost-reflective utility pricing and new revenue measures, helped macroeconomic stability but strained household budgets.”

The report indicates that labour market trends in Sri Lanka have been affected by widespread closures of micro-, small- and medium-enterprises. In the third quarter of 2023, the labour force participation rate in the urban sector dropped to 45.2 percent, down from 52.3 percent in 2019. Youth unemployment, especially young adults (aged from 25–29), rose to 17.7 percent between the second and third quarters of 2023.

World Bank Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Faris Hadad-Zervos noted: “Sri Lanka’s economy is on the road to recovery, but sustained efforts to mitigate the impact of the economic crisis on the poor and vulnerable are critical, alongside a continuation of the path of robust and credible structural reforms. This involves a two-pronged strategy: first, to maintain reforms that contribute to macroeconomic stability and second, to accelerate reforms to stimulate private investment and capital inflows, which are crucial for economic growth and poverty reduction.”

The Sri Lankan government is also in the process of privatising, commercialising or closing loss-making state-owned enterprises which has left many having to seek better-paying jobs. Sri Lanka’s already dilapidated public health and education systems have been plunged into crisis by government funding cuts.

The World Bank report states: “17.5 percent of households indicated that they limited their education expenses (including on stationery and uniforms) to deal with rising costs, and most households have changed their health treatment procedures since March 2022 due to a lack of funds.”

In March, Sri Lanka’s Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) stated that the minimum monthly expenditure per person in Sri Lanka has increased by 144 percent since 2019. The amount is calculated on the basis of what is required to fulfil the basic monthly needs of an individual, which in 2019 was 6,966 rupees ($23). This near-starvation level amount has now catapulted to 17,014 rupees per month.

“The economy contracted by 2.3 percent in 2023, despite growth in third and fourth quarters (1.6 and 4.5 percent, respectively) following six quarters of contraction. This was driven by shrinking construction and mining, financial and IT services, and textile manufacturing, amid weak demand, tight private credit, and shortages of inputs, and was partly offset by growth in transport, accommodation, food, and beverage services, resulting from a rebound in tourism. Inflation remained benign, after declining to single-digit levels in July 2023, supported by currency appreciation and improved supply. However, with the recent spike in food prices and pass-through of fuel and utility prices, headline inflation as measured by the Colombo Consumer Price Index increased to 5.9 percent in February 2024. Labour force participation declined (from 49.8 to 48.8 percent between 2022 and third quarter of 2023), especially in urban areas. Households have adopted risky coping strategies to deal with lower incomes and price pressures, including using savings, taking on more debt, and limiting their diets. Food insecurity rose during the second-half of 2023, with 24 percent of households being food insecure,” says the report.

Posted in Uncategorized

Received full presidential commission report on Easter Sunday attacks: Cardinal

The Catholic Church has received the remaining parts of the report submitted by the presidential commission which probed the Easter Sunday attacks, Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said today.

Cardinal Ranjith said the church had received it three weeks ago. “A team of lawyers are studying the report and we will come up with a statement on it once the study is completed,” he told a briefing.

He said the process of declaring Easter Sunday victims as martyrs will begin on Sunday April 21 2024 when the country commemorates the fifth anniversary of the mayhem.

“All names of those who perished in the explosions at the Katuwapitiya church, Kochchikade church and the Zion church will be handed over to Apostolate Nuncio ( Vatican Ambassador) during the commemoration programmes which are to be held on Sunday. The process of declaring these victims as martyrs will begin on that day,” he said.

“The victims will be initially declared as ‘heroes of faith’ which is the first step towards declaring someone as a martyr. These victims can be called martyrs as they went to church on that fateful day because of their faith,” he added explaining the catholic tradition.

A Prayerful procession has been organized on Saturday April 20 from Kochchikade church to Katuwapitiya church while two commemoration programmes have been organized at Katuwapitiya church and Kochchikade church on Sunday April 21 2024. Another procession has been organized from Maristella College Negombo to Katuwapitiya Church on Sunday afternoon.

Apostolate Nuncio, UN resident representative in Sri Lanka and religious leaders including Buddhist monks are expected to speak at the ceremony which will be held at the Kochchikade church.

“We only want to know as to who was behind the Easter Sunday attacks and we don’t intend to seek revenge from anyone. We would also like to ask the former President Maithripala Sirisena to reveal what he is aware of the attack,” the cardinal remarked.

Posted in Uncategorized

The politics of former Sri Lankan Presidents By Veeragathy Thanabalasingham

One cannot help asking Parliamentarian Dulles Alahapperuma as to why he waited so long to urge former Presidents to bow out of active politics. If anyone puts this question to him, he or she cannot be faulted.

Alahapperuma said last week former Presidents Chandrika Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Maithripala Sirisena and Gotabaya Rajapaksa should keep away from politics for their own health and for the sake of the people. Public funds which are spent on them should not be used for any political activity, he added.

” One time US President John Quincy Adams contested for the US Congress. He was the only foreign head of state to remain in politics after his retirement from the Presidency,” Alajapperuma recalled.

We in Sri Lanka have four ex-Presidents who have no intention of giving up politics even after serving in the highest office of the country and are eager to return to political office even after being driven out of power by the people.

At least now Alahapperuma is able to understand the futility of their involvement in politics.

Sri Lanka’s first Executive President J.R. Jeyewardene retired from politics after the completion of his two terms in the latter part of 1980s. Until his death, he showed no inclination return to politics and refrained from commenting on political problems publicly.

The second Executive President Ranasinghe Premadasa was killed in a suicide bombing before the end of his first term in mid-1993. D.B. Wijetunga, was in power for the remaining one and a half years of Premadasa’s Presidency but stayed out of politics after his retirement in November 1994.

But, after him, those who have been Presidents during the last three decades are actively involved in politics even after the completion of their terms. Among them Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena contested the general elections and came back to Parliament.

As for Mrs. Kumaratunga, her political involvement has largely been aimed at supporting anti- Rajapakasa groups. Apart from that, she almost limited her political activities to issuing occasional statements on important issues affecting the country and giving interviews to the media.

But recently she has intensified her activities with the intention of reviving the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP ) which has been badly weakened under the leadership of Maithripala Siriseana and turning it around into a party with popular support. It may be an impossible task as there are clear indications of further splits in her party.

After Mahinda Rajapaksa won the 2005 Presidential election he changed the SLFP from being a party controlled by the Bandaranaike family into one under the control of the Rajapaksa family.

Following Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat in the 2015 Presidential election, the Rajapaksas were unable to retain the leadership of SLFP. Then they launched their own Sri Lanka Padujana Peramuna (SLPP ) and regained power with the overwhelming support of the people.

Mahinda Rajapaksa had no qualms becoming an ordinary Member of Parliament after holding the highest office in the land. He was elected from Kurunegala district in the 2015 August general elections and was the leader of the Joint Opposition in Parliament. He was re – elected from the same district in August 2020 general elections and was appointed Prime Minister in the government of his younger brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa. What happened after that is recent history.

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration has gone down in history as the most discredited government in Sri Lanka. Though Sri Lankan politics had been dominated by certain elite families in the past, people had not taken to the streets and revolted against those families as they did against the Rajapaksa family.

It is a great irony that a family with such historical disrepute can still run the government from behind the scenes and think they can determine the country’s future political direction.

Following Mahinda Rajapaksa, another former President Maithripala Sirisena came back to Parliament after forging an alliance with the Rajapaksa party in the last general elections. The world will really doubt the sanity of the Sri Lankan people who voted for such a person as the Executive President when looking at the way he ruled the country and the controversies created by his irresponsible utterances in recent times.

Meanwhile, a few attempts were made but in vain by Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s loyalists to bring him to parliament after his resignation from the Presidency. But, his brothers are distancing themselves from him by placing the entire blame for the misrule on him.

Some observers said his recently released book on an alleged foreign conspiracy to oust him from the Presidency was but an indication of his return to politics. As the country is bracing for national elections, we will not have to wait for long to ascertain whether Gotabaya will return to active politics or not.

While taking of the politics of our former Presidents we must not fail to observe an important thing which is of great concern for the people. All former presidents including the one who fled the country amidst the popular uprising and resigned from the post while in a foreign land are supported by public funds while the people are facing immense hardship as a result of their misrule. They enjoy many boons such as pension, security details, a fleet of vehicles and luxurious palatial residences in the high end areas in the capital.

In addition to these, Mahinda and Sirisena enjoy the privileges afforded to Members of Parliament.

None of the ex-Presidents sacrificed their wealth for the common good. On the contrary they have amassed huge wealth through politics. In fact there is no need to maintain them at government expense.

People will greatly welcome any new law to make it possible for ex – Presidents to be given pensions and other benefits at government expense only if they do not return to political office such as Members of Parliament.

In this regard, political parties should come forward to make a promise to the people at the coming national elections. Opposition political leaders who are talking about bringing a new political culture and a system change should seriously take note of this.

It could be argued that it is a fundamental right of former Presidents to engage in politics. But, being involved in politics after retiring from the highest office of the country and returning to political office and enjoying additional privileges at government expense are entirely different things.

Posted in Uncategorized

UK Prime Minister sends Puthandu wishes to Tamil community

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak extended his wishes to the Tamil community celebrating the new year and thanked them for their ‘tremendous contribution’ to the country.

Puthandu, or new year falls on the first day of the Tamil month of Chithirai. Chithirai Puthandu is widely celebrated by Tamils in the North-East and globally.

IMF, World Bank Spring Meeting To Begin In Washington DC

The Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG) will commence on Monday (15) in Washington DC.

The Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG) bring together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, parliamentarians, private sector executives, representatives from civil society organizations and academics to discuss issues of global concern, including the world economic outlook, poverty eradication, economic development, and aid effectiveness.

Also featured are seminars, regional briefings, press conferences, and other events focused on the global economy, international development, and the world’s financial system.

The main ministerial meetings and events will take place April 17-19 with other events and activities taking place during the week, April 15-20.

Sri Lanka’s State Minister for Finance, Shehan Semasinghe believes that ‘fruitful engagements’ at the IMF & World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington DC, will pave the way for unlocking the next tranche of essential funding and a speedy debt resolution.

He said this will enhance economic stability, confidence, sustainable growth, restore debt sustainability and ultimately, improving the welfare of every Sri Lankan citizen.

In a post on X, the State Minister announced the country’s participation in the upcoming IMF & World Bank Spring Meetings 2024, scheduled to commence on April 15.

This significant event brings together global leaders, policymakers, and financial experts to discuss critical economic challenges and foster international cooperation.

“Sri Lanka’s journey to its current state of stability and progress is due to the invaluable support provided by the IMF, World Bank and international partners during the most severe economic crisis we faced since 2022. As we navigate the complexities of global economic challenges, we will engage closely with the IMF and aim to contribute to broader international economic cooperation with our partners,” said Semasinghe.

In March 2024, IMF staff and the Sri Lankan authorities reached staff-level agreement on economic policies to conclude the second review of the 4-year EFF-supported program and the 2024 Article IV Consultation.

Once the review is approved by IMF Management and completed by the IMF Executive Board, Sri Lanka will have access to SDR 254 million (about US$337 million) in financing. If approved, this will be the third tranche that will be released to Sri Lanka.

The EFF arrangement was approved by the IMF Executive Board for a total amount of SDR 2.3 billion (about US$3 billion) on March 20, 2023.

“Upon completion of the Executive Board review, Sri Lanka would have access to SDR 254 million (about US$337 million), bringing the total IMF financial support disbursed under the arrangement to SDR 762 million (about US$1 billion),” said the IMF in a statement in Colombo.

Posted in Uncategorized

BIMSTEC Secretary General visits Sri Lanka, discusses regional cooperation

The Secretary General of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), discussed measures to enhance regional cooperation, during his visit to the island last week.

Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, Secretary General of BIMSTEC visited Sri Lanka from 07 – 12 April 2024, following his assumption of office as Secretary General of BIMSTEC in January this year.

The Secretary General “met with senior officials of relevant Ministries/Agencies to discuss measures to enhance regional cooperation under various BIMSTEC initiatives,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Several BIMSTEC countries have bilateral trade agreements, such as Sri Lanka and India, Thailand and Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, but no collective regional agreement to enable intra-regional leverage.

During the visit, Secretary General Pandey held discussions with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and paid courtesy calls on the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Secretary General Pandey participated at an event on “Regional Cooperation through BIMSTEC” organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute (LKI) on 9 April.

Covid death reported from Jaffna Hospital

A 62-year-old woman who was receiving treatment at the Jaffna Hospital died of Covid-19, hospital sources said.

The woman, a resident of Jaffna had arrived from France last week and was admitted to the Jaffna Hospital due to fever.

She had died last Friday (12) and the post-mortem report which was received today had revealed that the death was due to Covid-19.

Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) have taken steps to trace her close contacts.

Iranian President to inaugurate ‘Uma Oya’ project during Sri Lanka visit

Several major water and energy projects are going to be inaugurated by the presidents of Iran and Sri Lanka in the near future, Iranian media reported.

The Uma Oya Multipurpose project which includes two dams namely Dyraaba and Puhulpola and also 25 kilometers of water transmission tunnel, is expected to be inaugurated in May in the presence of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

The project also includes two major hydroelectric power plants each with a capacity of 60 megawatts.

Uma Oya multipurpose project is regarded as one of the greatest technical and engineering service projects of Iranian companies in Sri Lanka.

This project is located in the south-east of Sri Lanka 200km away from Colombo city.

The purpose of the project is to improve irrigation of 5000 acres of agricultural land, transferring 145 million cubic meters of water and generating 290 GW/h of power in a year.

One of the important features of the Uma Oya project is the scattered and diverse components of the project.

It should also be said that this project is one of the largest projects implemented by Iranian contractors abroad.

Back in August 2023, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry visited Iran and met with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian in Tehran. During a joint press conference, the top Iranian diplomat called the visit “a turning point in Iran-Sri Lanka ties”.

Amir Abdollahian said the two foreign ministers had discussed cooperation at regional and international levels and will be expanding ties in the fields of trade, tourism, science, and culture.

“During our meeting, we discussed new possible agreements and also emphasized the implementation of the ones that have already been signed,” said the top diplomat.

According to Amir Abdollahian, the two sides also discussed the exchange of prisoners.

The foreign minister concluded his talks by reiterating the Iranian government’s priorities, saying that Tehran attaches great significance to cooperation with fellow Asian countries. He hoped that different nations in the continent could collaborate in a friendly and constructive manner.

Sabry, for his part, hailed Sri Lanka’s good and friendly relations with Iran. Before his visit, Sri Lankan media reported that the foreign minister would be trying to rejuvenate his country’s presence in the Iranian tea market.

Source: Tehran Times