SLFP MP slams President; says he did in two and a half years what Prabhakaran could not do in 30 years

Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Parliamentarian Duminda Dissanayake on Friday said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa achieved something in two and a half years that LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran had tried and failed to do in 30 years – ruin the country’s economy.

“Velupillai wanted to bring this country’s economy to its knees. That is why he launched attacks in Colombo and committed so many other acts. But we understand now that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa did in two and a half years what Prabhakaran could not do in 30 years,” he told a media conference in Colombo. The MP launched a scathing attack on the President and called for all parties to unite to bring down the current government.

Mr Dissanayake seems to be suffering from selective amnesia, for he made no mention of the fact that he and his SLFP colleagues were at the forefront of campaigning for Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the 2019 Presidential election. There was also no mention of how the SLFP aligned itself with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) during the 2020 Parliamentary elections, and how its MPs including Mr Dissanayake contested under the SLPP’s pohottuwa symbol and having won, voted for the 20th Amendment to give the President almost absolute power. Even now, some members of Mr Dissanayake’s party hold Cabinet portfolios in the current government.

Speaker speaks out: Advises media to black out blaggard MPs

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has appealed to the media not to give publicity to unruly behaviour and crass speeches made by MPs in Parliament.

He made the request during a one-day workshop held for Parliamentary correspondents.

The Speaker said young MPs could learn much from going through speeches made by famous MPs such as Dr. N. M. Perera and Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, adding that he had instructed officials at the Parliament library to collect such speeches and provide copies to MPs.

The Speaker made no secret of how he felt about the quality of speeches made by MPs in the House to date.

“How many even stick to the topic they are supposed to be speaking on,” he asked.

The more publicity the media gives to vituperative speeches and unruly behaviour, the more emboldened those MPs would be to keep doing it because they are assured of more publicity, the Speaker said. Even former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya lamented on the quality of speeches and standard of behaviour of MPs of the previous Parliament.

It seems the voters keep sending the wrong people to represent them in the national legislature, or they have Hobson’s Choice considering the candidates presented to them by the different political parties.

Sri Lanka Left With Less Than A Day’s Worth Of Fuel: Sri Lankan Minister

Sri Lanka has less than a day’s worth of fuel left, the energy minister said Sunday, with public transport grinding to a halt as the country’s economic crisis deepened.
Petrol and diesel queues snaked through the capital for kilometres, though most pumping stations have been without fuel for days.

Energy minister Kanchana Wijesekera said petrol reserves in the country were about 4,000 tonnes, just below one day’s worth of consumption.

“The next petrol shipment is expected between the 22nd and 23rd (of July),” Wijesekera told reporters in Colombo.

Sri Lanka Left With Less Than A Day’s Worth Of Fuel: Sri Lankan Minister
Most shops were closed Sunday, with the situation expected to worsen on Monday. (File)

Colombo: Sri Lanka has less than a day’s worth of fuel left, the energy minister said Sunday, with public transport grinding to a halt as the country’s economic crisis deepened.
Petrol and diesel queues snaked through the capital for kilometres, though most pumping stations have been without fuel for days.

Energy minister Kanchana Wijesekera said petrol reserves in the country were about 4,000 tonnes, just below one day’s worth of consumption.

“The next petrol shipment is expected between the 22nd and 23rd (of July),” Wijesekera told reporters in Colombo.

“We have contacted other suppliers, but we can’t confirm any new supplies before the 22nd.”

Last week, cash-strapped Sri Lanka announced a two-week halt to all fuel sales except for essential services to save petrol and diesel for emergencies.

Most shops were closed Sunday, with the situation expected to worsen when banks and offices reopen on Monday.

Desperate people were seen trying to flag down the few vehicles on the road hoping for a ride.

Privately owned buses, which account for two-thirds of the country’s fleet, said they operated a skeleton service on Sunday as they were badly affected by the fuel shortage.

“We operated about 1,000 busses across the country out of the 20,000 owned by our members,” Private Bus Operators Association chairman Gemunu Wijeratne said.

“The situation will certainly get worse tomorrow because we have no way of getting diesel.”

He said services would be curtailed further on Monday and saw no immediate solution.

Three-wheel taxis — a popular last-mile transport — were also off the streets, with most seen in days-long queues to get a ration of six litres of petrol.

A shortage of foreign currency to finance even the most essential imports has led to the country’s worst economic crisis, with its 22 million people facing severe hardships daily.

The country has also faced record-high inflation and lengthy power blackouts since late last year.

All non-essential government institutions and schools have been ordered shut until July 10 to reduce commuting and save energy.

Local media reported there had been sporadic clashes outside fuel stations.

Last week, troops opened fire to disperse a mob protesting against the military jumping the queue.

Sri Lanka is currently in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a possible bailout after the country defaulted on its $51 billion external debt in April.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Sri Lanka will close all schools next week due to the ongoing fuel crisis

All government and government-approved private schools across the country will remain closed this week, the Ministry of Education says.

The decision was taken at a virtual meeting held with the Education Ministry officials, provincial secretaries and directors of education today.

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The turnout of students, teachers and principals in schools and the Power & Energy Ministry’s fuel distribution process were taken up for discussion during the meeting.

Accordingly, it was decided that a week of holidays would be declared for government and government-approved private schools from 04th to 08th of July.


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Fuel Crisis: Will Trains Operate next week?

Train services may definitely be disrupted, says the Chairman of the Railway Station Master’s Association, Sumedha Somaratne.

Therefore, the disruption of train services becomes unavoidable if the Government does not take any step in this regard, he said.

“If this issue is not resolved, and if the railway service gets disrupted, the entire country will come to a standstill,” Somaratne warned.

Therefore, the Station Master’s Association Chairman added that they are eagerly awaiting the measures which the Minister may take to prevent this issue from taking place.

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Crisis-hit Sri Lanka allows companies to pay in dollars to obtain weekly fuel supply

Sri Lankan companies will be able to purchase fuel on a weekly or daily basis if they are able to pay for the commodity in dollars one-month in advance, Minister of Fuel and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera said, as the crisis-hit country scrambles to find dollars to pay its bills.

From July 12, any company that has the ability to pay for its fuel requirements can open a consumer account at Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to obtain a guaranteed quota.

“They need to pay a month in advance & fuel will be issued on a daily or weekly basis from the 12th (July). Already paid customers will receive their quota from the 12th,” Wijesekera said on Sunday (July 03).

Sri Lanka’s fuel stocks have almost run dry while the fuel queues continue to grow.

Related: Sri Lanka reveals low fuel stock levels

Previously, the minister said that the country’s money-printing central bank shot down a proposal to allow a few fuel stations to sell petrol in dollars on the grounds that dollars cannot be used for internal transactions at retail levels.

The minister highlighted that the state-run national carrier SriLankan Airlines and exporters were already paying for fuel in dollars, which is helping the CPC’s currency reserve.

Some new suppliers had previously asked for upfront payment to supply fuel while foreign banks are refusing to confirm Sri Lanka’s letter of credit.

Related: Foreign banks refuse to confirm Sri Lanka state bank letters of credit: Minister

Suppliers like Petro China, who used to give Sri Lanka 180 days of credit through LCs, are now asking for advance payment, Minister Wijesekera said.

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Sri Lanka to continue to stand by ‘one China policy’

Sri Lanka is to continue to stand by the ‘one China policy’ and support to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Foreign Ministry said today.

The Foreign Ministry said that the assurance was given when the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor G.L. Peiris met with the Ambassador of China, Qi Zhenhong, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week.

Following the exchange of pleasantries, Minister Peiris appreciated China’s continued assistance to Sri Lanka.

The Foreign Minister also apprised the Ambassador of the current situation in the country and the shortage of fuel, food and pharmaceutical equipment which have adversely affected the economy of Sri Lanka. The Minister added that bilateral partners and international agencies are in regular discussions to address these challenges.

The Foreign Minister assured the Chinese Ambassador that Sri Lanka will continue to stand by ‘one China policy’ and pledged Sri Lanka’s unwavering support to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Minister mentioned that he held discussions with the leaders of 12 countries on the current situation in terms of in Sri Lanka on the flanks of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda and the assistance required by Sri Lanka at this critical juncture

He briefed the Ambassador on the ongoing discussion with the IMF for financial assistance as well as restructuring (reformulating) Sri Lanka’s debt. As well as the measures that are put in place by the Govt to address the most pressing issues.

The Chinese Envoy appreciated the Government of Sri Lanka position and its consistent stance on ‘one China policy’.

Ambassador Qi assured that the Chinese Government would remain engaged with Sri Lanka towards extending assistance to Sri Lanka in every possible manner.

The Foreign Minister extended Sri Lanka’s profound gratitude to the Government of China for their unstinted support. Senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and officials of the Chinese Embassy were present at the meeting.

Cardinal appeals to Pope to solicit aid for Sri Lanka

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith says that the need of the hour is the initiation of a high profile investigation to find out how this country was dragged down to its present plight of being a beggar nation, fix responsibility for these crimes and find ways to recover the money stolen from the people.

“People have a right to know how the foreign reserves that had been at around seven to eight billion US dollars had dropped to zero within two years,” the Cardinal said at the Feast of the Sacred Heart Mass at the Ragama Hospital Chapel last week.

He asked how the gold stocks in the Central Bank had disappeared and why were they wasted wasted irresponsibly.

“The disappearance of the gold will have to be investigated someday. People need to know who wasted this money,” Cardinal Ranjith said.

He said the country’s reserves were down to zero.

“Doctors working in hospitals find it difficult to come to hospitals on time due to the fuel crisis. We are with the people in their grief,” he said.

The Cardinal appealed to the international community to assist in providing Sri Lanka with medicines and equipment for hospitals amid its economic crisis.

“We urge Pope Francis to request the international community to assist Sri Lanka,” he said.

“We need to support the children’s hospital in Borella and the cancer hospital in Maharagama, especially for medicines and equipment.”

“People suffer without fuel and essential goods because of mismanagement. Children can’t go to schools due to the fuel crisis”.

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Sri Lanka’s collapse leaves ordinary people unable to find gas to cook and students without lessons By Lauren Crosby Medlicott

Following months of food, fuel, and electricity shortages in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced last week to Parliament that Sri Lanka had become a completely “collapsed” economy and is now facing the threat of hitting “rock bottom”.

For ordinary Sri Lankans, the situation is becoming increasingly dire, as ordinary life is transformed into a struggle to meet basic needs.

Now, a worsening fuel situation has led to a decision to shut schools from Tuesday and only allow fuel supplies to services deemed essential – health, trains, and buses – until 10 July.

With little fuel available, people all over the island nation are struggling to meet basic needs.

“There are queues one to two miles long leading up to every fuel station,” Shashi Dhanatunge, a Sri Lankan-born British citizen, now working in the city of Colombo as an investment consultant, tells i.

“There are similar queues for LP gas [liquefied petroleum such as propane, used for cooking and heating] and regular protests blocking streets by naturally frustrated men, women and children.”

Last week, a 19-year-old male died in a fuel queue in Pandulagama, Anuradhapura. He had been waiting on his motorbike in a line that was blocking part of the road when another vehicle collided with the bike. It is the 12th death in Sri Lanka’s fuel queues.

It isn’t only transportation affected by the fuel crisis.

“Without gas, there are many families in urban areas unable to cook food,” says Moses Akash, a Sri Lankan native who currently helps to cook meals with community organisation Voice for Voiceless for more than 1,200 people each day. “People are desperate for food.”

Akash says it is families in urban areas struggling most as they do not have the option of cooking food outdoors with firewood. “One woman we know just ate jackfruit for three days because she couldn’t cook,” Akash says. “Others, even children, are just surviving with one or two meals a day because they don’t have gas to cook or electricity to keep food cool.”

Hasna, a 16-year-old student in Colombo, has been waiting hours in lines, hoping to get gas for her family. “Standing in the line for kerosene oil made me very sad,” Hasna told a worker from Save the Children, a charity working in Sri Lanka.

“We’ve never had to do something like that before, but now we have to go.” Save the Children is concerned that children are missing out on education, with school closures sparked by both Covid-19 and the current crisis. This is the fourth school closure of the year in Sri Lanka. The charity recently conducted a Rapid Needs Assessment showing children from two out of five households were not able to continue with their online learning as families can’t afford mobile data on their phones.

Pradeep, 14, who lives in the Colombo suburb of Mattakkuliya, told Save the Children last week: “When I don’t have school I study at home. We are collecting money to try to get a mobile phone because the only one we have is my father’s. When he goes to work, I miss school. I have no other way of joining online classes.”

“Closing schools not only locks children out of education but often also robs them of the only decent meal they get each day,” Ranjan Weththasinghe, Save the Children’s director of programmes living in Sri Lanka, tells i.

“We know that 50 per cent of families are really struggling to support their children’s education and some children are already dropping out of school and going hungry daily. ”

Without intervention for families in Sri Lanka, Save the Children workers predict a rise in child malnutrition, an increase in school dropouts, child labour, and worst of all, child deaths.

In order to emerge from the current economic crisis, immediate action needs to take place.

“We need a new road map with short, medium and long-term goals,” urges Dhanatunge.

“Unless a solid plan is in place, there is less hope of attracting favourable responses from organised funding agencies. Sri Lanka’s political and public establishments have lost the confidence of all those establishments due to poor monetary policies, politicising regulatory bodies and state-sponsored corruption.”

PAFFREL claims many positive features dropped in 22A

The PAFFREL organization claims that many positive features expected by the people are not included in the 22nd Constitutional Amendment Bill.

Speaking to media after a discussion with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Prime Minister’s Office, Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said the 22nd Amendment has not changed the accumulation of power around a single person.

Hettiarachchi said the Prime Minister understood the group’s concerns over certain clauses not being included in the proposed Amendment.

He called on authorities to implement the necessary changes to the governance structure, as requested by the people.

Hettiarachchi said clauses to ensure the independence of the state service, giving parliament more powers and a system of checks and balances must be implemented.

He also called on authorities to implement laws in the new draft bill, holding the state accountable for transparent spending of public funds.

However, Hettiarachchi claimed that discussions with the Prime Minister was not fruitful since there is doubt if reforms required by the people will be implemented by the state.

IMF agreement with Sri Lanka must depend on key conditions: US senate committee

The International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s agreement with Sri Lanka must be contingent on Central Bank independence, strong anti-corruption measures and promotion of the rule of law, the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee said.

“Without these critical reforms, Sri Lanka could suffer further economic mismanagement and uncontrollable debt,” the committee tweeted Saturday July 02 morning.

The IMF said in a statement on June 30 that the atest talks with Sri Lanka has made significant progress towards developing a policy package to stabilise the country but the island nation also has to move forward on debt restructuring to finalise a bailout.

“The staff team and the authorities made significant progress on defining a macroeconomic and structural policy package,” the IMF statement said.

“The discussions will continue virtually with a view to reaching a staff-level agreement on the EFF arrangement in the near term.”

“Because public debt is assessed as unsustainable, Executive Board approval would require adequate financing assurances from Sri Lanka’s creditors that debt sustainability will be restored.”

Sri Lanka has appointed financial and legal advisors to negotiate with creditors.

At least one sovereign bond holder with over 250 million dollars has gone to court seeking full payment.

Meanwhile, a US Treasury and State Department delegation was in Sri Lanka to “explore the most effective ways for the U.S. to support Sri Lankans in need”.

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