Sri Lankan-Australians refuse to send money to struggling friends and family

Sri Lankans living in Australia are refraining from sending desperately-needed funds to struggling friends and family back home, fearing money will never end up in the hands of those in need because the government will steal it.

Multiple members of the Sri Lankan community contacted by NCA NewsWire have lost trust in the government to the point where they believe their financial aid will be intercepted, leading to a feeling of helplessness amid the country’s economic crisis.

The government blames the crisis on the pandemic, but economic experts say the country’s misfortunes are due to monetary mismanagement.

Shortages have become so dire that only essential services are currently allowed to fill up fuel, while fears of a famine grow amid a concerning undersupply of food.

Upul Chandana, 49, is the secretary of the North Victoria Sri Lankan Welfare and Cultural Association.

He says the Sri Lankan community feels powerless.

“We can’t help. If you look on Facebook in the morning, you’ll have messages from a few friends in Sri Lanka asking for help,” Mr Chandana said.

“The thing is, the country needs dollars, but because of the frustration and disappointment, some Sri Lankan-Australians don’t want to send money.

“If we send dollars, the government will take it – it’s not going to help the community.

“The government says to send money through proper channels. We don’t want to do that, we don’t trust doing that.”

Australians looking to donate to the country should be wary of sending money, Mr Chandana warned, suggesting medical supplies could help make more of a difference.

“In terms of money, I don’t think money’s a good idea at all,” he said.

“Sending medicines or medical equipment will help. Especially with kids struggling and cancer patients struggling.

“Anything to do with medicine is good, but we can’t ask for more from Australians because the Australian government already pledged $50m to Sri Lanka.”

The Albanese government in June announced it would provide $50m in emergency aid, with Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil recently travelling to Colombo to stem the flow of Sri Lankans trying to reach Australia by boat.

Mr Chandana stresses Sri Lanka needs tourism to inject desperately needed money into its economy, but travelling there is unappealing because of gas and food shortages.

His 80-year-old father tells him the crisis is the country’s “worst-ever”.

Other members of the Sri Lankan community also expressed their concern in not feeling safe providing financial aid to loved ones, but they wanted to remain anonymous because they fear government repercussions when they eventually return to the island nation.

They describe President Gotabaya Rajapaska and his government as corrupt, with Mr Chandana even suggesting the current cricket series against Australia was established to distract the people from their country’s problems.

But he says it hasn’t worked, evidenced by protests including a snake of empty gas bottles lined outside the Galle stadium playing host to the test match.

Some pundits have labelled the island nation’s ongoing issues as a humanitarian crisis.
(Courtesy News.com.au)

Several Airlines Further Reduce Flights To Sri Lanka Due To Weakening Of Fuel Storage

Aviation officials have informed Minister of Ports, Navigation and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva that a number of airlines have further reduced their flights to Sri Lanka due to the weakening of fuel storage.

According to them, these airlines are getting fuel from neighboring countries including India these days due to fuel shortages in Sri Lanka.

The Minister has pointed out that if the number of flights to Sri Lanka decreases further, the tourism industry, exports, foreign investments and those who go to work abroad from Sri Lanka will be severely affected, so the existing rules should be amended in order to overcome this situation.

Meanwhile, as a solution to this problem, the government has already taken a decision to allow the private sector to import fuel for airlines.

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Vatican paying close attention to Sri Lanka

Vatican is closely following the current situation in Sri Lanka and on the developments pertaining to investigations on the Easter Sunday attacks, it is learnt.

Under Secretary for the Holy See Mgr Miroslaw Wachowski in a letter addressed to Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Dr. Kavinda Jayawardana has stated that the Vatican including Pope Francis with the means, and in the matter proper to it, has followed and studied the situation in Sri Lanka with attention and interest.

“With your letter of March 27, you brought to the attention of Holy Father, among other issues, the recent issues in Sri Lanka, particularly those related to the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019 and necessity to address them urgently with transparency, for the sake of justice, and the common good. While I thank you for sharing your concerns in relation to those important subjects, I wish to assure you that the Holy See with the means, and in the matter proper to it, has followed and studied the situation in Sri Lanka with attention and interest,” the Under Secretary said in his letter to Dr. Jayawardana.

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Russo-Lankan relations: SL delegation to Moscow delayed

The visit by a Sri Lankan delegation to Moscow for discussions on fuel and fertiliser imports, which was scheduled for this weekend, has been postponed by a week, The Sunday Morning reliably learns.

Sri Lanka is in urgent need of crude oil, petroleum products, fertiliser, and coal to ensure its energy and food security.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding Sri Lanka’s situation and the need to purchase fuel and fertiliser.

It is understood that Sri Lanka has officially sought a Line of Credit (LOC) to purchase the products.

The delegation, consisting of Minister of Education Dr. Susil Premajayantha and former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Moscow Dr. Saman Weerasinghe, has been delayed by a week, The Sunday Morning learns.

According to sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russia has requested the delegation to postpone its visit by a week due to a range of events already planned by the Kremlin.

Russian diplomatic sources also confirmed the one-week delay of the visit to Moscow by the Sri Lankan delegation.

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Sri Lanka ready to develop KKS harbour with US $ 40Mn loan from India

Sri Lanka looks forward to the development of the Kankasanthurai Port using US $ 40 million offered by India, Ports, Shipping and Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said.

The Minister told Daily Mirror that Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) had done preliminary work, and would proceed with the rest of the work using the financial facility offered by the EXIM Bank of India.

“There is some work meant for us to do. We have done. Then, the Indian side has appointed a consultant. Once we get that report, we will move ahead with the development of the port located in the northern tip of Sri Lanka. Currently, only small vessels can be berthed. We will develop it for the accommodation of bigger vessels,” he said.

Earlier, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda said cargo transportation between India and northern Sri Lanka would commence shortly.

The development of the port with the Indian assistance has long been in the pipeline. India offered financial assistance in this regard in the aftermath of the end of the war in May, 2009, and some works such as wreck removal was done at that time.

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Sri Lanka’s inflation rate exceeds 50% for the first time since 1954

Sri Lanka’s headline inflation has increased to 54.6% in June 2022 from 39.1% in May 2022.

Sri Lanka’s inflation rate as measured by the year-on-year (Y-o-Y) change in the Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI) has exceeded 50% for the first time since 1954.

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The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) said this increase in Y-o-Y inflation was driven by the monthly increases in both Food and Non-Food categories.

Accordingly, Food inflation (Y-o-Y) increased to 80.1% in June 2022 from 57.4% in May 2022, while Non-Food inflation (Y-o-Y) increased to 42.4% in June 2022 from 30.6% in May 2022.

Deployment of army personnel to disperse Galle Fort protest: Two lawyers file FR petition

Two lawyers today filed a Fundamental Rights violation petition in Supreme Court challenging the legality of the deployment of Army personnel to forcefully disperse a peaceful protest at the ramparts of the Galle Fort on last Wednesday (29).

Two lawyers Amara Diwakara Liyanarachchi and former JVP Parliamentarian Ajith Kumara who took part in the protest filed this petition naming Army Commander, the Commanding Officer of Galle-Fort, Defence Secretary, Minister of Public Security, IGP, Attorney General and several others as respondents.

The Petitioners state that this incident happened when the second day of the first test match was being played between Sri Lankan and Australian Cricket teams at the Galle International Cricket Stadium.

The two lawyers state that they conducted their protest by holding banners and placards desisting the present Government and President, exercising their freedom of expression strictly within the bounds of law. The Petitioners reiterated that the said protest have not caused any disturbance whatsoever to the Cricket match nor to its spectators and any tourist visiting the Galle Fort.

The Petitioners state that the arrival of military personnel armed with firearms at the ramparts of the Gall Fort and forcefully dispersing a peaceful protest, whilst police officers were present, and without any authority whatsoever is grossly illegal and a danger to the lives of the general public.

The petitioners further said the conduct of the military personnel is a clear abuse of the military power and a usurpation of police powers.

The petitioners are further seeking a declaration that the Fundamental Rights of the Petitioners as guaranteed by Article 11, Article 12(1), Article 14(1)(a), Article 14(1)(b) and Article 14(1)(h) of the Constitution have been violated by the respondents.

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Proposed Lankan constitutional amendment lets President Gotabaya off the hook By P.K.Balachandran

The Gazetted draft of the 22 nd. Amendment (22A) of the Sri Lankan constitution, which will be presented to parliament in the coming week, is a compromise between the interests of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. It is also designed to maintain the stability needed to tide over the current economic crisis and to avoid a referendum.

If passed by parliament, by the required two-thirds majority, the draft 22A will enter the constitution as the 21 st.,Amendment (21A).

Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions

In a significant change, the draft 22A re-establishes the independent Constitutional Council (CC) to replace the Parliamentary Council of the 20 th.Amendment (20A). The CC will, in turn, appoint the Chairmen and members of the various Independent Commissions (ICs) which would make key appointments and oversee the work of sectors assigned to each.

The Independent Commissions are: the Elections Commission, Public Service Commission, Police Commission, Judicial Commission, Finance Commission, Bribery and Corruption Commission, Delimitation Commission, Human Rights Commission, Audit Service Commission and National Procurement Commission.

The CC comprises the parliament Speaker (who will be its chairperson), the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, one Member of Parliament (MP) appointed by the President, 5 MPs comprising one ruling party MP, one MP from the party of the Leader of the Opposition, three non-MPs appointed by the Speaker in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and approved by a majority of MPs in parliament, and one MP from a party other than the one represented by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

All appointments should reflect the pluralistic character of Sri Lankan society. Non-MPs should be persons of repute and integrity. CC members will serve for three years. Vacancies will have to be filled in 14 days.

It is the President who makes appointments to the CC. But the 22A enjoins the President to make the appointments within 14 days of receiving recommendations from the CC. If he fails to do that, the appointments will be deemed to have been made as recommended by the CC.

In case parliament is dissolved, the Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will continue to be members of the CC till a new parliament is elected and a government assumes office.

The CC’s nominations are necessary for high offices such as Attorney General, the Governor of the Central Bank, the Auditor General, the Ombudsman, and the Secretary General of parliament. The CC shall meet at least twice in a month. The quorum is five. Its decisions should generally be by consensus or be approved at least by five members.

President’s Powers

Through the 22A, the Prime Minister gains authority over the President, but he will not be able to exercise the new provisions during the tenure of the current (the ninth) parliament. The new provisions will come into effect only from the next of 10 th. parliament. This is a major concession to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the votaries of a strong Executive Presidency, like the Sinhala nationalists including the present Justice Minister and the architect of the 22A, Wijesdasa Rajapakshe.

The 22A says that the President will take his decisions on appointments to the council of ministers and the distribution of portfolios among the ministers “on the advice of the Prime Minister” and not in “consultation with the Prime Minister, where he considers such consultation is necessary” as is the case now under the 20 th.Amendment.

But there is a condition attached to this. The above mentioned stipulation will not come into play during the life of the current parliament. During the life of the current parliament, the President may “consult” the Prime Minister only if, in his opinion, such a consultation is necessary. This provision constitutes a major concession by the Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to President Gotabaya.

The other concession made to the President is that he shall be entitled to hold the Defense portfolio. In the case of the absence or exist of a minister, the President can take over that ministry, but only for 14 days.

Prime Minister’s Term of Office

The draft 22A says that the Prime Minister shall stay in office throughout the period the cabinet is in office, unless he resigns or ceases to be a Member of Parliament. However, from the time the 22A is enacted till the dissolution of the ninth parliament, the President can remove the Prime Minister from his office, if in his opinion, the Prime Minister has lost the confidence of the parliament.

Ministerial Secretaries’ Tenure

At present, the Secretaries to the Ministries quit the moment the cabinet resigns or is dissolved. But under the proposed 22A, they would not be required to quit but await the appointment of a new cabinet.

Critique

The draft 22A has the support of those who favor the present order with Gotabaya Rajapaksa continuing as Executive President and Ranil Wickremesinghe continuing as Prime Minister. They feel that the existing system has to be upheld for the sake of stability considered necessary to get desperately-needed humanitarian and financial aid from other countries. They fear that an opposition divided ideologically and politically will not provide a stable government and successfully operate the government machinery without a strong Executive Presidency which is immune to the vagaries of party politics, characteristic of the Westminster system. They feel that to solve the tremendous and unprecedented economic crisis, Sri Lanka needs the undivided attention of a strong center represented by the Executive Presidency.

The critics of the 22A however say that it is a big let-down, in the context of the public demand for a democratic system to end the system of government based on concentration of power in the hands of one person or one family and its cronies. These critics expected the 22A to be a full resurrection of the 19A of 2015. But it is only a pale shadow of the 19A, says Constitutional expert, Dr.Jayampathy Wickramaratne.

In a short note issued on Thursday, the Center of Policy Alternatives (CPA) said: ““The Gazetted 22A does not curtail the powers of the President nor introduce checks and balances in any meaningful manner, contrary to the demands of the people of Sri Lanka. In the absence of any genuine attempt to address the inherent problems of governance, this attempt at reform will only worsen the existing political and economic crisis and destroy whatever little remaining faith citizens might have in constitutional governance.”

“CPA has carefully considered the contents of the Bill and notes that the Bill does not revert the Constitution to the structure of government that prevailed under the Nineteenth Amendment (2015-19).”

Dr.Wickramaratne regrets that the President will retain his powers for the duration of the present parliament, though he is allowed to hold only the Defense portfolio under the 22A. Any other ministry could beheld only for 14 days. The experts also regrets that there is no specific provision for the representation of the small parties in the CC and to ensure the pluralist nature of Sri Lankan society.

The main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya’s proposal for a 21A was a radical departure from the existing 20A and called a fundamental change in the constitution including the abolition of the Executive Presidency. But as expected, the Supreme Court said that the SJB’s 21A would need a two thirds majority in parliament and a referendum.

President Gotabaya and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe felt that the country could not afford a referendum under the present economic and financial conditions and got the Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe to draft an amendment which will not require a referendum.

Given the SJB’s opposition to the 22A draft, it is unlikely to vote for it in parliament. The National Peoples’ Power led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) would also oppose it. But the 11-party group is likely to support it as it wants a strong Executive Presidency.

The million dollar question is whether the 22A will get the two-thirds majority needed for a constitutional amendment..

Railway workers call off strike; Delay in operations expected

Railway trade unions have called off their strike action.

A Senior Officer from Sri Lanka Railways told News 1st that a decision was made to release fuel from the Sri Lanka Railways reserves to employees, as they went on strike citing that they had NO fuel to report to work.

The officer said that fuel was provided to railway workers until 3 PM on Friday (1).

The sudden strike by railway workers severely inconvenienced many passengers on Friday (1) afternoon.

Sri Lanka Railways said that although the strike was called off, there will be a delay in operating trains this evening.

Pass 22A & form All-Party Government; Mahanayake Theros send 10 point letter to President

The Mahanayake Theros in a letter to the President have called for the 22nd Amendment to the constitution to be passed immediately to form a genuine all-party government.

It is wise for all the party leaders to come together for a certain period for the welfare of the general public, and the President, as well as all the Party Leaders, must agree to the following 10 points, said the Mahanayake Theros.

1. All-Party Government must be limited to six months. If the All-Party Government is successful in bringing stability the period could be extended to 12 to 18 months with the agreement of all the Party Leaders.

If not, the people should be allowed to elect a new government.

2. A Party Leader must be appointed as the head of the All-Party Government. If there is no agreement, an internationally recognized non-partisan Sri Lankan must be appointed to parliament from the National List to take up the post.

3. The Cabinet of the All-Party Government must be limited to 15 members, and should NOT include anyone convicted by the court.

4. Suitable and Experienced people must be appointed to the respective ministries, and if there is none in parliament, the Party Leaders can agree to appoint such Sri Lankans to Parliament from the National List.

5. National Intellectual Council must be appointed to guide and advise the All-Party Government.

6. The program by the National Intellectual Council must be discussed in Parliament and implemented as a National Policy, casting aside party differences.

7. Independent Committee must be appointed to review the proposals put forward by the National Intellectual Council to eliminate the economic crisis.

Such actions must be subject to judicial purview, should be audited, and must also be published from time to time for public awareness.

8. President and the Prime Minister of the All-Party Government must be bound by the collective decisions made by the said Council.

9. Legal provisions must be made available to abolish the perks of the MPs and the Cabinet and provide relief to the people battered by the economic crisis.

10. Prepare a proper mechanism to obtain aid from Multi-National Agencies, and friendly nations, and manage said aid, rather than leading the country to anarchy through mismanagement.

The letter was signed by the Mahanayake Theros of the four main Buddhist Sects in the country.

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