President strongly defends IMF deal, scoffs at calls by SJB and JVP to review it

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe met this week with a group of journalists and editors at the Presidential Secretariat and discussed
several issues pertaining to the country’s economic recovery efforts.

In his remarks during the discussion, Mr. Wickremesinghe scoffed at claims made by opposition parties such as the Samagi Jana Balawegaya and the National People’s Power that they would amend Sri Lanka’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He pointed out that the agreement reached with the IMF had been endorsed by Sri Lanka’s creditor nations.

“The agreement involves the IMF, Sri Lanka, and its creditor nations. That agreement, in turn, has formed the basis of negotiations with the country’s private creditors. Under the terms of the agreement, Sri Lanka has been given benchmarks to complete until 2032. There is some way to go after that as well.

“Are we going to approach India, the US, the European Union and China to tell them we want to change the agreement midway? These are things that can’t be done,” the President said.

He said if certain political parties wanted to amend the agreement, they should go and talk to the parties to the agreement now.

The government’s aim was to extend the period it has to pay off Sri Lanka’s debts, the President said. However, all this would come to nothing if the country could not attract more investment and generate income. He claimed one of the main obstacles to investments came from the government itself, in that one department would block investment attracted by another on flimsy grounds, such as by refusing to release land that might belong to that department.

As such, he said the government was looking at a change in the law that would lead to quick approval for investments where the relevant subject minister could get an investment project approved after discussions with the Finance Minister, provided there was no legal barrier. If there were environmental safeguards to put in place, the project could go ahead subject to those requirements, he explained.

President Wickremesinghe also noted that, for all its faults, Sri Lanka was the only country in Asia that had not jailed its opposition leaders. There had always been a peaceful transition of power after an election. “We still have that tradition, unlike many other countries,” he said.


President Wickremesinghe greeting the visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu

US says world is watching Lanka’s economic recovery

The United States Assistant Secretary of State, Donald Lu, who is in charge of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, called on President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat on Monday.

Presidential office sources said the discussion was cordial, with the Assistant Secretary praising the achievements of the President in his capacity as Finance Minister for stabilising the economy. Mr. Lu, while complimenting the President for his debt restructuring efforts, said the world was looking at
Sri Lanka and waiting to learn from its experience.  He also thanked the President for sending a navy vessel to the troubled West Asia region and commended it as a proactive measure in protecting the global economy.

In a lighter vein, Mr. Lu said he appreciated the cordial relationship between the government MPs and the opposition MPs in Sri Lanka compared to other countries in the region.

President Wickremesinghe invited American universities like Harvard and Duke University to come to Sri Lanka and open campuses.

A student is seen loaded with tuition leaflets distributed outside his exam centre

Exam over, but tuition touts target students

The G.C.E. (Ordinary Level) examination concluded this week, with many of the students celebrating the end of the exams.

But just outside the school gates, there were the agents of tuition masters to remind them that their hurdles were not over.

The agents were seen distributing leaflets and brochures to remind them about the tuition classes available for the G.C.E (A/L) classes.


Lunu-Dehi friendship between minister and opposition figure sparks speculation

Attention within government circles has been directed towards an unusual friendship between a senior government minister and a key opposition figure.

While friendships between those on opposing sides are common, this friendship has some in the government concerned over whether it can be counterproductive to its efforts.

Some government figures have dubbed the bond a “Lunu-Dehi” friendship, in reference to the popular 80s song by the Gypsies.

The friendship has been especially noted during parliamentary sessions, where both have been quick to shower praise on each other across the aisle. Some government MPs have noted that their man has taken to bowling “full tosses” when it comes to matters that are advantageous to the opposition, with the opposition batter hitting them for sixes.

The opposition figure, meanwhile, returns the favour by praising the answers given by the minister whenever he can. He also does not seem to have any problem when the minister asks for weeks or months to answer a question.

With elections due later this year, government MPs are wondering what their man is up to and if this newly formed close friendship is a sign of things to come.


Technical officer A.M. Senaratne is seen with the New Zealand tourist and his friend from the Netherlands – Pic by L.B. Senaratne

Railway officer’s noble deed earns praise for Sri Lanka

At the running shed of the Kandy Railway complex, a technical officer did a noble deed by returning a wallet with Rs. 911,150, along with 50 Australian dollars, credit cards, and a driving licence, to a New Zealand tourist who had left it on the train.

Technical Officer A.M. Senaratne had been inspecting the express train that had arrived from Colombo at the running shed when he came across the tourist’s wallet. He immediately handed it over to the Railway Security Division.

The New Zealander who arrived in Kandy with another colleague from the Netherlands had lodged a complaint with the Tourist Police over the missing wallet. The Division’s OIC, Lalith Medagedara, had then gone with the tourists to the railway station, where, to the tourist’s relief, he was informed that his wallet had been found.

All ended well when Mr. Senaratne returned the wallet to the tourists in the presence of police and railway officials. The New Zealander, unsurprisingly, was full of praise for Sri Lankans.


Only questions, no answers: Monday Blues in Parliament

The absence of several MPs whose names had been listed in the Questions for Oral Answers segment was
noted when the House convened on Monday morning.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena was reading out the names of MPs whose questions had been listed in the order paper. Parliamentarians Premanath C. Dolawatte, Rajika Wickramasinghe, Milan Jayathilake, U.K. Sumith Udukumbura, Vasudewa Nanayakkara, Mayantha Dissanayake and Shanakiyan Rasamanickam were absent during the first round of questions, prompting the Speaker to remark, “Ada okkoma gedara newathila wage” (everyone seems to have stayed home today). It was only when the Speaker got to MP Lalith Ellawala, who was eighth on the list, that he had an MP who was present to ask his question.

Perhaps it was a case of MPs getting the “Monday Blues” since Parliament normally does not meet on a Monday. Be that as it may, it is yet another poor reflection of MPs who claim to be raising these questions on behalf of the citizens of this country.

Unruly state minister’s BIA drama: PR disaster for Govt.

Public outrage has erupted over State Minister Prasanna Ranaweera’s conduct at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), where he allegedly threatened security personnel and assaulted a porter.

He may be the State Minister of Small and Medium Enterprise Development, but the airport drama has become quite a public relations disaster for the government.

It began when Mr. Ranaweera accompanied his wife to the BIA to drop her off as she was going to visit their son, who was studying abroad. It is alleged that the state minister tried to enter the departure lounge with his armed bodyguards without buying an entry ticket and became incensed when security personnel told him his guards could not carry their weapons inside and that he also needed to buy an entry ticket.

Mr. Ranaweera allegedly became abusive towards the security personnel. Worse was to follow when he then slapped a porter who had been transporting his wife’s baggage because he had told the state minister that the Rs. 700 he paid for the porter’s services was not enough and that the fee was Rs. 1000.

The state minister’s initial reaction was to deny he assaulted anyone. However, when CCTV footage of the incident leaked, he admitted he had slapped the porter. He tried to blame the victim for the incident, claiming that the porter was trying to overcharge him and that he slapped him to teach him a lesson. “If this is what they are doing to us, imagine what they must be doing to poor, innocent people,” the state minister told the media.

Mr. Ranaweera was summoned before the airport police on Friday to record a statement over the incident.

Meanwhile, it is reported that the porter who was slapped by the state minister has not reported to work since the incident. Mr. Ranaweera denied that he had threatened or intimidated the victim not to give evidence.

This is not the first such incident involving Mr. Ranaweera. The most notorious of these goes back to the ugly scenes witnessed in Parliament during the 2018 Constitutional Crisis. Mr. Ranaweera was filmed during that incident slapping a police officer, throwing chillie powder and pouring water on the Speaker’s chair. A parliamentary committee that investigated the incident recommended action against him and over 50 other MPs. Mr. Ranaweera was questioned by police over that incident as well, but Parliament did not take action, and nothing came of the police inquiry.

Mr. Ranaweera was subsequently reelected to Parliament from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna at the 2020 parliamentary election, securing more than 83,000 votes from the Gampaha District.