Monday, March 20, 2023

SL govt appoints constitutional reform committee

Sri Lanka’s Opposition parties are bracing to move no trust motions against the SLPP coalition government in Parliament on Wednesday, even as the embattled government announced the appointment of a Cabinet sub-committee to look into proposal for a new Constitution.
The main Opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) said they would move a no trust against the government while the main Tamil party and the former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party’s (UNP) are to jointly move a no trust against beleaguered President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, which would imply that the House had lost confidence on the President.
“We will be handing over the no confidence motion tomorrow (Wednesday),” SJB’s senior leader Ajith Perera said.
The analysts said if the government would be defeated in the SJB motion, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cabinet would have to resign. The TNA/UNP motion has no legal binding for the President to resign.
“This problem can only be solved if either the President or the Prime Minister resigned. It is up to them to make a decision,” former prime minister Wickremesinghe said.
Under the Article 38 of the Constitution, a president can be removed only if he/she volunteered to resign or through the long process of impeachment.
Over the weekend a flurry of political meetings took place as Mahinda Rajapaksa declined to resign in order to make way for a unity government for an interim period.
The powerful Buddhist clergy also demanded Rajapaksa’s resignation to make way for an interim government.
On Tuesday, the government announced the appointment of a Cabinet sub-committee to look at the proposal for a brand new Constitution.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had proposed to amend the Constitution to create an accountable administration that met the people’s aspirations, amid large scale protests against the government over its handling of the economy.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa while showing reluctance to sack his older brother conveyed to parties that he would be willing to set up an all-party interim government if the parties could muster 113 majority in the 225-member assembly.
Any motion needs seven days notice before getting into the order paper for debate. The date had to be agreed upon at the party leaders’ meeting where the business of the House is agreed upon.
Both Rajapaksas are coming under increasing pressure to step down in the simmering economic meltdown where people struggle with all essentials, including having to put up with power cuts.
Urgent Indian economic assistance has provided a respite even as the government negotiates with the IMF for a bailout.
Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.

New Delhi has extended aid of over USD 3 billion to SL in 2022

Colombo, May 3 (PTI): India has committed more than USD 3 billion to debt-ridden Sri Lanka in loans, credit lines and credit swaps since January this year, the Indian High Commission here said on Tuesday, as the island nation tries to navigate through its worst economic crisis since independence.
On Monday, India had extended its current credit line by a further USD 200 million to replenish Sri Lanka’s rapidly depleting fuel stocks.
The ongoing crisis in Sri Lanka is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
“The USD 1 billion credit facility for the purchase of food, medicines and other essential commodities is already operational,” a statement from the Indian High Commission said, adding that around 16,000 metric tonnes of rice supplied by India is also being distributed.
Additional consignments of rice, medicines and industrial raw materials and other essentials are envisaged under the credit line, the statement added.
“A separate Line of Credit of USD 500 million for the purchase of petroleum products, such as diesel, petrol and aviation fuel has paved the way for the delivery of 9 consignments of different types of fuel,” it said.
In April this year, ahead of the Sinhala and Tamil new year, India had sent an additional 11,000 MT of rice as a goodwill gesture.
In February, New Delhi had granted USD 500 billion as short-term loan to Sri Lanka to procure fuel stocks.
“Close to 400,000 MT of fuel have been delivered till date and more consignments will arrive soon,” the statement added.
Last month, India had responded to a Sri Lankan hospital’s call for urgent medical supplies by delivering a large consignment of important drugs with the help of an Indian Navy ship.
Overall economic assistance which stands a shade above USD 3 billion in 2022 alone has been of various kinds – USD 1 billion credit line for essentials; USD 500 million credit line for purchase of petroleum products; USD 400 million bilateral currency swap; and over USD 1 billion under the Asian Clearing Union Framework.
The Sri Lankan government said it would temporarily default on USD 35.5 billion in foreign debt as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine made it impossible to make payments to overseas creditors.
The Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime has also asked for an International Monetary Fund bailout, which could take up to three months to arrive. According to the data published by the government’s Census and Statistics Office, the overall inflation hit 29.8 per cent in April from 18.7 per cent recorded in March.
The food inflation increased from 30.21 per cent in March to 46.6 per cent in April.
Most food items have recorded price increases.
Months of lengthy blackouts and acute shortages of food, fuel and pharmaceuticals have triggered widespread protests clamouring for the government’s resignation.


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