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President acknowledges role of three women in the recovery process

Steps will be taken to win women’s rights on par with developed countries of the world, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said, delivering a message for ‘International Women’s Day’ commemorated today.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the President said, “we cannot be satisfied with the status of women in the Asian region, but compared to other countries in the region, Sri Lankan women are ahead and that situation will be expanded further and work will be done to win women’s rights like in the developed countries of the world.”

The President highlighted that the National Policy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, as well as the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, will aid in achieving this goal.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe also recognized three women within the international forum as ‘integral’ parts in providing Sri Lanka with the required foreign assistance during its most unprecedented economic crises.

The President acknowledged the efforts of India’s Minister of Finance – Nirmala Sitharaman, U.S. Secretary to the Treasury Janet Yellen and the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva in securing the funds and aid required by the island nation in its hour of need.

President Wickremesinghe expressed these views at the International Women’s Day celebration held at the Battaramulla Waters Edge Hotel today (08). The Ministry of Women, Child Affairs, and Social Empowerment organized the event under the theme “She is the pride of the Nation”.

During the event, State Minister of Women and Child Affairs Geetha Kumarasinghe presented the National Policy on Social Equality and Women’s Empowerment, as well as the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, to the President.

Also speaking at the event, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said the charter that is being unveiled today represents a significant step forward for Sri Lankan women.

“Sri Lanka has never faced the challenges it faces today. It is now obvious that the Government under the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe has worked very patiently to move the country forward. You, as women, strengthen the effort to create that economy,” he added.

Meanwhile, State Minister of Women and Child Affairs Geetha Kumarasinghe said the Cabinet has approved the women’s charter, on which President Ranil Wickremesinghe worked very diligently.

“It’s historic to present it to him on International Women’s Day. In society, a woman should not be isolated. They are all citizens of this country, regardless of their profession. They should understand that women are the pride of the country and treat women with respect who make up 52% of the population,” she added.

Full statement:

President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that we cannot be satisfied with the status of women in the Asian region, but compared to other countries in the region, Sri Lankan women are ahead and that situation will be expanded further and work will be done to win women’s rights like in the developed countries of the world.

The President highlighted that the National Policy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, as well as the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, will aid in achieving this goal. The progress made over several years of hard work will be unveiled on International Women’s Day, which will be a significant milestone for women in the country.

The President highlighted that the SAARC organization does not have any specific provisions related to women’s rights. To address this gap, Sri Lanka will be hosting a meeting of leading women activists from SAARC countries this year to advocate for the inclusion of women’s rights within the organization’s framework. Sri Lanka will take a leadership role in championing the rights of women in the Asian region, and are committed to working towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in all areas.

President Wickremesinghe expressed these views at the International Women’s Day celebration held at the Battaramulla Waters Edge Hotel today (08). The Ministry of Women, Child Affairs, and Social Empowerment organized the event under the theme “She is the pride of the Nation”.

During the event, State Minister of Women and Child Affairs Geetha Kumarasinghe presented the National Policy on Social Equality and Women’s Empowerment, as well as the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, to the President.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe awarded honours to strong and accomplished female characters on International Women’s Day, 2023. Awards were presented to Dr. Sujatha Aththanayaka, Kalasuri Sriyani Amarasena, Rashmi Nimesha Gunawardena, and Anula de Silva. Certificates were given to the top 25 female entrepreneurs chosen at district level with the intervention of Sri Lanka Women’s Bureau.

President Wickremesinghe further said, “The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is celebrating International Women’s Day under the theme ‘She is the pride of the Nation’ for the year 2023.”

The President expressed gratitude to the State Minister, the Secretary, and all those involved in organizing the event. He also acknowledged the State Minister’s efforts in assuming a significant role in the on-going work by traveling across the country to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

During the period between International Women’s Day 2022 and this year, significant changes have occurred in the country, primarily due to the economic collapse. The people of the country, including women and men, have suffered greatly, and there is currently a debate as to who is responsible for this situation. While various names are being called out in this discussion, the President noted that none of them are women. Therefore, women should not be held accountable for this incident.

The Governor of the Central Bank and I have signed a letter to declare agreement on debt restructuring, after consulting with supporting countries, as well as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The International Monetary Fund responded positively to this development, as of yesterday.

When reflecting upon those who contributed to freeing the people from the sufferings experienced during the past, I think it is important to mention the names of three women who played a significant role.

I would like to acknowledge Nirmala Sitharaman, the Finance Minister of India, who played a vital role in providing a $3 billion loan to Sri Lanka after the country was declared bankrupt last April. Her decision to discuss the matter with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and to provide the loan to a country in such a dire financial state was a remarkably courageous act. Without the availability of those funds during those three to four months, the current situation in the country would be far more challenging, and for that, we must express our gratitude to her.

Additionally, a crucial role was played by several key countries in supporting us during this challenging time. Notably, our talks with the United States, led by Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary, were instrumental in securing aid for our country. I extend my sincere gratitude to her for her efforts in this matter.

I must also mention that Mrs. Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, made a personal sacrifice for Sri Lanka by taking the lead to negotiate with the countries, the Paris Club, the World Bank and others. If these three women had not supported us, we would have been in a dire situation.

On the other hand, no women are among those responsible for this problem. Women, on the other hand, were among those who assisted.

When we focus on these three women, we wonder why they are in these places and not in our country. Not only those three women, but so are President of the European Commission Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen and President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde. The International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the US Treasury are all in the hands of women today. Women have been empowered to influence the economy.

Moreover, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and Cindy McCain, the new Director-General of the United Nations World Food Programme, are both women.

As a result, the majority of the work in this economic field that provides us with food and assistance is done under the leadership of women. We can rejoice that women have stepped forward in the past 50 years. This is due to the policies of European countries and the United States.

We have commenced programs aimed specifically at promoting women’s rights. That is the distinction between Sri Lanka and other Asian countries.

When we focus on Sri Lanka, our first woman MP was elected 92 years ago. In 1960, the world’s first female Prime Minister, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was appointed. But we have not made progress. Today, in some countries, the representation of women in the political field is at least 20% – 25%. We have not reached that stage.

Women have come forward in our administrative department. There is no question about it. Women’s educational representation has also grown. However, a lack of women participation exists especially in the business sector.

To rectify this situation, two committees were formed together with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in preparing policy statements. Discussions were also held with the Women’s Caucus of the Parliament. We must go further.

The Cabinet has approved the reports of these two committees and handed them over to me. Today, the National Policy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and the National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security for 2023-2033 were both presented. We will not stop here. We will have a thorough discussion and solicit feedback on the proposed amendments.

Similarly, three drafts were prepared in response to our request in consultation with the Women’s Caucus of the Parliament.

The Gender and Equality Act and the Women’s Empowerment Act are two bills that the National Commission should discuss this month and pass into law at least by June or July.

In addition, Mr. Karu Jayasuriya is working on a bill concerning non-government public assemblies. It is suggested that the women’s group in Parliament and the Ministry meet with him to discuss and include women’s representation and rights in it.

Apart from that, we hope to establish a women‟s and gender institute. This will enable us to carry out women’s promotion programs. I hope to continue doing this work for women. It is a requirement of our policy.

Simultaneously, a large conference with women representatives from various sectors is expected to be held to discuss women’s rights. We will identify those areas by comparing our female MPs caucus, the Ministry Secretary, and the relevant officials. I believe 500-1000 people will congregate there. We should talk to them about it.

Today, International Women’s Day is celebrated across the country as well as the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Politics causes some of them to compete with one another, yet everyone should come together for women’s rights and its implementation. The new program of the ministry entails carrying out next steps for those promotional programs.

But we must remember one thing. We are not in America or Europe, but in Asia. Similar initiatives have not been carried out in Asia. Women haven’t spoken up in this way before. Looking at Asia as a whole, Korea, the Philippines, and Myanmar all had female heads of state. The rest are from South Asian countries such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. There are seven such women including Sonia Gandhi. But, we are not content with the rights that women enjoy in these areas.

Afghanistan has suffered a setback today. Women are not allowed to go to school or work. They are unable to exercise their rights. In this context, we will discuss this matter as South Asia; notably India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka as the SAARC organization makes no mention of women’s rights. We have discussed together how to acquire these rights and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have mutually decided to host a meeting of the leading women activists of these nations in Sri Lanka this year.

Moving only Sri Lanka ahead in this situation won’t be effective. It should be implemented in the area concerned. We are inspiring others to follow the same path.

Let’s put these women’s rights into action and gain them for women like in other developed nations. Women currently make up the majority of the population in this country. The rights of all of them must be upheld. Let’s discuss this within and outside the parliament and move forward.”

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said, “The charter that is being unveiled today represents a significant step forward for Sri Lankan women. Sri Lanka has never faced the challenges it faces today. It is now obvious that the Government under the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe has worked very patiently to move the country forward. You, as women, strengthen the effort to create that economy.

I suggest that the banking system in Sri Lanka should be liberalized so that women can enter the banking system to achieve the determination of women empowerment. Accordingly, every woman in Sri Lanka will be given the opportunity to open a bank account.”

State Minister of Women and Child Affairs Geetha Kumarasinghe said, “The Cabinet has approved the women’s charter, on which President Ranil Wickremesinghe worked very diligently on. It’s historic to present it to him on International Women’s Day. In society, a woman should not be isolated. They are all citizens of this country, regardless of their profession. They should understand that women are the pride of the country and treat women with respect who make up 52% of the population.”

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation Pavithra Wanniarachchi, State Minister of Fisheries Piyal Nishantha, State Minister of Social Empowerment Anupa Pasqual, State Minister of Health Seetha Arambepola, State Minister of Tourism Diana Gamage, Members of Parliament Sudarshani Fernandopulle and Yadamini Gunawardena, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Mizukoshi Hideaki, foreign Ambassadors and High Commissioners, a delegation representing various United Nations organizations, and officials including the Secretary to the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs Mrs. Yamuna Perera participated in this event.

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Rs. 245,000 million loss due to ban on chemical fertilizer

A drop in production in paddy and tea last year due to the ban on chemical fertilizer has caused a loss of more than Rs. 245,000 million, a study has revealed.

Professor of economics at Peradeniya University Wasantha Athukorale has told ‘Lankadeepa’ that each farmer had lost around Rs. 100,000 of income in that year.

When compared to the productions in the corresponding periods in the previous year, paddy harvest dropped by 1,130,164 metric tons, or 36 per cent, in Yala season and 626,527 mt, or 30 pc, in Maha season, said Prof. Athukorale.

In both seasons, the production decreased by 1,756,691 mt.

Tea production too, declined by 47,000 mt, or 16 pc, last year, he said, adding the loss came to Rs. 60,840 million.

There were decreases in crop exports too – by 1.8 pc for rubber, by 5.9 pc for coconut, by 18.9 pc for spices and by 6.6 pc for vegetables.

The study also revealed the government had spent Rs. 84,800 million on importing organic fertilizer last year, Prof. Athukorala added.

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Election Commission proposes a date for LG polls

The National Election Commission has announced that the most suitable date for the Local Government elections is the 25th of April 2023.

The Election Commission made the announcement via instructions to the District Returning Officers.

The Commission had also revealed that the Local Government polls cannot be held on 09th March 2023 as planned due to unexpected reasons.

In February (24), the Election Commission officially announced the postponement of the Local Government polls citing a lack of funds.

Thereafter, the Supreme Court issued an interim order preventing the Finance Ministry’s Secretary and the Attorney General from withholding the funds allocated for election purposes under the 2023 budget.

The order was issued after the petition filed by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara was taken up for consideration on 03rd March 2023.

At the time, the National Election Commission announced that a new date for the election will be announced early this week following discussions with the Finance Ministry Secretary, Government Printer, Police and other relevant officials.


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Supreme Court issues Interim Order on funding Local Government Election 2023

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court on Friday (3) issued an interim order on the country's Finance Secretary, and the Attorney General who represents the Finance Minister preventing them from withholding any funds allocated by the 2023 Budget for the Local Government Poll 2023.

The interim order was issued after permission was granted to examine an application that was filed by General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Ranjith Madduma Bandara.

The application was taken up in the presence of Supreme Court Justices P. Padman Surasena, Janak De Silva, and Priyantha Jayawardena.

The Supreme Court issued another Interim Order preventing the withholding of any funds from the Government Printer.

The application will be taken up for examination from the 26th of May 2023.

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SLFP invites all its deserters back

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has invited all its deserters back into the party in order to take up the responsibility of the country’s future.

The call by its national organizer Duminda Dissanayake came at a meeting of party activists in Anuradhpuara.

The party is keeping its doors open for all in order for the country to be taken in the correct path, he added.

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Change of Govt. only through a parliamentary election - President

President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that the only way to bring about a change of government is through a parliamentary election and not through street protests, stating that the latter is not a viable option for the parliament.

The President emphasized that a nation can become anarchic due to an economic collapse and urged everyone to prioritize safeguarding both the constitution and the economy of the country.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe said this while addressing the commissioning ceremony of the Air Force Officer Cadets at the Trincomalee Air Force Base this morning (03).

Addressing the gathering, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said,

“I would like to first congratulate the Air Force all of you present here today.

After completing your education, you decided to join the Air Force and have successfully completed your training, leading you to this point in your career. It brings great joy not only to you, but also to your parents, that you have been able to overcome the challenges and join the ranks of the Forces. You may even be the first person from your village to become an Air Force Officer, which is a remarkable achievement.

However, with this achievement comes a great responsibility to uphold the dignity of your profession and avoid any activities that could tarnish its image. It is imperative that you remain vigilant and conduct yourself in a manner that reflects positively on the Air Force. Any misstep or incident that causes harm to the image of your profession will not only bring disrepute to yourself, but also to the Air Force as a whole. Therefore, it is your duty to maintain the highest standards of professionalism at all times.

Upon taking office, you made a solemn vow to uphold the constitution, and as members of the Air Force, you also took an oath. It is now your duty to ensure the protection of the constitution, and in doing so, protect the country as well. It is crucial to understand that without a country, the constitution holds no value and is merely a useless piece of paper.

Therefore, it is your responsibility to safeguard both the country and the constitution, as they are inextricably linked. Your commitment to protecting the constitution should be unwavering, as any harm inflicted upon it could have severe consequences for the nation. With your determination and dedication, you can help to ensure the continued prosperity and stability of the country, and uphold the values enshrined in the constitution.

As per the oath you took, it is imperative that you act with utmost loyalty towards the country, the constitution, and the republic. The very first paragraph of the constitution emphasizes the need to protect the unity of the country, which places a significant responsibility on your shoulders.

Therefore, it is your duty to remain committed to the preservation of the country’s unity and sovereignty, which is essential to the overall well-being of the nation. You must act in a manner that is consistent with your oath, and remain vigilant against any threats to the country’s security and integrity. With your unwavering loyalty and commitment, you can help to protect the country, uphold the constitution, and maintain the unity and prosperity of the nation.

The constitution is a crucial document that covers essential matters related to the sovereignty of the people, the national flag, and the national anthem. All of these are included to ensure the security and protection of the country, and there is simply no room for any activity that may jeopardize the nation’s sovereignty and independence.

During the period between 1980 to 2009, the country faced significant threats to its unity and territorial integrity. It was during this time that the armed forces and the police made immense sacrifices to safeguard the nation. Their unwavering commitment and dedication helped to protect the country’s sovereignty and independence, and ensured that its people could live in peace and security.

In order to move forward as a united and prosperous country, all individuals regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or cultural background must work together. Whether Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu or Muslim, it is essential that all citizens come together to work towards the greater good of the nation. Only by working together can we build a stronger, more prosperous future for our country and its people.

The legitimacy of Sri Lanka’s government is established by the executive, legislature, and judiciary. The judiciary plays a crucial role in upholding and enforcing the laws enacted by the legislature. All three institutions are focused on safeguarding Sri Lanka’s constitution and ensuring that the country functions in accordance with its laws and regulations.

It is the responsibility of every citizen to help protect these institutions, which are essential to the proper functioning of the government and the preservation of Sri Lanka’s democracy. Without these institutions, there can be no assurance that the country will remain stable and secure.

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“Sri Lanka has now received financing assurances from all major bilateral creditors” IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that as Sri Lanka has received financing assurances from all major bilateral creditors, it paves way for consideration by the IMF’s Board on March 20 the approval of the Staff Level Agreement reached on September 1, 2022.

“Sri Lanka has now received financing assurances from all major bilateral creditors. This paves the way for consideration by the IMF’s Board on March 20 the approval of the Staff Level Agreement reached on September 1, 2022 for financing under an Extended Fund Facility. Approval by the Board would also catalyze financing from other creditors, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The arrangement will support the authorities’ program of ambitious reforms, that they have already embarked upon, which will help Sri Lanka emerge from its current crisis and set it on a trajectory of strong and inclusive growth.”

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Assembling Electric vehicles: Volta opened in Minneriya

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has announced that a foundation is presently being established to advance Sri Lanka’s economy to a global level over the next five years by implementing green economic policies.

The President made this statement while attending the ceremony held today (02) for the opening of Volta Auto Tec Engineering Private Limited, Minneriya.

As a solution to the current fuel crisis in the country, when there is a need for electric motorcycles and three wheelers, Volta Auto Tec Engineering Private Limited has facilitated the purchase of assembled tractors, electric motorcycles and three-wheelers from today onwards.

At present, Volta Auto Tec Engineering Private Limited has established a collaborative production partnership with India, and has reported receiving orders from countries such as Vietnam.

During his visit to the factory, the President inquired about the assembly process of bicycles, electric motorcycles, and tricycles from the officials.

Further speaking President Ranil Wickremesinghe said:

“I am delighted to have come to see the talents of the Volta Auto Tec Engineering Private Limited. The government is looking into ways of supporting this initiative. We should appreciate this step taken to create a green economy. All should work to shift the country’s economy to a green economy by implementing such projects. Now, the countries of the world are moving towards a green economy. As Sri Lanka, we should also embark on that journey.

Sri Lanka has the potential to achieve many advantages by moving towards a green economy in the next five years. In this regard, the country needs such investors and businessmen who stand up on their own. Therefore, I congratulate Mr. Jagath Makavita on this initiative.”

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President makes special statement to House

The escalation of inflation is down by 50 per cent, claimed president Ranil Wickremesinghe in a special statement to the House today (07).

He also said food inflation too, has declined to 54 pc.

Claiming that solutions have been given to economic issues, the president also said the last two seasons ensured good harvests with the availability of fertilizer, adding that the export of agricultural products has gained a fair degree of normalcy and economic problems since June 2022 have been resolved to some extent.

He said the government implemented various measures such as providing essential commodities, uninterrupted electricity supply, fertilizer to farmers and additional funds for Samurdhi beneficiaries & restored tax policies implemented in 2019 to improve revenue as the emergency tax cuts implemented earlier led to a decrease in government revenue.

China backs Sri Lanka's debt plan

Meanwhile, President Wickremesinghe informed Parliament that Sri Lanka expects the IMF board approval by the end of the month after its largest bilateral creditor gave written support for the debt restructuring via the Export-Import Bank of China on March 6. He said the government received the letter of assurance from the Chinese Exim Bank last night and the letter of intent signed by the Central Bank Governor and the President was sent to the IMF the same night.

Following is the full speech delivered in Parliament by President Ranil Wickremesinghe;

"In mid-March 2022, the Government decided to seek the assistance of the IMF as a positive solution to Sri Lanka’s economic crisis. When the foreign exchange crisis worsened thereafter, in mid-April 2022, it was declared that it was impossible to pay the country’s foreign debt.

Since then, Sri Lanka has operated as a bankrupt economy. All of you in this country have experienced its negative impact. By mid-2022, this country has experienced many problems such as fuel queues, gas queues, electricity cuts, food shortages, difficulties in procuring medicines, inflation, depreciating rupee, and increasing poverty. It is a fact which everyone accepts that the country has never experienced such a catastrophic situation in modern history.

The economic problems that existed since June 2022 have gradually been resolved to some extent. Due to the provision of fertilizer, we achieved a good harvest last year during the Yala and Maha seasons. The export of agricultural products also returned to normalcy.

In order to gradually solve the economic problems of the country, a stabilization program was entered into. The Government implemented a suitable program for this purpose. I would like to place some of them before this august assembly.

The Government has implement various measures to ensure the availability of gas and petroleum, proper functioning of schools and examinations, providing continuous electricity supply, providing fertilizer and allocating additional funds for Samurdhi beneficiaries.

Also, the Government had to go back to the same tax policy implemented in 2019. After the emergency tax cuts implemented at the end of 2019, Government revenues fell by as much as 8% of GDP. To restore it we had to go for new tax policies.

Similarly, interest rates had to be raised under the Central Bank’s monetary policies. Raising interest rates was a positive step we had to take in order to control the rising inflation. By September last year, average inflation had risen to around 70%. Food inflation crossed the 90% mark.

However, currently the rate of inflation has decreased to approximately 50%, and food inflation has also dropped to 54%. Additionally, due to a shortage of foreign exchange, exchange regulations were tightened, and imports were limited.

Following the announcement of Sri Lanka’s inability to pay its foreign debt, foreign nations and financial institutions imposed restrictions on financial transactions with the country. This included the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) who ceased providing new funds, leading to the suspension of nearly all foreign aid projects. Sri Lanka was also unable to open Letters of Credit (LC) and its credit rating was downgraded to the point where lending to the country was not advisable.

Given the aforementioned restrictions, Sri Lanka was able to acquire foreign exchange through various means, including,


#Remittances from foreign workers

#Income generated from tourism

In 2022, the unfavourable conditions in the country resulted in an unsuccessful tourism industry. However, there are indications that the situation is improving this year. Although foreign exchange remittances decreased to one-third of the level in normal conditions, they show a tendency of increasing. Sri Lanka still faces a shortage of foreign currency to import inputs that could also help boost export earnings.

Starting in 2021, the IMF has been issuing consistent warnings about Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, specifically regarding the foreign exchange crisis. Since mid-2022, discussions between the IMF and Sri Lanka have been on-going, with regular delegations visiting the country for extensive talks concerning the balance of payments, fiscal crisis, and foreign exchange crisis. Additionally, the IMF has emphasized the need for implementing long-overdue structural reforms, stating that there is no room for delay.

We had a staff-level agreement with the IMF by September 1, 2022, but the IMF stated that the agreement couldn’t be presented to the Executive Board until our country achieves debt sustainability.

To achieve debt sustainability, the Government continued discussions with creditors and sought the help of international agencies like Lazard and Clifford Chance.

The discussions were lengthy and complex. Accordingly, discussions were held with both Paris Club and non-Paris Club creditors, including India and China, who have provided loans to Sri Lanka, to secure financing assurance. India provided their assurance on January 16, 2023, while China extended their assurance on January 18.

The Paris Club agreed to provide financing assurances to Sri Lanka at their meeting held on January 25, 2023. In addition, we had lengthy discussions with India and China as well. Subsequently, I discussed with the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Kristalina Georgieva on the fund facility by the IMF on March 2. Last evening I discussed with the current secretary of the Treasury of the United States, Janet Yellen as well.

The Government had to fulfil the requirements set by the IMF, which included revisions to electricity tariffs and fossil fuel prices, ensuring the independence of the Central Bank, and increasing interest rates to control inflation, reforming public enterprises, strengthening the social safety net, working to increase public revenue and controlling public expenditure. Expanding competition in the petroleum and electricity sectors had to be done in advance. Those tasks that Sri Lanka should have done proactively have been completed by now.

I am aware of the hardships that the people of this country had to suffer. As a Government, we apologize for that. We received the letter of financial assurance from Exim Bank of China last night. Accordingly, on the same night, I and the Governor of the Central Bank signed the letter of agreement and forwarded it to the IMF. Now our duties are done. I hope that before the end of this month, by the fourth week, the IMF will do its duty. After that we get the first round of money from the World Bank and ADB.

This time, there is no room for failure in completing every task agreed upon with the IMF, unlike the previous 16 occasions.

If Sri Lanka fails to fulfil the tasks agreed upon with the IMF, it could result in the IMF discontinuing its collaboration with the country, and this could in turn lead to other multilateral and bilateral financial institutions being unable to work with Sri Lanka.

Accordingly, if the existing agreement with the IMF is breached, foreign economic activities will be largely hindered, and we would have to pay loans taken from foreign countries and private banks. An annual amount of approximately Rs. 6-7 billion of foreign loans are due to be paid until 2029, and we do not have the foreign exchange to pay this debt.

We need the IMF to continue the agreed debt sustainability discussion with foreign creditors. The agreement with the IMF is of special importance to restore our economy, and there is no alternative path to be seen at present.

Therefore, I would like to remind you that the agreement with the IMF is an agreement with special importance to restore our economy.

We took many extremely difficult economic measures to stabilize the economy. Efforts are now being made to ensure economic growth. The suffering caused by this continues for everyone in our society. Amidst a difficult and complex situation, we have worked hard for the past seven to eight months to bring about a positive state. Economic reforms are crucial to move forward, and it is important for everyone in the country to understand this. Various influential groups, including political parties, voluntary organizations, and trade unions, should consider this deeply. Professionals have highlighted that the tax burden is high.

However, this situation should be maintained for a short period of time. Otherwise, if this program is disrupted, the country will be pushed to a far more dangerous place than the state it was in during February- March 2022. At that time, many people thought that salaries would be lost, pensions would be lost, jobs would be lost, industries would be closed, schools would be closed, etc. We have controlled this situation to a certain extent.

However, if the groups that can influence the society disrupt the program that we have proposed through various measures, the social alternative that will emerge from it will be extremely dangerous. It could lead to period of unprecedented woes in our society.

Therefore, we accept the people’s right to freedom of speech. But that should be done peacefully. Holding meetings and holding protests is not a problem. But I would like to say that if this program is disrupted through this agitation, this government will act strongly on it.

I must say one thing, right now the dollar price is going down. If this country had collapsed on July 9th, this situation would not exist today. There was no support from anyone at that time. I would like to express my thanks to the armed forces and the police who acted to uphold peace in the country. As a result of their efforts, we have fuel and electricity today. Also, before long dollars will be available. Therefore, we will not allow these sinister forces to destabilize this program.

I invite the Opposition to join us in this endeavour of stabilizing the country’s economy. After accomplishing this, we can decide on holding the presidential election and general election. The country would take this decision. Until then, I am asking you if you are ready or not. You can accept this, or reject it.

The country’s income situation should be considered especially by mid-June. Accordingly, it is from there that decisions could be made. Once the IMF agreement is reached, the agreement would be tabled in Parliament. I request the House to accept it or give an alternative.

Following that, we will bring a new draft on the Government’s way forward and road-map. I will also give it to the National Assembly. I will present a long-term and mid-term plan after the Parliament has discussed and reached an agreement on it. At present, a number of reports have been received from the National Assembly and Committees of the Parliament. I am thankful for that. But we were able to complete this work within a short period of 08 months. I declare that we will take advantage of it and move forward."

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14th SL Army contingent leaves for Lebanon for peacekeeping duties

The 14th contingent of the Sri Lanka Force Protection Company (SLFPC) in the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) departed the country on 28th February 2023, the Sri Lanka Army said in a statement.

The group presented a ceremonial salute to Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Vikum Liyanage at the Sri Lanka Artillery (SLA) Regimental Headquarters parade ground at Panagoda.

After a warm welcome to the day’s Chief Guest, Lieutenant General Vikum Liyanage by Major General W.A.S.S Wanasinghe, Colonel Commandant of the SLA and Commandant of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force (SLAVF), he was invited to receive the Guard Turnout at the entrance, presented by SLA troops as a formality upon his arrival.

Subsequently, the Army Commander was formally ushered to the parade ground where the Parade Commander reported and requested him to review the ceremonial parade. After a while, the Army Chief took the salute in conformity with military traditions.

Adding symbolic importance to the Sri Lanka Army’s UN assignment, the Army Commander handed over the National flag, United Nations flag, Army flag and the Sri Lanka Artillery flag to the UNIFIL-bound SLFPC contingent Commander as part of the formalities, denoting that their preparations for the mission are now complete and ready to undertake responsibilities.

The 14th SLFPC contingent, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel D.P.I.T Kaluaggala and 2nd in Command, Major W.M.C.K Wanninayake is composed of 125 Army personnel, including 10 Officers and 115 Other Ranks.

Troops of the Sri Lanka Artillery (SLA), Sri Lanka Engineers (SLE), Sri Lanka Signal Corps (SLSC), Mechanized Infantry Regiment (MIR), Commando Regiment (CR), Special Forces (SF), Corps of Engineer Services (CES), Sri Lanka Army Service Corps (SLASC), Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps (SLAMC), Sri Lanka Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (SLEME), Sri Lanka Army Ordnance Corps (SLAOC), Sri Lanka Corps of Military Police (SLCMP), Sri Lanka Army Women’s Corps (SLAWC), Sri Lanka Army General Service Corps (SLAGSC) and the Sri Lanka National Guard (SLNG) are included in the contingent.

The Army Chief soon after the ceremonial parade talked to the contingent and highlighted the significance of the overseas assignment to the country and the Sri Lanka Army. In his brief address to the UN-bound mission, the Army Chief underlined the importance of it and how the Sri Lankan contingent in the UNIFIL has become a prominent force.

“We started the Lebanon mission in 2010 and it is our training and experience that has placed us in an outstanding position, by which we have been able to sustain this mission throughout in an effective manner. “

“It is very relevant and important for our mission to maintain sound relations between UN peacekeepers and the general public in Lebanon for the promotion of goodwill. Ensure you too contribute to the growth of UN standards at all times,” he opined.

He further appealed to the contingent to maintain the highest levels of discipline and perform duties with dedication and commitment because they all are “ambassadors” for the country, and it would keep the Sri Lankan flag flying high, the Commander commented.

The 13th contingent of the Sri Lanka Force Protection Company in the United Nation Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) upon completion of their tenure is expected to return to Sri Lanka soon after the new 14th contingent takes over their duties on Thursday, 2nd March 2023.

Major General C.D Weerasuriya, Chief of Staff, Major General D.G.S Senarath Yapa, Deputy Chief of Staff, Senior Officers and Other Ranks participated in the event.


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G. L. Peiris removed as SLPP Chairman

The Executive Committee of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) has decided to remove Prof. G. L. Peiris from his post as the Chairman of the party, SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam said.

Sagara Kariyawasam further said that the decision was taken unanimously by the Executive Committee of the Party.

He added that although the MP G. L Peiris was invited in writing to attend a meeting recently, but he failed to attend the said meeting.

He further said that the Executive Committee of the party is scheduled to meet next week and take a decision on appointing a new chairman.

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Chinese tourists begin arriving since COVID-19 pandemic

A SriLankan Airlines flight from Guangzhou last night (01) brought 117 Chinese tourists to Sri Lanka for the first time after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ministers Harin Fernando and Tharaka Balasuriya and Chinese ambassador in Colombo Qi Zhenhong were among those who were present at the airport to welcome the group of tourists.

From April 01, SriLankan Airlines and China Eastern Airlines will operate nine flights per week between Colombo and the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

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