Cabinet reshuffle put on ice as Government struggles to find solutions
Posted on January 15th, 2022

Courtesy The Morning

  • India and China shore up forex for now, but future remains uncertain
  • After Indian visit postponed, Basil holds virtual meeting with India’s Jaishankar
  • China mum on debt restructuring, but pushes recommencement of FTA talks
  • Dollar shortage leads to oil shortage and in turn electricity shortage
  • Catholic Church makes bold allegation about Easter terror conspiracy
  • 3 Ministers tell SC that New Fortress deal was not approved by Cabinet
  • President notes ‘lost’ years; mulls referendum to lengthen term by two years

With Sri Lanka squarely at a crossroads on several dimensions including the national economy, the week ahead will play a decisive role in determining the country’s next course of action. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to make his throne speech in Parliament come Tuesday (18) while opening the second session of the ninth Parliament, following its prorogation last month.

The President’s speech is expected to set the course for the Government and the country to steer through the crisis-ridden economy, while the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) is set to make the payment for $ 500 million International Sovereign Bonds (ISBs) that also mature on Tuesday.

A two-day adjournment debate will be held in Parliament on President Rajapaksa’s policy statement that will be delivered through his throne speech.

Meanwhile, the dollar shortage has resulted in an impending fuel crisis, in turn causing an electricity shortage, while the country is also facing shortages of certain essential commodities.

The financial lifelines received by Sri Lanka from India and China during the past few weeks helped to provide some respite to the continuous pressure on the country’s foreign reserves. However, the multiple economic crises faced by the country, mainly due to dwindling foreign reserves, are far from over.

In fact, the currency swaps, loans, and loan reschedules sought by the Government of Sri Lanka for temporary respite continue to push the country further into debt, placing further pressure on reserves. So far, Bangladesh and India have rescheduled the repayment of $ 250 million and $ 500 million respectively while China’s Yuan 10 billion swap (equivalent to $ 1.5 billion) increased Sri Lanka’s reserves to $ 3 billion by end 2021. India last week extended more than $ 900 million in forex support to Sri Lanka, comprising a $ 400 million currency swap in addition to deferring $ 500 million in loan repayments.

Expressing India’s strong support to Sri Lanka, India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Gopal Bagley last week noted that these steps were in line with India’s strong commitment to stand with Sri Lanka for economic recovery and growth.

Also, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who had to cancel his visit to India last week, held a virtual discussion with India’s Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar yesterday (15).

While reaffirming India’s support to Sri Lanka, Jaishankar has discussed the expediting of the $ 500 million line of credit for fuel and $ 1 billion term loan facility for food and medicines sought by Sri Lanka. The $ 1 billion facility was requested by Basil during his visit to India last month.

Jaishankar has assured that India will also take up initiatives to support Sri Lanka with other international partners.

The two leaders have also considered projects and investment plans by India that would strengthen Sri Lanka’s economy.

The Indian Foreign Minister has also requested Finance Minister Rajapaksa to release the Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody as a humanitarian gesture.

Be that as it may, the Government led by President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is yet to present a feasible solution to the ongoing crises. Instead, Finance Minister Rajapaksa earlier this month received Cabinet approval for a Rs. 229 billion New Year bonanza that offers allowances to State sector employees, pensioners, and Samurdhi recipients, among others.

Finance Minister Rajapaksa’s bonanza resulted in international rating agency Standard and Poor’s (S&P) downgrading Sri Lanka’s credit rating. Macroeconomic policies, including the recent introduction of a $ 1.2 billion relief package, have provided some support to the pandemic-hit economy. But they have also weakened the Government’s fiscal position and worsened the risks associated with the Government’s already-high debt burden,” S&P stated.

The downgrading of Sri Lanka’s credit rating by several international rating agencies during the past few months has had an adverse impact on Sri Lanka’s efforts to raise US Dollars. Many negotiations initiated by the CBSL and Government ministers to secure financial assistance including credit lines remain in limbo due to the low credit ratings.

The predictions of the CBSL are yet to be achieved, especially in comparison to the Six-Month Road Map released by the CBSL. CBSL Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal continues to maintain that the way forward for Sri Lanka while resolving the ongoing foreign reserves crisis is to borrow more at higher interest rates.

Meanwhile, the impending fuel crisis and its impact on power generation have added to the Government’s woes at present.

Fuel and power crisis

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) announced power cuts last week and the previous week due to shortages in securing required fuel supplies.

The CEB last week stated that power cuts experienced in many parts of the country were due to two units at the Kelanitissa Power Plant running out of fuel.

CEB Media Spokesman Andrew Nawaminna stated that two units at the Kelanitissa Power Plant had run out of fuel, which had led to the sudden power outages, with more potential power outages on the horizon.

However, the power cuts have resulted in a clash between the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB. Both institutions are facing the pressure of depleting dollar reserves.

Also, Power Minister Gamini Lokuge and the CEB continued to make contradictory statements last week on the power cuts. The bottom line, however, was the public being left in the dark without power.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, meanwhile, made a public statement that while the country had not faced a fuel shortage so far, he was unable to guarantee a smooth supply in the future due to the forex crisis in the country.

The ongoing power crisis has been caused due to the CEB’s failure to secure sufficient US Dollars to pay for its fuel requirements and informing the CPC that it had sufficient fuel till end January, it is learnt.

CPC last October informed the CEB that due to the ongoing forex crisis in the country, the corporation was unable to purchase fuel for the CEB without the US Dollars required for shipment payments.

The CEB has responded saying that it did not have any dollar earnings to pay the CPC and the latter had also noted that it too earned in Sri Lankan Rupees. However, CPC and CEB reached an agreement last December that CEB would make its fuel payments to CPC in US Dollars.

The power crisis the previous week was resolved by the CPC releasing a stock of furnace oil from its stock for industries. The CEB had then informed the CPC that it required 2,500 MT of furnace oil for power generation each day.

However, it is learnt that the CEB had not informed the CPC of its requirement of diesel until Tuesday (11).

The CPC requires a period of seven weeks’ notice coupled with the necessary US Dollars to foot the bill in order to import diesel for the CEB, it is also learnt.

The CPC is currently unable to release diesel to the CEB from its existing stocks as it would create a shortage of diesel for the country’s transport sector and other sectors. The CEB currently owes Rs. 91 billion to the CPC.

Meanwhile, the Energy Ministry is in negotiations with India, Qatar, Nigeria and the UAE to secure credit lines for fuel.

Rice imports

The Cabinet of Ministers that met last week held yet another lengthy meeting where around 48 Cabinet papers were taken up for discussion and approval.

Aware of the impending food crisis due to shortages in food commodities caused by declines in harvests, Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardana has presented a Cabinet paper seeking permission to import 20,000 MT of rice from Myanmar.

However, Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara has questioned whether there was any impact on the local market by importing rice since there was an increase in rice prices the last time rice was imported and released to the market. Prices increased from Rs. 120-160. There was no impact from the rice imports,” he has said.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa has responded saying that he disagreed with Nanayakkara on the impact of rice imports as there clearly was an impact. There was an impact. The price increase is an impact,” the Premier has said with a smile.

Meanwhile, Gunawardana in response to a Cabinet paper presented by the President on food supplies for the three Armed Forces has said the CWE was able to supply the required food commodities to the armed forces.

However, Finance Minister Rajapaksa has responded saying that the CWE should also participate in the tender if it wished to supply food commodities to the Armed Forces.

No loan restructuring

While India and Bangladesh have rescheduled two loan repayments, China is yet to give a positive response to rolling over Sri Lanka’s loan repayments to the country.

The President during his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi noted that it would be a great relief to the country if attention could be paid to restructuring the debt repayments as a solution to the economic crisis that has arisen in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The President also said that if a concessional trade credit scheme could be initiated for imports from China, it would enable the industries to operate smoothly.

The Sunday Morning last week reported that Cabinet paper number 49 that was presented by Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa on 3 January has noted that the Government of Sri Lanka should look at seeking a financial package from China and Japan similar to that negotiated with India, since 20% of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt is to these two countries.

When asked about the possibility of China restructuring Sri Lanka’s debt, China’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong declined to commit to specifics, stating plainly that China would continuously support Sri Lanka’s economy as it has in the past.

The Government has also asked China for another loan, to the tune of $ 500 million, to facilitate green development” projects through China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The move is seen as a way of shoring up foreign reserves in the short term, while increasing the unsustainability of foreign debt burdens in the future.

Amidst warnings of Sri Lanka being in danger of defaulting on its external debt obligations due to a severe foreign currency reserves shortage, Zhenhong offered a vote of confidence in the country’s ability to service its debt on schedule as it has never suffered a debt default in its history. He also expressed optimism that Sri Lanka would be able to overcome the current economic problems it is facing.

The Chinese envoy made these observations to a select group of newspaper editors last week.

However, Sri Lanka and China signed four agreements during Yi’s visit, namely an agreement on Economic and Technical Co-operation, the Letter of Exchange on the project of 2,000 subsidised housing units for the low-income category in Colombo, the Handover Certificate of the Technical Co-operation Project for the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), and the Handover Certificate of the Technical Co-operation Project for the Kidney Disease Mobile Screening Ambulance Vehicles. The financing for the agreement on Economic and Technical Co-operation is ¥ 800 million, which is equivalent to Rs. 25 billion.

Meanwhile, CBSL Governor Cabraal stated that the Sri Lankan Government was in negotiations with China to obtain a loan to cushion the effect of the existing debt repayments to China. Addressing the media last Wednesday (12), he reiterated that Sri Lanka would meet its foreign obligations as they come due.

Cabraal further noted that Sri Lanka had a very good understanding with China about its debt and repayment, as well as investments. However, he refused to disclose any further details on this possible Chinese loan.

According to Cabraal, from the $ 6.9 billion in foreign debt due in 2022, only $ 1.5 billion involves external payment in respect of ISBs, whereas around $ 2.5 billion of the debt was sourced locally – which he claimed could therefore be rolled over – reducing the risk significantly. Furthermore, with regard to payments owed to multilateral agencies, he noted that an equivalent amount was anticipated to be received from such multilateral agencies during 2022.

China pushes FTA

Chinese Foreign Minister Yi, during his recent visit to Sri Lanka, has urged the leadership of Sri Lanka to restart the stalled negotiations on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between China and Sri Lanka, stating that smaller nations had benefitted immensely from similar FTAs with China.

This was communicated by Yi during his meetings with Government leaders last Sunday (9), Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Zhenhong told a group of editors.

Yi had proposed to the Government leaders that the experts and professionals study the FTA and resume discussions, and that China was open to discuss any Sri Lankan concerns in order to facilitate a resumption of negotiations.

Yi left Sri Lanka on Sunday after an official two-day visit where he launched the celebrations marking the 65th anniversary of Sri Lanka-China bilateral relations and held meetings with both President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Rajapaksa.

Ambassador Zhenhong explained that Yi had discussed a comprehensive economic and technical co-operation framework with Sri Lankan leaders, in addition to the discussion on the FTA.

Free trade now is a global trend and Sri Lanka has a very unique, strategic advantage in geopolitics. I think if we reach an FTA, Sri Lanka can gain access to a market of 1.4 billion for its exports. Sri Lanka will also take advantage of China’s development,” the Chinese envoy noted.

The Ambassador further stated that Sri Lanka could become the distribution hub for products in the region.

Focusing on the concerns of Sri Lanka about entering a FTA with an economic giant such as China, he explained that it was understood that Sri Lanka had been taken advantage of by other nations through FTAs in the past, but assured that it would not be the case with the Chinese FTA.

I can say that other medium and small economies that have entered into FTAs with China have benefitted,” he said.

When asked why negotiations on the FTA with China had come to a standstill after six rounds of negotiations, the envoy said even he could not understand why they had been halted. The Government of Sri Lanka needs to say what happened,” he commented.

Echoing the Foreign Minister’s message, Zhenhong added that China was open to discuss concerns over the FTA and address them during negotiations.

An FTA between Sri Lanka and China was first proposed in 2014 under the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government, with three rounds of negotiations being held between September and December of the same year. However, the negotiations stalled for nearly two years following the government change in Sri Lanka, and resumed only in 2016 under the Yahapalana Government, but after three more rounds of negotiations between August 2016 and January 2017, the talks came to a virtual standstill.

The main reasons are believed to be Sri Lanka’s insistence on reviewing the agreement every 10 years, to which China was strongly opposed due to its eagerness to lock Sri Lanka into a longer-term agreement, and a number of disagreements on trade liberalisation, especially when China requested that 90% of goods imported by Sri Lanka to be tariff free.

In August 2021, then State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya was appointed as the Chief Negotiator for the China FTA. A year prior, in October 2020, Balasuriya said that Sri Lankan authorities were reviewing the provisions of the proposed FTA with China to ensure it would not turn out to be another Singapore FTA”.

Udaya, Wimal, Vasu stand firm

Meanwhile, the Fundamental Right (FR) petitions filed before the Supreme Court by Ven. Elle Gunawansa Thera, Colombo Archbishop His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara, several senior Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) members, and other parties including the Federation of National Organisations, against the Government’s agreement with US-based New Fortress Energy Inc. over the Yugadanavi Power Plant in Kerawalapitiya were taken up for hearing last week.

Three Cabinet Ministers – Wimal Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila and Vasudeva Nanayakkara – have tendered affidavits in support of the petitions filed against the Kerawalapitiya Yugadanavi Power Plant-related agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka and a US-based company.

On Monday (10), President’s Counsel Uditha Egalahewa, arguing on behalf of Ministers Weerawansa, Gammanpila, and Nanayakkara, has denied that their affidavit is unconstitutional and violates the collective responsibility of the Cabinet of Ministers, alleging instead that it was Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa who had violated the said collective responsibility.

The three Ministers have already submitted a 58-page observation to the Supreme Court against the agreement.

The Cabinet Secretary has stated, through his arguments, that this affidavit violates Article 43(1) of the Constitution as it breaks the collective responsibility of the Cabinet. According to Article 45(3), every minister is responsible to the rest of the Cabinet members and to the Parliament. However, the Cabinet paper related to this incident was not given to any minister. There was no decision taken regarding the Cabinet paper either. Thus, it cannot be alleged that my clients violated their collective responsibility. They have acted according to the Constitution. That is why the three Ministers requested a discussion with Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, in writing, regarding this. However, it was the Finance Minister who has violated his collective responsibility in this matter,” Egalahewa has explained.

Egalahewa has further presented a number of serious issues regarding the agreement.

The New Fortress Energy Inc.’s documents show that it is registered with the New York Stock Exchange. That is untrue. There are a number of problems pertaining to this company’s financial strength. It is suspicious as to whether such a company can fulfil the conditions of this agreement. It is dangerous to give the responsibility of national resources to such a company. The content of some of the project reports of the company contradict each other. There is an issue with their transparency.”

He has further alleged that a proper assessment about the company had not been done prior to selling shares of the Yugadanavi to it, whilst adding that a tender process had not been followed either.

Egalahewa has questioned how Treasury and Finance Ministry Secretary S.R. Attygalle had obtained permission to sign the agreement when no Cabinet paper had been presented about it or approved.

Responding to this, Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, who appeared personally before the Supreme Court to defend the agreement, has said: There is nothing to hide here. This was all done in a transparent manner. If ministers do not know about that, there is nothing we can do.”

The petitions were taken up again on Wednesday (12) and were rescheduled to be taken up this Wednesday (19).

Cardinal’s salvo

The Catholic Church meanwhile continues to demand justice for the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks, charging that the Catholic community could no longer be hoodwinked.

Colombo Archbishop His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith addressing a special service held at the Tewatte Basilica to mark 1,000 days since the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019 claimed that it was becoming clearer that the Easter Sunday attacks were politically motivated given the delay in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

It is clear that the Easter Sunday attack was a conspiracy. Despite knowing beforehand that the extremists were plotting something like this, one party had let it happen. It is now apparent that some political leaders wanted to use the attack for their own political gain,” he observed.

Cardinal Ranjith on Thursday (13) accused the Police of not conducting a truthful” investigation regarding the discovery of a hand grenade at the All Saints Church in Borella and said that Inspector General of Police C.D. Wickramaratne should go home” if he could not ensure a transparent investigation was conducted into the matter.

Instead of searching for the truth, they are creating a story. We reject the statements by the Police and request a transparent investigation. They are trying to trap innocent people. The Inspector General of Police gives big statements to newspapers and makes accusations. Officials should be honest and not play for politicians. Remove your uniform and go home if you cannot speak the truth,” the Cardinal said at a press conference last Thursday.

A hand grenade was found in the premises of the All Saints Church on Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha opposite the Welikada Prison in Borella at around 4.40 p.m. on Wednesday (12). It was discovered following a tip-off received by the Police and later defused by the Police Special Task Force (STF).

The Cardinal claimed that the Police had been reluctant to look at complete Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) footage regarding the incident despite being offered the whole footage by the church.

When the hand grenade was discovered in the evening, the Church Father Jude Sherman Fernando informed the Police. At that time, the Police took the church’s helper along with the latter’s assistant and two others for questioning. Police Media Spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) and Attorney-at-Law Nihal Thalduwa later said that the helper had been arrested. Fernando informed me that the Police had only requested to watch CCTV footage from 3 p.m. onwards that evening. When they had tried to show footage from the morning, the Police had seemed a bit reluctant to watch it.

When we checked the footage from the morning, we found new evidence. At 9.52 a.m., a person came to the church with a polythene (sili sili) bag, wearing black pants, and walking with a limp. He crossed himself when he entered the church, but it is clear that he is not a Catholic as he used the wrong method to cross himself. He walked to the end of a bench, stopped near a statue, bent down, and took something from his pants. When a worker enters and passes him, we can see him hurrying out of the church, this time without a limp. The Police did not look at this footage. This was where the hand grenade was,” the Cardinal claimed, while showing the CCTV footage of the same to the media.

The post-3 p.m. footage shows our helper cleaning that area with a broom. When he came to the corner, he bent down and picked something up and kept it on top of the bench. We assume that this was the thing that was kept there in the morning by the earlier individual. The helper looked at the thing in fear and ran to the other side. He informed his assistant and they both checked and they talked about it. Then they informed Fernando.”

Inspector General of Police (IGP) C.D. Wickremeratne meanwhile issued a special statement on the investigation conducted over the discovery of a hand grenade at the church.

He noted that the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) had recorded statements from 14 persons so far over the incident and noted that all people connected to the incident would be arrested and brought before the law.

Reshuffling institutions

Meanwhile, the much-anticipated Cabinet reshuffle has been delayed, with the President and Prime Minister looking instead at reshuffling ministry secretaries and State institution officials. These changes are expected to take place after the new Secretary to the President, Gamini Senarath, officially assumes duties this week. He is expected to assume duties on Wednesday (19).

Yesterday (15) was the last official day of outgoing President’s Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera.

The President however, last week reshuffled several State institutions.

Accordingly, the Central Cultural Fund and the Buddhasasana Fund that were under the Ministry of Economic Policies and Planning have been brought under the Ministry of Buddhasasana. Some ministers view this move as a prelude to strip the Prime Minister of the Economic Policies and Planning portfolio in the upcoming reshuffle, further curtailing his ambit.

The Local Authorities Elections Ordinance and the Provincial Councils Elections (Amendment) Act which were under the State Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Governments have been reassigned to the Ministry of Public Services, Provincial Councils, and Local Government.

The institutions and functions of the State Ministry of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation have been assigned to the Ministry of Justice following the resignation of Lohan Ratwatte from the portfolio last year.

The National Education Commission and the National Institute of Education that were held by sacked State Minister Susil Premajayantha have been brought under the purview of Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Also, the State Minister of Aviation and Export Zones Development has been tasked with supervising the activities of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka. 

Referendum talk

Amidst the increasing manoeuvrings in the local political scene, the President during an event in Siyambalanduwa last week hinted at calling for a referendum to extend the tenure of the Government by another two years.

Rajapaksa told the gathering that a youth who had approached him in Kandy when he (the President) had visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic had proposed that the President should consider the holding of a referendum to extend his tenure by two years, since two years were lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The President explained that the public was aware of the hardships faced by him (the President) and Government due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Government’s key coalition partner, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) last Sunday (9) responded to the President’s statement on holding a referendum.

SLFP Leader and former President Maithripala Sirisena told a public gathering that the President should not consider holding a referendum to extend the tenure of the Government.

The entire country is in a mess. Many who have no idea about what’s going on say that people don’t have anything to eat and have to queue to buy goods like during the tenure of Mrs. Bandaranaike. I was a distribution officer at Sathosa at the time and there were no shortages like now. There were no people shouting filth in queues. Don’t think you can govern a country on your own. There needs to be a good time. I governed for five years on my own without even a parliamentarian to speak on my behalf. There was no government or opposition support. But even without a prime minister or a cabinet, I never pushed the country to where it is now,” Sirisena said, adding that the governing Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) leaders had continuously met him to get the SLFP’s support for the SLPP during election.

Those who claimed they could not win the election without the SLFP’s support violated the agreements signed just a week after the elections. None of the clauses in the agreement have been honoured to date. We were given the karapincha treatment. There won’t be a Presidential Election any time soon. It is the Parliamentary Elections that will be held as a national election. Some are talking of a referendum. Don’t even think of holding a referendum to extend the term. That will never be done,” he added.

Forming alliances

The SLFP leadership last week also claimed that the SLFP was preparing to form a new government.

Sirisena said that the SLFP was carrying out a programme to strengthen the party and that the SLFP would form a broad alliance and invite others to join them.

In a few months we hope to make the SLFP a strong political party in the country,” he told reporters.

The former President also noted that the next national level election the country would face would be the General Election.

Sirisena’s statements resulted in rumours circulating among political circles that the SLFP had decided to leave the governing alliance.

However, senior SLFP leaders, realising that the rumour was originally generated by a group of mischievous SLPP members, denied the rumour, claiming the party has not decided to leave the Government as of yet.

SLFP Senior Vice President Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa told the media that if a decision were to be taken to leave the Government, that decision should be taken by the SLFP’s Central Committee or the SLFP’s Political Bureau and that such a decision had, however, not been taken as of now.

Meanwhile, the Opposition SJB is also engaged in talks with several political parties, including those in the Government, to form a common political platform this year to contest the future polls.

Discussions on forming this broad alliance have been ongoing for some months and some members of parties that are part of the Government have already expressed keenness in joining this platform to break away from the Rajapaksa regime. The Government, according to SJB sources, is already split into groups, with some remaining in position but working against Government policies.

Another broad alliance is in the making under the leadership of the National People’s Power (NPP), led by the JVP.

Letter to Modi

India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay who was to meet Tamil Party Leaders on Tuesday (11) evening at India House reportedly cancelled the meeting at the last hour and left for New Delhi. 

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader R. Sampanthan and seven other party leaders had assembled in Colombo to meet and handover their letter prepared for Prime Minister Modi. However, they had been informed that Baglay would meet them after his return from Delhi this week.

A letter was signed by Wigneswaran, TNA Leader and MP R. Sampanthan, Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) Leader Mavai Senathirajah, Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) Leader A. Adaikalanathan, Democratic People’s Liberation Front (DPLF) President Dharmalingam Sithadthan, Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) President K. Premachandran, and Tamil National Party (TNP) Leader N. Srikantha to be sent to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The main requests in the letter are that India urge the Government to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and hold Provincial Council Elections.

The letter has also noted: All activities and attempts by the Archaeology Department, the Mahaweli Authority, the Forest Department, the Wildlife Conservation Department, the Tourist Board, and the Defence Ministry to destroy and pervert evidence that confirm the historical habitation of the North and the East as the traditional homelands of the Tamils must immediately cease. The Archaeology Department must recognise the antiquity of the Tamils from pre-Buddhistic times, accept that it was the Tamils who received Buddhism (Tamil Buddhists) into Sri Lanka, and act accordingly instead of perverting history and prevaricating on history.

Tamil villages in the border areas between the Northern and Eastern Provinces are altered by either attaching them to Sinhala areas or bringing Sinhala villages into Tamil areas, thereby altering the ethnic composition to make the Tamils minorities in their own areas. This will prevent Tamil people from obtaining political representation in the Local Government, PCs, and the Parliament. Such pernicious practices must be discontinued.”

The party leaders have also requested that Sri Lankan Tamil people of Indian origin be given full citizenship and that the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979 (PTA) be immediately repealed. They have further requested that the ‘Proportional Representation’ (PR) electoral system be implemented in the country and that the newly-appointed ‘One Country, One Law’ Presidential Task Force (PTF) be dissolved.

The discussions relating to the aforementioned letter initially involved the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA), the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC). However, these three parties had decided not to sign the letter as the problems of the Tamils from the North and the East are different to those of the upcountry Tamils and the Tamil-speaking Muslims”.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2022 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress