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IMF main points to be passed into law – President

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced that the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be presented to Parliament for a vote on whether to support it.

Following this, the key points of the agreement would be enacted into law. The President also indicated that the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Anti-Corruption Bill would be submitted to Parliament by June. He shared these updates with university professors and heads of economic departments as part of a discussion about the IMF program at the Ministry of Finance Auditorium yesterday (02).

During the same discussion, President Ranil Wickremesinghe also urged universities to send ten of their most talented economics students to engage with government officials and provide their opinions on the International Monetary Fund program. He also proposed that a group of students be awarded scholarships to attend recognized foreign universities.

The President highlighted the need for automation in production and services in order for the country to remain competitive with nations like India and Bangladesh. He emphasized that the education system must be reformed to achieve this goal. However, he made it clear that he did not intend to approach the International Monetary Fund for the 18th time.

At the meeting, the President was joined by State Ministers of Finance, the Governor of the Central Bank, the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Vice-Chancellors of universities, and lecturers from economic departments. They all shared their thoughts on the IMF program, and their opinions and responses.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe said as follows :

First and foremost, it is anticipated that the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be presented to Parliament for a vote on whether or not to support it. We encourage everyone to take a stance on this matter. We propose to support the program, but understand that some may wish to remain neutral. In addition, the main points of the IMF agreement will be enacted into law, and any necessary changes will be presented to Parliament. We aim to present the basic aspects of the agreement in May, with information about the program being disseminated to rural sectors after the New Year.

Secondly, we plan to introduce our programs, including the green economy. However, we first need to assess the response to these programs. The anti-corruption law will be out very soon, maybe by May. There are three important bills that are coming out, Anti-terrorism Bill, Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Anti-Corruption. The Minister of Justice and the Chief Justice has asked that all three bills not be brought together because it is difficult for the Supreme Court to go into it and there will be a shortage of lawyers. Therefore, one bill will come out towards the end of April, followed by the other two and somewhere by June all three bills will come.

The goal of our modernization program is to enhance production while maintaining competitiveness, which will require cooperation from all sectors. To this end, we are exploring the possibility of establishing an Agricultural Technical University by merging government research institutes and other institutions. Post-graduate courses could also be established if deemed necessary. This will strengthen the research process and facilitate the incorporation of technology. Let’s unite all sectors and implement this program together.

The IMF agreement has been thoroughly reviewed, and those present are knowledgeable enough to provide further explanation. However, any proposed solutions must adhere to the framework established by the International Monetary Fund. We have been given six months to work within this framework, and it is crucial that we do so. The majority, including farmers and tourism business owners, believe that this is necessary. While trade unions argue against privatization, if one-third of the money spent on these loss-making institutions was directed towards universities and the education sector, there would be greater progress. Addressing salary issues could also be a part of this effort. Trade unions cannot dictate our policies. We cannot afford to fall behind Afghanistan again; reforms are necessary. Even the opposition acknowledges the need for reform in the country.

Despite bringing a bill and appointing a commission to create industries, we failed to advance industrialization. Our focus was on achieving peace after the war, but we still spent a significant amount of money on war efforts, especially the war from 1983-1987. Instead of industrialization, we pursued programs in the construction sector. If we had prioritized industrialization in 2009, we could have attracted a lot of investments. However, if we set conditions for foreign investors, they may not come. In fact, our local investors who have money in foreign bank accounts will be the first to invest if the situation is favourable.

During President JR Jayawardane’s tenure, the Mahaweli scheme, which was supposed to be completed in 30 years, was finished in 10 years. All institutions involved in the project were brought to Sri Lanka at the same time, which established methods of obtaining money for the people of Sri Lanka. This has led to some groups improving and investing in other projects.

Currently, people are afraid that the economy will collapse and their businesses will fail, so they keep their money in London or Dubai. It’s crucial for them to  bring that money back to Sri Lanka.

We propose to select ten talented final year students studying economics in universities to participate in discussions with officials and ministers. In addition, we aim to provide four talented students with foreign scholarships to renowned universities such as Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, and Stanford.

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SLFP to support no-confidence motion against the Speaker

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The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has announced its endorsement of the no-confidence motion to be brought against the Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Accordingly, the SLFP announced that it will support the motion being brought against the Speaker by the opposition, and will vote in favour of it.

On Monday (26 Feb.), several Opposition members, led by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Leader Sajith Premadasa, signed a motion of no confidence against the Speaker, claiming that he had violated the Constitution.

As such, a group of MPs belonging to the opposition in Parliament including M. A. Sumanthiran, Lakshman Kiriella, Prof. G. L. Pieris, Tissa Attanayake, Chandima Weerakkody and Shan Wijayalal de Silva, had inked the motion for approving the much-disputed Online Safety Bill amidst ‘irregular procedures’.

The no-confidence motion pointed out that the Speaker had ignored the Supreme Court’s recommendations pertaining to Sections 13, 17, 20, 33 (6), 34 (1), 35 (1), 21, 22 and 33 of the Online Safety Bill.

Earlier this month, Opposition Leader charged that the Speaker had ignored nine recommendations given by the Supreme Court while enacting the Online Safety Act, adding that they no longer have faith in him.

(adaderana.lk)

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School outdoor activities suspended over soaring temperatures

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The Education Ministry has instructed all respective school authorities to refrain from making students participate in strenuous outdoor activities until Friday (March 01) at schools as temperatures are expected to rise further.

Accordingly, Sports Day events, sports practices or any other scheduled outdoor activities are urged to be suspended for the time being.

Provincial and zonal authorities of education have been instructed to brief school principals about the matter, the ministry said in a press release.

In addition, school administrations are required to comply with the health guidelines issued by the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry.

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Court suspends divestiture process of SLT & Lanka Hospitals

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The Court of Appeal yesterday (27) issued an interim order preventing authorities from proceeding with the divestiture process of Sri Lanka Telecom and Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC, until March 12.

Three Petitions were filed for Sri Lanka Telecom PLC including by Lyca Mobiles, and S.M.R. M company, while two petitions were filed for Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC including by Lyca Leasing Holdings.

Upon the oral submissions made by President’s Counsel Kuvera De Zoysa, Court of Appeal Justice D.N. Samarakoon issued notices on respondents, returnable for March 12.

The petitioners named Minister of Finance Ranil Wickremesinghe, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe, the members of the special Cabinet-appointed negotiating committee for the purpose of selecting pre-qualified bidders for the strategic divestiture pertaining to 51.34% shares of Lanka Hospitals PLC and several others as respondents.

Kuvera De Zoysa, PC with Raslka Dissanayake, Sajana de Zoysa, Dinusha Pathirana and Shablr Huzalr instructed by Sanath Wijewardane appeared for the petitioners.

The petitioners had informed the court that they had submitted bids per the required criteria for the divestiture of the Sri Lankan Government’s shares of 50.23% in Sri Lanka Telecom PLC and 51.34% in Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC.

The petitioners alleged that, however, the Cabinet of Ministers had rejected the bids without providing any clear explanations, adding that the decision was against the law.

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