Dissent is not disloyalty

Published : 12:33 am  December 23, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  1,588 views  |  

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presence ahead of the final vote passing the Budget for 2014 had little impact on what was essentially a foregone conclusion, but his appeal for the Opposition to stop undermining the Government’s economic policies and present a united front was certainly an original appeal of sorts. On Friday, Parliament passed the 2014 Budget by a 95-vote majority, approving a plan to reduce its fiscal deficit to a 36-year low of 5.2% of gross domestic product amid Opposition allegations of economic data manipulation. The Budget was passed with 155 votes for and 60 against in the Legislature, in which President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ruling party has over a two-thirds majority. Rajapaksa,... 


Storm in a political teacup

Published : 12:00 am  December 21, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  885 views  |  

THE past few weeks have seen interesting events unfold on the provincial council stage of local politics, with 17 Government-led bodies having their Budgets defeated. Disgruntled United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) bigwigs retaliated by threatening to dismiss any party member voting against the Budgets and replacing the defeated Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen with those who unquestioningly toe the party line. The Budget defeats in 17 provincial councils was an unexpected twist and garnered more attention than the National Budget debates unfolding in Parliament. It also provided confidence to Opposition parties, who, however fleeting, managed to taste a brief zing of victory. Following high-level... 


Great responsibility

Published : 12:00 am  December 20, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  322 views  |  

Plans are underway to appoint a retried High Court judge to investigate nearly 11,000 cases of war time disappearances, with the Government’s credibility and a nation’s healing on the line. Even as the appointment of the Commission was made ahead of the much-anticipated visit of UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, it was clear these investigations were going to be challenging, to say the least. Even though the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommended that thousands of disappearances should be investigated, it took the Government as many as four years to get the ball rolling. Another reason investigations could get tricky is the strong allegations of involvement... 


Daunting drug menace

Published : 12:00 am  December 19, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  526 views  |  

In Sri Lanka, imports of grease and bathroom fittings morph into heroin and official records show 53,000 people have been arrested for drug offences this year. Despite repeated appeals and promises to eradicate the drug menace, there is increasing evidence that drug trafficking and politics are closely linked. A case in point of course is the involvement of Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne’s Secretary and what appears to be a support from local politicians. It is still unclear whether the Police have interrogated the unnamed businessmen who imported the container. Moreover, Police have recorded a staggering increase of hard drugs, from just 15 kg in 2012 to 300 kg in 2013, showing a deeply-embedded... 


Revving for change

Published : 12:00 am  December 18, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  542 views  |  

SRI Lanka’s public transport sector, particularly the buses, has long been accused of inefficiency. It has been pointed time and again that even with a fuel subsidy the 5,000 odd buses of the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) consistently make losses while their private counterparts thrive. Now the Government is putting out ambitious plans to turnaround the SLTB by buying over 2,000 new buses, introduce new joint timetables and break even. But will it work? Weekend newspapers reported the Government will buy 2,200 new buses at a cost of more than Rs. 5 billion for SLTB from next year. The recommendation came from Transport Minister Kumara Welgama who has proposed that a supplier’s credit be... 


Stamp out the crony system

Published : 12:01 am  December 17, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  474 views  |  

POLITICAL scandals make for great reading but they are produced usually from underlying abuse and corruption within the political system itself. The current heroin drama regarding the Prime Minister is another example of how the “crony system” results in shady deals and infests governance. The key actors in the drama have each come out with a version of events that best match their interests. The key figure at the epicentre of the drama, Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne, has insisted that the letter was issued by his Coordinating Secretary Keerthi Weerasinghe without his knowledge and therefore cannot be held culpable for any connection with the 131 kilograms of heroin found in the container. Moreover,... 


Under pressure

Published : 12:00 am  December 14, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  692 views  |  

SRI Lanka is yet again coming under pressure from the international community to deepen its reconciliation process, with the European Parliament this week calling for the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report to be implemented in full. The United Nations has also issued a call for durable solutions to be provided to thousands of resettled Internally Displaced People (IDPs) putting the focus back on the Government. The European Parliament joined the call for credible investigations by the Sri Lankan Government just a few weeks after British Prime Minister David Cameron issued an ultimatum to the Government in Colombo. The new resolution also urged the Sri Lankan Government... 


Caught in the tides

Published : 12:00 am  December 13, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  486 views  |  

Arrests of Indian fishermen are spiralling, with the Navy arresting 140 fishermen and 23 boats within just two days. India, not to be outdone, arrested 98 Sri Lankan fishermen in just 13 days this month and with numbers increasing daily, deeper tensions between Colombo and Tamil Nadu seem inevitable. Since not much love is lost between emotive Tamil Nadu and the Sri Lankan Government to begin with, the new rise in fishermen arrests is a red flag for action. Even though discussions between the two parties have been mooted for next year, they are yet to get locked down, with fishermen getting caught in the middle. According to Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, the... 


Migrant numbers

Published : 12:00 am  December 12, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  613 views  |  

MORE Sri Lankans are seeking employment in other countries, resulting in a 7.7% increase in migrant workers, according to a report released by the Central Bank earlier this month, creating more onus on policy makers to promote their interests as they are a central part of the economy. Foreign employment continued to record a steady growth during the first half of this year. Departure for foreign jobs increased 7.7% during the period to 150,408 from 139,685 recorded in the corresponding period last year. While the male migration increased 22.4%, female migration fell 7%. The latest document titled ‘Recent Economic Development Report’ also showed remittances from foreign employment surged 11.8%... 


Policing the Police

Published : 12:00 am  December 11, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  570 views  |  

Who polices the Police? The Police. As expected, this leads to investigations that are completely lacking in credibility as evidenced in the Noori terror inquiry that was triggered by the tragic murder of an estate manager earlier this year. A solitary Police constable was interdicted and 13 other Police officers including a chief inspector charge-sheeted at the conclusion of the investigations into the conduct of Police officers of the Deraniyagala Police Station during the alleged ‘era of terror’ unleashed by former Deraniyagala PS Chairman and his political cohorts. Reports expressed disgust at the fact that not a single senior Police officer who was in charge of the area during the past... 


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