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Private sector leaders meet Sirisena, list serious concerns

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By Nisthar Cassim

Leaders of the country’s private sector lobby groups met President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday, and expressed their growing concerns over the serious socio-economic impact of the current political crisis.

Those who attended the near 45-minute meeting included heads of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FCCISL), National Chamber of Commerce (NCC), Ceylon National Chamber of Industry (CNCI), National Chamber of Exporters (NCE), International Chamber of Commerce (ICCSL), Sri Lanka Apparel (JAAF), Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs (COYLE) and the Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WCCI).

Daily FT learns that a joint statement listing the areas of concern arising out of the political instability and sectors impacted was read out to President Sirisena, who gave a patient hearing. 

In response, Sirisena defended his recent actions, saying they were constitutional, but blamed both sides and the media for aggravating the crisis. The private sector leaders were also told that political or constitutional crises were not unique to Sri Lanka, nor the unruly behaviour of Parliamentarians, with a few international incidents cited. 

In his responses, Sirisena also asked the private sector leaders why they had not met him and raised concerns over the Bond scam.

In the first working day after Sirisena unseated MP Ranil Wickremesinghe from the post of Prime Minister and appointed MP Mahinda Rajapaksa in his stead, eight chambers of commerce or private sector lobby groups issued a statement expressing their initial concerns. Issued on 29 October, the statement said: “Concerned that the current political uncertainty will result in many adverse consequences to the country, if it remains unresolved. We request the political authorities to resolve issues through the democratically established institutions as early as possible. We appeal to the political parties to ensure that law and order prevails and that danger to the life and property of citizens is prevented. All parties should act in the best interests of our country, our people and the national economy.”

As the situation exacerbated, the private sector, though the chambers/lobby groups represented were reduced to 4 from 8, issued a fresh statement on 15 November. It said: “It is our view that the Executive and the elected representatives have a duty to ensure that decisions are taken with regard for due process and the rule of law.The events of the last few weeks have resulted in absolute instability, which is a situation that Sri Lanka simply cannot afford. This will no doubt hinder development and have a significantly adverse impact on the social and economic trajectory of our country. 

“It is observed that the entire administration of this country has come to a standstill and the public officers are paralysed, being unable to discharge their functions. The ultimate victims are the people of our country.

“We recently witnessed the most unacceptable and abusive behaviour displayed in the Chamber of the Sri Lanka Parliament. The conduct of some of the elected representatives was both shameful and an embarrassment to our country. We call upon all those responsible to accord the highest priority to national interest and refrain from pursuing any path that will result in an economic downfall which will have an adverse impact on the country and the people. We call for urgent and sensible action.”


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