Thursday, 1 January 2015 00:16
By Marisa Wikramanayake
Re-electing Mahinda Rajapaksa will prevent privatisation and allow the Sri Lanka to move forward in development, according to the Professional Bankers’ Joint Organisation.
I.M. Premarathna, S. Annasiwatte, P.A. Saman, Sanjaya Rathmanagolla and N. H.N.L. Navaratna from the Professional Bankers’ Joint Organisation speaking to members of the media and the banking sector yesterday – Pic by Lasantha Kumara
“UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe wanted to privatise the banks in 1994,” Senior Bankers National Joint Organisation’s Secretary S. Annasiwatta said, addressing the media and members of the banking community at an event held yesterday at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute. “We supported President Mahinda Rajapaksa in opposing this move and in 2005, he did away with it completely.”
Sri Lanka’s Freedom Ceylon Bank Employees Union for the Bank of Ceylon’s General Secretary Sanjaya Rathmanagolla pointed out that Maithripala Sirisena’s 100 day manifesto included his intention to re-introduce privatisation.
“Before 2005, there were regular protests against privatisation,” he said. “After 10 years, why is this issue coming up again? Maithripala Sirisena wants to use the Singapore Temasak Holdings model.”
The panel of five speakers including Sri Lanka’s Freedom Ceylon Bank Employees Union for the National Savings Bank’s General Secretary N.H.N. L. Navaratna, Sri Lanka’s Freedom Ceylon Bank Employees Union for the People’s Bank’s Assistant Secretary P. A. Saman, and the Association of Collaborative Alliance of Central Bank Professionals’ President I. M. Premarathna were concerned that privatisation would hurt the banking sector by restricting jobs and recruitment, the banking community and people by making banking more expensive to access and the economy by limiting the rate of development and growth.
“Privatisation will hurt the people,” Rathmanagolla said. “It will allow the private banks to charge more and that will make banking access unaffordable for most people.”
The panel also pointed out that the growth Sri Lanka’s financial sector and the better standard of living that the people currently enjoyed were due to the development carried out under President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“We recognise how far we have come especially under President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s vision for development,” Saman stated. “The people have access to roads, electricity, highways, airports and ports. In order for change to occur, we need to move forward. We cannot reverse this path by allowing privatisation to occur, we cannot go backwards.”
Annasiwatta pointed out that Sri Lanka’s growth rate in comparison to other nations was unprecedented.
“We are now, in 2014 at nearly 8% in growth rate in comparison to countries like India, our neighbour, and the USA, with whom we trade with.” he said. “And this is down to how the country has developed in the past five years after the war. Savings increased by 18% to 4170 billion rupees in 2013 and that raises questions because it shows that people’s faith in the banking system is increasing. And that is down to the peace we now have.”
Premarathna agreed. “Our war didn’t need to go on for 30 years but it wasn’t until Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped in that it was ended,” he said. “When Europe’s economy failed in the recession, we kept going and even while we heard about Europeans losing their jobs, we were unaffected.”
The panel pointed out that the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ plan would also enable the further development of the banking sector so that both public and private banks could offer more services and be more competitive and productive.
“The Government is investing in technology so we can improve our online banking services,” Rathmanagolla stated.
He and the panel then asked the audience to consider the financial and economic implications of their vote. “Just as we did in 2005, we will support Mahinda Rajapaksa to move this country forward,” he said. “On 8 January we would like to ensure that our country will continue to develop.”