G.L. Peiris, Lakshman Seneviratne
and Hillary Clinton
Western Provincial Council election took a back seat
last week as the government faced the harsh reality of
the cash crunch though the Central Bank tried to
downplay it. Not being able to resort to commercial
borrowings from overseas banks and the expected inputs
of foreign deposits from the Sri Lankan diaspora not
materialising the government had to take stock of the
remaining options. Turning to the IMF, seemingly the
obvious choice the government bit the bitter pill
and resumed negotiations.
initially the touted figure hovered in the region of US
$ 1.9 billion it now seems grossly under stated. It is
in this backdrop that the IMF officials visited
to finalise negotiations last week. Whether an injection
of US $ 1.9 billion will match even 50% of the
requirement would have been uppermost in the minds of
the IMF team and if the touted figure was grossly
inadequate it would be a case of good money running
behind bad. That the government did not react early was
due to focusing on the singular issue and and by the
time it woke up the private sector had resorted to
drastic cost cutting and shedding of work force.
donor agency is going to cough out funds without strings
being attached in ensuring that profligacy and waste do
not continue. The government insists that this would not
be the case.
that as it may it appears that the Central Bank has
finally begun to ease its tight hold on the rupee
allowing it to gradually devalue against the US dollar.
With financial reserves running precariously low the
decision to float the rupee had to come sooner than
later. The gradual devaluation was evident last week and
analysts predict the dollar would hit the Rs 125 mark by
the end of the second quarter.
government servants’ proficiency exams, now scuttled,
shows the inclination on the part of the government to
shed the numbers to trim public sector expenditure but
is certain to be re-introduced after the flurry of
elections are over.
Ministry of Consumer Affairs has been working overtime
to raise revenue for the government by introducing
special commodity levies on a range of food items.
Imported sprats, potatoes, B-onions, chick pea, green
gram, dhal, sugar and canned fish are amongst those
included. Whether prices would rise in proportion to the
levies could be seen in the near future even though the
prices of these products have dropped in the world
market in recent times.
Experience shows that the traders, in difficult times
would not pass on these advantages to the consumer and
we are sure to hear from the minister that the middle
man is playing his usual games.
the economic woes plaguing the government the UNP seems
to have shed their differences at least for the time
being. Those clamouring for a leadership change have
settled down to offer support to the party’s campaign in
the Western Province. MP Lakshman Seneviratne who was
amongst those in the forefront calling for changes in
the leadership made a stirring speech at a recent media
Support for party
mincing his words he pledged eternal affiliation to the
UNP and said he would only strengthen the party in which
his father was a former minister. His call for party
reforms was for the betterment of the UNP and not for
public debate, he said.
not stop at that but went on to lambast Minister Nimal
Siripala Silva over the recent controversies in his
ministry. Seneviratne also strongly criticised our
sister paper Irudina. Irked by Irudina’s exposure post
Rukman Senanayake’s unwarranted outburst at the UNP working
committee castigating our founder editor Lasantha
Wickrematunge after his death, Seneviratne was to state
that this paper was critical of the UNP.
war in the Wanni has reached a stage where the LTTE has
dug in using the available fighting cadres to maximum
effect. They have shrunk into a small swathe dragging
along whatever armour and now have no option but to
defend and inflict as much damage as possible. From the
LTTE’s point of view the fighting cadres available would
now be in a better position to defend the limited area
under its control using the civilian human shield to
prevent an all out onslaught from the armed forces.
air force meanwhile has intensified surveillance with
targeted attacks and over a hundred sorties being
conducted in the recent past. This together with ground
troops circling the cornered LTTE, the civilians trapped
within this area have little choice. A protracted
defence by the LTTE would further aggravate the
conditions of the civilians leading to disease, hunger
Meanwhile Minister of Export Development and
International Trade G.L. Peiris made a statement on
Tuesday that the war will be over in three weeks. A
sweeping statement if ever there was one. Was the
Minister privy to inside information of the military ops
or was it political propaganda with the provincial
elections in mind?
what will be the fate of the trapped civilians during
these three weeks? Will the LTTE let them free or would
precision targeting of Tiger leaders weaken them
sufficiently to evacuate the civilians?
the military was fast gaining ground, a war of another
kind was being enacted overseas. The government and the
LTTE both took their case to the international community
mobilising their respective lobby groups. Both fought
for space with the UN lobby with gusto. President
Rajapakse has stood firm thus far in his resolve to
‘finish’ the military operations undertaken which have
cost the country immensely both in terms of lives and
Economic melt down
fall out of this socially, is yet to be quantified and
the years ahead would unravel this in real terms. But,
with the global melt down of the economy and its impact
on Sri Lanka, he would be hard pressed to be single
minded in the final thrust given the need for assistance
to shore up the balance of payments and keep the
economic momentum upto scratch. It is evident that this
government is riding along on a single agenda and that
certainly is not of the economy. It is often touted by
politicians outside the UNP that the rural folk whose
numbers matter for winning elections are not within the
cross hairs of price movements of consumer goods. This
is voiced ad-nauseum but the fat lady will sing by the
third quarter for this sector as well.
Lanka being blessed with fertile land does offer a safe
umbrella for rural folk to scrape three meals together
and this has been the bane in that section of the people
resigning themselves to a full stomach and no further
expectation. How often do we hear ruling politicians
say with pride that the price of domestic gas does not
affect the people in the hinterland? That the escalating
price of electricity does not bother them?
indeed a damning indictment that we live in a country
where the rulers consider poverty as an advantage and
thus basic needs are requirements of only the upper
middle classes of the Western Province.
the government is confident of completing ground
operations to clear the remaining area occupied by the
LTTE, the envisaged proposals for a political solution
is not in sight. The credibility of the government rides
on this and the international community has in no
uncertain terms made it known that it is not blind. The
US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, Lakdar Ibrahim of
the UN, Commissioner UNHCR, Navee Pillai, US Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton, US Asst Secretary of State for
South Asia Richard Boucher amongst others have voiced
their concerns in this regard and that of the plight
of the civilians held in the conflict areas. As stated
in this column before they too are aware of the
financial and social cost this war has on Sri Lanka.
Contrast this with the cost of finding a political
solution. Both financially and socially. The answer
would be at odds between those who are educated and
others who are not.
majority will decide.