16 May, 2022

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Where Is The Urgency? All Party Huddle & Supreme Court Challenge

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

No one at the All Party Conference on Wednesday showed any urgency about addressing the severe shortages of essentials – food, medicine, milk, cooking gas and fuel that people are experiencing. Prices of all essentials have become unaffordable for most people, and the supplies are not enough even for the few who can afford them. No one at the APC asked questions about the procurement and supply situation involving consumer essentials. The next day in parliament there was stupid banter about potential crossovers from the boycotting SJB to government but no serious questions or answers about essential supplies.

The government may now be forced to come up with answers before the Supreme Court where the Bar Association, on Friday, filed an unprecedented fundamental rights application against the entire government, asking the Court to direct, among others, “ the Cabinet of Ministers and/or any other Respondents to immediately consult with all the relevant stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement policies to provide uninterrupted access and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicine and food and to report to the Supreme Court of the policies formulated on the above.” No one asked for this so forcefully either at the APC or in parliament.

The only answer so far is the empty boast in parliament by Agricultural Minister Mahindananada Aluthgamage that a “special mechanism was in the making to supply rice at a reasonable price during the upcoming festive season.” A mechanism in the making to provide rice for Avurudu! Nice, but at what price? And what about rice or food availability before and after the April New Year. The Minister went further and as reported, “told Parliament that he could guarantee that there won’t be a food crisis” in the country. People have become all too familiar with this government’s broken guarantees. To make matters worse there are fears now about global food and fuel crises with both high prices and scarce supplies, as a result of the war in Ukraine. And Sri Lanka is hardly in a position to weather these new storms that are already spreading.

International observers have noted the growing ubiquity of protests over rising food prices and shortages in Albania, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Sudan among others. According to David Beasley, the executive director of the UN Word Food Programme (WFP), the food situation in many countries today is worse than the 2011 crisis of rising food prices that triggered the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and across North Africa. There is much discontent in Sri Lanka, but no one is sensing any revolutionary spring. The regime is clearly unstable, but no one is scheming to topple it except through the electoral process. Yet, no one can predict how the public mood will change and what it will precipitate if the current shortages and high prices continue to worsen and the government fails to provide relief to the people.

That is why it is bewildering that neither APC attendees nor its boycotters have been showing any urgency about ensuring and monitoring a steady supply of consumer essentials. The government if it is organized, as it ought to be, should be putting out daily information about current supply levels of each essential commodity; the local availability of any of them; and the import requirements along with procurement arrangements including foreign exchange allocations, exporting country, as well as shipping, timing and local distribution. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will order the government to do this daily.

The supply situation is so dire and unpredictable that a government that cannot provide daily information on inventory levels does not deserve to continue in power. Equally, opposition parties do not deserve to become government unless they demonstrate their superior capabilities by constantly pressuring the government to provide inventory information, or do their own research, provide information and indicate how they would manage matters differently.

Monitoring inventory levels will be of no use unless the government can find foreign exchange to procure imports. At the least, inventory updates will inform the government and parliament the minimum foreign exchange levels that will be required to maintain at least subsistence levels of essential supplies. And where will the government get the requisite forex from – India, China, and at long last the IMF? Such information will also be useful in negotiations with the IMF to ensure priority allocation of sufficient foreign exchange for basic food supplies while restructuring debt payments, as well as for helping those with dwindling means to meet their basic needs.

APC and Boycott Politics

Astonishingly at the APC, the Central Bank Governor who has been simply pigheaded in resisting IMF help for over two years, and in prioritizing debt payment over importing food and fuel essentials, was asked to deliver a lecture on the country’s economic situation. As the Bank Governor, Nivard Cabraal should have attended the meeting only to provide information and answer questions, not to lecture. Addressing the conference is the responsibility of the Minister of Finance. But Basil Rajapaksa kept mum, as he has for the last three months, until Ranil Wickremesinghe needled him and forced him to admit that, in spite of its repeated denials, the government in fact had received the IMF’s Report on Sri Lanka, albeit in draft form. Mr. Wickremesinghe was at his cynical best as he put Nivard Cabraal in his place, and obliged the President to apologise to the Conference for the Governor’s silly remarks about the previous administration.

Besides government representatives, the APC was attended by a motley crowd of political parties with Ranil Wickremesinghe playing the elder statesman role. His bête noire, Maithripala Sirisena, who is credited for the APC idea, was also in attendance. Dr Tissa Vitarana was reduced to being the emissary, along with Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera, for the 11-Party alliance which is curiously constrained to stay in the government while opposing the Cabinet.

The two main opposition parties, the SJB and the JVP, boycotted the APC, and they were joined by the Plantation Tamil political parties, including even the CWC. The CWC was a surprise boycotter. The new, post-grandfather, generation of CWC leaders have been assiduously cultivated by Mahinda Rajapaksa, but they are fed up with Gotabaya Rajapaksa on account of his organic fertilizer craziness and his apparent refusal to listen to their concerns. The CWC leaders had an audience with Mahinda Rajapaksa before announcing their boycott of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Almost all other Tamil and Muslim Parties would seem to have attended the Conference. The TNA was a surprise attendee considering the number of times the TNA leaders were rebuffed by the President in their persistent efforts to have a face-to-face meeting with the man. There is no need to read too much into this for there is no certainty about the future of the APC.

One unintended side benefit of the APC is that it will keep the President publicly engaged in civilian politics and restrain him from straying into non-civilian or military options, given his military background. At the same time, the level of outrage in the country should dissuade even military people thinking about political takeovers. There is no tradition for it and the fear of international isolation would also be a serious deterrent. But preventing military intervention is not the main purpose of politics. The only purpose now is to prevent mass starvation and social chaos.

At the APC, the government would seem to have agreed to redirect its resources from development programs to essential welfare measures. The Minister of Finance has also indicated that he will present to parliament an updated or interim budget based on the current situation and needs of the people. So, the Minister would be back in parliament and parliament can resume business and oversight of the government’s actions on the economy and the country’s finances. The SJB and the JVP will have the opportunity to hold the government to account and to show what they have to offer if and when they get their turn to govern.

What was not discussed at the APC or by the two boycotting parties is the government’s purported approach to engaging the IMF. Even before the President announced the decision to seek IMF’s help, the government appointed a 11-member Economic Council (which is really a sub-committee of Cabinet), and a 16-member Advisory Committee comprising as many businessmen as economic experts. The Advisory Committee has since recommended the “immediate appointment of a Technical Team consisting of officials representing the Central Bank and the Treasury to formulate programs proposing international financial assistance,” as well as the appointment “of a financial advisor and a legal advisor,” and still another “expert team to assist the Finance Minister.”

If all this is not enough, Cabinet Spokesman Ramesh Pathirana has now announced that the government will be appointing “a technical committee to help negotiate with the International Monetary Fund and will also a hire a legal firm to assist with the process.” And the process “will be headed by Professor GL Peiris and also honorable minister of justice, PC Ali Sabry and also assisted by Central Bank Governor and Treasury Secretary.” Go Figure. And to make everything bizarre, the legal firm will be an international legal firm! Perhaps the government needs an international legal firm to assist the Attorney General with his arguments to the Supreme Court in the fundamental rights application that the national Bar Association filed on Friday. Someone at the UNHRC in Geneva will be duly noting the government’s willingness to hire foreign legal firms to ensure opacity over transparency in economic matters.

It is not clear whether it is only ignorance and incompetence that is at work here, or whether there is something clever by half going on in the government. Whatever it might be, it is not auguring well for what needs to be urgently done to bring supplies and redress to the people, and slowly start the heavy work of putting back the economy on track. The latter task is beyond the competence of this government on its best days. The country is constrained to depend on the government to carry out the immediate task of providing the essentials of life even on its worst days. There is no urgency at the political level. Will the Supreme Court be able to inject the fierce urgency that is badly needed in government for the sake of the people?

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Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    Old Codger or someone ……… can you explain?

    This guy here 6:04 talks about interest costs on revenue rising to 70% ………. how can revenue have interest costs?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fqqLZ4rYf4

    • 6
      0

      nimal,
      .
      I had seen this programme already; let old codger answer your question. Beyond me. However, let me assert this: Nishan de Mel has been consistent, (he spoke about defaulting vs restructuring for half an hour about six weeks ago – and I understood little!), AND I think that he knows what he’s talking about.
      .
      It’s good to see two young people fluent in English, but let me tell you that knowledge of English is near zero among most young people, even those who have done supposedly English Medium degrees in State Universities. They have a yearning to learn English; a huge upturn in requests made to me these last two months. I give free advice, but haven’t taught at all for a long time. They don’t understand the amount of work that has to be put in.
      .
      Also worrying is the fact that most of us have a Westernised, actually Christian, background. Dr W.A. Wijewardena is my age, but his background is Buddhist. Answers are difficult to give.

      • 5
        0

        SM,

        I have seen somewhere you talk about your grandkids …….. English is important but learning to invest is more important ……… money is not everything but it brings independence; gives one freedom to do what one wants ………..

        Get them to read this; it’ written like a story book for kids ……. https://tinyurl.com/bdc93h6c ……… Learn to Earn by Peter Lynch

        It’s available on the web for free in .pdf form ………..

    • 3
      0

      Nimal,
      I think what he means is that 70% of revenue is spent in paying interest on loans. What Cabral calls “maintaining our credibility “.

      • 5
        0

        “I think what he means is that 70% of revenue is spent in paying interest on loans.”

        Thanks OC, that explains. ……… I think he jumbled his words; pity, Sinhala-Man wasn’t his English teacher! :))

        What he is saying is, that downgrading by the rating agencies caused our borrowing costs to rise …….. lower the rating higher the cost/rate

        There was that guy from California saying we were downgraded because we were Asian, Brown and such baloney ……… this is what we have to deal with; our problems are mental more than economic …….

        I’m reading this now; a great book written by an English graduate from Oxford …… it’s more about life than money ….. it’s worth reading if you have the time …. https://www.amazon.com/Richer-Wiser-Happier-Greatest-Investors/dp/1501164856

  • 3
    1

    Some time ago there were astrological predictions that the opposition will come together and be of one mind. That never came true. Now we have the NPP who keep making the false allegation unuth ekay munuth ekay trying to tar all previous governments with the same brush to make them selves look special. We have a SJB trapped behind a fool of a leader. Good talented members but the leader is useless. Then we have a bunch of pointless time wasters consisting of a mass murderer and a foul mouthed arse among them. What the country needs the country will never get. The Sinhela Buddhist mind set is indeed a mental disorder. In order to cure the country of this dis-order the present clowns will have to carry on messing up and ceding sovreignity to India and watch the many minority issues sorted by force by India while the public continues to starve and suffer. There may come a time when ques are dispersed by force by Basil’s 2×2 polu brigade and protesters are fired upon with live rounds by Gota’s military brigade. The worst is yet to come.

  • 4
    0

    To address the issue of urgency, the government sees no urgency. Mahinda stuffed the entire GOV service with his unqualified stooges from the very beginning. It has now become totally paralyzed. Nothing sensible is done. Gotler’s advisors are mental nut cases hung up on pet issues. On the economic front it is the same story of crooked self serving grifters who don’t care for the country or its people. In a nut shell what we refer to as the government are all self serving crooks who want to be insanely rich, live an extravagant life style educating their children in the US and buying them luxury life styles in the west while raping and piledging poor Sri Lanka. No one is interested in finding a solution for there is none to be found with these scoundrels in power and an opposition in disarray. When a Rajapakshe calls for an all party conference it is never intended to address the reason for its calling but a delay / stalling tactic. If any meaningful recommendations are made they will be promptly thrown into the dustbin. The one sure feature of the these All party affairs is the guaranteed attendance of the buffoon RW. He has done it before and he is doing it again.

  • 3
    5

    Rajan: Have you hear of the term LAWFARE? Brazil’s President Lula was subject to this and there is a great book on this.
    BASL should First protest claims by IMF economic hit men that foreign legal firms would do GoSL negotiations with IMF! Sri Lankan lawyers and legal firms should represent Sri Lankan people not IMF Economic Hitmen and their law firms!
    Like the fake news about a refugee crisis in Sri Lanka because 6 people took a boat to India, and a handful pf pro-IMF “staged Protests in Colombo, the no doubt dire economic crisis organized by US citizens Goat and Basil to get Sri lanka into the Washington Consensus IMF clutches , this action of the BASL is a distraction. It is part of Over the Horizon (OTH) operation for US to take over Sri Lanka’s economy – a FULL SPECTRUM DOMINATION and colonization of Sri Lanka via media narratives, cyber and hybrid maritime trade war since Easter 2019 attacks, with the Rajapakse puppets who like Zelinski in Ukraine are setting up Sri Lanka as a PROXY WAR site between India and China in the Indian Ocean region. This is the American project capture of destroy Lanka. US always starts wars in other continenants and sell arms.
    IMF is saying the a foreign legal firm will be handing Sri Lanka’s economic negotiations, with it! BASL should protest that Sri Lanka’s economy is being taken over by foreign lawyers and IMF and the fact that the country is run by dual US citizens who are responsible for the crisis.

  • 2
    7

    Like the Cyborg, DOCTOR OCTOPUS (Doc Oct) , in SPIDER MAN films the American war machine is squeezing and strangling Sri Lanka with its Economic War and Sri Lanka should DE-DOLLARIZE and buy oil, gas and Jet fuel from Russia. Follow India’s example/
    Strategic Sri lanka is being primed for a PROXY WAR between India and China in the IOR – just like Ukraine was set up as a Proxy war site between EU and Russia. The new Cold War is a Hot War in the post-colony.

  • 4
    0

    I am intrigued by the author saying :
    … And the process “will be headed by Professor GL Peiris and also honorable minister of justice, PC Ali Sabry ….
    Why only one “honourable”.

    • 5
      0

      PS: Actually both are with “flexible” morals/principles.

  • 1
    0

    Urgency supersedes importance. Solutions are incomplete. Many problems are patched, not solved. Like severe shortages of essentials – food, medicine, milk, cooking gas and fuel that people are experiencing. Ongoing problem-solving efforts and long-range activities, such as developing new processes, are repeatedly interrupted where is the parliament members formulation to come out of this

  • 6
    0

    “Dr Tissa Vitarana was reduced to being the emissary, along with Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera, for the 11-Party alliance”
    Leaving aside the grand pretence of a “11 party alliance”, it is disgusting that this reptilian Ratana was even at the APC. This opinionated charlatan is at least 50% responsible for the mess in the economy. He nearly destroyed the tea industry during Yahapalanaya, and changed sides in a huff when Ranil stopped his experiments. His ideas are at the root of the current “organic” disaster. He also has been at the forefront of anti-Muslim hysteria. This man is a criminal who should be in jail, not pontificating at the APC.
    Be that as it may, I don’t see how bringing motions in court is going to solve economic issues. Do judges have expertise on economics? The government is not deliberately setting out to starve the people. It is just that its ministers are just plain stupid. You can’t legislate intelligence. These smart-aleck lawyers should know that.

  • 2
    0

    Question is what is the problem? But we actually mean who is the problem?

    Similarly without looking at the solution we concentrate who is the solution?

    This also should ask us are we the problem or the solution? Are we a community or individualistic society?
    Is this my neighbours problem or is it mine? Am I a selfish or selfless?

    Do we pay our taxes? Do we spend too much on imports? Can we treat our neighbours as our equal? Do we rely on human acceptance too much? Are we playing a fit in game or are we actually seeking the truth?

    No matter who does what, as long as w are part of the problem, we should not point our fingers at others. Don’t hide behind excuses, get out there and speak the truth and seek the truth.

  • 7
    0

    The architect of stupid banter is none other than our agricultural minister Mahindananda. The guy can only talk on crossover matters and ICC fixing. When did last, our parliamentarians show any urgency?? Economy, food, Covid, vaccine, electricity, medication, Easter warnings ??? But there was urgency for passing constipational amendments, passing PTA, luxury vehicle imports, pension and perks
    .

  • 2
    2

    The Bar Association has filed a Fundamental Rights Application before the Supreme Court eh?
    a] Would the Supreme Court sit up and entertain this UNPRECEDENTED fundamental rights application?
    b] Would they rule that the Respondents immediately consult all and sundry to formulate and implement whatever is needed to ease the burden of the people?
    c] What happens if the Respondents choose to take no notice of the SC ruling?
    d] Contempt of Court?

    Rajan Philipps, you are indeed living in cloud cuckoo land ! Anyway, take it easy . No malice intended!

    • 2
      1

      Plato,
      You are right. It seems the “lawyers” themselves don’t know that the purpose of the judiciary is to dispense justice. It can also ensure that the government doesn’t contravene the constitution. Where does this motion fit in? Economic affairs, however stupidly carried out, are not the business of judges unless something illegal is attempted.
      I suppose this sort of thing is normal in a country where pickpockets are ministers and Buddhist monks have the last word on everything from agriculture to see education.

      • 1
        0

        OC, though I am not a lawyer, I was thinking on the same lines. In that case people should elect the Supreme Court to run the country ( even then doesn’t mean much in Lanka). The other question I have is what took the BASL to fill this kind of motion ?? scarcity/discomfort to their family and them.

  • 2
    3

    Urgency?
    The real urgency is to identify all tares (seed of Cain) and freemasons, and have all of them thrown out of power.
    Playing political chess games (moving freemasons around on the board), was a tactic that was used for a long time, to deceive the common man, but that time is fast coming to an end.
    And mark my words, the freemasons in the journalist profession, who have been willfully hiding the real truth from humanity will be dealt with also.
    Look up Mark Alan King and his gematria website for more information. He is uncovering a lot of truth.

    • 4
      0

      SS,
      .
      It was a guy calling himself “Humble” who used to talk about “Freemasons”.
      .
      What you’ve written is absolute tosh.
      .
      Jacques Huyghebaert is my Bandarawela neighbour, although he now spends much time in “Colombo”. We talk almost daily even now.
      .
      To please him, I was a Freemason for more than five years. It must be about seven years since I gave up, and I’m now “an ex-Mason in good standing” – that is I can rejoin if I want to.
      .
      Google his name and Freemasonry, and you will get more than five hundred URLs. Here’s one:
      .
      https://www.academia.edu/40758172/Catastrophism_and_Freemasonry
      .
      He’s very serious about Masonry, but the truth is that in Lanka it is a snob thing – mainly because everything is in English, and memorisation is insisted upon. But not by him.
      .
      Jacques knows more than a dozen languages, fluent in about five of them. I sent this to him this month, and asked him whose Russian is better. He said that neither he nor Professor Tim Wilson (an Englishman) is really fluent, but they can both be understood:
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAptCvGeEGA
      .
      The video has subtitles.
      .
      Message to SS: broaden your horizons!
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe

    • 4
      0

      SS,
      .
      I’ve looked at what you suggested.
      .
      https://www.gematrix.org/?word=mark%20alan%20king%20is%20king%20david%20reincarnated
      .
      What has that got to do with Lanka?
      .
      Explain, please.

  • 4
    0

    I am unaware of the outcome of the all party conference relating to the current crisis but from Mr Philip’s account of the proceedings, it seems RW has gained some credibility, rightfully in my opinion, in comparison to the bungling & incompetence of the current bunch. Many would disagree, but, despite RW’s lethargy & laissez faire approach, he & his team deserves some recognition & if not for slimy Sirisena, the fly in the soup, undermining every move, SL would, perhaps, be in a better position now.

    ‘Considering the ‘prudence’ of hiring international lawyers to scrutinise the ‘small print’ of the IMF, isn’t the eminent Prof. GL, capable of doing that & saving the country of $ which are in short supply? Were the same precautions taken when we signed up to all those loans from China at commercial rates? If I am not mistaken, MR & his gang spent millions of $ on hiring a PR company to write the UN speeches but when the barrel is being scraped, can we afford such luxuries?

  • 4
    0

    Getting our priorities right
    *
    This deserves to be a serious read:
    .
    https://www.dailymirror.lk/news-features/Taxidermy-process-of-an-iconic-elephant:-Holding-on-to-Raja–for-posterity/131-233609
    .
    It was quite rightly that we castigated Gota and his government for wanting to heap bogus honours on the exploited elephant. This is a serious article written by the Director-General of National Museums about the disciplined work that she had to undertake when she received the order from the President to stuff the elephant. As a government servant she had to carry out orders, but there are other aspects to this business.
    .
    Shouldn’t animals be allowed to exist in the natural environment meant for them? Preservation makes little sense for the elephants, but it may mean that a particularly magnificent specimen of the species is preserved for future humans to gaze at when humans have driven them into extinction.
    .
    This process is much more arduous than we would ever have imagined, and at a time when our economy is in tatters.

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