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RW Govt. confident of IMF’s second tranche in Dec. as creditors reach final stages of deal

RW Govt. confident of IMF’s second tranche in Dec. as creditors reach final stages of deal

25 Nov 2023 | By Capt. Vasabha

  • After China, Paris Club consortium agrees on framework on debt treatment with Sri Lanka
  • Govt. decides against permitting research vessels to country next year until monitoring sorted
  • MR and Namal show new political strategy at play during Budget vote; SLPP gears for polls
  • Clashes in House see Nishantha suspended; SLPP MPs approve motion to ban Premadasa also
  • NPP calls out SJB bluff by seeking vote on Prez Budget head that provides for former Presidents
  • MR blames Yahapalana, SJB for economic crisis; says Rajapaksa decisions backed by Parliament
  • RW to reshuffle provincial governors post-Budget; incumbent governors to get new postings
  • House agrees to PSC to probe cricket crisis, change in COPE chair when taking up SLC meetings
  • IGP conundrum continues, with heated clash between President and Constitutional Council

The ongoing debate on President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s 2024 Budget has become quite a spectacle in Parliament, with claims and counterclaims on the country’s economic crisis and of course the continuing drama over Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).

President Wickremesinghe’s 2024 Budget was passed on Tuesday (21) with a majority of 45 votes in Parliament, with the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) voting in support of it.

The Wickremesinghe Government is now looking quite upbeat after hearing last week that the country’s debt restructuring programme has reached a positive position, with the Paris Club consortium of bilateral creditors agreeing to an initial framework with Sri Lanka. 

After sharing the documents of the deal reached between Sri Lanka and China, the members of the consortium were prepared to finalise the framework once India gave its green light. It is learnt that India has also expressed its willingness last week to proceed with the programme.

It is this news that had prompted Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe to confidently announce on Friday (24) that Sri Lanka would receive the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) second tranche under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) next month. The Executive Board of the IMF is scheduled to discuss Sri Lanka on 6 December.

While the Wickremesinghe Government is eagerly awaiting confirmation on finalising Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring framework, Parliament continues to focus on many issues with little focus on questions related to the implementation of Budget proposals and the Government’s election plans that have been included in the Budget.

No more research vessels

Meanwhile, the Government has also made an interesting decision with regard to the Chinese research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 3, which had requested permission to visit Sri Lanka in January. After taking several weeks to consider the request, the Government, it is learnt, has decided not to permit research vessels to visit Sri Lanka until the country develops its monitoring and other mechanisms required to facilitate such requests. 

The Government is also in the process of finalising its Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for vessels calling at Sri Lankan ports. Interestingly, it is in such a backdrop that President Wickremesinghe last week stated during an interview with an Indian journalist that Sri Lanka would welcome any research and exploration vessel from any country, including China.

“What is a spy ship is a big question mark. These are civilian ships, but if there are issues, if there are spy ships, we will not allow them to come in. But as far as exploration is concerned, we allow not only Chinese ships but other ships, but no one highlights the fact that other ships also come to Sri Lanka,” the President had said, adding, “Each time a Chinese ship comes, we get a lot of publicity. But if a ship, a research ship, comes from another country, we are ignored.”

Banning Sajith

However, one of the main clashes within the House last week was between President Wickremesinghe and Opposition Leader Sajith Premdasa.

Premadasa’s clash with the President on Friday, which continued after Wickremesinghe’s departure from the Chamber, has resulted in a group of SLPP parliamentarians pushing for a motion to suspend the Opposition Leader from the House for two weeks. 

The motion had been presented by SLPP MP Premnath C. Dolawatte and seconded by MP Milan Jayathilake. The MPs have claimed that Premadasa had behaved in a manner that had instigated many legislators and therefore warranted action.

MR and Namal at play

Meanwhile, the SLPP is also engaged in a new political game with Party Leader, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) and his son, MP Namal Rajapaksa taking different stances during the second reading on the Budget vote on Tuesday.

While MR voted in favour of the 2024 Budget, Namal refrained from voting. It was very clear that MR’s and Namal’s action during the second reading vote on the 2024 Budget showed a political strategy at play.

Following the second reading vote, Namal had noted that he had abstained from voting as there was no practical programme to develop the rural economy and that there appeared to be problems in the practical implementation of the Budget proposals at the ground level. He had pointed out that the Budget consisted of both good and bad proposals, but that some were practically impossible to implement.

According to Namal, Budget 2024 consists of proposals that were already proposed in the Appropriation Bill for the fiscal year 2023. Namal had then gone on to say that it was his duty to stand up for the public by pointing out the mistakes and weaknesses of the Budget as a member of the Government.

Election year

However, President Wickremesinghe reaffirming that Presidential and Parliamentary Elections will be held next year has put in motion many political games by all key political parties.

Wickremesinghe assured on Wednesday (22) that the two elections would not be postponed. “How can you say we are scared to hold elections? The elections will be held. Both the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections will be held next year,” he told the House.

The President further said all the Local Government and Provincial Council Elections could be conducted the following year, adding that there were no issues in carrying them out.

While Wickremesinghe is looking at rallying the masses as the leader who emerged amidst an unprecedented crisis to steer the country out of the doldrums, the SLPP is clearly looking at becoming the voice of the masses being burdened by Wickremesinghe’s economic policies of ‘salvation’.

Vote for President

It is interesting that the President’s Budget head was subjected to a vote last week, with Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led National People’s Power (NPP) Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake calling for a vote.

The President’s expenditure head was however passed by a majority of 59 votes, with 62 MPs voting in favour while the three NPP MPs voted against. Some 159 members were absent at the time of voting.

The President’s Budget head includes funds allocated to former Presidents and Dissanayake, while calling for the division, claimed that his party had done so as it was not proper for Parliament to allocate funds for former Presidents Gotabaya Rajapaksa and MR who have been held responsible for the country’s economic crisis.

Following the vote, the NPP claimed that the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) had avoided the vote on the President’s Budget despite Party Leader Premadasa’s rhetoric over calling for action against those responsible for the economic crisis.

RW-Sajith clash

Meanwhile, President Wickremesinghe had last week avoided answering questions posed on the recent Supreme Court decision against the Rajapaksas due to an error in the court case number in the question submitted by Opposition Leader Premadasa.

However, stating that he was responding to the Opposition Leader’s query, Wickremesinghe had replied based on the case number given by Premdasa, which was about a case on the supply of rations for the Trincomalee Prison. 

Premadasa had responded by acknowledging his mistake concerning the case number and added that he would take responsibility for the mistake. Premadasa however pointed out that even though there was a mistake with the case number, his question was written clearly mentioning the case details and the names of the Rajapaksas. 

“I have clearly raised a question on the Supreme Court’s ruling, which held former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Finance Ministers Mahinda Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa, former Governors of the Central Bank W.D. Lakshman and Ajith Nivard Cabraal, former Secretary to the Treasury S.R. Attygalle, former Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, and Monetary Board member S.S.W. Kumarasinghe responsible for the economic crisis faced by Sri Lanka as they had mishandled the economy and violated the fundamental rights of the people,” Premadasa had said. 

Questioning if the President was incapable of reading, the Opposition Leader had noted that instead of reading the facts, the President had spent time finding a mistake with the court case number. “It is regrettable to see you disregarding the question by finding a technical fault with the case number and providing an explanation to just entertain the Parliament. I have no intention of disrespecting you, but it is beyond your intelligence,” Premadasa had said. 

He had further pointed out that the President himself had chastised the decisions of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his Government in Parliament and questioned why the President was now scrambling to protect the group.

Blaming Yahapalana

Meanwhile, MR, who is among those named by the Supreme Court as being responsible for the economic crisis, has blamed the allies of the former ‘good governance’ Government and the current members of the SJB for pushing the country into bankruptcy.

MR had told the media that the Rajapaksas were not at fault, stating that he had maintained a 7% economic growth until his defeat in 2015. MR had further noted that when the ‘good governance’ regime ended in 2020, economic growth had dropped to 2%.

The former President had recently made contradictory statements on the Supreme Court verdict, but had last week questioned the SJB if it was wrong to reduce taxes as per the people’s mandate received by Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2019.

MR had also refuted allegations made against the Rajapaksas on the economic crisis, claiming that all decisions regarding financial management were taken with the approval of the MPs in Parliament. MR had also told Parliament that no one could claim that decisions regarding financial management had been taken arbitrarily.

Meanwhile, SLPP MP Namal Rajapaksa has blamed the SJB and JVP for the economic crisis, claiming that the SJB and JVP were also responsible for the economic crisis if it was caused due to tax relief.

Maithri’s response

Meanwhile, then President of the ‘good governance’ Government, Maithripala Sirisena had said that he thanked and respected the Supreme Court for having ruled on the individuals responsible for the economic crisis.

He had also stated that he strongly opposed the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to probe the matter that had already been dealt with by the Supreme Court.

Abolishing PSC

NPP Leader Dissanayake has also called for the PSC chaired by SLPP MP Sagara Kariyawasam to look into the economic crisis to be discontinued as the Supreme Court has given a judgment on those who were instrumental in the country’s economic debacle. He had told Parliament that it was a waste of time and money to continue the committee as the Supreme Court had given a clear ruling on the matter.

Asserting that the recent Supreme Court ruling, which held that two former Heads of State and several others were responsible for the economic crisis in the country, did not have any impact on the PSC looking into the country’s economic bankruptcy, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana had said that it was the PSC’s members who should decide on its future course of action.

Commenting on whether there will be any change to the PSC in consideration of the Supreme Court ruling, Abeywardana had noted that the ruling did not have any impact on the PSC’s proceedings. “There is no impact on the PSC, is there? The PSC has been appointed, so it is its members who should decide on what needs to be done.”

Meanwhile, PSC Chairman Kariyawasam had said that they were carrying out an in-depth investigation into the matter and that, therefore, there was no need to end the PSC’s proceedings based on a Supreme Court ruling on the same.

Sajith vs. SLPP

However, the continuing debate on the actions of those responsible for the country’s economic crisis resulted in near fisticuffs in the House, with parliamentary sessions being temporarily adjourned on Tuesday (21). The incident took place when Opposition Leader Premadasa was addressing the House.

Premadasa’s comments concerning the economic crisis and the Supreme Court’s ruling against those responsible had sparked uproar, forcing Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana to call off sittings briefly.

In his address, Premadasa had mentioned that former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former President, Prime Minister, and Finance Minister and incumbent Government Parliamentarian Attorney Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, former Governors of the CBSL Ajith Nivard Cabraal and Prof. W.D. Lakshman, former Secretary of the Treasury and Finance Ministry S.R. Attygalle, former Presidential Secretary P.B. Jayasundera, and the CBSL’s Monetary Board members (with certain exceptions) continued to enjoy their privileges despite the Supreme Court’s 14 November judgment having held them accountable for the economic crisis.

“These individuals have no respect for the court’s judgment,” Premadasa had said, adding that all Sri Lankan citizens continued to pay for the incorrect decisions made by them. He had emphasised that the Government could not be lenient towards these individuals as the entire country was on alert as to what action would be taken against them.

As Premadasa raised questions about the Government’s stance on the matter, the legal measures which the Government intended to implement against them, and if the Government would recover the losses incurred by the State due to those mentioned in the court’s judgment, a group of ruling SLPP MPs had interrupted the address and later approached Premadasa’s seat.

State Minister Sanath Nishantha was among those who led the charge against Premadasa, with SJB MPs coming to Premadasa’s support. Premadasa had claimed that he feared no one and was prepared to face anyone alone when SLPP MPs continued to disrupt his speech.

Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella had then requested Speaker Abeywardana to take disciplinary action against a group of MPs including Nishantha. Kiriella highlighted that Premadasa had raised the question in concern with the permission of the Speaker, implying that such an interruption was uncalled for.

Speaker Abeywardana had assured that the matter would be probed and Nishantha was suspended from Parliament for a period of two weeks due to his unruly behaviour inside the Chamber.


Meanwhile, following the conclusion of the 2024 Budget process, President Wickremesinghe, it is learnt, is looking at several reshuffles. Key among them is the reshuffle of several provincial governor posts.

Former MP Naseer Ahamed, who recently lost his parliamentary seat following a Supreme Court decision, is tipped to be appointed as a provincial governor. The reshuffling is also expected to see some individuals holding governor posts at present being appointed to Sri Lanka’s missions overseas.

With talk of reshuffling provincial governors, speculation is also rife that there will be another Cabinet reshuffle, given that the President has several more portfolios that need to be changed.

Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe is among the top contenders to lose their portfolios at the next reshuffle.

Roshan says no

However, Ranasinghe had last week said that he had no intention of either resigning from the Sports portfolio or joining the Opposition. 

He had told the media that such acts would be an insult to the 6.9 million who had voted the present regime into power. 

According to Ranasinghe, the President could remove him.

SLC letters

Meanwhile, the SLC controversy took a new twist with Opposition Leader Premadasa last week disclosing that SLC President Shammi Silva had sent a letter to the International Cricket Council (ICC) accusing the Sports Ministry of unwarranted interference, asserting that this had led to the ICC’s decision to ban SLC.

The letter, addressed to ICC Chairman Greg Barclay in Dubai on 28 August, has sought the ICC’s intervention and guidance.

Premadasa had said the letter had levelled allegations against the Sports Ministry, claiming that the Director of Sports had unduly influenced cricket tournaments in the country, the Sports Ministry Secretary had requested salaries paid to the office bearers of the SLC, the Sports Minister had influenced the SLC to obtain permission to hold the LPL tournament, the Sports Minister had influenced the drafting of the SLC Constitution, and the draft audit report had been leaked.

He had further noted that the letter had contained one additional point which said the Sports Minister had influenced the SLC to contribute 20% of the SLC funds to the National Sports Fund.

The Opposition Leader had said these allegations had been made on 28 August and another communiqué sent earlier had created the atmosphere for the ICC to impose the ban on Sri Lanka Cricket.

Premadasa had also revealed three more letters written by SLC to the ICC dating 6, 7, and 9 November respectively.

Sports Minister Ranasinghe had also claimed that the SLC President had insisted on a ban in the three letters he had sent to the ICC in November. The Minister had charged that they had been sent without SLC Executive Committee approval and that they also ridiculed the supremacy of Parliament.

Meanwhile, SLC has refuted the recent allegations made by Premadasa in Parliament regarding the communication between SLC and the ICC. SLC had said it was evident that there was a misapprehension and misinterpretation of the contents of the letter under reference and that it was compelled to clarify its position on the said matter.

“SLC, as a Full Member of the ICC, is duty-bound and obliged to adhere to the member obligations envisaged in the Articles of Association of the ICC. In doing so SLC is further obliged to keep the ICC informed of any difficulty and/or difficulties of adhering to such obligations,” it noted. 

Threatening Roshan

Ranasinghe meanwhile has claimed that he has received threats from SLC President Silva and National Sports Council Director Sudath Chandrasekara in a new turn of events between the two parties.

The Sports Minister made these observations during a special media conference held in Colombo, adding that he has already complained to the CID about these threats due to the current crisis between the two parties regarding the cricket administration in Sri Lanka.

Ranasinghe had claimed that was the first time in the political history of this country that a Cabinet minister had been threatened. However, Chandrasekara immediately refuted the allegation levelled by Ranasinghe, claiming that he had never threatened the Minister.

PSC for cricket

Amidst the escalating SLC saga, several Opposition MPs have decided to hand over a motion to Speaker Abeywardana, calling for the appointment of a PSC to probe the ongoing cricket crisis.

The motion has been backed by a group of dissident SLPP MPs while the main Opposition SJB had claimed that appointing a PSC could be an effort to sweep the issue under the carpet. 

However, the Parliamentary Affairs Select Committee has agreed to form a special select committee co-chaired by both Government and Opposition representatives to probe irregularities in SLC.

Focus on Bandara

The whole cricket saga, which dealt a blow even to the parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and its Chairperson Prof. Ranjith Bandara, last week resulted in Bandara having to refute allegations of sexual harassment involving a female Parliament staff member.

Bandara told Parliament on Monday (20) that SJB MP Hesha Withanage had accused him of having sexually harassed a female Parliament staffer serving as a secretary and that it was a false allegation. Bandara had further requested the Speaker to bring the matter before the Parliamentary Privileges Committee to be discussed. 

“If I am found guilty of the allegation, I will resign from my parliamentary seat. However, if the allegation is proven false, MP Hesha Withanage must be punished for violating my parliamentary privileges,” he had added.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Premadasa had raised concerns over Bandara presiding over COPE meetings related to SLC due to a conflict of interest. Premadasa had claimed that a private campus headed by Bandara had been involved in providing services to SLC and had questioned the legality of such persons heading COPE. He had also called for a transparent report on the transactions between the SLC and Bandara. 

Bandara, however, had denied the allegations, stating that he would resign from his parliamentary seat if it could be proven that he had obtained money from any of the institutions that had been investigated by the COPE under his chairmanship.

New chair for SLC probe

Speaker Abeywardana, after cancelling COPE meetings over Bandara’s controversies, has said that the decision on the committee’s chair was up to the members of the committee. 

However, parliamentary party leaders had last week discussed and agreed that the COPE meetings probing the operations of SLC should be chaired by another member of the committee.

Party leaders had discussed that, given the controversies that had come forward with regard to Bandara and his alleged relationship with SLC, it would be best for the COPE meetings on SLC to be chaired by another member. Speaker Abeywardana meanwhile had noted that a final decision on the matter could only be reached following a discussion with COPE members. 

Meanwhile, Speaker Abeywardana last week announced that chairpersons of all committees should seek his permission to get outsiders to participate in meetings. “I have received complaints about the participation of outsiders in committee meetings,” the Speaker has said, while also requesting committee chairpersons not to use official letterheads for personal use.

SB’s proposal

SLPP Parliamentarian S.B. Dissanayake, who has been vying for a spot in President Wickremesinghe’s Cabinet, has last week stated that he will resolve issues surrounding SLC within one week in consultation with the ICC if he were to be assigned the Sports portfolio.

Dissanayake had stated that the Sports Ministry and SLC should cooperate to resolve their issues. According to reports, Dissanayake has made these comments, throwing out in the open his interest in taking over the Sports portfolio following media reports that Ranasinghe is to be replaced during the next Cabinet reshuffle.

Letter to Sajith

Meanwhile, a group of main Opposition SJB parliamentarians have written to Opposition and SJB Leader Premadasa, calling for immediate changes to be carried out in the party in preparation for its victory at future elections.

It is learnt that a group of 18 MPs had handed over this request following a discussion with SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara. It is yet unclear whether Madduma Bandara has handed over the letter to Premadasa.

The group of MPs has proposed that a special committee be appointed to advise the Party Leader and other seniors on taking decisions with regard to national issues.

IGP conundrum continues

The controversy surrounding the Inspector General of Police (IGP) continues, with the Constitutional Council (CC) not approving the fourth service extension granted by President Wickremesinghe to IGP C.D. Wickramaratne.

The last three-week service extension granted by the President is now nearing an end, with Wickremesinghe expected to grant another service extension to Wickramaratne despite the Constitutional Council’s stance of not approving further service extensions for the incumbent IGP.

It is learnt that the Constitutional Council had been divided, with the majority of members declining to approve Wickramaratne’s reappointment to the post.

President Wickremesinghe had refrained from making a permanent appointment to the post of IGP since March this year due to the differences of opinion he has with Public Security Minister Tiran Alles on the Police officer to be appointed as the country’s next IGP.

It is learnt that Alles is backing the appointment of Senior Deputy Inspector General (SDIG) Deshabandu Tennakoon while the President is hesitant to proceed with it due to various allegations and objections that have been levelled against Tennakoon.

RW clashes with CC

The Constitutional Council’s division over approving the President’s service extensions granted to Wickramaratne resulted in President Wickremesinghe last week clashing with the council.

The President, during a speech in Parliament, called for a PSC to probe the actions of the Constitutional Council. The PSC will probe the delays of the council in approving names to high posts in Sri Lanka as it appears that certain members are sabotaging its functions, the President had said.

He had also accused certain members of the Constitutional Council of sabotage. 

Nevertheless, the President’s claims about the Constitutional Council have gathered much criticism from civil society.


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