Will Japan agree to reactivate the Monorail project?
Why government MPs opposed to an anti-corruption bill?
The government’s domestic debt restructuring programme was the main topic in the country last week. We have exposed a wealth of information in this regard through our ‘inside politics’ column on our website ‘mawrata.lk’, which no other media has been able to do. Despite the government’s claims, the domestic debt restructuring plan will cause no harm to the banking system, employee provident funds, or trust fund we kept on enlightening the masses with valuable inputs about the extent of the damage domestic restructure plan would bring to the country.
Our ‘inside politics’ column also exposed last week the government’s plan to pass the debt restructuring plan suddenly summoning the parliament and declaring 5 days bank and stock market closure.
Campaign to get Pohottuwa support
Some senior government members were sceptical about Pohottuwa’s reaction to this matter. They were especially concerned about how senior members of the Pohottuwa and Rajapaksa families would react when the opposition highlight the negative impact of this plan on people’s savings funds. Basil Rajapakse dispels this doubt at the very start of it. Not being in the parliament did not hinder him at all he took over the operations to get domestic debt restructure plan to clear the parliament vote previous week itself.
While the move to get Pohottuwa members ‘ok’ in progress , Basil and General Secretary of the party Sagara Kariyawasm summoned a press briefing and expressed that Pohottuwa is in favour of the domestic debt restructuring plan of the government. Through the local debt restructuring proposal, Basil was also able to bring the fragmented bud together.
Debate for two days
Initially government’s plan was to have the debt restructure debate both Saturdays and Sunday. Opposition parties raised their strong objection for this along with Samagi Jana Balawegaya as the main opposition party. Government change the move and decided to have the debate entire Saturday and take the vote on Saturday night itself. Based on this decision list of speakers were prepared and time got extended till 9 pm. SJB MPs called the parliamentary Secretary General Mrs Kushani Rohanadhira and got this confirmed
This state got changed with the protest staged by ‘Pohottuwa’ ministers. It appeared, since Saturday was a holiday many of them indicated to be having a heap of tasks to be performed in their electorates. Some had to attend weddings and other functions and they had to leave Colombo early before nightfall. By 4.30 pm only 108 MPs of the ruling party were present in the parliament. They met their leaders and complaint about their plight that they have to leave before late.
Chiefs in the government ranks realised that if they drag the debate till 9 as planned their ranks would be very much minimal. After a brief discussion they decided to culminate the debate as soon as possible.
By Saturday evening, the opposition leader had learned of the government’s plan. He was also informed that this plan was designed by someone who is not a member of parliament, so Sajith was also curious as to whom this third party was.
Resistance to speaker
However, when the speaker announced that the debate should end by 7.30 pm as decided by the government, opposition started expressing its strong protest against it. At the same time, measures were taken to suspend the live broadcasting of the Parliament. With the suspension of the official live broadcast, SJB Media Spokesman S.M. Marikkar started a live broadcast everything that happens in parliament through his Facebook page using his mobile phone. There were five MPs left to speak, when the speaker unilaterally told the country that he was going to stop the parliamentary debate and hold the polls. Also, through Marikkar’s video, the country got to see how Sajith protested against the Speaker and how SJB MPs came to the middle of the house and protested against the Speaker and the government.
In this way, the government got 122 votes and the opposition got 62 votes in the polling which was held amid opposition’s protest. The most special incident to be seen here was the absence of the three main Rajapaksas of Pohottuwa, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chamal Rajapaksa and Namal Rajapaksa during the polling.
However, after this poll, SJB leaders held a special meeting and discussed how to deal with the speaker’s actions. The SJB MPs, who accused the speaker of having acted in favour of the government on many previous occasions, pointed out that it is a serious situation to conduct the voting without giving the opportunity to five members of the opposition to speak in the parliamentary debate held that day.
Action against Speaker
Accordingly, the MPs also put forward several proposals, emphasizing that strict measures should be taken against the speaker. The first proposal was that all the representatives of the opposition parties representing the Parliament should be called immediately and a general agreement should be reached regarding the action to be taken against the speaker. The MPs also proposed to convene it as an all-party conference of the opposition. The second was the decision to inform all embassy‘s regarding the partisan activities of the speaker. The third proposal was to complain in writing to the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Union regarding the Speaker’s actions.
In this discussion, Sajit and Marikkar took steps to make two special revelations. Sajith said that he had received information that the speaker’s son had also intervened as per the instructions of the executive to end the assembly early in this way. Later, Sajith took steps to announce it in Parliament. Marikkar said that he has received information that a former cabinet minister and a state minister have also taken steps to intervene in this matter. Marikkar had taken steps to mention that in his parliamentary speech last Tuesday.
Here, Sajith arranged to hand over the information received regarding the speaker’s son to two other MPs. Sjb MPs had received information that the President has appointed the son of Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena as the Chairman of the National Lottery Board. In addition to this, Sajith had already come to know a large amount of information about him, and Sajith took steps to entrust the confirmation of that information to both the aforementioned MPs. According to this, the opposition leader has decided to make a special statement regarding speaker’s son in the future.
Jayantha Ketagoda’s bill
Last week, when the anti-corruption bill was being debated in Parliament, Mr. Jayantha Katagoda, a Member of Parliament from Pohottuwa, took steps to submit a private member’s motion. Here, Katagoda said that measures should be taken to give the power to recall the dissolved local government bodies to the Minister of Local Government. Katagoda’s suggestion was confirmed by Sanjeeva Edirimanna, another MP. Katagoda and Sanjeevat are generally considered to be close associates of Basil Rajapaksa, known as the mastermind of Pohottuwa.
Why did Katagoda suddenly present this kind of proposal to the Parliament?
Back bone of Pohottuwa
Local government councillors are the biggest strength for Pothuttuwa. In 2018, after Pohottuwa won the LG election for the first time by winning a majority of local government bodies, Basil continue that victorious journey until he could produce a president from Pohottuwa and forming a two-thirds government. Accordingly, these local councillors and municipal councillors were are the back bone of the bud.
But because the local government bodies have been disbanded and the date of the local government election has not been announced precisely, it has been seen that the power of the pot has diminished in some way. Those former MPs are now in a situation where they cannot do anything.
Even though these former MPs were called to the party headquarters in Battaramulla for special discussions, it was seen that they avoided the discussions by saying that they did not have vehicles and fuel. Because of this, the government once again tried to give power to the former MPs of Pohottuwa through a local government committee, but the government had to withdraw it in the face of strong opposition from the opposition.
Due to this situation, the leaders of the village had realized that some action should be taken to avoid the situation where the former councillors of the village are gradually moving away from the village. The need of the Pohottuwa chiefs was presented to Parliament last week through Katagoda.
Court case on LG election
Apart from this, the judgment regarding the holding of the local government election is to be received in the near future, and many believe that the court will give a very strict decision in this regard. They consider the first signal for that to be the decision taken by the five-member bench to reject the objections raised by the Attorney General and Finance Ministry Secretary Mr. Mahinda Siriwardena on behalf of the government during the trial.
Opposition to the courts again
At the same time, the government, which is very worried, has now planned to postpone the election by a few months because if there is a serious verdict against the government in this case, the election will definitely have to be held. Accordingly, their plan is to somehow cancel the nominations that have been given. However, if it is done, the government will have a few months to start the election process including calling for re-nominations. The government has taken the position that the decision of the case will be to hold the election under the existing nominations, so that by cancelling the nominations, they can create a favourable situation for themselves. But just like last time, the opposition led by SJB has decided to resort to court action against this plan of the government as well.
President’s Indian visit
In the recent past, many people have been seen raising questions about the fact that even though more than a year has passed since the President came to power, he has not visited India yet. Because of this, the heads of the government had taken steps to confirm the visit of the President to India this month after a long effort. According to the unofficial sources of the government, it is said that the President has planned to go to India on the 20th.
Indo – Sri Lanka dialog?
However, while the dates for the President’s visit to India have been announced, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry’s sudden visit to China has now provided topics for various discussions in the diplomatic field. Many people are of the opinion that this incident has succeeded in bringing the Indo-Sri Lankan conflict which was in some way pacifying to the fore in another round.
During that visit to China, Ali Sabry took steps to meet the heads of the Chinese Ministry of Finance as well as the heads of Exim Bank. A certain statement made by Ali Sabry in these discussions has been reported in a way that has managed to create some disturbance among the Indian diplomatic sectors. Here, Ali Sabry said that Sri Lanka is in a passive position in the problems that have arisen between China and India. Through Sabri’s story, some doubts about Sri Lanka have once again arisen in the Indian embassy.
Foreign debt restructure
During the last Rajapakse regime, the Rajapaksa had to face big crises by following a policy favourable to China and almost provoke India. Accordingly, many feel that the current government should be very careful when dealing with China and India. Because by now the foreign debt restructuring topic has come to the fore, the support of India and China has become essential for Sri Lanka.
Although India and countries representing the Paris Group have already agreed to restructure Sri Lanka’s foreign debt, China has yet to officially agree to it. Although Ali Sabry said to the media that the debt restructuring talks were successful after his visit to China, there is still no official statement from the Chinese side, and their position is that if Sri Lanka’s foreign debt is to be restructured, all countries should work from the same position.
China – SL FTA?
However, a serious suspicion can be seen in the diplomatic field that some other matters have been discussed during Ali Sabri’s visit to China in addition to the debt restructuring talks. A rumor is spreading in the diplomatic field that if China does not agree to the debt restructuring, a way to get money from another deal has been discussed. They are of the opinion that a free trade agreement will be signed with China.
On the first of January 2022, an organization named as The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was established with the intervention of countries led by China, and many countries including Australia, Brunei, Darussalam, Singapore, Vietnam, China, Korea, Malaysia, Japan, and the Philippines have signed the related agreement. This can be considered as the biggest trade agreement in the world recently. But India was not involved. Due to China playing a big role in that organization, India was observing it.
Ali Sabry’s China visit
However, China later decided to withdraw from this organization after perceiving it as a subtle agreement designed to pull China back economically. But now Sri Lanka is making some efforts to join this trade agreement, it has been discussed in the diplomatic field. The first attempt was made by former Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage. At that time, Jayanath had gone to Indonesia and started discussions on the matter, and suspicions have arisen in the Indian embassy that the government has worked to speed up this matter through Ali Sabri’s visit to China.
In addition to Sabry, Finance Ministry Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena also suddenly left for China, raising suspicions in India. Also, since the President is scheduled to visit China next October, suspicions have been raised in the Indian ambassadorial field that the purpose of the visit of Saby and Mahinda Siriwardena is to prepare the necessary background for his visit and to prepare the necessary background for the agreements to be signed. Although the date for the President’s visit to India this month has been fixed, it can be seen that it has become somewhat uncertain under this background.
No money was the main trump card used by the government to postpone the local elections. The government told the country that there is no money to hold elections because the country is bankrupt. Even when the Supreme Court ordered the release of the money needed to hold the election, the Treasury officials told the court that there is no money in the treasury to allocate for the election at this time.
The second trump was launched through the government press. Mrs. Ganga Kalpani, the head of the printing press, said at that time that if the money is not given, it will not be possible to print the election papers. She informed the Election Commission about this in writing, and although some money was released for the first round, since the necessary money for the second round was not given, the head of the printing press, Ganga Kalpani, held a press conference and said that if the money is not given, it will not be possible to print the ballot papers.
As done in other elections, the Election Commission requested to print the ballot papers on the promise of giving money after the election, but Ganga Kalpani clearly said that the debt cannot be dealt with and nothing will be done until the money is given. In the end, the government got the opportunity to postpone the local government election based on this strong position of the government printer.
Govt.Printer’s false estimate
However, a strange game played by the Government Press Office to postpone the elections has come to light. It is that the Government Press Officer has submitted to the Election Commission an estimate of more than 9 crore rupees for carrying out the activities related to the election. This estimate was presented on January 25th. In that letter, she has said that this amount is necessary to provide the necessary money to the government suppliers.
A complaint was submitted to the Ministry of Local Government the other day after the information was reported in this regard and the letter requested that an investigation be conducted immediately. After receiving such a complaint, the Secretary of the Ministry should have acted immediately, but what had happened was that the Secretary of the Ministry had informed the Government Press Officer to provide him with the relevant observations.
Service extension to the Printer
Meanwhile, Mrs. Ganga Kalpani, the Chief of the Government Press, was scheduled to retire on June 25. Accordingly, on June 25, she was ready to say goodbye to her position and enter retirement. But the government had already organized the necessary activities to keep her in the service. Accordingly, the government submitted and passed a paper to the cabinet to keep the press chief on contract basis for another year from the date of her retirement. It is not known whether this was done in return for the help in postponing the local government elections.
Recommence of mono rail project
Cabinet Media Spokesperson Mr. Bandula Gunawardena revealed to the country another decision taken by the Cabinet at the time of notification of Cabinet decisions this week. It is said that the cabinet approved the resumption of the light rail project running on poles from Fort to Malabe, which was suspended immediately after President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa came to power. It was further said that negotiations with Japan will be resumed in this regard. Accordingly, the resumption of this Japanese light rail project became a headline on all TV channels and newspapers last Wednesday.
But is this story true? Is Japan ready to start the Colombo Malambe monorail project again?
This monorail project was started under the last good governance government under JICA funds of 2.2 billion dollars. At that time, Japan had given this project to Sri Lanka under a very subsidized loan interest of 0.01% and under very favourable loan terms for Sri Lanka. But immediately after Gotabhaya Rajapaksa came to power, two things happened that angered Japan. The first of these was the withdrawal of Japan from the Colombo harbour east jetty development.
The second was to unilaterally scraping the monorail project, which was being built on these concessional terms, without giving any reasonable reasons. At that time Gota’s government said that an expressway would be built from Peliyagoda to Athurugiri, and that China would provide loans for it, and that the monorail project would be expensive, and therefore the monorail project would be cancelled.
Ranil is keen
However, after Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe came to power after Gota fled, there were reports of the resumption of this monorail project on several occasions. When the President left for Japan to attend the funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Sri Lankan media said that during this trip, the President will hold talks with Japan to restart the monorail project. During that trip, the president had informed Japan to finish the foreign debt restructuring program first, and then to invest in Sri Lanka.
That can be considered. The President had said there that the government is hoping to finish the work by next September.
12 year loan repayment
After that, in the last week of May, the government published the same news and said that the cabinet has approved the resumption of the mono rail project. Minister Prasanna Ranatunga was seen saying this to the media. Prasanna said that the government has decided to renew this project contract completely ignoring the low interest rates and the 12-year loan repayment grace period.
Accordingly, the people of this country immediately believed that Japan has expressed its willingness to restart the monorail project after seeing this news. But an English newspaper had inquired about this from the Japanese Embassy in Sri Lanka, and the Japanese Embassy had informed that the resumption of loan projects and the launch of a new loan project depended on the progress of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt restructuring process.
Statement from Japanese Ambassador
Also, it was noted that Mr. Hideki Mishakoshi, who was the Japanese ambassador to Sri Lanka, made a public statement in this regard for the first time. On March 30th, the Japanese ambassador said while participating in an event organized by the Ceylon Automobile Trade Association, ‘There is no decision on that yet. But it all depends on how the Sri Lankan government is going to reform, and whether Sri Lanka can regain the trust of the Japanese government and business community. I think that it will be considered when those conditions are fulfilled,’ said the Japanese ambassador there.
Japan’s position on Mono rail
That is the Japanese position on Sri Lanka’s monorail project or investment. Accordingly, the cabinet has passed a resolution for the second time to restart the mono rail project, and it is under this background that the media of this country is reporting the news in a big way.
After the crisis in the local debt restructuring poll, the government faced a big crisis in another poll held in Parliament last week. That was during the voting based on the anti-corruption bill that was held last Wednesday. The government faced that crisis when a group of ministers from the government took steps to protest against this anti-corruption bill.
The members of the government had first protested against this bill in a meeting of the ruling party’s group of members chaired by the Prime Minister last Tuesday. At the time of discussion on this draft bill, several ministers including Geetha Kumarasinghe, Madhura Withanage have indicated that many amendments are to be submitted to this draft, and as a result, this bill should not be passed on Thursday and postponed to another day.
Govt. MPs Oppose
The Pohottu councillors pointed out to the Prime Minister that they would not vote for this bill despite their opposition. Accordingly, Dinesh Gunawardena informed the MPs that the debate will be held on Thursday and steps will be taken to adopt it on another day.
An MP from Pehottuwa who came out after the discussion in this regard gave a wonderful comment to his friends. ‘If this bill is passed in this way, I don’t know how many big people of our party will have to go inside’ was what the member said.
However, when this bill was debated on Thursday, it was notable the opposition led by SJB decided to support it. On Thursday, the opposition informed the parliament that despite the many flaws in the draft, SJB is opposed to corruption as a matter of principle and will vote in favour of it. At the same time, a group of Pohottu councillors, who were very upset, were seen taking steps to explain the facts to the heads of the government once again against the bill in the lobby of the ruling party.
Some MPs had strongly pointed out to the heads of the government that the vote on this bill should be postponed, and if they proceed to vote on it without including their amendments, it will not be voted on. In the face of this strong opposition from the MPs, Dinesh called for a discussion on this immediately in his office. Dinesh also invited leader of the house Susil Premajayantha and Justice Minister Vijayadasa Rajapaksa.
In the discussion that started accordingly, as before, the MPs strongly protested that the draft could not be passed on that day and demanded that the passage of the bill be postponed as they wanted to include their amendments. Accordingly, Dinesh and Susil accepted the opposition of the MPs and agreed to postpone the vote on the bill. But the most special event that was seen here was that even though Dinesh and Susil agreed to it, Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapaksa expressed his opinion against it. Vijayadasa said that this bill should be passed today. Accordingly, many people there could understand that Vijayadasa was against it. But as many Pohottu councillors protested, Vijayadasat finally became silent.
However, immediately after the discussion was over, a member of Pohottu who was there took steps to inform the opposition leader Sajith about everything that happened in the discussion. The said MP informed Sajith that the government had decided to postpone the polling of the anti-corruption bill due to the objections of many MPs, and that Vijayadasa Rajapakse was not interested in it.
SJB wanted the vote
Upon receiving this message, Sajith decided to fight for a vote on the anti-corruption bill that day. Accordingly, Sajith strategically sought the opinion of the Minister of Justice Wijayadasa until the government’s opposition to the bill and until Speaker Susil announced that the vote on the bill would be postponed due to the objection.
There, Vijayadasa surprised everyone in the government and said that he had no objection to passing it on the same day. Accordingly, Sajith and the opposition based on Vijayadasa’s speech informed the government that the anti-corruption act should be passed on the same day. In the face of that opposition, the government finally had to pass the anti-corruption bill with the support of the opposition despite the opposition of the Pohottu MPs. However, it was decided to present the necessary amendments on the 19th