poll could set back peace move
Business leaders and analysts have warned that a
fresh round of parliamentary elections could set back the peace process
and threaten an economic recovery by weakening business confidence.
Ranil Wickremesinghe reportedly told ministers last week that the
UNP government may move to overcome its bitter dispute with President
Chandrika Kumaratunga by dissolving parliament and increasing its
majority through new elections.
be a major setback to the peace process," said Kethish Loganathan,
analyst at the Centre for Policy Alternatives.
confirm the LTTE's assessment of the political situation, that the
parties in the south are not ready for bilateral consensus on the
the deputy chairman of John Keells Holdings and chairman of the
business community's pro-peace lobby group, SriLankaFirst, said:
"For the peace process an election is not desirable at this
stage. It will put talks on hold and delay any positive outcomes
from the talks."
It is understood
the government could achieve a two-thirds majority if it won about
20 new seats, paving the way for constitutional reforms to strip
the president of some of her executive powers, particularly the
power to dissolve parliament.
resounding victory in the December 2001 poll, its subsequent success
in local government elections and its progress with the peace process
has lead most observers to predict that it would increase its majority
if new elections were called.
But it is not
clear what effect the continuing economic crisis - and in particular
the rising cost of living - might have on voters.
take for granted that the UNP would hold onto its seats," Loganathan
The peace process
has been an important driver of improving business confidence this
year, underpinning a strong sharemarket.
There is also
hope that the extensive reform agenda proposed by the pro-business
UNP government should help spark an economic recovery.
an economist at Asia Securities, said elections could temporarily
slow down the reform agenda, under which about 30 bills are set
to be introduced to parliament.
would have probably some impact [on business confidence] in the
short term but the positive impact may be felt in the longer term
if the ruling party was returned to power with a much stronger majority,"
businessman said elections would create uncertainty, harming business
there was more stability after the elections, then that would be
a good thing," he said.
vice president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry,
said the government had to start delivering on its promises. Fresh
elections were not the answer, he said, particularly as they would
come so soon after presidential elections in 2000 and parliamentary
elections in 2000 and 2001.
will go from bad to worse [if an election is called]," he said.
will go down. It is not good for investor confidence having elections
from donors like the International Monetary Fund, the UNP government
has committed itself to reigning in spending.
campaigns often threaten this sort of fiscal restraint - as politicians
offer incentives to the electorate to win votes - it is hoped the
government's strong position should make new spending promises unnecessary.
hotel: Foreigners pay less than locals
tourism boom on the east coast has forced a Trincomalee hotel owner
to do the unthinkable: charging locals more than foreigners. Rajan
Pragash, who runs the French Garden hostel (see pic) just north
of Trincomalee, has raised his room rate for local tourists to Rs.
750 a night, while foreigners pay just Rs. 500 to Rs. 600. "My
name is in the guidebook," Pragash said, acknowledging the
importance of preserving his reputation with the tourist guides
that dictate the movements of so many foreign independent travellers.
He is also
only allowing locals to stay on the weekends.
has been inundated with local tourists from the south of the country
ever since travel restrictions to the area were lifted in accordance
with the government's ceasefire agreement with the LTTE. Officials
said about 10,000 people were believed to have travelled to the
city for the July Poya weekend, with many Buddhist pilgrims visiting
the temples at Thiriyaya and Seruwila.
of younger people were also making the trip on normal weekends with
most going to the Kinniya hot springs and Nilaveli beach.
natural beauty, Trincomalee has never reached its potential as a
tourism destination because of the conflict in the north and east.
The sudden influx of visitors is too much for the city's limited
accommodation, and operators like Pragash - who have tended to cater
to foreigner travellers and international aid workers - are now
in demand from domestic tourists. By charging locals more than foreigners,
Pragash has turned an established Sri Lankan tourism practice on
its head. Most hotels and resorts in the country offer locals considerably
lower rates than international tourists, while foreigners visiting
tourism attractions also face much higher levies. Picture by Trincomalee
correspondent Sinniah Gurunathan.
is the CEO?
Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) employees walk into work on Monday they
may still not know the identity of their chief executive.
the expiration of SLT's five-year management agreement with Japan's
NTT Communications but up to Friday most employees didn't know who
would occupy the CEO's chair.
owns a 35 percent stake in SLT, has run the telecommunications company
since the commencement of the management agreement on August 5,
1997. Under a separate agreement with the company's only other shareholder,
the Sri Lankan government, NTT also appoints SLT's chief executive.
the current CEO, was believed to be in Japan over the weekend but
is expected to be back by Monday, when chairman Thilanga Sumathipala
will reveal whether Anan will remain in the position or will be
replaced by another NTT appointee.
plans to sell a further 15 percent stake in SLT in October.
On a recent
visit to Malaysia, Board of Investment chairman Arjuna Mahendran
said a Malaysian telecommunications company was among several foreign
companies interested in buying the latest tranche.
NTT paid $225
million in 1997 for the stake, but any further initial public offerings
(IPOs) have since been repeatedly delayed, thanks to the country's
economic crisis and the falling values of telecommunications companies
around the world.
to expand rubber forest
industry has proposed an ambitious project to expand the area under
cultivation with new plantings in the southern region to ensure
enough latex is available to local industries.
Under the proposal
by the Rubber Cluster, an informal grouping of all stakeholders
in the industry, at least 30,000 hectares in the Moneragala district
will be planted with high yielding clones.
a huge project to expand the rubber tree forest," a Rubber
Cluster official said. The new plantings will be in the semi-dry
zone so that tapping is not interrupted by rain.
The new project,
estimated to cost about $ 18 million, is required to revive rubber
production in the island, which has fallen drastically because most
trees are old and estate owners have stopped tapping latex owing
to poor prices.
fell to 86,000 tonnes last year while yields have been falling and
the cost of production rising in recent years. The area under rubber
cultivation now is around 157,000 hectares.
Under the new
initiative, the industry expects to produce 60,000 tonnes at a targeted
yield of 2,000 kg a hectare a year with new high yielding clones.
yield about 150,000 tonnes of latex, which is considered the base
load volume required to sustain the local rubber industry as a competitive
industry, officials said. The project is part of a Cluster initiative
to "reposition latex crepe" and concentrate on making
more value-added products under a strategy to develop the rubber
industry as a "thrust industry", they said.
consumer protection outfit
Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading Authority (CAFTA) will have wide
powers to investigate anti-competitive practices and abuse of dominant
market position by Sri Lankan companies, according to Trade Ministry
which will replace the Fair Trading Commission and the Internal
Trade Department whose employees would be absorbed into the new
outfit, combines consumer protection and market regulation of internal
It will also
protect traders and manufacturers against unfair trade practices
and promote effective competition.
The CAFTA would
be able to control and eliminate restrictive arrangements among
enterprises with regard to prices, acquisition and abuse of dominant
position in the market and any restrictions on competition adversely
affecting the trade.
It would have
powers to investigate the existence of monopolies, mergers between
companies and anti-competitive practices.
The CAFTA bill
provides for the setting up of a council consisting of professionals
to investigate cases where goods or services are sold at excessive
prices. Members of the public can complain to the council.
The bill gives
powers to the minister to declare any article or service that is
considered essential to the life of the community as a "specified
No trader or
manufacturer will be allowed to increase the prices of such goods
or services without the authority's approval.
The CAFTA would
also be able to issue directions to manufacturers or traders in
respect of labelling, price marking, packing and sale as well as
determine standards and specifications relating to manufacture,
storage, transport and sale of goods.
SL to jointly woo the West
the backwaters of Kerala to the sunny beaches of Sri Lanka, the
two regions are hoping to piggyback on each others' attractions
to jointly draw hordes of Western tourists.
In an ambitious
effort, government officials, and tourism and travel trade executives
from Kerala and Sri Lanka meet in Colombo on August 28-29 with hopes
of formulating a joint marketing plan to sell the benefits of visiting
these two regions to the Western world. The Maldives is also to
be brought into the picture in a tripartite tourism promotion.
regions have many similarities and ideally we should exploit this
for a joint marketing exercise," said Hotel Taj Samudra General
Manager Praveen Nair, the prime mover of this project.
Nair, who took
up the Colombo posting some three months ago and before that was
based for two years in the Taj group in Kerala, sees a huge potential
in joint marketing the two regions plus the Maldives. While Western
travellers spend about seven days in Kerala, one option is to offer
a 12-14 day-trip starting in Colombo and proceed to Kerala.
While the Taj
Samudra is holding a Kerala food festival from August 24 to September
1, official delegations from Kerala and Sri Lanka will meet in between
at the Taj Samudra. The 35-strong Kerala delegation is led by State
Transport Minister K.V. Thomas and includes Tourism Secretary N.
Balakrishnan, Tourism director Alkesh Sharma and travel trade representatives.
delegation is expected to be led by Tourism Minister Gamini Lokuge.
On day one of the meeting, Kerala will make a presentation on what
is has to offer to the Western world followed by day two with the
Sri Lanka presentation. Both sides will then try to work out a joint
'The Sri Lanka
Tourism Board is also positive about this meeting," Nair said
adding that the food festival will contain all the Kerala cuisine
that is famous across the world.
inclusive of exponents of the Klari Pyte, a traditional form of
martial arts from which emerged the more popular Karate, will complete
the entertainment sector of the major promotion campaign.
Indian state and Sri Lanka have together made great strides in the
social sphere. Kerala has the lowest birth rate in India, one of
the best healthcare systems in the country and 99 percent of its
people are literate. It is the only state in India that has more
women and men. Some 80 percent of Indians in the Middle East are
Keralites while amongst Indians in the West the largest number of
professionals come from Kerala.
Nair, an accountant
cum lawyer who has worked in hotels in India and Europe in a career
spanning 20 years, says he is buoyant and optimistic about the tourism
industry in Sri Lanka particularly after hopes of peace. In the
past three months, hotel room rates have risen by $3 to $4 while
occupancies are also up.