IMF egg starts to hatch but is it too early to count the chickens?View(s):
The President made a welcome departure from being the habitual harbinger of bad news to become the herald of approaching good times when he told Parliament this week that the IMF egg was beginning to hatch.
Making a special statement on Wednesday, the President announced that Lanka had received the all-important financial assurance from China’s Exim Bank on Monday night. “That same night,” he said, “I, and the Governor of the Central Bank, signed the letter of agreement and forwarded it to the IMF. Now our duties are done. I hope that before the end of this month, the IMF will do its duty.”
But that wasn’t all he hoped. “After we get the IMF approval, we will receive the first round of money from the World Bank and ADB,” he added.
Certainly, the long-awaited breakthrough to unlock IMF’s bailout package seems to have finally happened. China appears to have come down from her intransigence and forwarded assurances, prima facie acceptable.
Evidence that things were on the right track came on Wednesday when IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva welcomed the progress the Lankan authorities had made in “taking decisive policy actions and obtaining financing assurances from all their major creditors, including China, India and the Paris Club.”
It is certainly to the credit of President Ranil Wickremesinghe that he had demonstrated the political resolve necessary to impose the stringent economic measures as demanded by IMF terms and conditions whilst simultaneously securing the financial assurances from creditors, acceptable to the IMF Board.
But while the IMF’s Easter egg looks certain to hatch as scheduled on March 20th, is it too early for Lanka to count the chickens yet?
The challenge that awaits the President as he crosses the burning Caucasian bridge with trembling child in hand, is to delicately balance his risky high-wire act between economic reforms and democratic rights of the people.
Last week, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations urged the Lankan government to hold its local government elections without delay. Now that the phantom March 9 poll has found, after a Supreme Court ruling, a new date on April 25, it should be held without a trace of procrastination. It will be one less justifiable cause to protest. With IMF approval almost in the bag, the President asked the opposition parties to join efforts to “stabilise the economy”. He said: “I am asking you if you are ready or not.”
It is a request no responsible opposition party can or should refuse to consider. The IMF bailout doesn’t mean Lanka will be out of the woods. Fitch Solutions predict that the rupee, though the best-performing world currency so far this year, will take a dive and sink to a new low of 390 per dollar by December. Doubts have been cast whether Lanka can stay on course with IMF’s programme.
Disruptions to the nation’s economic life due to political protests for nothing else but spurious political reasons and dubious gains will only serve to aggravate the challenges that the nation must face for an early recovery and make it more distant its prospects. That doesn’t mean that the opposition parties should sheath their swords and bow out of the stage. Certainly not. They should draw their swords when necessary to attack and defend against human rights violations wherever found.
The President, on his part, must show his bona fides by exercising his constitutional power under Article 33 ‘to ensure the creation of proper conditions for the conduct of free and fair elections’ and hold scheduled elections sans delay. Furthermore, he should keep his promise to enact suitable laws to bring to the bar of justice those guilty of corruption. Else, even the IMF bailout billions will be at risk.
Lanka has been given a second chance to keep her tryst with destiny and realise her true promise. It will be foolish and a shame to squander it. There may never be a next time. The world doesn’t owe us a living and it will be unwise to presume that it does.
Hell hath no fury like a woman outraged by filth
Rohini lashes Education Minister Susil’s foul mouth
On February 24, SJB MP Rohini Kumari Kavirathna found herself the target of a filthy verbal abuse in Parliament hurled by the Leader of the House, SLPP Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha.
The attack came after she had asked the Education Minister of the condition of two female teachers who had been assaulted and arrested while attending a meeting regarding teacher transfers at the Education Ministry.
What she got from the Education Minister was an outburst of filthy verbal abuse. Susil Premajayantha thereby joined Parliament’s Hall of Infamy, reserved for those who scavenge the literary gutter to give an answer with the choicest expletive on offer. He now joins the ranks of SLPP MP Tissa Kuttiarachchi who shocked the House in November 2021 when he used a double-meaning vulgar reference to women.
Though warned by the Speaker, Tissa got away with his filthy double entendre. For Education Minister Susil, with his direct use of raw Sinhala filth in the Mariyakade vernacular, there was no excuse nor escape. Worse, he said it twice. The MPs in the Chamber heard it broadcast live. So did the schoolchildren hear it in the visitors’ gallery. As did the nation on TV news that night.
It was, no doubt, an indecorous and despicable form of behaviour that the Education Minister, Susil Premajayantha, displayed in the House two weeks ago. It was lewd, it was crude, it debased the very core of femininity. It was vulgar. It could have been expected from the likes of Tissa Kuttiarachchi but not from one nearly 70 and steeped in education, so prim and so proper in countenance.
In 2019, Susil left his SLFP origins to join the Gota wave but was left a disappointed man when the plum portfolio of education was denied him. Instead, Gotabaya had relegated him to the junior post of State Minister of Educational Reforms.
On January 4, last year, he was unceremoniously sacked by President Gotabaya. He had got tired of Susil’s incessant sulkings from the parliamentary backbenches and his veiled attacks on the government. When the marching orders came, Susil put a brave face and told reporters:
“It is a blessing in disguise. I have been removed as I spoke on the high cost of living. I was asked by a journalist on vegetable prices and I said the Government’s agriculture policy has been a failure. This is why I was removed. I only spoke on behalf of the people.”
For some reason, best known to himself, he had not resigned from his second-tier, B team ministership, which would certainly have been the more honourable course, but had waited — like the other three stooges, Wimal, Udaya and Vasu — to be kicked out.
But if he had harboured a wish to be martyred at the onset of the anti Gota wave in January, by speaking on behalf of the people, it was short-lived. For at the height of the anti Gota tidal wave in May, which had swept even Mahinda Rajapaksa from his seat of prime ministerial power, Susil rushed to embrace his despised leader Gota’s offer to swear him in on May 22 as Cabinet Minister of Education. His three-month martyrdom had been for a Cabinet post, not on behalf of the people.
His descent to the sewers of filth two weeks ago to attack Rohini Kavirathna was just another self-inflicted blow on his already mangled credibility.
On February 27, an enraged Rohini Kumari Kavirathna – the 52-year-old widow of Matale’s former UNP MP Sanjeeva Kavirathna, who died at the age of 44 of a heart attack — formerly requested the Speaker to take disciplinary action against Education Minister Susil for using obscene language against her during a Parliamentary debate.
She claimed his comments have been shared on various platforms and have affected her public image as a mother and a female. She questioned if it was morally right for the Minister of Education to address her in such a manner when she was raising a matter of concern in Parliament as a woman and a teacher.
Following this request, Education Minister Susil thought it fit to break his week-long silence and to, finally, throw in the towel. On Tuesday, prompted, perhaps, by the President’s repeated call for more women in Parliament, Susil Premajayantha publicly apologised in Parliament to Ms. Kavirathna.
He said: “I would like to mention with utmost respect that I am extremely sorry if anything hurtful to Kavirathna was read during my speech in Parliament on February 24. I mention that it was not something which was targeted at her.”
But hell hath no fury like Rohini Kavirathna outraged after being lambasted in raw Sinhala filth. She was no Portia to whom mercy was twice blessed or fell from above unstrained. She was in no mood to accept Susil’s ‘sorry ’after being wounded below the midriff.
The only faint redeeming streak that Susil showed on Tuesday was his gentlemanly inclination to admit his error and accept the truth of the charge. But if Education Minister Susil had thought he could get off the hook merely with an apology, he couldn’t have been more wrong.
There was no forgiveness dispensed for the repentant sinner. His belated ‘sorry’ — coming eleven days after the offence was committed — simply was not enough to wash away his verbal transgression.
Rohini Kavirathna first directed a question at the Speaker. She asked him: “My privilege-related question has been submitted by the Opposition Leader’s office, but it has been removed from today’s agenda. I have a suspicion that you waited until he made this statement, to remove it.
“I want to ask the Speaker and the Prime Minister whether they endorse the words made by the Leader of the House, Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha on the 24th in this supreme assembly. Has it been taken off the Hansard?
“If not, whether this word, which is found in Ven. Soratha Thera’s Sumangala dictionary – which I cannot say since I am not prepared to fall into that category – or such words can be used in Parliament hereafter? Because tomorrow is Women’s Day. All of you will be commemorating the day. But when a woman MP talks in Parliament the personal core of her womanhood is dragged in and insulted. I do not know whether Susil Premajayantha did his doctoral thesis in female genitals?”
The Speaker may duly expunge the offensive word from the Parliamentary Hansard. But it will, for Susil Premajayantha, forever remain an indelible blot of shame on his moral CV when the coarser nature gleamed through the educated veneer.
Mahinda ‘no show’ on April 25 election day
South Korean summit more important than being here during polls
How orphaned SLPP supporters must feel to learn that come next month their most revered leader Mahinda Rajapaksa will not be amongst them to taste the sweet grapes of victory on April 25 election day, which they will win hands down as predicted by their party Secretary Sagala Kariyawasam.
Apparently, their leader finds some summit meeting in South Korea far more interesting than condoling with party candidates who had lost their deposits; and to be seen hobnobbing with defeat. It would do irreparable damage to his much-hyped brand image of success.
Not even 24 hours after the Election Commission had announced April 25 as the new date for the postponed local government polls, the former president’s lawyers appeared on Wednesday morn before the Colombo Fort Magistrate to request their client be permitted to travel to South Korea between April 20 and 30.
The Magistrate obliged and lifted the travel ban the court had earlier imposed on former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP Namal Rajapaksa and 15 others, preventing them from leaving the country. It was in connection with the mob attack at Temple Trees and Galle Face on May 9 last year.
It will certainly come as a shock to his party supporters that Mahinda will be missing in action on election day. But the old veteran of many election outcomes would have known that sometimes discretion can be the better part of valour. And a quick exit from the scene can work wonders.
Even if it means deserting his troops in mid-battle. And fleeing the country to save face.
Thought on Women’s Day
Last week the Sunday Times published an appreciation written by former Secretary General of Parliament Nihal Seneviratne of Betty Boothroyd, Britain’s first female Speaker, who died on February 27, aged 93.
Recalling his friendship with Baroness Betty, who kept order in the House of Commons with wit and charm, Seneviratne writes of the time she was contesting for the post of Speaker. Being a Labour MP, she needed only 30 Tory votes to win. She won 72. Victorious Betty later explained why she had refused to seek the feminist vote. She said: “
Isn’t that an inspirational saying worth treasuring by all aspiring women contestants, lining up for a slot in the mandatory 25 percent female quota list at future elections? That the privilege of gender cannot hold a candle to inherent merit?
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