Ranil Wickremesinghe, 73, is back as Sri Lankan PM for 6th time amid economic crisis

News Network
May 12, 2022

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Colombo, May 12: Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Sri Lanka's prime minister for the sixth time on Thursday, though the veteran politician has never completed a full term in office.

The 73-year-old's political career appeared to be drawing to a close before this week, when he agreed to helm a unity administration and help steer the South Asian island nation through a crippling economic crisis.

"This is a historic event," Tamil legislator Dharmalingam Sithadthan told AFP in reference to Wickremesinghe's latest return to the top office.

"This shows the desperate situation in our country."

Wickremesinghe is the sole parliamentary representative of the United National Party, a once-powerful political force that was nearly wiped out in Sri Lanka's last elections.

The former lawyer hails from a political family and his uncle Junius Jayewardene served as president for more than a decade.

But Wickremesinghe once told AFP he would have likely pursued a career as a journalist, had the government of the day not nationalised his family's newspaper business in 1973.

He was first appointed premier in 1993 after the assassination of then-president Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was killed in a bomb attack by Tamil Tiger guerrillas during Sri Lanka's decades-long civil war.

Underscoring the dynastic nature of Sri Lanka's politics, Premadasa's son Sajith is the current opposition leader and had also been touted as a possible prime ministerial candidate this week.

Wickremesinghe's first term in office lasted little more than a year.

He returned to power in 2001, earning a reputation for sound economic management after steering the country out of recession.

Conflict with the president saw him sacked before his term was over, and he spent the next decade in the political wilderness.

Wickremasinghe lost two presidential contests and led his party to a string of election defeats, prompting even his own supporters to dub him a "record loser".

He was nonetheless sworn in as prime minister again in 2015 after the election defeat of president Mahinda Rajapaksa after the opposition rallied behind him as a unity candidate against the authoritarian leader.

His "Mr Clean" image was muddied later that year when his administration was rocked by an insider trading scam involving central bank bonds.

A key accused in the multi-million dollar scam was the central bank chief at the time, Arjuna Mahendran, who was Wickremesinghe's schoolmate and choice for the job.

He was accused of cronyism during his tenure and failing to prosecute members of the previous Rajapaksa regime, members of which had been accused of graft, kickbacks and siphoning off public finances.

Political conflict with the powerful Rajapaksa family also threw the country into crisis in 2018, with Mahinda taking over the premiership for six weeks before the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional.

Wickremesinghe returns to office to replace Mahinda Rajapaksa, who resigned on Monday after his supporters attacked anti-government demonstrators, and later had to be rescued from his residence by the military.

He will serve at the pleasure of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mahinda's younger brother, who has fought off calls for his own resignation over the government's mismanagement of the economic crisis.

Wickremesinghe will be taking charge of a bankrupt nation in default of its $51-billion foreign debt and without money to import essential goods.

His status as a pro-West, free-market reformist could smooth bailout negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and foreign creditors.

But he has already warned there will be no quick fix to the nation's unprecedented economic woes.

"The worst is yet to come. We have very high inflation now and hyperinflation is on its way," Wickremesinghe told parliament last week.

"We should start addressing the issues now, we can't put it off any longer," he added. 

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News Network
May 9,2022

New Delhi, May 9: The rupee extended its losses and touched an all-time low of 77.42 against the US dollar in early trade on Monday weighed down by the strength of the American currency in the overseas market and unabated foreign fund outflows.

At the interbank foreign exchange, the rupee opened at 77.17 against the American dollar, then lost ground to quote at 77.42, registering a fall of 52 paise from the last close.

On Friday, the rupee had slumped 55 paise to close at 76.90 against the US dollar.

The Indian rupee opened weaker on Monday against the dollar as weakness in global equities on concerns over economic outlook and rising bond yields weighed on sentiments, said Sriram Iyer, Senior Research Analyst at Reliance Securities.

Forex traders said, risk appetite has weakened amid mounting concerns about inflation that may trigger more aggressive rate hikes by the global central banks.

The dollar index, which gauges the greenback's strength against a basket of six currencies, was trading 0.35 per cent higher at 104.02, tracking rising US yields and fears about higher interest rates.

Moreover, Asian and emerging market peers started weak this Monday morning and will weigh on sentiments.

On the domestic equity market front, the 30-share Sensex was trading 737 points or 1.34 per cent lower at 54,098.58 points, while the broader NSE Nifty declined 220.25 points or 1.34 per cent to 16,191.00 points.

Global oil benchmark Brent crude futures rose 0.14 per cent to USD 112.55 per barrel.

Foreign institutional investors were net sellers in the capital market on Friday, as they offloaded shares worth Rs 5,517.08 crore, as per stock exchange data.

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May 14,2022

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Uudpi, May 14: Thousands of people from all walks of life took part in the ‘Samarasyada Nadige’ (harmony walk) which culminated in ‘Sahabalve Samavesha’ (co existence conference) today evening in the coastal city of Udupi.

The event, organised by the coalition of various progressive and anti-communal groups, saw the participation of religious leaders from all faiths and social activists who send out a message of inter-faith harmony, in the light of recent campaigns against minorities and communal disturbances in the State.

Addressing the massive convention, social activist and Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav lamented that the communal forces have turned Udupi into the epicentre of hatred in India. “However, today’s conference has sent out a message that those who sow the seed of hatred won’t reap the fruit,” he said.  

The organisers expressed concern that communal forces are interfering in private matters such as marriage, food and clothing. “Education is being weaponised to attack harmony. It is our responsibility to ensure that harmony and syncretic cultures are nurtured instead of being dismantled. Therefore, several of us have come together to organize a unity march and a harmony convention in Udupi,” they said.

Earlier, historian Ramachandra Guha said that coastal district with their multiculturalism was a microcosm of Karnataka and it was sad that communal polarisation had taken root. “As a historian I can say that making one religion and language dominate over others will harm the country. We are seeing the visuals from Sri Lanka, a country with great potential that has self-destructed because of Sinhala and Buddhist majoritarianism. We don’t want Karnataka and India to go down that road. This convention will help us restore our strengths which are pluralism, diversity, tolerance and interfaith harmony,” he said. 

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News Network
May 6,2022

Allahabad, May 6: The Allahabad High Court on Friday ruled that delivering the azaan on loudspeakers is not a fundamental right.

The court made this remark while dismissing a petition filed by one Irfan of Budaun, who sought permission to play Azaan using loudspeakers in the Noori Masjid.

"The law has now been settled that use of loudspeaker from mosque is not a fundamental right. Ever otherwise a cogent reason has been assigned in the impugned order. Accordingly, we find that the present petition is patently misconceived, hence the same is dismissed," said the court.

The court further said that although azaan is an integral part of Islam, it stated that delivering it through loudspeakers is not a part of the religion.

"Azaan is an integral part of Islam, but giving it through loudspeakers is not a part of Islam," a bench headed by Justice BK Vidla and Justice Vikas said.

Ruling on the petition, a two-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court had noted that there have been previous instances where courts have ruled that the call for prayer on a loudspeaker is not a fundamental right.

Azaan is the Islamic call to prayers which is given five times at prescribed times of the day. A muezzin is a person who proclaims the call to the daily prayer five times a day at a mosque.

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