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Listen to the Religious leaders
Published Date: 20/02/2018 (Tuesday)

Religious leaders, business leaders and the Governor of the Central Bank are among those who have made loud calls for Sri Lanka's fractious politicians to resolve the current crisis surrounding the Government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as soon as possible.

The Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter, of the Siam Nikaya Most Venerable Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thera, has now added his voice to the chorus of calls by asking the parties to form a Government.

He has said that the way forward should be through the formation of a Government by a single party or alliance and wants an end to the Unity Government.

The Mahanayake condemned moves by political parties, leaders of political parties and the Government to retain power or topple the Government calling them a lust for power.

The statement pointed out that the current situation was adversely impacting the economy.

That is precisely what the Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy said last week. He too called for a quick resolution.

Bucking the trend, the Colombo Stock Exchange closed the week last Friday (16), on a positive note, as the benchmark index closed higher with increased foreign buying, despite opening on a negative footing due to the apparent political instability.

The benchmark All Share Price Index (ASPI) on Friday (16), gained 0.16 per cent (10.48 points) to close at 6,563.69 points, while the S&P SL 20, representing the top 20 listed entities gained 0.11 per cent (4.20 points) to close at 3,705.21 points, Ceylon Today reported. The day's turnover reached Rs 737 million, lower than Thursday's (15) Rs 878 million, with 79 winners ahead of 61 losers.

After seeing foreign capital retreating on Thursday, the CSE saw a foreign inflow of Rs 110 million on Friday (16), as foreign purchases amounted to Rs 157 million as against Rs 47 million.

The rupee which was falling all week also saw a recovery on Friday.

The benchmark 'spot' 'held' at Rs 155.00 to the US dollar in two way quotes at Friday's, (16 February) trading compared to its previous day Thursday's close of Rs 154.90/155.10 to the dollar on thin volumes, market sources told this newspaper.

'Nonetheless, the fact that the gap between the 'buy' and 'sell' quotes has since narrowed by Friday is a reflection that stability is returning to the interbank foreign exchange market', they said. Going forward, it may strengthen to the Rs 154.50 level, sources said.

These sources blamed the win for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna at the Local Government Polls for the fall.

But instability and its impact on the exchange rate cannot be a permanent feature, sources said. The rupee fall has bottomed out, they said.

Sri Lanka's politicians have constantly been known for their propensity for power-grabbing.

After the results of the LG polls became known what our Indian neighbours call 'horse trading' began behind the scenes. The term, which means hard bargaining with benefits for both sides, was accompanied by dozens of rumours being spread and plenty of misinformation on Social Media.

Some of those stories made it into the mainstream media as well.

These stories have exacerbated the situation, turning it into a crisis.

What we lacked in the entire period was an individual or group with the credibility to explain the reality of the situation to the nation. Everybody was seen as partisan to one competing political entity or the other.

That is why the statements by the religious leaders are timely and should get a hearing.

What we needed to do, when the Governing coalition got a drubbing at the LG polls, was see how the constitutional process works if this electoral result means that the Government is so unpopular that the leaders must go.

The President has to appoint the person who commands the confidence of Parliament as Prime Minister. Unless he resigns of his own free will, he needs to be defeated by a motion of no-confidence in the House to be removed.

This in itself is a crisis, but the furore that was created by misinformation and fake news caused the impression of a greater instability than was the factual situation.

That is why the investors became nervous and some took their money and fled.

The market stabilizing is probably an indication that investors feel that this might end as a storm in a teacup.

Let's hope so.

Source: Ceylon Today

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