community says crisis erodes confidence
Sri Lanka's business community
last week expressed concern over political uncertainty after President
Chandrika Kumaratunga triggered a virtual mini coup, sacking three
key ministers and declaring a state of emergency.
Sunday Times FT spoke to a cross section of business leaders in
Colombo, Jaffna and Trincomalee with many saying the only hope for
the country was for the two parties to get together and lay a firm
foundation for peace, development and prosperity.
interviews conducted by reporters Ruwanthi de Silva in Colombo and
S. Gurunathan in Trincomalee on Thursday and Friday came as fresh
developments occurred on Friday when the president reversed the
state of emergency and also delayed an address to the nation.
developments unfolded as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe returned
from a visit to the US to a tumultuous welcome from thousands of
green-clad supporters at the Katunayake airport. Here are the interviews
and other stories connected to the crisis:
U.S. embassy contradicts 'GLspeak' on FTA
The United States embassy last week denied a claim by cabinet spokesman
G.L. Peiris that the crisis triggered by President Chandrika Kumaratunga's
political moves had scuttled plans to clinch a free trade deal during
the Prime Minister's visit to Washington.
last week that the United States had delayed finalising a free trade
agreement with Sri Lanka during PM's visit because of the island's
political crisis. Wickremesinghe, who met with President George
Bush on Wednesday, was keen to finalise the trade pact with the
United States, which is the island's largest trading partner, Peiris
said. "The US was ready to finalise the agreement during the
Prime Minister's visit and make an announcement when the Prime Minister
was in Washington," Peiris told reporters.
U.S. has decided it would not be possible to take this final step
and they will wait for the parliament to assert full authority".
However, a U.S. embassy official on Thursday was quoted by news
agencies as playing down Peiris' claim. "That is just not true,
there has been no decision on going ahead with that. There are a
lot of domestic considerations to look at," the embassy official
Apparel Exporters Association
Tully Cooray - Secretary General, Joint Apparel Exporters Association:
"It is still too early to detect any set backs in the apparel
industry. Naturally, due to the uncertainty economic growth will
slow down, and the normal cyclical ups and downs of the stock market
will be more apparent. We were waiting for the budget but now there
is a crisis and it has to be resolved first. Hopefully the two parties
will come together.”
completely unexpected - IPS economist
Dr Dushni Weerakoon, senior fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies:
"The economy will be adversely affected. The actual impact
depends on how long the uncertainty prevails and what the next step
is going to be.
What has taken
place brings to the surface the political uncertainty that was present
for the past two years. Confidence was picking up but that's going
to level off for both local and foreign investors with the latest
crisis. In the tourism industry, we are heading for the peak period
and arrivals could be adversely affected. But in the longer term
economic growth depends on how the political situation works out
and whether we have elections, which will have fiscal implications
- there will be a period of 3-4 months in which the work programmes
on the economy will all come to a standstill more or less.
That is not
a very healthy situation for the economy. The longer the uncertainty
remains the more harmful it is likely to be in terms of sustaining
the growth momentum. Much of the foreign aid was tied to progress
in the peace process - so some bilateral aid might be held off if
the crisis is not resolved.
This is a period
of uncertainty but it was not completely unanticipated - there was
always the possibility of some kind of political issue coming up
given the differences between the two main parties."
the country first, pleads biz peace group
Sri Lanka first, the business peace group that emerged after the
LTTE's disastrous attacks on the Katunayake airport, said in a statement
it was extremely concerned about the current political developments.
These developments should not endanger the peace process, just as
the country is beginning to show signs of recovery, with the economy
looking up, it said.
statement is as follows:
"We recognize that issues and concerns will continue to surface
on the road to peace. However, political differences should never
outweigh national interests. We urge the President and the Prime
Minister and all political leaders to put the country ahead of their
party agendas, and work for the greater good of our nation. "The
people of Sri Lanka have given a mandate for peace and it is the
bounden duty of our political leaders to respect the wishes of its
ago peace loving Sri Lankans expressed their solidarity for peace
by forming human chains across the Island. We have traversed a long
distance since then. There is an economic resurgence, endorsements
from the international community and a new hope and optimism, all
of which has been possible due to the peace process. We need to
safeguard these positive developments. Sri Lanka First stood steadfastly
for peace then and we stand steadfastly for peace now. Please put
the country first! "
industry official says ..
Kumar Mallimarachchi, Managing Director, Associated Hotels Company
and Past President Tourist Hotels Association: "This is a constitutional
problem and should not affect the day-to-day problems.
As long as there
is no violence it will not affect tourism. I haven't got any cancellations.
We were set to have a good winter with the tourist bookings being
high, and I think this will remain. Cohabitation is possible and
if it happens it will be a good thing.
I think if the
business community comes together, they can bring the two parties
together as they are the people who fund both parties. Sri Lankans
should go about their business as usual. It is important that sanity