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Sri Lanka On The Brink of ‘Economic Anarchy’

Sri Lanka will have issues on accessing government money if the stalemate is not resolved by the end of the year.

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Sri Lanka
Members of a civil society group attend a silent protest to demand democracy, after Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed prime minister when President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed Ranil Wickremesinghe, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Two men each claim to be the prime minister. Lawmakers are exchanging blows in Parliament. A former finance minister says Sri Lanka is on the brink of an “economic anarchy.”

Welcome to Sri Lanka, where the political crisis is getting worse by the week.

The trouble started when President Maithripala Sirisena, fed up with disagreements with his prime minister over money, an alleged conspiracy plot and unresolved issues of wartime crimes against civilians, fired Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet and replaced them with a government headed by a popular former strongman, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

But lawmakers balked and twice passed a no-confidence motion. Sirisena, however, refuses to accept that his choice of prime minister has been defeated.

Sri Lanka, parliament, political
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena waves to supporters during a rally outside the parliamentary complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Sirisena government can’t be legal

Jehan Perera, head of the local analyst group National Peace Council, said that the government appointed by the president can’t be called legal because Sirisena had not sought a parliamentary vote when he dismissed Wickremesinghe.

“It can be called illegitimate because provisions for a confidence vote in Parliament are being blocked by the president’s own party through their riotous behavior,” Perera said, referring to a brawl last week that was followed by another pandemonium in the chamber when Rajapaksa loyalists refused to let the speaker conduct proceedings.

Wickremesinghe says his dismissal is invalid because he still holds a majority in the 225-member Parliament. The dismissal is also disputed because of the latest constitutional change, which lawyers say has taken away presidential powers to dismiss the prime minister.

sri lanka, parliament
Sri Lankan former President Mahinda Rajapakse addresses journalists at his residence in Colombo, Sept. 22, 2018. Rajapakse has been appointed the Sri Lanka’s new prime minister. VOA

Life goes on

Despite all the drama and two rival prime ministers, life hasn’t collapsed, thanks to the efficient bureaucracy that keeps the wheels of administration turning.

Even though there is no Cabinet recognized by Parliament, and despite warnings by Wickremesinghe supporters that state officials should not take orders from an “illegal government” of Rajapaksa, bureaucrats continue to work with the president who is the chief executive and the ministers appointed by him, officials said on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

Budget dilemma looms

However, decisions regarding new projects or purchases involving large sums of money are on hold.

The absence of a recognized government has delayed the budget for 2019. Mangala Samaraweera, who was finance minister in Wickremesinghe’s Cabinet, said that there will be no legal way of spending money in the coming year without a parliament-approved budget.

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Sri Lanka’s ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe reacts during a news conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, VOA

Sri Lanka’s Constitution says that control over public finances lies with Parliament and no funds can be released without a warrant signed by the finance minister and approved by the legislature. That means all government payments starting from January can be deemed illegal, Samaraweera says.

Sri Lanka is on the brink of an “economic anarchy and chaos as never experienced before.”

“The cavalier and irresponsible actions of the president … based on personal animosities and precipitating a series of illegal acts, places at risk Sri Lanka’s ability to meet its immediate debt obligations,” he said.

Sri Lanka has to repay $1 billion of its foreign loans in early January, which is also in the prerogative of Parliament to approve.

Sri lanka
Sri Lanka’s former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, front left, is sworn in as prime minister before President Maithripala Sirisena in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Wickremesinghe’s lawmakers have presented a motion to the speaker seeking to block funding to the prime minister’s office, which if passed, would curtail Rajapaksa’s functions.

“As far as the people are concerned, they are witnessing the normal functioning of the country,” insisted government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella.

Also Read: Regional Political Turmoil Reflects India-China Rivalry

However, he conceded that Sri Lanka will have issues on accessing government money if the stalemate is not resolved by the end of the year. Sirisena called snap elections for Jan. 5, but the opposition challenged the decision, and the dispute is in court. (VOA)

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Education Institutions from Across the World Declares Climate Emergency

The first time education institutions made a collective commitment to address climate emergency

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Education, Institutions, World
In a joint letter, they talked about a three-point plan that includes going carbon neutral by 2030 or 2050 at the latest. Pixabay

Networks representing over 7,000 higher education institutions from across the world on Thursday declared a climate emergency and agreed to undertake steps to address the crisis.

In a joint letter, they talked about a three-point plan that includes going carbon neutral by 2030 or 2050 at the latest, mobilising more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation, and increasing the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curricula, campus and community outreach programmes.

The letter — coordinated by the UN Environment’s Youth and Education Alliance, The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, and Second Nature – a US-based higher education climate action organization — marks the first time education institutions made a collective commitment to address climate emergency.

Signed by universities including Strathmore University (Kenya), Tongji University (China) and KEDGE Business School (France), the call is also backed by major global education networks such as the Global Alliance and the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative, which have made commitments to meeting the suggested carbon neutrality targets.

Education, Institutions, World
Networks representing over 7,000 higher education institutions from across the world on Thursday declared a climate emergency and agreed to undertake steps to address the crisis. Pixabay

“What we teach shapes the future. We welcome this commitment from universities to go climate neutral by 2030 and to scale-up efforts on campus,” UN Environment Executive Director Inger Andersen said.

“Young people are increasingly at the forefront of calls for more action on climate and environmental challenges. Initiatives which directly involve the youth in this critical work are a valuable contribution to achieving environmental sustainability.”

Examples of best practices for sustainability on campus include Kenya’s Strathmore University, which runs on clean energy and has set up its own 600KW photovoltaic grid tie system, as well as Tongji University in China, which has significantly invested in delivering a sustainability education curriculum and is encouraging other education institutions to do the same.

Also Read- Microsoft to Channel $10 million Into an AI project

In the US, the University of California has committed to a system-wide goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025, while others, such as the American University and Colgate University, have already achieved carbon neutrality. (IANS)