Following the appointment of Director of Information (or Propaganda) as part-time Director General of Telecom, I have been getting a lot of calls asking about Internet censorship, prohibition of Face Book, and licensing of news websites. While I do believe that (a) the Director of Information is on the face unqualified to serve as DGT, and that (b) the Department of Information has no role to play in a modern democratic society, I do not think that any of these feared things will happen. Whatever the DGT does, he has to do under the Law, the Sri Lanka Telecom Act, 25 of 1991, as amended. According to the Act, the DGT does not have legal authority; all authority lies with the Commission, a five-person body chaired by the Secretary of the relevant Ministry, at the present time Mr Lalith Weeratunge, Secretary to the President. The DGT is a member ex officio and until now, the only full-time member.
Supreme Court today (Nov 01, 2008) ordered the suspension of three environmental levies imposed recently, reported Lanka Dissent. Accordingly, the levies imposed on telecommunication towers, CFC bulbs of more than 40 Watts as well as the levy imposed on vehicles in the Western Province were directed to be suspended. Should we open a bottle of Champaign? May be not. It was not LIRNEasia that took Environment Ministry to courts.
Carol Weiss says one of the most useful things researchers can do is to give policy makers the tools to think about problems. She calls this policy enlightenment, as opposed to direct policy influence. In Sri Lanka we now make policy in the Supreme Court. This is not optimal, but it’s the way it is. Therefore, I was pleased to see that Justice Tilakawardene had used one of the analogies I had pushed hard in relation to the recent punitive measures taken against mobile phones.
It appeared that convergence was high on the agenda of Sri Lanka’s telecom operators. SLT introduced IPTV and Dialog put together a whole set of services including a satellite TV service and purchased a terrestrial license as well. There was talk of mobile TV being introduced. The new TV regulatory regime introduced surreptitiously as regulations under an archaic 1982 Act will to put a stop to many of these plans, if the government manages to defend it from its many opponents and the difficult-to-predict Supreme Court. Dialog for example may have to exit the satellite and terrestrial TV businesses altogether, because only public companies with majority Sri Lankan ownership can even apply for these licenses.
This was the title for a presentation I was asked to do for a seminar organized by the SAARC Chamber of Commerce, the FCCISL and the Naumann Foundation. The presentation examined the broadening of consumer rights in the Sri Lanka industry as a result of the increased economic freedom in the telecom industry enabled by the multi-faceted liberalization undertaken by multiple governments since the 1990s. It then went on to draw lessons for other infrastructure industries and countries. The principle of “competition wherever possible; regulation where necessary” was the anchor of this part of the presentation. It was emphasized that the possible and necessary varied depending on country and time and that there were no one-size-fits-all solutions.
Senior citizen and former left wing politician Vasudeva Nanayakkara, who drew attention as a public activist as the successful petitioner in the Lanka Marine Services Ltd., (LMSL), is now threatening to take up another public interest issue in court – failure of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission’s (TRC) to comply with a Supreme Court (SC) order of May 7, 2007 to draw up a new tariff structure. In a letter dated October 10, 2008 to TRC Director General Priyantha Kariyapperuma – copied to The Sunday Times – Mr. Nanayakkara states that ‘OPA’s experts in their presentation to the TRC, around March 2008, explained and established that the TRC’s tariff proposal recommended to the SC is flawed mathematically and technically and that it is in violation of the provisions in the Sri Lanka. In particular, Mr.
Considering five fundamental rights applications yesterday (Sept 22), the Supreme Court issued an interim order against the implementation of the Environment Tax, reported Lanka Dissent. The petitioners were Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera, Ven. Kiniyawala Palitha Thera, Telshan Network and Swarnavahini. The SC ordered the immediate suspension of the gazette notification announcing the new tax, and fixed December 01st as the next day of hearing.
NEWS:SL [National Early Warning System: Sri Lanka] was presented to the �Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Inquire into Matters Relating to the Conduct of Relevant State Institutions/Agencies Following the Natural Disasters which Occurred on 26 December 2004, and the Measures that Should be Taken to Improve Early Warning Mechanism for Natural Disasters and Thereby to Prevent or Mitigate Such Devastation� following a presentation of same to the Commission� on March 15 2005, less than three months after the greatest catastrophe faced by Sri Lanka in modern times. The salient features of the Concept Paper were presented to the Commission, in addition several other research findings relevant to the Commission. The importance of an all-hazards approach was stressed and governance model options were discussed. Recommendations on actions that are needed by government were made and intended actions by the Vanguard Foundation were presented. Commission members, retired Supreme Court Judge H.