More Needs To Be Done, West Tells Sri Lanka
2016-Jul-01 | By Sihara Colombage

More Needs To Be Done, West Tells Sri Lanka

Western nations have reminded Sri Lanka that much more remains to be achieved in the areas of reconciliation and accountability.

In their response to an oral update made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and the subsequent speech of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera at the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday, the countries urged Sri Lanka to see to it that the commitments made in the resolution adopted by the HRC unanimously in October last were carried out. They were appreciative of the work accomplished by Sri Lanka and none of them sounded harsh.

The United Kingdom, one of those which sponsored the resolution, underscored the importance of “a comprehensive approach” to dealing with the past, restoring confidence in state institutions, and developing a just political settlement for all people. The United States, another sponsor of the motion, wanted Sri Lanka to make “continued tangible steps” towards setting up “credible justice, accountability, and reconciliation mechanisms.”

Acknowledging that Sri Lanka was “still at the beginning of a long process,” the European Union stressed the need for international participation in the accountability mechanism so that “the process is both credible and perceived as such by all sides in line with the October commitments.” The government should "continue taking steps" to build the confidence of communities and normalise life in the Northern and Eastern provinces.

Norway, which played a crucial role in bringing about the 2002 ceasefire agreement between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), noted that there was “political opposition to the government’s initiatives” to implement the resolution and that concessions needed to be made in order to achieve progress. Expressing the hope that the ongoing process of constitutional reforms would result in the crucial basis for "a nation that acknowledges its ethnic and cultural diversity and for achieving reconciliation,” the Scandinavian country also wanted Sri Lanka to work hard to “keep the tight time schedule” for the process.

Canada, known for having a significant number of Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, called for an “inclusive and coordinated approach” to reforms — political, legal and constitutional. Germany pointed out that victims on all sides of the conflict had waited “too long.” It said leadership and resolve as well as confidence building and credibility would be priorities.

While there was no reaction from India, Pakistan had appreciated the “strong and positive commitment” of Sri Lanka for the promotion and protection of human rights.

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China asked for 15,000 acres of land In Sri Lanka for a million worker SEZ
2016-Jul-28 | By Sihara Colombage

China asked for 15,000 acres of land In Sri Lanka for a million worker SEZ

China just requested 15,000 acres of land in southern Sri Lanka for the creation of a special economic zone that will reputedly create one million jobs, according to the country’s Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade.

15,000 acres is roughly 60 square kilometers, which is significantly larger than Hartford, Connecticut or Providence, Rhode Island.

This expanse of land, if granted, will be in the Hambantota region, which has been a punchline of sorts over the past couple of years in Sri Lanka due to its massive and expensive infrastructure projects that have so far failed to come to fruition. This area includes what is probably the world’s emptiest international airport, a massive $1.4 billion deep sea port that is running at under-capacity, a world-class conference center that doesn’t really host many conferences, and a seldom used cricket stadium. These project were almost completely funded with Chinese money, and helped push country $8 billion deep in debt to China.

It was once the dream of Sri Lanka’s former president to turn Hambantota, his extremely rural hometown, into the country’s number two city, and he spared no expense trying to make this happen. When he unexpectedly lost the election in 2015 to Maithripala Sirisena, who ran on a platform which accused the incumbent of being too favorable to China and trashing relations with India and the West, many big Chinese-invested projects were called off. Construction on the Hambantota deep sea port was halted and SriLankan Airline’s hub at Mattala International Airport was liquidated, as Hambantota proverbially ground to a halt.

However, once relations with India and the West were “re-balanced” — which meant that the UN went easy on its war crimes charges,  the EUreinstated GSP-Plus trade concessions, and the United States began delivering aid once again, among other things — China was put back on the front burner and the country’s big developments in Sri Lanka began rolling once again.

Canadian Foreign Minister to visit Sri Lanka 
2016-Jul-27 | By Sihara Colombage

Canadian Foreign Minister to visit Sri Lanka

Stéphane Dion, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs will visit Sri Lanka until July 29 to advance bilateral relations and to support Sri Lanka in its efforts to promote human rights, reconciliation and accountability.

In Sri Lanka, Minister Dion will meet with President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as with the leadership of the Tamil National Alliance, the official political opposition.

Minister Dion will also spend a day in Jaffna, where he will visit Canada-supported development projects and victims who have suffered as a direct result of the civil war. The Minister will see first-hand how these projects are helping improve livelihoods, particularly those of youth and people in woman-headed households, and further developing the economic foundations of victims’ communities following the end of the war in 2009.

Minister Dion’s visit to Sri Lanka will provide an opportunity to hear more on the Sri Lankan government’s efforts to promote inclusion, respect for the rule of law, truth, accountability and human rights. His visit will include meetings with members of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly and civil society to deepen his understanding of the constitutional reform process in Sri Lanka.

These meetings will allow Minister Dion to convey in person Canada’s commitment to helping Sri Lanka further strengthen its democracy and attain lasting peace for all of its citizens.

This visit to Sri Lanka will be the first made by a Canadian foreign minister since 2003.

Government orders release of 77 Tamil Nadu fishermen
2016-Jul-26 | By Sihara Colombage

Government orders release of 77 Tamil Nadu fishermen

In a goodwill gesture the Sri Lankan government has ordered the release of all 77 Tamil Nadu fishermen who had been languishing in recent months in various jails in northern Sri Lanka for allegedly trespassing into their territorial waters, reports reaching here on Monday said.

While these fishermen are from the coastal districts of Ramanathapuram including Rameswaram Island, Pudukkottai and Nagapattinam, the Press Trust of India, however, reported that Sri Lanka ordered the release of only 49 of those 77 fishermen.

The Rameswaram fishermen, mostly those owning mechanised trawlers recently launched an indefinite strike, demanding immediate intervention by the Narendra Modi at the Centre and the Jayalalithaa government in the State to impress upon Colombo to release all the arrested fishermen and also free their 111 seized boats. The arrests of the Tamil Nadu fishermen this season has been on since May 31 this year, it may be recalled.

Of the 77 fishermen ordered to be released, 28 of them were freed by the Mannar court, six by a court in Puthalam and 43 others from a court in Oorkaavalthurai, the reports said.

At Least One Killed, Over Ten People Injured In Mass Shooting At Florida Night Club
2016-Jul-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne

At Least One Killed, Over Ten People Injured In Mass Shooting At Florida Night Club

At least one person has reportedly been killed and over a dozen injured during a shooting at a nightclub in Fort Myers, western Florida. The incident is believed to have taken place during a ‘teen night’, with some of people at the event as young as 13.

The shooting took place at Club Blu in the early hours of Monday morning, according to Lt. Jim Mulligan of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. He added that as many as 17 people had been shot, though did not confirm if anyone had been killed.

Local media say that at least one person has died, while there are a large number of police deputies at the scene.

Sri Lanka woos Chinese firms for $10 bn project
2016-Jul-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Sri Lanka woos Chinese firms for $10 bn project

Sri Lanka has started talks with Chinese investors on the $10 billion Hambantota Economic Project to be implemented in the southern region of the island nation.

The project would encompass the establishment of oil refineries, a power generation plant and industrial zones, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

Four projects — the Kandy Mega Development, Wayamba (North-Western) Industrial and Tourist Development Project, Western Megapolis and the Southern Tourist and Industrial Project — will be implemented by the government in 15 years. The Prime Minister, while addressing an event in Singapore recently, said the projects would form part of a bigger programme. The Kandy–Colombo–Hambantota Corridor, he said, would “reshape the country’s urban landscape with two airports and two seaports.”

Estimated to cost $40 billion, the Megapolis project is aimed at developing the Western Province as a megapolis on a global scale. It would have an expected population of 8.5 million by 2025 with Colombo as a business and financial hub to attract foreign investors.

Iran to seal oil sale deal with Sri Lanka
2016-Jul-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Iran to seal oil sale deal with Sri Lanka

Iranian and Sri Lankan oil ministers have begun a fresh round of oil talks over signing the first oil sale contract in the post-sanction era.

With the passage of seven months since sanctions removals and Iran’s entrance to post-sanction period, a new round of oil talks between Iran and Sri Lanka kicked off today in Tehran at presence of Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh as well as the Sri Lankan Minister of Petroleum Resources Development Chandima Weerakkody.

Sri Lanka marks a traditional customer of Iranian crude as 100 per cent of the oil demand in its only oil refinery, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, was supplied by Iran before the imposition of international sanctions.

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting with his Sri Lankan counterpart, Iran’s Zanganeh said the ties between the two countries, which had halted due to sanctions, will be reinvigorated; “being situated in the Indian Ocean region, Iran and Sri Lanka are naturally in conjunction with each other.”

The official, while emphasizing that the Iran can launch cooperation with the East Asian country in various field, said there exist no restrictions for expansion of bilateral relations, especially in oil, gas and petrochemical arenas.

PIA Confirms Talks With Sri Lanka For Four A330s
2016-Jul-24 | By Gehan Jayaratne

PIA Confirms Talks With Sri Lanka For Four A330s

PIA, Pakistan’s national air carrier, is in talks with Sri Lanka to take four wide-bodied planes (A330s) on rent, which it will use for its premium flights to London that PIA intends to start from August 14, officials said.

In addition to the planes, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will also get the services of its accompanying crew.

After plans for the UK route were approved by its board of directors, the PIA management has been busy preparing for the flights. In this regard, talks were held with Sri Lanka to acquire four Airbus A330 aircraft in a phased manner, a PIA spokesperson said.

“PIA is in negotiations with Sri Lankan Airlines for the wet lease of four A-330 aircraft,” the airline’s spokesperson Danyal Gilani said in a statement on Friday.

“The aircraft will be operated for PIA by Sri Lankan crew and it will be based in London,” said Sri Lanka’s State Enterprise Development Minister Kabir Hashim in Colombo on Friday. He added that Sri Lankan Airlines was about to conclude the deal with PIA. “The planes will fly to Islamabad and Lahore and we are also in talks to give them three more Airbus A330 planes,” he added.

Gillani said that PIA’s Chief Operating Officer Bernd Hildenbrand had led a high-level team to Sri Lanka recently to negotiate contracts for acquiring the planes.

“These planes would primarily be used for PIA’s premier service which is being launched from August 14, 2016,” Gilani said confirming the premium flights.

Anti-VAT campaign at shops a complete lie - Harsha 
2016-Jul-24 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Anti-VAT campaign at shops a complete lie - Harsha

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Harsha de Silva says that the campaign against the Value Added Tax (VAT) increase at a number of shops in the country is a “complete lie” being carried out by a certain group.

The deputy minister was responding to a question from a journalist regarding the display of anti-VAT posters in certain shops in the country. 

 He claimed that this is being done in order to fulfill the needs of certain groups of a political party and that it is an attempt to deceive the public. 

Harsha stated that the government would take steps to educate the country regarding the matter and that the VAT imposed on medical services has already been removed.

He said that the government intends to implement a process to increase government income in a manner that will not inconvenience the people. 

Talks alone can solve fishermen issue - Indian deputy envoy
2016-Jul-23 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Talks alone can solve fishermen issue - Indian deputy envoy

A political solution has to be found for the problems facing the Indian fishermen in the Palk Strait, India’s Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka A. Natarajan said.

Speaking on the sidelines of a workshop at the Tamil University in Thanjavur, Mr. Natarajan said that internal strife on the Island Nation in the past 30 years kept the Lankan fishermen away from the seas but with peace returning to Sri Lanka, their fishermen too have come out in a significant manner.

The Lankan fishermen’s main allegation was that the Indian fishermen crossed the international maritime border and swept away all marine resources. “It is imperative that both sides understand each other as also the ground realities and act accordingly. Only talks can solve the tangle,” Mr. Natarajan said.

The Deputy High Commissioner mentioned that the governments of the two nations would facilitate a smooth dialogue between Indian and Lankan fishermen communities so that a lasting solution would be found to the benefit of both sides.

Mr. Natarajan released the book Tamil Civilisation on the occasion while the Tamil University Vice-Chancellor G. Bhaskaran gifted on behalf of his institution more than 300 books to the Jaffna University.

Meanwhile fishing activities came to a grinding halt on the island as more than 4,000 fishermen launched an indefinite strike on Friday, demanding the release of the 77 fishermen languishing in Sri Lankan prisons along with more than 100 boats, impounded by the Lankan authorities.

'Joint Opposition' Prepared To Consider Agreement With India Replacing ETCA 
2016-Jul-23 | By Gehan Jayaratne


'Joint Opposition' Prepared To Consider Agreement With India Replacing ETCA

Mahajana Eksath Peramuna leader and UPFA MP Dinesh Gunawardena stated that the 'Joint Opposition' was open to discuss the possibility of a trade agreement with India which will be introduced as an alternative to the proposed Economic and Technology Comprehensive Agreement, or ETCA.

If the government wishes to sign the ETCA, the Joint Opposition will voice its disagreement in parliament, he said.

Gunawardena also pointed out that various sectors have expressed their opposition to the proposed agreement and called on the government to introduce a new agreement.

E-Visa Implementation For Sri Lankan Tourists To Be Finalised In November: Malaysia
2016-Jul-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

E-Visa Implementation For Sri Lankan Tourists To Be Finalised In November: Malaysia

An agreement has been reached to implement e-Visa for Sri Lankan tourists visiting Malaysia and this is expected to be finalised in November, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, expressed the hope that the matter could be finalised when Malaysia attends an international meeting in Sri Lanka in November.

"Although we have had a soft launch of the e-Visa system, we hope to finalise its implementation in November when either the Prime Minister or I will be attending an international Islamic conference in Sri Lanka," he said at the end of a two-day working visit to this South Asian country, here today.

To a question on the influx of Sri Lankan tourists to Malaysia, Ahmad Zahid said of late the number had decreased.

As such, he said to encourage more Sri Lankan tourists to visit the country Tourism Malaysia could increase awareness on tourist attractions and activities available in Malaysia through aggressive promotions and advertising.

On cooperation in tackling terrorism, Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia had offered Sri Lanka to send its officials from enforcement agencies for training in Malaysia.

On the possibility of foreign countries like Sri Lanka having the perception that crime was increasing in Malaysia, Ahmad Zahid said since 2014, the crime rate was reduced by between 45 to 50 per cent.

This he said was due to the various programmes including enforcement activities conducted, but sadly when the crime rate decreased, the people's perception did not change.

Speaking on the demand for Sri Lankan workers in Malaysia, Ahmad Zahid said among others the government needed to examine existing rules as well as consider the workers' qualifications from this country.

He said Sime Darby for instance had asked for 5,000 workers to replace the Bangladeshi and Indonesian workers who had been working in their plantation sector.

Ahmad Zahid said the two-day visit had left a deep impression on him and had been meaningful in the context of bilateral cooperation and business relations.

In fact he added, the Sri Lankan government had classified the working visit as an official visit.

Meanwhile Ahmad Zahid and his wife Datin Seri Hamidah Khamis departed for Malaysia from the Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo at about 2.30pm (5pm in Malaysia).

During his working visit today, apart from visiting the Asia Pacific Institute for Information Technology (APIIT) he also attended a Malay Islamic World (DMDI) gathering held at a hotel here.

US$ 55mn World Bank Loan To Sri Lanka To Modernise Jaffna
2016-Jul-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

US$ 55mn World Bank Loan To Sri Lanka To Modernise Jaffna

The World Bank is giving Sri Lanka a loan of US$55 million to improve urban services, preserve cultural and environment assets, and enhance livability in the former war zone northern city of Jaffna.

"There is substantial potential for economic growth in Jaffna, now that peace has returned,” said Françoise Clottes, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “An improved urban environment is a favorable habitat for the developing enterprises that one day will become the engines of growth."

The Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development is the lead responsible agency for the implementation of this project with active participation from Jaffna Municipal Council and other implementation partner agencies, a statement said.

“Guided by consultations with Jaffna's citizens, the project will attempt to improve the road network and rehabilitate the drainage system while preserving the city's ponds, which have played an important role in flood management and which could be key to climate change adaptation.”

In addition, the project aims to preserve cultural heritage assets such as public spaces and parks as well as encouraging cycling.

As communicated during recent consultations, the people of Jaffna see a priority in improving city functions and livability while preserving cultural heritage.

"Building trust among citizens and service providers is a challenge and an outcome we hope to achieve through the additional finance support to Jaffna through this project," said Zhiyu Jerry Chen, World Bank Senior Urban Development Specialist and Task Team Leader of the project.

"A City Stakeholder forum will be used under this project for improved and continued citizen engagement to closely collaborate with the service providers in ensuring the project investments are put to profitable use for the people of Jaffna," he said.

The credit will add development of rapidly urbanizing Jaffna to the existing Strategic Cities Development Project, which is supported by the World Bank and was originally approved in 2014, and includes projects to develop Galle and Kandy.

A recent World Bank study, "Sri Lanka: a Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD)", identifies Jaffna as a rapidly growing, single-city agglomeration in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka invites Malaysia to join Bay of Bengal Economic Caucus
2016-Jul-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Sri Lanka invites Malaysia to join Bay of Bengal Economic Caucus

Sri Lanka has invited Malaysia to become a member of the Bay of Bengal Economic Caucus, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said the proposal was voiced out during his courtesy call on Sri Lanka President, Maithripala Sirisena yesterday as well as Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe today.

“They will initiate a meeting at the country leaders and government level so that the caucus will involve Malaysia and several other countries,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid said he believed a new economic development would be created at the Bay of Bengal basin through this caucus.

Replying to a question, the deputy prime minister said he would bring this proposal to the Foreign Ministry and also the Economic Planning Unit and the Prime Minister’s Department to study Malaysia’s participation.

“I am confident this is a new proposal which directly could expand our market and that of the members of this caucus,” he said to Malaysian journalists at the end of a two-day working visit to the island nation here, today. — Bernama

Sri Lanka seeks to expand trade ties with China
2016-Jul-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Sri Lanka seeks to expand trade ties with China

The Sri Lankan government will look to expand trade ties with China in the future, the Sri Lankan president’s office said.

The President’s office quoted foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera as saying that while Sri Lanka is working on trade agreements with India and Pakistan, it is also looking to expand its trade relations with China in the future.

Samaraweera made the comments at a ceremony attended by President Maithripala Sirisena to welcome a group of new foreign envoys to the country.

Speaking to the diplomats, the president said the foreign policy of Sri Lanka is to be friendly to every country in the world.

Sirisena further said that Sri Lanka is determined to achieve development and end poverty, which he said would help ensure reconciliation in the country.

He was speaking after accepting credentials from new ambassadors of Portugal, Ireland, Mexico and Greece, Xinhua reports.

Supreme Court Concludes Hearing Arguments On Petitions On VAT Legislation
2016-Jul-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Supreme Court Concludes Hearing Arguments On Petitions On VAT Legislation

The Supreme Court yesterday concluded hearing the arguments on two Special Determination petitions on the VAT legislation.

The petitions included one submitted by UPFA MP Sisira Jayakody.

A three member bench headed by the Chief Justice heard the arguments. The petitioners said that the legislation has not been approved by the Cabinet before being tabled at the Parliament. Therefore the correct procedure has not been followed, it was argued.

However, the Attorney General argued that the due process has been carried out since the legislation originated from the Cabinet in the first place.

The court ordered both parties to file written submissions by Monday.

Norway grants Rs 142 million to help newly resettled
2016-Jul-21 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Norway grants Rs 142 million to help newly resettled

The Norwegian Government has granted financial assistance amounting to Rs. 142 million for the recently resettled people in the Jaffna and Trincomalee districts through United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Ambassador of Norway to Sri Lanka and Maldives, Thorbjørn Gaustadsæther and Resident Representative of the United Nations in Sri Lanka, Lovita Ramguttee signed an Agreement for this purpose. 

The support amounting to Rs. 142 million aims of estimated 1000 families as direct beneficiaries in the two districts, the embassy said in a statement.

“The support aims to create sustainable livelihood opportunities for targeted communities in agriculture, fisheries, livestock and alternative income-generation activities to revitalize economic opportunities at the community level by providing access to productive inputs, skills trainings, tools, equipment, seeds and vital infrastructure, and increasing local employment.”

In Nov 2015, Norway supported through UNDP Rs. 67 million to the recently relocated community within the Valalai and Thellipalai areas in Jaffna District to begin their livelihoods.


ETCA to be signed by the end of this year - PM
2016-Jul-21 | By Gehan Jayaratne


ETCA to be signed by the end of this year - PM

Improving on his 2003 idea of converting south India-Sri Lanka sub-region into a single market, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is now for economic collaboration among his country, Singapore and the five southern States of India.


New idea


Describing his proposal as a “vision of convergence that is inextricably interwoven with the future of South Asia as a whole,” he said the proposed arrangement had the potential of enhancing economic cooperation among the three countries which would also have a “positive impact on the Bay of Bengal trade.”

Presenting his new idea at the South Asian Diaspora Convention a few days ago in Singapore, he reminded the audience that India and Singapore had Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) [signed in June 2005]. His country was negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the south-east Asian country.


Pact by year-end

On Sri Lanka’s efforts to enter into Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India, the Prime Minister expressed the hope that the pact, which would go beyond the present FTA arrangement of trade in goods and include “trade in services, investments and technology cooperation,” would be signed by “the end of this year.” He added that “the complementary economic developments in south India and Sri Lanka will be enhanced by ETCA, which will provide an impetus to the existing synergies.”

Highlighting the fact that the five Indian States, with a total population of 250 million, had a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of nearly US $ 450 billion, he said that with the addition of Sri Lanka’s $ 80 billion GDP, the sub-region would have a $ 500 billion economy. “The ETCA has the potential to promote a rapid growth of the US$ 500-billion sub regional economy,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said.

By next year, the Indo-Lanka ETCA and the Sri Lanka-Singapore FTA combined with the Singapore-India CECA would “enable the southern sub region of South Asia and Singapore to establish a tripartite arrangement for trade and investments.”

Explaining how his fresh proposal would be beneficial to all, the Prime Minster said Sri Lanka’s close proximity to the fast-growing south Indian states “offers a strategic economic advantage to the country.” At the same time, the sub-region, especially India, also “stands to benefit immensely from Sri Lanka’s uniquely positioned geo-strategic advantage – its location at the crossroads of major shipping routes connecting South Asia, the Far East and the Pacific with Europe and the Americas.” Singapore too would expand its importance and capacity for business networking in the region.

He visualised Sri Lanka of becoming a “geo-economic center of South Asia, dynamically and synergically engaged with the rest of region.”

He concluded his speech, saying that “it is up to us then to be imaginative and bold in providing the political leadership to maximise on the potentials and opportunities of such a convergence,” the Hindu reports.



Malaysia’s deputy PM to arrive in Sri Lanka
2016-Jul-21 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Malaysia’s deputy PM to arrive in Sri Lanka

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi begins a two-day working visit to Sri Lanka Thursday with a tight schedule that includes a courtesy call on President Maithripala Sirisena.

Malaysian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Wan Zaidi Wan Abdullah, speaking to Malaysian journalists at the Malaysian Embassy in Colombo today, said Ahmad Zahid’s visit was aimed at enhancing bilateral relations in various fields between Kuala Lumpur and Colombo.

He said Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, was scheduled to arrive here at 12.30am Thursday, accompanied by his wife Datin Seri Hamidah Khamis, and would hold a meeting with Sri Lanka’s Minister of Home Affairs Vajira Abeywardena at the ministry in Independence Avenue Thursday morning.

Ahmad Zahid is also scheduled to hold talks with Minister of Foreign Employment Thalatha Atukorale at the ministry at the Assert Arcade Building, also on Thursday.

“Malaysia and Sri Lanka have had close bilateral relations since diplomatic ties were established in 1957. Although this is a working visit, the government of Sri Lanka has classified it as an official visit,” said Wan Zaidi.

Wan Zaidi said that besides paying a courtesy call on President Maithripala Thursday, the deputy prime minister was also scheduled to make a courtesy call on Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday at his office at Temple Tree.

Ahmad Zahid is also scheduled to hold talks with Sri Lanka’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera, also on Friday.

Wan Zaidi said that among the issues expected to be discussed by the deputy prime minister during the visit was cooperation of the two countries in combating terrorism.

“Malaysia is very committed to international peace and regional security, hence relations, including with Sri Lanka, are very vital in ensuring that these issues are addressed together, either bilaterally or multilaterally,” he said.

Replying to a question, Wan Zaidi said matters relating to recruitment of workers from Sri Lanka might also be discussed in view of requests from the Sri Lankan government to increase the number of Sri Lankan workers in the plantation and manufacturing sectors in Malaysia.

“Sri Lanka has not become a major supplier of foreign workers for the Malaysian market but there is a demand for certain sectors,” he said.

Wan Zaidi said the deputy prime minister would also officiate at the ground--breaking ceremony of Hyrax Oil Sdn Bhd lubricants manufacturing plant in Muthurajawela, about 25 minutes from the Colombo city centre, on Thursday.


Conservation, redevelopment on Sri Lankan PM’s mind
2016-Jul-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Conservation, redevelopment on Sri Lankan PM’s mind

Conservation of old buildings and urban redevelopment were on top of the mind of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, when he visited the National Gallery and took a boat ride on the Singapore River.

He was keen to find out how old courtrooms and office spaces were converted into galleries to house world-class art, and how the heavily-polluted river was transformed and its surroundings redeveloped, the Straits Times reported. The National Gallery said it was its first time hosting a foreign leader with such a sharp focus on heritage and conservation.

Curators Lim Shujuan and Shabbir Hussain Mustafa were his guides. Ms Lim, in relating the building’s history, explained how a carpark was converted to link the former City Hall with the Supreme Court. 

The visitors also toured the cells that used to hold suspects waiting for their court hearing and the City Hall Chamber where the first Cabinet was sworn in. Both were kept in their original state.

Mr Wickremesinghe told The Straits Times after the gallery tour that it “gave us ideas on how our (art) galleries should be built”. Sri Lanka, like Singapore, was colonised by the British and has buildings with colonial architecture.

During his boat ride on the Singapore River, he heard how the water was filthy in the 1970s. After a major clean-up, it is now linked to Marina Barrage and contributes to Singapore’s drinking water supply.

“I’ve been impressed by the development of Singapore in the last 20 years,” he said.

It is the reason, he added, his country invited Surbana Jurong, a Singapore urban planning consultancy, to co-plan Trincomalee in eastern Sri Lanka, where a third seaport will be built, as well as the country’s Western Province, in which lies the capital Colombo.

Earlier, IE Singapore signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development to work on business partnerships in the Western Region Megapolis.

The signing was witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Wickremesinghe.

Accompanying the Sri Lankan leader on the river tour was the executive director of the Centre for Liveable Cities, Mr Khoo Teng Chye.

Mr Loh Ah Tuan, formerly with the National Environment Agency who, in his younger days helped clean up the river, said thousands of squatters and hawkers were relocated, and debris and rubbish dredged from the banks and river bed.

Mr Michael Koh, former director of urban planning and design at the Urban Redevelopment Authority, recounted the riverbank’s redevelopment, which included keeping the low-rise shophouses.

Said Mr Khoo: “The idea was to conserve as much of the old architecture and buildings and blend them with the new.”

Sri Lanka wants to rejuvenate Beira Lake in the heart of Colombo. “We are visiting some iconic sites to see how we can have similar projects in Colombo,” said Mr Wickremesingh


Sri Lanka To Use Specialized Companies For Recruitment To Saudi Arabia
2016-Jul-19 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Sri Lanka To Use Specialized Companies For Recruitment To Saudi Arabia

The Sri Lankan government has defined four factors to organize the recruitment of domestic workers to the Kingdom.

These factors are related to stopping the sending of workers to recruitment offices and limiting them to specialized companies; committing companies to the unified contract; establishing training centers for workers to guarantee the rights of all parties; and providing all necessary measures to take care of its citizens outside the country. 

A source at the Sri Lankan Consulate General in Jeddah said his government aims to organize the recruitment of domestic workers and increase the number of workers in the Kingdom to 500,000 during the coming years by limiting recruitment to specialized companies. 

He added that the government will stop sending domestic workers to offices during the first quarter of 2017, saying articles of the contract define the work period at 10 hours, and extend weekly holidays to two days, in addition to raising the monthly wages to $400. He pointed out that regular domestic workers who are still working can continue with their work and renew their contracts if they end according to the agreement of the two parties; the contract should be approved by the Embassy in Riyadh or the Sri Lankan Consulate General in Jeddah. 

Mohammad Al-Hazimi, the owner of a recruitment office, said limiting recruitment from Sri Lanka to companies contributes to organizing recruitment, in addition to limiting the work of brokers, especially since the Sri Lankan government will commit these companies to the unified contract to guarantee the rights of all parties; this will increase the number of qualified domestic workers in the Kingdom, he added. 

Hussein Al-Harithi, another owner of a recruitment office, said limiting recruitment to companies will contribute to increasing the prices of recruitment, in addition to raising wages to more than SR1,500 a month. He pointed out that the average cost of current recruitment reaches SR27,000, while monthly salaries stand at SR1,125 a month.

Most widespread opposition to taxes in Sri Lanka’s history - Bandula
2016-Jul-19 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Most widespread opposition to taxes in Sri Lanka’s history - Bandula

The most widespread opposition to taxes in Sri Lanka’s history, by consumers and businessmen on the same stance, was witnessed in the past couple of weeks, former minister Bandula Gunawardena said.

He stated that previously shops were closed down in Pettah, Sri Lanka’s main and longstanding trading hub for wholesalers and retailers, only during the riots of July 1983.

“This is the first time in history that Pettah was closed due to VAT since the riots of July 1983,” he told reporters in Colombo today (19).

The UPFA MP said that certain prominent figures in the government had claimed the opposition was created by traders who are avoiding taxes and 

He stated that businessmen don’t easily join protests, unless they are burdened to the extent that they cannot bear it and no matter what political party tells them to do or not to.

Telangana IT minister to visit Sri Lanka
2016-Jul-19 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Telangana IT minister to visit Sri Lanka

The Minister of IT, NRI Affairs and Industries in the Indian state of Telangana, KT Rama Rao, has received an invitation for an international level summit to be held in Sri Lanka next month. 

The Sri Lanka Human Capital Summit 2016 of the Government on Monday extended an invitation to KTR to address in its international summit slated to be held at Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo on August 11 and 12.
The minister was asked to deliver key-note address in the island nation along with Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wikramesinghe on “Building a future ready workforce- Indian Experience” and many other top notch personalities including World Bank Director Dr Amit Dar and others. 

A precursor to the Sri Lanka Human Capital Round Table, the summit aims to develop a national agenda to support Sri Lanka’s economic growth plans. Besides World Bank, Asian Development Bank and International Labour Organisation are collaborating the event to deal with wide gamut of sectors and opportunities in tourism, hospitality, technology, financial, logistics, construction and manufacturing. 

The Sri Lankan Government plans to roll out a policy to provide 1 million jobs to youth by 2020 and invited KTR to talk on Indian policies, training programs, changing trends and preparing youth for jobs.

Key-note address is on how the Federal Administration of India enhances the employability and competitiveness of employees and job seekers, thereby building a workforce to cater to the changing needs of Indian Economy. 

Expressing glee at the invitation, the IT Minister noted that  he will address in the summit on TASK offering training to youth to compete with World and T Hub for tapping new ideas, giving opportunities for research for innovative plans. (NSS)

Special commodity levy on Imported Sugar reduced
2016-Jul-18 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Special commodity levy on Imported Sugar has been reduced from Rs 30 per kg to 25 cents with effect from midnight today.

Instead of tax, Govt. eyeing to increase fuel prices - Wimal
2016-Jul-18 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Instead of tax, Govt. eyeing to increase fuel prices - Wimal

The Government is eyeing to increase the prices of fuel instead of tax increase, National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa said.

The observation was made at a press conference held in Colombo this afternoon (18).

“While amending the bill on VAT, there is a move to increase the prices of petrol and diesel by Rs.10 each, according to sources” Weerawansa charged.

He also accused the present Government of supporting Tamil extremism. “But, the previous Government backed the Tamil community, not extremism,” said Weerawansa.

The NFF leader also went on to say that there will be a job crisis in Sri Lanka if the proposed economic pact is signed with India as scheduled next month.


India likely to set up LNG fuelled power plant in Western Lanka
2016-Jul-18 | By Gehan Jayaratne


India likely to set up LNG fuelled power plant in Western Lanka

India is likely to set up a Liquefied Natural Gas-fuelled 500 MW power plant at Kerawalapitiya on the Western coast of Sri Lanka as requested by the Lankan government, the New Indian Express reported on Monday.

On environmental grounds, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government is keen on switching over to LNG from coal as fuel for its future power plants.

During his last visit to India, Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena had requested Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to proceed with the 500 MW coal-fired power plant at Sampur in Eastern Lanka but build a plant using LNG instead. Modi said that he would discuss the matter with his officials.

According to sources, an Indo-Lankan Joint Working Group (JWG) has been working on various options in this regard. The Lankan side has proposed that an LNG-fuelled 500 MW plant be set up at Kerawalapitiya, just north of Colombo, where there is already 300 MW LNG-fuelled plant set up during the regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.  

Singapore and Sri Lanka launch Free Trade Agreement talks
2016-Jul-18 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Singapore and Sri Lanka launch Free Trade Agreement talks

International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) and the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development (MoMWD) of Sri Lanka signed an agreement to collaborate on business development in Sri Lanka’s Western Region Megapolis on Monday (Jul 18). 

In a media release, IE Singapore said the MOU was the first between Sri Lanka and a Singapore government agency, paving the way for “stronger Singapore-Sri Lanka investment and economic partnerships”.

This comes on the same day that both countries announced the launch of negotiations for a Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. 

The Western Region in Sri Lanka is the main driver of the country’s economy, contributing to 40 per cent of its total Gross Domestic Product in 2014. The Sri Lankan government aims to triple the region’s per capita income to US$12,000 by 2020, targeting an average annual growth rate of 7 to 8 per cent over the next 14 years, according to IE Singapore. 

The Western Region Megapolis, anchored by commercial capital Colombo, is one of the flagship developments by the Government of Sri Lanka and includes 142 projects with an estimated value of US$40 billion over the next 15 years, IE Singapore added. 

IE Singapore assistant chief executive officer Tan Soon Kim, Singapore’s signatory for the MOU, said the Western Region Megapolis is a good first stop for Singapore companies to consider when doing business in Sri Lanka given its accelerated growth.

“The MOU signed between IE Singapore and MoMWD creates a platform for Singapore and Sri Lankan companies to partner each other in the urban solutions and connectivity sectors,” Mr Tan said. 

IE Singapore said opportunities in the two sectors within the Megapolis include development of the central business district of Colombo, port-related works, technological infrastructure and investments in industrial and tourism zones.

Singapore Signs Deal To Help Develop Sri Lanka's Western Region
2016-Jul-18 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Singapore Signs Deal To Help Develop Sri Lanka's Western Region

International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) and the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development (MoMWD) of Sri Lanka signed an agreement to collaborate on business development in Sri Lanka's Western Region Megapolis on Monday (Jul 18). 

In a media release, IE Singapore said the MOU was the first between Sri Lanka and a Singapore government agency, paving the way for "stronger Singapore-Sri Lanka investment and economic partnerships".

This comes on the same day that both countries announced the launch of negotiations for a Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. 

The Western Region in Sri Lanka is the main driver of the country's economy, contributing to 40 per cent of its total Gross Domestic Product in 2014. The Sri Lankan government aims to triple the region's per capita income to US$12,000 by 2020, targeting an average annual growth rate of 7 to 8 per cent over the next 14 years, according to IE Singapore. 

The Western Region Megapolis, anchored by commercial capital Colombo, is one of the flagship developments by the Government of Sri Lanka and includes 142 projects with an estimated value of US$40 billion over the next 15 years, IE Singapore added. 

IE Singapore assistant chief executive officer Tan Soon Kim, Singapore's signatory for the MOU, said the Western Region Megapolis is a good first stop for Singapore companies to consider when doing business in Sri Lanka given its accelerated growth.

"The MOU signed between IE Singapore and MoMWD creates a platform for Singapore and Sri Lankan companies to partner each other in the urban solutions and connectivity sectors," Mr Tan said. 

IE Singapore said opportunities in the two sectors within the Megapolis include development of the central business district of Colombo, port-related works, technological infrastructure and investments in industrial and tourism zones.

The signing at Singapore's Istana was witnessed by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is currently on an official state visit to Singapore.

IE Singapore will be hosting Wickremesinghe to a closed-door dialogue and lunch session attended by 20 industry representatives on Tuesday to exchange ideas on areas of collaboration in the Western Region Megapolis and the greater Sri Lanka, the agency said.

‘No Phobia’ on taking Chinese money - PM
2016-Jul-18 | By Gehan Jayaratne



‘No Phobia’ on taking Chinese money - PM

Sri Lanka is agnostic about what countries it accepts foreign investment from, including China, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.


“There is no phobia,” Wickremesinghe, 67, said in an interview on Sunday in Singapore. “Basically, any agreement with China will be to accommodate everyone in investments, any agreements with India will accommodate everyone. And any agreements with Singapore or Japan will be that way. We have no problem with all our friends.”


China, alongside countries such as Japan, India and Singapore, is seeking investment in Sri Lanka as that country’s economy emerges from a decades-long civil war, and given its geopolitical significance as an Indian Ocean gateway. Sri Lanka sits 64 kilometers (40 miles) from India’s coastline along a busy shipping route in which tankers carry oil from the Middle East to Asia.


Chinese-funded projects include a $1.4 billion plan to build a city roughly the size of Monaco on reclaimed land at Colombo port, Sri Lanka’s biggest foreign-funded investment on record.


Wickremesinghe’s coalition initially pledged to break the $82 billion economy’s reliance on China after coming to power last year, but has since worked to rebuild ties as a ballooning budget deficit and depleted reserves force it to seek external help. The port project, which stalled briefly when Wickremesinghe took office, is back on track. The International Monetary Fund in June approved a $1.5 billion loan to help Sri Lanka lower borrowing costs.


Issues with the port city development in Colombo have been “ironed out,” he said, with a task force preparing legislation on the project. Also, Chinese companies will be cooperating in public-private partnerships on harbor and airport developments in the southern city of Hambantota, with a liquid-natural-gas plant and refinery also set to be provided by Chinese investors.


The goal, the prime minister said, is to make Sri Lanka “the hub” of the Indian Ocean for a revived Maritime Silk Road trading route to Europe. Chinese President Xi Jinping has touted the concept as part of his “One Belt, One Road” trade-and-infrastructure initiative, as he seeks to project China as a revitalized global power with a strong navy.


“We will take whatever investment comes in,” said Wickremesinghe, who has been prime minister twice before and a lawmaker since 1977. “It is going to be mostly from East Asia,” he said. “We need the investment, we need the growth, we need the economic transformation.”


Sri Lankan-Chinese trade more than tripled since 2010 to about $5 billion last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Trade with India doubled to $6 billion, with most of that increase coming under Wickremesinghe’s watch. Sri Lanka and India in September also pledged to bolster security in South Asia and their maritime region.


Wickremesinghe said the country had hosted warships from many nations, but had a close engagement with India on security matters. Those security ties have raised the risk of tensions in the region with China on a military level, as India watches warily the expansion of Xi’s navy.


China showed its growing naval prowess when it deployed a nuclear-powered submarine to patrol the Indian Ocean for the first time in 2014, while a diesel-powered one docked twice in Sri Lanka. The visits fueled doubts that China’s strategy of building ports in the Indian Ocean was purely economic.


Refueling Visits


Still, Wickremesinghe said the country would potentially accept refueling visits by China’s navy. “Whether it is Chinese, American or anyone, as long as they follow the proper procedures and we keep our special engagement with India, there is no problem,” he said.


On the recent arbitration ruling by a tribunal in The Hague that dismissed China’s claims to exclusive access to a large part of the disputed South China Sea, he said Sri Lanka was confident that engagement between China and the Southeast Asian nations involved should “to a large extent be able to sort out the problem.”


He called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China to implement a code of conduct -- which has been in discussion for years with little progress -- for the South China Sea, a key waterway through which about $5 trillion in trade moves a year.


Emerging Powers


“We are looking at Asean at being the major bloc that represents all those countries concerned and China,” he said.


“But remember this is the emergence of Asian power and it means China, Japan, India, and there will be some issues of their relationship with each other and with some of the other Western powers, but we don’t think anything is going to lead to war,” Wickremesinghe said.


The rise of Asian nations didn’t mean the U.S. -- which has dominated security in the western Pacific since World War II -- no longer had a role, but “the U.S. has to define what that role is,” he said. “It didn’t happen under the Obama administration, so a lot will depend on what happens at the next presidential election,” Bloomberg reports.



Sri Lanka Navy escalating frequency: Jayalalithaa
2016-Jul-18 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Sri Lanka Navy escalating frequency: Jayalalithaa

Seeking the Indian Prime Minister’s intervention to secure the release of 77 fishermen from Sri Lankan custody, TN Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa “SL Navy has escalated the frequency and magnitude of incidents of abduction” of Indian fishers from the state.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, J Jayalalithaa said, “The Sri Lankan government continues to infringe upon the historically enjoyed rights of our fishermen to fish in the traditional waters of the Palk Bay.”

“The Sri Lankan Navy has escalated the frequency and magnitude of incidents of abduction of our fishermen and seizure of boats and fishing equipment undeterred in recent days,” she said in the letter released by the state government on Sunday.


Pettah Traders Launch Hartal Against VAT Increase
2016-Jul-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Shops closed. Pic: Rengasamypillai Chandrasekaran/FacebookShops closed.

Traders in Pettah launched a hartal this morning against the increase of the VAT.

Shops in Pettah were closed and the traders protested against the increase of the VAT. They demanded the immediate withdrawal of the VAT increase.

Heavy traffic was also reported in and around Colombo Fort due to the protest.

Tamil Nadu: 2,000 Fishermen Chased Away By Sri Lanka
2016-Jul-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Tamil Nadu: 2,000 Fishermen Chased Away By Sri Lanka

Fishing nets of five boats of Indian fishermen were cut allegedly by Sri Lankan naval personnel on Thursday, who also chased away more than 2,000 fishermen off Katchatheevu islet.

The Lankan naval personnel cut the nets, warned them against fishing in their territorial waters and chased away more than 2,000 fishermen from the area, Rameswaram Fishermen's Association President, Sagayam said. He said the fishermen from Rameswaram had put out to sea on 617 mechanised boats on Wednesday.

Sagayam sought the Central government's intervention to protect the interests of Tamil Nadu fishermen.

Court case delays tabling of VAT (Amendment) bill in Parliament
2016-Jul-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Court case delays tabling of VAT (Amendment) bill in Parliament

Sri Lanka’s State Minister of Finance Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena says that the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill will not be presented to Parliament on July 20 as previously scheduled due to the ongoing court case. 

The Supreme Court on Monday (July 11) issued an interim order suspending the increase of VAT from 11% to 15%, after considering a petition challenging the tax hike.

“Because another case has been filed with the court as of today, it (VAT bill) cannot be brought to the Parliament while a case has been filed with the Supreme Court,” Abeywardena told reporters in Colombo on Thursday.

He said that it takes 3 weeks for the Supreme Court to take up the petition again and that they will use this time period to hold discussions and take necessary steps to prepare a suitable environment. 

The State Minister said that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has appointed a committee to compile a set of proposals regarding the VAT amendment and that it will be presented to the President for a final discussion with the Prime Minister.


Sri Lanka’s new microfinance laws come into effect
2016-Jul-14 | By Gehan Jayaratne



Sri Lanka’s new microfinance laws come into effect

Sri Lanka’s new laws on licensing, regulating and supervision of companies carrying out microfinance business have come into effect with the gazetting of the new Act.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as Minister of National Policy and Economic Affairs, has by order, published in the Gazette of July 11, brought into operation the Micro Finance Act no. 6 of 2016. 

“This is a historical occasion, as the Micro Finance industry, which serves a large section of the people, mainly female, at the bottom of the economic pyramid, has not been under any sort of prudential regulation,” the PM’s Office said in a press release today (14). 

This has given an ‘open season’ to Pyramid Scheme racketeers such as the infamous, Sakvithi, Danduwan Mudalali and many others, it said. 


Indian Tamil party seeks release of 73 fishermen from Sri Lanka
2016-Jul-14 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Indian Tamil party seeks release of 73 fishermen from Sri Lanka

Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) leader G.K. Vasan has appealed to the Centre to prevail upon the Sri Lankan government and secure the release of 73 Indian fishermen arrested on charges of poaching and 101 boats that have been impounded.

Talking to reporters on Wednesday after receiving representation from Mechanised Fishermen Association leaders N.J. Bose and P. Devadoss, Mr. Vasan said fishermen from Rameswaram to Nagapattinam faced serious threat to their livelihood as the Sri Lankan Navy continued to arrest and attack them.

Last year, when the Sri Lankan government ordered the release of impounded boats, 18 of them could not be salvaged as they suffered extensive damage, Mr Vasan said, urging the Central and State governments to provide compensation to the boat owners. 

The Centre should take constructive steps and protect the livelihood of the fishermen, he said.

Control prices of 16 essential items announced
2016-Jul-14 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Control prices of 16 essential items announced

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce today announced control prices  imposed on 16 essential items effective immediately.

The Gazette is expected tomorrow (15 July).

Announcing the list of commodities and the controlled prices at a press conference today, Secretary of the ministry TMKB Tennakoon said that the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) will inspect and instigate legal action against traders who sell the below mentioned items above the control price.

List of commodities and controlled price (per kg):

Chicken (with skin)  - Rs 410.00
Chicken (skinless) – Rs 495.00
Red dhal – Rs 169.00
Sprats (Thailand) – Rs 495.00 
Sprats (Dubai) – Rs 410.00 
Chickpeas – Rs 260
Green gram – Rs 220
Canned fish (Regular 480g) - Rs 140     
Canned fish (105g) - Rs 70
White Sugar – Rs 95.00
Wheat flour – Rs 87.00
Full cream milk powder (imported) – Rs 810.00
Full cream milk powder (domestic) – Rs 735
Potatoes (imported) – Rs 120.00
B Onions (imported) – Rs 78
Dry chilies – Rs 385
Dried fish - Katta – Rs 1,100
Dried Fish - Sardinella (Salaya) - Rs 425.00
Maldive fish – Rs 1,500
Sustagen  - Rs 1,500

The price of green gram has been reduced by Rs 45 while Maldive fish has been reduced by Rs 240. 


India to be asked to shift Rajiv Gandhi case convict to Sri Lanka
2016-Jul-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne


India to be asked to shift Rajiv Gandhi case convict to Sri Lanka

A representation to Indian central and state governments to transfer Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict Santhan, a Sri Lankan national, to a prison in his country of origin, has been prepared for his approval, the PTI reported. 
The representation has been sent through jail authorities to Santhan by his counsel for consent.
One among the convicts in the case, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan, a Sri Lankan citizen, is lodged in the central jail here.
“Advocate for Santhan has given us a representation requesting us to forward it to him so that he could sign it. We have forwarded it to the prisoner,” a jail official said requesting anonymity. 
“Only if the prisoner (Santhan) signs the petition, appropriate action will be considered in accordance with law,” the official told PTI. 
The petition urges state and central authorities to shift Santhan to a prison in Sri Lanka. The request is based on bilateral prisoner exchange pacts between New Delhi and Colombo. 



Sri Lanla looks forward to continue engagement with US - Mangala
2016-Jul-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Sri Lanla looks forward to continue engagement with US - Mangala

Sri Lanla looks forward to continue our engagement with the United States, especially through the ‘Partnership Dialogue’, to take our relationship to even greater heights, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said.

The observation was made following discussions with US Asst. Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal and US Asst. Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Tom Malinowski.

“We have seen a series of visits from the United States since January last year. This included the Cabinet-level visits of Secretary of State John Kerry, and Ambassador Samantha Power. These high-level visits, combined with the hard work of Assistant Secretary Biswal and Assistant Secretary Malinowski, and others including our respective Ambassadors in the United States and in Sri Lanka, we have succeeded in consolidating relations between our two countries. 

It was the result of all this hard work that saw our two countries set up a ‘Partnership Dialogue’ between the United States and Sri Lanka, which met for the first time in Washington DC in February this year. 

At our meeting today, we discussed a range of issues of bilateral importance including economic cooperation; governance, development cooperation, people-to-people ties; and security cooperation. We also discussed matters pertaining to reconciliation in Sri Lanka; as well as international and regional issues and events that impact on our countries. Apart from discussing ways of making our partnership stronger, including enhancing bilateral trade and investment, we also discussed about enhancing maritime cooperation and Sri Lanka’s participation in the ‘Our Oceans’ Conference aimed at preservation of Oceans, to be held in September, in Washington DC.

We also discussed the importance of providing an economic peace dividend for the people of Sri Lanka as we progress in the process of reconciliation; and I emphasized the interconnected nature of reconciliation and development, and the resources required for the success of both,” he added.


Nisha Biswal arrives in Sri Lanka
2016-Jul-12 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Nisha Biswal arrives in Sri Lanka

The US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal arrived in Sri Lanka a short while ago on Tuesday. 
She was accompanied by the Deputy Assistant Secretary for South Asia Manpreet Singh Anand.
Biswal will meet with the senior government officials and political leaders to discuss bilateral economic cooperation as well as democratic governance and reconciliation, the Spokesperson’s Office of the U.S. Department of State said.


Govt. should reimburse money if VAT remains at 11% - GL
2016-Jul-12 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Govt. should reimburse money if VAT remains at 11% - GL

If the Value Added Tax (VAT) remains at 11%, the public should be reimbursed for the additional amount they actually spent on the tax since May 2, said former Minister G.L. Peiris.  

The observation was made while speaking at a press conference held in Colombo today (12).

“If the VAT remains at 11 %, until the relevant legislation is passed by the Parliament, the additionally obtained tax money should be reimbursed,” he urged.

Meanwhile, MP Bandula Gunawardena while speaking at the press conference accused the Finance Minister of attempting to go beyond the powers of the Parliament. “The VAT was increased without an approval from the Parliament,” he added.

VAT to remain at 11% until legislation passes - Ravi
2016-Jul-12 | By Gehan Jayaratne


VAT to remain at 11% until legislation passes - Ravi

The Value Added Tax (VAT) will remain at 11 % until until the relevant legislation is passed by the Parliament, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said.

The observation was made at a press conference held in Colombo this afternoon (11).

The VAT will be increased to 15 % once the legislation is passed, according to Karunanayake. 

The Supreme Court this morning issued an interim order to suspend the Value Added Tax (VAT) increase. 


Sri Lanka attracts investments over 900 mln USD in June
2016-Jul-12 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Sri Lanka attracts investments over 900 mln USD in June

Sri Lanka’s investment agency, the Board of Investments (BOI), has signed 46 new agreements totalling a record 982 million U.S. dollars last month in order to convert into an international hub in the Indian Ocean region, local media report said here on Monday.

The investment projects cover a wide range of sectors such as manufacturing, construction, mixed development, hotel, mini hydropower, trading house, solar power, apparel, research and development and education.

In addition, once in operation, these projects will generate an estimated 8,000 new direct employment opportunities, a BOI spokesman stated in the report said.

Among the agreements signed are 11 new apartment complexes worth 259 million U.S. dollars in investments and 10 agreements for manufacturing projects worth 296 dollars in investments. Others include seven hotel projects, six related to mixed development projects in the capital Colombo and four for setting up trading houses and agreements to develop several mini hydropower projects.

The government earlier this year said that the island nation aimed to attract foreign direct investments (FDIs) worth 5 billion dollars within the next three years, stating that Sri Lanka was now ripe for investments. Sri Lanka achieved a meagre 750 million dollars in FDIs in 2015, compared to peers such as Vietnam, which achieved over 13 billion dollars in FDIs.

The slowdown in FDIs was attributed to the change in the political landscape which led the majority of the investors to adopt a “wait and see” approach.
The FDIs achieved last year put an end to the positive growth streak achieved since 2011, where for the first time FDIs crossed the 1 billion U.S. dollars mark reaching 1.06 billion dollars.


Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski to visit Sri Lanka
2016-Jul-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne



Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski to visit Sri Lanka

The Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski will visit Sri Lanka between July 12 and 20, US Department of State announced.

He is expected to engage with government officials and local civil society representatives.

Assistant Secretary Malinowski will focus on Sri Lanka’s continued progress in meeting the commitments made during last September’s UN Human Rights Council session, the State Department said.

He will also discuss the work that remains in the areas of justice and reconciliation, and confirm the United States continued support to Sri Lankan efforts to tackle these issues.


Petronet aims to setup terminal in Sri Lanka, eyes Narendra Modi govt push
2016-Jul-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Petronet aims to setup terminal in Sri Lanka, eyes Narendra Modi govt push

Petronet LNG, India’s biggest player in liquefied natural gas, is planning to set up a re-gassification terminal in Sri Lanka as part of a strategy to expand its footprint outside the country, the Financial Express reported. 
Earlier, it has started negotiations to set up a similar project in Bangladesh.
“We have proposed the setting up of a 1million-tonne terminal in Sri Lanka,” Prabhat Singh, managing director and CEO, Petronet LNG, told FE. Currently, a 5 million-tonne-per-annum  (mtpa) terminal costs around Rs 4,500-5,000 crore.
Singh said that by 2020, Petronet would double its storage capacity to 30 million tonnes. Its Dahej terminal, with 15 million-tonne capacity, is operating at 120% capacity. Another 5 million-tonne terminal in Kochi is operating below 10% capacity due to a lack of evacuation facility.
Petronet’s aim to set up a re-gassification terminal in Sri Lanka is expected to get a diplomatic push from the Modi government.


VAT Will Be Decreased By Next Year, Says Ravi Karunanayake
2016-Jul-10 | By Gehan Jayaratne


VAT Will Be Decreased By Next Year, Says Ravi Karunanayake

Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said that the Value Added Tax increase is a temporary measure and that it will be reduced by next year.

Addressing a meeting at the Colombo North UNP party office yesterday he said that the increase of the VAT was done to pay back the loans obtained during the Rajapaksa era.

Karunanayake added that the VAT is less under this government compared to that of the Rajapaksa government at a certain time. During that period the VAT was 20 percent, he added.

Sri Lanka Hopes To Co-build Maritime Silk Road With China: PM
2016-Jul-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Sri Lanka would like to make joint efforts with China for 21 Century Maritime Silk Road construction, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Saturday.

When meeting with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the prime minister said Sri Lanka would take advantage of Indian Ocean hub location to achieve this end.

For his part, the Chinese foreign minister said Sri Lanka enjoys unique geographical advantage as the connection point of Asia, Africa and South Asian Subcontinent.

In the framework of the "One Belt and One Road" initiative, China will work together with Sri Lanka to push forward two countries' relationship to higher level, he said.

Through the implementation of mega projects such as Port City and Hambantota Port development, China will assist Sri Lanka in improving infrastructure and port industrial development.

Meanwhile, China and Sri Lanka will further exploit potentials of cooperation, bring the pragmatic cooperation in various fields to a new level, and boost the consistent development of strategic cooperative partnership, said the foreign minister.

UK calls for ‘international involvement’ in prosecution of war criminals
2016-Jul-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne



UK calls for ‘international involvement’ in prosecution of war criminals


Reiterating its commitment to the full implementation of UN resolution on Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom called for ‘international involvement’ in the prosecution of war crimes.

British Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire speaking in the Parliament on Sri Lanka’s Human Rights on Thursday said that there needs to be an international element in the domestic mechanism for accountability to reassure the communities in Sri Lanka and to show the international community that this is a credible process.

“That is what we continue to stress with the Government, with Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister, with Mangala Samaraweera, the Foreign Minister, and through Prince Zeid (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights),” the minister of state was quoted Swire as saying.

He said the British Government has always been clear that any accountability mechanism needs to be credible and meet international standards.

“We therefore welcomed Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of UNHRC resolution 30/1. We have reiterated our commitment to its full implementation on a number of occasions, most recently in Geneva last month,” he added.

Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena had said that he will not allow any foreign court, judge or organization interfere into the internal administration and judiciary in the country.

Speaking of demilitarization in the North of Lanka, he said the Army has no reason to be in business in a civilian structure or to be on other people’s land.

He added that more land returns are essential to build confidence and to allow the resettlement of displaced Tamils.

Swire said his country will continue to encourage the Lankan government to prioritize the reform of their security sector.

“All forms of sexual and gender-based violence and torture must be addressed,” he said.

He added, “The United Kingdom remains committed to supporting Sri Lanka to take further steps towards peace and prosperity for all its citizens. We do so in a spirit of friendship and co-operation.


China promises to help Sri Lanka become a shipping hub
2016-Jul-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne



China promises to help Sri Lanka become a shipping hub

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday his country will align its maritime silk road project with Sri Lanka’s development plans to enable the island nation to become a shipping hub in the Indian Ocean.

Wang’s comments came after meeting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, starting a two-day visit. It is a sign of Sri Lanka’s new government’s increasing receptiveness to Chinese projects having previously suspended some to investigate corruption and possible environmental hazards.

“We’ll take the building of the maritime silk road as a priority to better align our development strategy including your five-year development plan so that we can come up with a comprehensive blue print for future cooperation, so that we can help Sri Lanka build itself into a shipping center in the Indian Ocean,” Wang said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping won support for the silk road project from Sri Lanka’s former pro-China leader Mahinda Rajapaksa during a visit in 2013.

The silk road is seen as a way of encircling India and controlling port access along sea lanes linking the energy-rich Persian Gulf and economic centers in eastern China.

Wang said however that China’s relations with Sri Lanka does not target any other nation.

“There is a consensus between China and Sri Lanka that our cooperation does not target any third country nor will it affect our respective relations with other countries. We stand ready to work more closely with other regional countries for the purpose of achieving common development.”

Sri Lanka earlier this year allowed a $1.5 billion China-funded port city project to resume a year after it was suspended to study effects to the environment. The city is to be built on reclaimed land off Sri Lanka’s west coast and include a golf course, marinas, apartments, hotels and malls.

The project created disquiet in neighboring India over the possibility China might be allowed outright land ownership.

The two ministers also discussed the South China Sea dispute over which an international tribunal is soon expected to rule. China which claims most part of the sea is boycotting the case filed by the Philippines challenging it.

Wang said Sri Lanka expressed “understanding” of China’s position while Samaraweera said that he called for constructive dialogue to resolve the dispute and ensure peace and stability in the region.


Colombo For Completing Trade Talks With New Delhi, Beijing Mid-2017
2016-Jul-08 | By Gehan Jayaratne


Miniser Malik SamarawikckremaMiniser Malik Samarawikckrema

Sri Lanka plans to complete its negotiations on trade pacts with India, China and Pakistan by the middle of next year.

During his visit to New Delhi early this week, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Development Strategies and  International Trade Malik Samarawickrama met Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman and the two Ministers urged their officials to expedite negotiations on the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) expeditiously.   A delegation from India would go to Colombo this month-end.

India largest source of imports

India, being the largest source of imports with a share of 23 per cent ($ 4,268 million in 2015) of Sri Lanka’s total imports, has been having negotiations with Sri Lanka on the ETCA, an extension and improvement over the existing Free Trade Agreement (FTA).  Last year, exports to India accounted for a little over six per cent of Sri Lanka’s overall exports with $ 643 million. Of them, 63 per cent was under the FTA.

The first round of bilateral talks on the ETCA began in December last. Originally, the idea was to sign a framework pact for the ETCA but this was given up.   Even as certain sections in Sri Lanka continue to nurse reservations, the government in recent months organised a campaign to counter the anti-ETCA drive

20 percent imports from China

Though Colombo depends upon Beijing for 20 per cent of its imports, there is no bilateral FTA. While there has been some progress on the lists of “highly sensitive products,”  “generally sensitive products” and “normal products,” the two will have to finalise rules of origin and product list.  China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who begins his three-day-long visit to Sri Lanka on Friday, is expected to discuss issues concerning the FTA, apart from many other topics including industrial capacity, trade and investment.

Pakistan vital trading partner

In the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) region, Pakistan is considered an important trading partner of Sri Lanka, both of which signed the FTA in July 2002. Tea, copra and rubber are being exported to Pakistan while Colombo is importing cement, textiles, pharmaceuticals from Islamabad. Under FTA, Sri Lanka exported goods worth $ 59 million to Pakistan last year, which was about 81 per cent of the total exports to the SAARC member-country.

17 Indian fishermen arrested for poaching
2016-Jul-06 | By Gehan Jayaratne

17 Indian fishermen arrested for poaching

The Navy has assisted the Sri Lanka Coast Guard to arrest seventeen (17) Indian fishermen along with two Indian fishing trawlers poaching in Sri Lankan waters, East of Point Pedro.

The arrested fishermen along with the fishing trawlers will be handed over to the Jaffna Fisheries Inspectorate for onward action.


India to upgrade railway network in Lanka
2016-Jul-06 | By Gehan Jayaratne

India to upgrade railway network in Lanka

India and Sri Lanka today discussed various issues concerning development of railway network in the island country, the PTI reported. 

Upgradation of signalling and telecommunication system and strengthening of existing railway line in Sri Lanka are some of the issues discussed between Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha and Lankan Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama amid the presence of senior railway and MEA officials.


India has been extending concessional Line of Credit (LoC) to Sri Lanka to support various projects in the infrastructure sector including Railways. 

Till date, more than US $ 1 billion of LoC has been extended to Sri Lanka for various Railway projects. 

Some of the railway projects being undertaken under LoC assistance are upgradation of the 118 km Coastal Railway track from Kalutara to Matara in Southern Sri Lanka including supply of rolling stocks, training and setting up of maintenance facilities was carried out under US $ 267 million concessional Line of Credit (LoC) assistance project by the Railways PSUs IRCON and RITES. 

The project was completed in April, 2012. Indian Railways has undertaken the Northern Railway Rehabilitation Project in Sri Lanka involving 252 km of track rehabilitation (Omenthai-Kankesanturai and Medawachiya-Talaimanar) and upgradation and 353 km of signaling and telecommunications (Anuradhapur- Kankesanturai and Medawachiya-Talaimanar) under US$ 800 million LoC. 

The project was completed by IRCON between 2013 to 2015. 

A fresh Line of Credit of US $ 318 million for railway projects was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Colombo visit in March 13-14, 2015 emphasising the bilateral cooperation in the railway sector. 

Sri Lanka has proposed to use the fresh LoC for purchase of 6 Diesel Multiple Units (DMU), each with two power cars and 12 coaches (US $ 106 million) 160 passenger coaches (US $ 62 million) and track materials to rehabilitate around 150 km of Railway track (US $ 150 million). 

Lankan government had issued tender documents for procurement of 6 DMUs, 10 locomotives and 160 passenger coaches for which RITES has submitted bids on May 18, 2016. The LoC Agreement with amended repayment terms has to be signed with Sri Lanka to pave the way for the utilization of US $ 318 million LoC. 

IRCON has submitted techno-commercial proposal for utilizing the remaining LoC for upgradation of Anuradhapur-Omanthai section of railway line in the Northern Province. 

Besides upgadation of Maho-Anuradhapura section including new signaling and telecommunication works and strengthening of existing line and construction of new section line along with complete signaling and telecommunication works on the Polgahwela-Maho section. 

In addition, India is interested to construct a new railway line from Trincomalee to Medawachchiya which is estimated to be around US $ 300 million.

India To Construct Major Port In Tamil Nadu To Compete With Colombo
2016-Jul-06 | By Gehan Jayaratne

India To Construct Major Port In Tamil Nadu To Compete With Colombo

The Union cabinet on Tuesday cleared several proposals including the construction of a strategic port in Tamil Nadu to counter Colombo.

The in-principle approval for setting up a major port at Enayam near Colachel in Tamil Nadu is aimed at making India a destination on the global east-west trade route.

The Enayam project will cost around Rs.27,000 crore and will be undertaken in three phases. The cabinet cleared an expenditure of Rs.6,575 crore for phase one.

The proposed port at Enayam has advantages over the nearby Colombo port as the former has a natural deep draught of about 20 metres as compared to 18 metres in Colombo, making it feasible for larger vessels to call at the Indian port. Besides, in Colombo there is only one terminal with an 18 metre draught.

“Enayam has 10 million TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units) capacity which can be further expanded to 18 million TEUs in future by converting the breakwater into a container handling berth,” said a senior shipping ministry official on condition of anonymity.

He added that the Enayam port would also hold strategic importance for India as it will act as a major gateway container port for Indian cargo that is presently trans-shipped outside the country.

To develop the port, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) will be formed with initial equity investment from the three major ports in Tamil Nadu—V.O. Chidambaranar Port Trust, Chennai Port Trust and Kamarajar Port Ltd. The SPV will develop the port infrastructure including dredging and reclamation, construction of a breakwater, ensuring connectivity links, etc.

Currently, around 78% of the traffic from the east coast ports is trans-shipped. There are only a few ports in south India that have a draught to match global cargo handling efficiencies and function as a trans-shipment hub.

Given the steady increase in mainline vessel sizes, liners prefer calling at ports that have draughts that are at least 18 metres. Due to this, 1.8 million TEUs of India’s current trans-shipment traffic gets handled in Colombo, Singapore and Klang (Malaysia).

Out of this 66.6% is handled at Colombo port alone. The exporters and importers in south India incur an additional charge of Rs.5,000-Rs.6,000 per TEU because of the added leg of trans-shipment. Approximately 2.7 million TEUs of India-destined containers in 2013-14 were trans-shipped at international ports, adding large costs to the economy and resulting in Indian ports losing as much as Rs.1,500 crore per year in business. The cabinet also cleared a proposal to increase foreign investment in Axis Bank to 74% from 62%.

“With the approval, foreign direct investment to the tune of Rs.12,973.14 crore will be received in the country,” a cabinet statement said.

Will adopt transparent tax scheme instead of hidden tax agenda - PM
2016-Jul-05 | By Sihara Colombage

Will adopt transparent tax scheme instead of hidden tax agenda - PM

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says that a decision was reached that the citizens of Sri Lanka should be involved in the country’s economy and decision making process by implementing a transparent tax scheme instead of a hidden tax agenda.

The PM met with the Ministers, Members of Parliament and Electoral Organizers at Temple Trees in Colombo last evening. 

During this meeting, we analyzed the future of Sri Lanka’s economy, and the reasons behind the Nation’s dire economic situation, he said. 

“It was explained that going forward, difficult decisions would have to be made in order to avert a complete breakdown of the economy,” Wickremesinghe wrote on his official Facebook account.

He revealed that the necessity of devising a simple tax scheme, as well as creating a transparent environment for the payment of taxes through a systemic arrangement was also deliberated. 

“An agreement was reached that the citizens of Sri Lanka should be involved in the country’s economy and decision making process by implementing a transparent tax scheme instead of a hidden tax agenda.”

“We took over a nation with a pillaged economy in its wake.” And it was declared that the full support of all citizens of Sri Lanka would be required in order to bring back a sustainable and flourishing economy to the Island, he said.

Sri Lanka eyeing robust tourist influx from Jordan, Middle East
2016-Jul-05 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lanka eyeing robust tourist influx from Jordan, Middle East


The number of Jordanian and Middle Eastern tourists heading to Sri Lanka is on the rise and expected to witness a further boom as intensified tourism promotion activities are being held and major tourism facilities are in the pipelines in the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, according to officials and experts.

The island nation, which attracts some 1.8 million tourists annually, is witnessing the construction of hotels, commercial centres and entertainment facilities, the officials and experts said during a recent familiarisation trip to Sri Lanka held in cooperation between the Sri Lanka embassy in Amman and Air Arabia.

Focusing on the country’s deep-rooted and rich history, Colombo has also embarked on a strategy to increase the number of tourists and familiarise them with its attractions and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Sigiriya, which refers to the ruins of the capital built by the parricidal King Kassapa I (477–95).

“Sri Lanka has a very rich history… It has a lot to offer… It is the place for honeymooners, nature and wild life lovers, sea sport fans. Whatever tourists are looking for, it is there in Sri Lanka,” Sri Lankan Ambassador to Jordan Abdul Latiff Lafeer said in an interview with The Jordan Times in Colombo during the trip.

The ambassador said Sri Lanka has developed a strategic marketing plan for 2016 with the participation of the private sector and stakeholders to address the needs of the tourism industry.

The strategy includes promotional activities and advertisements in various areas to attract more tourists and increase the sector’s revenues.

As many tourists go online for holiday reservations, Sri Lanka launched an online and digital marketing campaign under which it will create language-specific websites for all main markets and promote destinations via focused online and social media platforms identified in each country, said Lafeer.

Sri Lanka will also continue to hold trade and media familiarisation tours, inviting travel agents from across the world.

Air China Removes Planned W16 Beijing – Colombo Schedule
2016-Jul-05 | By Sihara Colombage

Air China Removes Planned W16 Beijing – Colombo Schedule

Air China in recent schedule update has removed operational schedule for Beijing – Colombo route, operating as winter seasonal service, Routes Online said.

Previously, the airline planned to conduct 3 Beijing-Colombo flights per week from November 1, 2016. However reservation for this A330 operation has been closed since June, and schedule removed from the system.

Air China already is operating a Chengdu-Colombo service four times per week.

India, Sri Lanka agree to start talks for ETCA
2016-Jul-05 | By Sihara Colombage

India, Sri Lanka agree to start talks for ETCA

India and Sri Lanka today agreed to start negotiations on fast-track basis for the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) and conclude the talks before end of the year.


The issue among others came up for discussion during the meeting between the visiting Sri Lankan Minister for Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama, and Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi.


“The leaders reviewed progress of the proposed ETCA between India and Sri Lanka and agreed to start negotiations on an expedited track for an early conclusion of the agreement, preferably before the end of the year,” the commerce ministry said in a statement.


An Indian delegation is visiting Sri Lanka shortly in this regard, it said.


The leaders also agreed that early harvest measures may be negotiated but these would come into effect on the date the agreement comes into force, it added.


The two sides noted that India-Sri Lanka free trade agreement, made operational in March 2000, has been beneficial to both the countries.


Both leaders discussed several issues related to bilateral trade and investment.


Further it said that the ministers agreed to hold a meeting of the reconstituted India-Sri Lanka CEO’s Forum at an early date.


The bilateral trade between the countries stood at USD 6 billion in 2015-16 as against USD 7.45 billion in the previous fiscal, PTI reports.


Navy apprehends five TN fishermen, one boat 
2016-Jul-03 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Navy apprehends five TN fishermen, one boat

The Sri Lankan Navy apprehended five Indian fishermen and detained their fishing boat in the early morning hours on Sunday.

The fishermen were fishing near the Delfts island.

The Navy arrested the five fishermen as they crossed the international maritime boundary line. Sri Lanka normally releases apprehended fishermen as goodwill gesture but fishing boats are detained.

The Indian fishermen are urging the government to secure the immediate release of fellow fishermen and 94 detained fishing boats.


Key Suspect In Sri Lankan Refugees’ Illegal Migration Episode Arrested In Tamil Nadu
2016-Jul-03 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Key Suspect In Sri Lankan Refugees’ Illegal Migration Episode Arrested In Tamil Nadu

The middleman who is suspected to be the brain behind the recently thwarted illegal ferrying of Sri Lankan refugees from Kanniyakumari to Australia has been arrested by Tamil Nadu police, The Hindu said.

On getting information about the possible illegal ferrying of Sri Lankan expatriates via Muttam in Kanniyakumari district to Australia, Q Branch police stepped up vigil in the area and thwarted an attempt by arresting nine persons.

With the information they could extract from the arrested during interrogation, the police arrested five more persons who facilitated hiring of the boat for the illegal voyage, The Hindu also reported.

The police, during the investigation, came to know that each refugee had given up to Indian Rs. 100,000 to brokers for illegally migrating to Australia. Against this backdrop, the police nabbed one Arul Inba Thevar (55) of Pollachi, who is suspected to be the brain behind the venture.

PM to attend SADC in Singapore next month
2016-Jun-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

PM to attend SADC in Singapore next month

Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe is to attend the third South Asian Diaspora Convention next month. The Straits Times reported.

The role of Islam in South Asia, China’s relationship with the sub-continent and the impact of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) are among the issues to be discussed at the third convention.

Organised by the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), it will be held on July 18 and July 19 at Raffles City Convention Centre.

More than 1,000 participants are expected to attend, institute Chairman Gopinath Pillai said.

Pillai said ISAS has hitherto been studying contemporary South Asia, but two factors concerning the region need to be examined further: the growth of Islam and China’s influence as a rising power.

The reason for the first: in 30 years, India will have the largest Muslim population; and in another 30 years, South Asia will hold the biggest bloc of Muslims in the world.

Other Singapore ministers who will attend the two-day conference include Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran.


SL’s co-sponsorship of UN resolution was a landmark moment: UK 
2016-Jun-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

SL’s co-sponsorship of UN resolution was a landmark moment: UK

Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the 2015 Human Rights Council resolution and ownership of its content, was a landmark moment, the UK statement on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council Sessions said.

The statement further added that they welcome the Sri Lankan Government’s continuing determination to address the legacy of conflict through the implementation of resolution 30/1. 

Full statement – 

“A comprehensive approach to dealing with the past, restoring confidence in state institutions, and developing a just political settlement for all its people is essential.

We join the High Commissioner in recognising the progress Sri Lanka has made, particularly the increased engagement with the UN, including visits by UN Special Rapporteurs; the tabling of a Bill for an Office of Missing Persons; the ratification of the Convention on Enforced Disappearances; the initiation of a process of constitutional reform; and the improved environment for civil society and human rights defenders. We endorse his view that the National Human Rights Commission needs the cooperation and respect of other bodies to be effective.

However, much still remains to be done by the Sri Lankan Government to fulfil all the commitments it has made. These steps will require courageous and determined political leadership. More civilian land occupied by the military in the north should be released. The Government should repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act as soon as possible. We urge the Government to deliver on its commitment to devolve political authority through constitutional reform, and to put in place credible transitional justice mechanisms underpinned by meaningful consultations and effective witness protection.

The United Kingdom remains committed to the full implementation of resolution 30/1 and we stand ready to help the Sri Lankan Government to this end.”


Exports will be hit by Brexit, says minister
2016-Jun-29 | By Sihara Colombage

Exports will be hit by Brexit, says minister


Sri Lanka said its trade would be hurt by the United Kingdom’s “nightmare” vote to leave the European Union, with $1bn in annual exports to the British market now clouded by uncertainty.

The South Asian nation famed for its tea and spices is on the brink of signing up to a scheme with the European Union that would grant it lower tariffs on many goods.

But with Britain its largest EU export market, the shock Brexit vote will make things tougher for the cash-strapped island, likely leading to new restrictions.

“We knew it was going to be a nightmare,” Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva said.

The dramatic fall in sterling is likely to inflict extra pain on Sri Lanka’s exporters, the minister added. 

De Silva and colleagues had travelled to London last week to urge voters of Sri Lankan origin to support the “remain” campaign.

Britain is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest export markets and the country was hoping to improve trade with Britain under the EU GSP plus trade concession.

Silva said Sri Lanka will this week formally submit its application to regain GSP plus from the EU, but since Britain will now be out of the EU, Colombo will look to sign a new free trade agreement with the UK.

“We are now confident of getting back GSP plus but since Britain will not be in the EU we are studying the possibility of signing a free trade agreement with Britain,” Silva said. Sri Lanka lost the EU GSP plus trade concession when the former government was in office over human rights related issues but the new government which took office last year has met most conditions to regain GSP plus.

De Silva said Colombo would now look to fast-track separate free trade agreements with China and India to counter the damage. He said a committee has been appointed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to study the impact Brexit will have on Sri Lanka and the remedial measures the country must take.

“We will strengthen trade ties with Asia. We need to expedite the proposed trade agreements with China and India,” he said. The government hopes to finalise a free-trade deal with Singapore within a month and is discussing similar agreements with Japan and South Korea. Sri Lanka this month received the first tranche of a $1.5bn bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund.


UNHRC Chief Commends On Progress Made By Sri Lanka
2016-Jun-28 | By Gehan Jayaratne

UNHRC Chief Commends On Progress Made By Sri Lanka

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein praised the government Government of Sri Lanka, saying that the overall steps to implement some of the key commitments made in UN Resolution last year are encouraging.

However, he added that more rapid and sustained progress could have been made on some other issues.

"Overall, the Human Rights Council should be encouraged thus far by the steps that the Government of Sri Lanka has taken to implement some of the key commitments made in Resolution 30/1, and the consultations and preparations now underway to further elaborate and design the transitional justice mechanisms," Al-Hussein said in the advanced version of his oral update on Sri Lanka, released on Monday.

The report on Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka listed the restoration of the Constitutional Council, an independent Human Rights Commission and the ratification of the Disappearances Convention (CED) as important achievements of the government.

"Nonetheless, the establishment of full transitional justice mechanisms will be needed to provide a comprehensive response to past human rights violations and ensure that they do not reccur," it said.

The UNHRC Chief noted that more rapid and sustained progress could have been made on issues such as the release of land and detainees and the revision of the PTA and witness protection laws, which would build confidence with the minority community.

However, he acknowledged that the transformative process will take time. "Inevitably, the transformative process on which Sri Lanka is embarked will take time. Dealing with the multiple tracks of constitutional reform, transitional justice, economic recovery and security sector reform would tax the capacity of any government," the Al-Hussein explained.

Meanwhile, he urged the Government to take concrete steps to address the impatience, anxiety and reservations towards the process that stem from various quarters, and reiterated the importance for all Sri Lankans to rally behind the process."

The High Commissioner also said that his office will continue to stand ready to provide further advice and technical assistance.

Sri Lankans Using Tamil Nadu As Base For Illegally Traveling To Australia
2016-Jun-28 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Sri Lankans Using Tamil Nadu As Base For Illegally Traveling To Australia

A new and scary dimension is now added to the long-standing problem of the trafficking of Sri Lankan Tamils to Australia by rickety boats, as the Tamil Nadu police on Monday arrested nine such 'dollar-hunters' from a lodge at Tiruchendur. The scary aspect is that these were not the usual Lankan refugees from the 110 camps scattered across the state lured by the unscrupulous agents promising safe voyage to the dreamland but were from Sri Lanka.

They had arrived from Colombo on tourist visa as part of a larger group, claiming to be pilgrims visiting shrines of Tamil Nadu but with the actual intent of sailing to Australia, a senior official of the ‘Q’ branch police, which deals with the issues related to the foreigners, refugees and extremists, told DC. He said following a tip-off, his men nabbed the nine Lankans — Gopinath, (32), his wife Shobana, (26), Dhayabaran, (45), Guruvintham, (25), Dharshan, (25), Sathyaseelan, (32), Dhayananthan, (35), Shantha Rooban, (35) and Robin Prasad, (25), in their rooms at a lodge at about 2.30 a.m.

They told the police they had arrived from Colombo by air on June 2 and after completing the ‘pilgrimage’ lap of Velankanni-Palani-Madurai, landed in Tiruchendur on June 25 (Saturday) for worshiping at the Murugan temple and getting ready for the Australian voyage. Their trafficker had arranged for a boat from Muttam (Kanyakumari district) for their escape from a secret beach near Kollam (Kerala). They also revealed that 19 more Lankan Tamils were waiting at Chinnamuttom and Colachel in Kanyakumari district to join them on the trip. The ‘Q’ police immediately rushed to Colachel, along with the nine arrested Lankan Tamils, to get the rest of the hiding group.

Ultimately, 13 persons were taken into custody, including three Lankan Tamil refugees from camps in Tamil Nadu and one local human trafficking agent. “These people are being taken for a ride by unscrupulous agents promising to reach them to Australia as refugees. They can never pass off refugees as the situation in Sri Lanka is no longer the same as it used to be before the Eelam war ended. The Tamils who came from Colombo, arrived with passports and tourist visas, and want to sneak off to Australia as refugees,” said another senior police officer, sounding bitter.

“Already, we are facing huge problem keeping close watch on the 110 refugee camps in Tamil Nadu and the long coastline we have to ensure that the unscrupulous agents do not take off from secret locations with their human traffic to Australia. You have seen we have been making arrests every now and then,” he said. “The government must promulgate an ordinance to make this trafficking severely punishable, if we must stop this scourge that has already seen over 600 people perish in high seas on such perilous journeys,” said S.C. Chandrahasan of the Organisation for Eelam Refugee Rehabilitation (OfERR), a long campaigner against the human traffickers.

“This crime has been one thing, so far, where the concerned get caught a number of times and yet walk out free, get back to their camps. This must stop”. According to Chandrahasan, many of these agents — “they are unscrupulous criminal people, mostly Sri Lankan Tamils” — are able to hook their victims telling them they could also lead comfortable ‘dollar-happy’ lives in Australia where their kin had found shelter before 2012.

Though Australia has now firmly closed its shores to boat people, these agents are able to convince their prey that the upcoming elections in that country would throw up a government sympathetic to the Lankan Tamil refugees.

“We have been trying for long to counsel these refugees in the camps here not to trust these liars. The government and the officials here also are doing their best to prevent our people from losing their money to the agents and losing their lives to the sea. This new trend of the (Lankan) Tamil people coming here disguised as pilgrims and actually planning to head for Australia is truly disturbing,” said the noted Lankan human rights activist.

Sri Lanka signs three agreements with Ukraine
2016-Jun-27 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lanka signs three agreements with Ukraine

Sri Lanka is committed to further strengthening and renewing the long standing relationship with Ukraine, Minister Mangala Samaraweera says. 

This was discussed when the Foreign Minister paid an official visit to Ukraine at the invitation of the Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin, Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The statement  added, “Minister Samaraweera briefed his Ukrainian counterpart on recent developments in Sri Lanka including measures taken by the Unity Government to achieve reconciliation and inclusive economic development, strengthen democracy, rule of law, and good governance including combating corruption. He also briefed the Foreign Minister of Ukraine regarding the process for evolving a new Constitution. 

Welcoming Minister Samaraweera, Minister Klimkin said that the visit would contribute to the reinvigoration of relations between the two countries. Reiterating Ukraine’s support for Sri Lanka in its efforts in reconciliation and peace building, he said Ukraine and Sri Lanka were similar in their drive in promoting democracy and ending corruption. 

Minister Samaraweera extended an invitation to Minister Klimkin to visit Sri Lanka at a mutually convenient time which was accepted by Minister Klimkin.  This would be the first visit of a Foreign Minister of Ukraine to Sri Lanka.

The two Ministers agreed that there is scope for further expansion of bilateral trade. Noting that tea remains the main export item from Sri Lanka to Ukraine with Ceylon tea occupying 33% of the Ukraine tea market, Minister Samaraweera stressed the need for achieving export diversification.  In this regard, he encouraged business delegations from Ukraine to attend trade exhibitions and business forums held in Sri Lanka to establish contacts with Sri Lankan entrepreneurs.  The need to strengthen cooperation between the Chambers of Commerce of the two countries to facilitate closer interaction between the private sectors of the two countries for the promotion of business and investment was also emphasized. 

Noting that 23,853 tourists from Ukraine have visited Sri Lanka in 2015, Minister Samaraweera expressed hope that the commencement of direct non-stop scheduled flights between Kiev and Colombo by Ukraine International Airlines from November 2016 would pave the way for increasing tourist traffic from Ukraine to Sri Lanka. He encouraged travel and tour operators from Ukraine to visit Sri Lanka.”

Boat Used To Ferry Sri Lankan Refugees Seized
2016-Jun-27 | By Sihara Colombage

Representative Image

An abandoned mechanized boat, believed to have been used by people smugglers to illegally ferry Sri Lankan refugees to Australia, was reportedly seized by ‘Q’ Branch CID police in Tamil Nadu off the Muttom Coast in Kanyakumari District on Saturday.

The boat was seized after the police had rounded up a few Sri Lankan refugees who had paid for the passage and had returned recently after encountering coastal patrol boats blocking their route, police sources said. The boat, said to be around 75 feet in length, had been stranded at Old Harbour in Muttom. It had been registered in Kerala but had been painted over by the smugglers with a fake registration number.

The police had learned that nine refugees from the Vellore Melmonavoor Refugee Camp had been missing since June 19. The nine persons returned on June 23, and were questioned by Q Branch sleuths. During the course of their interrogation, it was learned that one of the four men arrested by the department recently in Pollachi, along with a few other “agents,” had received money from the nine refugees and had promised to ferry them to Australia.

The people smugglers had planned to ferry the nine refugees from Kanyakumari, but were forced to turn back after encountering coastal security, just a few nautical miles off the Kanyakumari Coast.

Five Tamil Nadu Fishermen Rescued by Lanka, Remanded Till July 7
2016-Jun-24 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Representative image

Five Tamil Nadu fishermen were today rescued by their Sri Lankan counterparts after their boat developed a snag off the island nation's coastal waters.

The fishermen were later produced in a court and remanded to custody till July 7.

They were stranded in mid-sea off Velvettithurai coast after their boat developed a snag when they were rescued by the Sri Lankan fishermen, Joint director of fisheries, Subbraj told PTI.

The fishermen, all of whom are from Vedranyam hamlet, were later taken to the army camp at Velvettithurai, he said.

They were produced before a court in that town and remanded to custody till July 7, he said, adding that they are now lodged in a jail in Jaffna.

Madras HC Dismisses Plea To Ensure Fishing Rights In Katchatheevu Waters
2016-Jun-24 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Madras HC Dismisses Plea To Ensure Fishing Rights In Katchatheevu Waters

The Madras High Court on Thursday dismissed as not maintainable a plea seeking a direction to the Union government to enforce the 1974 agreement between India and Sri Lanka in letter and spirit to ensure fishing rights of Indian fishermen in the international waters.

Refusing to entertain the plea, the First Bench of Chief Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice R. Mahadevan said, “This court has no jurisdiction to enforce a writ on the Sri Lankan government. Counsel for the petitioner did strenuously seek to contend that the said relief is not being prayed against the Sri Lankan government, but effectively in our opinion that is the relief he has prayed for, though it may be couched in some other language.”

Noting that these are matters which have to be left to the diplomatic channels of two countries, the Bench added, “There is no doubt that the problem exists, but a solution cannot be arrived at by issuing a writ of mandamus and that too indirectly affecting what the Sri Lankan government does, that being the grievance. We thus leave this issue to the wisdom of the government authorities.”

The petitioner, Fisherman Care, an association working for the rights of fishermen wanted the court to delete the relevant portion of a letter dated March 23, 1976 exchanged between the then Foreign Secretary of India and the Secretary to the Ministry of the Government of Sri Lanka, which takes away the traditional fishing rights of Indian fishermen to fish in the waters between the two countries.

Relying upon the agreement signed between the two governments recognising the ownership of the island by Sri Lanka, the petitioner said, “Article 6 of the agreement ensures the traditional fishing rights of the Indian fishermen in the waters between the two countries. The provision states that vessels of India and Sri Lanka shall enjoy in each other’s waters such rights as they have traditionally enjoyed therein.”

Pointing out the subsequent letter exchanged between the Foreign Secretary of India and the Secretary of the Ministry to the Government of Sri Lanka, which took away the traditional rights violating the agreement, the petitioner said, “The letters are only executive instructions, and instructions cannot supersede the provisions of the legally valid agreement entered between the two countries.”

The petitioner further alleged that taking advantage of the letter, the Sri Lankan Navy is preventing Indian fishermen who engage in fishing in Palk Strait by opening fire and arresting them.

Claiming that the petitioner has made representations on the issue to the Union government on November 24, 2015 and on February 6, the petitioner submitted that till date no action has been taken on the representations.

Sri Lanka Questions Cluster Bombs Claim
2016-Jun-23 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lanka Questions Cluster Bombs Claim

The Sri Lanka government on Wednesday questioned the veracity of photographs published in sections of the media to suggest that cluster bombs were used in the final stages of the civil war.

Responding to queries by The Hindu in the light of the publication of a report by The Guardian along with the photographs, Rajitha Senaratne, Cabinet spokesperson, wondered: “How do you know that the sites, as shown in the pictures, are in Sri Lanka? How do you say that these bombs belong to the Sri Lanka Army? What is the basis? There could have been cluster bombs. How do you say whether they are from the Army or the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] forces? ”

When pointed out that the news report had stated that the weapons could have been used only by the Sri Lanka security forces which were believed to have had the capability to deploy cluster bombs in no fire zone, Dr. Senaratne retorted: “How can they say that? The LTTE could have done it.”

The Minister asked why the photographs were published now, coinciding with the ongoing session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which would have shortly discussions on the issues of reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. “They (those involved in demining) should have reported [the discovery of cluster bombs] at the time of demining. Why now, after so many years?”

When told that the discovery of bombs was, according to the news story, not reported for fear of retributive action from the then regime led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Dr. Senaratne argued that the Rajapaksa regime could not have penalised anyone for reporting any such discovery.

Defence Secretary Criticizes United States
2016-Jun-23 | By Sihara Colombage

Defence Secretary Criticizes United States

The United States should stop intervention in the South China Sea issue to safeguard peace, stability and security in the region, Karunasena Hettiarachchi, Sri Lanka's secretary to the Ministry of Defence, told Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.

In an interview with Xinhua on Tuesday, Hettiarachchi said the United States should stop polarizing some ally countries to isolate China and any attempt to draw or divide between countries will undermine the peace, stability and security in the Asia Pacific region.

"The countries concerned should come to the negotiation table to discuss and listen to each other on how to solve the South China Sea disputes."

"As we all know that China is a country that loves peace so much," he noted.

The secretary said during his trip to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore weeks ago, he met defense secretaries of some countries and reached agreement with them on a wide range of issues such as cooperation opportunities and goodwill to maintain regional security.

Hettiarachchi said that he held the same view that the South China Sea issue has been hyped up by some countries outside the region.

The Philippines unilaterally initiated an arbitration from an international tribunal over the South China Sea disputes in 2013.

The Chinese government has reiterated its non-acceptance and non-participation stance in the case, Xinhua said.

Indonesia Vows To Help Stranded Tamil Migrants
2016-Jun-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Indonesia Vows To Help Stranded Tamil Migrants

Indonesia has vowed to provide humanitarian assistance to 43 Tamil migrants from Sri Lanka stranded in Aceh and connect them with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), having permitted them to come ashore after a week of attempting to force them back out to sea.

“UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration [IOM] will further assist us in data gathering and provision of humanitarian assistance,” Immigration Directorate General spokesman Heru Santoso Anantan Yudha said in a press conference on Tuesday.

The assistance included providing tents as temporary shelters and repairing the migrants’ Indian-flagged boat, which ran aground on the coast of Lhoknga in Aceh Besar regency. The migrants were heading to Australia.

The government has also assigned doctors to check the migrants' health, with most of them found to be suffering from exhaustion after being at sea for more than 20 days during their journey from their homeland in Sri Lanka before found by Lhoknga fishermen on June 11.

The immigration office has also contacted the Sri Lankan and Indian embassies regarding the matter, but has received no response, Heru said.

The officials will make sure that the stranded Tamils are indeed asylum seekers with the help of UNHCR and the IOM. If proven to fulfill the qualifications as asylum seekers, the immigration office will let the two international bodies handle them.

However, in the case they are not real asylum seekers, the government will repatriate them with funds from the respective embassy. No time limit has been placed on how long the migrants may stay in Aceh, Heru added.

First consignment of fish shipped after the ban lifted by EU
2016-Jun-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

First consignment of fish shipped after the ban lifted by EU

First consignment of fish has been shipped to Amsterdam today (22), after the ban lifted by EU, sources said.

According to the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Ministry Secretary Mangalika Adhikari, Sri Lanka’s earnings from fish exports dwindled from Euro 73 million to 9 million as a result of the ban.

She also appealed to the fishing community and the exporters not to allow this opportunity to be lost again.

The European Commission decided to lift of the ban on fisheries exports from Sri Lanka to the European Union, stating that Sri Lanka now had a robust legal and policy framework to fight illegal fishing activities. The Sri Lankan government said that it was facing a loss of over 100 million U.S. dollars per year because of the ban.

Government Mulls Allowing Foreigners To Buy Land
2016-Jun-21 | By Sihara Colombage

Government Mulls Allowing Foreigners To Buy Land

The government is planning to liberalize Sri Lanka’s land laws within three to four weeks, allowing foreigners to buy land.

According to sources, the government is moving towards amending the Land (Restrictions on Alienation) Act which barred foreigners from owning lands,

This Act was introduces in the final months of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, despite protest from the local business community. Furthermore, the government is planning to allow any foreigner who will bring in US $ 1.0 million to buy government-owned lands for personal purposes. Nevertheless, there will be no restrictions in foreigners owning lands for commercial purposes.

Meanwhile, in another move, the government will offer 10-year temporary visa for any foreigner who will bring US $ 300,000.

These planned moves show a desperation for foreign currency and with tourism sector in mind.

While Sri Lanka’s strict land laws are only one of the many factors blocking the flow of foreign direct investments (FDIs) to the country, liberalization of land laws will lead to a debate between investment and national interests.

Jayalalithaa Vows To Retrieve Kachchateevu From Sri Lanka
2016-Jun-21 | By Sihara Colombage

Jayalalithaa Vows To Retrieve Kachchateevu From Sri Lanka

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha assured the state assembly on Monday that her government would retrieve the Katchatheevu Island, which was given to Sri Lanka by India in 1974.

The AIADMK supremo said her government had been unable to take back Katchatheevu even after 25 years of efforts because of the opposition DMK, International Business Times, India,  said.

Jayalalithaa was responding to Leader of Opposition MK Stalin when she made the statement. "By passing a resolution in the assembly, the then DMK government headed by (Stalin's father) M Karunanidhi closed the discussion on the transfer," Indo-Asian News Service quoted Jayalalithaa as saying.

"Immediately after the all party meeting in 1974, mediapersons brought to the notice of then chief minister Karunanidhi the decision of Jan Sangh leader AB Vajpayee to approach the Supreme Court against conceding Katchatheevu. But Karunanidhi refused to make any comments," the Hindu quoted the chief minister.

"At least the DMK government in 2008 could have impleaded itself in the petition filed by me in the Supreme Court," she said.

The Katchatheevu island was ceded to Sri Lanka after an agreement in 1974, which allowed Indian fishermen to fish in the waters of the island. However, another agreement was signed in 1976 by the then Congress government, and it imposed restrictions on the fishermen wanting to fish there, the Mint reported.

Jayalalithaa had approached the Supreme Court challenging both agreements in 2008.

UNHCR To Interview Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers In Indonesia
2016-Jun-21 | By Sihara Colombage

UNHCR To Interview Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers In Indonesia

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officers got the permission from the Indonesia government to interview 44 Australia-bound Sri Lankan asylum seekers and collect their data, after the authorities allowed them to temporarily disembark their stranded boat, Sri Lankan local media reported on Monday.

The group of asylum seekers last Saturday were allowed to come ashore and stay at a military tent near beach, after a tense stand-off for over a week in their stranded boat in Lhoknga Coast in Indonesia.

The report cited what an Indonesian official said that, the asylum seekers and their Indian-flagged boat have to go back to international waters after the damaged boat has been repaired, continuing their trip with 7 tons of fuel given by the Indonesia government.

Meanwhile, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are still lobbying the Aceh authorities to move the 44 asylum seekers, consisting of 20 men, 14 women including a pregnant woman and nine children to a detention center in the province.

Every year many asylum-seeker boats still attempt to reach Australia, though at a much lower rate than at the peak of boat arrivals in 2011 and 2012, but most are intercepted and forced back before they reach Australian territorial waters.

Lankan Tamil refugees in India duped with Aussie dream 
2016-Jun-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Lankan Tamil refugees in India duped with Aussie dream

A foiled illegal immigration bid has highlighted how Sri Lankan Tamil refugees languishing in Tamil Nadu’s government camps continue to be duped by racketeers with promises of a better life in Australia.

The 28 refugees intercepted by state coastal police on June 2 while being driven to their waiting boat were the lucky ones. Had they been able to sail, past experience suggests they could well have perished in the high seas in their crummy boats or been locked up in refugee detention centres on islands off the Australian coast.

A senior Indian police officer said the local and Lankan agents of a human trafficking ring exploit the refugees’ reluctance to return to Sri Lanka and their desire to escape the poor living conditions in their Tamil Nadu camps.

Activists working with refugees said the agents lure the refugees with offers of a sea trip to Australia at Rs 1 lakh per head. They are told that asylum is a certainty once they reach the transit camps on Australia’s Christmas Island.

On June 2, the group of 28 from four refugee camps were caught while on their way to the Pulicat Lake, a lagoon between Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, in two vans with a bike-borne escort.

They had been told they would be posing as tourists taking a boat ride on the lake before being shifted to a vessel on the coast, which would eventually drop them at Christmas Island.

The coastal police arrested the van drivers and the escort - allegedly an agent - along with the 13 male refugees. The women and children were sent back to their camps.

“We suspect some agents collect the money and tip the police off while transporting them to the pick-up point,” said S.C. Chandrahasan of OfERR, an organisation that works for the rehabilitation of the Lankan Tamil refugees living in government camps in the state.

The racket began in 2002 with most of the Australia trips by Tamil refugees happening from Sri Lanka itself. Some 200 of them died when their boats capsized.

Another 1,600 reached Christmas Island only to be sent to detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea under an arrangement these countries have with Canberra. The Australian government claims it has sent back some people.

Sri Lanka Keen To Attract Saudi Prince Alwaleed’s Investments
2016-Jun-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Sri Lanka Keen To Attract Saudi Prince Alwaleed’s Investments

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holding Company (KHC), received a delegation led by Mohamed Azmi Thassim, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Saudi Arabia, at the prince’s office in Riyadh. 

Hassna Alturki, executive manager for international relations to chairman, Fahad bin Nafel, senior executive assistant to the chairman and Ahmed Altobaishi, executive assistant to the prince, also attended the meeting.

This was Thassim's first meeting with the prince since he took post as Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Saudi Arabia. 

During the meeting, the two discussed a number of social, economic issues and bilateral relations between their respective countries. 

Thassim also expressed his government’s desire to attract the prince’s investments to the country, and said that his government will strive to facilitate and overcome any difficulties or obstacles hindering the success of the prince’s investments. 

Moreover, on the agenda of discussions were the prince’s philanthropic donations to Sri Lanka through Alwaleed Philanthropies.

Lanka Ties Moved Ahead After Maithripala Sirisena Took Over: Indian Envoy
2016-Jun-17 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Lanka Ties Moved Ahead After Maithripala Sirisena Took Over: Indian Envoy

India-Sri Lanka relations have moved ahead from "being focussed on the past" after President Maithripala Sirisena took over from his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa in January 2015, the Indian envoy said today.

Indian High Commissioner YK Sinha said bilateral ties have become robust and entered a new phase with highest-level engagements.

Recalling a flurry of high-level visits between the two South Asian neighbours across the Palk Strait, Sinha said ties entered a new phase since Sirisena took over from Rajapaksa.

He said relations have moved ahead from being focused on the past.

After Sirisena's ascent to power, there have been several high-level visits between India and Sri Lanka starting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2015, which marked the first visit to the island nation by an Indian leader since 1987.

Sirisena has twice visited India since January 2015. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also made his first overseas visit to India, Mr Sinha said.

Delivering a lecture on 'India-Sri Lanka relations in the 21st Century' at the Bandarnaike Centre for International Studies, Sinha said bilateral trade between the two nations have formed the cornerstone in the growing relationship.

Contrary to perceptions, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries have been most fruitful, he said.

Sri Lankan exports have grown 13 times since the FTA was signed in 1999. This will show who has benefited most, the Indian ambassador said.

Sri Lanka and India enjoys a robust partnership and New Delhi is Colombo's largest partner in defence training, he said.

On the fishermen issue, Sinha said it was a humanitarian issue with implications on the livelihoods of those involved.

Negotiations are continuing to try and resolve the issue of fishermen of the two countries crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), he said.

He said Sri Lanka's security is in India's interest. India stresses the need for reconciliation in Sri Lanka through a negotiated political settlement where all communities can agree. This must be within the framework of a united Sri Lanka, Mr Sinha said.

Sirisena has taken steps to reconcile with the Tamil minority.

Several confidence-building-measures such as the release of Tamils-owned lands, lifting of travel restrictions to the North and de-escalating the military presence have been taken since January as part of efforts to ensure reconciliation after three decades of civil war with the LTTE that claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Indonesia Government To Allow Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers Temporarily Disembark In Aceh
2016-Jun-17 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Indonesia Government To Allow Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers Temporarily Disembark In Aceh

Indonesia will allow 44 Australian-bound asylum seekers from Sri Lanka to temporarily disembark in Aceh Besar district, Aceh, Thursday morning (16/06) for food and boat repair after they were stranded for five days at the waters off Lhoknga coast.

Aceh provincial administration spokesman Fran Dellian said the asylum seekers were allowed to come ashore after Vice President Jusuf Kalla sent a memo on Wednesday afternoon instructing Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah to temporarily host the asylum seekers.

In the memo, Kalla instructed the Aceh government to provide food to the 44 asylum seekers, which include a pregnant woman and nine children. The memo also said Aceh must help to repair the boat and provide fuel before they are released back to international waters.

However, none of asylum seekers are allowed to land their feet in Aceh soil, Fran said.

Indonesian authorities normally place asylum seekers intercepted in Indonesian waters to detention centers, where their asylum status is then processed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM).

There are currently more than 13,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with the UNHCR in the archipelago, while detention centers in Indonesia are overcapacity.

Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s director of campaigns for Southeast Asia and Pacific, has called on the Indonesian government to allow the asylum seekers to disembark and meet UNHCR officials for interviews.

“We are calling on the Indonesian authorities to adopt a consistent approach in these cases. Last year Indonesia won much acclaim for providing refugees and migrants with much-needed assistance during the Andaman Sea boat crisis. It will be a grave injustice if people seeking international protection had their right to seek asylum ignored in Indonesia,” Benedict said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Refugees and asylum-seekers frequently travel without identity documents, as often these documents are either difficult to obtain or get lost during the journey. This has no consequence on these people’s right to seek asylum. UNHCR should be allowed to register them immediately,” he added.

The group — comprising of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority — had traveled for more than 20 days heading to Australia on a boat bearing an Indian flag. Despite many recent improvements, there are still concerns about discriminatory practices against Tamils by law enforcement officials in Sri Lanka.

EU Ban On Sri Lankan Fisheries Exports Lifted Completely
2016-Jun-17 | By Gehan Jayaratne

EU Ban On Sri Lankan Fisheries Exports Lifted Completely

The European Union (EU) has completely lifted the ban on fisheries exports from Sri Lanka, the Government Information Department said today.

The EU announced the ban on October 14, 2014, to become effective in three months.

Prior to the ban imposed in January 2015, the EU accounted for nearly one-third of Sri Lanka’s fish exports in terms of volume and about 40 per cent of the exports in terms of revenue.

Sri Lanka was the second biggest exporter of fresh and chilled swordfish and tuna to the EU in 2013.

The new government which came to power in January 2015, promised to get the ban lifted. Recently, the government expressed confidence of getting the ban lifted within this year.

Sri Lanka Cultural Evening Held At Seoul Grand Park, South Korea
2016-Jun-17 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Manisha Gunasekera, Sri Lanka's Ambassador in South KoreaManisha Gunasekera, Sri Lanka's Ambassador in South Korea

Sri Lanka Embassy in Republic of Korea and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotional Bureau in association with the Seoul Grand Park organized a Sri Lanka Cultural Evening including celebration of the Birthday of the two (02) Sri Lankan elephants donated to the Seoul Grand Park in 2010 by the Government of Sri Lanka on Saturday 11th June 2016 at the Seoul Grand Park.

The objective of the event was to share various aspects of Sri Lankan culture with Korean visitors to the Seoul Grand Park, including children.

The programme included Sri Lanka dancing performances, display of banners with Sri Lanka Tourism attractions, refreshments with Sri Lankan shorteats etc. In addition, the Seoul Grand Park also undertook a drawing competition of elephants by children from 10.00 am to 16.00 pm on the same day.

Manisha Gunasekera, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Republic of Korea in her remarks at the event stated that two Sri Lankan origin elephants at Seoul Grand Park represent the strong bonds of friendship between Sri Lanka and the Republic of Korea. Ambassador also invited Koreans to visit Sri Lanka to see more elephants, more wildlife like leopard, antelope, peacock, as well as many other attractions.

Song Chun-Hun, Head of the Seoul Grand Park, media personals and large number of visitors to the Seoul Grand Park attended the event.

Sri Lankans Off Aceh To Be 'Escorted' Back
2016-Jun-16 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lankans Off Aceh To Be 'Escorted' Back

A group of Sri Lankans who were trying to reach Australia when their boat became stranded off Indonesia during bad weather are set to be "escorted" back towards India, officials say.

A pregnant woman and nine children are among the 44 people on board the boat that has been drifting around 300 metres off the coast of Lhoknga in Aceh since Saturday.

Following a meeting late on Wednesday between local and central government officials, including Vice President Jusuf Kalla, authorities say those on board will be allowed to come ashore while their boat is fixed, refuelled and supplied with food.

But then they must leave.

Describing the Sri Lankans as "illegal immigrants", the head of the Aceh immigration division A. Samadan said they had been rejected on four grounds, including a lack of travel documents and a failure to notify authorities of their intended arrival.

The boat will be escorted out of Indonesian waters towards India, Mr Samadan told AAP on Thursday.

However, he could not confirm when this would happen.

Amnesty International hit out at Indonesia for not allowing those on board to be properly processed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The boat, flying Indian flags, began a hazardous journey from India after those on board reportedly fled Sri Lanka, where members of the Tamil minority have suffered past persecution.

The group had been at sea for 20 days in the hopes of seeking asylum in Australia before bad weather struck off Aceh.

"These people have endured a long and difficult journey already," Josef Benedict from Amnesty International said in a statement on Thursday.

"Refugees and asylum seekers frequently travel without identity documents, as often these documents are either difficult to obtain or get lost during the journey. This has no consequence on these peoples right to seek asylum. UNHCR should be allowed to register them immediately."

The comments come just days after two men aboard the boat tried to swim to shore on Monday afternoon before they were picked up and sent back to the boat by the Indonesian navy.

There are currently more than 13,000 refugees and asylum seekers registered with the UNHCR in the archipelago and detention centres in Indonesia are at over-capacity.

In Indonesia alone, the number of Afghan asylum seekers awaiting a solution has increased from about 1300 in 2010 to more than 6000 in 2015.

Sri Lanka Economy Faces Risks From Policy Inaction, External Environment: IMF
2016-Jun-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Sri Lanka Economy Faces Risks From Policy Inaction, External Environment: IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Tuesday that Sri Lanka's economic outlook is facing risks from the government's inaction on key policies and a significant deterioration in the external environment.

Sri Lanka's finances are in a precarious situation because of high external debt, partly due to heavy infrastructure borrowing under the previous government, Reuters reported.

The island nation is also facing a balance of payments crisis due to heavy foreign outflows from government securities.

"Despite positive growth momentum, the Sri Lankan economy is facing challenges due to the difficult external environment and a period of significant political transition," the IMF executive board said in a report after Article IV consultations, where IMF experts assess a country's financial and economic conditions, the Reuters report said.

But the IMF said Sri Lanka's medium-term prospects appear favorable if current macro-financial imbalances can be addressed.

The IMF earlier this month approved a three-year $1.5 billion loan to support Sri Lanka's economic reform agenda.

The main objectives are reforms aimed at boosting government revenues to reduce the fiscal deficit, improving foreign exchange reserves, reducing public debt and Sri Lanka's risk of debt distress, and improving public financial management.

The IMF has also asked the government to improve the operations of state owned enterprises and support a transition toward flexible inflation targeting with a flexible exchange rate regime.

"While the government seeks to undertake sizable fiscal consolidation and tackle high priority structural reforms, growth momentum can be sustained with a solid commitment to reform, a clear direction on macroeconomic policies, and restoration of market confidence."

The $82.2 billion economy's foreign exchange reserves have fallen by more than a third from their peak in late 2014 to $5.6 billion at the end of May, the lowest since February 2012, mainly due to foreign outflows of around $2 billion from government securities, Reuters stated.

The IMF said that greater exchange rate flexibility and an exit from central bank intervention in the forex market would help protect and rebuild foreign exchange reserves.

Turkish Foreign Minister Arrives In Sri Lanka
2016-Jun-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Turkish Foreign Minister Arrives In Sri Lanka

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavu?o?lu arrived in Sri Lanka on Tuesday for a two-day official visit.

During his stay, Çavu?o?lu will meet with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena; Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe; Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera; International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrema; and Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, a number of issues will be discussed and cooperation agreements signed during Çavu?o?lu's visit, particularly in the fields of travel documentation and information exchange.

Turkey-Sri Lanka relations date back to 1864, when the Ottoman imperial authorities appointed Hassen Lebbe Marikkar as honorary consul in Sri Lanka.

After the island nation gained independence in 1948, Turkey's ambassador to New Delhi was also accredited for Sri Lanka.

Last year's trade volume between the two countries amounted to some $139 million, with Turkey importing some $51 million worth of Sri Lankan goods and Sri Lanka importing some $88 million worth of Turkish products.

Sri Lanka to to strengthen relations with Czech Republic 
2016-Jun-14 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lanka to to strengthen relations with Czech Republic

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera on a visit to the Czech Republic, at the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Lubomir Zaoralek, reaffirmed Sri Lanka’s commitment to strengthen relations between the two countries.

Discussions with Foreign Affairs Minister Zaoralek included reviewing ongoing bilateral cooperation and identifying new areas for partnership in sectors such as power and energy, waste management, automobile production, defence, aviation, and advanced medical treatment.

The Foreign Ministry in a statement said, “Minister Samaraweera explained the main agenda of Sri Lanka’s National Unity Government, which includes strengthening democracy, fostering reconciliation, ensuring socio-economic development and sustainable peace. Minister Zaoralek welcomed the positive developments in Sri Lanka following the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in 2015, and reiterated the Czech Government’s fullest support for  ongoing efforts to strengthen democracy, promote reconciliation and , re-engaging the international community.  Minister Samaraweera invited Minister Zaoralek to visit Sri Lanka in 2017 which would mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Minister Samaraweera also handed over to his counterpart, an invitation from President Maithripala Sirisena to the President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman to visit Sri Lanka. Recalling the invaluable support extended by the Czech Republic during the conflict years in Sri Lanka, the Minister expressed appreciation for the generous support extended during the recent floods.

Demonstrating the commitment on both sides to revitalize and advance the bilateral economic agenda, an agreement on Mutual Cooperation between the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic and the Ministry of Economic Development in Sri Lanka was initialed in the presence of Minister Samaraweera and Czech Republic’s Deputy Trade Minister Slukova. The Foreign Minister also attended a breakfast meeting with representatives of leading Czech companies and had meetings with the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament and senior Government officials in the Czech Senate on 9 June  and the Deputy Minister of Defence on 10 June.

On 11 June, the Foreign Minister attended the christening of the Sri Lankan origin baby elephant at the Prague Zoo  as Chief Guest. The baby elephant  born in the Prague Zoo on 5 April 2016, was christened Maximilian (Max) to honour of a gift of a Sri Lankan elephant in the 1550s to the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian II (later King of Bohemia, King of Hungary, and the Holy Roman Emperor). 

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador Designate to the Czech Republic resident in Vienna, Priyanee Wijesekera;  Consul General of the Czech Republic in Sri Lanka Dr. Lohitha Samarawickrama;  Acting Director General Dhammika Semasinghe; and Second Secretary Namal Wijayamuni Soysa; were associated with the Foreign Minister during the visit.”


'Heavily Pregnant' Woman Among 44 Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers 'Stranded' In Indonesia
2016-Jun-14 | By Sihara Colombage

'Heavily Pregnant' Woman Among 44 Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers 'Stranded' In Indonesia

A boatload of Sri Lankans bound for Australia are stranded in a rickety fishing boat off the coast of Aceh, Indonesia.

Pictures have emerged of the boatload, which include 20 men, 15 women- one who is pregnant - and nine children after they were found by Indonesian fishermen on Saturday.

The boat drifted into Indonesian waters off the town of Lhoknga, off the coast of the province of Aceh in Northern Indonesia. 

Local authorities, who will not let the asylum seekers leave the boat because they lack proper paperwork, have told media the crew claimed the ship had suffered engine problems.

But engineers inspected the boat and believed it was OK to travel on to Christmas Island once choppy weather conditions subsided.

Military commander Major Darul Amin was quoted saying that engine failures may not have been the real reason that the boat was found in Indonesian waters.

'I think it was just a modus operandi.'

'We will go back to their boat today (Sunday) at around 3pm and if they do need food or gasoline we will provide it. Then they have to leave our waters,' Major Darul said.

'Actually we wanted them to leave now but the wind is very big as well as the waves. So I think we have to wait until the weather is better than they will have to leave Lhoknga waters,' police chief Zainudin added.

The asylum seekers who are stuck in Lhoknga, near the province of Aceh, cannot leave the vessel because, according to military commander Major Darul Amin, they don't have any passports or travel documents.

'We are trying to negotiate with them to advise them to return to their country and not to continue to Australia,' he said.

'We are trying to reach their boat again today but so far we can't because of high waves.'

Lhoknga police said the asylum seekers were well supplied and in good health.

'They didn't look like people who needed food. Their faces looked happy. They didn't ask for food either,' police chief Zainudin was quoted telling Fairfax Media.

Local fishermen discovered the modified fisherman's boat, made of iron, which could carry around 100, at 11am on Saturday, after it drifted into their coast.

The boat was said to be experiencing engine problems and had to stop every few kilometres.

International Organisation for Migration Jakarta spokesman Paul Dillon said the IOM had been advised on Saturday that a boat had arrived in Lhoknga with foreign nationals.

'We indicated we were prepared to assist with the provision of services IOM normally provides and we are just waiting to hear back,'

The IOM has offices all around Indonesia and helps the Government to move refugees, as does the UN Refugee Agency.

As of January there were 13,679 refugees and asylum seekers registered with the UNHCR in Indonesia, many of whom have been stuck in transit for years, according to the Jakarta Post.

UNHCR figures show that Australia resettled 808 refugees from Indonesia in 2013. This dropped to 526 in 2014 and 425 in 2015.

UNHRC Chief Calls For Meaningful Engagement Of All Sri Lankans
2016-Jun-14 | By Sihara Colombage

UNHRC Chief Calls For Meaningful Engagement Of All Sri Lankans

UNHRC Secretary General Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein said that the Sri Lankan government's fforts to implement the recent resolution on the country will require a comprehensive strategy on transitional justice. It will require the meaningful engagement of all Sri Lankans, he added.

"In Sri Lanka, the government’s efforts to implement its commitments in Resolution 30/1 will require a comprehensive strategy on transitional justice that enables it to pursue different processes in a coordinated, integrated and appropriately sequenced manner. This will require the inclusive and meaningful engagement of all Sri Lankans. I will present an oral update later in the session", Al-Hussein said in his opening remarks at the 32nd Session of the UNHRC in Geneva.

His submission on Sri Lanka is scheduled for June 29.

Dozens Of Immigrants From Sri Lanka Stranded In Aceh, Indonesia
2016-Jun-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Dozens Of Immigrants From Sri Lanka Stranded In Aceh, Indonesia

As many as 40 immigrants from Sri Lanka have been stranded in Lhoknga in the district of Aceh Besar, in the Sumatran province of Aceh after the engine of their boat broke down.

The Lhoknga district military chief, Major Darul Amin, said the boat measuring 17 meters in length and five meters in width, with number TN-1-FV-00455.09, was on its way to Australia from Sri Lanka.

Amin, flanked by an officer from the Navy, said he had checked the documents of adults, women and children.

Their health was fine and they were now still on the boat around 400 meters from the coast of Lhoknga, he said.

"They cannot as yet disembark and are waiting for permission from the immigration office," he said.

Because of engine trouble they could not proceed to Australia and so were stranded in Aceh.

Sri Lanka rises up global peace index
2016-Jun-10 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lanka’s strong gains in both internal and external peace enabled it to jump up 18 positions in the latest Global Peace Index, the second-largest rank improvement overall. 

In a ranking of 163 countries, compiled by global think tank Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Syria has been named the least peaceful, followed by South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

On the other hand, Iceland was ranked as the world’s most peaceful country, followed by Denmark and Austria.

Sri Lanka is ranked 97, up 18 places from last year’s rank of 114, the greatest upswing in its score in the region and the report attributed the country’s increased peacefulness to “better relations with neighbouring countries, particularly India”.

“The country successfully conducted two sets of elections in 2015— presidential in January and parliamentary in August which brought a reformist administration with a strong mandate. The country’s increased peacefulness is also due to better relations with neighbouring countries, particularly India.”

The report states that improvements in political instability, likelihood of violent demonstrations and number and duration of internal conflicts all contributed to the enhancement in Sri Lanka’s domestic situation. 

“Driving these trends was a strengthening of the country’s democratic institutions during the administration of Maithripala Sirisena, who continues to make strides in combating corruption and reverse the authoritarianism of the previous administration.” 

“In addition, his government has continued to pursue a strategy of ethnic reconciliation following the end of the civil war in 2009. 

“Sri Lanka has improved its ties with India, which is reflected in an improvement in its score for relationships with neighbouring countries. Military expenditure has also been cut as threats to internal stability gradually dissipate, but the country’s impact of terrorism score deteriorated slightly.”

South Asia’s position remained unchanged at eighth out of the nine regions. Overall, the individual overall scores of Afghanistan (160), Nepal (78) and India (141) deteriorated, while for Bhutan (13), Sri Lanka and Pakistan (153), scores improved modestly.

Sri Lanka among top 5 risers

Panama recorded the largest score improvement in this year’s GPI, rising 24 positions in the rankings to 49th. It was followed by Thailand, which rose nine positions (albeit to a still-low 125th). Sri Lanka was up by 18 places to 97th while South Africa jumped seven slots to 126th. Mauritania was the next best improver, gaining eight positions to 123rd. 

Across the top risers there was an improvement in internal peace, with indicators related to internal conflict improving in Mauritania, South Africa and Sri Lanka, and reduced likelihood of violent demonstrations in Panama, Sri Lanka and Thailand. 

However, notwithstanding increased levels of internal stability, in some cases this was not accompanied with a strengthening of democracy (Thailand, South Africa and Mauritania all deteriorated in the EIU Democracy Index). 

Finally, military expenditure fell in all five countries except Thailand, while relations with neighbouring countries improved in Sri Lanka and Thailand, the report said. 

Govt. announces initial compensation for Salawa victims   
2016-Jun-10 | By Sihara Colombage

Govt. announces initial compensation for Salawa victims        

Minister Anura Yapa today said that Rs. 50,000 per month for three months will be provided to those whose houses are uninhabitable due to the Salawa fire.

The Colombo-Awissawella Main Road was also blocked near the Salawa Army camp by area residents yet again this morning. The protestors were demanding the clearance of debris from their homes prior to opening the road.

However, Sri Lanka Army announced yesterday that it has commenced the renovation of damaged houses, removal of debris of the Kosgama fire, cleaning of the affected water resources and to estimate the damage on civil property. Troops of the Corps of Engineer Services (CES), Sri Lanka Engineers (SLE), Sri Lanka Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (SLEME) with the assistance of the Sri Lanka Navy, Police and Special Task Force (STF) began the reconstruction process.


Modi and Sirisena to jointly open renovated Jaffna stadium 
2016-Jun-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Modi and Sirisena to jointly open renovated Jaffna stadium

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President President Maithripala Sirisena will jointly inaugurate the renovated Duraiappah Stadium in Jaffna through video conferencing on June 18, the New Indian Express reported.

While Modi will speak from India, Sirisena will speak from Jaffna, where he would be the Chief Guest at the gala opening ceremony.

A landmark in Jaffna town, the Duraiappah stadium has been renovated over the last two years by the Lankan company Wahid Constructions, with an Indian government grant of LKR 145 million.

Apart from renovating the main and secondary pavilions, a gymnasium has been built. A playground with a 400 meter track has been laid, and floodlights have been put up. Adequate sanitary and garbage disposal facilities have also been installed.

When it is thrown open to the public, the primary beneficiaries will be the 50,000 school students in the Jaffna peninsula ,who had lacked sports facilities for 30 years because of the war.


Bahrain to boost business ties with Sri Lanka
2016-Jun-08 | By Sihara Colombage

Bahrain to boost business ties with Sri Lanka


Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI)’s Bahrain Asian Traders Committee (BATC) headed by the Chamber’s Deputy Treasurer Mohammed Sajid has met the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, Dr. A. Saj.U. Mendis.

Citing the committee’s recent business visit to Sri Lanka and the impact of the visit on bilateral business ties, the committee said it will step up Bahraini-Asian business cooperation to invigorate trade, investment and partnership. 

The committee extended invitation to the ambassador to attend the “Business Networking Forum” scheduled after Ramadan month.

Dr. Mendis commended the committee on its steps to strengthen business ties between Bahraini businesspeople and their Asian counterparts, and asserted the readiness of the Sri Lankan Embassy to cooperate with the Chamber by encouraging and facilitating the exchange of business delegations.

UK pledges continuing support for Sri Lanka’s reconciliation 
2016-Jun-07 | By Gehan Jayaratne

UK pledges continuing support for Sri Lanka’s reconciliation

The United Kingdom says that it will continue its programme of support for Sri Lanka to help the government fulfill its goals on reconciliation, human rights and strengthening democracy.  

The Head of the British Diplomatic Service Sir Simon McDonald and Secretary at the UK Department for International Development Mark Lowcock visited Sri Lanka yesterday to meet with high-level government officials and discuss Sri Lanka’s progress on reconciliation. 

During their visit they also met with representatives of many of the organisations implementing UK funded projects in Sri Lanka in the areas of good governance, anti-corruption, de-mining and police reform, the British High Commission in Colombo said. 

During their meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Sir Simon and Mr. Lowcock welcomed the Sri Lankan government’s commitments to strengthen democracy and progress so far on reconciliation. 

Sir Simon reiterated the UK governments continuing support for Sri Lanka’s efforts to bring about reconciliation, the statement said. 

Sir Simon and Mr. Lowcock also met with Leader of the Opposition and the Tamil National Alliance R. Sampanthan and heard from him about a political settlement and challenges facing the people in the north and east. 

The UK has supported police reform to encourage community oriented policing to improve local safety, security and post-conflict stability.  Furthering the discussion on UK support Sir Simon and Mr. Lowcock met with Minister of Law and Order & Southern Development Sagala Ratnayake. 

At the meeting British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka James Dauris signed a contract with The Asia Foundation to continue UK funded community policing initiatives in Sri Lanka. 

Mr. Lowcock also met with Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs M.A Swaminathan and heard from him on land-returns and the return of IDP’s and briefed him on UK government support for demining.  

“In a meeting with the Commission for the Investigation of Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) they discussed UK support towards anti-corruption work and the need for international cooperation to ensure that those who are responsible are held to account. UK support has included having officers from the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in the UK, working with Sri Lankan investigators and prosecutors in Colombo.” 

India's Engineering Exports To Sri Lanka, China, UAE Nosedive
2016-Jun-07 | By Gehan Jayaratne

India's Engineering Exports To Sri Lanka, China, UAE Nosedive: Report

India's engineering shipments to key markets like Sri Lanka, UAE and China plummeted in April amid a 19 per cent decline in the sector which slipped in terms of its contribution to the country's overall export basket, according to industry body EEPC India.

The engineering exporters' body said country's engineering exports to Sri Lanka witnessed a degrowth of over 90 per cent, falling to mere $63 million in April 2016 from $648 million in the same month last year, marked by a huge fall in exports of aircraft and spacecraft parts.

Likewise, shipments to UAE fell by 46 per cent to $331 million from $613 million in the face of the Middle East witnessing a major slump in investment in oil and infrastructure sectors, EEPC India said.

India's engineering exports to China, comprising mainly of basic metals and iron ore, dropped 57.6 per cent to $102.6 million from $242.50 million as the Chinese economy is facing a major upheaval, it said.

Declining for 17th straight month in April, exports dipped by 6.74 per cent to $20.5 billion due to sharp fall in shipments of petroleum and engineering products amid tepid global demand.

Imports too declined by 23.1 per cent to $25.41 billion in the month under review as against $33 billion in April 2015.

US remains the top destination for the country's engineering exports with shipments totalling $502 million in April 2016 from $625 million a year ago. However, the fall in shipments to this market has also been above 19 per cent on the back of a sharp drop in exports of steel and its products.

"The going has never been as bad in the last several years. Such a situation warrants a big stimulus from the government in terms of interest subvention, hike in the drawback rates and further improvement in the ease of doing business," EEPC India Chairman T S Bhasin said.

The engineering goods sector recorded a massive decline in exports by almost 19 per cent to $4.6 billion during April 2016-17.

The fall in engineering exports in April was driven by sectors like aircraft and spacecraft, non-ferrous sectors like zinc, tin and nickel products and iron and steel products.

Renowned US war crimes lawyer joins Tamil peoples’ council team 
2016-Jun-06 | By Sihara Colombage

Renowned US war crimes lawyer joins Tamil peoples’ council team

Francis A Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, has joined the Tamil Peoples’ Council’s team to fight for an international Judicial Mechanism to investigate and try war crimes cases in Sri Lanka, the New Indian Express reported.

Francis A Boyle is also a a renowned expert on human rights, war crimes, genocide, and the Right to Self-Determination.

The TPC was set up with the blessings of C.V.Wigneswaran, Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Province, to highlight and fight for issues allegedly sidestepped by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). The TNA  believes in cooperating with the Maithripala Sirisena government’s bid to address the Tamils’ grievances and meet their aspirations as expressed in the elections of January and July 2015. But the TPC feels that the TNA is party to the government’s prevarication on these issues.    

In a statement announcing the induction of Prof.Boyle on Sunday, the TPC said that in a situation in which the Lankan government has ruled out foreign judges in the proposed Judicial Mechanism, and the international community and the  “Tamil leadership” are part of a plot to ensure that investigations into the “genocide” of Tamils do not take place, Boyle’s entry will come as some relief to the Tamils and pose a major challenge to those conspiring to deny justice to them.


Two senior UK diplomats arrives in Sri Lanka
2016-Jun-06 | By Sihara Colombage

Two senior UK diplomats arrives in Sri Lanka

Two senior UK diplomats have arrived in Sri Lanka, on Monday morning (06), the British High Commission in Colombo said.

The two diplomats are Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Simon McDonald and Permanent Secretary at the UK Department for International Development Mark Lowcock. 

McDonald, the most senior UK diplomat and Lowcock will meet with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan, members of the government, senior officials and UK funded civil society partners. 

They will discuss progress on reconciliation and human rights as well as UK support for reconciliation, and wider areas of cooperation between two countries.

Pakistan seeks to expand cooperation with Sri Lanka
2016-Jun-06 | By Sihara Colombage

Pakistan seeks to expand cooperation with Sri Lanka

Pakistan has reiterated its continued support to Sri Lanka in enhancing younger generation’s nation building capacities with better educational opportunities.
This was stated by Pakistan High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Shakeel Hussain while speaking at award of educational scholarships to 160 bright Sri Lankan students under Jinnah Educational Scholarship Programme of the Government of Pakistan. 
The High Commissioner underlined that Pakistan seeks to expand its cooperation with Sri Lanka in the field of education.
Sri Lankan Minister for City Planning and Water Supply Rauf Hakeem in his remarks said that Pakistan government’s support in the education of the needy Sri Lanka students shows its commitment toward the bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
He said Pakistan is a close friend of Sri Lanka and has helped Sri Lanka in times of crisis throughout the history.
The Government of Pakistan is awarding Jinnah Educational Scholarships since 2005. So far 45 million rupees worth of scholarships have been awarded for promoting bright Sri Lankan students.

Jayalalithaa Urges Modi To Secure Release Of Indian Fishermen
2016-Jun-05 | By Sihara Colombage

Jayalalithaa Urges Modi To Secure Release Of Indian Fishermen

In her second letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi within a week after the arrest of fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Saturday urged him to secure the release of all 11 fishermen in the custody of the Sri Lankan authorities.

Four fishermen from Kottaipattinam fishing base of Pudukkottai district were arrested on June 2. They have been detained at Kankesanthurai in Sri Lanka. She reiterated the State government’s stand that International Maritime Boundary Line with the neighbouring Island “should not be treated as a settled question.”

Observing that the Sri Lankan government’s “inhumane and cruel strategy” of delaying the release of the boats and fishing gear of fishermen was causing great loss to their livelihood, Ms. Jayalalithaa sought the immediate release of the fishermen and their gear.

The Chief Minister recalled her earlier representations and requested the Centre to sanction a comprehensive special package for deep sea fishing and infrastructure at a cost of Rs. 1,520 crore.

On May 31, Ms. Jayalalithaa had written to Mr. Modi seeking the release of seven fishermen who were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Bajaj Qute, Suggested Replacement For Three-wheelers, Show Fundamental Safety Problems (VIDEO)
2016-Jun-03 | By Sihara Colombage

Bajaj Qute, Suggested Replacement For Three-wheelers, Show Fundamental Safety Problems (VIDEO)

Bajaj Auto Ltd’s ambitious Qute quadricycle secured only a one-star rating in crash tests performed by the Brussels-based Euro New Car Assessment Programme, or Euro NCAP, in April this year.

The best possible rating the quadricycle, a lightweight four-wheeled vehicle for intra-city travel, could have received in the crash tests is five stars.

Euro NCAP tested four quadricycles made by different companies. Bajaj’s Qute scored 10 out of a maximum 32. The product got four marks for front impact and six for side impact.

The crash test results of the selected vehicles—Aixam Crossover GTR, Bajaj Qute, Chatenet CH30 and Microcar M.GO Family—show that there are still fundamental problems with the quadricycle segment, the agency said in a press statement.

The crash tests were done at a speed of 50 km/hour.

“It is disappointing to see that quadricycles are still lacking the basic safety features that are common in small cars,” said Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general of the Euro NCAP.

“By not challenging the manufacturers to do more, legislators continue to give a false impression to consumers that these vehicles are fit for the purpose.”

Euro NCAP said it had studied changes in this segment in the past two years and introduced a specific star rating for these vehicles to help consumers in their purchase decisions.

In response to a questionnaire, Bajaj Auto said that in its “maiden effort”, it has created “in Qute a quadricycle that is in the same league as European benchmarks”.

“But (it’s) also one that fares better than many international cars in their category. We believe that’s why Qute has had a good reception in about 20 markets. We do not have any other comment to make,” the firm said.

Bajaj’s quadricyle plan has been controversial,?even in India where it has almost divided the industry. But the company has pressed ahead with it, touting the benefits of a vehicle that sits halfway between three-wheelers and small cars in terms of everything from price to comfort to fuel efficiency to safety to emissions.

Sri Lanka's Finance Minister suggested that a four-wheeler vehicle will be introduced to the market for a price less than that of a three-wheeler. It has been suggested that Bajaj Qute was considered as the replacement for three-wheelers.


Sri Lankan Refugees Attempting To Leave For Australia Detained In Tamil Nadu
2016-Jun-03 | By Sihara Colombage

Representational Image

Sri Lankan refugees who were risking their lives to go to Australia — a country that has already shut its door on asylum seekers -— were intercepted in a joint-operation involving the Q-Branch, Coastal Security Group (CSG), and Tiruvallur police, in the small hours of Thursday near Chennai.

Two agents, both Lankan nationals, assured the refugees that they were scheduled to leave from Pulicat Lake as tourists and were to board a shipping vessel heading to Australia, to be off-loaded in Christmas Island, which is 3,710 km away from the Tamil Nadu coast.

Twenty-eight refugees from four camps — Gummidipoondi, Puzhal, Vellore, and Bhavani Sagar (Erode) — who had paid for the trip were intercepted while being transported by road at two locations, Tirupalaivanam and Sholavaram police limits, in neighbouring Tiruvallur district, between 2 am and 5 am.

Thirteen of the 28 were men and they were picked up by the police while the women and children, to be recorded as witnesses, would be sent back to their respective camps. Besides, three drivers hired to drop the refugees at Pulicat Lake and a two-wheeler rider escorting the group were also arrested.

“It is highly improbable to make it to Australia by a boat and it is nothing but a cheating racket. We have been trying to sensitise refugees on the dangerous trip that they should not be undertaking. They are so engrossed in the idea of going to Sri Lanka and financing Rs 1 or Rs 2 lakh as demanded by the agents through their kin resettled elsewhere. It is also suspected that the agents themselves tip off the police to scuttle the journey and thus maximise their profits, given the challenges in the trip,” S.C. Chandrahasan, founder, Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation, told DC.

Chandrahasan added, “Australia is gearing up for elections and the refugee issue will be a major poll plank like last time. Most Australians do not want their tax money to be spent on refugees whose economic prosperity once they are allowed into the country is envied.”

Four Indian Fishermen Arrested By SL Navy
2016-Jun-02 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Four Indian Fishermen Arrested By SL Navy

Four Indian fishermen were on Thursday arrested by Sri Lankan Naval personnel while allegedly fishing near Neduntheevu, a small island near Jaffna in the north of the neighbouring nation.

This is the second instance of arrest of fishermen from Tamil Nadu this week after the detention of seven persons from here on Tuesday, on the very first day they put out to sea at the end of 45-day breeding season ban on fishing by trawlers.

The four fishermen from Kottaipattinam in Pudukottai District were arrested this morning and had been taken to Kangesanthurai Port for interrogation by Sri Lankan officials, Assistant Director of Fisheries Sekar said.

In another mid—sea incident, the fishing nets of 15 boats of fishermen from here were allegedly snapped by Sri Lankan navalmen when they were fishing near Katchateevu.

The fishermen from this island, onboard 697 boats, were fishing in the Palk Strait when the Lankan navalmen chased away many found fishing in their territory, local fishermen association President T Sesuraj said.

The association had yesterday condemned the arrest of the seven fishermen and urged Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to seek the Centre’s intervention and arrange for talks between the fishermen community of the two countries to resolve the dispute over fishing in “traditional” areas (Katchatheevu).

Jayalalithaa had already written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to secure the release of the seven fishermen and boats in the custody of Sri Lanka.

CAA Allows For Increase Of Cement Prices
2016-Jun-02 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Representative Image

The Consumer Affairs Authority allowed for the increase of prices of 50kg cement bags sold under five commercial names by Rs 60.

Accordingly, the 50kg cement bag can now be sold at a maximum price of Rs 930.

The cement companies had made this request recently from the CAA, considering the devaluation of the Rupee and the increase of the Value Added Tax.

Singapore, Sri Lanka To Pursue Free Trade Agreement
2016-Jun-02 | By Gehan Jayaratne

S. IswaranS. Iswaran

Singapore and Sri Lanka are keen to pursue a free trade agreement, the Singaporean Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said yesterday.

He was speaking at the Sri Lanka-Singapore Business Forum in the Sri Lankan commercial capital of Colombo to an audience of over 140 businessmen from Singapore and Sri Lankan companies.

At a meeting before the forum, Iswaran and the Sri Lankan Minister for Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama, had agreed that both countries would benefit from a comprehensive FTA, and directed their officials to study it.

The FTA is expected to contain commitments on trade in goods, services, investment and government procurement.

Iswaran said the FTA "will enhance economic flows by lowering barriers to entry and providing greater market access" for Singapore and Sri Lankan companies.

In conjunction with Iswaran's visit, a delegation of 31 businessmen from 28 Singapore companies arrived in Sri Lanka on a business mission organised by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and IE Singapore.

The group is visiting Colombo for five days to gain an understanding of the local business environment and the government's economic development plans. The companies are from the oil and gas, energy, professional services, info-communications technology, construction and infrastructure-related services, and general trade sectors.

Tan Soon Kim, the assistant chief executive officer of IE Singapore, said: "Sri Lanka represents a new frontier in the South Asia region with growth rates expected at over 5 per cent over the next five years."

Singapore companies with a presence in Sri Lanka come from sectors such as construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, food processing and services.

Government Revenue Has Dropped, Forcing Drastic Decisions: S.B. Dissanayake
2016-Jun-01 | By Sihara Colombage

Government Revenue Has Dropped, Forcing Drastic Decisions: S.B. Dissanayake

Government revenue has dropped significantly and it is also affecting the country's ability to seek foreign aid, Minister of Social Empowerment and Welfare S.B. Dissanayake said.

Speaking to media recently, the minister said that this fact is brought up regularly when the government discusses the financial issues with the IMF, World Bank and other financial institutions.

Since the essential services are being conducted with government funds, it is vital to increase government revenue, Dissanayake added.

He explained that this was the reason for several drastic decisions of the government, including the increase of vehicle taxes. However, these are short term measures by the government, he added. 

Elephants To Be Brought From Myanmar For Traditional Processions
2016-Jun-01 | By Sihara Colombage

Elephants To Be Brought From Myanmar For Traditional Processions

President Maithripala Sirisena recently said that the government was considering bringing down tame elephants from Myanmar to be used in Peraharas (traditional processions).

This was said in a discussion regarding the shortage of suitable elephants for peraharas.

Fifteen elephants allegedly kept in possession by various people without valid licenses were recently released till end of August on bonds by Colombo Magistrate's Court. One main argument was the shortage of elephants for the processions.

However, the Colombo High Court later stayed the Magistrate's order.

The government was considering the possibility of using the elephants for processions while they are in the cutody of the Department of Wildlife, as a short term solution for the problem.

SL Navy Detain Seven Indian Fishermen
2016-May-31 | By Gehan Jayaratne

SL Navy Detain Seven Indian Fishermen

Sri Lankan Navy apprehended seven fishermen from Tamil Nadu when they were fishing near international maritime boundary line last night.

The Sri Lankan Navy also detained one fishing boat.

The fishermen from Rameswaram had ventured out into the sea for fishing after 45 day fishing ban.

Sri Lankan Navy confronted the fishermen at the international maritime boundary line.

According to media reports, the fishermen have been taken to Talaimannar by Sri Lankan Navy.

EU To Revise Development Strategy For Sri Lanka
2016-May-31 | By Gehan Jayaratne

EU To Revise Development Strategy For Sri Lanka

The European Union (EU), in close consultation with the Sri Lankan government, is currently in the process of revising its development strategy for Sri Lanka, a Sri Lanka - EU joint statement said on Monday.

The joint statement said that the Working Group on Cooperation under the framework of the European Union-Sri Lanka Joint Commission concluded its meeting in Colombo on Monday.

The meeting was co-chaired by Jorge de la Caballeria, head of Unit for South and South East Asia of European Commission Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development and M.I.M Rafeek, secretary of the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs of Sri Lanka.

Senior officials from the European Union and other ministries of Sri Lanka also participated in the meeting. The visiting delegation led by Caballeria also met with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Harsha de Silva.

At the conclusion of the working group, Caballeria said the EU, in close consultation with the government, is currently in the process of revising its development strategy for Sri Lanka.

"Besides a continuing focus on Integrated Rural Development, the country strategy will also support the government's plans for reconciliation and governance. We hope that the new priorities will assist the government in the implementation of the UNHRC Resolution on Sri Lanka, encompassing the areas of accountability and transitional justice, resettlement and durable solutions, governance and reconciliation."

The Sri Lankan government meanwhile said it appreciates the assistance received from the EU for the development of the country and its citizens and hopes that EU will continue to assist the government in achieving its medium term target of becoming an upper middle income country.

Lankan Monks Celebrate Vesak In Taxila, Pakistan
2016-May-31 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Lankan Monks Celebrate Vesak In Taxila, Pakistan

On the invitation of Government of Pakistan, a high level Sri Lankan delegation is visiting Pakistan to attend first-ever Vesakha Festival at Taxila.

The 43-member delegation comprised Sri Lankan ministers, senior monks, religious scholars, media representatives and pilgrims. The event kickstarted at Taxila on May 29 and would continue till June 1, the Associated Press of Pakistan said.

Sri Lankan Minister of Primary Industry Daya Gamage along with Deputy Minister for Petroleum Resources Development Anoma Gamage are leading the delegation. Press Attache of Pakistan in Sri Lanka Muhammad Daud Ehtisham is also accompanying the delegation as a special representative of the High Commission of Pakistan. Earlier, Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan Dr. Sarfraz Ahmed Khan Sipra and other officers of the High Commission saw off the delegation at the Bandaranaike International Airport.

The delegation will be visiting different sites of Buddhist spiritual and religious significance in Taxila, such as Dharmarajika Stupa, Julian site, Mohra Muradu Stupa, Jandial Temple, Sirsukh site, besides visiting Taxila Museum.

Sri Lanka's Move To Cut Import Duty On 800-1,000cc Vehicles Boost For India's Small Cars
2016-May-30 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lanka's Move To Cut Import Duty On 800-1,000cc Vehicles Boost For India's Small Cars

Sri Lanka has reduced import duties on 800 and 1000cc cars while increasing duty on higher engine capacity cars, a move likely to benefit India-made smaller vehicles, PTI said.

Prices of vehicles above 1000cc engine capacity will increase following the increase of the minimum unit tax from, Sri Lanka's Vehicle Importers Association said.

According to a gazette notification released by the Ministry of Finance, the 800 and 1000 cc cars would have a lower import tax band.

A majority of this category imports are dominated by the India-made cars, PTI pointed out. An example is of the India-made Maruti Wagon-R.

The tax range for such cars is expected to come down from its present tax range of 1.5 to 1.6 million Sri Lanka rupees to about 1.35 million, car dealers said.

However, the India-made three wheeler auto taxies have been hit by a raised band and will have an increased rate of customs duty.

The rich users of SUVs are the worst-hit, with the import tax on one particular brand which stood at about 5.4 million Sri Lankan rupees would rise up to above 7.6 million Sri Lankan rupees.

This would raise the market price by about 13 million additionally, the dealers said.

Dwindling foreign reserves have forced the government to curb vehicle imports by imposing higher taxes.

Indian small cars to benefit from Sri Lankan import duty changes - report     
2016-May-29 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Indian small cars to benefit from Sri Lankan import duty changes - report      

Sri Lanka has reduced import duties on cars with engine capacity of 800 and 1,000 cubic centimetre (cc) while increasing duty on higher engine capacity cars, a move likely to benefit India-made smaller vehicles.

Prices of vehicles with above 1,000cc engine capacity will increase following the increase of the minimum unit tax from yesterday, Sri Lanka’s Vehicle Importers Association said.

According to a gazette notification released yesterday by the ministry of finance, the 800 and 1,000cc cars would have a lower import tax band.

A majority of this category’s imports are dominated by India-made cars. An example is of the India-made Maruti Wagon-R.

The tax range for such cars is expected to come down from its present tax range of 1.5 to 1.6 million Sri Lanka rupees to about 1.35 million, car dealers said.

However, the India-made three wheeler auto taxies have been hit by a raised band and will have an increased rate of customs duty, the dealers said.

Rich users of SUVs are the worst-hit, with the import tax on one particular brand, which stood at about 5.4 million Sri Lankan rupees, rising up to above 7.6 million Sri Lankan rupees.

This would raise the market price by about 13 million additionally, the dealers said.

Dwindling foreign reserves have forced the government to curb vehicle imports by imposing higher taxes.

Japan Offers Two Patrol Ships, US $ 345 Mn Loans To Sri Lanka
2016-May-28 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Japan Offers Two Patrol Ships, US $ 345 Mn Loans To Sri Lanka

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday that Japan will provide two patrol vessels to the South Asian country as part of their maritime security cooperation.

Without mentioning China's increasing activities in the Indian Ocean and the East and South China seas, Japan and Sri Lanka "reconfirmed the importance of maintaining the freedom of the high seas and maritime order based on the rule of law," according to a statement issued after their meeting in Nagoya, central Japan.

In a separate meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Abe offered Japan's cooperation in development of the country, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Japan is eager to strengthen ties with the two countries amid China's growing influence in the region under the so-called "string of pearls" strategy, a network of Chinese investment in maritime facilities stretching from the South China Sea to the Arabian Sea as if to encircle India.

New Delhi, similarly, has become concerned about Beijing's increased presence in the Indian Ocean.

In talks with Sirisena, Abe pledged 38 billion yen (about $345 million) in loans to Sri Lanka for construction of transmission lines and water supply facilities in the country, the statement said.

Chinese Companies Lend Helping Hand To Sri Lanka Following Floods, Landslides
2016-May-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Chinese Companies Lend Helping Hand To Sri Lanka Following Floods, Landslides

Chinese companies, involved in development projects in Sri Lanka, have been on the fore front providing relief supplies and funds to thousands of victims affected by Sri Lanka's severe floods and landslides after days of heavy rains last week.

More than 8 million rupees in financial aid provided to the Sri Lanka government by these companies and relief supplies have been distributed in some of the worst flood hit areas with the coordination of the Sri Lanka Navy.

The Chinese companies have said it would continue to monitor the situation and assist the government in their relief and resettlement efforts to victims who lost their homes due to the severe flooding.

At least 102 people have been killed and over 600,000 people affected from the disaster which was recorded as one of the worst in Sri Lanka's history.

While international aid has poured in, the government said a lot more is required to help the country recover from the devastation.

Foreign countries, including China, have already been quick to assist Sri Lanka in recovering from the floods and landslides.

Chinese organizations such as the Sri Lanka Overseas Chinese Association along with China's Asia Pacific Daily donated over 2 million rupees to Sri Lanka's Disaster Management Ministry last week.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society of China also donated 50,000 U.S. dollars to Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) to support the country's relief and rebuilding efforts last week.

Pang Chunxue, political counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, on behalf of the Red Cross Society of China, handed over the donation to S.B.Madugalle, deputy director general of SLRCS.

Pang extended the deepest sympathy and condolences to the Sri Lankan people especially the families affected by the disaster, hoping the donation could assist the current relief operation of SLRCS and provide help to the people in the disaster-stricken areas.

China funded Port City last week distributed relief items to thousands of people affected by flash floods through a relief campaign titled "Port City Sahana".

Another company which fulfilled the government's urgent needs was China National Aero Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) which provided 200 thermo flask bottles and 100,000 rupees to the government.

Chinese Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Yi Xianliang, last week called on Chinese companies and organisations in Sri Lanka to donate relief supplies to the disaster affected people and assist in their re-building efforts.

Singapore Red Cross Sends Two Member Team For Sri Lanka Flood Relief
2016-May-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Singapore Red Cross Sends Two Member Team For Sri Lanka Flood Relief

The two-men response team from Singapore Red Cross has arrived in Sri Lanka, to join the relief work of Sri Lanka Red Cross for Cyclone Roanu. Comprising Charis Chan, Head International Services and Peter Tung, auxiliary staff and active volunteer, the team participated in ground assessment/home visits, and distribution of 200 kitchen kits to homes in the most affected district, Colombo - Egodauyana, Pahala Bomiriya and Oruwala (Western Province).

“Some homes are still submerged, with water levels at their windows. In one town, out of 250 homes - 41 are still in water. For others, while flood waters have receded, the families are not ready to go home. Their essential household items have all been washed away, and they are now mostly living with friends or relatives. We met some who lost their life savings and belongings.

“As stagnant water continue to cover the streets, waterborne diseases are a real threat. In fact, water consumption has become a problem. As the wells have been contaminated, they require urgent cleaning. The Red Cross is providing drinking water to affected families in the meantime,” updates Charis Chan, Head International Services, Singapore Red Cross.

Waterborne diseases are becoming a real threat as stagnant water cover the streets. Here, Singapore Red Cross volunteer Peter Tung receives an update from a Sri Lanka Red Cross Society representative.

Singapore Red Cross’ Head of International Services Charis Chan assist with the mass relief distribution of kitchen kits, comprising items such as cooking pots, frying pans, bowls, plates, cups, spoons, and forks to affected people.

As waters recede, the true picture of damage is emerging. Student kits and school items are urgently needed, for children to return to school.

The Singapore Red Cross team met many people and recounted a story told to them: “The family did not know where to store their valuables in the beginning, so they put on them on the higher tables, without expecting the water level to get so high. Eventually, the table toppled and they lost everything."

Indonesia-Sri Lanka Agrees To Boost Economic Partnerships
2016-May-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Indonesia-Sri Lanka Agrees To Boost Economic Partnerships

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has met with Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena, in Nagoya, Japan, Thursday (26/05), ahead of the Group of Seven (G7) outreach meeting in Ise-Shima National Park in Mie Prefecture.

Jokowi congratulated the success of Sri Lanka’s election in 2015, which selected a new president and prime minister, as well as the constitution’s amendment, before focusing on economic and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) partnerships.

Indonesia has partnered with Sri Lanka in the procurement of train carriages, where Jokowi said he is prepared to discuss the scheme of payment through the export-import bank.

Meanwhile, President Sirisena conveyed the importance of Indonesia’s chairmanship in IORA to initiate the discussion of an agreement concept, dubbed as the IORA Concord, to maintain stability and peace in the Indian Ocean.

Sirisena also called for Indonesian state-owned airline, Garuda, to open its flights to Colombo.

Foreign Ministry Retno Marsudi in a statement said Indonesia and Sri Lanka’s bilateral relation has been solid for decades.

“If we saw the history, both countries were among the initiators of Asia-Africa Conference (AAC),” she said, adding that the increasing economic partnerships between the two will become both country’s assets.

Vehicle Prices To Go Up Following Increase Of Rate Tax
2016-May-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Vehicle Prices To Go Up Following Increase Of Rate Tax

Prices of vehicles above 1000cc engine capacity and three-wheelers are expected to increase, the Vehicle Importers Association said.

This increase takes place due to the Minimum Rate Tax increase which came into effect midnight yesterday.

Pakistan Hands Over Second Relief Consignment To Sri Lanka
2016-May-26 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Pakistan Hands Over Second Relief Consignment To Sri Lanka

Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Maj Gen(r) Syed Shakeel Hussain has handed over the second consignment of relief assistance for the flood victims to the Sri Lankan authorities.

The consignment was received on behalf of the Sri Lankan government by Ministry of Disaster Management Additional Secretary Wasantha Samaraweera at Bandaranaike International Airport Katunayake, according to a source here on Wednesday.

A cargo plane from Pakistan brought relief items containing shelters and tents which were specified by the Sri Lankan authorities as immediate requirements for the flood victims.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had directed the relevant authorities last week to make immediate arrangements for the provision of emergency relief goods to the flood victims in Sri Lanka.

According to the Sri Lankan government’s assessments, 427,918 people belonging to 105,360 families were affected by floods and landslides.

The floods and landslides caused by torrential rains with gale force completely damaged about 474 houses while 3,674 others were partially damaged.

Accordingly the first consignment of relief items containing generators, shelters, tents and medicines were handed over by the High Commissioner of Pakistan to the Sri Lankan Minister for Disaster Management Anura Priyadarshana Yapa.

Cyclone Roanu: Sri Lanka Appeals For Up To US $ 2 Billion Aid
2016-May-26 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Cyclone Roanu: Sri Lanka Appeals For Up To US $ 2 Billion Aid

Sri Lanka on Wednesday (May 25) appealed for foreign aid to recover from massive floods that caused an estimated US$2 billion worth of damage and claimed more than 100 lives, AFP said.

Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said 35,000 homes were damaged in last week's floods triggered by the heaviest rain for early 25 years, with the capital Colombo the hardest hit.

"We are looking at the maximum possible support," the minister told reporters, adding, though, that he expected foreign countries would foot about 75 per cent of total reconstruction costs.

Karunanayake blamed rampant construction in low-lying parts of Colombo that had been designated as stormwater collection points, as reasons for the flooding which hit about one third of the city's residents.

"The main cause is the filling of marshland and putting up of buildings," the minister said.

Karunanayake said strict new building codes would be introduced from Jun 1 to prevent such land being reclaimed for construction in future.

He said he was hoping for foreign assistance mostly in the form of grants and loans, but also called for overseas expertise in urban planning to prevent such disasters.

Several countries sent emergency aid last week at the height of the disaster, including India, which dispatched two naval ships and an aircraft loaded with supplies.

The Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said 101 people were known to have died in various locations last week, while another 100 were still listed as missing in the central district of Kegalle.

Landslides ripped through two villages in Kegalle, 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Colombo, with soldiers still searching for victims buried under tonnes of mud.

Rain has eased since Cyclone Roanu moved away from Sri Lanka, hitting southern Bangladesh on Saturday and killing at least 24 people there, before weakening.

Lanka may need 100,000 itinerant foreign workers in ten years
2016-May-25 | By Sihara Colombage

Lanka may need 100,000 itinerant foreign workers in ten years


With the Chinese-funded Colombo Port City project and the ambitious “Megapolis” project likely to get off the ground soon, and given the acute shortage of skilled and unskilled manpower at home, Sri Lanka may have to import 100,000 itinerant foreign workers, asserts Dr. Surath Wickramasinghe, President, Chamber of Construction Industry (CCI).


“At the rate of 400-500 workers per big project like the construction of a large hotel of international standard, we may need 100,000 foreign workers in the next ten years,” Wickramasinghe told Express on Tuesday.


Potential foreign investors (like the Mahindras of India) have complained that Lanka does not have enough trained manpower to take on jobs in modern industries. Lanka does export more than a million workers, principally to West Asia, but these are more mostly domestic maids or unskilled or semi-skilled workmen. Even the hotel, tourist and hospitality sectors, major foreign exchange earners for the island nation, are short of trained people though Lankans are naturally suited to be in the hospitality sector.


According to Kishore Reddy, Managing Director Platinum Realty Investments, there is a tremendous shortage of unskilled manpower too.


“With a high literacy rate, few young Lankans want to do manual work. Furthermore, with the large number of infrastructure projects which were initiated after the war, skilled and unskilled locals found work creating a shortage in the expanding construction industry. The cost of labor in Lanka is also high,” Reddy noted.


Wickramasinghe said that at least Foreign Direct Investors, registered under the Board of Investment (BOI), should be allowed to recruit workers from wherever they want. But they should be made to give an undertaking that these workers will be sent back on completion of the projects.


“The government should put in a place a system to ensure that foreign workers return home after finishing their projects,” he added.


The fear that foreigners, especially Indians, will stay on, merge with the local population and take up local jobs at lower wages, torments Lankans.


Asked if there will be local resistance to the entry of foreign workers, Wickramasinghe said that there will be no resistance if there are safeguards against over-staying beyond the written contract period. Moreover, the construction industry as such (of which he is the leader) knows that it desperately needs more workers on a significant scale.


Addressing the apprehension that most migrant workers will be from over-populated neighboring India, Wickramasinghe said that they could come from any country, “even Myanmar and Bangladesh.”


In Reddy’s view, the recruitment of foreign workers, especially unskilled manual workers, will allow local educated youth to go for higher levels of white collar technical and managerial jobs and earn more, either within Lanka or abroad.


“This way, Lanka will be using its higher literacy rate and overall educational levels more gainfully,” Reddy said, Express reports.

Singapore To Contribute US $ 100,000 For Sri Lanka Flood Relief
2016-May-24 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Singapore To Contribute US $ 100,000 For Sri Lanka Flood Relief

Singapore said on Monday (May 23) that it will contribute US$100,000 (S$137,868) in support of immediate relief efforts in Sri Lanka where hundreds of thousands of people were forced into shelters after major floods hit the island.

"The Singapore Government extends its condolences to the government and people of Sri Lanka over the loss of lives and unprecedented destruction caused by the floods and landslides over the past week,'' the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

"Singapore stands by Sri Lanka during this difficult period. Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has also written to Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera to convey his condolences."

The ministry said the funds will be channelled through the Singapore Red Cross (SRC).

In a separate statement on Monday, the SRC said the government contribution is part of US$150,000 in humanitarian aid that it will send to survivors of Cyclone Roanu in Sri Lanka.

The SRC "will distribute US$150,000 worth of relief items such as food, non-food relief items such as household and health kits and clothes to communities affected by Cyclone Roanu, that had left a trail of destruction in Sri Lanka. These items will address the most urgent needs,'' said the statement.

A SRC team is also on standby to be deployed for relief work in the affected communities, it said.

According to media reports, floodwater was receding in the capital Colombo after the heaviest rain in 25 years pounded the country since last weekend, triggering landslides that buried victims in tonnes of mud.

Eighty-four people are known to have died across the island, amid fears that the number could rise, with 116 people still listed as missing, the Disaster Management Centre said in an update.

Pakistan Sends Aid For Flood Victims
2016-May-24 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Pakistan Sends Aid For Flood Victims

A special flight from Pakistan, carrying relief aid such as Water bottles, blankets, medicine, and other essential food, for victims of landslides and floods arrived at the Katunayake International Airport yesterday.

A media release of the Pakistan High Commission stated that a 30-bed fully-equipped field hospital which had operation theatres and x-ray laboratories were sent to Sri Lanka. Two special cargo aircraft, carrying relief items, were also expected to reach Colombo shortly.

The High Commission also stated that 17 Pakistani doctors would be arriving in Sri Lanka for providing health care assistance.

Turkey Delivers Aid To Landslide-Hit Sri Lanka
2016-May-24 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Turkey Delivers Aid To Landslide-Hit Sri Lanka

The Turkish Red Crescent has delivered emergency supplies to Sri Lanka, which has been hit by floods and landslides caused by heavy rain since last week. In a statement issued Monday, Turkey's largest humanitarian organization said that tents, blankets and solar kits were delivered Sunday to Sri Lankan officials.

Speaking at the delivery ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lankan Minister of Disaster Management Anura Priyadarshana Yapa thanked Turkey for its "meaningful" help, which he said was sent a time when the latter was already hosting over 3 million refugees, the statement said.

Yapa recalled that the Turkish Red Crescent had built 250 homes in the country in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, and said that Sri Lankans can never forget Turkey. The Turkish ambassador to Colombo, Tunca Özçuhadar, for his part, said that Turkey shared Sri Lanka's pain and the relief materials would be delivered to the victims as soon as possible.

Korea To Sign Deal With Sri Lanka On New Town Development
2016-May-24 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Korea To Sign Deal With Sri Lanka On New Town Development

South Korea's government said Tuesday that it plans to sign an initial deal with Sri Lanka on the development of the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo and adjacent areas.

Kang Ho-in, minister of land, infrastructure and transport, is set to sign a memorandum of understanding with his counterpart from Sri Lanka, Patali Champika Ranawaka, at a Seoul hotel later in the day, according to the ministry.

The deal calls for, among other things, South Korea and Sri Lanka to primarily cooperate on projects to develop a science and technology based city in Malabe on the outskirts of Colombo while pursuing a housing development project near an airport.

The move is part of Sri Lanka's projects worth $63.2 billion to develop nine new zones in Colombo and its adjacent areas by 2030.

Sri Lankan officials also plan to hold a meeting with South Korean builders on the country's development projects later in the day.

SL donates a replica of Avukana Buddha to Telangana
2016-May-23 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lanka has donated a replica of the Avukana Buddha statue to India’s Telangana state. It will be installed in a Buddhist themed park.

The Telangana State Tourism Development Corporation (TSTDC) which has grand plans of developing and reconstructing Buddhist sites and monasteries in the state has received the 27-feet replica of the standing Buddha statue from the government of Sri Lanka.

The Sriparvatarama heritage theme park being developed at Nagarjunasagar is slotted to be the first Buddhist theme park in the country.

The statue has been donated under the Indo-Sri Lankan cultural exchange program and has been installed at the meditation area, Dhyanavanam, of the park.

The government of Sri Lanka also donated Dhamma Bell and has shown interest in building their Sinhala-Vihara complex on the premises of Sriparvatarama.

The TSTDC expects more Buddhist organizations to commence their activities shortly according to the chairman of TSTDC P Ramulu.

The authorities are expecting a good response from Southeast Asian countries too in the near future.


US offers 3-year program to assist flood affected; grants Rs 7.2 million
2016-May-21 | By Sihara Colombage

US offers 3-year program to assist flood affected; grants Rs 7.2 million

In view of the serious flooding in western Sri Lanka, the United States Government has provided 7.2 million Sri Lankan Rupees ($50,000 U.S. dollars) for immediate disaster assistance for non-food items such as blankets, mattresses, clothing and hygiene kits.

“In addition, the United States Embassy in Colombo, in coordination with the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, is advancing and expediting plans to support a new, three-year program totaling approximately 144 million Sri Lankan Rupees (U.S. $1 million) designed to provide safe, disaster-resilient, drinking water to populations who are highly vulnerable to flooding and droughts.”  

“This new program would build additional resiliencies and help address the need for reliable access to potable water during natural disasters,” the US Embassy said in a statement.

“This response is in keeping with the longstanding friendship between the Sri Lankan and American people and the growing partnership between our two governments,” said Ambassador Atul Keshap.

The Embassy said that it is monitoring the situation and continues to work closely with Sri Lankan government disaster relief authorities to identify further needs.

- See more at:

Australia Ready To Help Following Massive Landslide In Sri Lanka
2016-May-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Australia Ready To Help Following Massive Landslide In Sri Lanka

Australia has pledged to provide any assistance it can to the government of Sri Lanka following news that extreme weather had caused flash floods and landslides which have killed at least 58 people and displaced almost half a million more, reports China's Xinhua news agency.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Friday said that Sri Lanka was a close friend to Australia, and that the government would have no hesitation in sending assistance to help with the clean-up or to help resettle those who have lost their homes.

"Our thoughts are with the Sri Lankan people after heavy rainfall in recent days caused widespread flooding and landslides, loss of life and damage to homes," Bishop said in a statement.

"The Australian government stands ready to provide any assistance that our Sri Lankan friends may require in responding to this disaster."

She said a number of Australians might currently be working or holidaying in the small island nation, and urged them to contact family and friends to let them know they were safe. Bishop said following the direction of local authorities was crucial for those intending to visit Sri Lanka.

"Any Australians intending to remain in or visit the region should heed the advice of local authorities and stay informed of local conditions," she said.

"Australia's travel advice for Sri Lanka has been updated and any Australians travelling to Sri Lanka should also ensure they are registered (with the government) and monitor travel advice to the region."

The landslides -- which have affected a number of regions in the nation -- were caused by days of torrential rain. The BBC estimates that almost half a million people have been displaced while at least 58 have been confirmed dead in the disasters.

India Sends Two Naval Boats For Relief Efforts In Sri Lanka
2016-May-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Pic: Reuters

India is dispatching Naval ships to assist Sri Lanka which has been devastated by incessent rains and flooding over the last few days.

Defence Ministry sources said on Friday that two Naval ships, one Naval Off Shore Patrol (NOPV) INS Sunayna and one survey ship INS Sutlej, are being sent to Colombo from Southern Naval Command in Kochi.

"INS Sutlej has already embarked with relief material and INS Sunayana will leave shortly," sources said.

A tropical cyclone, Ronau, hit Sri Lankan coast three days back causing massive flooding and mudslides leaving scores dead and displacing over a hundred thousand people.

Sri Lanka to release 34 Indian fishermen 
2016-May-17 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lanka to release 34 Indian fishermen

The Sri Lankan authorities have decided to release 34 fishermen of Tamil Nadu who have been kept in Jaffna and Vavuniya jails.

While 13 fishermen were produced before a magistrate in Jaffna on Monday evening, the remaining 21 would be presented before a court in Mannar on Tuesday.

Once all the 34 persons are handed over to the Indian Consulate General in Jaffna, the Navies of India and Sri Lanka would decide on modalities of their return to Tamil Nadu, according to A. Natarajan, Indian Consul General in Jaffna.

Lanka becomes transit point for hemp smugglers - Report 
2016-May-16 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Lanka becomes transit point for hemp smugglers - Report


Cannabis also known as ganja and hemp, is grown in North Andhra and Kerala and is being shipped out to Sri Lanka through fishing boats, the New Indian Express reported.

That cannabis is smuggled out of India from Visakhapatnam has come as a rude shock to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs which, acting on the information, has asked the AP Police take a look into the extent of the operations.

The contraband from there is finding its way to other countries. The Ministry also has inputs from the Sri Lankan government that Indian cannabis is landing in its country.

In fact, the Lankan Navy arrested as many as 140 smugglers, including 20 Indians, last year and seized huge quantity of weed from the vessels. According to information, a large number of smugglers are promoting the ganja cultivation in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh,  particularly in north coastal agency areas.

The smugglers are exporting hemp to various nations with Sri Lanka as a transit point. The investigation officials found that many fishing boats from various points in Tamil Nadu and Kerala coast were engaged in smuggling the hemp.

Initially, the investigation agencies expected the youth addicted to hemp from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana are involved in the smuggling. However, with the leads of the Sri Lankan Navy, the officials found several new facts during their probe.

It was discovered that Seelavathi, a sought-after variety of the weed, was being cultivated in the agency areas of north coastal Andhra region.
Though raids were conducted and nabbed the green drug smugglers, the ganja smuggling still thrives in Andhra Pradesh.

As the issue assumed serious proportions, the state government decided to take stringent action against the hemp cultivators in the agency pockets. The government also decided to destroy the weed fields with the help of the satellite images. The issue was also discussed in the recently held conference of DGPs at Bhogapuram in Vizianagaram district.

As there is a huge demand for the hemp, the smugglers are promoting its cultivation on the Andhra-Odisha borders by offering good money to the tribals.

“Several tribals have turned ganja farmers in the agency areas. Tempted by the Big money, the tribals from both Odisha and AP have started cultivating the contraband in dense forests. To completely destroy the ganja fields, the help of Odisha police is needed,” said a senior police official.

The Indian government should also announce sops and schemes for tribals who voluntarily destroy the ganja plantations, he suggested.


Indian power project on, despite opposition from sections of government? 
2016-May-16 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Indian power project on, despite opposition from sections of government?

The Indo-Lankan project to build a 500 MW coal fired power plant at Sampoor in Eastern Sri Lanka is on, despite opposition from an influential section of the Lankan government, the New Indian Express reported on Sunday.

“Reports about the project being abandoned had come out in the past too, but these proved to be baseless,” a source has said.

Only the other day, the Board of the Trincomalee Power Company Ltd., which is a Joint Venture between the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) of Sri Lanka, had met in Colombo and decided to float a global tender at the end of May for the construction of the 2X250 MW plant. 

And it is learnt that India has thrown its full weight behind the project. New Delhi sees it as a critical part of its strategic interest in having a say in the Lankan energy sector. 

Don’t Demolish Church In Katchatheevu: Tamil Nadu CM
2016-May-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Don’t Demolish Church In Katchatheevu: Tamil Nadu CM

The Tamil Nadu government on Saturday described Sri Lanka's reported move to demolish and reconstruct a church in Katchatheevu islet as a “carefully calculated provocation” and urged the Centre to prevail on Colombo to involve Indian fishermen in the process.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said the “unilateral” decision by Sri Lanka has created fears among Indian fishermen from the state that it could curtail their traditional and customary access to St Antony’s church in Katchatheevu.  This reported move of the Lankan Government had “greatly” exercised the Indian fishermen in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu, who had regularly visited and worshipped at this church for several centuries, she said.

The church in Katchatheevu, an islet ceded by India to Sri Lanka in the 1970s, holds considerable religious significance for fishermen in coastal districts who had traditionally undertaken pilgrimages for the annual festival of St Anthony’s for several centuries, she said. –    

"It is part of their essential cultural and religious heritage," she told the Prime Minister even as she recalled the state government impleading in a case filed by her in the Supreme Court for the retrieval of Katchatheevu as a permanent solution for the vexed fishermen issue.

During the annual St Anthony's festival in February, when local priests proposed demolishing and reconstructing the church, Tamil Nadu fishermen "indicated" to them that as it represented the joint heritage of fishermen from both countries, its reconstruction should be taken up jointly by the two sides.

"In this context, the present unilateral decision of the Sri Lankan government to demolish and reconstruct St Anthony's Church without consulting Tamil Nadu fishermen who are vital stakeholders, appears to be a carefully calculated provocation."

"The Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu apprehend that if the church is demolished and reconstructed by the Sri Lankan side unilaterally, their traditional and customary access to this important place of worship could also be curtailed in the future," she added.

To allay apprehensions of the Indian fishermen, the Centre "ought to urgently respond to this provocation and prevail upon the Sri Lankan government to first consult the fishermen from Tamil Nadu on this issue and take further steps in this regard only in consultation with all the key stakeholders," Jayalalithaa said.

The Lankan side should also be prevailed upon to accept the reconstruction of the church jointly by India and Sri Lanka after obtaining the concurrence of Tamil Nadu fishermen, she told the Prime Minister.

Sirisena Visits Sanchi
2016-May-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Sirisena Visits Sanchi

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena visited Sanchi on Saturday. Sirisena arrived in India to attend the `Vichar Mahakumbh' in village Ninora, near Ujjain.

At Sanchi, Sirisena unveiled the statue of Dhammapathik Anagarika Dharmapala, a Sri Lankan Buddhist revivalist and writer who was one of the founding contributors of non-violent Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism.

Expressing gratification over his visit, Sirisena said that he felt blessed and thanked MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and BJP spokesperson Ram Madhav for inviting him to Sanchi. He also praised the government for establishing the Sanchi University of Buddhist-Indic Studies.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who accompanied President Sirisena announced building a `friendship park' near Sanchi University. ``The park will strengthen the friendship and cultural bond between the two countries'', he said.

Chouhan also said that a grand temple dedicated to Sita would be built at the site where she had undergone `Angi Pariksha' in Sri Lanka. ``Expenditure on this would be borne by Madhya Pradesh government while, Sri Lanka government has agreed to provide land for the temple'', he added.

Earlier, the Sri Lankan President along with Speaker of Sri Lankan Parliament Karunaratna Jayasurya, visited Chaityagiri temple and worshipped the holy relics of Lord Buddha's disciples Mahamoggalayan and Sariputta.

Modi, Sirisena Discuss Fishermen Issue
2016-May-14 | By Sihara Colombage

Modi, Sirisena Discuss Fishermen Issue

Seeking a permanent solution to the issue of frequent arrests of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, India on Friday reiterated the need to build a dedicated mechanism.

“Prime Minister Modi stressed the need to develop a mechanism and find a permanent solution to the issue of fishermen straying into each other’s waters,” informed sources said, following a meeting here between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the visiting President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena.

The Ministry of External Affairs informed on Thursday that Sri Lanka currently holds 34 Indian fishermen and 96 Indian fishing boats in custody. In comparison, the MEA spokesperson said India has 13 Sri Lankan boats in custody and no Sri Lankan fishermen.

Free trade agreement

Creation of a dedicated mechanism has been in the making for several years but has not moved ahead. Modi and Sirisena reviewed a number of bilateral issues during their talks but the free trade agreement between the two countries which has been discussed earlier was not taken up.

Sirisena is in India to attend the Vaicharik Mahakumbh in Ujjain, an inter-faith event which will take place on the sidelines of the Simhastha Kumbh. He will also visit Sanchi, where he will unveil a bust of Buddhist revivalist Anagarika Dharmapala.

A diplomat working on the inter-faith project which is indirectly supported by the government, said Mr. Sirisena’s visit is likely to provide an opportunity for India to deepen ties with Sri Lanka, especially in view of the growing Chinese influence over Colombo.

Sirisena Arrives In India Today
2016-May-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Sirisena Arrives In India Today

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will arrive in India on Friday on a working visit, during which he will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and attend events of the Simhastha Mahakumbh in Ujjain, PTI said.

Modi will also host dinner for the visiting dignitary on Friday, an Indian External Affairs Ministry release said.

"We are confident that this visit by Sirisena will contribute to further strengthening the close and cooperative relations between India and Sri Lanka," the release stated.

Sirisena will address the valedictory session at the 'Vaicharick Mahakumbh' which is being held as part of the Simhastha Mahakumbh in Ujjain on May 14, it said.

He will also visit Sanchi where he will see the world famous Sanchi Stupa and attend a function by the Mahabodhi Society of Sri Lanka to unveil a statute of Angarika Dharmapala, the Indian MEA added.

People Smuggling Ring Masterminded By Sri Lankan Operating In Malaysia
2016-May-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

People Smuggling Ring Masterminded By Sri Lankan Operating In Malaysia: Report

Two of the biggest airports in the country are being used as transit points for illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka to move into a third country, Malaysia's The Star reported citing Utusan Malaysia.

The local daily reported about how 10 human trafficking and passport falsifying syndicates were operating in KLIA and KLIA2, The Star said.

However, investigations conducted by Malaysian police on the operation, said to be masterminded by a Sri Lankan, failed to uncover anything as some of the officials in both airports were in cahoots with the syndicates.

The syndicates bring in the Sri Lankans, get them passports which are altered and falsified, then stamped to enable them to be here.

One of the reasons for this movement was the worsening economic situation in Sri Lanka, the report said.

On Tuesday, 19 people, two of them Immigration officers, were detained for human trafficking and passport falsification.

India’s Help Sought To Tackle Drugs Problem In Jaffna
2016-May-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

India’s Help Sought To Tackle Drugs Problem In Jaffna

In a recent meeting with a former Indian diplomat, leaders of fishermen from Jaffna raised the issue of the easy availability of drugs in the region, and sought India’s help to tackle the problem.

Attributing the availability of illicit substances to the growing instances of crime, Jaffna District Fishermen’s Federation’s president Naganathy Ponnambalam said drug trafficking, especially the smuggling of “Kerala ganja”, a prohibited substance, had gone up in recent times. “Not just some, the entire quantity of banned substances comes from India.”

Easy victims

The Jaffna youth, many of whom are now unemployed, have became “easy victims” of the drugs which are available in plenty, he said. Alcoholism too is rampant.

The meeting was indented to be a back channel communication effort between India and leaders of fishermen societies in the Northern Province. Residents of Vavuniya, another important town in the North, complained that ganja is being sold even in micro retail shops and minor children are engaged in selling such substance.

If the problem has to be tackled effectively, the cooperation of the Indian government is a must. “This was what I conveyed to the former diplomat G. Parthasarathy,” said Mr. Ponnambalam, seeking a joint patrolling by the two countries’ Navies or Coast Guards.

Ponnambalam acknowledged that the former diplomat’s visit was in his private capacity even though Mr. Parthasarathy, also a director of the India-Sri Lanka Foundation, told him and others that he would try to convey their problems to the Indian authorities.

Northern Province Governor Reginald Cooray has also emphasised the need for enlisting the support of the Indian government.

Explaining reasons for the trend, Mr. Cooray said that apart from the livelihood dimension, another factor was that the youth can get money easily as many of them are dependent on inward remittances.

Cooray is also of the view that after Maithripala Sirisena became President in January last year, “freedom, democracy and openness, all of which are in full flow”, are enabling various social issues of the North to get highlighted in the media.

However, Noor Mohamed Alam, president of the Mannar District Fishermen’s Cooperative Society Union, says India alone is not to be blamed. “The primary responsibility lies on us,” he feels.

Modi Meets Fishermen Released By Sri Lanka
2016-May-12 | By Sihara Colombage

Modi Meets Fishermen Released By Sri Lanka

Minutes before addressing an election meeting in Vedaranyam on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who secured the release of five Tamil Nadu fishermen facing death sentence in Sri Lanka, made it a point to meet them.

“It gave me immense pleasure to meet the five fishermen who were saved from the jaws of death,” Modi said at the meeting later. “I am really happy that the five fishermen are back with their family,” he said amid applause from the huge gathering

Narrating the sequence of events leading to their release, Modi said soon after the BJP came to power, the Centre impressed upon Sri Lankan government not to execute the death sentence against the five fishermen. Although the Lankan government agreed to the Indian government’s request not to hang the five, it, however, stated that they would have to remain in jail for their life.

Modi said he had to impress upon the Sri Lankan government personally to release the five fishermen so that they could be reunited with their family. “I told the Lankan government that I am the father and mother of the five fishermen” he said.

President To Address Anti-corruption Summit In UK Today
2016-May-12 | By Sihara Colombage

President Maithripala Sirisena is to address the Anti-corruption Summit held in the UK today.

He left the island yesterday to attend the summit hosted by the British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Prominent world leaders including US Secretary of State John Kerry will take part in the summit.

President Sirisena will visit India on his way back from the UK and will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.

Malaysian Firms Urged To Form Consortium To Tap Into Indian, Sri Lankan Markets
2016-May-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Malaysian Firms Urged To Form Consortium To Tap Into Indian, Sri Lankan Markets

The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) is urging Malaysian companies to form a consortium to bid for projects in the fast growing economies of India and Sri Lanka.

Matrade Senior Director Strategic Planning Division Wan Latiff Wan Musa said the chances of winning a tender would be higher with a team offering complete resources.

"We need to come in as a team, in areas such as infrastructure, engineering, design, information technology and construction rather than individually.

"As mentioned by the Indian and Sri Lankan governments, they are eyeing more infrastructure projects and facilities such as ports, airport construction and airport management, power and water supplies," he told Bernama, adding that the Malaysian government will be getting the development plan details from both countries soon.

He said a lot of opportunities came out unexpectedly during the trade and investment mission to India and Sri Lanka led by Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed on May 1-6.

"For example, during the visit to Andhra Pradesh (AP), the eighth largest state in India which is now progressively undertaking economic reforms, many potential businesses can be tapped by Malaysian companies.

"At the moment AP is working with the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) to develop, implement and monitor the state government's programmes and strategic development plans, giving us a chance to explore the market," he said.

AP, known as India's sunrise state, has a Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of US$77 billion at current prices and is targeted to become a developed state by 2029.

Wan Latiff noted that many countries have shown interest in developing AP, which has received 500 investment proposals.

"Malaysia should also take this opportunity and focus on areas that we have capabilities in.

"We are no stranger to the country's infrastructure development as we have the expertise and experience to bid for almost all types of infrastructure projects outside Malaysia," he said.

Wan Latiff said the new state of Telangana, with a population of some 35 million, is also undergoing rapid development, and offers tremendous investment opportunities in the infrastructure sector.

"The Telangana Minister for Information and Technology, Municipal Administration and Industries, Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao, has said that they are seeking collaboration with Malaysia in setting up an industrial hub for various sectors such as food processing, education and pharmaceuticals in India.

"This is a good opportunity for us that should not be wasted," he added.

In Sri Lanka, which is looking at developing a megapolis, there could be a lot of construction as well, Wan Latiff said.

"We are confident that Malaysian companies are ready to work with their Sri Lankan counterparts to bid for construction and infrastrcuture projects," he said.

Malaysian entities active in Sri Lanka include Axiata Group Bhd via its subsidiary Dialog Axiata PLC, Demak Manufacturing Lanka Pvt Ltd, Hyrax Oil Sdn Bhd and the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB).

The potential export value from the business-to-business sessions between Malaysian companies and their Indian and Sri Lankan counterparts is estimated at RM3.7 million within three to six months.

The exports could include construction materials, home appliances, food and beverages and franchise services, Wan Latiff said.

As of the first quarter of 2016, Malaysia's exports to India stood at RM7.53 billion with exports to Sri Lanka at RM503 million.

President To Meet Modi Later This Week
2016-May-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne

File Photo

President Maithripala Sirisena, during a short visit to New Delhi later this week, will hold a special discussion with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Government Information Department said.

President Sirisena will leave for London on May 11 to attend the Anti-Corruption Summit organized by the British government. He is scheduled to visit India on his return on May 13, on an invitation extended by the Indian Prime Minister.

India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has officially invited the Sri Lankan President to take part in a Hindu religious ceremony in Ujjain district of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, the Government Information Department also said.

Rahul Gandhi not welcomed for backing 2009 war in Sri Lanka
2016-May-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Rahul Gandhi not welcomed for backing 2009 war in Sri Lanka

Vice-President of the Indian National Congress party Rahul Gandhi has been accused of backing the 2009 war in Sri Lanka, according to The Hindu newspaper.

The newspaper reported that Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (TPDK) and Tamilar Viduiyal Katchi cadres staged a black flag protest condemning Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the city on Saturday. They also tore a Congress party flag and tried to set it on fire near the Thiruvalluvar Bus Stand.

“We have not forgotten the support extended by the Congress-led government at the Centre to the Sri Lankan government by supplying arms, providing training and even advice for the Sri Lankan Tamil genocide in 2009,” State general secretary of TPDK Ku. Ramakrishnan said.

He added that the Congress government also opposed the international probe sought into the war crimes in Sri Lanka, though many other countries supported it. “So we are protesting the visit of the Congress leader to Tamil Nadu,” he said. “Sadly, the political parties here have forgotten those incidents,” he added.

Ninety-one persons including 15 women, who took part in the protest, were removed. Tensed moments prevailed when some of them blocked a vehicle carrying Congress cadre to Rahul Gandhi’s campaign and tore their party flag.

No Boat People Accepted, Australia Reiterates
2016-May-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Peter Dutton

Australia has intercepted three asylum-seeker boats so far this year, including one carrying women and children from Sri Lanka, the country's immigration minister revealed on Monday (May 9), AFP said. The Minister also emphasized that no boat people will be accepted in Australia.

Under Canberra's hardline measures, asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia by boat are either sent back to where they departed or to remote Pacific island camps, where living conditions have been criticised. The government has defended the policy as stopping deaths at sea.

Since the start of its "Operation Sovereign Borders" in September 2013, it has managed to halt the flood of boats, and drownings, that characterised previous Labor administrations.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton reiterated that no boatpeople, even if found to be genuine refugees, would ever be settled in Australia.


"Please don't accept the word of con agents that are masquerading as these people-smugglers, that if you pay your money will you come to Australia. You will not," he said.

He said three boats had been intercepted this year, including a small wooden fishing vessel from Sri Lanka last week.

"I can advise that there were 12 people on that vessel," he said. "And the vessel had departed from Sri Lanka and we were able to successfully return those 12 people, which included men, women and children, back safely to Sri Lanka on May 6.

"Now, that brings to three the number of vessels that have sought to arrive and have been turned back, people returned back to their country of origin, in this calendar year."He gave no details on the other two boats.

According to local reports, the vessel from Sri Lanka came within 500m of Australia's thinly populated Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean on Monday last week.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said that after being spotted, those on board were transferred from a customs ship to a smaller boat, which took them ashore.

They were flown back to Colombo on a charter flight in a secretive operation under the cover of darkness on Thursday, the broadcaster said, citing witnesses who claimed there were seven children, including babies, among them.

Sri Lanka Navy exports 9 Patrol Craft to Nigeria
2016-May-08 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lanka Navy exports 9 Patrol Craft to Nigeria

Winning one of the biggest defence contracts in the naval history, Sri Lanka Navy sold 9 small patrol craft, indigenously built by the Inshore Patrol Craft Project of the Navy established at Welisara, to the Nigerian Government. 

“The deal is a milestone in the annals of the Sri Lanka Navy as this is the very first transaction, where the Navy involved internationally to earn foreign exchange to the country,” a statement said. 

The Nigerian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Mr. S.U. Ahmed along with the dignitaries of the High Commission, the Director General Operations of the Sri Lanka Navy, Rear Admiral Dharmendra Wettewa and the Director General Engineering, Rear Admiral Nilantha Premasiri attended this historic occasion which saw the official handover of 06 Arrow Boats and 03 Inshore Patrol Craft worth of approximately USD 4.2 million, the Navy media unit said.

The Sri Lanka Navy is the pioneer in the sphere of Arrow-class patrol boats and Wave Rider Craft where the concept which was developed through SLN’s Assymetric Naval Warfare experience. 

Moreover the foreign navies and the sister services avidly seek the assistance of the Sri Lanka Navy in asymmetric warfare exercises/ training due to her world-wide fame achieved through the victories in sea battles through these Arrow-class patrol boats and Wave Riders. 

As a result, today the Navy is privileged to deal in this USD 4.2 million contract with the Nigerian Navy. The first prototypes of these arrow boats were developed in 1994 by the Navy Special Boat Squadron and have indigenously produced approximately 120 craft thus far.

Navy media also stated that, the Navy will continue to engage in this assignment ahead as it would boost the economic stabilization of the country through export earnings. 

The earnings of this USD 4.2 million will be utilized for the upgrading of the Inshore Patrol Craft Project of the Navy at Welisara and it is expected to lift the standards of the work station through advanced research and technical know-how in view of delivering quality output according to the international standards.

SAARC Countries To Discuss Trafficking, Children's Rights At Next Week Meet
2016-May-08 | By Sihara Colombage

SAARC Countries To Discuss Trafficking, Children's Rights At Next Week Meet

Trafficking and child protection will be high on the agenda at the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC) starting next week. Eight countries, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will assess progress and developments in the past decade of regional efforts, and identify priorities for the next five years.

The fourth ministerial meeting will set strategies and agree on commitments to ensure the protection and security of the children of the region. The meeting is being hosted by the ministry of women and child development and will focus on critical issues of child protection and violence in the region.

Home minister Rajnath Singh and women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi will attend the conference.

SAIEVAC is the apex body of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) created to bring governments of the region into active engagement for child protection against violence. SAARC made history in 1986 by installing children as a 'summit-level concern and commitment.'

The technical consultation will bring forward recommendations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and on regional child protection opportunities emerging from country experiences. This will include India's positive insights from innovative measures for tracking and rescuing lost and missing children. The potential of using information and communication technology for improving these measures will also be examined.

India will showcase some of its major initiatives like Trackchild and Khoya Paya, Childline-1098 and POCSO Act among others.

Sri Lanka’s RTI Bill: Government To Study Supreme Court's Suggestions
2016-May-08 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lanka’s RTI Bill: Government To Study Supreme Court's Suggestions

With the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka holding as unconstitutional several clauses of the Right to Information Bill, the government is to study the Apex Court’s determination before proceeding further.

The Court, after hearing four petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Bill,  concluded that four clauses of the legislation, which was taken up for the first reading in Parliament on March 24, violated certain Articles of the Constitution. The failure to stipulate the provision on maintenance of the authority and impartiality of the judiciary as a ground for denial of information and the discrepancy in the definition of public authority to cover private educational institutions were among the provisions challenged.

It needs two-thirds majority

If the government wanted to have the Bill to be adopted in the present form, it had to get a two-thirds majority and the approval of people through a referendum. However, the Court suggested a way out for the government to get the parliamentary approval for the proposed law with a simple majority if the Court’s suggestions were incorporated in the text.  Recently, Speaker of the Parliament, Karu Jayasuriya, informed the House about the decision of the Supreme Court.

On the Court’s findings, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Justice Minister, told The Hindu on Saturday morning that “we have not yet examined the Court’s ruling closely.”  To a query whether the government would go by the Court’s advice on the amendments, the Minister replied that “we would look into it.”

Setting up of a Information Commission

The Bill envisages the establishment of a five-member Information Commission, which will monitor the performance and ensure the due compliance by public authorities. It also requires Ministers to provide information on projects, which come under the jurisdiction of the latter, to the public generally and people likely to be affected by the projects, three months prior to the commencement of such projects.  The Part II of the Bill, dealing with denial of access to information, cites various grounds including defence and economy.

Before the Bill was tabled in the House in March, the approval of all the nine provincial councils was obtained. Three provincial councils – Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Northern – had also proposed amendments.

Curbs on RTI?

The Court, in its 20-page-long ruling, elaborately dealt with the desirability of imposing restrictions on the right to information on the ground that disclosure would cause “serious prejudice to the economy of Sri Lanka.”  

Quoting judgments of the Supreme Court of India and the European Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka did not agree with the contention of petitioners that the matters pertaining to “economy” did not fall within the permitted restrictions stipulated under the Constitution with regard to the exercise and enjoyment of fundamental rights.  The Court concurred with the interpretation of the government that the term “national security” be interpreted in such a way to safeguard the country’s “vital interests on trade secrets and trade agreements.” It, however, pointed out that there was “no blanket prohibition” in the Bill on all information relating to the trade pacts.

Pro-LTTE Activists Arrested In Tamil Nadu For Protest Against Rahul Gandhi Visit
2016-May-08 | By Sihara Colombage

Pro-LTTE Activists Arrested In Tamil Nadu For Protest Against Rahul Gandhi Visit

The members of Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhakam (TPDK) were arrested in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, on Saturday when they staged a black flag demonstration against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over Sri Lankan Tamils' issue, hours before his visit to the city for addressing an election rally.

A total of 91 TPDK workers, including 15 women, assembled near the city bus stand and protested against the failure of the previous Congress-led UPA government to safeguard the Sri Lankan Tamils during the war against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009, police said.

The party Vice-President is scheduled to address an election rally here along with DMK MP, Kanimozhi, later this evening.

Led by TPDK General Secretary, K Ramakrishnan, the activists raised slogans against Congress, accusing it of having remained a mute spectator, when thousands of Tamils were killed in the guise of eliminating the LTTE.

Harsha in Saudi to solve pressing issues of Sri Lankans   
2016-May-07 | By Sihara Colombage

Harsha in Saudi to solve pressing issues of Sri Lankans

Deputy Foreign Minister with Minister of Labour of Saudi Arabia Dr Saad Al-Hoqubani.       

Sri Lanka’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Harsh de Silva visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to resolve long-standing Consular and labour issues faced by Sri Lankan migrant workers in the Middle Eastern country. 

During his meetings with Saudi’s Labour Minister Dr Mofarrej Saad Al- Hoqubani and Deputy Interior Minister Dr Ahmed Al Salem, he articulated the problems of stranded Sri Lankan employees and ‎convinced the two Ministers of urgent need for finding solutions in the immediate future. 
“Both Ministers agreed to devise a mechanism for arranging exit permits for ensuring early repatriation of stranded persons to Sri Lanka.” At the request of Dr Harsha de Silva, the two Saudi Ministers also agreed to periodically share ‎employment details of Sri Lankan workers during their stay in Saudi Arabia, a statement said.
“This would be a major breakthrough as it would enable the Embassy to speedily reach out to Saudi employers of Sri Lankans workers who are faced with serious problems and are in need of urgent Consular and welfare assistance from the Embassy.” In the absence of such details, the Embassy presently finds it hard to address their issues promptly, it said.
As  a result of his successful efforts  at the meetings with Saudi’s Minister of Social ‎Affairs Majed bin Abdullah Al Qasby and Deputy Minister for Public Health Abdulaziz Abdullah Bin Saeed, Dr  Harsha de Silva ‎received assurances from the Saudi Ministers that the  hospital access would be provided to stranded Sri Lankans at the shelter of the Embassy when they face medical emergencies.‎ 

The Deputy Minister for Public Health also agreed to make arrangements to expedite conducting postmortems and to minimize delays in dispatching the human remains to Sri Lanka.

During his visit from May 01 to 04, the deputy minister met with Saudi Arabia’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Nizar bin Obaid Madani and highlighted the significance of excellent bilateral relations while conveying sincere thanks to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for cooperation and assistance towards Sri Lanka.‎
“The above meetings with the Saudi dignitaries produced positive outcomes in resolving longstanding Consular and labour issues.” Dr de Silva appreciated the positive responses from the Saudi Ministers and cordially invited them to visit Sri Lanka .‎

‎Dr Harsha de Silva found time to address the community of Sri Lankan Professionals in Riyadh and to encourage their initiatives to promote trade, investment, tourism and culture between the two countries, the statement said. 

US eases military trade restrictions on Sri Lanka
2016-May-07 | By Sihara Colombage

US eases military trade restrictions on Sri Lanka

The United States government has eased long-standing military trade restrictions imposed on Sri Lanka, the US Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) has announced.

The DDTC confirmed on 4 May that licensing restrictions on defence exports to Sri Lanka had been lifted and that it will now review licence applications on a case-by-case basis.

“Effective immediately the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) will review applications for licenses to export or temporarily import defense articles and defense services to or from Sri Lanka under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) on a case-by-case basis,” DDTC website said.

The sanctions previously imposed on Sri Lanka were outlined in US appropriations acts in response to Sri Lanka’s civil war, which started in the early 1980s and ended in 2009. 

The sanctions prohibited the use of US assistance to support defence exports but excluded transfers of equipment or services related to demining, disaster relief, and aerial and maritime surveillance.

Malaysia's Hyrax Oil Inks Deal With Sri Lanka’s National Oil Firm
2016-May-07 | By Sihara Colombage

Malaysia's Hyrax Oil Inks Deal With Sri Lanka’s National Oil Firm

Malaysian transformer oils, lubricants and petroleum derivatives manufacturer and marketer Hyrax Oil Sdn Bhd, which exports to more than 35 countries, will be investing US$30mil (RM120mil) to establish a four-million-litres-per-month lubricant blending plant in Muthurajawela in western Sri Lanka.

The 2.02ha plant is Hyrax Oil’s second plant outside of Malaysia after the first joint-venture plant in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Three agreements were signed on Friday between Hyrax Oil and Ceylon Petroleum Corp (CPC), the national oil company of Sri Lanka, for a period of 20 years. 

The signing was witnessed by the International and Trade Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and the Sri Lankan Minister of Petroleum Resources Development, Chandima Weerakkody.

Mustapa said the signing marked a milestone for the Malaysian manufacturing company.

“This is a historical moment for us (Malaysia). This encourages other Malaysian companies to tap into the market and invest here in future,” he said.

Meanwhile, Weerakkody said this partnership would bring many benefits to Sri Lanka.

“Upon completion, the plant will create employment for locals, and consumers here will enjoy premium quality lubricants at much more competitive prices,” he said, adding that the government of Sri Lanka encouraged and welcomed Malaysian investments.

Also present at the function were Malaysian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Wan Zaidi Wan Abdullah, the Commission’s Second Secretary/Head of Chancery Azhar Mat, Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) deputy chief executive officer II Datuk N. Rajendran, Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) senior director (strategic planning division) Wan Latiff Wan Musa and Matrade trade commissioner in Chennai, Zuaziezie Zulkefli.

Hyrax Oil founder and managing director Datuk Hazimah Zainuddin said the company’s expansion into Sri Lanka would boost the growth of its lubricant oil segment in foreign markets especially within the seven countries under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including Sri Lanka.

“Construction of the plant will start within two months, and it is expected to be completed within a year.

“The new plant is expected to chalk up revenue of US$60mil (RM240mil) per annum from Sri Lanka and countries within this region,” she told Bernama after the signing ceremony in Colombo on Friday.

Hazimah indicated that 70% of Hyrax Oil’s revenue comes from the export market, with Sri Lanka accounting for 25%, while only 30% comes from the domestic market (Malaysia). 

The three agreements that were signed are for a build, operate and transfer (BOT) agreement, a supply agreement and a land lease agreement.

Hyrax Oil will construct the plant and subsequently manufacture the lubricant products for CPC for a term of 20 years.

Hyrax Oil has successfully marketed its products in Australia, New Zealand, Korea, China, Thailand, the Philippines, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Incorporated in 1991, Hyrax Oil has been in the market for 25 years. 

Its Malaysian plant, situated in Jalan Meru, Klang, started operations in 1995 and is capable of producing in excess of 50 million litres of oil products per annum.

Its products include specialty oils like transformer and cable oils as well as high-performance automotive, marine and industrial lubricants.

Hyrax Oil’s local customers include multinational companies, Malaysia’s Finance Ministry and Defence Ministry, as well as Tenaga Nasional Bhd.

Sri Lanka Sees Rise In Tourist Arrivals Due To Growth From China
2016-May-05 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lanka Sees Rise In Tourist Arrivals Due To Growth From China

Sri Lanka's tourist arrivals rose 11.6 percent in April, from a year earlier, to 136,367, mainly due to a strong growth from China, statistics from the country's Tourism Promotion Bureau showed on Wednesday.

China was the second market with the most number of tourist arrivals in April with 18,972 travelers, a 37.6 percent increase from the same period of last year.

India remained the No. 1 market with 25,890 travelers, a 12.3-percent growth from the previous year.

Visitors from Japan increased 25 percent to 3,172 and Western European arrivals were up 12.2 percent to 39,243, with Britain's arrivals up 6.9 percent to 12,006.

From January to April, 721,185 tourists have visited Sri Lanka with the government expecting the year to end with a larger number than the previous year.

The Sri Lankan government has been trying to promote the island nation as a tourist hub in the Indian Ocean region with mega tourism promotion campaigns launched in several cities worldwide, including in China.

The island nation's tourism industry has seen an upward trend since the end of the civil war in May 2009.

Last year, Sri Lanka attracted 200,000 Chinese tourists with the government maintaining that cooperation between China and Sri Lanka had recently witnessed "a very big development."

On Wednesday, government spokesperson Gayantha Karunathilleke said following a proposal made by Tourism Minister John Amaratunga, the cabinet granted approval to hold an international conference on tourism with the assistance of the United Nations World Tourism Organization in July.

Karunathilleke said the conference, which will be held in Eastern Sri Lanka, will provide an opportunity to showcase the national reconciliation process, which is the priority concern of the government.

The Sri Lankan government hopes to attract at least 3 million tourists by the end of this year and it has set a target of 4 million by 2020.

Police Media Unit Suspended
2016-May-03 | By Sihara Colombage

Police Media Unit Suspended

The Police Media Unit has been suspended with immediate effect on instructions of IGP Pujith Jayasundara, the Ministry of Law and Order said.

Meanwhile, the IGP said that the PMU will be reinstated after carrying out the necessary reforms.

Serendib Horticulture to setup Pakistan Biotechnology Institute
2016-May-02 | By Gehan Jayaratne

A leading company in Karachchi has invited Serendib Horticulture Technologies, Sri Lanka’s leading horticulture and bio-technology company to assist in setting up Pakistan Biotechnology Institute (PBIT) in Karachchi.

The main focus initially would be to initiate a horticulture project followed by a commercial tissue culture lab. This would be the first commercial tissue culture lab in Pakistan.

The first step would be to set up a facility to nurture plants from Sri Lanka. It is already underway. This facility would be in operation by about August this year, Serendib Horticulture Chairman Dilip de Silva said.

Speaking on the project Serendib Horticulture Chairman, Dilip de Silva said, “It’s an honor to Sri Lanka to be invited to set up a facility in Pakistan. Training of staff, development of protocols will also be done by Serendib.”

“We will be sending all Sri Lankan plant varieties, which will be sold in Pakistan through this facility, he said adding that the company is hoping to amalgamate this project with Mega Zone Agriculture Project initiated by the Ministry of Primary Industries in Sri Lanka.

Selected Rural outgrowers will be growing plants under the supervision of the company for a guaranteed market in Pakistan.

This should be boost to the outgrower scheme that the company is planning with the help of the Ministry of Primary Industries. Commenting on challenges faced by the local horticulture industry, he said, “we need to develop the floriculture industry in Sri Lanka and every assistance should be given by the government to achieve this objective.

As a first step, Sri Lanka should prohibit any planting material coming into the country in coco husk or coco fiber, which is a banned item in Sri Lanka.

There are tons of these plants coming from Thailand. This needs to be stopped if the local industry is to be developed.”

Director of PBIT, Waqas Khatri said, “We are excited at the prospect of working with Serendib Horticulture Technologies in Sri Lanka, which has great amount of experience in horticulture and biotechnology, internationally. We are certain that this project, which is a pioneering venture in Pakistan will help Pakistan as well as Sri Lanka to uplift its agriculture economies in the respective countries.”

SL’s Tourism Revenue Surges After End Of Civil War
2016-May-02 | By Gehan Jayaratne

SL’s Tourism Revenue Surges After End Of Civil War

Lanka’s revenue from tourism rose to $2.98 billion from $349 million over the last six years after the island nation’s 26-year-old civil war ended in 2009.

In 2009, 4.48 lakh tourists arrived in Sri Lanka and the numbers rose to 17.98 lakhs in 2015, according to the 2015 Annual Report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL).

Foreign exchange earnings from tourism ranked third, next to workers’ remittances and income from garment exports. “The tourism industry is blooming in the Eastern and Northern provinces of the country,” the two regions hit hard by the strife.

Seventy four tourism development projects including 56 in the East were completed in the past six years, according to the report. An official in Jaffna said if the Palaly airport in Jaffna resumed flight services to Tiruchi, following the completion of the proposed modernisation with the technical and financial support of the Indian government, it would also result in greater tourist arrivals from India, especially central and southern parts of Tamil Nadu.

Tourist arrivals in 2015 recorded a 17.8 per cent increase over the previous year and 2015 revenue increased by 22.6 per cent

Malaysian team to promote trade with Sri Lanka 
2016-Apr-30 | By Sihara Colombage

Malaysian team to promote trade with Sri Lanka

Malaysia’s Minister of International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed will lead a trade and investment mission to India and Sri Lanka from May 1-6 in a continuous effort to promote Malaysia as a profit and regional centre for businesses and investments.

Together with top officials of the Malaysia Investment Development Authority, including its deputy chief executive Rajendran Narayanasamy, will be private sector companies comprising mainly small-and-medium-sized enterprises seeking opportunities in the two South Asian nations, which have long-standing business and cultural ties with Malaysia.

MIDA executive director Arham Abd. Rahman said the companies are from the infrastructure, food and beverage, airways, information technology, manufacturing and services sectors.

Officials of the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation and the Malaysia & India Business Council are also part of the mission, which will hold investment seminars in New Delhi and Colombo.

The programme during the mission includes individual meetings with Indian and Sri Lankan companies, business seminars on investment opportunities in Malaysia, site visits, gatherings with Malaysian professionals and diaspora, as well as networking and business matching events.

The two seminars on business opportunities in Malaysia will be held in New Delhi on May 2 and in Colombo on May 5.

In 2015, India was Malaysia’s 10th biggest trading partner with bilateral trade amounting to US$12 billion accounting for 3.2 per cent of Malaysia’s total external trade.

Malaysia’s total exports to India was US$8.12 billion in 2015 while imports amounted to US$3.90 billion.

Major products exported to India were palm oil and palm-based products (25.8 per cent of total exports), electrical and electronic products (16.8 per cent), crude petroleum (16.1 per cent), chemical and chemical products (9.7 per cent) and manufactures of metal (9.5 per cent).

Malaysia’s trade with Sri Lanka amounted to US$570 million last year with exports at US$480 million and imports, US$90 million.

Major products exported to Sri Lanka were palm oil & palm-based products (18 per cent of total exports to the country), chemicals & chemical products (14.7 per cent), petroleum products (10.6 per cent), electrical& electronic products (9.4 per cent) and machinery, appliances & parts (8.6 per cent).

In terms of investment, Indian companies continue to play an important role in Malaysia’s business environment, with companies setting up manufacturing and services activities in the country.

In 2015, a total of 130 manufacturing projects with Indian interest were implemented with realised investments of RM4.45 billion and have created 15,064 jobs.

A majority of Indian businesses are in the manufacturing sector such as paper, printing ; publishing, textiles & textile products, petroleum and petrochemical products and non-metallic mineral products, as well as ICT, education, and healthcare services

Vehicle prices go up with VAT: Importers
2016-Apr-29 | By Gehan Jayaratne

The prices of imported vehicle would be increased due to the major foreign currency fluctuation with no change in the present situation in tax regime, Chairman of Lanka Vehicle Importers' Association Mahinda Sarathchandra said.

He said that three vehicle associations including Brand-new Vehicle Importers Association and two other Used Vehicle Importers Associations yesterday met with the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake at the Finance Ministry regarding the increase in the VAT. During the discussion the Finance Minister stated that no changes could be made to the tax.

He said if there was no change to the VAT before May 2 vehicle prices would be increased by Rs. 300,000 and Rs.400,000. “The vehicle importation industry has faced a huge downfall due to this prevailing economic pattern. He said that an importer who imported 100 vehicle would now could import on 30 because of the VAT hike.

Yesterday the Prime Minister appointed a committee to solve the legal issues regarding vehicle importation. “We have requested the Finance Minister to provide a considerable relief on tax concessions imposed on vehicle imports and the Minister said that is under consideration,” Mr. Sarathchandra said.

“The Finance Minister said the earlier tax concessions made more people to buy vehicles and because of that, the number of vehicles on the road had increased causing huge road traffic congestion,” he said. “The main idea of imposing more tax on vehicle import was to limit vehicles put on to the road,” he said.

When contacted the Brand New Motor Vehicle Importers Association President Gihan Pilapitiya said there would be no duty changes but valuation of brand new vehicles and the Customs Duty should be reviewed.

“The prices of brand new vehicles are decided by relevant vehicle manufacturing companies. Without considering the manufacture’s price, it is not reasonable to increase the Customs Tax according to Government decisions,” he said.

“But according to our knowledge the Value Added Tax (VAT) is not relevant to decide the vehicle price but all the taxes, which had to be imposed, have already being imposed,” he said. 

US returns stolen ancient Buddhapada sculpture to Pakistan    
2016-Apr-29 | By Gehan Jayaratne


US returns stolen ancient Buddhapada sculpture to Pakistan      

The US has returned an ancient Buddhist stone sculpture to Pakistan, from where it was stolen in the 1980s.

The 2nd Century piece, depicting Buddha’s footprints alongside religious symbols, was taken from the Swat Valley and eventually smuggled into the US.

A Japanese antiques dealer who brought it to the US from Tokyo pleaded guilty to possessing stolen property in April.

The sculpture was expected to reach $1m (£700,000) at auction, but the sale was intercepted by New York authorities.

New York prosecutors returned the sculpture to Pakistan’s Deputy Chief of Mission Rizwan Saeed Sheikh at a ceremony on Wednesday.

Mr Sheikh said it was “an important element of the cultural history of Pakistan”, and would likely be kept in New York for the short term and possibly put on display.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr said the piece was “so much more than a piece of property”.

“It’s an ancient piece that speaks to the history and culture of Pakistan that should be celebrated and protected,” he told the Associated Press.

Antiquities dealer Tatsuzo Kaku had said he was in part motivated by a desire to protect Pakistan’s artefacts, but this was dismissed by other experts, who said there were good structures in place in Pakistan for doing this.

Kazu paid a $5,000 fine and a sentence of time-served and left the country voluntarily.


PC Arrested For Laggala Weapons Theft
2016-Apr-29 | By Gehan Jayaratne

PC Arrested For Laggala Weapons Theft

The Police Constable who was in charge of the armory at the time of the recent theft of weapons was arrested by the CID yesterday.

He is expected to be produced before the Naula Magistrate today.

The theft occurred in the early hours of April 14. A T-56 and several revolvers disappeared from the armory in the police, while several personnel were on duty.

The weapons were discovered several days later near a temple.

Two Senior DIGs Appointed
2016-Apr-29 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Two Senior Deputy Inspectors of Police have been appointed under the recommendation of the National Police Commission.

Senior DIG Galle, S.A. D. F. Gunawardena and Senior DIG Police Training Unit M. R. Latif have been appointed as Senior DIGs.

Gunawardena’s appointment will be made in with effect from 16th April, and Latif’s appointment from 21st April. 

Russia Launches First Rocket From New Cosmodrome At Vostochny
2016-Apr-28 | By Sihara Colombage

Russia Launches First Rocket From New Cosmodrome At Vostochny

Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome has conducted its first space launch on Thursday. A Soyuz rocket boosted three scientific and distance viewing satellites into orbit.

The lift-off took place at 5:01am Moscow time (2:01am GMT) and some 8 minutes 44 seconds into the flight the Volga upper stage carrying three satellites successfully separated from the Soyuz rocket. The satellites are scheduled to separate from the launch vehicle shortly after 7:00am MSK, when it reaches its designated orbit.

The historic launch came a day behind schedule. First planned for Wednesday, it was aborted at the last minute when automatic safety systems detected a fail signal in one of their sensors.

“The first launch from a new pad is an important and sensitive event. Things like this happen. We will work it out,” the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Igor Komarov, said in comments on the hitch.

The launch on Thursday was observed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who decided to stay for an extra day to personally take part in the event. Vice-Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin – something of a ‘space tsar’ in the Russian government – also watched the launch at the site, and was joined by the chief of Russian Space Troops, Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Golovko.

Vostochny is located in a desolate area of the Amur Region in Russia’s Far East, which allows spent stages to safely land in the taiga or neutral waters. Its construction was launched in 2012, as Russia saw the need for a domestic launch site for civilian rockets.

Russia has the large military launch facilities Plesetsk and Kapustin Yar, but for civilian launches has to rely primarily on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Sri Lanka Arrests 21 Indian Fishermen
2016-Apr-28 | By Sihara Colombage

Sri Lanka Arrests 21 Indian Fishermen

Sri Lankan naval agencies on Wednesday apprehended 21 Indian fishermen and their three country boats on charges of poaching in the territorial waters of the island nation.

The fishermen, all hailing from Pamban fishing hamlet in Rameswaram, sailed on a fishing expedition on Tuesday.

Mechanised trawlers are moored on the shore due to a 45-days fishing ban which has been in force since April 15. However, the ban is not applicable to traditional fishermen using country boats.

According to Sri Lankan naval website, the navy assisted Sri Lankan coast guard to detain these fishermen 10 nautical miles off Talaimannar. The fishermen and the boats were handed over to Sri Lankan police at Mannar for further action.

U Arulanandam of the Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen said the arrested fishermen had been produced before a Mannar court and remanded in judicial custody till May 11. They were lodged in a Vavuniya prison after the court verdict.

At present, 34 Indian fishermen, including the ones held on Wednesday, are in Sri Lankan prisons.

Chief Of Defence Forces Of Royal Thai Armed Forces Calls On Chief Of Defence Staff??
2016-Apr-28 | By Sihara Colombage

Chief Of Defence Forces Of Royal Thai Armed Forces Calls On Chief Of Defence Staff

Chief of Defence Forces of Royal Thai Armed Forces, General Sommai Kaotira, called on the Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Kolitha Gunatilleke at the Office of the Chief of Defence Staff on 27th April 2016. The visiting General was accorded Tri Services Guard of Honour at the Ministry of Defence Grounds prior to arrive at the OCDS.

Upon arrival, the Thai Defence Chief and the delegation were received by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Kolitha Gunatilleke. During the cordial discussion, Chief of Defence Staff and the Thai Defence Chief shared thoughts of military history of both countries and exchanged views on matters of bilateral interest and recalled the longstanding relations between Kingdom of Thailand and Sri Lanka.

The delegation comprised of senior military officers of the Royal Thai Armed Forces such as, General Surapong Suwanaadth, Chief of Joint Staff, General Ponpipatt Benyasri, Chief of Staff to CDF, Major General Wichai Chucherd, Director External Relations and Major General (Rtd) Rachada Kaotira, spouse of the CDF.

Official plaques were exchanged between Defence Chiefs of two countries. General Sommai Kaotira also placed his signature on the Visitors’ Book to mark his visit to OCDS.

UN experts on torture and justice system in joint visit to Sri Lanka
2016-Apr-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

UN experts on torture and justice system in joint visit to Sri Lanka 

United Nations human rights experts Mónica Pinto and Juan E. Méndez will carry out a visit to Sri Lanka from 29 April to 7 May 2016 to assess recent developments and identify challenges related to the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to the independence of the justice system, UN said in a release.


“We are encouraged by the recent steps taken by the Government to advance respect for human rights, including their support to Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 on ‘promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on the independence of judges and lawyers, and on torture.


“We look forward to engaging with the authorities and key actors on the challenges faced by the country to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession, due process and fair trial guarantees, and access to justice, and to eradicate torture and other ill-treatment, while promoting accountability and fulfilling victims’ right to reparations,” they said.


“Sri Lanka is at a crucial moment in its history and we hope that our recommendations will contribute to setting out a path for the future that will be fully aligned with the international human rights obligations of the country,” the Special Rapporteurs added.


The human rights experts, who visit the country at the invitation of the government, will meet with governmental authorities, members of the judiciary and prosecution services, lawyers, civil society, the National Human Rights Commission, and victims and their families.


In addition to visiting Colombo, they will spend several days in the different provinces of the country, including the Northern, North Central, Eastern, Central and Southern. Accessing places where persons are detained will also be a key component of the visit.


The two Special Rapporteurs will share their preliminary observations and recommendations at a press conference to be held on Saturday 7 May 2016, at 3pm, at the UN Conference Room, United Nations Compound, 202-204, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7. Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists.


The Special Rapporteurs will each present a comprehensive report containing their findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in March 2017 and June 2017, respectively.


Ms. Mónica Pinto took up her functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on 1 August 2015. Ms. Pinto is a professor of international law and human rights law at the Law School of the University of Buenos Aires, where she is currently the Dean. She has long-standing experience working on human rights issues in a variety of settings, including for the United Nations. She has also appeared as legal counsel and/or expert before different human rights bodies, arbitral tribunals and the International Court of Justice. 


Mr. Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in November 2010. He has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas.


The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Fake stones threaten to undermine Sri Lanka’s gem trade
2016-Apr-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Fake stones threaten to undermine Sri Lanka’s gem trade?

From the Queen of Sheba to Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge, Sri Lanka’s sapphires have adorned royalty through the ages, but a flood of cheap imitations is threatening the island’s reputation for the precious stones, reports AFP.

Ceylon sapphires, known after the island’s colonial-era name, enjoyed a huge boost five years ago when it was revealed that one formed the centrepiece of the engagement ring Prince William gave Catherine Middleton.

They are renowned as the best sapphires in the world, but gem traders say artificial stones -- coloured glass that to the untrained eye are virtually indistinguishable from sapphires -- are being passed off as the real thing to unsuspecting buyers.

“This is the biggest threat to our industry. Our reputation is at stake,” said Nissanka Weerasena, who owns a chain of upmarket jewellery stores in Sri Lanka.

“These coloured pieces of glass imported by the kilo are killing the market for gems.” Stories of buyers getting conned into buying fakes are legion.

National Gem and Jewellery Authority chairman Asanka Welagedara recalled how one Australian buyer who spent $14,000 only discovered that nearly half the stones he had been sold were fakes when he had them tested by the state-run regulator -- by which time it was too late.

Another scam is to heat treat opaque, semi-precious stones to give them the colour and clarity of a real sapphire.

“The technique of heat treating semi-precious stones originated in Thailand, but our people have now perfected the art,” Welagedara said.

“There is a 10-fold price difference between a heat-treated blue sapphire and a natural stone, so naturally there is a temptation to sell treated stones as natural ones.”

Problems are particularly common along Sri Lanka’s southern coast, a popular tourist draw.

“We are seeing a new trend of cheating, especially along the coastal tourist belt,” said a senior Sri Lankan police officer who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

MRIA to be privatised
2016-Apr-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

The Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) is to be privatised within the year, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation said.

A ministry source said that it had received proposals from several companies, including three private Chinese companies.

“Since the airport was constructed by the Chinese Government it has not submitted a proposal,” the source said.

The source said the government was in the midst of searching for a way to repay the instalments on the loan taken to construct the airport.

“At the moment the loan is being repaid with the income from the Bandaranaike International Airport. This will not be done in the future,” the source said.

The MRIA was opened in March 2013, and US$209 million was spent on the project; with $190 million provided by the Chinese government.

Vehicle Prices To Hike Substantially Due To VAT Increase
2016-Apr-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Vehicle Prices To Hike Substantially Due To VAT Increase

Vehicle prices are expected to increase substantially from May 2 due to the increase of the VAT, Chairman of Vehicle Importers Association Indika Sampath Merinchige said.

Although it is still not clear as to how much the increase will be, prices will be definitely increased, he said.

Meanwhile, he added that there was an uncertainty in the local automobile market. This is due to the weakening of the rupee compared to the US Dollar and the situation in Japan, he added.

A prospective buyer should try to buy a vehicle already in Sri Lankan market he added.

The government has announced that the VAT will be increased to 15 percent with effect from May 2.

SL military has a crucial role to play-UK
2016-Apr-26 | By Sihara Colombage

Britain said that Sri Lankan military has a crucial role to play in country’s commitment to addressing long-standing issues of reconciliation, accountability and human rights.

“The UK is supporting the Sri Lankan government in these efforts to build a peaceful, prosperous and united future,” the British High Commission in Colombo said issuing a statement on the visit of newly appointed UK non-resident Defence Advisor for Sri Lanka, Captain Stuart Borland and a team of defence delegation from UK Ministry of Defence last week.

The appointment of a UK non-resident Defence Advisor for Sri Lanka was announced last year following a meeting between Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and UK Prime Minister David Cameron at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta.  
At the invitation of the Sri Lanka Navy, Captain Borland and Deputy High Commissioner Laura Davies toured the Naval and Maritime Academy (NMA) in Trincomalee. Captain Borland also laid a wreath at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Trincomalee.
In Colombo, Captain Borland accompanied the High Commissioner to Sri Lanka James Dauris, to meetings with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force.  

Captain Borland also accompanied a delegation from the UK Ministry of Defence, led by Deputy Head of International Policy and Plans (Military) Patricia Parkin, to meetings with representatives from the Ministry of Defence, civil society and the diplomatic community.  Discussions focused on opportunities for defence engagement activities in areas of mutual interest and concern.
Captain Borland said: “ I very much look forward to working with all three Services of the Armed Forces through defence engagement activities designed to support the Sri Lankan Government’s commitments to reconciliation, accountability and human rights.”


Govt. focused on getting the private sector to invest more - Ravi 
2016-Apr-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Govt. focused on getting the private sector to invest more - Ravi

The new administration is focused on getting the private sector to invest more in Sri Lanka, explains finance minister Ravi Karunanayake.

“The last Government, they believed in spending where the private sector should have done so and as a result crowded out the private sector. Today we are changing that cause,” Karunanayake told CNBS.

India and China are Sri Lanka’s biggest import markets, count among the top three in terms of tourist inflows and provide significant share of the country’s foreign investment inflows.

“Sri Lanka needs to develop its economy using both Indian and Chinese help. We need both markets,” Shiran Fernando, lead economist at Frontier Research, told CNBC.

But China and India have not always been open to sharing influence, with both trying to leverage their “special relationship” with the island.

“The challenge is to find a balance between these two large countries and not take to one bloc,” said Nishan de Mel, executive director at Verite Research. “The pendulum is swinging but should end up in the middle.”

Sweden FM appreciates work of Govt.
2016-Apr-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Foreign Minister of Sweden Margot Wallstrom, who arrived in Sri Lanka today appreciated the work of the new government of re-establishing democracy and said the country has marked a significant progress.

During a brief discussion held with the Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Harsha De Silva, the visiting Sweden Minister said she would be looking forward to discuss with the President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during the discussion to be held today (25).

“She was very excited about the visit. She shared her memories in Sri Lanka; at the time she served as the Executive Vice President of the World View Global Media and stayed in a house in Battaramulla years back.

She said she felt privileged to visit Sri Lanka on an official visit. She also said that the whole world including Sweden is admiring the work of the new government specially for establishing the personal freedom in the country,” the Minister said.

Minister de Silva also said Sweden's Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom is scheduled to attend a Business Discussion Table at Cinnamon Grand in Colombo today (25) where many important aspects are to be focused in sharing business corporation with the two governments.

During her visit, Wallstrom will also visit Jaffna where she will meet with government officials and civil society and visit an IDP welfare camp and a housing project. Her interest in the discussions in the Northern Province would be focused on political matters. 

China, India tussle for influence as Sri Lanka develops
2016-Apr-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne

China, India tussle for influence as Sri Lanka develops


Situated almost in the middle of the Indian Ocean, there is no escaping Sri Lanka’s centrality.


The country lies just a few nautical miles away from the super-busy east-west shipping route, through which an estimated 60,000 ships pass every year, carrying two-thirds of the world’s oil and half of all container shipments.


Now, with Asia’s economic rise, experts say Sri Lanka’s location has become even more alluring. Not only are three Asian powers - China, Japan and India - playing dominant roles in the global economy at the same time for the first time, there are also increasingly attractive markets and trade opportunities in Asia as well.


“Sri Lanka is the pivotal point for a global grand strategy,” R. Hariharan, a retired Indian army colonel and specialist in South Asian geopolitics, told CNBC. “Sri Lanka’s geography gives it an advantage disproportionate to its size.”


The small island nation with a population of 22 million has been rediscovering its strategic location for the past few years as it comes out of a 26-year civil war that depleted government resources and held back development. As Sri Lanka looks for assistance to reboot its economy, a largely two-way tussle for influence in the country and, in turn, the region is on.


China, India tussle


China has identified the tear-dropped shaped island as a key point on the Maritime Silk Road, as it plans to build infrastructure along this ancient trade route that extends from China to Africa.


Sri Lanka also holds an attraction for both India and groups that would like access to India. Asia’s third largest economy is within “artillery range” of Sri Lanka, situated some 30 kilometers (19 miles) to the north of the island.


“We are at the doorstep of a dynamic market,” Anushka Wijesinha, chief economist at Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, said. “The Indian middle class market alone is set to be 10 times our entire population. Imagine the opportunities there.”


A tricky balancing act


India and China are Sri Lanka’s biggest import markets, count among the top three in terms of tourist inflows and provide significant share of the country’s foreign investment inflows.


“Sri Lanka needs to develop its economy using both Indian and Chinese help. We need both markets,” Shiran Fernando, lead economist at Frontier Research, told CNBC.


But China and India have not always been open to sharing influence, with both trying to leverage their “special relationship” with the island.


“The challenge is to find a balance between these two large countries and not take to one bloc,” said Nishan de Mel, executive director at Verite Research. “The pendulum is swinging but should end up in the middle.”


China’s early lead


After the civil war ended in 2009, China led the rebuilding of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure, as India and the West shied away. The West was concerned over alleged human rights violations during the war against insurgents in the Tamils in the north of the island, while India was politically constrained owing to its ethnic ties with the Tamils,


In this vacuum, China landed contracts to build highways, ports and an airport in the south of the island, from a Sri Lankan government that was at the time open to Chinese expertise and money. India provided assistance in the war torn areas of the north, rebuilding homes and railway tracks, but China was by far the dominant partner.


Among the big-ticket Chinese projects was a port in Hambantota at Sri Lanka’s southern tip, built at a cost of around $360 million, with 85 percent funding from China’s Export-Import Bank. Another key project, a $1.4 billion port city in Colombo, was initiated by then-president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government in 2014.


Funded by Chinese state-owned company, China Communications Construction, the port city project was due to be the single largest foreign investment in Sri Lanka - a multi-development project with a marina, malls, golf courses and even a Formula 1 track.


But development stalled amid controversy over the tender procedures and on concerns the project, to be built on reclaimed land, would damage the island’s beaches, and it was left in limbo when Rajapaksa’s government was voted out in early 2015, amid promises by the then-opposition, led by Maithripala Sirisena, to scrap the deal entirely.


The pendulum swings


With a new government, headed by President Sirisena, came a more pro-India stance. Sirisena visited India on his first overseas trip and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reciprocated within a month, using the trip to Sri Lanka to invoke the two countries’ cultural and religious links. He also promised India would develop an oil tank “farm,” offered $318 million in credit for rail works and a $1.5 billion currency swap between the central banks of the two nations, according to reports.


But within a year Sri Lanka was back wooing Chinese investments. The government has revived the port city, and followed up with a visit to China by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in April.


The trip was widely read as being aimed at mending relations as well as negotiating better terms on the port city for Sri Lanka, including a reduction in the $125 million penalty it received for previously suspending work on the mega-project.


Wickremesinghe also requested an equity swap on some of Sri Lanka’s $8 billion worth of additional Chinese loans.


“The government has done a U-turn on the port city project because reality set in,” the Chamber of Commerce’s Wijesinha told CNBC. “If we are to boost investment, we have to look at whoever brings in the investment and clearly China has the money.”


Some commentators maintain that Sri Lanka has cleverly managed its courtship with both India and China.


“At the end of the day, we don’t have a U.S. base on our shores, nor are the Chinese investments a de facto base and neither are we an annexure of India,” said a Colombo-based analyst, implying that the small island state had done well to maintain its sovereignty while balancing diplomatic and trade relations.


The next Singapore?


But much of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure built by the Chinese, including the Hambantota port and the airport, is under-utilized and the existing Colombo port in fact owes most of its business to India. Trans-shipments from India make up 75 percent of its volumes.


“We need to harness these investments, need major players to start using it. Strained relations with China also did not help,” said Frontier’s Fernando, adding that now that the prime minister had visited China, Chinese companies may start using the infrastructure they helped build.


Sri Lanka is also set to receive a $1.5 billion foreign reserve-boosting loan from the International Monetary Fund, which should help boost investor confidence in the $80 billion economy, which already comes with the benefits of high levels of literacy and a vibrant democracy.


The loan is designed to help Sri Lanka avoid a balance-of-payments crisis as occurred at the end of the civil war in 2009 – a crisis that required a $2.6 billion IMF bailout. According to Reuters, Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves have fallen by a third from an October 2014 peak to $6.3 billion in January, mainly due to a $1.3 billion in outflows from government bonds in 2015.


Sri Lanka has already taken one investment rating hit; Fitch Ratings downgraded the country’s long-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings from B+ from BB-, citing increasing financing risks, significant debt maturities in 2016, the decline in forex reserves and weaker public finances as a result of low revenues.


The decisions made now are key, as Harsha de Silva, the country’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, told CNBC: “If we manage our policies right, we will become the next or even better Singapore or Dubai,” CNBC reports.


Jaya promises job aid for SL tamil refugees 
2016-Apr-24 | By Sihara Colombage

Jaya promises job aid for SL tamil refugees


TN Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa has assured that if returned to power she would urge the Centre to award citizenship to eligible SL Tamil youth in refugee camps so that they could secure employment.

The AIADMK chief gave this assurance while addressing a meeting at the G Corner where she introduced 67 candidates from Tiruchy, Karur, Pudukkottai, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai and Villupuram districts.

Ridiculing DMK’s stand on the Lankan Tamils issue, Jayalalithaa charged DMK chief M Karunanidhi with not only deceiving people of the State but also Tamils of Sri Lanka and held Karunanidhi and his daughter Kanimozhi responsible for the genocide in the island nation. 

“Karunanidhi was acting against the interest of Tamils in SL while taking part with the government but presently, they included the international probe against Sri Lanka in their election manifesto. Tamils will never be deceived anymore,” the AIADMK chief said.

Swedish Foreign Minister To Visit Sri Lanka
2016-Apr-24 | By Sihara Colombage

Swedish Foreign Minister To Visit Sri Lanka

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden Margot Wallström will pay an official visit to Sri Lanka from 24-26 April 2016 at the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mangala Samaraweera.

Minister Wallström will hold official bilateral discussions with Minister Samaraweera on 25 April morning at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During the visit, Minister Wallström is expected to call on President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and also meet with the Speaker of Parliament.

A seven member trade delegation comprising leading Swedish companies Ericsson, Volvo, ABB, SAAB, Scania, AXIS Communication, and Icomera is accompanying the Swedish Foreign Minister to Sri Lanka. A high level “Business Round Table discussion” will be held on 25 April with the participation of Swedish Companies at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, in cooperation with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. This interactive Session is aimed at encouraging stronger business links between the two countries.  Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Harsha de Silva and Minister Wallström are expected to address the event.

The Foreign Minister of Sweden will visit Jaffna on 26 April where she will meet the Governor and Chief Minister of the Northern Province and the District Secretary of Jaffna.  She will also meet with civil society, visit an IDP Welfare Camp and visit the Maravanpulo SDC Housing Project.

Being a strong advocate of women’s rights, Minister Wallström is scheduled to deliver a lecture at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies(LKIIRSS) on 25 April on the topic “Role of Feminism in Foreign Policy: Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy ”.

The visit is expected to contribute towards renewing relations between the two countries and enhance opportunities for trade cooperation.

Minister Wallström had served in Sri Lanka from 1998 to 1999 as the Executive Vice President of the World View Global Media.

PM Eyes Bilateral Agreements With Several Countries To Strengthen Economy
2016-Apr-24 | By Sihara Colombage

PM Eyes Bilateral Agreements With Several Countries To Strengthen Economy

Sri Lanka aims to strengthen its economy and move the country forward by entering into bilateral agreements with several countries including China and India, Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Saturday.

Wickremesinghe said the hour had arrived for Sri Lanka to be once again the economic hub it was in the ancient world on the Silk Route.

He further said that his government was in the final stages of formulating the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India and were also reviewing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China.

Additionally, his government is also looking at entering into such partnerships with Singapore, Turkey, USA and Pakistan.

"Our end goal is the creation and sustenance of a dynamic and thriving economic hub that will generate thousands of jobs," he said.

Sri Lanka is also planning to regain the Generalized System of Preference (GSP) Plus trade concessions from the EU after it was withdrawn from Sri Lanka as the island nation failed to meet certain conditions on human rights issues in 2010 when Mahinda Rajapakse was president.

The Sri Lankan government is currently in discussions with the EU and are confident to regain the trade concessions this year.

Meanwhile Wickremesinghe also welcomed the decision by the EU this week to lift a ban on Sri Lanka's fish exports which he said is a significant step towards reaping economic benefits for Sri Lanka and will fuel the growth potential of the fishing industry in the country.

The European Commission decided to lift of the ban on fisheries exports from Sri Lanka to the European Union, stating that Sri Lanka now had a robust legal and policy framework to fight illegal fishing activities.

The Sri Lankan government said that it was facing a loss of over 100 million U.S. dollars per year because of the ban.

Sri Lanka could obtain financial assistance from SAARC Development Fund
2016-Apr-23 | By Sihara Colombage


Sri Lanka could obtain financial assistance from SAARC Development Fund

President Mithripala Sirisena said the SAARC Cultural Centre proposed to be set up in Matara will help greatly to enhance strong cultural links between the people of South Asia.

He inquired into the progress of the establishment of the SAARC Cultural Centre which is being constructed at an 8-acre land extent in Matara, when SAARC Secretary General Arjun B Thapa called on him at the Presidential Secretariat today (April 22).

Mr Thapa said Sri Lanka will be in a position to obtain financial assistance to the tune of US Dollars one million to 1.5 million for any project from the SAARC Development Fund. The President said he would instruct the Foreign Ministry to channel the proposals to the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu.

Mr Thapa said that the SAARC Secretariat would launch publications on Buddhist Trail shortly and it would be followed by publications on religious worship trails of Hindu, Muslim and Christianity too.

The SAARC Secretary General invited President Sirisena to inaugurate the SAARC Health Ministers Meeting in Colombo later this year.

EU Lifts Ban On Sri Lanka Fish Exports
2016-Apr-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

EU Lifts Ban On Sri Lanka Fish Exports

The Sri Lankan government on Thursday said that the European Union had lifted a ban imposed on Sri Lankan fisheries products.

Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said the EU had informed the government that the ban had been lifted.

"The EU has decided to lift the ban with no conditions. They have officially informed us and we can begin our fish exports to the EU once again," Amaraweera said.

An EU statement released in Colombo on Thursday said that the European Commission decided to propose the lifting of the ban on fish exports from Sri Lanka to the European Union, while warning Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad & Tobago with yellow cards as they risk being uncooperative in the fight against illegal fishing.

The European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, quoted in the statement said that Sri Lanka now had a robust legal and policy framework to fight illegal fishing activities.

The EU ban took effect in January last year over the failure of the previous government to prevent local fishermen from violating international fisheries laws.

The Sri Lankan government said that it was facing a loss of over 100 million U.S. dollars per year because of the ban.

The country's fish exports to the European Union make up 68 percent of its total fish exports

The remaining 32 percent is sent to the United States, Japan and other non-EU countries.

Sri Lanka Navy Intercepts Asylum Boat, People Smuggler Jailed In Australia: Dutton
2016-Apr-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

Sri Lanka Navy Intercepts Asylum Boat, People Smuggler Jailed In Australia: Dutton

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed an asylum seeker boat en route to Australia has been stopped by the Sri Lankan Navy.

The Navy reported that six adults and three children were onboard the boat when it was stopped on April 19 in the waters west of Negambo.

The passengers – five men, one woman, two boys and one girl – have since been handed over to police for further investigations.

Dutton told 2GB radio the boat had left a Sri Lankan port, but was stopped before it reached international waters.

"The Sri Lankan Navy intercepted that boat, turned it around and took them back to shore," he said.

"It just shows you that the people are still there … We're dealing with these on-water matters all the time."

The report follows the sentencing of a convicted people smuggler in Western Australia.

The 44-year-old Iraqi man appeared before the District Court of Western Australia, where he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

In a statement, Dutton said the man had been extradited from Germany in 2014 after an investigation identified his role in organising a "people smuggling venture" in 2010.

"There are currently 18 people serving a sentence in Australian prisons for a people smuggling offence," he said.

Rights Improvements Less Apparent In North: UK
2016-Apr-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

President Sirisena meeting with people in IDP camps (File Photo)President Sirisena meeting with people in IDP camps

Sri Lanka, which had a regime change in the beginning of 2015, has witnessed an improvement in the overall human rights situation. But, in the Northern and Eastern provinces, some of the “positive changes are less apparent”, says a report of the U.K.’s Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Making this observation in its annual report on human rights and democracy for 2015, the FCO stated that “human rights defenders continued to report harassment and surveillance in 2015, a point raised by the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances during its visit in November. The OISL [OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka] report also highlighted a number of human rights concerns that still remain, including continued reports of torture, and sexual and gender-based violence”.

The U.K. urged the government to investigate these and other allegations of human rights violations, and “will continue to push for progress in these areas”, the FCO said. The document has been prepared in the light of Sri Lanka being one of the 30 “Human Rights Priority Countries” (HRPCs). At the same time, the report quoted the U.K. Minister for Human Rights as identifying Sri Lanka as one of the three countries which showed that “progress really does depend on effective leadership from the top”.

It said the government had taken positive steps to improve freedom of expression; reduce inter-community tensions; and restore the independence of institutions. The government had also “signalled its willingness” to address longstanding allegations of past human rights abuses and violations. Expressing the hope that the “positive trajectory” would continue in 2016, the FCO said “we will continue to encourage and support Sri Lanka to deliver on its commitments to the HRC, and to make early progress to build wider support for its efforts to address accountability”.