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Sri Lanka signs agreement for USD 200 million mixed development project in Colombo

Sri Lankan government signed an agreement with a Dubai-based company on Friday to implement a 200-million-USD mixed development project in Colombo suburb called "Battaramulla,"  Sri Lanka's Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka said.

Ranawaka said that his ministry had signed the agreement on behalf of the Sri Lankan government with the company named ESSAR Projects Ltd in Dubai.The minister said the project would include the construction of a 40-story office complex, an apartment complex and a hotel complex.

"There will be facilities for recreation. This will give a new facelift to the area. It will have a modern play area for children, a mini cinema and a gymnasium," he added.

According to the minister, the project will be completed by 2022. (Xinhua)

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Ecosystem survey of Sri Lanka's coastal waters released

National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) and Institute of Marine Research, Norway (IMR) held an event on Monday to launch the main research findings of the survey carried out by the Norwegian Research Vessel Dr. Fridtjof Nansen in Sri Lanka in 2018.

Norwegian Research Vessel Dr. Fridtjof Nansen successfully completed an ecosystem survey in the coastal waters of Sri Lanka from June 23 to July 16, 2018. The survey was part of the EAF-Nansen Programme implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in close collaboration with the Institute of Marine Research, Norway and funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). The survey was a result of Sri Lanka - Norway bilateral agreement to provide technical assistance to improve management of the fisheries sector in Sri Lanka and it provided training for Sri Lankan scientists and post survey data analyses.

The aim of the survey last year was to carry out a marine resources survey around Sri Lanka with the expectation that the survey should provide Sri Lanka with up-to-date data, which will be useful for future management of the country’s fisheries resources.

Welcoming the research findings, Ambassador of Norway to Sri Lanka and Maldives, H.E. Thorbjørn Gaustadsæther stated that that Norway is committed to bilateral cooperation on oceans and to helping Sri Lanka put in place data based management of ocean resources, which will enable Sri Lanka to better monitor its fish stocks. 

Nina Brandstrup, FAO Representative in Sri Lanka said, “the successful completion of this programme in Sri Lanka is a testament to the longstanding relations between FAO, the Government of Norway and Sri Lanka. The findings of the survey will be an important baseline for FAO in supporting Sri Lanka achieve sustainable management of fisheries resources amidst mounting pressures such as climate change and pollution.”

The visit of the RV Dr. Fridtjof Nansen was also an opportunity to highlight the longstanding development cooperation between Sri Lanka and Norway, especially in the field of fisheries, which started in 1971. The Norwegian fisheries cooperation with Sri Lanka includes fisheries management, research and education, and private sector development. From 2013 to 2017, NOK 11.1 million (approx. 1.3 million USD) has been disbursed for these activities.
 
Hon. P. Harrison, Minister of Agriculture, Rural Economy Affairs, Livestock Development, Irrigation and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development and Hon. Dilip Wedaarachchi, State Minister, Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development also highlighted the importance of the resource survey and its findings to take necessary management decisions.

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Acting DG appointed to head Sri Lanka Customs

The Finance Ministry has appointed its Additional Secretary H.G. Sumanasinghe as the Acting Director General of the Customs Department.

The Cabinet of ministers earlier last week had approved Rear Admiral Shemal Fernando to head Sri Lanka Customs as the new Director General.

However, trade unions voiced their concerns with regard to the appointment of a former naval officer as the new DG, and after successful talks with customs trade unions, the Finance Ministry has appointed H. G. Sumanasinghe instead, it is learnt.

Sources from the Treasury said that the decision to remove the former Customs DG, P.S.M. Charles, was due to the continuous drop of revenue from the Customs department as well as its inability to curb the ingress of narcotics to Sri Lanka.

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Major development programme underway in Northern Province with Indian Assistance

Sri Lanka's war-ravaged Northern Province is gearing for a new awakening with the completion of many infrastructure development projects, funded with Indian assistance, such as the construction of houses, school buildings, cultural centres and model villages, the Indian High Commission said.

New class room buildings are currently being constructed in 27 schools in the Northern Province at a cost of LKR 250 million. 10 school buildings have already been completed and inaugurated including the two buildings vested in students on Monday 28 in Jaffna.

The rest of the school buildings are expected to be handed over in the coming days, High Commission sources said.

The school buildings, in Navatkuli Mahavidyalam and Drieberg College were jointly declared open by the Deputy High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Dr. Shilpak Ambule and  the Governor of the Northern Province Dr. Suren Raghavan.

Apart from various projects undertaken for rehabilitation and resettlement, the Indian government has constructed a total of 46000 houses in the region so far.

The ‘1990 Suwaseriya’ Emergency Ambulance Services are also operational in a total of eight provinces including the Northern Province.

The ongoing development cooperation projects in the Northern Province under Government of India’s grant assistance included the construction of USD 12 million cultural centre in Jaffna, construction of 3000 rain water harvesting units, construction of 25 model villages consisting of 600 houses and the establishment of a Business/ICT incubator centre in Jaffna among others.

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Iranian woman arrested for smuggling 'KUSH'

An Iranian national was arrested at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) while trying to smuggle 400g of the popular cannabis substance known as ‘Kush’, the police said.

Police Spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekera added that the 24 year old woman, who had arrived from Doha, Qatar was arrested early morning, today (31), by the Police Narcotic Bureau (PNB) officers stationed at the BIA. 

NB officers stated that the woman had concealed the cannabis substance in a false bottom of her luggage.
narcotic 1

Narcotic substance popularly known as Kush that was caught by PNB officers. Pix: T.K.G. Kapila

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SL- Singapore Free Trade Agreement faces HR commission inquiry  

A public interest activist Kapila Gamage has filed a complaint at the Human Rights Commission this week against the implementation of Sri Lanka - Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA) as it violates human rights. 

In his petition, Mr Gamage has brought to the notice of the commission six key reasons to prove that the agreement has no legal basis according to findings of the Presidential Committee of Experts citing, five instances of intentional manipulations, ten irregularities and several other findings of the committee.

The  Presidential Committee of experts clearly indicated that the agreement has no legal basis and it has not approved by the cabinet of ministers, the petitioner claimed. Cabinet has only given conditional authorisation to sign SLSFTA.

Attorney General has given conditional approval to the secretary of the ministry of internal trade where the secretary has failed to adhere to those conditions, he revealed. 

He appealed to the commission to declare that SLSFTA has violated his fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 12 (1), 12(2), 14(1b), (d), and (g) of the Constitution of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.   

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Govt. won't underestimate its responsibility for environmental conservation – President

Even though modern day development is shaped by the technical and concrete exposures which leave behind stress, disease and death, a sustainable existence of the environment will be aspired by the entire world, President Maithripala Sirisena said.

The president added that twenty five years ago, many state leaders, politicians, scholars, and professionals showed no tendency to protect the environment. Since environmental pollution has become a threat to mankind's existence, today there is a vast interest in coping with this major challenge, he said.

Sirisena was addressing the Environmental Pioneer Presidential Medal Awards ceremony held yesterday (30), at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.

This programme is aimed to bring forth environmentally sensitive future base by facilitating environmental centered school education to make the students actively participated in the process. 

environment 1Atotal of 93 environmental pioneers from 40 schools were handed over Presidential Medals during the Environmental Pioneer Presidential Medal Awards which was organized for the eighth year. 

The five-year programme serves the target of making four million school students environmental lovers while an environmental pioneer students, who has been awarded the Presidential Medal will receive four marks for extra curriculum activities during the university entrance.

Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Deputy Environment Minister Ajith Mannapperuma and the Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority, A.H.M. Muzammil were also present.

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Deputy Speaker dismayed over report findings being leaked

Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri said no details regarding the names on the report of the Committee appointed to probe the unruly incidents in Parliament in November last year had been revealed nor have any political party been mentioned. Kumarasiri noted that the Speaker and himself would meet with the Secretary General of Parliament and discuss the procedure to forward the report to the Attorney General.

The Deputy Speaker noted that he was unaware as to how details of the report had leaked to the media, adding that it was of utmost importance to safeguard the secrecy in such matters.

“I have not revealed any names nor mentioned any party involved in the incident and I don’t know how certain media had got specific details of numbers of those implicated in the incident,” he said, referring to media reports stating that 59 MPs had been named in the report.

According to a news report published on the BBC Sinhala web site, 59 MPs had acted against the provisions of the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act.

It further stated that the Committee had implicated 54 UPFA MPs, four UNP, one JVP MP in the three days of clashes. Among the 59 members, UPFA MP Prasanna Ranaweera has been cited the most in the report, a copy of which has been seen by the BBC. MP Prasanna Ranaweera has been cited for 12 charges, followed by the UPFA MPS Johnston Fernando and Padma Udaya Shantha.

However, the Deputy Speaker said that he, as the Chairman of the Committee appointed to conduct the investigation, had not released such information, expressing disgruntlement over the report details being leaked to the media.

The committee report on the recent parliament clashes was handed over to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on January 22. The incident occurred on November 14, 15 and 16 last year and the report was handed over to the Speaker by the Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri, as the Chairman of the Committee.

The report submitted to the Speaker will be forwarded to the Attorney General for legal action to be initiated against those who had behaved in a violent manner within the chamber after it is discussed with the Speaker and the Secretary General of Parliament, according to Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Ananda Kumarasiri.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had appointed this Committee on 29 November. Deputy Speaker Kumarasiri was appointed as the Chairman of the committee while MPs Chamal Rajapaksa, Bimal Rathnayake, Mavai Senathirajah, Ranjith Madduma Bandara and Chandrasiri Gajadeera were appointed as the members.

The Committee members had reviewed the CCTV footage available on the relevant parliamentary dates separately and had then studied the CCTV footage together at several occasions prior to compiling the report.

Fist fights erupted while objects were thrown during the clashes in the Chamber on the said days when the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MPs tried to prevent the Speaker from taking his seat when a No-Confidence Motion against the unlawfully appointed Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cabinet. Several MPs were injured during the clashes. (Daily News)

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Sri Lanka halts imports of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder pending asbestos tests

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka has halted imports of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder until the company proves its product is free from cancer-causing asbestos, two government officials and the product's local distributor told Reuters.

Stocks of the product already in Sri Lanka can still be sold, but there will be no new imports of the talc, a popular healthcare product across Sri Lanka and much of Asia, until J&J India, from where Sri Lanka imports the product, provides fresh test results.

On Dec. 14, Reuters reported that the U.S. drugs and consumer products group knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder, leading to tests in several countries, including in India.

The report was based on thousands of pages of company memos, internal reports, and other confidential documents.

J&J has described the Reuters story as "one-sided, false, and inflammatory".

Kamal Jayasinghe, chief executive of Sri Lanka's National Medicine Regulatory Authority (NMRA), which is part of the health ministry, said it had informed the distributor, A.Baur & Co., that it would require  further tests for it to continue importing the powder.

"We have held their re-registration and informed the distributor to submit quality reports from an accredited laboratory to ensure there is no asbestos in their products,” Jayasinghe told Reuters.

The license for A.Baur & Co to import the product expired in December, a second person at the NMRA said.

Shalutha Perera, head of consumer for A.Baur, told Reuters the firm has informed J&J in India of the suspension of the licensing process.
"J&J India directly handles all the regulatory matters," he said.

Perera said the NMRA contacted A.Baur in December regarding new asbestos testing.

A spokeswoman for J&J India declined to comment on the halt of shipments to Sri Lanka but said the company "is in full compliance with current Indian regulatory requirements for the manufacturing and testing of our talc".

"We are fully cooperating with the Indian government and are awaiting results from their testing," she added.

The spokeswoman said the product was routinely tested by both suppliers and independent labs to ensure it is free of asbestos.

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Trinco And Galle Harbours To Operate 24/7 With Night Navigation Within This Year: Sagala

Trincomalee and Galle harbours will operate 24/7 with night navigation before the end of this year, Ports, Shipping and Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayaka said. 

The Minister said the Trincomalee harbour, a natural resource with immense economic potential will have night navigation in April. The project is supported by a JPY 1 Billion grant by the Japan International Cooperation System (JICS). 

The Minister added speedy measures would be adopted to set up new radar systems and other necessary infrastructure to introduce night navigation to the Trincomalee harbour which will be transformed into a port that can handle more volume of activities, including more general cargo ships. 

"The government has earmarked the Trincomalee area as a potential export hub. Transformation of Trincomalee Harbour into a highly competitive port will be a key pillar of our export hub strategy," the Minister explained. 

Trincomalee Harbour is considered the second best Natural Harbor in the world and has up to 10 times the land area as the Colombo port. Its current dimensions are Water area up to 1630 Hectares, an entrance channel of 500 Meters and a land area of 5261 hectares.

"We also have plans to introduce night navigation to the Galle harbour before the end of the year. Apart from the economic and industrial aspects, we will also look at the tourism aspect when developing the Galle harbour," the Minister explained.

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Fallen Sri Lankan peacekeepers posthumously promoted

Captain H.W.D Jayawickrama of Sri Lanka Light Infantry and Corporal S.S Wijekumara of 1 Mechanized Infantry Regiment who laid their lives while serving in the UN Peacekeeping operations in Mali were posthumously promoted to the ranks of Major and Sergeant respectively, on the recommendation of the Ministry of Defence and the Commander of the Army.

A communiqué issued by the Military Secretariat at the Army Headquarters as well as the Directorate of Personnel Administration confirmed those promotions on Wednesday (30).

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Joint Maritime Surveillance Training Exercise begins in Hikkaduwa

A Joint Maritime Surveillance Training Exercise of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF), Sri Lanka Navy and Sri Lanka Air Force got underway in the sea area west of Hikkaduwa yesterday (27).

The training exercise was augmented by 02 P-C3 maritime surveillance aircraft belonging to the JMSDF, 02 Fast Attack Craft of the Navy and 01 Y-12 utility aircraft of the Air Force. Further, a group of Sri Lanka Navy officers who are well-versed in maritime surveillance exercises also joined this combined exercise. In recent times, Sri Lanka Navy, Air Force and foreign counterparts have practiced several training exercises and drills by means of their aircraft and vessels in the island, to hone their skills further in search and rescue operations at sea.

Through these exercises, it is expected to increase the interoperability, professionalism and camaraderie among friendly forces in the region.

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