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Sri Lanka to make formal appeal to reverse case against Brig Priyanka Fernando

The Sri Lanka Army has decided to make a formal appeal to the Manchester Magistrate’s Court to reverse the case against former Sri Lanka’s Minister Counsellor (Defence), Brigadier Priyanka Fernando for making an offensive gesture at a group of LTTE supporters in London.

According to Military Spokesman Brigadier Sumith Atapattu the appeal will be made through the Sri Lankan High Commission in London. “The Army will make this appeal seeking to drop the charges against the Brigadier who is a celebrated war hero,” he said.

It is reported that the case against Fernando will be recalled on February 1 and it is expected that the arrest warrant against him will be withdrawn on the day. However, there have also been reports that the arrest warrant has already been withdrawn without adherence to the proper procedure due to diplomatic pressure. 

According to Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Ariyasinghe, Sri Lankan officials had conveyed to the British High Commissioner James Dauris that this incident will set a bad precedent on diplomacy. “We also urged the UK government to ensure the diplomatic immunity Brigadier Priyanka Fernando as a diplomat is rightfully entitled to,” he said.

Earlier, the Foreign Secretary summoned the British High Commissioner James Dauris where the former had sought the intervention of the British Foreign Office to get the Sri Lankan diplomat cleared of the charges filed under the Public Order Act of 1986.

The arguments to absolve him from the case have been made on the grounds that he had diplomatic immunity at the time of the incident as a member of the staff of the Sri Lankan High Commission in London.

A spokesperson for the British High Commission (BHC) in Colombo, Neil Kavanagh said the UK will uphold the Vienna Convention as much as it upholds the rule of law and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is not a party to the legal proceedings against the ex-diplomat.

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MR cousin Jaliya Wickramasuriya expected to surrender in US court 

Cousin of Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Former Ambassador to the US Jaliya Chitran Wickramasuriya he is expected to surrender to US authorities at a US District Court on Tuesday (29). According to sources he will be arraigned on a five-count indictment for money laundering, wire fraud and visa fraud violations. 
Wickramasuriya is no longer a fugitive from justice in the US, the court documents state, indicating that the former Sri Lankan Ambassador’s lawyers have undertaken to produce him in court on Tuesday.
A US Grand Jury indicted Wickramasuriya in May 2018 and the former Sri Lankan ambassador has been a fugitive in the country where he holds permanent residency since October 18, 2018. He continues to evade arrest in Sri Lanka where he faces similar charges pertaining to the purchase of the same property in Washington DC during his tenure as Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US from 2008-2014. 
The case marks the first time that a foreign head of mission has been indicted by the US Government. It is also the first time a Sri Lankan Ambassador has been prosecuted in a foreign jurisdiction.
Wickramasuriya who was appointed Ambassador by his cousin, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was indicted by the US District Court in the District of Columbia (Washington DC) on five counts, specifically, on two counts of money-laundering and two counts of wire fraud and one count of visa fraud violation by making false declarations in official US Government documentation in May 2018.

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UNP is not scared of elections - Ravi K

Minister of Power and Energy Ravi Karunanayake says that the United National Party is unafraid to face elections. The Minister made this comment responding to questions of reporters when he visited the Sri Dharmapalaramaya Temple in Mount Lavinia today. 

“We are a party that is constantly with the people and therefore we cannot escape the public,” he said adding that despite having the upcoming Presidential elections to face, the UNP is also ready to face any other elections held.

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Uttara Devi makes maiden journey to North with new Indian power set

Uttara Devi, the Intercity Express train that runs between Colombo and Jaffna Kankasanthurai in the North embarked on its maiden journey today from Colombo Fort with the newly imported Indian power set.
The Uttara Devi commenced operations from Colombo Fort station at 6:40 this morning today after President Maithripala Sirisena ceremonially vested the S-13 locomotive power set newly imported from India with the public.
Minister of Transport and civil Aviation Arjuna Ranatunga, High Commissioner of India Taranjit Sandhu Singh and Commander of the Army Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake were also present at the occasion.
The power set has six compartments and can carry 724 passengers. One first class and one second class compartments are air-conditioned.
The special feature of the power set is the GPS-based passenger information LCD display indicating speed, location and announcement.
The train is scheduled to stop at Gampaha, Polgahawela, Kurunegala, Maho, Galgamuwa, Anuradhapura, Medawachchiya, Vavuniya, Mankulam, Kilinochchi, Palai, Kodikamam and the Jaffna railway stations and runs slow beyond up to Kankesanthurai. (Colombo Page)

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EC Chairman threatens to resign 

Chairman of the Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya has threatened to resign from his post if the continuously delayed Provincials Council elections are not held before the Presidential election, this year. Deshapriya made this announcement at a press conference held in Colombo, today (28).
Despite not having any obstacle to hold the Presidential elections early, the Chairman said he would resign from his post as a mark of objection if the provincial council elections are not held before November 9. 
“I will remain within the elections commission, but not as the chairperson,” he said adding that the delay of elections has been personally upsetting.
The Chairman also said that he has been continuously involved in the discussions related to the elections and although leaders of all political parties say that the provincial elections must be held, some have been acting according to their own agenda.

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Bodies of SL UN peacekeepers killed in Mali to be flown in on Wednesday 

The bodies of the two Sri Lankan United Nations peacekeepers killed in Mali following an attack on the convoy they were travelling in, will be flown to Sri Lanka on Wednesday (30). The Army identified those who laid down their lives as Captain H.W.D Jayawickrama of the 11th Sri Lanka Light Infantry, a resident of Polonnaruwa and Corporal S.S Wijekumara of the 1st Mechanised Infantry Regiment from Polpithigama.
While the UN peacekeeping mission headquarters in Mali has commenced investigations into the incident, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Farhan Haq in a statement attributed to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said he condemns the attack on the troops of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
“The attacks targeting the UN peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law,” he said. The release said that Guterres has called on the Mali authorities to spare no efforts in identifying the perpetrators so that they can be brought to justice soon.
The United National Security Council also issued a statement condemning the brutal attack on the Sri Lankan Peacekeepers’ contingent. Members of the Security Council conveyed their condolences to the families of the victims, to Sri Lanka and to MINUSMA, paying tribute to those who laid down their lives. It reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security. They underlined the need to bring the perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice. 
According to Sri Lanka Army sources, the Army Captain and the trooper were killed and three more injured when the convoy came under an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack by a rebel group around 6.30 a.m. on Friday, January 25 near Douentza, Mopti region in Mali. Corporal M.G.S Kumarasinghe of the 1st Sri Lanka Engineers from Panwilathenna, Lance Corporal K.C Pushpakumara of the 1st Sri Lanka Engineers from Kannathota and Lance Corporal C.H.M.S Chandrasekara of the 12th Sri Lanka Engineers from Kekunawa, Maho who sustained injuries in the same IED attack were airlifted for treatment at Gao, Mali. (Sunday Observer)

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329 recruits of 234th intake of the Sri Lanka Navy pass out in Boosa

The passing out parade of 329 regular recruits belonging to the 234th intake of the Sri Lanka Navy was held yesterday (26th January) at the main parade ground of SLNS Nipuna in Boossa, marking the completion of their 6 month basic training course. The Commander Southern Naval Area, Rear Admiral Kapila Samaraweera graced the occasion as the Chief Guest and took the salute.
Venerable Maha Sanga and religious dignitaries of other faiths, the Commandant SLNS Nipuna and Deputy Area Commander of Southern Naval Area Commodore Ranjith Premarathna, Officers representing the Naval Headquarters and Southern Naval Command, officers and sailors of SLNS Nipuna, Senior officers of the sister services and Police, officials from the government/private institutions in the area and parents/relatives of the newly passed out recruits were also present on this occasion.
During the awards presentation held in recognition of the excellent performers, Recruit LPI Saminda was adjudged the Best Recruit and the highest aggregate in all subjects of the 234th intake. Further, Recruit PHPCS Lakpriya and Recruit GHSU De Silva were adjudged the Best Marksman and the Best Sportsman respectively. Suranimila Division became the Best Division of the 234th intake.
The ceremonial evening also saw an impressive drill display presented by the newly passed out recruits followed by a cultural show of the naval cultural troupe with their rhythmic beats and associated formalities.

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Two more Field Marshal ranks to be granted 

Two more officers who have served the country to end its long-drawn conflict in 2009 is slated to be awarded the highest military rank of Field Marshal. 

According to sources from the Presidential Secretariat, the President has decided to award the honour of Former Air Force Commander Air Marshal Roshan Gunathilake and Former Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda. 

As the head of the Armed Forces, the President has the power to grant the said ranks. Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka was promoted to the rank in 2015 by President Sirisena using the powers vested in him.

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Concessionary loans for three-wheeler owners and migrant workers

The Government on realizing the success of Enterprise Sri Lanka concessionary loan scheme is to introduce further concessionary loan to widen the schemes enabling the stakeholders to move towards next generation economic activities in their areas of activities stated the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media issuing a press release. 
Accordingly, migrant workers will be given up to Rs 10 million concessionary housing loans to be repaid in 15 years with two year grace period, stated the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media issuing a press release.
It has been perceived that the dream of many of the migrant workers is to have their own house. But due to the lack of proper guidelines and financial management, it has made it impossible for them. According to the new scheme proposed, those migrant workers who have registered under the Foreign Employment Bureau will have to save a considerable amount of their remittance in a local bank and the 75 % of the interest rate will be borne by the government through Treasury.
Another novel scheme introduced is to provide concessionary loan up to Two million rupees to three wheel owners to convert to a safer and comfortable mini taxi service with small cars. The government will bear 75 % of the interest rate and the three-wheel owners, who operate their own three-wheelers and who are above 35 years of age are entitled to this concessionary loan.
A proposal made by the Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera to expand the already approved loan schemes to cover more areas was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers last week.
The Enterprise Sri Lanka concessionary loan scheme introduced under Budget 2017 and 2018 has been a huge success. The self-employed, Women entrepreneurs, small and medium entrepreneurs have so far been registered for various loan schemes up to Rs 65 billion via state and private banks and the loan worth Rs 36 billion have been disbursed to over 34,500 personnel.  Self-employed, farmers and even the journalists are given interest-free from under this.
As Sri Lanka is fast reaching a country where its aging population is on the increase the Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera has proposed to introduce another loan scheme of providing Rs 10 million with 75 % interest concession to construct elderly care centers as the private sector investment.
The newly introduced loan schemes with the previous schemes will be continued in the year 2019 as well and on the proposal made Mangala Samaraweera the Cabinet approval has been granted to allocate Rs 700 million to pay the interest rates to the Bank through which these loans will be channeled. The Treasury has been authorized by the Cabinet to enter into agreements with State and private banks to extend the loan scheme in this year too.
The Enterprise Sri Lanka programme inaugurated on June 22, 2018, previously consisted of 16 schemes and the special feature is that the government on behalf of the loan recipient pays either the total interest or part of the interest to the relevant Bank.
The Enterprise Sri Lanka scheme offers attractive concessionary financing to stimulate investment and expansion by entrepreneurs, SMEs, and even large business. The loan amount ranges from Rs.50,000 to Rs.750 million. (Ada Derana)

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Sirisena asks S’pore authorities to handover Mahendran

President Maithripala Sirisena who was on a two day working rip to Singapore this week is said to have inquired on the possible repatriation of former Central Bank Chief Arjun Mahendran from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. 

He is also said to have handed over a file of documents relating to the Bond scam case to Prime Minister Loong. 

According to reports this exchange had taken place during the discussion on the Singapore FTA was taking place. 

Sri Lankan Law enforcement says the former Central Bank Chief is believed to be currently residing in Singapore.

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Police arrests three ‘Aava’ gang members 

Officers of the Jaffna Range Crimes Division arrested three Aava gang members today. The three suspects had been in hiding after attacking two individuals with sharp weapons on January 15 near the Naachchi Amman Kovil, Jaffna. 

Police were also able to recover two swords used in the attack. The suspects identified as Chandrabala Akila Suman (25) from Manipay, Nagaratnam Dilakshan alias Motta Siva (19) from Manipay and Yuvarasa Dilakshan (23) from Aarugalmadam have now been handed over to the Jaffna Police for further investigation.

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Milk Powder pricing formula on the cards

In a bid to avoid the impending milk powder shortage countrywide owing to the action taken by importer companies to suspend their operations, the government has decided to introduce a pricing formula for imported milk powder within the next two weeks.

This was decided during a special meeting held with the representatives of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce on the prices of milk powder, the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) announced.

Accordingly, the representatives have decided to introduce a pricing formula for milk powder and the CAA has been instructed to take necessary measures in this regard.

This pricing formula is slated to change the prices of milk powder in comparison to the prices of the global market and depreciation of the rupee against the US$.

Several leading Sri Lankan milk powder companies have suspended the clearing of their stocks from the port as well as suspending new orders with their foreign suppliers after discussions with regard to pricing of milk powder held with the CAA and the Treasury ended in a dead lock recently.  

Milk powder companies cannot continue to run their businesses while the authorities resort to delaying tactics rather than taking measures to solve these problems in a prompt manner, importers said. They also warned that they are left with no choice but to stop imports, cancel new orders and to halt the sale of existing stocks of whole milk powder.

There could be a milk powder shortage in the country within couple of weeks if the government does not allow companies to increase the price of a milk powder packet, several milk powder company heads said.

According to them, milk powder companies are incurring a loss of Rs 30 to 40 million per month and they are now compelled close down operations if the government fails to grant them permission to increase the price of milk powder by Rs.100.

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