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Government to defend Sri Lanka - Singapore Free Trade Agreement

The Government is getting ready to defend the Sri Lanka - Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA) amidst severe pressure from president Maithripala Sirisena who is determined to suspend it.

The president has called for the suspension of the agreement pending its revision or abolition, following wide spread protests of professional associations, public interest groups and stake holders of international trade over the SLSFTA.

The five member Presidential Committee of Experts (CoE) has made adverse observations in its report on the SLSFTA that was released recently. 

The Development Strategies and International Trade Ministry said that team of international trade experts is now scrutinizing the observations and recommendations contained in the report. The ministry will submit counter submissions with regard to the adverse observations contained in the report and it will be made public this week. 

The CoE in its report noted that the entire negotiation process was carried out without any feasibility and cost-benefit studies of a trade agreement with Singapore from Sri Lanka's point of view. 

The Committee observes that some serious lapses were allowed to occur, perhaps deliberately or inadvertently to expedite matters in the process of signing the SLSFTA by Minister Malik Samarawickrema. 

The Minister had indeed acted without attending to the conditions laid down by the Cabinet of Ministers in its conditional approval granted to him. 

These lapses relate to non-compliance with the “matters highlighted by the Attorney General” as clearly included in the Cabinet approval as a necessary condition to be fulfilled before signing ,the CoE emphasised while making several adverse revelations.

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150 houses handed over to plantation families under Indian grant assistance

The USD 350 million Indian housing project in Sri Lanka was extended to the Nuwara Eliya district with the handing over of 150 newly built houses to plantation families on Sunday (20).     

Dr. Shilpak N. Ambule, Deputy High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka was the chief gust at a special ceremony organized in connection with the vesting of ownership of these houses. 

The ceremony was held at Dayagama West Estate in Nuwara Eliya with Palani Digambaram, Minister for Hill Country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development and Gayantha Karunathilake, Minister of Lands and Parliamentary Reforms handing over the houses to the beneficiaries. 

The Deputy Indian High Commissioner in his remarks underscored that the Indian Housing Project in Sri Lanka with a grant of over US$ 350 million (close to 50 billion LKR), was the largest Indian grant assistance project in any country abroad. 

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All 'Gamperaliya' projects to be completed by August 31

All development projects scheduled for this year under the Gamperaliya rapid rural development programme should be completed before August 31, the General Treasury has informed all District Secretaries. 

Furthermore, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Media Dr.R.H.S. Samaratunge has instructed all the District Secretaries regarding the implementation of the Gamperaliya Programme. Under this programme, the General Treasury has allocated LKR 300 million for each electoral division totaling LKR 48 billion for 2019 for public welfare projects and public infrastructure development projects.

“The General Treasury has also informed that the payments for all the development projects implemented investing this money should be settled before the end of September this year,” the General Treasury said.

During the conspiratorial government that came into office on October 26th, the first cabinet paper that was submitted the then government was to abolish the Gamperaliya programme implemented by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

Samaraweera also said that he will allocate an additional LKR 100 million to each electorate with the total funding now coming to 300 million per electorate. The Gamperaliya programme will cover a dozen sectors including the irrigation renovation, road infrastructure development, construction of small bridges, playground development, drainage system development in the urban areas, weekly fair and children’s park development, drinking water projects, and power supply projects for poor families.

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Sri Lanka, IRRI sign framework to boost national rice sector

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Sri Lanka inked a comprehensive work plan here on Friday to advance Sri Lanka's rice self-sufficiency goals through joint research for development projects in the next five years.

The Sri Lanka-IRRI five-year work plan will complement and help implement the new Sri Lanka National Plan for the Rice Sector, according to an IRRI statement.

It said the plan will serve as the framework for joint collaborative research for development pipeline projects aimed to enhance the resilience and viability of Sri Lanka's national rice sector.

The work plan will focus on developing high-yielding and climate resilient rice varieties with multiple tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses, genomics-based breeding technologies, nutritious and value-added rice, capacity building, and mechanization, among others.

The project proponents also plan to promote more robust seed systems, and sustainable farm management practices.

"Sri Lanka's rice sector has been challenged by the increasing impacts of climate change; stagnation in yield growth; high production and labor costs; low private sector investment; and poor mechanization and technology adoption among its farmers," the statement said.

According to the IRRI, Sri Lanka has been badly affected by extreme weather events recently. In 2017, as a result of floods and droughts in different parts of the south Asian country, there was a shortfall of 44 percent in the amount of rice needed by the country.

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Parents of two young children who became infected with measles after a trip from Sri Lanka had refused to vaccinate them

The parents of two young children who became infected with measles during a trip to Sri Lanka earlier this month refused to vaccinate them, the Daily Mail reported.

The family returned to Australia this week, prompting urgent calls from health authorities for anyone who may have come into contact with them to be on the lookout for symptoms.

The family returned to Sydney from Sri Lanka on flight QF229 on January 11 via Singapore before catching the train from the airport to Meadowbank.

New South Wales Health was notified about the two children on Friday, bringing the total number of cases reported in Sydney in the last three weeks to eight.

World Health Organisation statistics reveal that about 110,000 children were killed by measles in 2017.

Australia has successfully eliminated live strains of the measles virus thanks to a thorough program of vaccinations, however, occasional cases do occur which are usually caught overseas.

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‘Example to the world': Sri Lanka president plans to copy Duterte's war on drugs

President Maithripala Sirisena praises Philippines over policy that has led to thousands of extrajudicial killing.

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Protesters march following the death of teenager Kian Loyd delos Santos, a victim of Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war. Photograph: Erik de Castro/Reuters

Sri Lanka’s president has praised his Philippines counterpart Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs, which has taken thousands of lives, calling it an “example to the world”.

In a speech during a visit to the Philippines this week, Maithripala Sirisena said he intended to replicate Duterte’s ruthless approach to tackling illegal drug use.

“The war against crime and drugs carried out by you is an example to the whole world, and personally to me,” said Sirisena. “Drug menace is rampant in my country and I feel that we should follow your footsteps to control this hazard.”

In his own statement, Duterte said that their aligned vision could mean partnering with Sri Lanka in the future to address international drug trafficking.

Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, which has seen police handed unprecedented powers to carry out drug-related raids and arrests, has officially killed more than 5,000 people since 2016, though campaigners allege the real death toll could be up to 20,000. Those who have died have mainly been the urban poor. The international criminal court (ICC) is carrying out a preliminary investigation into whether the extrajudicial killings constitute crimes against humanity.

Duterte has remained unrepentant about the scale of the deaths in the crackdown, saying he would promote police officers who “massacre” drug dealers and describing those killed as “just carcasses to me”.

The speech was not the first time Sirisena has signalled his admiration for Duterte’s war on drugs. In July, Sri Lanka ended its 43-year moratorium on executions to bring back hanging as a punishment for drug dealers, a move the Sri Lankan president said was directly inspired by Duterte’s policy in the Philippines.

During a cabinet meeting in July, Sirisena said he “was ready to sign the death warrants” of repeat drug offenders, according to his spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne. Nineteen drug offenders who were serving life sentences now face the death penalty.

The Sri Lankan government says narcotics are a growing problem in the country and in January this year, authorities seized a cocaine stash worth $108m from a single shipment in the port of Colombo, which is a growing hub for international drug trafficking.

“We were told that the Philippines has been successful in deploying the army and dealing with this problem,” said Senaratne in July. “We will try to replicate their success.”

(The Guardian)

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UK Foreign Office admits to destroying hundreds of files from the start of Tamil uprising in Sri Lanka

Britian's Foreign Office is being accused of “shredding history” after it admitted to destroying nearly 400 diplomatic files from the start of a Tamil uprising in Sri Lanka, the Mornig Star reported.

Margaret Thatcher’s government armed Sri Lankan forces against left-wing Tamil independence fighters, but activists including superstar M.I.A. are now warning the full extent of this deadly collusion may never come to light.

The Foreign Office has shredded nearly twice as many files on the conflict than it previously admitted, a freedom of information request by the Morning Star has found.

Last year the department said it had destroyed 195 files from the late 1970s, when MI5 and SAS personnel advised Sri Lankan spies and commandos how to counter Tamil guerillas.

The Star can now reveal that diplomats shredded another 177 files from the early 1980s, bringing the total to 372.

Only lists of file names survive, many of them relating to arms sales.

Last night the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) condemned the destruction, saying the Foreign Office “cannot be allowed to erase its complicity” in Sri Lanka’s war crimes.

CAAT spokesman Andrew Smith said: “The conflict in Sri Lanka had devastating consequences, and killed tens of thousands of people.

“Britain’s role in the war might be embarrassing for the government, but if there is to be justice and accountability it needs to be fully exposed and understood.”

As well as arming Sri Lanka’s right-wing president throughout the 1980s, Britain also advised the country’s top brass.

The Star can reveal that Sri Lanka’s defence secretary General Attygalle made a secret visit to Belfast in 1984, just weeks after his forces massacred Tamil civilians.

The general dined with the head of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and discussed counter-insurgency tactics used in the Troubles.

The full details of this covert liaison may never be known as the Foreign Office has shredded a file from that year titled “Sri Lanka interest [sic] in Northern Ireland as a military problem.”

All government departments are supposed to preserve historic files and make them available to the public at the National Archives after 30 years, but the Foreign Office has repeatedly destroyed documents before they are due to be declassified.

The Morning Star has found that the Sri Lanka records were destroyed in 2014, just weeks after the Foreign Office apologised to top historians for burning files about Britain’s abuse of Mau Mau anti-colonial activists in Kenya.

We can also reveal that diplomats have now drawn up secret plans to destroy a further 40 files on Sri Lanka dating from the mid-1980s.

These files contain details about political asylum applications, training of Sri Lankan forces in Britain and nine volumes on arms sales.

Dr Rachel Seoighe, a Sri Lanka expert at Kent University, is trying to rescue the remaining files from government shredders.

Dr Seoighe warned: “The destruction of files is happening on an even larger scale than initially thought. They are shredding history.”

So far, diplomats have rejected her freedom of information requests to declassify the surviving files, forcing her to appeal to the Information Commissioner watchdog.

She told the Star: “The British government’s role in the conflict, particularly in arming and training the Sri Lankan forces, is not yet fully understood. That’s why its eagerness to destroy files from that period is suspect and concerning.

“We cannot allow for a rewriting of history through this selective destruction of documents.”

Last night, British Tamil activists also condemned the destruction. Vairamuttu Varadakumar, executive secretary of the Tamil Information Centre in London, is understood to be seeking urgent legal advice.

Pioneering Tamil superstar M.I.A. said Western powers supported Sri Lanka’s “atrocious armed actions against the Tamil people and their political struggle for equality and self-determination.”

She told the Star: “This support naturally includes erasing and rewriting history.”

Socialist group Tamil Solidarity said it was “appalled” by the scale of the shredding. Its international co-ordinator TU Senan asked: “what’s the British government trying to hide?”

The Foreign Office told the Star it was not able to comment until later on tomorrow.

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State vehicles subjected to carbon tax: Finance Ministry

The Carbon Tax, which came into effect from January this year, is applicable to all vehicles and the registered owners of every motor vehicle specified in the Act will have to pay this levy, the Ministry of Finance and Media said in a statement.

"Only electric vehicles are exempted from the Carbon Tax, but all other vehicles including State-owned vehicles are liable for the carbon tax," the Finance Ministry said.

This was in response to various misinformation on social media that said that all State-owned vehicles are exempted from the carbon tax. Ministry sources confirmed that every single State-owned vehicle will be subjected to a carbon tax.

According to the Finance Act No. 35 of 2018, the registered owner of any relevant vehicle shall pay the carbon tax for every year, other than for the first year of the registration at the time of renewal of the annual registration of the vehicle.

The carbon tax is levied under three categories as follows based on each Cubic Centimeter capacity.

 

Type of vehicle

Less than 5 years

5 to 10 years

Over 10 years

Hybrid
(Petrol/Diesel)

25 Cts per cm3

50 Cts per cm3

Rs. 1.00 per cm3

Fuel
(Petrol/Diesel)

50 Cts per cm3

Rs 1.00 per cm3

Rs 1.50 per cm3

Passenger bus

Rs. 1,000/=

Rs. 2,000/=

Rs. 3,000/=

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SL tourism records USD 4.4 billion in 2018

Sri Lanka has earned USD 4.4 billion from tourism earnings in 2018, up 11.6% from USD 3.9 billion in 2017, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority stated in a press release.

The data suggests that an average duration of stay per person is 11 days in Sri Lanka, while the daily average expenditure is 174 US Dollars, accounting to approximately 2,000 US Dollars during their entire stay.

The Industry ‘s expectations for 2019 are 3 million tourist arrivals and a revenue of 5 billion US Dollars with Lonely Planet naming Sri Lanka as the No.1 destination to travel in 2019.

India, China and Britain have managed to remain as the leading markets throughout the year 2018 as well.

Meanwhile the number of visitors to Sri Lanka went up 3.55 year-on-year to 253,169 in December 2018, after a 16.8 percent rise during the previous month.

Visitors from Asia and Pacific accounted for 47% of total tourists visiting Sri Lanka and Europe accounted for 43 percent of the total.

Almost 97% of tourists travelled by air to Sri Lanka and major sources of tourist traffic to Sri Lanka, were seen from Germany (37.1% to 16,624); the UK (+23.3% to 26,828) and Sweden (+16.6% to 6,834).

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Sri Lankan officials to visit Israel to promote tourism

A delegation comprising officials from the Sri Lankan Tourism Ministry will visit Tel Aviv to participate in the International Mediterranean Tourism Market [IMTM] to be held from February 12-13 at the Tel Aviv Convention Centre, the Jerusalem Post reports. 

The IMTM is a is a leading tourism event that marks the immense presence of tourism services and solutions, tour operating services, tour planning services, budget tours, packaged tour services, tour related accessories and essentials and all services and solutions that are associated with the tourism industry. It brings together all professionals from the tourism industry and introduces new attractions and tourist destinations.

The Ministry of Tourism said that around 10,000 tourists visit the island nation each year and that their goal for 2019 is to increase the number of Israeli tourists by 20%.

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Vijayabahu regiment donates school supplies for children of fallen war heroes

The Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment (VIR), extended its joint welfare patronage with the VIR Seva Vanitha Unit to children of fallen war heroes, wounded veterans and a few serving VIR personnel during a donation project, staged at the 'Salute' VIR Reception Hall in Boyagane on Saturday (19).
 
162 students received packs of school accessories, educational aids, uniforms, shoes and sports goods. A special feature was the donation of 13 artificial limbs, including custom designed limbs that can be used for sports. Similarly, a vision-impaired daughter of a VIR soldier received a Braille educational system on the same occasion.

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Philippines, Sri Lanka sign 5 MOUs; Duterte invited to undertake state visit

Philippine president Duterte and Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena reaffirmed the almost six-decade relations between the countries during their meeting in Malacañang Thursday. Sirisena arrived in Manila last Tuesday for a five-day state visit on the invitation of the Philippine president.

In their joint statement, President Duterte said he is pleased to welcome Sirisena to the country. Sirisena is the first Sri Lankan president serving as head of state and government to ever visit the Philippines in 58 years.

In his remarks, Duterte recognized the similarities that the two Asian countries share.

“The Philippines and Sri Lanka are developing maritime nations. We face common challenges, we have shared interests, and we are united by our desire to provide greater peace, progress and prosperity for our peoples,” Duterte said Thursday evening.

“These realities and aspirations behoove upon us to work together even more closely to provide renewed impetus and clearer direction for a greatly expanded partnership,” he added.

During their private meeting, Duterte said he and Sirisena resolved to further strengthen the two countries’ engagement in trade, defense, agriculture, tourism, education, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

Both leaders also recognized the proliferation of illegal drugs is a threat to the people and the growing societies. They also acknowledged that poverty reduction and long-term sustainable development are important to improve the lives of their citizens.

Duterte and Sirisena also discussed mutual concerns on strengthening cooperation in defense and security.

“We know that the growth we desire can only be achieved with peace, order and stability. This state of affairs is to be desired not only for both our countries but across the region,” Duterte said.

The two presidents also renewed their commitment to adhere to the rule of law, act as responsible members of the international community, and to work together constructively in all relevant regional and international organizations.

According to Duterte, working with a like-minded country like Sri Lanka will ensure that the interests of both countries are protected and upheld.

“The Philippines hopes that with Sri Lanka, we can explore wider cooperation and greater collaborative action [across] many fields in the international fora,” Duterte said.

“The Philippines recognizes [that] Sri Lanka can be a partner in advancing migrant workers’ rights and welfare; disaster risk reduction, response and management; as well as in strengthening our maritime security and addressing the trafficking of illegal drugs and human smuggling,” he added.

5 Agreements Signed

In the Palace ceremony witnessed by the two leaders, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Department of National Defense and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence on “Defense and Military Education and Training and Exchanges of Defense and Military Delegations.”

The MOU provides an initial framework for cooperation in the field of education and training, exchanges of delegations on the basis of reciprocity and mutual benefit.

Also, the two countries forged a memorandum of understanding on agriculture, fisheries and related fields. The accord aims to promote scientific, technical and economic cooperation in agriculture and expand Philippine-Sri Lanka cooperation in fisheries and related fields.

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A MOU was signed to uplift the Agricultural cooperation between the two countries.Sri Lanka's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tilak Marapana (L) and Assistant Secretary of Philippines Department of Agriculture, Waldo Cerpro (R) signed on behalf of their respective governments. 

A memorandum of understanding on academic cooperation in higher Education was also signed between the Commission on Higher Education and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of City Planning, Water Supply, and Higher Education. It aims to promote cooperation in higher education and professional training including development of institutional linkages at the undergraduate level.

Another memorandum of understanding was sealed between the Department of Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs of Sri Lanka. The agreement aims to strengthen cooperation on tourism infrastructure development and facilitate two-way travel and people-to-people exchanges.

Also signed was a memorandum of understanding between the University of the Philippines Los Baños and the Sri Lanka Council for Agriculture Research Policy of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Economic Affairs, Livestock, Irrigation, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development (MAREALIFARD). It seeks to promote scientific research linkages between two institutions and arrange for post-graduate training of agricultural research staff.

Philippine Diplomatic Post in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has endorsed the establishment of a Philippine embassy in Sri Lanka as the two nations moved to reinvigorate economic and security cooperation.

“The relationship between Sri Lanka and Philippines is a longstanding friendship,” the visiting Sri Lankan leader said at the start of expanded bilateral meeting with the President and his Cabinet.

“In order to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries, establishing a Philippine embassy in Sri Lanka would be highly instrumental. Therefore, your marking a plot of land for the Philippines’ embassy in Sri Lanka would be — necessary action will be taken expeditiously,” he said.

At present, the Philippines has an honorary consulate in Colombo, Sri Lanka under the supervision of the Philippine Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Duterte invited to visit Sri Lanka

Sirisena thanked Duterte for the opportunity of visiting the Philippines. The Sri Lankan leader, in turn, invited Duterte to undertake a state visit to Sri Lanka to see the fruits of their agreements and further advance them.

“I have extended an invitation to President Duterte to undertake a state visit to Sri Lanka at an early date,” Sirisena said.

“President Duterte, your visit to Sri Lanka will provide an opportunity to evaluate the progress of the initiatives which we have discussed during my visit. I look forward to welcome you and Madam Duterte,” he added.

In his remarks, Sirisena described his discussions with Duterte as “productive”, saying they are both pleased with the outcome of their bilateral meeting.

“We have agreed on several concrete initiatives to deepen our relations. Along with President Duterte, I and my government will ensure that these initiatives will be implemented in order to harness the maximum through the people of both countries,” the Sri Lankan President said.

Before ending his remarks, Sirisena said that he is pleased with his visit which strengthened the long and trusted friendship between the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

“I carry with me very fond memories of this state visit while further strengthening the friendship with your country,” Sirisena said.

Duterte said he and Sirisena were planting the seeds for rapid growth in bilateral relations.

“The Philippines’ destiny is in Asia. Sri Lanka’s destiny is also in Asia. Asia’s destiny lies among Asians,” he said.

“We are firm in our belief that with our commitment, we will reap a bountiful harvest for the benefit of our peoples,” he added.

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