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ICC anti-corruption unit head Alex Marshall arrives in Sri Lanka

Alex Marshall, the International Cricket Council (ICC) anti corruption unit general manager has arrived in Sri Lanka to oversee the ongoing investigation against match fixing and corruption charges, Cricket Age reliably learns.

During his stay in Sri Lanka, Marshal is scheduled to meet Sports Minister Harin Fernando as well.

It is noteworthy that the ICC on January 10 announced a 15-day amnesty to participants who have previously failed to report any information concerning corrupt conduct in Sri Lankan cricket. The amnesty, which will run from 16-31 January, will apply to all participants under both the ICC and Sri Lankan Cricket Anti-Corruption codes.

Under these codes, both domestic and international participants are obliged to report, without delay, full details of any approaches, incident or information that they receive to engage in corrupt conduct. Failure to do so is a serious offence and can result in a ban from cricket of up to five years. However, under the amnesty, any information reported by a participant will not attract a charge for their failure to report previously.

“This is the first time the ICC has held an amnesty and it is in response to the very specific challenges we face in Sri Lanka. Allowing retrospective reporting of alleged approaches to engage in corrupt conduct will assist in our ongoing and wide-ranging investigations, as well as enabling us to continue to develop a comprehensive picture of the situation there” Alex Marshall had said  on January 10.

“If any player or participant has any information concerning corrupt conduct they should come forward and share it with us now without fear of any repercussions.

“We would urge any participant with any information that may demonstrate corrupt conduct affecting cricket in Sri Lanka to come forward in the strictest of confidence” he had added  further .

Reports can be made 24 hours a day in a number of ways:

ICC Integrity App, which is available for download by searching ‘ICC Integrity’ via the Apple ‘App Store’ or ‘Andriod Apps’

ICC ACU Hotline: +971 565 458909

ICC ACU e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The ICC also has an ACU representative based in Sri Lanka throughout the duration of the amnesty, who can be contacted using the same ICC Integrity App, ACU Hotline number or ACU e-mail address as detailed above.

If any participant requires further information regarding the details of the amnesty, they should contact the ICC using the methods detailed above.

Harin Fernando has also urged all SLC contracted players, employees, coaches and stakeholders to come clean in the coming two weeks if they had been approached, knew of or were involved in any form of corruption.

“This game, we all love, belongs to the cricketers who sweat it out day in day out, not to the officials at the board. They have named Sri Lanka as the most corrupt country playing cricket in the world, I felt really sad when ICC revealed those corruptions details. We need to clean this mess and reclaim our lost glory.” Minister Fernando had said on january 10 at the Sports Ministry Auditorium.

“The new anti-corruption laws in Sri Lanka will be presented to the Parliament in March. Then once it’s passed, we can start punishing the corrupt individuals with a five-year jail sentence. “


(Cricket Age)

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Eight killed as Boeing cargo plane crashes in Iran

A Boeing 707 cargo plane crashed in Iran on Monday, killing at least eight people on board, according to Iranian state media.

The plane went down at about 8:30 a.m. local time near the capital Tehran, Iran's emergency services chief Pir Hossein Koolivand told state media outlet IRIB.

The Fars News Agency reported that a Boeing 707 cargo plane crashed when it ran out of runway while attempting to land at an airport in the city of Kara.

"Due to a mistake by the pilot, it came down at the Fath airport," Farsi News reported, citing Iranian officials.

The report said that the plane hit a building near the airport after the pilot lost control of the aircraft and ran out of space to land.

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President Sirisena to hold bilateral talks with Philippine counterpart

Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday night arrived in the Philippines for a five-day state visit.

The president landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 past 10 p.m.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will hold a welcome ceremony for Sirisena at Malacañang on Wednesday.

The two leaders will then hold bilateral talks on "areas of mutual interest, including political, economic, cultural and people-to-people engagement."

President Sirisena is also scheduled to visit the Asian Development Bank in Mandaluyong, and the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños.

Sirisena's visit to Manila is the first by a Sri Lankan president serving as both head of state and government.

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Colombo named the ‘must-photograph’ travel destination of 2019

The city of Colombo has been named the ‘must-photograph’ travel destination of 2019, in a study.

Research of more than 1.3 million social media posts found the Asian city is the location travellers most want to take a picture of, followed by Yokohama in Japan and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.

Colombo 1

More than 1.3 million social media posts found the Asian city is the location travellers most want to take a picture of/Getty

The Isle of Harris in Scotland also made the list, along with Baden-Baden in Germany’s Black Forest.

Commissioned by Huawei to celebrate the launch of its new P Smart 2019 device, the research also uncovered a new-found appetite among young Brits for lesser-known destinations.

Just under half of 18-25 year olds now look for places their friends haven’t been, with more than a third saying they want to be the first to find new travel hotspots, take the photo and stick it online.

The mantra of ‘if it’s not on social it didn’t happen’ is very much alive, with 16 per cent of Gen-Zs deciding on locations that are most ‘Instagrammable’ when planning their travels.

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A street with colonial architecture in downtown Colombo/Getty

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Bank of China offers $300m loan to Sri Lanka

Bank of China, one of the country's biggest lenders, has offered a loan of $300m to Sri Lanka's government, with the option of increasing the amount to one billion dollars.

The offer came as Colombo faces an economic crisis triggered by political uncertainty in the South Asian island nation. 

Eran Wickramaratne, Sri Lanka's junior finance minister, told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that Sri Lanka was considering the Chinese offer.

He also confirmed that Sri Lanka had started negotiations to increase the amount of a swap deal with India's central bank to one billion dollars, up from a previously negotiated $400m. 

A series of credit rating downgrades amid a political crisis have made it harder for Sri Lanka to borrow as it faces record high repayments of $5.9bn this year, $2.6bn of which are due in the first three months.

"It's extremely difficult to tap the international market due to tight conditions and rating downgrades," said Wickramaratne, who is the state minister of finance.

"A government subcommittee will assess and negotiate on the tenure, size, and the price of this loan (with Bank of China). The cost of political crisis is high."

There was no confirmation from Bank of China about the loan offer. 

Investor confidence took a hit when President Maithripala Sirisena abruptly sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in October and replaced him with pro-China former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and dissolved the parliament.

Sri Lanka's top court then ruled the dissolution of parliament illegal and Wickremesinghe was restored to power in December.

But the seven-week-long crisis hurt the rupee and drove sovereign bond yields higher, straining state finances.

'Debt trap' By the end of 2018, nearly a quarter of Sri Lanka's total foreign debt was owed to China, which has lent some eight billion dollars while building ports and highways and planning other major investments in the island state as part of its drive to build a 21st-century "Silk Road" across nations and shipping lanes.

A source with knowledge of the Bank of China offer told Reuters on Tuesday that Sri Lanka's cabinet had already asked Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera to negotiate the loan. It has to be repaid within three years, the source said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the "One Belt, One Road" project in May 2017, pledging tens of billions of dollars to build ports, highways and power grids in about 60 different countries, linking China to much of Asia, Europe and Africa.

China is already one of the biggest investors in various infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. But there has been criticism, both locally and internationally, and growing concerns that China has lured Sri Lanka into a debt trap.

Despite security concerns and demonstrations, the two countries signed a $1.12bn agreement, giving China a 70 percent stake in a major port in Sri Lanka - Hambantota.

(Al Jazeera)


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Mangala extends tax exemption for foreign exchange earners

Interest income from non-resident and resident foreign currency accounts (NRFC and RFC) have been exempted from tax under tax changes proposed by Minister of Finance and Media, Mangala Samaraweera, were approved by the Cabinet.

Furthermore, Samaraweera's proposals to amend the Inland Revenue Act, No.24 of 2017, to exempt the Withholding Tax (WHT) imposed on the interest income of children's savings, earnings from government securities, royalties, leasing of air crafts as well as the reduction of WHT on rent, were also approved by the Cabinet.

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IMF ready to support Sri Lanka: Christine Lagarde

The Sri Lankan delegation to IMF headed by the Minister of Finance & Mass Media, Mangala Samaraweera met with Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C., yesterday (15), to have discussions on the possibility of resuming the IMF programme in Sri Lanka.

Samaraweera had updated the IMF management on the recent developments regarding the Sri Lankan economy.

The Sri Lankan delegation discussed the possibility of resuming the IMF programme with a view to stabilizing the economy following the disruptions of post 26th October 2018, and stressed on Sri Lanka’s commitment to the economic reform agenda.

The IMF has disbursed over USD 1 Billion out of a USD 1.5 Billion three-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) loan it had agreed in 2016.

Managing Director Lagarde stated that the IMF remains ready to support Sri Lankan authorities in these endeavors and a team from the IMF is scheduled to visit Colombo in February 2019 to resume programme discussions.

The Sri Lankan delegation included Non-Cabinet Minister of Public Distribution and Economic Reforms Harsha de Silva, Secretary to the Treasury Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga, the Governor of Central Bank Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Senior Deputy Governor of the Central Bank Dr. N.P. Weerasinghe, , Economics Advisor to the Minister of Finance & Mass Media Deshal de Mel and Alternate and the Executive Director of the IMF for Sri Lanka  M. Siriwardena.


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Sri Lankan Navy detains 9 Indian fishermen near Delft Island

Nine Indian fishermen were apprehended near the shore of the Delft Island by the Sri Lankan Navy on Sunday morning for engaging in illegal fishing in Sri Lankan waters. . 

They are being interrogated at Karainagar Naval camp in Sri Lanka. 2 fishing vessels were also taken under custody near Delft islands in Jaffna yesterday.

Furthermore, on Sunday (13) morning, another 11 Indian fishermen along with a vessel were taken into Naval custody off the coast of Mannar.

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Sri Lanka’s first ‘resettlement city’ launched

The first ever re-settlement city for Sri Lankan displaced persons fully funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was opened on January 13 in Mannar. 

The new facility goes beyond being a mere group of new houses to integrate many infrastructure facilities of a small city.

“UAE has been a longstanding friend of Sri Lanka. The ruler of UAE Emir Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and especially UAE’s Charitable Donor Abdul Rahim Fateh Ali Abdul Al Khaja hve extended their hands of friendship to the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) of Sri Lanka” said the Minister of Industry & Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons & Cooperative Development Rishad Bathiudeen . 

Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the launch of 120 house-Sheikh Zayed resettlement city for IDPs. Bathiudeen was joined by IDPs and representatives of UAE Donor Abdul Al Khaja. 

Sheikh Zayed City is not just a collection of only 120 new houses for the displaced but has a shopping complex, community hall and a mosque, all of which were given by Abdul Al Khaja on Minister Bathiudeen’s personal appeal on behalf of the IDPs to UAE’s Donor Abdul Al Khaja.

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SLT employees to go on strike against Chairman’s malpractices  

Sri Lanka Telecom PLC’s (SLT) management is now in dire straits after its chairman P.G. Kumarasinghe Sirisena, the younger brother of president Maithripala Sirisena, had provided benefits and privileges to corrupt officials, trade union leaders alleged.

They claimed that Mr. Kumarasinghe has not taken any decision to punish corrupt officials even though a year has lapsed since receiving the report of a 3 member committee headed by retired Appeal Court judge, N. Sunil Rajapaksha which was appointed to inquire into alleged malpractices and irregularities at the company since 2008.

'Protect Sri Lanka Telecom Front' noted that The SLT chairman has cut the benefits of employees including their annual increments while spending millions of rupees for Tamashas in luxury hotels.  

One such event was at a luxury Nuwaraeliya hotel held recently under the guise of an official meeting to prepare the company's annual corporate plan, trade union leaders said. 

The 3 member committee has investigated as to whether there has been any drop in the company's financial performance since 2011 and if so, it will probe the contributory factors and responsible officers.

The committee has also probed into malpractices, irregularities or failures in strategy formulation, operational planning and implementation to face market competition.

SLT's profit margin is expected to dilute over 2018-2020 period, as improving profitability on fixed-broadband and mobile internet usage will only partly offset margin dilution from a falling share of profitable fixed-voice and international operations, analysts said. 

Under this set up, Protect Sri Lanka Telecom Front will stage a one day token strike in all telecom branches countrywide including its headquarters on January 16.

If the authorities fail to rectify the number of anomalies in the present system, trade union action could intensify that would paralyze telecom services throughout the island, president of the front Jagath Gurusinghe said in a media release.   

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Beware of misinformation on the new constitution: PM

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe requested all parties to refrain from misleading the public by spreading misinformation on the new constitution. He said that there are attempts to incite racial hatred in the country by propagating false information with regard to the new constitution.
 
Wickremesinghe also stated that certain politicians had met with the chief prelates and propagated false rumors stating that the government is gearing to bring a new constitution that will divide the country. 
 
The premier made these remarks at the National Thai Pongal Festival held at Temple Trees yesterday.
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NZ beat SL in one-off T20; remain winless on tour

Lockie Ferguson captured two wickets in one over, including that of the dangerous Thisara Perera, as New Zealand beat Sri Lanka by 35 runs in their only Twenty20 match at Eden Park.

Perera, whose innings of 140 and 80 almost turned the last two one-day international matches the way of the visitors, was caught at long on by Doug Bracewell for 43 to leave his side 5-118 in the 13th over, chasing a victory target of 180.

Ferguson bowled Dhananjaya de Silva three balls later to take any momentum out of their pursuit and they were dismissed for 144 in 16.5 overs.

Bracewell, playing his first match for New Zealand in more than a year, top-scored with a career-best 44, while Scott Kuggeleijn, batting at No.8t, added 35 not out to the home side's 7-179.

New Zealand, who had initially struggled with the high bounce and pace of the drop-in pitch with Lasith Malinga and Kasun Rajitha taking a wicket in each of the first four overs, slumped to 5-55 at the halfway stage.

Ross Taylor (33) and Bracewell then combined for 47 runs in a little under five overs before Bracewell and Kuggeleijn belted 41 in 16 balls to push the hosts to a strong total.

Sri Lanka now head to Australia for two Tests, while New Zealand begin preparations for a limited-overs tour by India starting on January 23.

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