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Malaysia busts Sri Lankan human smuggling syndicate

The police have crippled a syndicate masterminded by Sri Lankans to smuggle migrants from that country and India to Australia and New Zealand in an operation around Klang, Selangor, on January 4.

Inspector-General of the Royal Malaysia Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the police arrested 34 migrants, comprising 24 Sri Lankans and 10 Indians, and three Sri Lankan men who were members of the syndicate.

The Sri Lankan migrants comprised 12 men, eight women, two boys and two girls while the Indians comprised four men, three women and three girls.

“It was learned that the syndicate had used the maritime route in the Klang area to smuggle the migrants to Australia and New Zealand,” he said in a statement here today.

fuzi harun
IGP Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the police arrested 34 migrants, comprising 24 Sri Lankans and 10 Indians, and three Sri Lankan men who were members of the syndicate. ― Picture by Razak Ghazali

From the investigations, it was found that the syndicate had purchased a cruise boat and was in the midst of buying three boat engines with the objective of smuggling the migrants to Australia and New Zealand.

Mohd Fuzi said those detained would be investigated under Section 5 (2) of the Immigration Act 1959/63 as they had entered and attempted to exit Malaysia through an illegal route.

He said that with the arrest, the police had crippled a human trafficking syndicate network in Malaysia which had been operating since 2018 and had an international network of connections across Sri Lanka, India, Australia and New Zealand.

“The police will step up efforts to wipe out human smuggling networks,” he said. ― Bernama

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Mangala heads to Washington to renegotiate IMF funding

Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera will leave for Washington tomorrow (11), to get the International Monetary Fund's External Fund Facility (EFF) back on track.

Samaraweera is scheduled to hold talks with the Managing Director and Chairwoman of the IMF Christine Lagarde.

The Finance Ministry said that he will also meet Mitsuhiro Furusawa, Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, Chanyong Rhee, Director for Asia Pacific Department and other senior officials.

Minister Samaraweera is expected to signal the Government's intention to continue with IMF reform programme. 

A key objective will be to negotiate the trajectory of continued fiscal consolidation while accommodating policies to support growth and strengthen the social safety net.

The Finance Minister's delegation to IMF will include Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Secretary to the Treasury Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga and other key officials of the Central Bank and the Treasury.    

Dr. Coomaraswamy pointed out last week that the Sri Lankan government has the option of extending the IMF program by a year, describing it as a positive  option for Sri Lanka as it looks to fund nearly USD3 billion in debt repayments that are due in 2019.

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CITES conference in Sri Lanka to highlight the threat of international trade of fauna & flora

Sri Lanka will host an international conference in May to highlight the threat of international trade of wild animals and plants, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife said on Friday.

Nearly 4,000 representatives from 183 countries and regions will participate in the Conference of Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which will be held from May 23 to June 3 in Colombo.

The CITES aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of species in the wild.

Sri Lanka gained international recognition in 2016 by destroying over 359 African elephant tusks worth of 400 million Sri Lankan rupees (about 2.2 million U.S. dollars) under the CITES Convention to fight against illegal trading of animals.

The ivory with a total weight of around 1,500 kg was seized in 2012 by the Sri Lanka Customs while it was en route to Dubai from Kenya. (Xinhua)

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Sri Lanka political crisis "Death Blow" to economy: Ranil

(AFP) - Sri Lanka's prime minister said Thursday the country was struggling to pay back its ballooning foreign debt, blaming a recent political crisis for dealing a "death blow" to the economy.

Ranil Wickremesinghe said his government was scrambling to raise $1.9 billion to help service a first debt payment of $2.6 billion, that is due on Monday.Sri Lanka faces $5.9 billion in foreign debt repayments in 2019, a record for the cash-strapped island.

The country lost $1 billion in foreign reserves during a power struggle between Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena in late 2018.

Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe in October and later dissolved parliament to quell any opposition, but Sri Lanka's courts deemed the move unconstitutional.

Wickremesinghe was reinstalled 51 days later but not without a cost, the prime minister said.

"We are yet to quantify the losses, but it was a death blow to an economy that was struggling to recover," Wickremesinghe told parliament.

Three global ratings agencies downgraded Sri Lanka during the crisis, making it more expensive for the Indian Ocean nation to access foreign loans.

Sri Lanka hopes to raise $1 billion from the international debt market, another $500 million from China and Japan and a further $400 million from the Reserve Bank of India.

Wickremesinghe has dispatched his finance minister to Washington to try to revive a loan arrangement with the International Monetary Fund that was suspended during the chaos.

Sri Lanka narrowly averted defaulting on its sovereign debt after Wickremesinghe's reformed administration introduced a plan late last month to meet urgent spending obligations for the first four months of 2019.

Sirisena came to power in 2015 with the help of Wickremesinghe's United National Party but personal and political clashes came to a head before the October sacking.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by isis.lk staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Wimal ordered to pay Rs. 10 million for intellectual property violations 

The Colombo Commercial High Court ordered UPFA parliamentarian Wimal Weerawansa to pay a sum of LKR 10 million as compensation to JVP general secretary Tilvin Silva for publishing and distributing a book titled "Neththa Venuwata Etta" in violation of provisions of the Intellectual Property Act. 

Silva had accused that the content published in Weerawansa's book was eerily similar to the ideas presented by him to the JVP Executive Committee.

Commercial High Court Judge Ruwan Fernando ruled that several articles contained in the concerned book have violated the publication rights, economical rights and moral rights come under the Intellectual Property Act No.36 of 2003. 

The High Court also issued an order restraining Weerawansa from printing, publishing, selling and distribution of the book titled Naththa Wenuwata Aththa.

The case had lasted for more than ten years at the Colombo Commercial High Court.

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Hybrid buses from China to upgrade public transportation

Sri Lanka is in talks with China to import hybrid buses to upgrade the country's public transport sector, State Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Ashoka Abeysinghe said at a media briefing.

Abeysinghe added that he was in discussions with Chinese companies, which manufacture hydrogen powered buses and hybrid buses, and the procurement plan to purchase the buses had been finalized. 

The minister said they hope to expedite the process and open the tenders in the coming 28 weeks.

"I went to China a couple of months ago and visited the Chinese companies," the state minister said.

"We are looking at hybrid buses as we do not have enough charging stations for electric buses," he added.

Sri Lanka is looking to boost its public transport infrastructure, particularly in Colombo, amid rising tourist numbers and increased road congestion.

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Rewarded by the President, Keerthi Tennakoon resigns as CaFFE chief 

Following his appointment as a provincial governor, Independent Election Monitor and Executive Director of the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon,  has stepped down from his position in the organization. 

He informed the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections that he had decided to accept the invitation extended by the President to be appointed as a Governor.

Tennakoon took oaths before President Maithripala Sirisena this week as Governor of the Uva province only to be made the Governor of the Southern Province the very next day. His appointment has drawn criticism from all quarters which has questioned his impartiality as an election monitor in past elections as well as his qualifications to hold the post of governor.

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Sri Lanka marks decade since journalist murder amid justice calls

Sri Lankan journalists on Tuesday paid tribute to anti-establishment editor Lasantha Wickrematunge 10 years after his murder by a suspected government death squad that came to symbolise a deadly decade-long crackdown on the country’s media.

Just days before he was due to give evidence against the brother of the country’s then strongman leader Mahinda Rajapakse, two assailants on motorcycles blocked the car of the 50-year-old editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper before smashing the windows and stabbing him in the head.

The assassination is one of many unresolved killings of journalists carried out during Rajapakse’s decade in power, which also saw a 37-year conflict with Tamil separatists brought to a brutal conclusion.

Friends, family and colleagues of Wickrematunge placed flowers and candles on his grave at the Colombo General Cemetery.

White cards with Wickrematunge’s name and those of 18 other journalists were also put among the golden trumpet flowers and white frangipani blooms.

A message from Lal Wickrematunge — the dead journalist’s brother who lives in Australia — was read out, saying the family was also grieving for other journalists killed by unidentified assassins.

It said many journalists from the minority Tamil community were killed “during the darkest period in our nation’s history” — the four-decade civil war, ended by government forces when they crushed the rebel Tamil Tigers in 2009.

The murdered Wickrematunge was a critic of that military campaign, which allegedly massacred 40,000 ethnic Tamils.

“Reconciliation and closure will not be possible without prosecution,” his brother said.

Before his death, Wickrematunge had revealed corruption in a multi-million dollar purchase of second-hand MiG planes from Ukraine implicating then secretary to the ministry of defence, Gotabhaya Rajapakse — Mahinda Rajapakse’s brother who was president at the time.
The editor was killed days before he was due to give evidence.

After Rajapakse lost a 2015 election, a breakthrough in the Wickrematunge case saw investigators tell a Sri Lankan court that army spies were responsible for his killing.

A former army commander accused Gotabhaya of running a secret unit used to target journalists and dissidents during his brother’s presidency, during which rights activists say dozens of journalists and media workers were killed.

Gotabhaya has denied any link to the killings. He remains under investigation for corruption related to the MiG deal.

(AFP)

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Niluka and Reginald appointed as Institution heads by President sans required qualifications 

President Maithripala Sirisena is being accused of violating the recruitment process for high-profile state assignments when he appointed former provincial governors Reginald Cooray and Niluka Ekanayake as heads of two state institutions this week.

Cooray has been appointed the Chairman of the National Gem and Jewelry Corporation while Ekanayake has been appointed the Chairperson of the State Timber Corporation. The duo received these appointments after they were asked to step down from their positions of governor so that Sirisena could appoint two other loyalists to the positions. 

Issuing a circular last week to Ministry Secretaries President Sirisena informed them of a committee to vet the resumes of individuals by Cabinet ministers to head state institutions. The President also instructed them to appoint the heads only after the recommendations of the committee, headed by Secretary to the President Udaya R. Seneviratne.

The President has also informed the committee that the heads of all state institutions should be university graduates with relevant professional qualifications and managerial experience.

However, both Cooray and Ekanayake do not meet the standard set by the President. They are not university graduates nor do they have any managerial experience. Cooray is a teacher by professional training while Ekanayake is an astrologer. (Excerpts from The Colombo Telegraph)

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Mahinda Rajapaksa will be recognized as the Opposition Leader: Deputy Speaker

Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri reading out a statement conveyed by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya notified the parliament that United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP Mahinda Rajapaksa will be recognized as the new leader of the opposition.

The Deputy Speaker made this statement at the parliamentary session held today (08).

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Shavendra assumes duties as ITJP calls for his arrest 

Major General Shavendra Silva assumed duties as the Army’s Chief of Staff today. He was appointed to the position by President Maithripala Sirisena this week. 

However, the appointment has drawn tahe criticism of human rights activists. Following the controversial appointment of Major General Shavendra Silva as the Sri Lanka Army’s Chief of Staff the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) has called for Silva to be arrested if he attempts to travel abroad. 

Releasing a statement, Director of the ITJP Yasmin Sooka labelled the appointment of Silva as a ‘new low’ for Sri Lanka. Accusations of war crimes have been tailing Shavendra Silva since the end of the war in 2009. She noted that the unit under the direct supervision of Silva had been involved in enforced disappearances. 

“Sri Lanka now has a chief of army staff who risks arrest every time he travels abroad,” Sooka said in the statement adding that the ITJP has prepared a substantial dossier on Major General Silva which will be released shortly. According to Sooka, the ITJP believes there is more than enough evidence to charge Silva for international crimes should the opportunity arise. She also said the appointment is a threat to reconciliation attempts in the country.

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Sri Lanka seeks removal of non-tariff barriers to improve trade with Pakistan

Sri Lanka has sought the removal of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and other issues to improve trade with Pakistan.

Addressing the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Pakistan Noordeen Mohamed Shaheid said that though the two countries signed Free Trade Agreement (FTA), certain issues including NTBs need to be resolved to improve trade between the two countries.

The envoy said Pakistan and Sri Lanka had signed the FTA in June 2005 under which the private sectors of both the countries were provided with greater opportunities to take trade and economic relations to next level. From 2005 onwards, there was significant increase in bilateral trade, he said. “But it is also a fact that the two countries could not succeed in fully exploiting the trade potential,” he added.

The Sri Lankan high commissioner said there was a vast scope for the expansion of bilateral between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

He urged that both countries should introduce new products for trade and make business-to-business contacts stronger. “Sri Lanka offers huge opportunities in various sectors of economy,” he added. He said though terrorism remained a big challenge for Sri Lanka, but today it a peaceful country. “We have defeated terrorism due to immense support of Pakistan,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Almas Hyder said Sri Lanka was at the take-off stage and Pakistani business community should avail this great opportunity. “Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka are members of Saarc and enjoy friendly relations based on historical linkages.

Cooperation between two countries especially in defence sector has played major role in further strengthening the mutual ties,” he added.

Earlier, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri also visited the LCCI and said the government was making all-out efforts to overcome the inherited economic crisis. “The business community has a key role in economy and economic challenges will be tackled with their cooperation,” he said.

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