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Address Tamils’ aspirations within united Sri Lanka, and implement 13th Amendment

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Modi to Mahinda:

BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, September 27:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has exhorted Sri Lanka to address the Tamils’ aspirations for equality, justice, peace and respect within a united Sri Lanka. He urged the island-nation to carry forward the process of reconciliation with the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to its Constitution.

Modi conveyed this to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during an hour-long virtual summit on Saturday morning. This was the first such summit in the neighbourhood for both the prime ministers.

Responding to Modi’s call, PM Rajapaksa expressed the confidence that Sri Lanka will work towards realizing the expectations of all ethnic groups, including Tamils, by achieving reconciliation nurtured as per the mandate of the people of Sri Lanka and implementation of the Constitutional provisions.

They discussed bilateral relations, regional and international issues of mutual concern, the Indian External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.Both the leaders recalled the successful State Visits by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in November 2019 and February 2020, respectively. These visits gave clear political direction and vision for the future of the relationship.The two countries agreed to work together to expeditiously complete construction of 10,000 housing units in the plantation areas with Indian assistance, first announced by Modi during his visit to Sri Lanka in May 2017.

They will deepen cooperation in renewable energy with particular emphasis on solar projects under the US$100-million Line of Credit from India.

Rajapaksa welcomed Modi’s announcement of India’s grant assistance of US$15 million for promotion of Buddhist ties between the two countries. The grant will assist in deepening people-to-people linkages between the two countries in the sphere of Buddhism including inter alia through construction/renovation of Buddhist monasteries, capacity development, cultural exchanges, archaeological cooperation, reciprocal exposition of The Buddha’s relics, strengthening engagement of Buddhist scholars and clergy, etc.The two governments will further strengthen people-to-people ties by exploring opportunities in the field of civilizational linkages and common heritage such as Buddhism, Ayurveda and Yoga.

India will facilitate the visit of a delegation of Sri Lankan Buddhist pilgrims in the inaugural international flight to the sacred city of Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, which was recently made an international airport. It was here that Gautama Buddha attained parinirvana after his death.

Both leaders were unanimous that the ancient cultural links between India and Sri Lanka are special, and must be nurtured further. Rajapaksa made a special mention of the Jaffna Cultural Centre which is an iconic project built with Indian assistance. The Centre is almost ready. He extended an invitation to Modi to inaugurate the project. Both sides will remain in touch at official level for details.

At a special briefing on the summit, Joint Secretary (Indian Ocean Region) Amit Narang said Sri Lanka’s request for a bilateral currency swap arrangement worth $1 billion is under discussion. This is in addition to the $400-million currency swap India has already provided.

The two leaders exchanged views on fishermen-related issues. They agreed to continue and strengthen the ongoing constructive and humanitarian approach to address this issue through existing bilateral mechanisms, and instructed relevant officials on both sides to this effect.

As soon as Sri Lanka decides to allow foreign airlines to fly in and out, an air bubble will be established to allow the resumption of flights between the two countries.

Rajapaksa commended the strong leadership Modi showed in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, based on the vision of mutual support and assistance to the countries of the region. Both leaders agreed that the current situation presented a fresh opportunity to give added impetus to bilateral relations.

Both the leaders expressed happiness that India and Sri Lanka worked very closely in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Modi reaffirmed India’s continued commitment for all possible support to Sri Lanka for minimising the health and economic impact of the pandemic.For imparting further impetus to the bilateral relationship, the two leaders agreed to enhance cooperation to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, including in the fields of intelligence, information sharing, de-radicalization and capacity building.They decided to continue the fruitful and efficient development partnership in accordance with the priority areas identified by the Government and people of Sri Lanka and to further broad-base the island-wide engagement under the Memorandum of Understanding for Implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP) for the period 2020-2025.The two governments will work towards early realization of infrastructure and connectivity projects, including in the sectors of Ports and Energy through close consultations as per the Bilateral Agreements and MoUs, and strong commitment towards a mutually beneficial development cooperation partnership between the two countries.They will strengthen technical cooperation in the areas of agriculture, animal husbandry, science & technology, health care and AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) as well as skill development by increased training of professionals thereby realizing the full potential of the demographic dividend in both the countries.Cooperation will be strengthened between armed forces of the two sides, including through mutual exchange of personnel visits, maritime security cooperation and support to Sri Lanka in the spheres of defence and security.



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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder

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State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Dolawatta responds to GL

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SLPP MP Premanath C. Dolawatta said his private member’s motion wouldn’t lead to the postponement of local government polls. He said he felt the need to restore the 25% quota for youth, even before he entered Parliament, consequent to the August 2020 general election. The government and the Opposition could quickly reach a consensus on the proposals, and avoid unnecessary complications. MP Dolawatta said so when The Island sought his response to accusations made by Prof. Peiris, who said that time was rapidly running out for Local Government polls. As the nomination process needed to be commenced soon to ensure that 341 Local Government bodies could be constituted by 20 March 2023.

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