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Baglay suggests how to utilize USD 15 mn grant

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Promotion of Buddhist ties

Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay has suggested that USD 15 mn grant made available recently for the promotion of Buddhist ties between India and Sri Lanka could be utilised for 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.

The following is the text of the statement issued by the Indian High Commissioner following HC Baglay’s meeting with Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammawansa Thera recently: “High Commissioner of India Gopal Baglay called on Agga Maha Pandita Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammawansa Thera, Mahanayake of Amarapura Nikaya and sought his blessings for prosperity of people of India and Sri Lanka and strengthening friendly relationships between them. High Commissioner recalled his arrival in Sri Lanka in the Holy Week of Vesak and stated that he felt particularly fortunate to be seeking the blessings of Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammawansa Thera on this Vap Poya Day,

“Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammawansa Thera recalled his many trips to India and conveyed that his blessings were always with the people of Sri Lanka and India for their peace and prosperity.

“The Mahanayake conveyed his wished for enhanced people-to-people contact between the two countries and increased regional connectivity for the ease of Buddhist pilgrims to visit the various holy sites in the Indian subcontinent.

“High Commissioner Baglay noted that the Government of India had recently declared the Kushinagar Airport in India, the place of Lord Buddha’s Mahaparinibbana, as an international airport, to allow Buddhist pilgrims from around the world to visit the revered site associated with Lord Buddha with ease. He also mentioned that given the pre-eminence of India Sri Lanka Buddhist ties, both countries agreed that the first inaugural flight to this airport will be from Sri Lanka.

“High Commissioner also discussed the implementation of the USD 15 million grant from India for promotion of Buddhist ties between India and Sri Lanka. The Grant was announced by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi during the Virtual Bilateral Summit held between India and Sri Lanka on 26 September, 2020. High Commissioner noted that this is a first of its kind grant announcement by India and stated that the grant may be utilised for 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

High Commissioner also noted that Buddhism is one of the strongest pillars connecting the two nations and civilizations from the time when the Great Indian Emperor Ashoka sent his children Arhat Mahinda and Theri Sangamitta to spread the teachings of Lord Buddha at the request of King Devanampiya Tissa of Sri Lanka.”



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Govt. says selling state assets only way to build reserves and prevent crippling shortages

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardena yesterday (06) said Sri Lanka wouldn’t be in a position to be part of the international trading system unless it boosted its foreign reserves by selling some of its assets. Gunawardena, who also holds media and transport portfolios said so at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

Responding to a query about the government’s decision to divest vital national assets, the Minister said that if Sri Lanka did not shore up its reserves to the tune of over three billion dollars, international companies would not accept the letters of credit given by Sri Lankan banks.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Finance Minister, has proposed privatising of several state enterprises including Sri Lanka Insurance and Sri Lanka Telecom.

“Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga sold a number of state owned enterprises. If we don’t increase our reserves, to over three billion USD soon, we will have problems importing fuel, and other essential items. Last week, Fitch again reduced our rating. No matter who governs Sri Lanka, they will all face the same problem. We need to build our reserves,” the Minister said.

Minister Gunawardane said that the need of the hour was to sell some assets and boost Sri Lanka’s reserves.

“China, India, Vietnam, and Malaysia are attracting a lot of investors. Only we have failed to do so, and we need to think why this is. Even our entrepreneurs are leaving for other countries. We need to change the way we think, if we want to attract investors to Sri Lanka,” he said.

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Ven Siridhamma, Mudalige granted bail; latter re-arrested

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Convenor of Bhikku Balamandalaya affiliated Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) Ven. Galwewa Siridhamma Thera leaving Court yesterday (06) after Kaduwela Magistrate Chanima Wijebandara granted him bail. The Thera was held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for causing damages to public property during a protest opposite the Education Ministry, over three months back. The Magistrate ordered the Thera released after the police failed to identify the monk at an identification parade. However, IUSF Convenor Wasanatha Mudalige, who was also released by the Magistrate, after the police couldn’t identify him, was taken into custody in connection with some other case.

Pics by Kamal Bogoda

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SLTB Chairman won’t heed Transport Minister’s demand to quit

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By Ifham Nizam

Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) Chairman Kingsley Ranawaka has declined to heed Transport Minister Bandula Gunawardena’s demand to quit immediately.

Ranawaka said so when The Island asked him whether he would resign as demanded by the Minister.

Minister Gunawardena earlier this week asked Ranawaka to resign after the SLTB halted the special bus service between Multi Model Centre, at Makumbura, and Colombo.

Gunawardena said that public and private sector workers, who reached Makumbura in their own vehicles, used the special bus service to reach their destinations. The Minister said that the decision to suspend this service inconvinienced them.

Ranawaka said the SLTB Board of Management had stopped this bus service as the SLTB suffered losses amounting to Rs. 8.5 million within three months.

The SLTB Chief told The Island that he would explain to the Transport and Highways Minister Gunawardena his position. He said it was a collective decision.

Gunawardena earlier demanded an explanation why the SLTB stopped the city bus service without informing him.

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