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China, Sri Lanka expand political relations following Pompeo visit

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Close on the heels of the US urging Sri Lanka to join an alliance against China, the Chinese Communist Party has initiated a special dialogue with the ruling SLPP meant to take bilateral relations to a higher level.

Chinese Embassy spokesperson Luo Chong said that the meeting was aimed at implementing a consensus reached by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and President Xi Jinping in their telephone conversation as well as the recent high-level visit of top leader Yang Jiechi to Colombo.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeatedly attacked China during his one-day visit to Colombo where he requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government to end its close relationship with China. The US asked Sri Lanka to make “difficult but necessary choices” to secure its economic independence instead of choosing opaque practices.

Luo Chong issued the following statement Thursday night (5) after the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) held an advanced seminar on governance via video, strictly abiding by the health guidelines of both countries: “

Minister Song Tao of the International Department of Central Committee of CPC, Party Secretary Liu Cigui of CPC Provincial Committee of Hainan Province, SLPP Chairman Professor G.L. Peiris, Secretary General Sagara Kariyawasam, SLPP MPs including Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Namal Rajapaksa, Ramesh Pathirana together with some State Ministers and mayors from the Western Province participated in the meeting. Ambassador-designate Qi Zhenhong joined the discussion in his self-quarantine and delivered a speech on behalf of the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka.

“The two ruling parties of China and Sri Lanka are committed to jointly promote regular exchanges, engage in in-depth experience sharing on governance, and to enhance collaboration during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. In the seminar, bilateral relations of the two countries and the two parties, suggestions on the CPC-SLPP cooperation and long-term exchanges, Hainan’s successful practice on provincial development and poverty alleviation, joint combat against COVID-19 were broadly discussed with fruitful outcomes. The CPC also gave an introduction on its Fifth Plenum of the 19th National Congress, at which the CPC Central Committee proposed the 14th Five Year Plan and the 2035 Vision, specifying China’s goal of development for the next 5-15 years. The two ruling parties also shared their opinions on aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with Sri Lanka’s “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor” to bring more tangible benefits to the two peoples. 

“Ambassador Qi expressed his pleasure and honor to attend the opening ceremony, which was his first public event after assuming the office since last Friday (30/10). Ambassador Qi said the history of China – Sri Lanka friendship is a history of mutual learning, and the friendship between our two countries and our two parties has grown stronger through the joint fight against COVID-19. He also emphasized that the experience sharing between the two ruling parties will play an important role in bilateral cooperation in the post-COVID era to come. “To overcome the huge challenge in front of us, on one hand we need to support each other in both medical supplies and financial supplies; on the other hand, we need more cooperation in disease prevention and treatment, economic revival and local governance etc. As ruling parties, CPC and SLPP should enhance experience sharing so as to better lead the two governments and the two peoples for a brighter future.” 

Up till now, the CPC has established contacts and exchanges with more than 400 political parties and organizations in over 140 countries. It also maintains friendly relations with a dozen political parties in Sri Lanka both in the government and the opposition. On October 22nd, the CPC co-host the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Political Parties Forum and the BRICS Party Round-table Meeting via videolink.”



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SJB: Excise, FM officials all out to pocket Rs 1 bn

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By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday told Parliament that the Finance Ministry and Excise Department officials had misled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal in order to obtain billion rupees, fraudulently.

The officials had got a contract for printing stickers or barcodes to be displayed on bottles of liquor awarded to an Indian company.

“The project would result in one-billion-rupee loss to the government coffers annually,” the MP said, adding that the money being taken from the public purse would end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Pathirana said that the Excise Department had commenced a project to paste stickers on bottles of liquor to differentiate them from the fake and counterfeit bottles in the market.

“As per this project’s requirements, 32 million stickers would be needed per month. The stickers are to be purchased from Madras Security Printers company of India. This method was proposed in 2016 but it failed and the officials thereafter decided to introduce a barcode system.

“The cost of a sticker at 25 cents and the new barcode system will cost of two rupees a piece. This is a dubious deal. It seems that the Finance Ministry officials and the Excise Department heads have ganged up to give the contract to the Indian company and get commissions. There are many unanswered questions. First, the contract of printing the barcode too has been given to the MSP company, which could not secure the first contract. I want to know whether the proper procurement process has been followed. The second question is whether the barcodes would be up to the standards listed in the tender. Third question is who had selected the MSP company which is black-listed in India after being found guilty of frauds with Indian liquor companies in providing stickers to them. MSP has been blacklisted in many other countries. The company has been banned in Sudan and Liberia for supplying the stickers to private companies. The last question is whether this fraud is being committed with the knowledge of ministers of this government.”

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Reserves fall to lowest since 2009, rupee strengthening to be short-lived: report

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka’s Foreign reserves had dropped to USD 4.1bn in March 2021, the lowest since August 2009, on the back of over US$ 4bn outstanding debt payment during April-December 2021 period, a report issued by First Capital Research yesterday said.

According to the report, rupee appreciation is likely to be short-lived considering Sri Lanka’s depleting foreign reserve position, high foreign currency debt repayment requirement and limited funding sources available in the market are expected to further increase depreciation pressure on the currency during 2Q and 3Q.

“We maintain our exchange rate target for 1H2021 at Rs. 196-202 with 2021 year-end target at Rs. 205-215 as mentioned in our ‘Investment Strategy 2021 – January 2021,” the report recalls.

“Sri Lankan rupee appreciated 5% against the US dollar over the last 2 market days reversing the continuous accelerated depreciation witnessed in January-April 2021. On 12th April, Sri Lankan rupee recorded a historical low of Rs. 201:1 US$. Ministry of Finance (MoF) reported on the same day that the government of Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the China Development Bank (CDB) for US$ 500mn and MoF expected the funds to be disbursed during the same week. Following the announcement, the market registered a steep appreciation with mid-rate recording at Rs. 190.9 on April 19,” it says.

The total foreign debt repayment (capital and interest) for 2021 is US$ 6 bn, according to the report.

Meanwhile FC Research believes that the temporary appreciation in USD-LKR, may adversely impact earnings of export companies such as Hayleys, Haycarb, Dipped Products, MGT Knitting Mills, Teejay Lanka, Expolanka Holdings etc. in the short term.

“However, considering the potential future currency pressure, we expect an overall depreciation of approximately 12% for the rupee providing a significant gain for companies with foreign currency revenue”, FC research predicts.

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Govt. asks Opposition not to propagate lies

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday accused the Opposition MPs of abusing parliamentary privileges to mislead the public by propagating lies about the Easter Sunday terror attacks. 

Addressing Parliament, Minister Fernando said: “The Opposition MPs level wild allegations in the House knowing that they have the cover of parliamentary privilege. If they have anything substantial or any knowledge of the perpetrators of the Easter attacks still not in custody they can go to the CID and lodge complaints so that such complaints could be investigated.”  

Fernando said so after SJB Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara had told the House that he possessed evidence of those who carried out the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Nanayakkara also said that the facts that he had were not in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage.

“You are making various statements regarding the Easter Sunday terror attacks in the Chamber without any proof because you know that you have Parliamentary privilege. You even quoted some statements which are not included in the PCoI report. How did you obtain such information? Why didn’t you complain about this to the CID in the first place? Your action is aimed at misleading the public,” the Minister said. 

Minister Fernando said that the Opposition should stop insulting Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith by misinterpreting the latter’s statements. 

“When you are in the Government you never said that this is a Buddhist country. Now you are insulting the Cardinal too. You should not do that,” the Minister said. 

“The former Government should be responsible for the terror attack. Now we are trying to punish those who are responsible for it. We will take action against everyone who is responsible. You should support us, not try to obstruct the on-going investigations,” Minister Fernando said.

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