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Chinese ‘debt trap’: President sets record straight

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‘Independence and sovereignty won’t be compromised in foreign relations’

Pointing out that China had assisted in the development of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure since the end of the separatist war in May 2009, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday (28) insisted that Sri Lanka had not been caught in a debt trap as a result.

President Rajapaksa made his position clear as regards repeated US allegations that Sri Lanka is in a Chinese debt trap when he met US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo at the Presidential Secretariat.

Pompeo arrived at the BIA from New Delhi on Tuesday night (27). The visit took place in the wake of the high level Chinese delegation meeting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa where Beijing reiterated its commitment to Sri Lanka’s prosperity.

The President’s Office quoted the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as having assured President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the United States was ready to continuously engage Sri Lanka in its strive to achieve economic development goals.

His country expects to further develop already existing strong bilateral relations between the two countries, the PO statement quoted Pompeo as having said.

The PO statement: During the cordial discussion between the two parties, views on a number of areas of bilateral and regional importance were exchanged.

Expressing the desire of the United States to continue to work closely with Sri Lanka in achieving a high level of economic development the American Secretary of State said priority will be given to promote US investments in the Island.

Tourism is a key sector that contributes to employment and income generation. USA is ready to give a helping hand to the development of this area under a carefully prepared action plan, Mr. Pompeo stated.

In response President Rajapaksa said what Sri Lanka wants is not obtaining loans continuously but to achieve a high level of economic growth by attracting more foreign investments.

“We have already begun to remove bureaucratic red tape that hinder foreign investment. Sri Lanka is a country that possesses necessary factors to achieve a high agricultural development. Our agriculture sector should be modernized. Scientific research should be conducted in order to reach this goal. We expect your assistance towards this end”, President Rajapaksa stressed.

Elaborating on the foreign policy of Sri Lanka, President said it is based on neutrality.

Relations between Sri Lanka and other nations are determined by several conditions. Historic and cultural relations, development cooperation are some of the priorities. President stressed that he is not ready to compromise the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation in maintaining foreign relations whatever the circumstances may be. Noting that China assisted in the development of the country’s infrastructure since the end of the separatist war, the President reiterated that Sri Lanka is not caught in a debt trap as a result.

The two sides agreed to further strengthen the defence cooperation already established between Sri Lanka and the United States. These include training opportunities and material assistance from the United States to security forces personnel in Sri Lanka.

When President emphasized the need to strengthen the coast guard services to combat drug trafficking, the State Secretary said that the US could assist in this endeavor.

Mr. Pompeo said that the United States wishes to see that the Indian Ocean remains a zone of peace. He expressed satisfaction over the existing friendly ties between Sri Lanka and India. President Rajapaksa stated that Sri Lanka also hopes to see peace in the Indian Ocean.

Both parties also agreed to work together on human rights issues in international fora.

The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz, Under Secretary of State Brian Bulatao, Chief Assistant Deputy Secretary at Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson, Senior Advisor to the State Secretary Mary Kissel were the other members of the US delegation.

Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Relations Admiral Jayanath Colombage, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador – designate to the US Ravinatha Aryasinghe were also present during the discussion.



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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