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Facebook helps Sri Lankan small businesses benefit from the power of digital tools



COLOMBO, June 3 -Facebook has successfully completed the first two phases of the Digital Saubhagya program in Sri Lanka. It was implemented in collaboration with the government of Sri Lanka, civil society organizations, and various trade bodies to help small businesses recover and transform. 

Small businesses are the backbone of Sri Lanka’s economy, accounting for more than 75 percent of all enterprises. These businesses were heavily impacted during the pandemic and many have moved online to continue their business growth.

The #DigitalSaubhagya program commenced in March, prior to the Sinhala & Tamil New Year season in the country. More than 1,500 small and medium businesses from 15 districts received training on how to open business pages to engage with customers. Online sessions were conducted in both Sinhala and Tamil to raise awareness about the best social media practices for business. An informative story was published in newspapers to empower small businesses with guidance on how to build effective online presence.

A Facebook Live event was organized to showcase local entrepreneurs and highlight how they are adapting to the pandemic and transforming their businesses digitally. Influencer and activist, Stephanie Siriwardhana moderated the conversation with the founders of ZigZag and Saaraketha Organics, two leading local entrepreneurs. Mustafa Kassim, founder and CEO of Roar Digital, Facebook’s reseller partner, also shared his insights.  

Jordi Fornies, Director of Emerging Markets at Facebook, APAC participated and discussed Facebook’s initiatives to inform and empower local entrepreneurs. He said “Facebook is committed to provide ongoing training to support small businesses in Sri Lanka. Through our Digital Saubhagya campaign, we have tried to build awareness at the grassroots level. We have partnered with local organizations to bring more micro and rural entrepreneurs online so they can also benefit from digital tools, especially during these difficult times.”

The program also developed case studies on how small and medium businesses are using digital platforms effectively. It highlights the importance of digital reach in the new operating environment that the COVID-19 pandemic has created. These case studies include the journeys of Selyn and Olai, which are engaging with communities in different regions of the country. 

A webinar was hosted and moderated by Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, with the support of Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), which included panelists from Facebook, ICTA, and Selyn. It was also attended by Hon. Shehan Semasinghe, State Minister of Samurdhi, Household Economy, Micro Finance, Self-Development, Business Development and Underutilized State Resources Development. The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka was represented by its Chief Digital Economy Officer Anura De Alwis. The panel discussed the role of digital platforms and the importance of supporting small businesses so they can survive and thrive despite the pandemic. 

Facebook also engaged a local digital developer to create an AR effect for Facebook and Instagram so people can celebrate Avurudu in the safety of their homes. 

#DigitalSaubhagya will re-commence for its phase 3 and continue to support small businesses in Sri Lanka through 2021. (Issued by MSL Sri Lanka on behalf of Facebook)

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Parliament prorogued



by Saman Indrajith

Parliament has been prorogued with effect from midnight yesterday (27) by President Ranil Wickremeisnghe under Article 70 of the Constitution. The Department of Government Printing issued the Gazette notification annoucing the presidential order yesterday evening.The new Parliament session is scheduled to commence on Feb. 08.

A prorogation, which is a temporary recess of Parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning Parliament may be advanced by another Presidential Proclamation, provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

When Parliament is prorogued, the Proclamation should notify the date for the commencement of the new Session of Parliament, under Paragraph (3) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

During the prorogation the Speaker continues to function and the Members retain their membership, even though they do not attend meetings of Parliament.The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current Business before the House, and all proceedings, pending at the time, are quashed, except impeachments.

A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same Session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent Session, after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before Parliament, and have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation of Parliament, may be proceeded with during the next Session,” states the Paragraph (4) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not put an end to pending Business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new Session. At the beginning of a new Session, all items of Business which were in the Order Paper of Parliament, need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.

At the end of a prorogation, a new Session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the President. He is empowered, under the Constitution, to make a Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at the commencement of each Session of Parliament, and to preside at ceremonial sittings of Parliament, in terms of the provisions stipulated in Paragraph (2) of Article 33 of the Constitution.

The President is empowered to make a statement of Government Policy at the commencement of each new Session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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LG elections may turn violent – CPA




Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and co-convener of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu has warned that the March 9 LG polls (if held) may turn violent as political parties are fighting for their survival as the results of the election may be considered as a referendum. He said it was doubtful whether the election would be held.

Dr. Saravanamuttu sounded this warning at the conference on Campaign Finance Regulations, convened by the CMEV, and Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), which was held last Thursday (26). He recalled that once when he asked former President Mahinda Rajapaksa about campaign and party finances, the latter’s reply had been as follows: “I am not going to tell you the whole story, I cannot tell you the whole story and I will not tell you the whole story”

The Campaign Finance Regulation Act became law last Tuesday (24) and Dr. Saravanamuttu pointed out that the former President’s quip highlighted the challenges of collecting information on exactly how much is actually being used. “It is important that the public should know, whether it be cash or kind, from where the money comes from. And the information be made available to the public.”

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President: Cabinet has agreed to implement 13A fully



President Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday, informed the All Party Leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the Cabinet was agreeable to fully implementing the 13th Amendment.Issuing a statement on Friday, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said the President is bound to implement the laws of the land and the 13th Amendment is a part of the Constitution.

“The 13th Amendment has been in existence for over 30 years. I must implement it. If anyone is opposed, they can bring in a constitutional amendment to change it, or abolish it,” he said.

The President said that the country has to decide whether to fully implement the 13th Amendment or abolish it. “We can’t decide to do neither. Any MP can bring a private members motion to abolish the 13A. What happens when most people don’t support the motion? We will have to fully implement it,” he said.

The President said that he is working, according to a Supreme Court decision, on 13A. “We have to look, especially at the decision given by Chief Justice Palinda Ranasinghe. We are still in the bounds of a unitary state. I am against a Federal state but I support the devolution of power to provinces. The provincial councils don’t even have the powers enjoyed by the City of London. So we can’t call this a federal state,” he said.

Wickremesinghe added that former President J.R. Jayawardane and his lawyers took great pains to prevent the 13A from leading to a federal state. He added that at the end of the war, against the LTTE, a large number of lands in the North and the East, that belonged to private owners, were under the control of the Army. However, most of it had been returned to the people, under presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena.

“Only about 3000 acres are under the security forces. The forces must be given the opportunity to release these lands, without hindering national security. The Land Commission, too, must be immediately established. The draft on that can be presented by March. The Commission will have nine members, from each province ,and 12 will be appointed by the President. The we can come up with a national land policy and the Commission can implement the land policy,” he said.

The President said that 30 percent of the land will be allocated for forests. Large swaths of forests, in the upcountry, and in the catchment areas, for rivers, have been destroyed.

“We must increase the forest cover and the Land Commission must be entrusted with this,” he said.

The President added that he will provide further information, on February 08, on how the amendment will be implemented. He urged political parties to submit their proposals by February 04, the Independence Day of the country.

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