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Foreign Minister calls for enhancing of transport connectivity among BIMSTEC countries



Lankan BIMSTEC Panel: State Minister for Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya, Foreign Secretary Admiral Professor Jayanath Colombage, Additional Secretary, Economic Affairs, PM Amza, Acting Director General, Economic Affairs, Anzul Jhan, Deputy Legal Affairs T H R Silva and Executive Assistant of Economic Affairs of the Foreign Ministry Kalani Dharmasena

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena addressing the virtual 17th Ministerial Meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Thursday, emphasized on enhancing the transport connectivity among the BIMSTEC countries.

The Foreign Minister also emphasized the need to focus on expediting the adoption of the BIMSTEC Transport Connectivity Master Plan which was finalized by the Third Working Group and the Asian Development Bank, the Foreign Ministry said.

Foreign Minister Gunawardena called for an early conclusion of the Charter of the Association of BIMSTEC Speakers and Parliamentarians, comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The Foreign Minister informed that the platform would provide Speakers and Parliamentarians space for greater understanding, trust and friendship and to exchange ideas and information on parliamentary practices and commitment on democratic principles. 

 The  Foreign Minister  was  elected  as  Chair of  the  meeting and State Minister for Regional Cooperation Tharaka  Balasuriya  led the  Sri  Lanka  delegation at the meeting.  On 31st March 2021, Foreign Secretary Admiral (ret.) Professor Jayanath Colombage led the Sri Lanka delegation at the Special Senior Officials’ meeting which preceded the Ministerial Meeting.

The Foreign Minister also emphasized the need to focus on expediting the adoption of the BIMSTEC Transport Connectivity Master Plan which was finalized by the Third Working Group and the Asian Development Bank. The Minister stated that transport connectivity which includes coastal shipping, waterways, ports and harbours used over centuries and today road connections and air cargo capable of withstanding future disruptions, is vital for the supply chains, people to people contact and development of the region.

The Foreign Minister welcomed the newly appointed Secretary General Mr. Tenzin Lekphell of Bhutan, and wished him success in leading the BIMSTEC Secretariat and pledged Sri Lanka’s support to all his endeavors.

The BIMISTEC Ministers reviewed the progress made since the fourth BIMSTEC Summit held in Kathmandu in 2018, where Sri Lanka was elected as Chair.

State Minister Balasuriya  said that  Sri Lanka fully focused its  energies  and  worked  closely  with Member States  to  finalize  the BIMSTEC Charter, building on the 1997 Bangkok Declaration. This Charter defines the long term vision and priorities for cooperation, delineates roles and responsibilities of different layers of institutional structure and decision making processes. In addition he stated that the Member States also prioritized and rationalized sectors and subsectors of the organization where Sri Lanka agreed to lead the sector on Science, Technology and Innovation with sub sectors Technology, Health and Human Resource Development. He stated that the relevant line agencies in Sri Lanka are developing a programme of action for the sector taking into consideration also the gaps exposed in the relevant areas by the pandemic.

He informed that the current pandemic has amply demonstrated the importance of technology. In  this  connection Sri Lanka  is also  getting ready to  host the Technology Transfer  Facility  in Sri Lanka upon conclusion  of the  Memorandum of Association  at the  5th BIMSTEC Summit. 

The Ministers  noted  with appreciation  the extensive  measures  taken by  member States  of  BIMSTEC  in responding  and  supporting  Member States  to face challenges  posed  by the COVID-19 pandemic and   urged  member states to mobilize  all relevant  sectors and sub sectors to take  collective  measures  to combat  the  challenges  of poverty, natural  disasters,  climate  change, pandemics and  other public  health  emergencies, terrorism and transnational  crimes, and food  and energy  security  through  partnerships and  joint actions.

While noting with appreciation  the extensive  measures  taken by  Member States of  BIMSTEC, State Minister   further noted that the   COVID-19   has   devastated  economies of member states  in various  degrees and  the BIMSTEC  region no longer  enjoys US$3 trillion economy, which accounts for 4 per cent of the global GDP and 3.7 per cent of the global trade. Therefore, he urged Member States to continue to share experiences, cluding success, challenges and lessons learnt in building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic through inclusive, resilient sustainable recovery strategies and investments.

The Sri Lanka  Delegation informed  the meeting that   the date  to  host   the 5th  BIMSTEC Summit  will be  informed   after  consultations  with   Member States   through the BIMSTEC Secretariat in the  coming  months.

The Ministers approved the finalized BIMSTEC Agreements, Conventions and MoUs and other documents and instruments including the Ministerial Joint Statement envisaged to be signed /adopted at the 5th BIMSTEC Summit.

The Member States delegations were led by Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Dr. Tandi Dorji, Foreign Minister of Bhutan, Dr. S.Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs of India, U Ko Ko Hlaing, Union Minister, Ministry of International Cooperation Myanmar, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs Nepal, Tharaka Balasuriya, State Minister of Regional Cooperation c of Sri Lanka and Don Paramudwinai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.

The delegation from Sri Lanka also comprised P.M. Amza, Additional Secretary, Economic Affairs, Anzul Jhan, Acting Director General, Economic Affairs, T H R Silva, Deputy Legal Affairs and Kalani Dharmasena, Executive Assistant of Economic Affairs of the Foreign Ministry.

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Opposition threatens to move no-faith motion against Speaker over OSB



Speaker Abeywardena

By Saman Indrajith

Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premnadasa told Parliament yesterday that the Online Safety Bill had been passed in violation of the law and unless remedial action was taken, a no-faith motion would be brought against Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Premadasa said that Article 123(4) of the Constitution says, “Where any Bill, or the provision of any Bill, has been determined, or is deemed to have been determined, to be inconsistent with the Constitution, such Bill or such provision shall not be passed except in the manner stated in the determination of the Supreme Court.”

Premadasa said: “It is illegal to pass a Bill without adhering to this constitutional provision. There were nine instances where the government overlooked the Supreme Court determination on the Bill. The Speaker allowed that to happen despite our protests. The Justice Minister, too, has admitted that there are flaws in the Act. How could that happen? Rectify them immediately, or we will bring a no-confidence motion against the Speaker.”

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said that even if the Supreme Court determined that a section or clause of a draft Bill was inconsistent with the Constitution, a Bill could be passed by Parliament. It could be done with either a two-thirds majority or two-thirds majority plus people’s approval from a referendum. A case cannot be filed against the way the Speaker or an MP behaved in this House as they have immunity. Former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike, too, has given a ruling on this issue and we still consider it as a precedent to be upheld. With regard to the Online Safety Bill, the Attorney General has instructed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles to incorporate some amendments as per the Supreme Court determination and to bring other recommended amendments in the form of a separate Amendment Bill. I was not a party to that discussion. This Amendment Bill was presented to the Cabinet and approval was granted and now is at the Legal Draftsman’s Department. Thereafter, it would be referred to the Cabinet again and with that approval we can have it here in this House for consideration,” the Minister said.

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Teheran expects enhancement of bilateral ties in all fields



Following Iranian FM’s visit

The Foreign Ministry said yesterday that Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, during high level meetings in Colombo this week, expressed hope that with this trip, the bilateral ties in all fields, including political, economic, commercial, and tourism, would be expanded.

Amirabdollahian was here at the official invitation of the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC. During his meeting with Sabry, Amirabdollahian referred to the good and friendly relations between the two countries and the continuous consultations between them on bilateral, regional, and international issues.

The Iranian also considered scientific and technological issues as areas to which the two countries pay attention for cooperation.

Amirabdollahian appreciated the invitation of the President of Sri Lanka to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, to visit this country and stated: “We hope that this trip will be on the agenda at the right time.”

He also appreciated Sri Lanka’s positions in supporting the people of Palestine and Gaza in international forums, including the United Nations.

In this meeting, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry also warmly welcomed his Iranian counterpart and described his trip to Tehran last summer as memorable, stating: “During my trip to Iran, I witnessed the high morale of the Iranian people in the social arena. I observed production and life.”

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister emphasized: “The two countries have good relations with common areas and shared values.”

Referring to Sri Lanka’s transition from previous economic conditions and economic growth and prosperity in this country, Ali Sabry expressed hope that the relations between the two countries would expand even more in the new era.

Referring to the industrial and economic capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka emphasized the readiness of his country to host Iranians to implement economic projects in Sri Lanka.

The issue of developing cooperation between the two countries in the field of tourism was one of the other topics discussed by the foreign ministers of the two countries, and the parties expressed hope that Iranian and Sri Lankan tourists would mutually choose the two countries more and more as tourist destinations.

In this regard, the parties emphasized the necessity of establishing direct flights between Iran and Sri Lanka, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

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Only 50,000 out of 7 mn buildings have rooftop solar systems



Great potential to increase solar power generation

by Rathindr5a Kuruwita

Rooftop solar power generation in Sri Lanka has exceeded 750 megawatts by the middle of February 2024, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) media spokesman Noel Priyantha said on Wednesday.

Priyantha added that Sri Lanka has great potential in solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy.

Sri Lanka has around seven million buildings, but only 50,000 of them have installed rooftop solar systems, and there is a great potential to increase rooftop solar power generation exponentially, he said.

The CEB now buys a unit of electricity from rooftop solar power producers for 37 rupees, and these producers can recover their initial costs in five years, Priyantha said.

The CEB is also talking to state-owned banks to introduce a concessional bank loan for those interested in installing rooftop solar power units, he said.

The Sri Lankan government has set a goal of achieving 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030 and becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

The total installed capacity of the national power grid is over 5,000 megawatts, and the daily energy consumption in February 2024 is about 46 gigawatts per day, Priyantha said .

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