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Foreign Minister reminds UN of the importance of its founding principles for international stability



No state could withstand the varied effects of the COVID-19 pandemic nor find solutions alone, Foreign Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena said at a virtual event on Friday to mark the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations and 65th Anniversary of the United Nations in Colombo.

Gunawardena said that the United Nations’ reaching its 75th year, demonstrated the durability of not only the organization, but also the concept of multilateralism, based on the core principles of sovereign equality of all States, respect for their territorial integrity and non-interference in their domestic affairs. The partnerships fostered between Member States and the UN continued were at their best when based on those principles, he said.

“As we are celebrating this milestone, the world is faced with the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus transcends national boundaries and no Member State can withstand the varied effects of the pandemic nor find solutions alone. The UN plays an important role in fostering multilateral action and mobilizing global solidarity towards addressing this scourge. Sri Lanka appreciates and supports the contributions by the UN and especially the WHO to the global response to address the multiple challenges of the pandemic,” he said.

The Foreign Minister said that Sri Lanka is pleased to have contributed significantly to the work of the United Nations, from its peacekeeping operations to its specialized agencies.

“Historically, Sri Lanka has been closely associated with many of the important discourses in the UN. Sri Lanka served as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 1960 and as the President of the General Assembly in 1976,” Gunawardena said.

The Foreign Minister said that as one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and as a key member of the Group of 77, Sri Lanka had continued to play a significant role in multilateral deliberations at the UN, particularly representing the interests of the global South.

“Some of the landmark contributions by Sri Lanka in the UN system include: leading the negotiations on the Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which has provided the foundation for a rules-based order for the oceans for over 30 years; initiating the UN General Assembly Resolution which unanimously declared Vesak, the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar, as a United Nations Observance Day and serving the organisation through high-level professionals, such as the Under-Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs the UN and Secretary General of the UNCTAD,” he said.

“Sri Lanka has been contributing to the UN Peacekeeping efforts since the 1960s, serving in the Central African Republic, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Haiti, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, South Sudan, Timor and Western Sahara, demonstrating our commitment to global peace and security. Having acquired multiple skills after ending nearly three decades of separatist terrorism domestically, Sri Lanka’s forces have brought much pride to the country, also being internationally recognized with UN.” He said that even now Sri Lankan peacekeepers were serving in some of the world’s most high intensity conflict regions.

“The theme of this commemoration ‘Shaping our future together’ is future focused and reiterates the importance of collective action for the future that we wish for. Youth has been recognized as the centre of the UN 75 dialogues as the role of youth and the way they perceive the future is pivotal in this context. I recall that in 2014 Sri Lanka took the leadership to declare 15 July as the World Youth Skills day to celebrate the strategic importance of equipping young people to face the future with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship. This date is annually commemorated at the United Nations Headquarters co-hosted by Sri Lanka and Portugal together with UNESCO, ILO and the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Youth Envoy,” he said.



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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released



… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine



Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL



By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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