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France to fund setting up of regional maritime safety and security school in SL



The consultations were co-chaired by Ms. Shobini Gunasekera, Director General for Europe and North America of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Benoît Guidée, Director of Asia and Oceania of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France (Pic courtesy Foreign Ministry)

Sri Lanka and France recently discussed progress in the establishment of a regional maritime safety and security school in Sri Lanka as part of their shared desire to promote safety, security and sustainable development in the Indian Ocean.

This issue was taken up at the inaugural bilateral consultations between Sri Lanka and France at a senior official level recently in Colombo. The consultations were part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and France which took place on 27 October 1948, according to a joint communique issued following the meeting.

The joint statement: “The consultations focussed on strengthening bilateral relations, supporting ongoing work on existing projects and initiatives, and identifying new areas of partnership and coordinated action between the two countries. The consultations reflected the desire expressed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Emmanuel Macron during their meeting in Colombo on July 28, 2023, to strengthen the partnership between the two countries.

The two parties reviewed progress in political relations, security, cultural cooperation and people-to-people contacts. They expressed their shared commitment to the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The parties discussed the expansion of trade, investment, tourism and development cooperation between the two countries and between Sri Lanka and the EU, including the setting up of relevant modalities to facilitate economic cooperation between Sri Lanka and France. The parties committed to strengthening cooperation in the field of education by welcoming the support of France towards the teaching of the French language in Sri Lanka as well as strengthening cooperation between the two countries through academic and research exchanges between institutions of higher education of the two countries.

Sri Lanka appreciated the role played by France in bringing together the creditor platform under the aegis of the Paris Club in advancing the debt restructuring discussions. The two parties discussed progress in Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring programme. Reference was made to the need to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all creditors. France commended the action and reforms undertaken by Sri Lanka as part of the programme agreed with the IMF, and expressed its firm commitment and support towards the country’s economic recovery.

The two sides reiterated their shared commitment to cooperate on global issues, including the sustainable development goals, climate change and environmental protection, food security, reform of the multilateral financial architecture, and agreed to deepen their joint efforts in the future, building upon their participation in the Paris Pact for the People and the Planet. The parties expressed their willingness to work together in preparation for the Third United Nations Ocean Conference to be held in France in 2025. The two sides exchanged views on cooperation in the Indian Ocean and agreed to work towards a sustainable, safe and secure Indian Ocean community in the context of Sri Lanka’s chairmanship of IORA.

The two sides set ambitious targets to be met in the upcoming year and agreed that the next session of the bilateral consultations will take place in Paris in 2024.”


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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