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French Government aid tranche to Sri Lanka through AFD exceeds Euros 172 million

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by Steve A. Morrell

Agence Francaise de Development Group (AFD), a development bank and cooperation agency, owned by the French government, implements France’s policy on development finance.

The institution’s mandate encompass extending development financial assistance to the public sector to accelerate growth and transition towards a more sustainable world.

AFD’s Country Director Reda Souirgi, with the Ambassador for France in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Eric Lavertu and Deputy Head of Mission, Aurelien Mailet explained a wide cross section of development aid projects ongoing and projected for implementation that would benefit Sri Lanka, at a news conference in Colombo recently.

The Ambassador said irrigation projects for improvement included flood control and providing safe drinking water.

Discussions are continuing with farmers in Trincomalee and Batticaloa for the implementation of the planned irrigation projects with tangible benefits to them on completion, he noted.

“We also discussed the projects with the Bishops of Trincomalee and Batticaloa and the Eastern University for further inputs before going ahead with their implementation”, the envoy further said.

The Mundeni Aru Basin development project has also been included for implementation in the Batticaloa and Ampara districts, he said.

Introducing Country Director Reda Souirgi, the Ambassador said he assumed duties in the Embassy two months ago to take charge of AFD development projects. He is an engineer with wide experience to implement such projects.

Souirgi said he joined AFD in 2015 and was active in implementing projects in Senegal, Cote d’ lvoire, Tunisia and Colombia. He also worked in Latin America, the Caribbean, and West and North Africa. He brought to bear his experience serving in those countries to benefit needs for implementation in Sri Lanka.

He said that AFD funding began in 2005. Sri Lanka was the first Asian country to benefit from the projects, which included water supply, energy, roads and bridges, local development and vocational training.

In addition, the initiative covered the construction of four grid substations, supplementing the national grid through renewable power generation, micro hydro plants and producing cheaper green power. Green power development co-financed by the Asian Development Bank in the water and sanitation sectors are expected to benefit 146,000 families in the eastern part of Greater Colombo, he said.

“We are also looking at energy efficient water treatment plants”, Souirgi stressed.

French assistance towards implementing the projects exceeded 172 million Euros, he noted, adding that the aid was not a grant but was payable to the government of France on easy payment terms. With a grace period of seven years, the funds have to be paid back in 25 years, he further said.

‘White elephants’ will not be financed under the French aid program, he said, while explaining that requests by the government are assessed in detail with their feasibility and implications evaluated before funding is approved based on their beneficial conclusion.

The program also included promotion of tourism with emphasis on SMEs and assistance to entrepreneurs in the sphere. The micro credit scheme, a segment of the aid tranche, focused on the production of dry fish and employment to women. Such schemes will be implemented in Galle, Beruwala and other coastal areas.

Sanitation and clean water projects in Jaffna and especially building reservoirs in the north will result in about 10,000 hectares of farm lands being irrigated to benefit the farming community. There will also be support to farmers and promotion of on–farm water efficient practices. International standards will be observed to mitigate the environmental and social impacts of the projects, Souirgi assured.



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About 232 out of 500 escapees from K’kadu Drug Rehab Centre arrested

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Two hundred and thirty two inmates out of the 500, who escaped from the Kandakadu Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre, yesterday morning, following a clash with soldiers guarding the facility, had been arrested, Maj. Gen. Darshana Hettiarachchi, Commissioner General – Rehabilitation, said.

Hettiarachchi denied allegations from certain quarters that they had allowed inmates to escape to divert public attention away from the burning economic issues, and crippling fuel shortages.

He said an impartial inquiry would be conducted into the death of an inmate.

Hettiarachchi said that they were confident that other escapees too would be arrested soon.

Police Spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said a 36-year-old inmate had died under mysterious circumstances on Tuesday. The deceased was a resident of Mutwal. The death of the inmate had been reported to the Welikanda police, he said.

The Police Spokesman added that a team of policemen from Welikanda had visited the Rehabilitation Centre. However, a large number of inmates had surrounded the body and did not allow anyone near it and that had led to a clash between inmates and the military personnel at the centre.

At around 8 am yesterday, a large group of inmates had broken the two main gates and escaped, he added.

The Police Spokesman said that the police and Army had brought the situation under control, after several hours.

They have also launched a joint operation to arrest the inmates, who are still at large.

There are around 1,000 drug addicts being rehabilitated at the Kandakadu Rehabilitation Center at any given time.

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Women parliamentarians’ Caucus calls for greater accountability and transparency

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International Day of Parliamentarism

Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle says accountability and transparency in a parliamentary system have become vital issues as the country makrs the International Day of Parliamentarism today (30).

In a statement issued to the media by the Caucus, Dr Fernandopulle said: International Day of Parliamentarism, which recognises the role of parliaments in national plans and strategies and in ensuring greater transparency and accountability at national and global levels. This Day was first established by the UN General Assembly through a resolution adopted in 2018 which also marked the 129th anniversary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The IPU, which was first established on the same day in the year 1889, is a global organization that works to promote ‘democratic governance, human representation, democratic values, and the civil aspirations of a society’.

This Day further solidifies the unique and enduring system of parliamentary democracy as the standard for political representation. Last year, in 2021, the Day focused on “Youth Empowerment” in Parliament whereas the theme for the International Day of Parliamentarism 2022 is “Public Engagement”. Conspicuously, the word ‘parliament’ originates from the French word ‘parler,’ which means ‘to talk.’ Thus, public discourse and engagement lay the very foundation of the parliamentary system of governance.

At a juncture where public engagement in the democratic process is at an all-time high, the theme for International Day of Parliamentarism aptly suits the current democratic and economic discourse taking place in society.

The Parliament is a cornerstone of any democracy as it must fulfill its fundamental role of providing a voice to the voiceless. The main responsibilities of a Parliament include the formulation, enactment and overseeing of the implementation of laws and policies that are sustainable and crucial for the progression and stability of the country. The Parliament also has a duty to hold the Executive or Government of the country accountable. Accordingly, representing the interests of the public, it must also fulfill the role of acting as a “check” to “balance” the power that the executive holds.

The Parliament must also perform “checks” and “balances” on Government expenditure as it has the responsibility of approving budgets for Government expenditure. Thus, during this economic crisis, the Parliament of Sri Lanka has a crucial role to play and effectively realize such roles and responsibilities. To do so meaningfully, public engagement is a necessity.

Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle said: “I believe we should make this Day an occasion to remember the importance of accountability and transparency in a parliamentary system. The Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus recognizes that it has a role to play in initiating a conversation towards realizing a process by which the Parliament can conduct self-evaluation utilising the feedback received by the public discourse. This would be vital in order to gauge the progress the Parliament has made and identify challenges and devise strategies and mechanisms to overcome such challenges to be more representative of the voices of people.”

MP Thalatha Atukorale said: “In the face of crisis, if our parliamentary system fails to realize its purpose, then we must re-evaluate the practices of our Parliament. Therefore, I believe that this Day should be used as an opportunity to formulate an effective strategy to improve transparency and accountability of the Parliament of Sri Lanka.”

MP Diana Gamage said: “On this Day, I pledge to be a voice to the people of Sri Lanka, particularly the more vulnerable, and play my role in initiating mechanisms and formulating laws that reflect the current needs of the people of Sri Lanka whom we are representing in Parliament”.

Parliament is the bedrock of a functioning democracy. In Sri Lanka, let us realise this goal for all Sri Lankans, leaving no stone unturned to ensure quality of political representation, which means gender equality and social inclusion too.

MP Manjula Dissanayake said: “To be effective and successful, the Parliamentary system must encourage public engagement and must also be based on principles of equality and inclusivity in order to better comprehend and prioritise the needs of the public”.

Vice-Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, MP Rohini Kumari Wijeratne said: “The parliamentary system is founded upon the sovereignty of people. Therefore, the success of the parliamentary system depends on public engagement in the democratic process and how well the parliamentary system responds to such public engagement.”

MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya said: “We as Parliamentarians must not be oblivious to the fact that the public has lost confidence in the Sri Lankan Parliament and by extension, the Parliamentarians. A strong contention can be and is being made that the Parliament of Sri Lanka falls short of effectively realizing one of its main purposes: to formulate and implement policies and laws that benefits ALL people, particularly the more vulnerable. To meet that end, we must harness public discourse and engagement.”

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CHOGM briefed on Lanka’s difficulties

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Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris explained the current economic-political-social crisis and immense difficulties experienced by Sri Lanka’s population when he addressed the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Ruwanda.

Prof. Peiris represented President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at CHOGM held from 23 to 25 June.

Addressing the sessions, Prof. Peiris highlighted the importance of robust institutions in recovering from the economic difficulties that the world is currently experiencing. Describing the current shortages of fuel, food and medicine, etc., as one of the most difficult situations faced by Sri Lanka since independence,

Minister Peiris thanked all the nations that have aided the country at this critical juncture. Minister Peiris stated that apart from economic reforms, Sri Lanka was resolved to undertake the necessary political reforms, particularly to incorporate the voices of youth into the governance and parliamentary process.

The next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will be hosted by Samoa in 2024. On the sidelines of the CHOGM meeting, Minister Peiris held a series of bilateral meetings with his counterparts from several Commonwealth nations.

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