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



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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Govt. MP Wijeyadasa strikes discordant note on Port City Bill



… alleges bid to turn Port City into Chinese territory

Over 12 petitioners move SC against proposed law

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, yesterday (15) alleged that the proposed Bill, titled ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission,’ would transform the reclaimed land, adjacent to the Galle Face Green into a Chinese territory.

Addressing the media at the Abhayarama temple, under the auspices of Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Rajapakshe, warned of dire consequences if the government went ahead with what he termed the despicable project.

Sixteen parties had filed action against the Bill. Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda thera was among the petitioners.

The ruling party had placed the Bill on the Order Paper on April 8, just 15 calendar days after the publication of the Bill in the Gazette. In terms of the Constitution a citizen intending to challenge the constitutionality of a Bill had to do so within one week from the Bill being placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse said.

Among those who moved the SC were the General-Secretary of the UNP and the Chairman of the UNP. The Attorney-General has been named a respondent in the petition. The BASL, too, moved SC against the Attorney General. Three civil society activists, Oshala Herath, Dr. Ajantha Perera and Jeran Jegatheesan also filed action.

Lawmaker Rajapakse explained how the proposed Bill, if enacted, could allow independent status to USD 1.4 bn Colombo Port City. Former Justice Minister alleged that the Colombo Port City project was far worse than the selling of the strategic Hambantota port to the Chinese by the previous administration.

The Colombo District MP said the Parliament wouldn’t have financial control over the Colombo Port City Project whereas its independent status would legally empower those managing the project to finalise agreements with external parties

Referring to the previous administration, the former UNPer alleged that China had bribed members of Parliament. MP Rajapakse questioned the rationale behind China providing computers to all members of Parliament and officials as well as jaunts to China.

Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t give in to Chinese strategies aimed at bringing Sri Lanka under its control. The former minister explained the threat posed by the growing Chinese presence including the Colombo Port City, a terminal in the Colombo harbour and at the Hambantota port.



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Sooka pushing UK for punitive action against Army Commander



An outfit, led by Yasmin Sooka, a member of the UNSG Panel of Experts’ (PoE), has urged the UK to take punitive measures against the Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

The Army headquarters told The Island that the matter had been brought to the notice of the relevant authorities. It said that it was all part of the ongoing well-funded campaign against the Sri Lankan military.

Issuing a statement from Johannesburg, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said it had compiled a 50-page dossier which it has submitted to the Sanctions Department of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on General Shavendra Silva. The Submission argues why Silva, who is Sri Lanka’s current Army Commander, should be designated under the United Kingdom’s Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions Regime established on 6 July 2020.

“We have an extensive archive of evidence on the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, meticulously collected by international prosecutors and lawyers. The testimony of victims and witnesses – many now in the UK – was vital in informing this Submission, and making the linkages to Shavendra Silva and those under his command,” said the organisation’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka.

The ITJP Submission details Shavendra Silva’s role in the perpetration of alleged gross human rights violations including of the right to life when he was 58 Division Commander during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 in the north of Sri Lanka. It draws on searing eyewitness testimony from Tamils who survived the government shelling and bombing of hospitals and food queues in the so called No Fire Zones, many of whom now reside in the UK as refugees. The Submission also looks at Silva’s alleged involvement in torture and sexual violence, including rape, which is a priority area of the UK Government’s foreign policy.

“The US State Department designated Shavendra Silva in 2020 for his alleged role in the violations at the end of the war but the remit of the UK sanctions regime works is broader and includes his role in the shelling of hospitals and other protected civilian sites during the military offensive. This is important in terms of recognising the full extent of the violations, as well as supporting the US action,” commented Ms. Sooka. “UK designation would be another significant step forward in terms of accountability and would be in line with the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in Geneva for which Britain was the penholder,” she added.

Political will in applying the UK’s new sanctions regime to Sri Lanka was apparent in a recent parliamentary debate which saw 11 British parliamentarians ask why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures, including Shavendra Silva, who was named six times in this context.”



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Ten lives snuffed out in road accidents during festive period



Road accidents had snuffed out 10 lives during the Sinhala and Tamil New year, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday, adding that 121 accidents had been reported on April 14 alone.

Twelve of the accidents took place on the Southern Expressway.

DIG Rohana also said that 758 drunk drivers had been arrested on April 14. He added that such drivers would not be released on police bail.

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