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From mine to market – showcasing Sri Lanka’s jewellery legacy to the world

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The Sri Lanka Gem and Jewellery Association (SLGJA) hosted its second Key Persons’ Forum for the industry with the objective of facilitating the sector during the pandemic and to boost overall tourism in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism.

The Forum was conducted with Prasanna Ranatunga, State Minister of Tourism, Lohan Ratwatte, State Minister of Gem and Jewellery related Industries, Ahsan Refai, Chairman of SLGJA and Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. The event created a platform for a two-way discussion between the gem and jewellery industry and Ministry of Tourism and was attended by executive members of the SLGJA, the National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA) and many local gem and jewellery traders. The main focus was on enhancing the partnership between the Gem and Jewellery industry and the SLTPB to promote the precious facets of Sri Lanka to the world.

The collaboration between the gem and jewellery industry and the tourism sector will be capable of maximizing an influx of visitors to the country, especially attracting the up-market tourists. With the potential to be one of the largest foreign revenue earners by generating around $500 million foreign exchange through the sale of gems and jewellery to foreign travelers, the industry will be an immense support to uplift the tourism sector.

The prestige of the Ceylon Sapphire is world renowned. In his opening remarks by SLGJA Chairman Ahsan Refai spoke of Sri Lanka’s rich heritage in producing high quality gemstones as a unique opportunity to promote and market gemstones to the world.

“A concentrated marketing campaign with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority would greatly benefit the promotion of gem and jewellery trade. This will encourage more tourists to visit our country to experience our gem mines that are set against the backdrop of the beautiful paddy and mountain landscapes. The gem and jewellery industry in Sri Lanka spans over centuries in history with able miners, talented crafts people and traders carrying the treasures of the land beyond oceans, and bringing in much wealth back to the country”, he noted.

As shopping is a key feature of any tourist experience, allying the Ceylon Sapphire as part of Sri Lanka’s tourism campaigns would be an ideal way to increase tourism, especially upmarket tourists looking to spend, he said.

Minister of Tourism, Prasanna Ranatunga, acknowledged the need to marry the efforts of the two industries, saying “It is our responsibility to protect and expand the brand recognition we have for our gem and jewellery industry”.

He said the Ministry of Tourism is positive about drawing the necessary action plans to implement campaigns where tourism will call attention to the gem and jewellery sector as part of promoting the destination.

Speaking on behalf of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and emphasizing the evident benefits of the two industries working together, Chairperson Kimarli Fernando assured the promotion of the gem and jewellery industry through the SLTPB in all future campaigns.

She positively emphasized the significant impact that can be achieved through this association. She also spoke of a tourism travel app, currently in the development stages with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. Accordingly, it was offered to add the names of all the gem and jewellery traders, who are licensed by the authority on the app to help tourists locate the shops as ‘places to visit’.

Lohan Ratwatte, thanked Minister Ranatunga and the members of the gem and jewellery industry for their unyielding support of his Ministry. He also assured the support of the Ministry in industrial growth and in promoting the industry on a larger scale through support for business operations and creating a conducive environment for the sector to grow.

The Minister offered his support by proposing the appointment of a steering committee with the Ministry of Tourism to explore mutually beneficial strategies.

The possibility of holding the Facets International Gem and Jewellery Show in January 2022, as addressed by Altaf Iqbal, Chairman of the event, was also discussed. As the main event that draws a large number of foreign buyers, Facets is one of the campaigns that can truly leverage tourism to the country. The need for further promotion of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination with the inclusion of the Gem and Jewellery associations in the promotional campaigns, the increase in foreign exchange earnings and the overall quarantine process for tourists coming into the country were also highlighted.

Having agreed upon the fact that the promotion of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination is severely lacking, the potential for the gem and jewellery industry to be one of the country’s biggest foreign exchange earners with the implementation of well thought out policies adapted in consultation/partnership with the trade, was also acknowledged.

Akram Cassim, Vice Chairman of the Jewellery Segment of SLGJA said, “The mystery, magic, myths and legends along with the history, crafts and skills of Sri Lanka’s gem and jewellery legacy should be showcased to the world through tourism. Our amazing island is home to the finest of coloured gemstones – the Ceylon Sapphire. A gem like no other, in a country like no other… We have something so unique that no other country can offer to tourists anywhere in the world. So let us work together to create an amazing Ceylon Sapphire experience for tourists visiting this island.



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CB Governor: Lanka now in a position to pay for essentials

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‘Inflation will not be as high as initially expected’

Inflation will not be as high as initially expected and there are signs of economy stabilising, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says.Dr. Weerasinghe said that during the past few months a number of initiatives had been made to improve the economy and they were yielding the desired results.

“During the last review, we thought the inflation would reach 70%. However, now we believe that the inflation will not be that high even with the electricity tariff hike,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe said that the severity of the shortage of foreign currency had lessened. The country was now in a position to import fuel, gas and medicines.

“This has become possible because of the decisions we took. Imports have decreased. Export revenue has somewhat increased. Even without short-term loans we have been able to meet our basic needs. This is a positive development,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.The CB Governor said that inflation driven by demand had lessened because the expansion of loans had been curtailed.The supply side inflation too would drop with price and foreign exchange stabilisation.

“Still the inflation is about 60% and that’s why we need to maintain the current high policy rates. Once the government adjusts the fiscal policy, tax, and presents the new budget, things will improve. I think you can also see this. We are seeing positives,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe also urged exporters to bring back the foreign exchange earnings, and that the Central Bank had taken steps to ensure that exporters abided by the CB regulations.

“The irregularities due to open accounts, hawala and undial are being controlled and the black market premium is dropping. The foreign exchange liquidity in the banking sector has increased,” he said.

The Governor added that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had made good progress. An IMF delegation was expected to visit Sri Lanka by the end of August to reach a staff-level agreement.After Sri Lanka reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF, it had to start engaging with its creditors on debt restructuring.

“Once we reach an agreement with the IMF the situation will improve further,” he added. (RK)

(See related stories in the business section)

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CID arrests Mervyn 15 years after he forcibly entered Rupavahini

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By Norman Palihawadana

Former Minister Mervyn Silva was yesterday arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for forcibly entering the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and attacking some employees there in 2007.On 27 Dec. 2007, Silva and his associates entered the SLRC premises and assaulted its news director for not airing a speech he had made in Matara.

SLRC employees held Silva incommunicado for hours, and the police intervened to secure his release. A few weeks later, some of the workers involved in the incident came under goon attacks.Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President at the time.

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Aeroflot affair: flights yet to resume; MP questions status of probe into detention of SU 289

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ByShamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka hadn’t been able yet to convince Russia to resume Aeroflot flights and tourists from there to Sri Lanka suspended in the wake of the detention of SU 289 at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on the afternoon of June 02, authoritative sources said.

Sri Lanka grappling with an unprecedented foreign exchange shortage desperately needs tourists from an important destination like Russia, which earlier accounted for a sizeable share of the incoming traffic. Responding to The Island queries, sources said that relevant authorities were in the process of looking into the issue at hand.Having summoned Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Moscow Janitha Abeywickrema Liyanage soon after the incident at the BIA, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning over the incident.

In the wake of the Russian warning, the then government took measures to lift restrictions imposed on the aircraft that was to be detained till June 16. The detained SU 289 was allowed to leave on June 06.Former Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera yesterday (18) told The Island that no holds barred investigation was required to ascertain the truth.

Lawmaker Weerasekera said that the government should inform the Parliament of the progress of the investigation and what steps it intended to take as well as measures already taken to mend relations with Russia.

The retired Navy Chief of Staff said that those in authority should investigate whether a court ruling issued in respect of a case filed by Ireland-based Celestial Aviation Trading Company Ltd., against Aeroflot had been manipulated by interested parties.

It transpired that no sooner High Court Judge, S. M. H. S.P. Sethunge, in the Commercial High Court of the Western Province, Attorney-at-Law Aruna de Silva accompanied a fiscal officer of the same Court to the BIA at lightning speed to deliver the ruling.

Lawyer de Silva appeared for the plaintiff with Avindra Rodrigo, PC, (litigation) of FJ & G.de Saram, leading law firm from the colonial times. The law firm has previously declined to comment on this matter.High Court judge Sethunga is on record as having said that he didn’t order the BIA not to permit Aeroflot SU 289 to take off on the afternoon of June 02.

Attorney-at-Law Dasun Nagasena, Coordinating Secretary to Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC yesterday (18) said that the Justice Ministry recommended action against the Attorney-at-Law to the Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC. Nagasena said that the fiscal officer who served the Justice Ministry had been interdicted, pending further investigations. As regards the lawyer, it would be handled on the advice of the CJ, the official said. Responding to another query, the official said that the Justice Ministry hadn’t been informed yet of the progress of the investigations.

Ports, Shipping and Aviation Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra yesterday said that ministry officials on Wednesday (17) discussed ways and means of resuming Aeroflot flights with relevant authorities, including the Russian embassy. Ruwanchandra said they were hopeful reaching a consensus on this matter soon. The official said so in response to The Island queries.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President Saliya Pieris, PC, yesterday said that they could initiate an inquiry only on the basis of a formal complaint. He said so when The Island asked him whether the BASL initiated an inquiry into the lawyer’s conduct in this regard. The President’s Counsel said that normally the BASL wouldn’t launch an investigation into a matter inquired into by the CJ.

At the time of the BIA incident, Prof. G.L. Peiris had been the minister in charge of foreign affairs. Since the change of government, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has sworn in Ali Sabry, PC, as the new minister of foreign affairs.

Russia has pointed out that action was taken against SU 289 in spite of an assurance given by Sri Lanka in respect of regular flights to Colombo.Sri Lankan Airlines in late March suspended flights to Moscow in the wake of imposition of what the airline called operational restrictions in the wake of war between Russia and Ukraine.

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