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GL at launch of SL-UK Chamber of Commerce



by Sujeeva Nivunhella reporting from London

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris was the main speaker at the launching of Sri Lanka – UK Chamber of Commerce held at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London on Oct. 26.

Among the distinguished guests present were British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s special trade envoy to Sri Lanka, Lord Davies of Abersoch, British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Sarah Hulton OBE and officials from the UK Department of Trade and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Speaking at the event, Minister Peiris said former British Prime Minister Theresa May used the phrase “Global Britain” in 2016 at a Conservative party conference. “Now the time has come to give meaning to that phrase.”

“After Brexit, Britain is earnest in her endeavour to find new markets, new countries to strengthen economic and commercial relations with and I would venture to suggest to you this evening that there is no country better than Sri Lanka for Britain to take a long hard look at when it comes to strengthening, deepening and enriching commercial and business relations”, he asserted.

He said: “British entrepreneurs in every way feel unreservedly comfortable in Sri Lanka because in every walk of life you will find that British values, customs and traditions profoundly influenced Sri Lanka.

“Sri Lanka has managed to vaccinate 82% of the eligible population against Covid. We started manufacturing pharmaceutical products in our own country. We have been using a large amount of foreign exchange to import saline. We manufacture drugs that are required by our own population and we shall soon be able to sell the surplus to the Maldives and several countries in East Africa.”

Comparing labour laws of SL and Britain, he said that, “during the last seven months or so, there has been a draft of legislation enacted by the Sri Lanka Parliament with regards to the minimum age at which children can be employed, conditions of service in factories, imposing of absolute prohibitions on the employment of children in what are regarded as hazardous industries.”

Peiris said that the UK is seeking for FTAs with the US, Australia, New Zealand and India. “It may not be at fruition until next March at least. We are already in Free Trade Agreements with India and Pakistan. If a British company were to establish a business in Sri Lanka, it will have a total waiver of duties if it sells to India and Pakistan.

“It is our firm resolve by 2030 to ensure that our 70% of energy requirements come from renewable sources. By 2050 we have realistic expectations our country will be carbon-free. The Commonwealth has recognized Sri Lanka as the Blue Economy Champion.”

Dr. Lakmini Mendis, Minister (Commercial) at the High Commission said that going back to 2020 in the post-Brexit and Covid context, doing business with Britain was unimaginable. So forming this this Sri Lanka – UK Chamber of Commerce was an achievement.

“The UK is an important trading partner for Sri Lanka and vice versa for trade, investment and tourism, with a well-established bilateral trade relationship spanning decades. We understood the importance and the need for a platform or a forum for the UK companies who are doing business in Sri Lanka to engage (with each other)”, she said.

High Commissioner Saroja Sirisena said: “The United Kingdom is one of Sri Lanka’s foremost economic partners. Currently, it is our second most important export destination, the second source of inbound tourism and one of Sri Lanka’s top ten investors.

“It was felt that the need for a Chamber of Commerce was long overdue to crystalize this important business relationship. Despite being severely curtailed by the Covid 19 pandemic over the past 18 months, officials of this Mission together with our dynamic business community worked tirelessly for this project to come to fruition” she said.

She expressed her appreciation for the unstinting support given by the main British investors in Sri Lanka, HSBC, London Stock Exchange Group, De La Rue and those who have volunteered to serve on the Chamber’s first board. She requested all those doing business with Sri Lanka to join the Sri Lanka-UK Chamber of Commerce and support them in making the relationship even stronger.

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Enter correct age of children when setting up email accounts for them- Police Crimes Division




Officials of the Police Crime Division told the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Reconciliation and National Unity that email accounts for school children should not be set up giving parents details but by entering the correct age of the children.

The officials pointed out that as online education has become a necessity it was necessary to provide the children with mobile phones (Smart Phone active) to access computer devices. However, they pointed out that by providing the parents’ data for this purpose when giving smart phones and setting up email accounts, the children will have the opportunity to access any website. But, if the information including the correct age of the children are provided, the internet system itself will control the ability and access of the children to view inappropriate videos and websites.

The Sectoral Oversight Committee on Reconciliation and National Unity met under the Chairmanship of Member of Parliament Dilan Perera in order to discuss the program to be carried out in collaboration with the National Reconciliation and Children and Women Bureau .


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New legislation being drafted to address land, labour, capital and technology laws – Presidential Advisor




Addressing the Panel Discussion of the National Law Conference 2023, Presidential Advisor Dr. R.H.S Samaratunga, emphasized the need for a comprehensive review of land laws, labour laws, capital laws, and technology laws in order to meet the requirements of a competitive economy. He noted that the Presidential Secretariat is currently examining a series of new legislation drafts that address these four crucial sectors.

The National Law Conference 2023/24 was held from June 02 to June 04, 2023 at The Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya. The 2nd segment of the conference focused on sectoral views on strengthening the economy and a number of local and foreign key stakeholders gave their comments. They also commended the effort of the BASL in organizing such a conference and appreciated the government’s genuine efforts to recover the country from the crisis and extended their support in rebuilding the country focusing on areas in which they could contribute to.

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March 12 Movement, MP Rajakaruna ask Prez to sack gold-smuggling MP



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Declaring that Muslim National Alliance (MNA) MP Ali Sabri Raheem couldn’t continue to be an MP after being fined for an abortive attempt to smuggle in Rs 78.2 mn worth of gold and smartphones, the March 12 Movement has appealed to the executive, legislature and the judiciary to sack the MP, who, they say, has brought Parliament into disrepute.

Civil society activist Rohana Hettiarachchi, on behalf of the March 12 Movement, told The Island that MP Raheem should be dealt with the way the late President J.R. Jayewardene had handled the case of Kandy District UNP MP Anura Daniel. Jayewardene had removed MP Daniel, who was nabbed for a similar smuggling offence, Hettiarachchi said, urging President Ranil Wickremesinghe to take the initiative.

Pointing out that Customs had fined MP Raheem Rs 7.4 mn over two weeks back, Hettiarachchi found fault with the President and Parliament for failing to take tangible measures in that regard. The All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), which fielded Raheem from the Puttalam District at the last parliamentary election (2020), couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for the MP’s despicable action, Hettiarachchi said.

Vanni District MP Rishad Bathiudeen, who entered Parliament on the SJB ticket, is the leader of ACMC.

Hettiarachchi, who is also the Executive Director of PAFFREL (People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections), said that the government conveniently forgot to investigate whether MP Raheem smuggled in gold, smartphones or any other items on earlier occasions, since he entered Parliament. Since 01 March this year MP Raheem had gone abroad (to Dubai) on five occasions before he was caught, Hettiarachchi said, finding fault with Parliament for not going the whole hog.

There should have been no holds barred investigation, Hettiarachchi pointed out and said Customs owed an explanation why a maximum fine was not imposed on the gold smuggling MP. Instead, the MP was fined Rs 7.4 mn and allowed to proceed to Parliament where he voted against a government motion.

Hettiarachchi said that the Customs response to the detection should be examined taking into consideration Customs (Amendment) Act (No 83 of 1988).

Responding to another query, Hettiarachchi said that in spite of leaders of several political parties requesting the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to take up this issue, the Speaker seemed to be determined not to get involved.

SJB MP Harshana Rajakaruna yesterday told The Island that though ACMC nominee Raheem entered Parliament on the MNA ticket, only President Ranil Wickremesinghe could compel the offending MP to quit Parliament. “That is the reality,” the Gampaha District MP said, pointing out that MP Raheem served the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa administration.

Recalling how MP Raheem voted for the 21 Amendment to the Constitution in October 2020, MP Rajakaruna said that the MP also voted for Ranil Wickremesinghe at the House vote to elect an MP to complete the remainder of ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term.

MP Raheem voting with the Opposition on the motion to remove Janaka Ratnayake as the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission hadn’t changed the relationship between the two parties (the government and the MNA), MP Rajakaruna said. According to him, those responsible turned a blind eye to the incident.

Civil society member Hettiarachchi said that they sought information relating to MP Raheem’s case from Customs in terms of the RTI (Right to Information) Act as the crux of the matter is the imposition of a lower fine regardless of the provision to declare harshest fine in terms of Customs law.

Hettiarachchi raised the possibility of the government interfering with MP Raheem’s case as there couldn’t be any other reason for Customs to impose a relatively lower fine.

MP Raheem is on record as having claimed that Customs fined him Rs 7.4 mn whereas a close associate of him who smuggled the undisclosed gold and smartphones was fined just Rs 100,000.

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