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Indo-Lanka agreement on ECT:



* Govt. sticking to yahapalana commitment says SJB MP

* JVP asks whether selling national assets panacea for all our ills

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya lawmaker Dr. Harsha de Silva yesterday (15) said that the SLPP government had adopted the previous administration’s strategy in respect of the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port having repeatedly decried what it earlier called the sale of the facility to India.

MP de Silva, who also played a big role in the previous administration said that the SLPP earlier strongly opposed the involvement of India and Japan in the proposed Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to develop the ECT.

The former UNP State Minister de Silva said that the government certainly owed an explanation as regards the SLPP’s turnaround having had exploited the ECT issue to the hilt in the run-up to 2019 Nov presidential election as well as 2020 parliamentary election.

Responding to another query, the senior SJB member emphasized that the SLPP’s stand had always been that the ECT would be under the exclusive control of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). Therefore, the Presidential Secretariat statement that the incumbent administration negotiated the ECT agreement afresh with the SLPA having 51 percent of shares and the rest for the foreign investor, MP de Silva said.

Having repeatedly promised the ECT would only be developed by the SLPA, no less a person than President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at a hastily arranged meeting at the Presidential Secretariat on January 13 announced the 51:49 basis between the SLPA and the foreign investor.

The Colombo District lawmaker said: “The Terminal Operating Company was always a 51:49 joint venture with the majority of shares with the SLPA.”

Minister of Ports Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the Ministry of Ports, Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority and other officials and representatives of 23 trade unions had been present at the discussion.

The presidential declaration meant that the SLPP went back on one of its major promises. What had really happened was the SLPP endorsed the previous government strategy on the ECT, MP de Silva said, urging the people to be mindful of their strategies.

The SJB MP stressed that the then Opposition deceived the country with its high profile campaigns in the run-up to national polls in 2019 and 2020. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told port unions the ECT would be developed with 51 per cent owned by the government and the remaining 49% as an investment by India’s Adani Group and other stakeholders

One-time Ports and Shipping Minister and SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem, now a constituent of the SJB told The Island that the Indian investment therein was nothing but a foregone conclusion. The lawmaker who is afflicted with Covid-19 threw his weight behind the project.

MP de Silva said that Sri Lanka entered into a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) with India and Japan in May 2019 on the ECT. The then Ports and Shipping Minister Sagala Ratnayake signed the MOC on behalf of the yahapalana government. Dr. de Silva said that he responded to The Island queries as a parliamentarian of the SJB as the party was yet to take a stand officially.

The agreement on the ECT was the first major investment on ports and shipping sector since China secured strategic Hambantota port on a 99-year lease for USD1.1 bn in 2017.

Trade union sources told The Island that major political parties represented in parliament seemed to be on one page on the ECT issue. The SLPP and the SJB parliamentary groups consisted of 145 and 54 members, respectively. The JVP with just three MPs is alone in campaigning against the agreement on the ECT though port trade unions affiliated to major political parties opposed foreign investment therein.

Former JVP MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa alleged that successive governments were bent on parting with critically important national assets. The JVPer asked whether selling national assets was the panacea for Sri Lanka’s ills. If such a strategy paid off, Sri Lanka would have been in a much better position today, the former lawmaker said.




‘Those who fear exposure making a din over Easter Sunday carnage PCoI report – PM



Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that some of those who fear that they will be held accountable under the law for the Easter Sunday attacks are now making a big noise over the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the carnage.

“They know that they will be exposed. That’s why they are making a din in the belief they could escape being taken to task under the law”, the premier told The Sunday Island.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has declared March 7 as ‘Black Sunday’ to demand justice to the victims of the attacks by bringing before the law those responsible for the carnage.

Church leaders have their congregations to be attired in black when they attend mass on Sunday. Church bells will toll at 8.45 am, the time of the near-simultaneous attacks, and special prayers will be offered for justice for the victims.

Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that the CID will begin investigations shortly to initiate the process of filing legal action against those responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks.

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Sri Lankan High Commission in India remains headless for 14 months




Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, March 5:

The Sri Lankan High Commission in India has remained without a Head of Mission for 14 months now.

Veteran civil servant Austin Fernando, who was posted here as the High Commissioner, went back home in January last year.

Former Minister Milinda Moragoda was appointed as the new High Commissioner with a Cabinet rank late last year, and India has accepted the appointment shortly thereafter.

But Moragoda is yet to take charge. It is not clear when he is planning to arrive in India.

Being a large neighbour and in view of excellent relations between the two countries, India is important for Sri Lanka.

Besides, as many as 92 New Delhi-based Ambassadors and High Commissioners are also concurrently accredited to Sri Lanka. Only 41 countries maintain their diplomatic missions in Colombo.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, direct flights between the two countries were suspended early last year. But Air India has been running special flights at regular intervals from Colombo to New Delhi and other cities to bring back Indian nationals stranded in Sri Lanka while on a holiday or a business trip.

India has also created air bubbles to allow flights to over 20 countries, including Bangladesh. But Sri Lanka is not one of them. Negotiations are said to be in progress to make this happen in due course of time.

Sources in Colombo said Moragoda is expected to leave later this month.



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WFP and Korea to Help Supply Thriposha to Children and Mothers



COLOMBO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) are supporting the Government of Sri Lanka with funding worth USD 600,000 (LKR 117 million) to procure maize for the production of Thriposha.

The funding will be used to produce Thriposha, a maize-based fortified food product, which will be provided to 1.1 million mothers and children. The grant from Korea helps ensure continuation of the Thriposha programme, which the Government of Sri Lanka has been conducting for almost 50 years to provide nutrition to undernourished children and pregnant and lactating women.

Thriposha, which means triple nutrients, is a locally produced supplementary food product, provided free of charge to children below 5 years of age who are underweight or with a slow rate of weight gain and pregnant and lactating women with a low body mass index (BMI), through the public health system.

“The world is facing unexpected circumstances while battling with the pandemic,” says Kang Youn Hwa, KOICA Sri Lanka Office Country Director. “The contribution from KOICA for the Thriposha National Programme was extended with the objective of improving the nutritional status of vulnerable people, especially children and pregnant/lactating women who are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. KOICA stands in solidarity with the Government of Sri Lanka during this difficult time.”

This latest contribution forms part of the activities carried out by KOICA — the Official Grants Division to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea — in response to Covid-19. KOICA has been present in Sri Lanka for over two decades, with programmes that support a variety of sectors including education, health, rural development, water management and transportation. One such intervention is the “R5n” programme, a joint project conducted with WFP since 2019. “R5n” aims to improve the lives and livelihoods of rural smallholder farmers by strengthening their resilience to recurring climate shocks, especially drought. KOICA’s support for the procurement of maize to produce Thriposha complements its on-going assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka.

Covid-19 has brought about fresh challenges in the country, including an estimated rise in unemployment and reduced incomes. This affects a family’s ability to access nutritious food and threatens to have long-lasting impacts on the health and nutrition standards in the country. The Thriposha programme provides a readily accessible source of nutrition to mothers and children when they need it the most.

The Ministry of Health requested WFP’s support in ensuring a continuous supply of Thriposha. In response to this, WFP together with KOICA, arranged to provide funding to bolster the Thriposha programme and help safeguard the health and nutrition of women and children.

“WFP has been supporting the Thriposha programme for over a decade, as part of its efforts to improve nutrition standards in the country,” says Andrea Berardo, Deputy Country Director of WFP Sri Lanka, highlighting that Sri Lanka ranks among the countries with the highest rates of wasting, known as thinness, among children under 5 years of age (15 percent). “This latest contribution reflects our long-standing support to the government to not just treat, but also prevent these high rates of malnutrition and importantly, safeguard development gains made within the country.”

In 2021 and beyond, WFP will continue to work with the government to enhance the national health system as part of its efforts in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 of enhancing food security and improving nutrition in the country.

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