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Interactive session between IMC and Lankan Consulate General in Mumbai



Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Mumbai and the Indian Merchant’s Chamber (IMC) organized an interactive session between the committee members of the IMC and the Mission officials recently (Nov 09) at the auditorium of the IMC in Mumbai. Consul General of Sri Lanka to Mumbai Dr. Valsan Vethody graced the event as the chief guest, and he was warmly welcomed by President Juzar Khorakiwala and Director General of the chamber Ajit Mangrulkar upon his arrival. The purpose of the event was to interact with the officials and the committee members of the chamber to explore possible opportunities in expanding trade, investment and tourism between Sri Lanka and the western region of India.

During the welcome address, the President of the IMC while highlighting  the longstanding multifaceted bilateral ties between Sri Lanka and India, underlined some of the major promotional activities that IMC has successfully completed in collaboration with the Mission, such as  the webinar on “India – Sri Lanka current business environment, opportunities for joint collaborations for Agri and Processed Food Sector” organized on 29 September 2020″ and about the business delegation from the IMC to Sri Lanka in 2017.

In the keynote address the Director General of the IMC sounded curious to know about the developmental reforms laid out by the Sri Lankan government, the sectors opened for the investments and about the present economic situation in Sri Lanka, especially in the context of various adverse media reports in the Indian media. He also underlined the IMC members’ interests for the participation in the economic development process of Sri Lanka on a win-win economic equation favorable for both the parties.

Addressing the gathering and answering the inquiries raised by the committee members, Consul General explained about the present situation in Sri Lanka. During his address, he highlighted the GOSL’s successful vaccination campaign, measures taken by the government to welcome the international travelers and to revive the tourism industry; the investment opportunities available in Sri Lanka such as the pharmaceutical zone, textile zone, the port city, opportunities in fisheries & agro-sector; favorable investment climate; improving economic situation; air connectivity and the potential for furthering the trade and investment activities and he clarified the adverse propaganda on the Hambantota harbor, the  Port City and on the ‘so-called Chinese geo-strategic interest in Sri Lanka’. He went on to clarify the adverse media reports on foreign currency issue in Sri Lanka stating that it’s not a structural issue, but only a short-term liquidity issue due to the covid pandemic and that the central bank of Sri Lanka has already begun the process of normalizing the situation.

When inquired about China’s growing geo-strategic influence in Sri Lanka, Consul General Dr. Vethody clarified that we Sri Lankans are proud of our sovereignty and integrity and we will never be subservient to any other nations, and the ‘so-called Chinese economic presence in Sri Lanka’ is purely due to economic factors. He cited the examples of how Sri Lanka finished the separatist war despite mounting foreign pressure from powerful nations and the incidents of how a Chinese ship with undeclared radioactive material was sent out of Hambantota harbor and the recent incident of Sri Lanka not accepting the fertilizer consignment from Chinese company as the samples were tested contaminated. He invited Indian investors to participate to capture the opportunities in Sri Lanka without making up presumptions afterwards. All the participants were invited to attend the upcoming investment seminar organized by the Mission in association with the Confederation of the Indian Industries (CII), Gujarat Chapter).

IMC is a long-standing business association with rich heritage in Mumbai. Most of the major business establishments and industrialists in Mumbai and the western region of India, such as Reliance, Mahindra & Mahindra, Godrej, etc. are the members of the IMC. It has a membership base of over 5000 members and over 150 trade associations affiliated to it. The chamber was established on 07 September 1907 by few Indian Merchants, to fight for the rights of the local businesses’ interests. In recognition of the Chamber’s contribution to nation building, Mahatma Gandhi accepted honorary membership in 1931.The foundation stone of the Chambers’ building in Churchgate at Mumbai was laid by Shri Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The Chamber’s core function during the present time is to provide policy inputs and to promote interests of industry and economic growth of the country.

Consul General was assisted by Consul (Commercial) Sandun Sameera of the Mission during the visit.

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GL explains to UN Special Rapporteur Lanka’s progress related to labour welfare



Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has explained to UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, including its causes and consequences, Tomoya Obokata, Sri Lanka’s progress related to labour welfare and the constructive steps taken by the government to eradicate child labour.

The Minister also elaborated on steps taken to bring our labour laws in line with international standards in a number of areas, including child labour, migrant workers and debt bondage. The Special Rapporteur commended Sri Lanka on the progress made with regard to making Sri Lanka a ‘child labour free zone’.

The UN official called on Prof. Peiris on Friday, 26 November, at the Foreign Ministry.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur includes but is not limited to issues such as: traditional slavery, debt bondage, forced labour, children in slavery and slavery-like conditions, sexual slavery, forced and early marriages as well as issues faced by migrant workers and foreign labour.

The Foreign Minister outlined that Sri Lanka was conscious of protecting vulnerable labour groups and emphasized that Sri Lanka will continue to cooperate with the United Nations system. He stated that visits by Special Procedures Mandate Holders have been helpful in enhancing understanding of the specificities of Sri Lanka’s experiences in related fields as well as in improving domestic processes to be in line with our international commitments.

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More gas explosions



Two women injured

By Rathindra Kuruwita

There were 11 new explosions related to domestic gas cylinders in the 24 hours that ended at 12 noon yesterday. Among the areas these explosions were reported are Agama, Karana, Hungnam, Walasmulla, Kundasale, Katugastota, Dimbula and Giriulla.

Two women have been injured in these latest explosions. In some instances, the gas cooker wasn’t even on when the explosions happened.

Meanwhile, Litro has introduced the hotline, 1311, for the public to make any complaints with regard to their gas cylinders. Once a complaint is received, a team of technicians will arrive and check the cylinder, the company said.

Litro also urged the public not to try any experiments to see if the cylinders are safe.

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Countries tighten travel rules to slow Omicron spread



Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Norway, Ghana confirm first cases of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant as countries tighten travel rules.

The United States, Japan and Malaysia have announced tighter travel restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant as more countries confirmed their first cases.

Japan and Hong Kong said on Wednesday they would expand travel curbs, and Malaysia temporarily banned travellers from countries deemed at risk, news agencies reported.

Hong Kong added Japan, Portugal and Sweden to its travel restrictions while Uzbekistan said it would suspend flights with Hong Kong as well as South Africa. Japan, which had already barred all new foreign entrants, reported its second case of the new variant and said it would expand its entry ban to foreigners with resident status from 10 African countries.

Malaysia temporarily barred travellers from eight African countries and said Britain and the Netherlands could join the list.

In North America, air travellers to the US were set to face tougher COVID-19 testing rules.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late on Tuesday that the US would require all air travellers entering the country to show a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure.

Currently, vaccinated international travellers can present a negative result obtained within three days from their point of departure. The new one-day testing requirement would apply to US citizens as well as foreign nationals.

Global spread

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry said it recorded the Gulf’s first confirmed case of the Omicron variant in a citizen returning from North Africa.

Nigeria said it had confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant among travellers who had arrived from South Africa in the past week. Ghana and Norway also reported their first cases of the new variant on Wednesday.

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa said late on Tuesday that two Brazilians had tested positive for the Omicron strain, the first reported cases in Latin America. A traveller arriving in Sao Paulo from South Africa and his wife, who had not travelled, had tested positive.

Germany, which is battling a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths, reported that four fully vaccinated people had tested positive for Omicron in the south of the country but had moderate symptoms.

It also reported the highest number of deaths from coronavirus since mid-February on Wednesday, as hospitals warned that the country could have 6,000 people in intensive care by Christmas, above the peak of last winter.

Other countries braced for more cases: Australia said at least two people visited several locations in Sydney while likely infectious and Denmark said an infected person had taken part in a large concert.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said “blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods”, while advising those unwell, vulnerable or 60 years or over and unvaccinated to postpone travel.

Global health officials have offered reassurances and reiterated calls for people to get vaccinated.

BioNTech’s CEO said the vaccine it makes in a partnership with Pfizer would likely offer strong protection against severe disease from Omicron.

European Medicines Agency Executive Director Emer Cooke earlier said that laboratory analyses should indicate over the next couple of weeks whether the blood of vaccinated people has sufficient antibodies to neutralise the new variant.

The European Union brought forward the start of its vaccine distribution programme for five-to-11-year-old children by a week to December 13.

Britain, the US and European countries have expanded their booster programmes in response to the new variant.

First reported in South Africa a week ago, Omicron has highlighted the disparity between substantial vaccination pushes in rich nations and sparse inoculation in the developing world.

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