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Iranian Central Bank Governor takes up outstanding payments with Gammanpila

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Ambassador Wishwanath presents the Letters of Credence to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi (Pic courtesy Foreign Ministry)

New Lankan Ambassador in Tehran

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka owes Iran USD 251 mn for crude oil purchased way back during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency. In spite of talks between the two countries over the years, they haven’t been able to settle the issue over the outstanding debt.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila confirmed outstanding payment when The Island raised the issue with him on his return from Iran following a four-day visit, commencing Sept. 24.

Asked whether Iran wants interest on the delayed payment, Minister Gammanpila said that was not so.

Minister Gammanpila led a delegation to Iran at the invitation of the Minister of Petroleum of Iran Dr. Javad Owji. The delegation held talks with Iranian officials, including the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran Dr. Akbar Komijani.

The Foreign Ministry said that Minister Gammanpila discussed modalities to establish a mechanism for the settlement of outstanding payments with Dr. Akbar Komijani. The Sri Lankan delegation also met Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Diplomacy of Iran Mahdi Safari.

During the meeting, the two sides underscored the importance of convening the Joint Commission for Economic Cooperation (JCEC) between the two countries at a mutually convenient date.

Minister Gammanpila also discussed ways and means of boosting relations in the fields of trade, investment, energy and tourism between Sri Lanka and Turkmenistan with the latter’s Teheran-based Ambassador Gurbanov Ahmet Kakabayevich.

The Iranian Petroleum Ministry arranged site visits to the Tehran Oil Refinery and Gas Station Museum. The newly appointed Sri Lankan Ambassador in Teheran G.M.V. Wishwanath Aponsu joined the delegation in discussions with Iranian officials. The delegation included Energy Secretary K.D.R. Olga and Deputy General Manager of Ceylon Petroleum Corporation Mahendra Gurusinghe.

Wishwanath Aponsu presented the Letters of Credence to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi at the Sadabad Complex, Office of the President, in Tehran on 26 September 2021 during Minister Gammanpila’s visit.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry quoted the Iranian President as having appreciated the longstanding and historical ties with Sri Lanka and their readiness to activate all capacities for development of relations between the two countries. While appreciating a close cooperation and mutual support at multilateral fora, he underscored the importance of the JCEC between Sri Lanka and Iran for promoting bilateral relations.

Ambassador Aponsu has reiterated Sri Lanka’s commitment to strengthen existing bilateral engagement with Iran into a multifaceted and results-oriented partnership. He further placed particular emphasis on the trade in agriculture products, energy, culture and tourism, as areas that could be explored and enhanced for developing the level of bilateral relations.

The President also stated that there is potential for the development of trade relations and transfer of experience, especially in the technical and engineering fields between the two countries. In response, the Ambassador expressed that all proposals and outstanding matters could be discussed at the next JCEC meeting between the two countries.

Prior to the current assignment, Ambassador Wishwanath Aponsu served as first Director General of Overseas Sri Lankan Division and Director General of Consular Affairs at the Foreign Ministry in Colombo.

He is a career diplomat (Sri Lanka Foreign Service-Grade I) with 19 years of service, having served as High Commissioner (Actg.) at the Sri Lanka’s Mission in Singapore and held positions at the Missions in India, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh.



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Vasu defends constituents’ right to differ

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Prez chairs govt. group meeting:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara has strongly defended the right of the SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) constituents’ to take up contentious issues in public.

Minister Nanayakkara told SLPP parliamentary group meeting at the President’s House on Sunday night (24) that their right to differ on matters of public interest shouldn’t be questioned.

Nanayakkara said so when Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena and MP Tissa Kuttiarachchi faulted some constituent parties for dissenting views on certain issues.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was present at the meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The meeting lasted for about two hours.

The SLPP held Sunday’s meet in the wake of some constituent parties of the ruling coalition asking for a discussion on the questionable agreement between the government and the US New Fortress Energy Company over the Yugadanavi power plant, etc. Sources said that initially, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa indicated that the issue could be discussed with the Premier but subsequently arrangements were made for the Sunday’s meeting.

The New Fortress recently announced that a definitive agreement had been executed for the external investment in West Coast Power Limited (WCP).

WCP owns the 310 megawatts Yugadanavi Power Plant based in Colombo. The deal is also for the rights to develop a new LNG Terminal off the coast of Colombo. In terms of the agreement, New Fortress will acquire a 40 per cent ownership stake in WCP. The US energy firm plans to build an offshore LNG terminal located off the coast of Colombo.

Minister Nanayakkara has said it is not unusual for members of a coalition to hold different views depending on the issues as they also represent the interests of the public.

Nanayakkara has pointed out how the left parties remained with the UPFA though they didn’t agree with the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to enact the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Parliament passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution with a two-thirds majority on 08 Sept. 2010, enabling the President to seek a third term among other things.

The SLPP constituents have differed with the government on several issues such as fuel price increases announced by Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila on 12 June as well as the abortive bid to transfer 49 percent of shares of the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo port to India and Japan.

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa spearheaded the constituents’ campaign. He sought an explanation particularly as regards Cabinet approval for the controversial energy deal with the US firm, without a discussion among ministers.

NFF sources told The Island that their leader felt the urgent need to take up the matter to prevent further deterioration of relations among the coalition members.

Several parties including government ally the Jathika Sanvidhana Ekamuthuwa moved the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, respectively against the secretive energy deal with the US firm.

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‘Those who hesitate to get vaccinated pose a threat to others’

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath said yesterday a significant number of people had not received the Covid-19 vaccine, and posed a threat to society.

“No matter what your age category is, you will be at a higher risk of being infected and spreading it to others. So please get vaccinated,” he urged.

The DDGHS said that a booster shot would be given to people from 01 Nov.

The Health Ministry would carry out the ongoing vaccination drive until everyone got the first two doses, he said.

“However, we won’t keep hundreds of vaccination centres open. Most likely, those who have not got vaccinated will have to go to designated locations to receive the vaccine.”

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School attendance high as parents have faith in teachers – CTU head

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Teachers and principals protested at Colombo Fort yesterday urging the government to rectify their salary anomalies. The protesters marched from the Fort Railway Station towards the Presidential Secretariat but police did not permit them to proceed beyond the Telecom rounadbout. Pic by Nishan S Priyantha

By Rathindra Kuruwita

School attendance was high Despite inter-provincial travel restrictions, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) General Secretary, Joseph Stalin said yesterday. “The government announced on 22 October that primary sections of all schools would be reopened on 25 October. Despite the short notice the attendance was high, and this is testament to the faith parents have in teachers,” he said.Primary sections of 9,155 schools recommenced yesterday.

“However, we will only teach. Teachers do a lot of additional work instead of teaching and most people who slander us have no idea about this,” he said.

Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath urged relevant authorities to provide safe and adequate transport facilities to students. It was vital that those vehicles were ventilated, and social distancing was maintained.

“We urge parents to buy reusable face masks for kids. If your child has any symptoms of COVID such as fever and cold, don’t send him/her to school until you are certain this is not COVID. Teach your child the importance of washing hands, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. This is the way we can ensure there is no spread in the school system,” Dr. Herath said.

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