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Lanka crisis is personal for Origin Tea brothers



Social and economic crisis engulfing Sri Lanka is half a world away but feels very close to home for brothers Chris and Lawrence Seaton in Brisbane, says a report by Brisbane Financial Review.

Their burgeoning Brisbane-based business, Origin Tea, is about to go mainstream with the supermarket launch of products previously only available in cafés.

“We want to keep money flowing into the economy and into the pockets of locals,” Chris said.

The challenge is that the tea comes from Sri Lanka, where a financial crisis is causing severe shortages of essential goods such as fuel, medicine and food.

About 200 people work at Origin Tea’s factory in Sri Lanka, which is experiencing daily power cuts that last up to eight hours. This means switching to diesel generators, which increases production costs by 10 per cent to 20 per cent.

Chris Seaton was in Sri Lanka last month and was shaken by what he saw.

“Sri Lankan families don’t even have gas cyllinders so they can cook and put food on the table,” he said.

“Inflation there is heading towards 30 per cent, which puts all of the cost of living and interest rate talk here in perspective.

Sri Lanka is on the brink of bankruptcy and people have taken to the streets demanding the resignation of the president, who they hold responsible for the economic crisis.

A drop in tourism means the South Asian country is running desperately low on foreign currency reserves and is struggling to import fuel, medical supplies and raw materials.

Along with additional costs for diesel at the factory, pandemic-related supply chain problems mean Origin Tea must pay $6000 for every shipping container it brings to Australia, a six-fold increase on the $1000 it paid before COVID-19.

But the Seaton brothers are refusing to give up on their Sri Lankan operation.

Chris made an urgent trip to Colombo last month to establish new suppliers because local manufacturers could no longer import what they needed, including packaging.

Many Sri Lankans spend their days vying for the limited fuel stocks, so Origin Tea had to organise a shuttle bus, so employees could get to work.

“My role has changed to focusing on how to get dollars into the country because the people who manufacture our cardboard and tea bags can’t pay their suppliers,” Seaton said.

“We want to keep money flowing into the economy and into the pockets of locals.”

Origin Tea was established in 2012 when Chris and Lawrence were fresh out of university and in their early 20s.

Their vision was to “make tea cool”.

“We saw a gap in the market for single origin tea, as single origin coffee became the latest buzzword,” Chris said. “Origin Tea is one of the few offering traceability of high-grade Ceylon tea from a single origin in Sri Lanka.”

Unlike blends, single origin products guarantee provenance.

Until the pandemic, Origin Tea was largely a wholesale business, with products stocked in 1000 cafés nationally.

COVID-19 made the Seaton brothers realise they needed to sell directly to consumers, and their Origin Sticky Chai will be available in supermarkets from next month.

Agribusiness is in their blood. Their grandfather, Donald Seaton, was the founder of oilseed crushing business Gardner Smith, which was run by dad Gary until it was sold to GrainCorp in 2011.

“We have always been about making tea fun and cool but with the situation in Sri Lanka becoming more serious by the day, making and exporting our tea has become vital to helping locals feed their families,” Chris said.

Australian National University economist Sriram Shankar said Sri Lanka’s crisis was caused by many factors, including a heavy dependence on China for domestic investment, external debt and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Tourism had also come to a standstill as the government was accused of political corruption.

“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made large tax cuts that affected government revenue and fiscal policies, causing budget deficits to soar,” Dr Shankar said.

“I think Sri Lanka is on the verge of bankruptcy, as it has recently announced suspension of its foreign debt payments.

“For recovery, in the short term it needs to be bailed out by the IMF. It is currently negotiating a deal with the IMF. However, in the medium term it needs to initiate serious economic reforms to overcome the crisis.”

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Renew firearm license for 2024 before 31st December 2023 – Ministry of Defence




The Ministry of Defence has announced that the renewal of firearm license of individuals/ institutions for the year 2024 will be carried out from 01 October 2023 to 31 December 2023 and the required details can be downloaded from the Defence Ministry’s website

Firearm license renewal for 2024 will not be carried out after 31 December 2023. It is also informed that possession of a firearm without a valid license is a punishable offense under provisions of Section 22 of the Firearms Ordinance.

Registration renewal of Private Security Firms for the year 2024/2025 will be carried out from 01.10.2023 to 31.12.2023. Any renewals made after the deadline will be subjected to a fine or legal action.

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“Unite to secure a developed Sri Lanka by 2048” – President




President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his Milad-Un-Nabi message urged all Muslim brethren in Sri Lanka, to unite at this juncture in working towards strengthening the path to secure a developed Sri Lanka by 2048.

“Let us together overcome the challenges facing our nation, while adhering to the principles espoused by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, in ensuring a brighter future for all” he said.

The full text of the President’s message :

“My greetings to the Muslim community in Sri Lanka and around the world, observing Milad Un Nabi, being the auspicious occasion commemorating the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam.

He is celebrated as the final messenger of Allah, known for profound teachings of love and peace that encompass humanity. His journey to spread the message of Islam in the challenging societal context of that time, was marked by significant trials. Even in the face of adversity, the Holy Prophet’s unwavering patience and equanimous strength served as powerful attributes. He was victorious in attaining his aspirations, through boundless sacrifices for faith and humanity.

As we celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday today, it is timely to resolve to uphold the values that were the hallmark of his life, which include mutual understanding, brotherhood, assistance to one another and fairness. Our commitment to fostering social harmony is the most meritorious tribute which could be paid to his legacy.

I urge all Muslim brethren in Sri Lanka, to unite at this juncture in working towards strengthening the path, to secure a developed Sri Lanka by 2048. Let us together overcome the challenges facing our nation, while adhering to the principles espoused by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, in ensuring a brighter future for all.

I wish all those of the Islamic faith, a joyous Eid Milad-Un-Nabi, filled with love, peace and prosperity!”

Ranil Wickremesinghe
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

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National Security Oversight Comm. Chief denied US visa



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chairman of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on National Security, Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera has told Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena that the US should not deny a visa to an MP nominated by the Sri Lankan Parliament to join an official delegation unless he/she posed a threat to US interests.

In a letter dated 25 Sept., 2023, the former Public Security Minister has informed Speaker Abeywardena the issuance of visas was the prerogative of the US mission, but the issue of the US Embassy insisting that he be replaced with a member of a minority community must be taken up.

Of the Chairpersons of 17 Oversight Committees chosen for a 10-day study tour of the US organised by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and USAID, later next month, only Weerasekera has been denied a visa.

Declaring that he had B1 (business) and B2 US visa (tourism) or combination of the two, Rear Adm. Weerasekera said that he had no special interest or reason to join the delegation but it was wrong for the US Embassy to deny him a visa.

The MP has said that he will seek an explanation from Foreign Secretary Aruni Wijewardena in this regard. “In my capacity as Chairman of the Oversight Committee on National Security, I intend to call a meeting with Secretary Defence and Armed Forces chiefs to discuss this matter,” MP Weerasekera said.

Weerasekera retired in late 2006 after having served the Navy with an unblemished record for well over three decades.

Responding to another query, the former Minister said that the Parliament had been asked by the US Embassy to name another member of his committee, representing a minority community for the programme.

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