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Lanka urges BIMSTEC Member States to embrace new normal



Foreign Secretary Admiral Professor Colombage, chairing the 21st Session of the Senior Officials’ Meeting (SoM) at the first virtual meeting, recently urged the BIMSTEC Member States to embrace the new normal and adapt fast.

In his inaugural remarks, the Foreign Secretary stated that  global dynamics will not be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic as it has affected  all  States,  in various  degrees, as  it  transformed  from  a health crisis  to an economic and human crisis  as described by the  United Nations Secretary General António Guterres.

The Foreign Ministry has, in a media statement, quoted Prof. Colombage, as having said that the crisis has affected the very fabric of   daily life of BIMSTEC Member States as economic activities have slowed down with global and regional value chains disrupted, millions of people have lost their jobs with many pushed into poverty and  therefore the  meeting was timely, as it  is an opportunity to build on the assurances made by Heads of State of BIMSTEC Members on combatting the adverse effects of COVID-19 at the 23rd  Anniversary of the BIMSTEC Day held in June 2020.

He said that their messages were clear and encouraging as the Leaders had reiterated and acknowledged the need to build a better and resilient   organization that could leverage regional cooperation in the recovery and rehabilitation process in post COVID-19. 

Given that the region is home to 23% of the world population, Foreign Secretary stated that the devastating effects affecting the vulnerable sections can only cripple economies and divert resources that were once used for upward mobility in Member States. The collective GDP of US dollars 3 trillion, which was a benchmark prior to the pandemic, should not become an unattainable goal in the face of this devastation, he said and that the goal should be to surpass.

Therefore, he stated that the sector driven Organization  should collectively promote trade and investment cooperation, strengthen energy cooperation, increase connectivity and people-to-people contact, focus on disaster management and public health, combat terrorism and extremism, deal with the adverse effects of climate change and work towards poverty alleviation.

As the lead country for Information, Technology and Innovation sector in BIMSTEC, Sri Lanka informed that it will put forward proposals that would enhance the use of technological tools in daily life to address post COVID-19 effects and also cater to the demand for internet based economic activities and that the proposed setting up of the BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility, in Colombo would further augment the work Sri Lanka proposes to undertake in the sector.

The 21st SoM was preceded by the Fourth BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee (BPWC) chaired by Additional Secretary Economic Affairs Ambassador P M Amza of the Foreign Ministry.

The discussion of the meetings centred on administrative procedures and financial considerations of the organization and preparation and finalization of documents for the approval at the 17th Ministerial Meeting and adoption at the 5th BIMSTEC Summit. 

The Sri Lanka delegation indicated its readiness to host the 5th BIMSTEC Summit preceded by the 17th Ministerial meeting, as it has earned  the ‘Safe Travels’ stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council in recognition of the comprehensive health and safety measures the government has put in place. The dates of the meeting are to be decided in consultation with Member States, given that the Member States are in different stages in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Member States commended the work of Ambassador Shahidul Islam, whose three year term as Secretary General will come to an end in the later part of September 2020.  

Sri Lanka made special note of his contribution and support during its Chair. The Member States also took note of the nomination of Tenzin Lekphell, as the next Secretary General of BIMSTEC from Bhutan. 

Proposed by Sri Lanka, the Member States, observed a minute’s silence in solidarity with the President, Prime Minister and the people of India on the sad occasion of the demise of former President of India Pranab Mukherjee.

The Sri Lanka delegation comprised Acting Director General of Economic Affairs (Multilateral) Anzul Jhan, Deputy Legal Adviser Tilani Silva, and Executive Assistant Kalani Dharmasena of the Foreign Ministry.

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Railway guards disrupt services



Nishan S. Priyantha captured this scene yesterday (01) afternoon at the Fort Railway station as thousands were stranded for several hours when railway guards launched a lightning strike.

Railway guards yesterday (01) disrupted services, demanding that they be provided petrol as they found it difficult to report to work.Railway sources said that following a tense situation and talks involving railway guards, they had been able to solve the issue. Sources said that services had been restored though some trains were cancelled.

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BOI launches long term residence visa programme for investors



The Board of Investment (BOI) yesterday (01) launched the five-year residence visa program dedicated to investors, stakeholders and BOI enterprises.Issuing long-term visas for investors has been the practice as per the international standards. On par with matching the international benchmark in respect of ease of doing business, the BOI has decided to launch this program to attract more investors to the country.

The long-term visa program, a long-felt need, primarily aims to facilitate the investors who wish to embark on a journey with the BOI.

The BOI annually issues 7500-8000 visa recommendations for investors, employees and their dependents.

The BOI has granted visas for foreign nationals from 109 countries such as India, the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Pakistan which represent the most applicants based on last year’s statistics.

Addressing the gathering, Investment Promotion Minister Dhammika Perera said “The happiness on the faces of those investors present at the occasion, implies that the newly

launched visa residence scheme is a success,”

“Before the implementation of this program, they had to go through a long documentation process every year to get these visas,” he pointed out.

“Having understood the prime need to provide a seamless and convenient service for investors, we have launched the new program albeit I have not officially assumed duties as the

Investment Promotion Minister,” Mr. Perera highlighted.

Meanwhile, BOI Director General Renuka M. Weerakone stated: “It is certainly a pleasure to see all our long-standing investors on this special day of launching the long-term residence visa program for investors.

“You all have been the contributing towards 65% of export earnings to Sri Lanka and have stood by us even in times of difficult periods that our country faced, which we wish to acknowledge with great gratitude,” she said.

“As far as the new program is concerned, the visa application process can be accessed online and the BOI is also using online facility for Defence clearance and plans to introduce the same mechanism with the Department of Immigration and Emigration,” Ms. Weerakone explained.

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CMG future-focused to get its leadership closer to the ground



A year after Sashi Rajamahendran took over the reins of the Capital Maharaja Group (CMG), the conglomerate is going through some sweeping changes. The Group is broad basing its decision-making processes to give more opportunity for career growth at all levels of its management structure, the CMG said in a statement.

The following is the text of the Group statement: “In line with that, two new positions have been layered in, with Group Directors Nedra Weerasinghe and S.C. Weerasekera both being appointed as Group Director/Chief Operating Officer (COO) to helm the Group’s Industrial and Retail/Strategic Business hubs respectively.

Chairman of CMG, Sashi Rajamahendran says apart from laying a strong emphasis on recognising the sustained achievement of its people from time to time, the Group believes in blending its expertise across the Group’s multiple businesses. “This allows for maximum synergistic benefits to them as well as the Group.

Nedra and Shan are two Group Directors on the Main Board, involved in handling operations. They have served the Group with panache and have handled two of the most important business hubs over the past several years. We believe the specific portfolios assigned to them under the new positions will give them the impetus to further grow the business.”

Effective from 23 June 2022, S C Weerasekera will be Group Director/COO of CMG’s Industrial Hub, continuing to give leadership and grow business for S-Lon, PE+, Kevilton, Kansai Lanka and Herrero.

Nedra Weerasinghe will be the Group Director/COO heading the Group’s retail hub and strategic business initiatives. While the retail segments of the Group are relatively new, it is a key area of focus for the future expansion and development of the Group.

Sunil Kanojia, Group Director/CEO of CMG will continue to lead all CMG operations and he will guide both Shan and Nedra in their new roles.

The media company which has organically grown in the last 30 years is also being restructured to ensure better clarity and focus in the news and entertainment business. Chevaan Daniel, who is currently the Group Director in charge of News First, will also now provide leadership to MTV Channel (Private) Limited.

“The current situation in the country requires all of us to be agile and receptive to change. We as a Group, throughout our 90 years of existence have faced many adversities and overcome them with fortitude and innovative thinking. In facing today’s crisis which is not only local but spreading across the globe, we need our leaders to be closer to the ground, and respond intelligently and appropriately to the changes that can come very fast and even be devastating at times. This is not a time to be relying only on our standard operating procedures but to be creative in our approach. I am confident the management restructuring will get CMG ready for the next level of growth and wealth creation,” says the Chairman of CMG.The Group with its ‘Employees First’ ethos is moving boldly to its next phase in the ever-changing business environment.”

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