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Lanka urges BIMSTEC Member States to embrace new normal

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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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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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