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Lankan trade delegation to visit Pakistan



Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena will be visiting Pakistan on January 23 accompanied by representatives from 40 to 50 companies to explore avenues of cooperation and collaboration with the business community of Pakistan, said a report published by the Express Tribune quoting Lankan Consul General in Pakistan Jagath Abeywarna.

Addressing a meeting at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Thursday, the envoy stressed that the delegation would explore the possibility of enhancing trade and investment ties with Pakistani counterparts besides exploring avenues in the tourism sector.

“Most Sri Lankan tourists, who regularly visit India and Nepal, are not much aware of the historical sites in Pakistan,” he said.

He sought the chamber’s cooperation in arranging business-to-business meetings during the visit of the delegation.

He termed exchange of trade delegations the “only way” to improve trade and investment ties between the two sides and advised KCCI to arrange a similar delegation to Sri Lanka.

He was of the view that there was an immense potential to uplift two-way trade and investment.

“Pakistan has very strong pharmaceutical and textiles industries,” he said. “Products from these segments can be exported to Sri Lanka as we import almost all types of pharmaceutical products and fabrics.”

He voiced hope that a huge number of Sri Lankan companies would participate in ‘My Karachi Exhibition’ which was scheduled to be held at Karachi Expo Centre from February 11 to 13, 2022.

On the occasion, KCCI President Muhammad Idrees assured the envoy that his chamber would welcome and facilitate the delegation during its forthcoming visit to Karachi by organising business-to-business meetings.

Quoting statistics, he pointed out that the country’s exports to Sri Lanka stood at $324.7 million during the year 2020 while imports from Sri Lanka were recorded at $78.9 million.

“The actual trade potential is much higher than what the current statistics reveal and we are determined to tap it with join efforts and close coordination with the Sri Lankan side,” he emphasised.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Arif Habib Commodities CEO Ahsan Mehanti underlined that Sri Lanka was an important export market for agriculture and value-added products.

“The economic relations and free trade agreement can prove to be beneficial for both countries give that trade between Pakistan and India is currently suspended,” he said, adding that both the countries were interested in expanding export of services. Furthermore, he emphasised that the two sides could practice barter trade to arrest currency depreciation.

“Sri Lanka is one of those countries where Pakistan and Pakistanis are regarded highly,” said Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) CEO Mukhtar Ahmad Ali.

He was of the view that the government should take proactive steps to strengthen the bilateral relations in diverse sectors including education, health and sports besides enhancing people-to-people ties.

Talking about tourism, Pakistan Business Forum (PBF) Vice President Ahmad Jawad lamented that Sri Lankan tourists largely stayed away from Pakistan which might be “due to lack of marketing and awareness.”

“On the flip side, a huge number of Pakistani tourists visit Sri Lanka,” he underlined. “There needs to be reciprocation in this regard.”

“We need to market our agriculture products through roadshows and Sri Lankan authorities can help us in this regard,” he added.

Pakistan also had a huge export potential in textile products to Sri Lanka, Jawad underlined.

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Booster shots: Poor public response makes GMOA contemplate legal remedy



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Lack of enthusiasm among the public to receive the booster dose was disconcerting, given that Sri Lanka had a long-established and highly functional immunisation programme, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

By 20 January 2022, 64.56% of Sri Lankans had been fully vaccinated, but only 22.47% had received the booster dose, the GMOA said.

“At the early stages of vaccination against Covid-19 the public response was favourable. However, the current waning of interest might be driven by the myths and rumours regarding the vaccines. It is important to take measures to counter such misinformation by raising public awareness of the ongoing vaccination programme.”

“Legal action against those responsible for the spread of communicable diseases can be taken under the Penal Code”, GMOA Secretary Dr. Senal Fernando said. “Provisions of the Quarantine Ordinance can be used against persons who do not comply with directions given by the proper authorities under the Quarantine Ordinance,” he said.

The GMOA said that several countries had made it mandatory to have proof of vaccination for entry into public places. The same thing could be done in Sri Lanka to ensure that more people got vaccinated.

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Govt., SJB haggle over procedure to rescue country



By Saman Indrajith

The SJB on Sunday said that it was wrong for the President and the government to seek the assistance of the Opposition to steer the country out of the present crises without creating a proper forum to obtain such assistance.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivering the latter’s third Policy Speech in Parliament last week had sought the assistance of the Opposition. “His speech is full of excuses. He sought our assistance but there is no forum to offer our assistance. The government too has asked for the same several times. If the government needs the Opposition’s assistance, what it should do is to declare a state of national disaster situation so that the Opposition could make use of Parliament as the forum for our contributions. That has not been done so far. The President and the government could make use of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act No 53 of 2005 to form a disaster management committee comprising the government and opposition MPs.

The President is the ex-officio Chairman of the committee, the Prime minister and the Opposition leader are there with 24 government ministers and five opposition MPs. In addition to that there are provisions to the involvement of the Chief Ministers of Provinces in the committee. If the government genuinely needs our support it should have started forming that committee. There are laws enabling the formulation of mechanisms to help people the government does not make use of them. We have been repeatedly asking the government to appoint that committee.

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Lord Ahamad plants kumbuk tree sapling during visit to Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary



By Ifham Nizam

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia, the United Nations and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK, planted a Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna) sapling at the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary last week.

The Department of Wildlife said Lord Ahmad had been joined by the British High Commissioner in Colombo Sarah Hulton, Hasanthi Urugodwatte Dissanayake, Acting Additional Secretary of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change at the Foreign Ministry, Saman Liyanagama, Wildlife Ranger of the Colombo Wildlife Range, Department of Wildlife Conservation and Professor Sevvandi Jayakoddy, Senior Lecturer of the Wayamba University.

The planting activity was followed by a brief visit to the wetland and Prof. Jayakoddy, and Liyanagama explained the importance of wetland ecosystems as well as challenges in conservation and maintenance, while Dissanayake briefed him on the Sri Lanka’s pioneering work related to mangrove restoration and conservation, both at policy level as well as at the ground level.

Hasini Sarathchandra, Publicity Officer, Department of Wildlife Conservation said British High Commission in Colombo with the International Water Management Institute Headquartered in Sri Lanka, had already launched a project under the Darwin Initiative at the Baddegana Wetlands.  Similar collaborations are envisaged involving the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary.

Wetlands play an important role in our natural environment. They mitigate the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else. Colombo is a city built on and around wetlands. Despite progressive loss and degradation, wetlands still cover some 200 km2 of the Colombo metropolitan area and suburbs.

The wetlands are fundamental to the well-being of the people of Colombo and its suburbs. The wetlands can reduce extreme air temperatures and make the city more live able due to evaporative cooling. The wetlands provide a critical land-mass which helps to maintain the richness of Colombo’s biodiversity.

The Bellanwila-Attidiya wetlands was declared as a bird sanctuary on 25 July 1990, due to biodiversity of the area and its contribution to controlling floods. The wetlands, which span over 930 acres, host endemic species and is a paradise for migratory birds. 44 species of fish including 06 which are endemic to the country have been identified in the Bolgoda River which flows through the wetlands. The wetlands are also home to 21 reptilian species, 17 species of mammals and 10 butterfly species. Bellanwia-Attidiya sanctuary falls within the upper catchment of the Bolgoda river basin. The Department of Wildlife Conservation manages the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary.

Selection of the location was also due to the close collaboration that Sri Lanka has with the Government of the UK on conservation of mangroves and wetlands.

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