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Milinda intends to develop Indo-Lanka partnership to the level of a special relationship



High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to India, Milinda Moragoda, appointed with Cabinet rank, presented his Letter of Credence to President Shri Ram Nath Kovind of India yesterday (22) in New Delhi.

In keeping with the established practice in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic situation, the Credentials ceremony was held virtually at the situation room of the Ministry of External Affairs. High Commissioner Moragoda presented his Letter of Credence to the President of India who linked with the Ministry of External Affairs from the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Following the presentation of the Letter of Credence, High Commissioner Moragoda conveyed greetings from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to President Ram Nath Kovind and expressed that the prime objective of his mission to India was to further develop the momentum of the existing partnership between the two countries, and to elevate that partnership to the level of a special relationship.

In response, President Shri Ram Nath Kovind thanked High Commissioner Moragoda for his intervention and stated that Sri Lanka occupied a special place in India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ and SAGAR policies. He recalled the extremely friendly, historical and multi-dimensional ties between the two countries and the existent strong bilateral development cooperation. The President of India, while expressing his hope that the close cooperation between the two countries would continue to grow, requested the High Commissioner to convey his warm regards to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Milinda Moragoda is the 26th envoy of Sri Lanka to India since Sir Baron Jayatilaka was appointed the Representative of Ceylon in 1942.

The full text of the intervention made by High Commissioner Milinda Moragoda at the Credentials ceremony is as follows:

“I bring with me the warmest and most cordial greetings to Your Excellency from the President of Sri Lanka His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa. I consider it a singular honour to have presented my Credentials today as the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to India, the most prominent overseas assignment for a Sri Lankan diplomat.

I am also honoured by the confidence and trust my President has placed in me by appointing me as his High Commissioner to India, the cornerstone of our foreign policy, especially at a time when geopolitical developments globally and in this region in particular are becoming increasingly complex and challenging.

 The prime objective of my mission in India would be to further develop the momentum of the existing partnership between our two countries, and to elevate that partnership to the level of a special relationship. With a view to realising this prime objective, I have developed a road map in the form of an integrated country strategy for the Sri Lankan diplomatic missions in India for the next two years.

In my view, Buddhism is the most precious gift that India has bestowed upon our country. The fact that India’s greatest emperor, the Buddhist ruler Dharmashoka, saw fit to send both his son and daughter on separate occasions to our country as emissaries to introduce and spread the teachings of the Blessed One, epitomises the strong and unbreakable civilisational bonds that exist between our two nations.

With this in mind, I have based my integrated country strategy for India on the teachings of the Buddha, in particular the ‘satara sampradha’ or the four accomplishments that comprises saddh?, s?la, c?ga, and paññ?, which in the modern context of international relations, could be interpreted as trust, virtuous behaviour, sacrifice and thorough understanding, respectively. It is my firm belief that these noble principles are pertinent in building trust and confidence between India and Sri Lanka.

I would be most grateful to receive the support of Your Excellency and that of the Government of India in realising the prime objective of my mission and to further strengthen the age-old, time-tested and multi-dimensional relations between our two countries.”

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SJB MP slams police double standards



“Why one law for Ponnambalam and another for Gamage?”

The police have failed to display the same efficiency they displayed in arresting Jaffna District MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam with regard to arresting State Minister Diana Gamage, who should have been spending her time at the Mirihana Immigration Detention Centre, Kurunegala District SJB MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha told Parliament on Friday.

“If the police had displayed the same efficacy, Diana Gamage should have been at the Mirihana Detention Centre at this time. Instead she comes to parliament and issues threats to other MPs. The courts have clearly stated that the CID could take her into custody because she had been using two passports.

“The Immigration Controller himself has reported to the courts that she had been a UK citizen since 2004 and using a UK passport since then. She has not revoked her UK citizenship. In addition she has obtained anther passport through the Secretary General of Parliament. The Speaker too should have a responsibility to prevent a foreign citizen sitting unlawfully in the House,” he said.

Jayamaha said that Gamage had no right to sit in parliament. “The case against her regarding her having forged passports is postponed again and again. The law is not implemented. My colleague Mujibur Rahuman tabled a document in this House that the Defence Secretary had been informed of the illegality of Gamage’s presence in Parliament. I tabled the same again today.

“She recently told a TV talk-show that she had applied for the revocation of her UK citizenship. We do not know whether she has two tongues,” the MP said.

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Sarath Weerasekera opposes SLT share sale on security grounds



Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), which owns a fixed and mobile telecom group, which is partly foreign owned and listed should not be privatized, the head of a parliamentary committee on national security has said.

Government MP, Retd. Admiral Sarath Weerasekara who chairs the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security told parliament Friday that divestment of the 49.5 percent stake in SLT held by the government could “expose the country’s strategic communication infrastructure and sensitive information to private companies that are motivated by profit, which could pose a threat to national security”.

Weerasekara also said that any individual or organization proscribed or otherwise that “aided terrorists or extremists” must not be allowed to purchase shares or control Sri Lanka’s national assets.

The claim comes despite satellite links and international cables connecting the country being built and managed by foreign conglomerates in which many connected countries are also shareholders. SLT is also a shareholder in some global cable companies.

Weerasekara suggested that the government retain the right to repurchase shares held by the majority shareholder of SLT.SLT’s second biggest shareholder, behind the Sri Lanka government, is Malaysia-based Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd with a 44.9 percents take in the company.

Most Sri Lanka’s mobile firms were also built and owned not just by private firm but foreign ones. SLT’s own mobile network, Mobitel was a build operate transfer project by Australia’s Telstra.

Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers in March 2023 listed Sri Lanka Telecom among several state companies to be re-structured.SLT currently enjoys market leadership in fixed-line services and is the second-largest operator in mobile. It also owns an extensive optical fibre network.The company was placed on watch for a possible rating upgrade by Fitch Ratings in March 2023 after the government announced the restructuring. (EconomyNext)

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Cardinal hits out at government demanding local elections



By Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has urged the government to hold local elections to secure the democratic rights of the people.

“Voting is a right of the people that we must all enjoy. It is a right that every person over 18 -years of age is entitled to to determine the future of the country,” he said on Thursday.

“Today justice as been turned into injustice, governance to dictatorship and law into lawlessness,” the 75-year-old cardinal told a gathering of hundreds of people at a function at St. Anthony’s College in Kochchikade.

Local polls to elect 340 councils were slated for April 25 but the election commission postponed it, citing a lack of funds.

“The government said earlier that it doesn’t have money to hold an election, now it’s saying that it has money. If the government has the money, please give an opportunity to the people to vote and let the people express their wishes. How much of what came from the IMF was used for agriculture? How much for the fishing industry? And what about education?” the cardinal queried.

Rather than improving the lives of people, “politicians import goods, and bring in what we need and what we don’t need, destroying our economic independence, leading us to depend on foreign countries,” he said.

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