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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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No immediate hike in fuel prices – Udaya



Finance Minister rules out bailout package for CPC

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa has told Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila that the Treasury is not in a position to assist the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). However, there would not be a fuel price hike in the short term, the Minister of Energy told the media yesterday.

Minister Gammanpila said that if a fuel hike was on the cards, he would announce it publicly.

“This is what I did last time also. This time around, I have told the people that we are facing a serious problem. We incur a loss of Rs. 15 on a litre of petrol and a loss of Rs 16 on a litre of diesel. The Chairman of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) has asked for a price increase,” he said.

Gammanpila said he told the Chairman of the CPC that they should first seek assistance from the Treasury. Given that prices of all essential items had increased, a significant increase in fuel prices would cause great inconvenience to the people, he said.

“At the last Cabinet meeting, I asked the Finance Minister for assistance. He said it was hard to provide assistance and was non-committal. I will again take the matter up at the next Cabinet meeting,” he said.

The government was discussing the possibility of obtaining a 3.6 billion US dollar credit line for fuel from Oman. Sri Lanka spent around USD 300 million on oil imports per month and the credit line would allow for a year of fuel supply at concessionary rates, the Minister said.

“If we get this credit line, we should be able to weather this storm. Otherwise, I will ask the Cabinet for relief. While people are suffering, we can’t also let the CPC go bankrupt. If CPC goes bust, the People’s Bank and Bank of Ceylon will be in deep trouble too,” the Minister said.

Gammanpila added that there was no point in queuing at fuel stations because a decision to increase fuel takes a few months to be approved. For example the previous hike in June was first proposed in April. “If takes a few months for such a proposal to be approved and implemented. I was told that people were queuing at fuel stations last Monday and Wednesday.”

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JVP calls for multi-agency probe into Rs. 4 bn. Gin-Nilwala scam



Ex Prez can assist inquiry

By Shamindra Ferdinando

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says a comprehensive multi-agency investigation is required to get to the bottom of what he called the massive Gin Nilwala scam perpetrated in 2012 and 2015.

In spite of disclosures in that regard, both in and outside Parliament, over a period of time, absolutely nothing had been done so far, lawmaker Dissanayake told The Island.

The government owed an explanation why over Rs 4 bn had been paid to a Chinese firm, in Dec 2012, and on January 7, 2015, as the project was yet to get off the ground, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer said that he felt the need to highlight the Gin Nilwala scam against the backdrop of the Pandora Papers exposure of former Deputy Minister Nirupama Rajapaksa’s husband, Thirukumar Nadesan, as the Chinese company, allegedly involved in the Gin Nilwala project had moved money to a foreign account, in Hong Kong, held by the businessman.

Asked whether the Gin Nilwala scam, too, had been dealt by Pandora Papers, MP Dissanayake said as far as he knew Pandora Papers’ disclosure didn’t include the Gin Nilwala project.

Responding to another query, lawmaker Dissanayake said that though the then President Maithripala Sirisena questioned the Gin Nilwala project, the yahapalana government never investigated the issue properly.

MP Dissanayake said it wouldn’t be a difficult task to establish the transferring to a foreign account of Rs one bn in Dec 2012 and the over Rs. 3 bn on January 7, 2015, the day before the presidential election. Since the release of Pandora Papers, the video footage of former President Sirisena, now an SLPP MP, on the Gin Nilwala project had gone viral, the MP said.

The JVP leader said that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) should inquire into the matter as part of the ongoing examination of matters relating to Thirukumar Nadesan in respect of Pandora Papers.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Oct. 06 instructed CIABOC to inquire into Sri Lankans mentioned in Pandora Papers. Nadesan, too, also on the same day, asked President Rajapaksa to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations by appointing a retired Appeals Court Judge for the task. The CIABOC has recorded Nadesan’s statement in this regard.

MP Dissanayake alleged that successive governments had conveniently turned a blind eye to major cases of corruption. The very basis of parliamentary control over public finance was under threat, MP Dissanayake said, urging the government to take remedial measures or face the consequences. “Billions of rupees had been moved around, misappropriated and squandered. Those responsible for ensuring the proper practices are accused of exploiting the system. What is happening now is tragic,” MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer said that examination of proceedings of the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), COPA (Committee on Public Finance) and COPF (Committee on Public Finance) since the last general election revealed a frightening situation. The reports before the last general election were no exception, the parliamentarian said, the level of corruption in the public sector and the private-public sector joint ventures was horrifying. The national economy was being mercilessly exploited by persons holding office, the JVP leader said, the CIABOC could examine proceedings of the parliamentary watchdog committees if it was genuinely interested in stamping out corruption.

MP Dissanayake said that the national economy was in such a desperate situation thanks to decades of waste, corruption, irregularities and negligence on the part of political parties in power. “Today, we are seeking finance assistance from various countries. Recently, Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris revealed he discussed ways and means to overcome financial crisis with the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary,” he said.

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Inter-provincial travel restrictions extended to Oct 21



Inter-provincial travel restrictions have been extended to October 21, the Presidential Media Division (PMD) said issuing a press release yesterday.

The PMD added that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had instructed the security forces to strictly enforce the inter-province travel restrictions during the weekend.

The decision was taken at the COVID-19 Prevention Committee meeting held Friday (15) morning.

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