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Minister Silva calls for collective action to overcome challenges in aviation sector

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41st session of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Canada

Ports, Shipping and Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said that during the last decade there had been a 4.5% growth rate in the aviation sector.Addressing the 41st session of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly, Montreal in Canada the minister said that Sri Lanka underscored the need of pooling of resources and working in partnership with all involved to strengthen States capabilities to confidently face the current, new, and emerging aviation issues and challenges.

The Minister said: As you all know, for the last decade, the world saw a very promising growth and expansion of the global aviation industry with an average growth rate of over 4.5%, registering the highest ever recorded numbers in respect of all Key Performance Indicators in Aviation. However, with the emergence and rapid spread of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the global community had to experience for the first time in the recent history of humanity, severe predicaments in the conduct of typical lifestyle.

Of the many industries that suffered due to COVID -19 travel and tourism were amongst the key industries affected, triggering major economic downturn and social crises, such as connectivity, supply chain disruptions, and challenges to food security. Regardless of the geographical size and location and economic strength, every state in the world was affected and is still struggling to come out from its adverse effects. We are glad that the projected prospect of the aviation industry returning to pre-COVID situation is very promising.

I wish to place on record the sincere appreciation of ICAO for its leadership, swift action and role played with the spread of COVID – 19 to mitigate its ill effects and provide Member States with assistance, support and guidance in close coordination, collaboration, and cooperation of all concerned, for the continued maintenance of global air transport network.

Sri Lanka is an island located in the Indian Ocean and our economy depends on foreign exchange earnings from tourism, foreign employment, and exports. A major part of our foreign exchange earnings is spent on the import of fuel, medicine, fertilizer, and essential consumables. Sri Lankans enjoy a fairly high living standard founded on the free education and health systems and other social beneficiary schemes. Accordingly, Sri Lanka has a high literacy rate of over 93%, and our life expectancy and infant mortality rates are comparable with the developed states.

Sri Lanka has a good road and rail transport network which provides access to any part of the island. Every citizen of Sri Lanka has access to an international airport within 100 Km from the place of residence which meets the global yardstick used for measuring accessibility by air. Sri Lankas current population is twenty two million, and as of 1 August 2022, a total of forty million vaccine doses have been administered amongst its citizens creating a low COVID 19 risk environment for trade and travel within the country. This has enabled Sri Lanka to reopen its domestic and international airports, and restrictions imposed on travel and social gatherings have been lifted.

However, Sri Lanka is at present facing unprecedented economic challenges resulting from a number of factors, including the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and current global crises. The Government of Sri Lanka is sensitive to the economic hardships faced by the people and is in dialogue with all stakeholders including domestic and international partners with regard to stabilising the situation. In order to minimise the negative impacts on the most vulnerable segments of the population, and to ensure provision of an adequate social safety net, targeted preventive measures are being undertaken by the Government.

Being an island nation, recognizes distinctly the valued contribution of air transport for social inclusion and economic development. Sri Lanka has published the National Civil Aviation Policy removing numerous legislative, administrative, and operational barriers easing active private sector participation in the establishment and operation of aviation infrastructure facilities and services.

Sri Lanka is committed to fulfil its obligations under the Chicago convention and would continue to support and take part actively in ICAOs efforts for the promotion of safe, secure, efficient, and regular, economically sustainable, and environmentally responsive global air transport industry. In the past ICAO safety and security Audits, Sri Lanka has shown effective implementation of more than 88% of ICAO standards. The Government of Sri Lanka is pursuing through a new Act of Parliament for establishment of an independent Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation Board, which is vital for effective safety Management and Promotion.

Development of aviation infrastructure facilities, which include expansion and modernization of the main International Airport of Sri Lanka the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) terminal building, apron, and access roads are progressing well even amidst economic crisis. We are hopeful that the enhanced facilities would be available for use by the end of 2024 to serve the industry and our travel partners better.

Sri Lanka recognizes the necessity of the development of not only the current aviation workforce but also the next generation of Aviation professionals to maintain high levels of standards with requisite innovations and infusion of technology to face the future challenges ensuring seamless growth of the air transport sector. We join hands firmly with ICAO and the rest of the State to fulfil the global commitments for the carbon neutral growth, control of toxic gaseous substances and environmental protection.



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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder

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State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Dolawatta responds to GL

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SLPP MP Premanath C. Dolawatta said his private member’s motion wouldn’t lead to the postponement of local government polls. He said he felt the need to restore the 25% quota for youth, even before he entered Parliament, consequent to the August 2020 general election. The government and the Opposition could quickly reach a consensus on the proposals, and avoid unnecessary complications. MP Dolawatta said so when The Island sought his response to accusations made by Prof. Peiris, who said that time was rapidly running out for Local Government polls. As the nomination process needed to be commenced soon to ensure that 341 Local Government bodies could be constituted by 20 March 2023.

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