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New U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka reiterates human rights, accountability her priorities



While stressing the need for enhanced economic corporation between the two nations, the new American ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, who reached out to expatriates in the United States to a mixed group of Sinhalese, Tamis and Muslims told that her priority in Colombo during her tenure will be working with the Sri Lanka government on issues concerning human rights, reconciliation among nationalities and accountability for human rights abuses.

“These are issues that make broader partnership between our two countries”, and reminded the expatriates in this virtual meeting-session, “the United States has re-joined the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) in Geneva, and will play a bigger role to urge the Sri Lanka government to undertake concrete reforms on reconciliation, accountability and human rights in the forthcoming session.”

This virtual meeting-session that took place on Friday, February 11 was in fact jointly initiated by the U.S. Department of State and Ambassador-designate Julie Chung. The Department reached the California-based Sri Lanka Foundation to reach expatriates in many US States to participate in the discourse.

The Ambassador is expected to leave for Colombo end of next week to present her credentials to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

In response to Ms. Chung’s declaration that human rights, accountability and reconciliation would be her priority during her tenure in Colombo, retired Colonel of the Sri Lanka Army who successfully planned the liberation of Jaffna from the LTTE, in 1995, Lucky Rajasinghe said “it is our sincere wish as Sri Lankan American Citizens, to anticipate a clear road map from you Madam Ambassador in resolving some of the burning issues dragging the image and the functionality of Sri Lanka from an international perspective”.

Ambassador-designate Julie Chung received a clear understanding of what the Sri Lankan-American expatriates are engaged in to promote economic cooperation between the two nations and efforts the expatriates have taken to get Washington’s assistance to alleviate the CORVID-19 disaster in Sri Lanka. She said the U.S. donated 3.1 million vaccines and US$8 million worth of medical assistance. “The Year 2020 alone the U.S. Development Finance Corporation provided US$265 million to Sri Lanka’s small-medium entrepreneurs, and that the US has collaborated in helping Sri Lanka in her economic growth”, she said.

She entertained the dialogue with the expatriate community as she said she herself was an immigrant from Korea at age five, and pledged that she will continue to have discourses with Sri Lankan expatriates in the U.S. “I know the importance of the Diaspora”, she said.

She listened very carefully and made positive comments when the President of the newly inaugurated Sri Lanka-America Chamber of Commerce Sanje Sedera made his presentation to enhance trade, commerce and investments between the two nations.

The Chamber, which is America’s national organisation and based in the convention centre of the world, Las Vegas, in the State of Nevada, as told by President Sedera “is working in conjunction with the United States Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development programme to explore to find Sri Lankan entrepreneurs opportunities in trade shows  in the United States”.

Ambassador Julie Chung had a positive response when Mr. Sedera brought to her attention that “Sri Lankan  exporters  have  not  been consistently  exposed  to such trade  shows due  to economic  constraints and stringent  Visa process.  This initiative to be successful there has to be opportunities presented to the mid to large exporters  in Sri Lanka”.

He brought to the attention of the Ambassador that “the U.S. is facing an acute labour shortage in the fields of teaching and nursing.  Sri Lanka also has high number of skilled teachers and nurses who could fill these positions. Our  Chamber of Commerce  has started some initial discussions   with some  of the  universities in Sri Lanka to  create  the graduates  who would be qualified to   take  these jobs”.

One instance the Sri Lanka America Chamber  of  Commerce acted to bring the two nations’ active participation in the trade, commerce and investment, Mr. Sedera said, it has  had  several rounds  of discussions  with  the highest  ranking  officials  of  the Export Development Board of  Sri Lanka to  open  up  unexplored  avenues  to  exporters  in Sri Lanka.

It was revealed by Ms. Keshini Wijegoonaratne, the Director-Project Manager of the Sri Lanka Foundation based in Los Angeles and Lucky Rajasinghe, a leading expatriate social worker, in their successful completion to distribute medical equipment to Sri Lanka during the height of the COVID-19 a couple of months ago both in the South as well as the North of Sri Lanka.

While she noted the importance of Sri Lanka in the Indian-Ocean region, Ambassador-designate Julie Chung, at her testimony for confirmation at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee reiterated “Sri Lanka is positioned in a strategic location at the heart of the Indian Ocean, and its critical ports with access to global maritime lanes and trading routes play a pivotal role in a free and open Indo-Pacific architecture. This reinforces the necessity for the United States to build constructive relationships with Sri Lanka, including with civil society, the private sector, and the Sri Lankan people”.

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Sri Lanka and Indonesia pledge stronger bilateral ties and economic cooperation




At a  bilateral meeting held on the sidelines of  the 10th World Water Summit, President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Indonesian President Joko Widodo reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the longstanding relationship between their nations. The discussions, which covered a wide range of regional and international issues, underscored the importance of collaboration in addressing global challenges.

A major topic of discussion was the critical issue of water management. President Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of the World Water Summit and expressed Sri Lanka’s willingness to participate in the Global Blended Financial Alliance, an initiative aimed at addressing common financial challenges faced by countries in managing water resources. He commended Indonesia for establishing a Secretariat for the Alliance, recognizing its significance for Sri Lanka.

President Wickremesinghe reiterated the importance of completing the PTA by early 2025, noting Sri Lanka’s existing free trade agreements with India, and Singapore, and ongoing negotiations with Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. He emphasized the potential benefits of joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), suggesting that Sri Lanka’s inclusion could encourage other South Asian countries to follow suit.

He also mentioned the ongoing removal of import restrictions and assured that Sri Lankan health authorities would address the entry of Indonesian pharmaceuticals into the market.

The discussion also touched upon regional security and economic cooperation in the Indian Ocean. President Wickremesinghe supported ASEAN’s Indo-Pacific outlook and stressed the need for closer bilateral and regional cooperation regarding Indian Ocean affairs. He proposed more frequent meetings between heads of government and a specific bilateral agreement with Indonesia to enhance commercial collaboration in the region.

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Landslide early warnings issued to Badulla, Colombo, Galle, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Kurunegala and Ratnapura Districts




The Landslide Early Warning Centre of the National Building Research Organization (NBRO) has issued landslide early warnings to the districts of Badulla, Colombo, Galle, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Kurunegala and Ratnapura. The warning will be effective until 12 noon on 21st May 2024.

Level II landslide early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries divisions and surrounding areas of Seethawaka in the Colombo district and Mathugama in the Kalutara district.

Level I landslide early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries divisions and surrounding areas of Haldumulla, Haputhale, Badulla, Hali Ela and Ella in the Badulla district, Padukka in the Colombo district, Nagoda and Elpitiya in the Galle district, Attanagalla in the Gampaha district, Dodangoda, Agalawatta, Ingiriya, Bulathsinhala, Walallawita and Palindanuwara in the Kalutara district, Yatinuwara, Ganga Ihala Korale, Kandy four Gravets or Ganagawata Korale,  Pasbage Korale, Udapalatha, Ududumbara and Udunuwara in the Kandy district, Kegalle, Deraniyagala, Yatiyanthota, Bulathkohupitiya, Mawanella, Galigamuwa, Dehiowita, Ruwanwella and Warakapola in the Kegalle district, Alawwa, Narammala and Polgahawela in the Kurunegala district, Ratnapura, Balangoda, Kiriella, Elapatha, Eheliyagoda, Kuruwita, Imbulpe, Ayagama and Kalawana in the Ratnapura district.

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President highlights Global North’s failure in Climate Change Financing at 10th World Water Forum




President Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing the 10th World Water Forum, held in Bali, Indonesia today (20), highlighting the stark contrast between global funding priorities, pointing out the willingness of the Global North to fund death and destruction in Ukraine while showing reluctance to finance measures to combat climate change.

Accordingly, President Wickremesinghe proposed a 10% levy on the annual profits of global tax evasion assets deposited in tax havens, estimated at $1.4 trillion annually. He suggested that funds raised through this levy could support Blended Finance projects focused on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The World Water Summit, themed “Water for Common Prosperity,” began on May 18 in Bali, Indonesia, bringing together world leaders, experts, academics, entrepreneurs, and policymakers. The conference aims to unite nations in a collaborative effort to address global water issues.

Since its inception in 1997, the World Water Summit has been held every three years, serving as a premier platform for countries worldwide to share experiences and knowledge on best practices for water management. The summit facilitates dialogues among stakeholders on water, sanitation challenges, and sustainable development goals.

This year’s event sees the participation of key United Nations organizations, including the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations International Children’s Fund, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and the United Nations Climate Change Organization.

Following is the speech delivered by President Ranil Wickremesinghe;

At the outset let me thank the President of the Republic of Indonesia, H.E. Joko Widodo for hosting the 10th World Water Forum in Bali. The theme ‘Water for shared prosperity’ focuses on collective responsibility in managing water resources, the life blood of all living beings and ecosystem services. This follows the “Sustainable Management of Lakes” Resolution proposed by Indonesia at the UNEA-5.

During the UNEA -6 held this year, the European Union together with Sri Lanka brought about the resolution “6/13 Effective and inclusive solutions for strengthening water policies to achieve sustainable development in the context of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution”.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of Indonesia for taking the initiative during the G20 Presidency to launch the Global Blended Finance Alliance. Sri Lanka expresses its willingness to become a pioneering member.

Climate Change and water stress are two sides of the same coin. The cumulative effects of Climate Change are the main reason for what we see today as the water resource crisis. According to IPCC projected climate scenarios till 2090, Sri Lanka’s dry zone will get drier and the wet zone will get wetter in an unprecedented manner. Sea level rise will cause salt water intrusion in coastal areas resulting in salinization of land. I took this example from Sri Lanka while appreciating the fact that this is what is happening all over the world.

In global terms the solution to water stress revolves around climate mitigation and adaptation. Combating the triple planetary crisis with specific measures aiming at water. In the Nationally Determined Contributions water is classified under the adaptation sectors. On the other hand, mitigation is equally important as emissions are the root cause. Combating the threats to water resources posed by climate change requires colossal amounts of financial resources.

The Global North has failed miserably in adhering to the commitments to provide financial resources for Climate Change. There is a notable lack of political will after the euphoria of the Glasgow COP was over. Climate Change denial is gaining ground in the West.

The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund, after a long drag, if effectively implemented can help to bridge the gap. This is a big IF. The Summit for a new Global Financing Pact will hopefully reach a conclusion by September this year. Nevertheless, the final outcome will depend on the results of the US Presidential Elections in November.

The OECD in 2021 projected the investment for global water related infrastructure at US $ 6.7 trillion for 2030 and US$ 22 trillion for 2058. The UNEP Report 2023 “Underfinanced – Underprepared” estimate the under financed gap to combat climate change at US$ 194 – 366 billion per year. The Global North is willing to fund death and destruction in the Ukraine. But there is an unwillingness to fund measures to avoid death and destruction caused by climate change.

Since money is not coming our way in anticipated amounts and at anticipated pace, to overcome the resource gap, Sri Lanka presented to COP 28 the Tropical Belt Initiative. A novel concept of harnessing commercial investments in the natural forests, mangroves, swamps, grassland water bodies and other natural resources in the Tropical Belt towards tackling the triple planetary crisis. The Tropical Belt from the time of its existence has been a ‘shield’ for the whole world. It is a catalytic accelerator of solutions to the ongoing triple planetary crisis. Investment in the tropical belt will bring in transformative changes to combat the triple planetary crisis.

In this context, the Initiative on Global Blended Finance will enable the Global South to mobilise the much needed financial resources. The US$ 9.4 billion available to commence this fund is a good example of leveraging concessional finance. The Tropical Belt Initiative will also benefit from this facility. In this context Sri Lanka proposes a 10% levy on the annual profits of global tax evasion assets deposited in tax havens. The annual profits are estimated at US$ 1.4 trillion per annum. The levy can be enforced by imposing sanctions, similar to those imposed on Russian Banks on the Banks and the Financial Institutes which fail to implement the levy. The monies raised by these levies to be made available to be utilised by the Blended Finance projects on Climate Change adaptation and mitigation.

The Global Blended Finance initiative is a supplement to the Loss and damage funds – not an alternative. These two measures must work in tandem. Therefore at this forum, let us express our appreciation for the hard work done by Indonesia in proposing this Initiative at the G20 culminating the establishment of the Alliance Secretariat.

Again, our thanks to President Joko Widodo for his contribution both in respect to the management of water resources and for bringing together the Global Blended Alliance.”


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