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Pathfinder-Iiss in Strategic Dialogue on Sri Lanka-United Kingdom Relations

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The Pathfinder Foundation (PF) and the UK based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) engaged in a Track 1.5 virtual dialogue to examine the current status of Sri Lanka-United Kingdom relations. The virtual dialogue was conducted under the Chatham House rules and included a presentation each by a speaker from the UK and Sri Lanka under each topic, followed by a Q & A session.

The dialogue broadly looked at three focused areas. Session 1 on Maritime Security Cooperation was Chaired by Dr. Rahul Roy Choudhury with Nick Childs and Rohan Gunaratna presenting on behalf of the UK and Sri Lanka respectively. Session 2 on China-Sri Lanka Economic Cooperation included H.M.G.S. Palihakkara as the Chair and Ganeshan Wignaraja and Sir Hugo Swire as the speakers. Kshenuka Seneviratne Chaired Session 3 on The Way Ahead for UK – SL relations, whilst the speakers were Indrajit Coomaraswamy and Stephen Evans. The Keynote Session was chaired by Desmond Bowen, Associate Fellow, IISS and former Director General of International Policy at the Ministry of Defence in the UK. The Keynote remarks were made by Admiral (Retd.) Prof. Jayanath Colombage, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary.  

At the start of his keynote address, the Foreign Secretary said that his views were his personal, highlighted his close relations with the British High Commission in Colombo and that the two countries were engaged in close bilateral relations on many spheres. He observed that the economic relations between the two countries were of paramount importance to Sri Lanka at a time when the present pandemic had an adverse impact on the island’s economy.

Leading on to the post Brexit phase, the Foreign Secretary mentioned that Sri Lanka was looking forward to enhancing its trade with the UK as one of its large export markets. In addition, tourism from the UK represented a large segment, which brought in much needed foreign exchange, which has come to a standstill due to the adverse pandemic situation. However, he was positive of the success of the country’s inoculation programme against Covid-19, which he believed would result in a more conducive environment for trade and tourism.

With regard to the importance of a strategic dialogue, Foreign Secretary highlighted the ongoing strategic competition in the Indian Ocean, which despite Covid constraints, continued unabated. Speaking of the ongoing global power struggle, he said Sri Lanka’s response was to follow a foreign policy of neutrality whilst remaining non-aligned.

He finally spoke on the human rights issue, where the UK had played a key role heading the Contact Group on Sri Lanka in the United Nations Human Rights Council. He stressed that it was time, the UK recognized the steady, tangible progress being made by Sri Lanka in this respect. As a founding member of the Commonwealth, Sri Lanka considered the UK to be an important partner and requested the UK to lend its support to Sri Lanka.

Adopting a similar position in his concluding remarks, the State Minister for Regional Cooperation, Hon. Tharaka Balasuriya observed that perception matters in geopolitics, where ill-informed narratives take precedence and it was important to change such perceptions. Focusing on relations between the two countries, he stressed that economic cooperation was most important, whilst there were certain existentialist issues, such as climate change that need addressing.

He also spoke of the contentious issue of human rights, stressing that Sri Lanka always strived for good governance, not just due to the pressure of the international community but as it was a priority in any civilized society. With regard to economic cooperation, the Minister pointed out another false narrative that Sri Lanka favoured China. He clarified that most of the Chinese companies being state owned, tend to be more competitive, when compared to others. Post-Covid cooperation, the Minster stated, had tremendous potential in areas such as ICT and the health sectors, highlighting that the Government of Sri Lanka has been in touch with its British counterparts in this regard. He also mentioned that a Preferential Trade Agreement will be beneficial to both countries.

Finally, the Minister observed that both the UK and Sri Lanka should reciprocate each other’s support in order to gain the most from the long-standing relationship and respect different values of sovereign states. The UK has been a great friend to Sri Lanka, which, over the years, has considered the former as an example for democracy and best practices. Thus, having a strategic partnership in the future will be beneficial to both SL and the UK, he concluded.

Taking into consideration historical relations and the lead role played by the UK with regard to the recent resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka, the two institutions thought that it would be a good idea to have an interaction covering all aspects of bilateral relations between the two countries, so that the two sides will have a better appreciation and understanding of each other’s priorities and concerns. 

Approximately 20 participants each from Sri Lanka and the UK, including representatives of the House of Lords, House of Commons, members of Parliament, government officials, experts, academics, senior media personnel etc. participated in the virtual dialogue.  Among the parliamentarians from Sri Lanka, in addition to the Minister of State for Regional Cooperation Hon. Tharaka Balasuriya; Hon. Eran Wickramaratne and former minister Faiszer Musthapha attended the dialogue, while the participants of the UK comprised of Lord Birt, Crossbench Peer; Lord Sheikh, Lord Marland and Mark Logan MP, Vice Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka.



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Explanation sought over Monetary Board Secy.’s sudden transfer

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Rohini calls for social media campaign against govt. move

By Shamindra Ferdinando

 The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) has sought an explanation from the government over the sudden removal of the Secretary to the Monetary Board of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, K.M.A.N. Daulagala on16 Sept.

Matale District lawmaker Rohini Kaviratne yesterday (19) questioned the rationale behind Assistant Governor Daulagala’s removal. The former UNP MP emphasised that Daulagala had played a critically important role in the Central Bank’s response in the wake of Treasury bond scams perpetrated in 2015 and 2016. Therefore, her removal was quite suspicious and might facilitate efforts to suppress those scams as well as future frauds as well.

MP Kaviratne represented the UNP during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Prime Minister (2015-2019).

Declaring that Daulagaha had been at the forefront of the efforts to create a clean administration, Kaviratne stressed that she was second only to Rohini Nanayakkara of the Bank of Ceylon (BOC) and earned the respect of all for courageously taking a stand against fraudulent practices.

The SJB spokesperson said that Daulagala, in her capacity as the head of the non-banking sector financial institutions, handled the ETI investigation at the onset (2010-2012) of the probe. In the wake of her recommendations pertaining to the ETI being rejected by the Central Bank, she received a transfer to another section, MP Kaviratne said.

The Monetary Board is responsible for making all policy decisions related to the management, operation and administration of the Central Bank. It comprises Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Finance Secretary S.R. Attygalle, Sanjeeva Jayawardena, PC, Dr (Mrs) Ranee Jaymaha and Samantha Kumarasinghe.

Cabraal, who served as the Governor (2006-2014) recently replaced W.D. Lakshman on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s request.

Kaviratne asked who had benefited from the removal of the Secretary to the Monetary Board?

MP Kaviratne said that Daulagala had been involved in the internal process following the first Treasury bond scam and the subsequent developments, including the coordination between the Central Bank and the Attorney General’s Department pertaining to the Treasury bond scams. Urging women’s organsations, civil society and law abiding citizens to take up Daulagala’s removal through social media, lawmaker Kaviratne said that the issue at hand should receive attention of the parliament.

“The Parliament is responsible for public finance. The Parliament cannot turn a blind eye to what is going on in the Central Bank. The national economy is in such a perilous state every effort should be made to investigate past frauds and thwart future adventures,” the MP said.

MP Kaviratne also recalled the role played by Deepa Seneviratne, Superintendent of Public Debt at the time of the first Treasury bond scam in exposing the then Governor’s culpability. “Unfortunately, we seem to be unable to change the direction regardless of exposure of past misdeeds,” she said.

Declaring that she had no intention of protecting any wrongdoer under any circumstances, MP Kaviratne said that the incumbent government should ensure transparency and accountability in public finance.

Examination of COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), COPA (Committee on Public Accounts) and COPF (Committee on Public Finance) proceedings revealed a frightening picture, lawmaker Kaviratne said. Shocking revelations made by the watchdog committee should be examined against the backdrop of overall deterioration of the national economy over the past several years, the MP said.

She said that it would be a grave mistake on the government’s part to blame the current crisis on the raging Covid-19 epidemic. Acknowledging the difficulties caused by the economic downturn, MP Kaviratne said that the country was paying a huge price for unbridled waste, corruption, irregularities and negligence.

The MP asserted that the citizenry could play a bigger role in a political campaign on social media. The vast majority of those who use social media strengthened democratic opposition, she said. Removal of Daulagala could be a rallying point, she said, urging public onslaught on the SLPP government.

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Those responsible for Easter carnage will be haunted eternally – Bishop Galle

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Text and pictures by PRIYAN DE SILVA

The Chief Celebrant of the 114th annual feast of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Matara, Bishop of the Diocese of Galle, Rev. Dr. Raymond Wickremasinghe told a virtual congregation that the conscience of those responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage would never be at peace and it would haunt them eternally.

 The celebrations of the 114th annual Feast of the National shrine of Our Lady of Matara commenced on 05 September with the raising of the flagstaff and ended on Sunday 12 September. This year’s feast was held in keeping with strict health guidelines sans public participation.

 Rev Dr. Wickremasinghe reiterated that it was the wish of the general public, especially all Christians that those who carried out and those masterminded and those who knew but did not prevent the Easter Sunday carnage would be exposed and Justice served. “It is our prayer that the divine father guides the authorities in their endeavours” the Bishop added

 Rev. Wickremesinghe also called upon every person including decision-makers to heed the advice of the experts and act intelligently to overcome the pandemic.

 The Marian procession carrying the miraculous statue of our lady of Matara. accompanied by clergy and security personnel paraded the town, concluding this year’s festivities.

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Wild jumbos destroy houses in search of newly harvested paddy

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BY CYRIL WIMALASURENDRE

KANDY— Herds of wild elephants raid Ududumbara and Minipe area sdestroying houses in search of newly harvested paddy.

Farmers of Minipe, Hasalaka and Udadumbara keep paddy in their houses as they are without proper storage facilities.

Kandy District Secretary Chandana Tennakoon visited the house of a farmer destroyed by elepheants in Kongahaela, Hasalaka.

The victim informed the District Secretary Tennakoon that a herd of elephants including young ones were roaming had attacked his house.

Similar complaints were made to the District Secretary by farmers at Minipe, Hasalaka, Welgala, Ulpathagama and Udunuwara.

The farmers said at least they should be provided with an adequate number of elephant crackers to scare the elephants away. The farmers had to travel about 30 km to the Randenigala Wildlife Office office to receive one cracker each, they said, adding that they needed many more.

District secretary Tennakoon told the farmers that steps would be taken to resolve the issue this year by putting up an elephant  fence around the affected villages of Ududumbara, Medsadumbara, Minipe and Hasalaka sector.

The project would cost about Rs. 100 million. The length of the fence would be about 43 km, he said.

Divisional Secretary of Minipe Nuwan Hemachandra and Deputy Director of Plan Implementation Palitha Rajapakse were present.

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