It was in Sri Lanka’s own interest that the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity within a united Sri Lanka should be fulfilled and Delhi insisted on the importance of the 13th Amendment in fulfilling those expectations, Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar said yesterday during a Joint Press Conference with Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.
He said: “That applies equally to the commitments made by the Sri Lankan government on meaningful devolution including the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The progress and prosperity of Sri Lanka will surely be advanced as a consequence.”
Highlighting that India and Sri Lanka had a shared interest in ensuring maritime security and safety, Jaishankar also offered Indian assistance to enhance Sri Lanka’s capabilities to meet growing maritime and security challenges.
“We have a long history of cooperation in this regard. India has been the first responder in emergency situations. I am confident that this domain of cooperation will continue to expand in the days ahead. We stand ready to enhance Sri Lanka’s capabilities to meet growing maritime and security challenges,” he said.
Indian External Affairs Minister also said that India was looking forward to an early return of their fishermen to the seas around Sri Lanka and that he hopes that issues regarding fishing disputes between the two nations could be sorted during the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group.
“We naturally look forward to an early return of our fishermen. I will also be meeting Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda later this afternoon to discuss this further.”
Jaishankar also said that India had been strongly committed to the unity, stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and that COVID-19 had not been able to dent the bilateral cooperation between the two nations.
He said: “High level contacts were maintained and indeed strengthened during the past year and the Virtual Bilateral Summit between PM Modi and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was a high watermark for us in 2020. I carry the message of an India that will always be a dependable partner and reliable friend, open to strengthening its relationship with Sri Lanka on the basis of mutual trust, mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual sensitivity.”
Jaishankar also said that both nations were now facing the immediate challenge of post-COVID recovery and that it was not just a public health issue but equally, a crisis of the economy.
“The Indian economy has also shown strong signs of recovery in the last few months. We are very confident that this will be full-blown by the next quarter. These developments will obviously have a positive impact on Sri Lanka. At the same time, there are specific challenges that need addressing, whether it is in finance or in trade. My visit is aimed at facilitating that process. We are now looking at post-COVID cooperation and I carry back with me Sri Lanka’s interest in accessing vaccines from India,” he said.
Minister Gunawardena observed that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had said that he was committed to the wellbeing progress and opportunities of all our citizens Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, etc.
“During our talks, we focused on multiple areas of mutual cooperation in the identified sectors of economics, finance, trade, commerce, defence, security and fisheries, cultural and particularly on the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic and the post COVID era that we are moving forward to and efforts we have jointly taken since the outbreak last year,” he said.
Gunawardena said that the Indian Government’s “Neighbourhood First” policy made a very positive impact on Sri Lankan health sector and the economy during the critical period of unprecedented crisis and also extended assistance to repatriate Sri Lankans, pilgrims, students and medically concerned.
Gunawardena said: “My delegation sought India’s partnership for our economic revival, stability through enhanced investments in different sectors of the economy. Of course, as close neighbours and being littoral states of the Indian Ocean, we discussed defence and security related matters, as well as the issues related to maritime and fisheries sectors.”
Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’
By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam
The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.
Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.
A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.
The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.
According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.
The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.
DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.
PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners
By Norman Palihawadane
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.
Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.
The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”
Thilo Hoffman remembered
A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.
Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.
The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.
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