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Sri Lanka, India and Maldives agree to strengthen cooperation in dealing with maritime challenges

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Agreement was reached on further strengthening cooperation in dealing with maritime challenges in the Indian ocean and ensure peace and security in the region for common benefit, at the trilateral 4th National Security Adviser level meeting on ‘Maritime Security Cooperation’, which concluded at the Colombo Hotel Taj Samudra on Saturday (28).

The sessions were held with the participation of Ajit Doval, National Security Adviser of India, Ms. Mariya Didi, Minister of Defence of Maldives and Maj. Gen. (retd) Kamal Gunaratne, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dinesh Gunawardena, was the chief guest at the inauguration.

The High Commissioner of India, Ambassador for the Maldives, Foreign Ministry Secretary Admiral (retd) Prof. Jayanath Colombage, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of the Army and Head of the National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID 19 Outbreak, Navy and Air Force Commanders, Inspector General of Police, Director-General of Sri Lanka Coast Guard, senior officials of Sri Lankan Foreign and Defence Ministries and senior military officers were among the attendees.

Several experts in the field of maritime defence from India, Maldives and Sri Lanka, together with observers from Mauritius and Seychelles, India and the Maldives were represented during the sessions at Senior Officials’ level.

The forum, fourth in sequence, took stock of the current maritime security environment in the region and the existing cooperation in the areas of Maritime Domain Awareness, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, Joint Exercises, Capacity Building, Maritime Security and Threats, Marine Pollution and Maritime Underwater Heritage, Covid-19 challenges, etc. They agreed to further strengthen cooperation in dealing with these challenges to ensure peace and security in the region for common benefit, a joint media statement issued by the Defence Ministry said.

Defence Secretary Kamal Gunaratne, delivering the welcome address, underlined the momentous importance of dialogue at trilateral level on a regular basis. The Minister of Foreign Affairs made the keynote address before the sessions began deliberations. Lalith Weeratunga, Advisor to the President made the closing remarks.

In view of COVID-19, the dialogue was conducted adhering to strict health guidelines using ‘Air Bubble’ concept for the visiting delegations, the statement noted.

Sri Lanka, India and Maldives launched the Trilateral NSA level Meeting on Maritime Security Cooperation in 2011 and three meetings had been held so far. The last meeting was held in March 2014 in New Delhi. The past deliberations and outcomes have helped the three countries in improving close coordination in maritime security of the region. These were supplemented by Deputy NSA level meetings for sustained engagements and implementation of the discussions at the NSA level meetings.

The three countries also exchanged views on common security threats and agreed to broad base cooperation by expanding the scope to improve intelligence sharing and include issues like terrorism, radicalization, extremism, drugs, arms and human trafficking, money laundering, cyber security and effect of climate change on maritime environment, the statement further said.

The Heads of Delegations agreed to meet regularly to share, discuss and ensure timely implementation of decisions taken at the Meeting. They also decided to hold Deputy NSA level working group meetings biannually for cooperation at operational level, it added.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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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.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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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.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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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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