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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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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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premanath-c-Dolawatta

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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