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Sri Lanka urges BIMSTEC Member States to embrace the “new normal” for regional prosperity

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Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage chairing the 21st Session of the Senior Officials’ Meeting (SoM) urged BIMSTEC Member States to embrace the “new normal, and adapt fast”, at the first virtual meeting held on Wednesday in Colombo.

 In his inaugural remarks, the Foreign Secretary said that  global dynamics will not be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic as it has affected  all  States,  in various  degrees, as  it  transformed from  a health crisis  to an economic and human crisis  as described by the  United Nations Secretary General António Guterres.

In fact, the   crisis has affected the very fabric of   daily life of BIMSTEC Member States as  economic activities have slowed down with global and regional value chains disrupted, millions of people have lost their jobs with many pushed into poverty and  therefore the  meeting was timely, as it  is an opportunity to build on the assurances made by Heads of State of BIMSTEC Members on combating the adverse effects of COVID-19 at the 23rd  Anniversary of the BIMSTEC Day held in June 2020, the Foreign Secretary noted.

He further said that their messages were clear and encouraging as the Leaders had reiterated and acknowledged the need to build a better and resilient   organization that could leverage regional cooperation in the recovery and rehabilitation process in post COVID-19. 

 Given that the region is home to 23% of the world population, he pointed out that the devastating effects affecting the vulnerable sections can only cripple economies and divert resources that were once used for upward mobility in Member States. The collective GDP of US dollars 3 trillion, which was a benchmark prior to the pandemic, should not become an unattainable goal in the face of this devastation, and the goal should be to surpass it, Colombage continued.

Therefore, he said that the sector driven organization  should collectively promote trade and investment cooperation, strengthen energy cooperation, increase connectivity and people-to-people contact, focus on disaster management and public health, combat terrorism and extremism, deal with the adverse effects of climate change and work towards poverty alleviation.

 As the lead country for Information, Technology and Innovation sector in BIMSTEC, Sri Lanka informed that it will put forward proposals that would enhance the use of technological tools in daily life to address post COVID-19 effects and also cater to the demand for internet based economic activities and that the proposed setting up of the BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility, in Colombo would further augment the work Sri Lanka proposes to undertake in the sector.

 The 21st SoM was preceded by the Fourth BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee (BPWC) chaired by Additional Secretary Economic Affairs, Ambassador P. M. Amza of the Foreign Ministry.

The discussion of the meetings centred on administrative procedures and financial considerations of the organization and preparation and finalization of documents   for the approval at the 17th Ministerial Meeting and adoption at the 5th BIMSTEC Summit. 

The Sri Lanka delegation indicated its readiness to host the 5th BIMSTEC Summit preceded by the 17th Ministerial meeting, as it has earned  the ‘Safe Travels’ stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council in recognition of the comprehensive health and safety measures the government has put in place. The dates of the meeting are to be decided in consultation with Member States, given that the Member States are in different stages in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.

 The Member States commended the work of Ambassador Shahidul Islam, whose three year term as Secretary General will come to an end in the later part of September 2020. Sri Lanka made special note of his contribution and support during its Chair. The Member States also took note of the nomination of Tenzin Lekphell, as the next Secretary General of BIMSTEC from Bhutan.  

 Proposed by Sri Lanka, the Member States, observed a minute’s silence in solidarity with the President, Prime Minister and the people of India on the sad occasion of the demise of former Presi

The Sri Lanka delegation comprised Actg. Director General of Economic Affairs (Multilateral) Anzul Jhan, Deputy Legal Adviser Tilani Silva, and Executive Assistant Kalani Dharmasena of the Foreign Ministry.

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Foreign qualified medical students protest

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A group of foreign medical degree holders protested opposite the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (23) requesting that tangible measures be taken to conduct the Examination for Registration to Practice Medicine (ERPM) without further delay.

They alleged that over 1,500 students had been deprived of the opportunity to sit the examination due to the fault of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, which is now under investigation by a committee, appointed by Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi.

Photo: A section of the protesting students (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

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SJB insists referendum necessary besides 2/3 majority in Parliament

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Supreme Court moved against 20A

By Chitra Weerarathne

General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, yesterday (23) filed a petition in the Supreme Court stating that the proposed 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution was inconsistent with the Constitution. It requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approval by people at a referendum for passage, the SJV has argued.

The SJB says 20A violates people’s sovereignty and franchise enshrined in Article (3) and (4) of the Constitution.

The petitioner has argued that the provisions in clause 55 of the Bill are inconsistent with the public trust doctrine and the principle of checks and balances and would prejudicially affect public finance.

 The clause 54 of the Bill seeks to repeal Article 156 A of the Constitution, which provides constitutional recognition to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or corruption, the petition says.

 The petition says 20A seeks to repeal the prohibition on dual citizens being elected to Parliament and to the post of President.

The power of the Auditor General to audit the state institutions has been curtailed, the petition says, arguing that it could be detrimental to the economy.

It will be detrimental to the country if the Constitutional Council is replaced by a Parliamentary Council, the SJB General Secretary’s has contended in his petition.

Clause 20 (2) of the proposed 20A has restricted the powers of the Election Commission as regards the conduct of elections, the petitioner has argued.

The 20A states that an omission by the President could no longer be challenged through a fundamental rights violation petitions in the Supreme Court, the petitioner has said, adding that the Bill seeks to further enhance the powers of the President by allowing him to unilaterally remove the Prime Minister. The President would not be accountable to Parliament, the petition says.

The 20A would repeal Article 70/ (1) of the Constitution and enable the President to dissolve Parliament even immediately after a general election, the SJB General Secretary argues.

The respondent to the petition is the Attorney General.

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Lawyer Hijaz’s foundation received funds from banned foreign outfit – CID tells court

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By A.J.A.A beynayake and Kasuni Rebecca

The CID yesterday informed the Colombo Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage that Save the Pearls Trust run by lawyer Hijaz Hisbullah, now in custody for allegedly aiding and abetting one of the Easter Sunday bombers, had received Rs.13 million from a banned organisation named the Caliphate of Qatar.

The CID told court that according to the bank accounts of the trust the money had been received by it during the last few years and the police had launched an investigation to ascertain whether the funds had been used for terrorist activities.

The CID told court the investigation had been launched under the Money Laundering Act and a psychologist’s opinion had been sought on the book titled “Navarasam” found in a madrasa (school teaching Islam) run by Save the Pearls Trust in Puttalam.

The Magistrate order the CID to submit to court a Sinhala translation of the book and examine whether the contents of the book promoted terrorism.

The case will be taken up again on October 7.

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