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‘War crimes’: Govt. reiterates opposition to external mechanism

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Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (13) reiterated Sri Lanka’s opposition to the establishment of an external mechanism to inquire into accountability issues. Such measures would impede ongoing domestic processes, Prof. Peiris said.

The Minister also briefed the Colombo- based diplomatic community as regards the Constitutional reforms and the forthcoming Provincial Council elections.

The following is the text of statement issued by the Foreign Ministry at the conclusion of the briefing at the Foreign Ministry auditorium conducted under the approved COVID-19 related guidelines: “At the outset the Minister appreciated his first opportunity to meet with the entire diplomatic corps collectively following his assumption of duties as Foreign Minister some weeks ago. Due to the previously prevailing COVID-19 situation, such a meeting could not take place earlier as he would have wished, the Minister stated. The objective of the meeting was to cordially brief the diplomatic community on recent developments of interest to them.

“The Minister stated that he was pleased to report that the COVID-19 situation in the country had improved, following a very successful vaccination effort. Despite severe challenges, over 70% of the population has now been fully vaccinated allowing for the gradual opening up of the country. The Minister sought the cooperation of the diplomatic community in the resumption of tourism and economic activity. The Minister expressed his appreciation to the diplomatic community for their support and assistance during the COVID-19 crisis including to all UN agencies as well as donors and Colombo–based multilateral financial institutions.

“Minister Peiris also briefed the diplomatic community on his recent overseas engagements, including at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and during his visit to New York, accompanying H.E the President when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly. At the UNGA, Sri Lanka stood in solidarity with global efforts to address pressing issues which required a collective approach from all countries big and small. In the next major international engagement which will be the COP 26 in Glasgow where the Minister will accompany the Sri Lanka President, as a climate vulnerable country, will further reiterate its commitments in this regard.

“The Minister recalled his statement to the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council following the presentation of the Oral update on Sri Lanka by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, where he outlined Sri Lanka’s ongoing cooperation with the Council as well as the progress made on reconciliation and human rights through domestic institutions. Further updating the diplomatic community in this regard, he stated that Sri Lanka is open in acknowledging the challenges faced and will engage in candid discussions in this regard, both domestically with representatives of civil society as well as with the our international partners including the UN. However Sri Lanka rejects the establishment of an external mechanism when domestic processes were ongoing. The Minister also shared information relating to progress on the process of Constitutional reform and the Provincial Council elections.

“The Minister also referred to the recent visits from the EU, in the context of the Joint Commission as well as to review the implementation of the GSP plus. The FM expressed satisfaction that the discussions were held in a cordial manner and that officials have taken note of outstanding matters. The Minister recalled that the continuation of GSP plus is vital for the Sri Lankan economy, not only in the apparel sector, but also in other areas of bilateral trade. He stated that Sri Lanka’s efforts to achieve the SDGs as well as uplift the lives of our people require cooperation from all our international partners. COVID-19 dealt a significant blow to our plans and we need to recover.

“The members of the diplomatic community thanked the Minister for his engagement and appreciated the opportunity provided to engage on issues of interest to them. Minister Peiris concluded the meeting by stating his intention to have regular interactions with the diplomatic community.”



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Central Bank looking at proposal to permit dollar-paid vehicle imports

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Duty too must be paid in hard currency

The central bank is looking at a proposal to allow persons who can pay in foreign exchange to import vehicles and pay taxes in hard currency, Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal said last week.

He said that this was a proposal made by certain parties whom he did not identify making clear it was at a proposal stage with no decision taken. But it was under examination.

Asked whether Non-Resident Foreign Currency (NRFC) account holders – now called Personal Foreign Currency Accounts – would be permitted to use their resources to import a vehicle provided they would pay the applicable duty in hard currency, he said that he did not see why not.

“If the vehicle is paid for in hard currency and not converted rupees, and the duty also accrues to the government in hard currency, I don’t see any harm, in fact it would be good,” he said.

It would also mean that there’s are new vehicles coming into the country not paid for by rupees converted into hard currency plus a hard currency duty stream, an analyst said.

Banning vehicle imports on account of the present foreign exchange crunch has cost the government an immense revenue stream.

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Forex pressure eases – CB

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The Central Bank says that pressure caused by shortage of foreign exchange is easing gradually towards better.

“Earnings from exports marked a notable improvement and recorded over US dollars 1 billion for the third consecutive month in August 2021. Expenditure on imports has also increased, partly reflecting the surge in global commodity prices, resulting in an expansion in the trade deficit during the eight months ending August 2021, over the corresponding period of last year. Outlook for tourism improved with the easing of travel restrictions globally and the successful vaccination drive domestically. Despite the moderation of workers’ remittances observed in recent months, a rebound is expected in the period ahead with the improved growth outlook for major foreign employment source countries and greater stability in the domestic foreign exchange market. The realisation of foreign investments in the real sector and the timely adoption of remedial measures by the Central Bank as enunciated in ‘The Six-month Road Map for Ensuring Macroeconomic and Financial System Stability’ are gradually easing pressures in the domestic foreign exchange market,” the Central Bank says.

The CBSL said that it continued to intervene in the foreign exchange market to provide liquidity for essential imports, including fuel. The depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee against the US dollar is recorded at 6.8 per cent thus far in 2021.

It said that the gross official reserves were estimated at US dollars 2.6 billion by end September 2021. This, however, does not include the bilateral currency swap facility with the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) of CNY 10 billion (equivalent to approximately US dollars 1.5 billion). Gross official reserves are expected to improve with the measures that are being pursued by the Government and the Central Bank to attract fresh foreign exchange inflows, as outlined in the Six-month Road Map, thereby reinforcing the stability of the external sector in the period ahead.

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Samarasinha to promote ‘Commercial Diplomacy” among German states

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Nihal S. Samarasinha has been appointed as Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka for three Federal States in Germany, which includes Hessen, Rheinland Palatinate and Saarland.

He would be mainly promoting commecial diplomacy in the three states.

He presented his credentials to State Minister Axel Wintermeyer along with 18 other Consuls General and Honorary Consuls at the official State Residence Villa of the Minister President of Hessen.

Samarasinha, born in Sri Lanka and migrated to Germany in 1972 is the Chairman and Managing Director of Millennium Hospitality Advisory Company providing advisory services and managing and operating hotels of several international hotel brands based in Frankfurt am Main. He is an alumni of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, and graduated from the Heidelberg Hotel School, Germany, American Hotel and Motel Association, Michigan USA; Holiday Inn University, Atlanta USA and from the Ramada International University, New York.

His focus in Finance throughout his career made him a proven financial expert with vast analytical skills.

 Samarasinha has held senior management positions in organisations such as Holiday Inn WorldWide (Europe) as Director of Finance; Canadian Pacific Hotels – Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) as Regional Comptroller and Ramada International Hotels and Resorts as Vice-President of Finance and Internal Audit for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), India and Sri Lanka. He has been engaged in the hospitality industry since 1972 with remarkable success.

Over the years Samarasinha has developed strong bonds with Sri Lankans in all parts of Germany and had assisted them in numerous ways long before he was first appointed Honorary Consul for the Federal state of Rheinland Palatinate in 2010.

He is a co-founder of the Diplomatic Council in Frankfurt along with the former Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Frankfurt Buddhi Athauda, The Diplomatic Council acted as a springboard to promote Sri Lanka Tourism, Trade and Culture in an environment of commercial diplomacy.

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