Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reiterated that in the post conflict era the defence of India and Sri Lanka must be intertwined, while extending warm wishes to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on his forthcoming second swearing-in, when the two Heads of State met over lunch at Indian PM’s Race Course official residence Friday, Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga said.
Subsequent to the 19th Commonwealth games closing ceremony in New Delhi which President Rajapaksa attended as the guest of honour, a luncheon meeting was held by the Indian Premier for his Sri Lankan counterpart where the Indian leader warmly held the President’s hands and wished him luck on his second term.
Indian PM said that in the post conflict era, defence of the two countries must be inter-twined. In fact, India is willing to work closely with our defence authorities, Weeratunga said.
The Indian Prime Minister appreciated the work done in relation to the resettlement of the IDPs. President Rajapaksa explained that the extensive work done for rehabilitation has contributed towards this achievement. However, the delay is due to extensive demining which is being carried out, the President stressed.
The discussion also centred around the political settlement. The Indian PM emphasised that the Tamil National Alliance must work with the Government. to work towards a settlement. The President responded that he has extended an open invitation to the TNA. Since the TNA leadership had been out of the country during the last 2-3 months, he pointed out that there could be no dialogue.
The Indian PM has expressed willingness to celebrate the 2600th year of the Buddha’s birth, which falls next year, in collaboration with Sri Lanka. The President invited the Indian PM to visit Sri Lanka next year and there was a positive response.
They discussed a host of other issues including the India-funded 50,000 housing unit project for IDPs. The project is to be officially inaugurated in the latter part of next month when Indian leaders arrive here for the Joint Commission sessions.
The President met Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, Britain’s Prince Edward who was present to declare the games closed on behalf of the Queen, and the Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari at the closing ceremony.
The Indian leaders were also briefed at the meeting that of the nearly 300,000 IDPs there were only 20,000 still in camps and the Government’s target is to resettle all displaced by the end of this year.
“The two countries also agreed to further strengthen cooperation in security and to continue implementing the agreements reached at the bilateral meeting between the two leaders last June,” the President’s media said.
When the subject of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) came up for discussion, the Indian PM categorically said that our President could move at a pace convenient to Sri Lankan authorities so that it would be a win-win situation.
The meeting was attended by Indian Home Affairs Minister P.Chidambaram, External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna, National Security Advisor M.K.Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao. Minister Prof.G.L.Peiris, President’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga, External Affairs Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe, Presidential Advisor, Sajin Vaas Gunawardena and High Commissioner Prasad Kariyawasam were among the Sri Lankan delegation.
President Rajapaksa reached New Delhi on Thursday and returned on Friday.
Sri Lanka may have 20,000 illegals mainly from Pakistan, India: report
Sri Lanka may have 20,000 illegals mainly from Pakistan, India: report
Sri Lanka may have about 20,000 guest workers, mainly from India and Pakistan working as labourers, domestic workers, cooks and waiters in restaurants in several towns without proper authority, a media report said.
Sri Lanka's The Sunday Times newspaper said the number was an 'official estimate' but the island's immigration chief had declined to give an actual number.
"We are carrying out certain checks on people illegally staying in the country," the newspaper quoted Immigration Controller Chulananda Perera as saying.
"I cannot elaborate on the action taken as it would make it difficult to crack down on them."
Sri Lanka has visa-on-arrival facility from 85 countries and some may be abusing the facility, the report said. However a foreign national who comes with a pre-approved visa can also overstay or work.
Fast growing countries like Singapore which are tourist and service hubs also have visa-on-arrival facilities and some people overstay their visas. Sri Lanka also has aspirations to becoming a hub for South Asia and also develop tourism to grow its economy fast.
Workers, whether legal or illegal, help create wealth when they enter into a mutually beneficial contract to offer services out of their free will.
Overstaying visas it is increasingly argued belongs to class of prohibitions known as 'victimless crimes', though labour unions fear loss of jobs. Free societies are trying to decriminalize victimless 'crimes'.
Many Sri Lankans work illegally in countries like Italy and remit large amounts of money. In the United States, illegal immigrants pay tax legally and work. It is not necessary to declare immigrant status to open a tax account.
In the US police are not expected to inquire in to the immigration status of law abiding persons. Work permits are a barrier to the free movement of labour.
From time to time Sri Lankan immigration authorities also crackdown on foreign commercial sex workers who arrive on tourist visas.
Knowledgeable sources say in Colombo's Pettah wholesale district some businesses employ foreign guest workers as they work hard, are dependable and are not absent due to alcoholism.
But countries in the Middle East, especially the United Arab Emirates have guest workers larger than their own population. More than a million Sri Lankans work legally abroad.
Sri Lanka is pushing up education levels and moving to industries higher up the value chain. Most of Sri Lanka's current inhabitants, except for the Veddah community of indigenous peoples have migrated from South Asia and further afield.
External Affairs Minister Prof G L Peiris on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony met with several senior Indian Government personalities.
On the morning of October 14, Minister Peiris met with his Indian counterpart, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, for a very cordial and constructive review of bilateral relations. The discussion between the two Ministers served as a curtain raiser to the forthcoming sessions of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission that will take place, when Minister Krishna visits Sri Lanka later this year.
Prof. Peiris called on Indian Home Affairs Minister P Chidambaram on October 15. The Home Minister and Prof Peiris discussed the progress with regard to the program of 50,000 houses to be built in the formerly conflict affected areas, through Indian grant funds.
Minister Peiris briefed that the allocation of State lands for the construction of 1,000 houses in a cluster format for the use of widows or single headed families, was underway. The rest of the program would relate both to the construction of 32,000 houses on an owner-driven basis on private land, as well as to the repair of 17,000 damaged houses.
Later that day, Minister Peiris met with Indian Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, to discuss collaboration in the education sphere, especially in relation to the assistance being received from India towards the realization President Rajapaksa’s vision for the coming into being of a trilingual society in Sri Lanka. Prof. Peiris expressed his appreciation of the assurance by Minister Sibal, that India would strongly be engaged in this effort.
Prof. Peiris’s third bilateral meeting on that day was with the Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma. The two Ministers included in their discussion issues pertaining to further strengthening of the trade and economic relationship between the two nations. They agreed that the forthcoming establishment of a Forum of Chief Executive Officers, which would include leading entrepreneurs of both countries, would assist both to iron-out any problems and also to identify a sound and mutually beneficial path for the years ahead.
Minister Peiris concluded his engagements on the 15th by delivering the prestigious R K Mishra Memorial Lecture under the auspices of the Observer Research Foundation, on the theme of ‘Growth, Equity and Security: Constitutional Imperatives for South Asia’.
Prof. Peiris addressed representatives of leading media institutions, think-tanks and the diplomatic community in New Delhi at the Sri Lanka High Commission on October 16 concerning the new era of opportunities that has now dawned in Sri Lanka.
Addressing a delegation comprising United Kingdom Parliament Members, Finance and Planning Deputy Minister and Senior Presidential Advisor Dr Sarath Amunugama said that Sri Lanka is well positioned in her economic growth and reaching eight percent growth rate as targeted.
The delegation consisted of United Kingdom Parliament Members, Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon), Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton NE), David Amess (Southend West) and the Lord Sheikh (House of Lords, Westminster).
The UK Parliament Members had discussions with Dr Amunugama on matters pertaining to investments in Sri Lanka.
During the discussions Dr Amunugama said the central part of the country is covered with tea plantations and this sector was managed by British companies during the British Government was administering this country some decades ago.
"To keep up this industry, your countrymen were involved with large investments here. Therefore the investment rapport between your country and Sri Lanka is long standing," he said.
The doors for investments in Sri Lanka are opened and there could be no doubts for investors to commence business enterprises or projects since the war is now ended, Dr Amunugama said. "It is easy to transact with your country because we both communities mostly talk English.
All the sectors in Sri Lanka including the hospital sector are progressing on a large scale.
All parties in the United Kingdom stand by you and are ready to help Sri Lanka today. We are happy that terrorism has gone away from this island; that reconstruction, rejuvenation and reconciliation is the order of the day, said Paul Murphy MP (Labour), leader of the visiting Parliamentary delegation from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) UK, when they met President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees last evening (18).
Recalling his earlier visit to Sri Lanka, when he went to Kilinochchi then under LTTE control, Murphy said the situation here was similar to that in the UK which had won the war in Northern Ireland and had to win the peace.
In a discussion that lasted more than 45 minutes, the delegation covered a wide range of issues, which were discussed with great candour and cordiality.
President Rajapaksa explained to the delegation that what the people of the North of Sri Lanka wanted most today were the essentials of water, electricity, schools, health services and education. There was a yearning for development among the Tamil people, asserting that there could be no development without peace and vice versa.
Speaking on the efforts at reconciliation, he told the delegates of the work being done by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and regretted that organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group that had been invited to give evidence before it had refused to do so.
The Commission was open to all including the United Nations, he said, emphasizing that reconciliation in Sri Lanka needed a home grown solution, and not one that is transported from elsewhere, even from Northern Ireland. It must be based on our own experience, while we are ready to learn from the experience of others, he said.
Responding to questions about a political solution to the ethnic issue, President Rajapaksa said he looked forward to a dialogue with all Tamil political parties. Some had already responded positively. There are more parties than one representing Tamils and we look forward to consensus among all, especially on aspects of development, he said.
On the question of the provincial administration in the North, the CPA-UK delegates were told that the first priority will be Local Government Elections, after which there would be elections to the Northern Provincial Council, similar to the political progress that had taken place in the East, after the defeat of terrorism.
Clarifying the size and areas of investment from the UK, in response to a question by the Hon. Stephen Hammond MP (Conservative), Minister Basil Rajapaksa said the key area of investment in the North and East was Tourism. There were also much investment opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing industries and fisheries, especially in the North. An industrial zone had already been established in the North, and investors had already come in. There were also many opportunities for investment in education in the North, and many students from the North were keen to enroll in UK universities, following a road show that some universities had held in the North, the Minister said.
Asked by Hon, (Mrs.) Helen Grant (Conservative) and the Hon. (Ms.) Fiona Donnor (Labour) about the situation of children who had suffered injury due to landmines and the rehabilitation of child soldiers and other child victims of terrorism, Minister Basil Rajapaksa explained that the Jaipur Foot Organization of India was doing considerable work in assisting those who has lost their legs due to landmines. With regard to child soldiers it was explained that all of them had been released to their parents. Most were attending schools, even in Colombo.
Youth whose university education had been interrupted due carrying arms for the LTTE, had been given special opportunities to continue their higher education. The rehabilitation work for children and youth was receiving assistance from UNICEF, IOM and the US Government, he said.
President Rajapaksa explained that Sri Lanka had clearly made the fastest progress in the rehabilitation of child soldiers and youth, who had been made the victims of armed conflict.
Responding to a question by Lord Sheik (Conservative) about the progress of moves for devolution of power, President Rajapaksa said that whatever solution arrived at must be one that is acceptable to the people. He was emphatic is stating that what the LTTE wanted could not be given. But any reasonable aspects of devolution, for which all parties have consensual agreement, can be granted by Parliament, he said. The President said he will encourage all parties to come to a settlement, and that Parliament must finally decide, as there was the need for a two-third majority for any Constitutional change.
President Rajapaksa also assured that there were no obstacles to Tamil expatriates abroad coming to Sri Lanka and also investing here. In fact that was being encouraged. However, he said that was a section of the expatriates, or the Diaspora, who would not change their attitudes, and were continuing even now raise funds for pro-LTTE activities. The countries in which they had obtained refugee and other status must look into this aspect, he said.
He added that it was high time such Tamil expatriates changed their view of the situation in Sri Lanka, come back and work with the Tamil people, invest in the country and make a genuine difference to the live of the Tamil people.
Responding to a question on the readiness of the Government to work with NGOs, INGOs and such organizations, President Rajapaksa said There are NGOs and NGO. Sri Lanka had the example of NGOs that had obtained large sums of money from abroad, from people and governments abroad, during the Tsunami, but had done no relief work here. We have to be wary of such organizations, however, we are ready to work and in fact work with a large number genuine NGO? he said. The CPA - UK delegates were told that some NGOs had their own political agenda which were not in the wider interests of the country.
The CPA-UK delegation comprised Paul Murphy MP (Labour), (Leader), Stephen Hammond (Cons), David Amess (Cons), Lord Dholakia (Lib-Dem), Helen Grant (Cons), Lord Grocott (Lab), Fiona Connor (Lab), Emma Reynolds (Lab), Lord Sheik (Cons), Andrew Tuggey, Secretary, CPA- UK Branch, and Hatty Cooper, Secretary to the Delegation. The UK High Commissioner in Colombo Dr. Peter Hayes was also present.
Associated with President Mahinda Rajapaksa were the Deputy Speaker Priyankara Jayaratne, Ministers Basil Rajapaksa, Nimal Siripala de Silva, DEW Gunasekera and Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary, External Affairs Romesh Jayasinghe and Secretary General of Parliament Dhammmika Kithulgoda.
A Hambantota Indian consulate to monitor China’s string of pearls
A Hambantota Indian consulate to monitor China’s string of pearls
When President Mahinda Rajapaksa is being sworn in for the second term as the President of Sri Lanka (SL) on the 19th of November , the ceremonial entry of the first vessel into the Hambantota Port has also been scheduled for the same day. While the Hambantota port project is being expedited with this in view ,the Indian High Commission office in SL is also agog with the objective of opening its Hambantota Consulate office swiftly.
It is not sure whether the Indian High Commission is striving to open its consulate office before the opening of the Hambantota Port.
In any event , before Mahinda left for India to attend the Commonwealth games, the Indian High Commissioner in SL made an evaluation of the progress made in regard to the establishment of the Consulate office when he toured Hambantota . Immediately thereafter he flew to New Delhi perhaps to forward the necessary report on the progress made towards the opening of the Indian consulate offices in Hambantota and Jaffna at the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mahinda.
On the first occasion when India proposed to open a consulate office in Hambantota , Mahinda’s Govt. objected to it. But later Mahinda’s Govt. agreed after India intensified its pressure .
Mahinda’s Govt. opposing the opening of an Indian consulate office in Hambantota is justifiable. This is because the SL Govt. is suspicious over the Indian Govt.’s interest in that regard. However India proved the necessity to open its consulate office in Hambantota when a controversy arose in regard to a ship that was anchored at the Colombo Port on 22nd August 2007…
On August 22, 2007, Sri Lankan Navy confiscated a Panamian-registered vessel, MV MOL Admiration, which was carrying suspected military cargo from Karachi in Pakistan to Chittagong Port in Bangladesh. Following a tip off that the consignment may be meant for the LTTE, the Sri Lankan naval officials boarded the ship when it anchored at Colombo Port. The ship’s manifesto listed the consignment as “steel helmets, bullet proof jackets and DMS boots”.
The ship did not have any documentation showing the end users. Further questioning revealed that the consignment was from Pakistan Ordinance Factory (POF) at Wah, and it was meant for Bangladesh Army. However, Bangladeshi authorities denied that there was any such order from their side for procurement of the said consignment from the PoF. The matter reached the highest levels in all the 3 countries, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and Colombo refused to release the consignment without end user confirmation from Dhaka.
While Bangladesh Army initially refused to give any such confirmation, the Pak Army mounted pressure on the then Interim government led by Gen. Moeen to issue such a certificate. The latter finally relented and issued necessary certification.
The consignment was then released and was picked up by a Chinese ship for an undisclosed location. Sri Lankan naval authorities who checked the containers revealed that they contained explosives and hand grenades of `ARGES 84’ type. The explosive material was Penta Erythrital Tetra Nitrate (PETN)
After this bizarre incident , it is reported that India pointed out to Mahinda’s Govt. that China via the Sri Lankan and Bangladesh Harbors can possibly smuggle weapons to the terrorists in India to the detriment of India’s security. Likewise , India drew the attention of Mahinda’s govt. to the exposures made by the May 2008 Jane’s intelligence review regarding the network of arms trafficking Industry of China
Under the title, “Lords of war”, the magazine gave a graphic picture of weapons supplies to warring groups in South America and Asia. The network supplied arms and weapons to both parties of the conflict simultaneously like in the case of the LTTE and Sri Lankan forces. Arms were also supplied to the Taliban in Afghanistan and various insurgent groups active in north-eastern states of India.
The Chittagong ship consignment of arms meant for the Indian insurgent group, United Liberation Force of Assam (ULFA), based in Bangladesh originated from China’s state-owned NORINCO. The consignment comprises of assault rifles, RPGs, T-85 sub-machine guns, hand grenades and ammunition.
NORINCO’s international activities were the focus of a diplomatic spat between the US and China in 2003 when US Assistant Secretary for Verification and Compliance described the corporation as a “serial proliferators”. The Jane’s weekly stated that in Asia, NORINCO often operates through companies that act as subsidiaries or sales agents. “In Bangkok, for example, NORINCO business is represented by HD Intertrade Company Ltd (Thailand).”
Over the Karadhiyanaru explosion , India expressed fears to the Mahinda Govt. pertaining to the large amount of ammunition of Chinese origin which were stored in Karadihiyanaru pointing out that it is suspicion prone. The SL Govt. cannot ignore the grave concerns of the Indian Govt. This is precisely why Mahinda’s Govt. consented to the opening of an Indian Consulate office in Hambantota.
It is the conviction of Mahinda’s Govt. that if the Hambantota Port is used in a manner that poses a danger to India’s security, the Indian consulate of Hambantota can by its vigilance provide information to the SL govt. Yet, the Mahinda’s govt. following the handing over of the Hambantota Port project to China , has also allowed China to refurbish and develop the Colombo Port thereby exacerbating the apprehensions and suspicions of India.
To make confusion worse confounded , both Mahinda’s Govt. and China on the other hand are also harboring fears that India could station its spies in its Consulate.
In the event of the Indian consulate office also opening at the same time as Hambantota Port inauguration , there is a great likelihood that the whole world can witness an interesting contest of eyeball to eyeball between two giants of Asia in the coming years.
Bangladesh & Sri Lanka to Strengthen Trade & Cultural Ties
Bangladesh & Sri Lanka to Strengthen Trade & Cultural Ties
A business delegation from the Sri Lanka Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SLBCCI) is to visit to Sri Lanka from October 28 to November 1 with the objective of increasing investment and trade opportunities.
The delegation hopes to initiate linkages that will lead to the establishment of joint ventures and technology transfers between the two countries. SLBCCI also expects to forge a strategic partnership with Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, which was established in 1839, when Sri Lanka then known as Ceylon was under the British rule.
The SLBCCI was formed in Bangladesh in 2006 with the prime objective of strengthening bilateral trade and investment opportunities between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Amongst its other core activities are promoting tourism and cultural ties between the two friendly nations. The joint patrons for the Bangladesh Chamber are the Bangladesh High Commissioner in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Bangladesh.
“We hope this inaugural visit will lay a good foundation to strengthen and enhance existing trade ties but also highlight the mutual benefits that can accrue for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh,” said the President of the SLBCCI, Harikesha Wijesekera.
The SLBCCI will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), during this visit. The Bangladesh delegation will attend the International Buyer- Seller Meeting organized by the Ceylon Chamber Commerce on the 29th October 2010. The delegation will also attend the presentation on the Sri Lankan economy and insights to Trade and investment opportunities in Sri Lanka and the networking evening organized for the 28th evening as a fore-runner for the Buyer-Seller meeting.
“The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce welcomes the Bangladesh delegation and will be happy to share Knowledge and experience the Ceylon Chamber has gathered over one and a half centuries” said Dr. Anura Ekanayake, Chairman of the CCC.
The Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI), the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (SLEDB) and the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) will provide an insight to trade and investment, tourism, other services and opportunities in Sri Lanka at the BSM 2010.
The Bangladesh delegates are also expected to meet H.E. the President Mahinda Rajapakse, Ministers and key government officials during their visit. Currently Sri Lanka exports over US$ 26 million of products to Bangladesh while Bangladesh exports to Sri Lanka goods over US$ 14 million.
The SLBCCI will present a glimpse of multicultural Bangladesh through a fine art exhibition by Kanak Chanpa Chakma, one of the finest Bangladesh artists specializing in tribal art at the Sri Lanka’s National Art Gallery, Colombo 7 on the 28 and 29 October. In addition, the SLBCCI will also present a fashion show, Deshi Colours, by Aneela Haque, a leading Bangladesh fashion designer at the Taj Samudra Hotel on the 28 October.
Lead sponsor of the fashion show is Eastern Bank Limited (EBL), a well established, top ranking bank in Bangladesh and its co-sponsor is the Square Group, another conglomerate in Bangladesh that works globally. The Internationally recognized Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC, which has established successful operations in Bangladesh, is the sole sponsor of the Art Exhibition.
Sri Lanka signs US$82mn hydro power deal with China
Sri Lanka signs US$82mn hydro power deal with China
Sri Lanka's state-run Ceylon Electricity Board has awarded a 35MegaWatt 82 million US dollar hydro power plant deal to China, power minister Champika Ranawaka said.
The run-of-the-river plant known as the Broadlands project on Sri Lanka's Kelani River will be built by China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) and connected to the grid by 2014.
"The engineering estimate for the project was 102 million US dollar but the contractor is building it for 82 million US dollars," minister Ranawaka told reporters after signing the construction contract with CNEEC.
The CEB also required the bidder to arrange finance.
The project will be 90 percent financed by the Industrial and Construction Bank of China on a 15-year floating rate loan at 220 basis points above the London interbank offered rate and will also include three years grace.
The balance 10 percent funds will come from state-run People's Bank.
Minister Ranawaka said the plant will generate 126GigaWatt-hours of energy a year.
The project involves the building of a 114 meter long, 24 meter high gravity dam across the Maskeli Oya tributary of the Kelani River complex at Polpitiya.
Another smaller diversion weir 48 meters long and 19 meters high will be built across the Kehelgamu Oya and water brought through an 850 meter tunnel to the main reservoir. The main tunnel to the generators will be 3.2 kilometres long.
The Broadlands project is the last plant in the so-called Laxapana cascade power station complex on the Kelani River system which was started 50 years ago.
The Sri Lanka - Korea Economic Co-operation Committee (SLKECC) of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce will be planning a Trade and Investment Promotion Mission to Seoul & Busan, Korea from 21st to 26th November 2010 with the objective of promoting Trade, Investment, Joint Ventures, Services and Tourism between Sri Lanka and Korea.
The main objective of the Mission is to have an Investment seminar in Seoul and Busan and meet with suitable contacts through one-to-one Business meetings. The business match making events have been organized with the assistance of The Korea Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Busan Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Korea Trade - Investment Promotions Agency (KOTRA) KOREA and the Sri Lanka Embassy in Korea.
Identified potential sectors are: Paper yarn & Woven Fabric of paper yarn, Rubber Products, Apparel & Clothing, Precious and semi precious stones, Coir Products, Software industry, Automobile components, Leather products, Information & Communication Technology, Tyre manufacture, Processed Foods, Herbal cosmetics, Tourism and services.
The Iraqi Government will implement a program to extend economic co-operation and relations with Sri Lanka in the near future. The matter has been discussed at length with the private sector in Iraq, said visiting Iraqi Trade Minister Dr Safa Aldin Mohamed addressing the seventh (sessions) meeting of the Sri Lanka-Iraq Economic and Technical Co-operation Council in Colombo yesterday.
The Iraqi Minister said the sessions provided an opportunity for the two countries to share experiences on Trade Agreements.
Industries and Commerce Minister Rizard Bathiyutheen addressing the sessions said bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Iraq dated back to many years.
The Co-operation Council was set up in terms of Section 5 of the Economic, Scientific and Technical Co-operation Agreement signed between the two countries in 1975. Bilateral trade between the two countries which totalled 8.76 million dollars in 2003 had reached 37.5 million dollars in 2009 and 98 percent of this accounted for Sri Lanka tea exports to Iraq.
Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce CEO Harin Mahwatta, Sri Lanka National Trade Chamber Secretary Tilak Godamanne and Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment AGM L K Ruhunage were also present.
The Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce and the Sri Lanka National Trade Chamber signed two agreements with Iraq for the promotion of trade between the two countries at these sessions.
Recalling the age-old, time-tested friendship with the UK, External Affairs Acting Minister Gitanjana Gunawardena invited a cross party delegation from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) - UK Branch to encourage more investment from the UK to Sri Lanka, especially the North and the East.
The Acting Minister made these comments when the delegation, which was in Sri Lanka on the invitation of the Sri Lanka Parliament, called on the Acting Minister at the External Affairs Ministry on October 18.
The delegation expressed their appreciation for the opportunity given to them to get a firsthand experience in the developments in the country.
The British MPs further expressed their commitment to work with the Government of Sri Lanka towards establishing sustainable peace and development in the country.
Minister Gunawardena briefed the delegation on the action taken by the Government with regard to the resettlement of the Internally Displaced People in the North and East and rehabilitation of the ex-LTTE combatants.
The Minister also briefed the delegation regarding the Government initiatives to improve the livelihood of the conflict affected people through economic empowerment.
In the area of reconciliation and confidence building, the Minister explained the work being done by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and action already taken to conduct free and fair elections at the Provincial and Local Government levels.
The government's efforts to consult relevant public representatives of all communities in the decision making process was also highlighted.
Elaborating on the measures taken by the Government to have a constructive dialogue with the Tamil diaspora, he said that a small section of the diaspora is continuing to disrupt the Government's initiatives to heal the wounds of 30 years of suffering.
Sri Lanka’s state-run oil utility- Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) has concluded talks with State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) of Iraq to buy crude oil from Iraq.
Speaking to the Asian Tribune , Deputy Director General of SOMO, Iraqi Ministry of Oil, Majed Kadhim Yousif, who was in Sri Lanka to attend the Seventh Session of Sri Lanka- Iraq Joint Committee for Economic and Technical Co-operation, said that talks held with CPC had been very successful.
“On October 20, we had discussions with CPC and our government agreed to supply Basra crude oil to Sri Lanka. It’s just a matter of sending a Letter of Intent (LoI) by CPC to us, specifying the quantity wanted,” Yousif said.
Sri Lankan Minister of Industry and Commerce, Rishad Bathiudeen, making his opening remarks at the Seventh Session, expressed his desire of increasing trade ties with Iraq.
Seventh Session of Sri Lanka- Iraq Joint Committee for Economic and Technical Co-operation was kicked off on October 21, 2010 at Taj Samudra Hotel, Colombo.
Iraqi Minister of Trade Dr. Safa Al-Deen Mohammed Abdul Hakeem Al-Safi, headed the Iraqi delegation. The previous Session was held eight years back in Baghdad.
Acording to Minister Bathiudeen, while Sri Lanka's exports to Iraq, stood at US $ 37.4 mn in 2009, Iraq's exports to Sri Lanka, remained at a very low level of less than US $ one mn. Tea has been Sri Lanka's principal export item to Iraq, which accounted for about 98% of Sri Lanka's total value of exports to Iraq.
fTrade between the two countries, increased from US $ 8.7 mn in 2003 to US $ 37.5 mn in 2009, with the balance of trade being in favour of Sri Lanka. However with Sri Lanka importing crude oil from Iraq, this trend is to be reversed.
Iraq had been supplying crude oil to Sri Lanka long before the First Gulf War broke out in early 1990s. It is learnt that Iraq’s terms will be more concessionary than that of Iran which is presently providing bulk of Sri Lanka’s crude oil purchases.
SOMO is the sole body vested with the authority of marketing Iraqi oil. Iraq sells Basra light crude below world prices to a number of foreign buyers, including Unites States. The war-torn nation exports nearly 1.5 million barrels a day of crude oil via the port of Basra.
In mid October, Iraq announced that it had awarded contracts for international oil companies to develop three major Natural Gas fields in different parts of the country, which are thought to hold 10 percent of Iraq's total gas reserves, that are among the largest in the world. The bidding round was the third held in Iraq since the US-led invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein regime in 2003.
With proven oil reserves of 143.1 billion barrels, Iraq ranks second globally, behind Saudi Arabia. However the United States Department of Energy estimates that up to 90 percent of the country remains unexplored, which could yield an additional 100 billion barrels.
Iraq's oil production costs are among the lowest in the world, but only about 2,000 oil wells have been drilled in Iraq, compared with about 1 million wells in Texas alone.
Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari, will pay an official visit to Sri Lanka next month.
Diplomatic contacts are now under way between Colombo and Islamabad to finalise the dates and a programme for the visit. According to present indications, he is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka on November 24.
President Zardari will lead a high level delegation of government officials and private sector business leaders. Also accompanying him will be Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
One of the highlights of his visit will be bi-lateral talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mr. Rajapaksa has regularly praised Pakistan for the support the country has extended in the military campaign against Tiger guerrillas.
Leading players in Pakistan’s business and industry had expressed interest to invest in various projects in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s attractions need better marketing: Britain’s tourism chief
Sri Lanka’s attractions need better marketing: Britain’s tourism chief
Sri Lanka’s major attractions like cultural sites and national parks need better positioning and marketing to encourage holidaymakers to spend more time and money in the island, according to the chief executive of VisitBritain.
“It’s a partnership really because these assets are owned by the state and it’s got to be a partnership between private and public sectors. You can do that by bringing in private operators and share the profit or by licensing it,” says Sandie Dawe the Chief Executive of VisitBritain, the UK’s tourism promotional agency.
Most world class attractions also have engaging visitor centers and information, cafes and gift shops which encourage visitors to spend more time at sites and also spend more money.
In the UK, the National Trust, assist in the management and promotion of many of Britain’s natural and manmade attractions in addition to managing franchises of some of the best attractions.
The national trust aids conservation by the creating wide interest in heritage and culture in partnership with the government. It organizes hundreds of events around the attractions it promotes to engage visitors.
“Conservation is part of the remit but actually marketing these attractions and bringing them to life and getting people to visit them is also a huge part of what they do,” said Dawe addressing tourism industry professionals at a workshop organised by accounting body CIMA.
“It was set up by some people a hundred years ago who wanted to conserve our natural beauty as well as the built heritage and we also have government agencies involved in the protection of the heritage,” she says.
Sandie Dawe thinks Sri Lankan attractions could also benefit from a similar approach which could be funded by the private sector.
Besides the new museum at a fifth century rock fortress at Sigiriya, other cultural, historic or national parks lack engaging and informative visitor centres.
Dawe says Lankan sites are under exploited and as a result don’t generate large numbers of visitors which then would benefit the tourism industry and raise Sri Lanka’s global profile further as a cultural hot spot.
Attacks on fishermen "transitional, no pre-planned method"
Attacks on fishermen "transitional, no pre-planned method"
A top Indian Naval officer today said that there was no "pre-planned" method adopted by Sri Lankan Navy in attacking Indian fishermen who strayed into their waters.
"These are transitional incidents and there is no pre-planned method adopted by Sri Lanka (Navy) in attacking fishermen, who strayed into its border," Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Southern Naval Command,Vice-Admiral K N Sushil told reporters.
He was replying to a question on Tamil Nadu fishermen being fired at or killed allegedly by Sri Lankan Navy. When fishermen straying into Sri Lankan area are stopped by the Navy, they start running out of fear of being caught, leading to suspicion. As there was reported movement of LTTE cadre in the sea, the Naval force has no other option, but to fire, as per the job given to them, for that matter any force, Sushil said.
"I don't think that there was any incident, when Sri Lanka deliberately opened fire on Indian fishermen," he said, adding, proper investigation would throw light on such incidents, if any. India's relationship with Sri Lanka, Government to Government and Navy to Navy was very good and the Lankan Chief of Naval Staff would visit India soon, Sushil, here to felicitate two officers, who had won medals in the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, he said.
Claiming that the fishermen in the coastal areas were very cooperative with the enforcing agencies in informing them about intrusions, Sushil said Indian navy managed to intercept three boats in the seas following their tip-off. He said the Government was in the process of distributing automatic identification systems to fishermen, so that they could monitor movement of intruders in the seas. However, it would take time for implementation, since fishermen were reluctant to adopt this technology, due to many restrictions, including cost.
External Affairs Minister Prof G L Peiris said British investors are welcome to Sri Lanka.
The Minister who met Foreign Secretary William Hague during his recent visit to UK discussed a wide range of issues of bilateral interest.
He briefed his British counterpart on the developments in Sri Lanka. The Minister also briefed Hague on the progress made with regard to the resettlement of the displaced, provision of livelihood for the people and the ongoing focus on infrastructure development. Minister Peiris thanked the British government for its continued humanitarian assistance through the Department for International Development.
Commenting that Sri Lanka is moving towards an economic renaissance, he said that the government is pleased that the private sector has come forward to assist the government in providing employment opportunities for the breadwinners of the resettled families. Minister Peiris also highlighted that the British investors are welcome to invest in the emerging atmosphere which holds promise for business. He specifically referred to the boom in the tourism industry.
This is the first foreign ministerial level visit from Sri Lanka to the UK since the election of the Conservative - Liberal Democratic coalition government. Referring to the endeavours in arriving at a political solution, Minister Peiris said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa remains resolved in bringing a lasting solution to address the concerns of all parties.
He said that discussions between the Government and the Tamil political parties, which commenced two months ago, are scheduled to continue. Briefing Foreign Secretary Hague on the work of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, Minister Peiris said that the Commission has made considerable progress and has already made interim communications to the government most of which have been earmarked for implementation.
Noticing that the contemporary international order is such that the countries are allowed to address their own issues without the others interfering with condescending and judgemental views, Minister Peiris said that Sri Lanka would appreciate the understanding of her friends and requires space for the Commission to proceed. He emphasized the need for the international community to look at the Commission without prejudice but with a benign presumption.
Minister Peiris at his meeting with Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox, discussed the whole spectrum of developments taking place in Sri Lanka, with particular reference to the resettlement of internally displaced persons and the restoration of livelihood.
PLOTE Leader Dharmalingam Siddharthan yesterday told the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) that the Indian Government does not allow a separate State being carved out in Sri Lanka.
He opined that the Government of Sri Lanka should fully implement the 13th Amendment and final solution should be made with the agreement of all political parties.
The PLOTE leader was giving evidence before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Centre yesterday.
Siddharthan stressed the need to address the Tamil people’s problem through a negotiated political solution. Siddharthan was of the view that a negotiated political settlement requires the reconciliation of politicians of all parties.
He said that much is being done for the former LTTE combatants and widows of LTTE members by the Government and International Organizations but the widows of other organizations such as PLOTE who stood in protest against the LTTE requires such support. He added that his organization does not oppose the Government’s initiative to promote the welfare of LTTE widows but equal focus should also be made to the families of other organizations who were against the LTTE’s activities.
Lessons Learnt Commission Chairman C R de Siva PC in reply said that it is more concerned over the plight of all women who were widowed by the conflict in the North and East.
Silva said that the Commission intends to make some recommendations to the President for the purpose of promoting their welfare.
A batch of 300 Sri Lankan youth left for Israel last night for employment under a program organised by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE).
Addressing the Sri Lankan workers at a ceremony at the SLBFE to handover their visas and other travel documents, its Chairman Kingsley Ranawaka said. During the first stage of their employment they will be attached to various firms in Israel for six months and paid a monthly salary amounting Sri Lankan rupees 110,000.
Ranawaka told members of the batch that this is the first time Sri Lankan workers are provided with employment in Israel and they had a vital responsibility to work with dedication and create a good impression about Sri Lankan workers in Israel to help carry this employment program further.
Additional Secretary Ministry of External Affairs D Swarnapala said his Ministry joined hands with the Government and signed this job agreement because it was a fine opportunity for Sri Lankans aspiring for jobs abroad. Foreign Employment Agency Chairman Asanga Abeygunasekara said this program is part of the Sayuren Etharata foreign employment project.
Ellie Bloskovisky of the Israel Embassy based in India said Israel would welcome the Sri Lankan youth not merely as workers but also honoured guests of Israel.
Navy Commander Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe called on Indian Defence Minister A K Anthony and senior officials of the Indian security establishment and had successful talks with them during his eight day official visit to India on the invitation of the Indian Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Nirmal Verma.
The navy commander arrived in New Delhi on October 19. He was accompanied by Prasad Kariyawasam, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in India, when he called on the Indian minister and the officials.
This visit marked another milestone in the close relationship between two navies as well as the defence cooperation between two countries, the Defence Ministry sources said.
This is the third of such visits by the Service Commanders of the two countries this year. In July the Indian Naval Chief arrived in Sri Lanka. The Indian Army’s Chief of Staff, General VK Singh, visited Sri Lanka in September marking the close defence relations enjoyed by the two countries, the sources further said.
The navy commander also attended the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the National Defence College (NDC) on October 21 -- having been an alumnus of that prestigious institution. The function was presided over by the president of India.
Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe is one of the serving chiefs produced by the NDC and he attended the 45th Course of the NDC in year 2005, together with the present King of Bhutan, who was the crown prince at that time.
The navy commander’s schedule included visits to several naval facilities. They included visits to the Eastern fleet in Vishakapatnam and the Garden Reach Shipyard in Kolkata (to inspect the refit programme of a Sri Lankan Naval vessel).
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