US Ambassador pays farewell call on Foreign Minister

Ambassador of the United States of America to Sri Lanka Alaina B. Teplitz paid a farewell call on Foreign Minister Professor G. L. Peiris at the Foreign Ministry.

Minister Peiris discussed with Ambassador Teplitz the future of the bilateral relationship between Sri Lanka and the United States, with particular reference to trade, investment and cooperation in the international fora.

Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz was sworn in as Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives on October 22, 2018. She served as U.S. Ambassador to Nepal from 2015-2018.

A career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Career Minister, she joined the State Department in 1991 and is the recipient of numerous Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.

Focused on laying the foundation for successful 21st century American diplomacy, Teplitz held the Assistant-Secretary ranked position of Dire​ctor of the Under Secretary for Management’s Office of Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation (M/PRI) at the Department of State from 2012-2015.

Under her leadership, M/PRI found innovative ways to reform our bureaucracy and improve the way that our diplomatic service operates. Ms. Teplitz championed efforts to improve knowledge management, data use, and risk management.

Prior to leading M/PRI, Teplitz was Minister Counselor for Management at U.S. Embassy Kabul from 2011-2012. She also served as the Deputy Executive Director of the Near East and South and Central Asia Bureau’s joint executive office from 2009-2011, where she handled the South and Central Asia portfolio, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.

She was the Director of the Management Training Division at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute from 2007-2009. Previous assignments include Management Counselor in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Deputy Director of the Joint Administrative Services supporting three U.S. Missions – the U.S. Mission to NATO, the U.S. Mission to the European Union, and the Embassy to the Kingdom of Belgium – in Brussels, Belgium. Her previous posts also include: Ulaanbaatar, Tirana, and Sydney.​

Teplitz holds a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and a Master’s in Public Administration from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.​​​

Nominated US envoy says she will support human rights and a strong civil society in Sri Lanka

The US needs to build constructive relationships with Sri Lanka, which is positioned in a strategic location at the heart of the Indian Ocean, a senior American diplomat nominated by President Joe Biden as his next envoy to the island nation has said.

Foreign service officer Julie Chung, during a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Sri Lanka is positioned in a strategic location at the heart of the Indian Ocean and its critical ports with access to global maritime lanes and trading routes play a pivotal role in a free and open Indo-Pacific architecture.

“This reinforces the necessity for the United States to build constructive relationships with Sri Lanka, including with civil society, the private sector and the Sri Lankan people,” she said.

Chung told lawmakers that if confirmed, she will work tirelessly to advocate for quality infrastructure and investment based on transparency, respect for international law and good governance, which is mindful of sustainable environmental and labour standards.

“We must also support US companies doing business in Sri Lanka and utilise the tools we have with the Development Finance Corporation and the Export-Import Bank to provide alternatives to coercive lending and opaque contracts,” she said, without naming any country.

US diplomat Chung said: “the sinking of the MV X-Press Pearl cargo ship near the shores of Colombo a few months ago, causing its biggest marine disaster in Sri Lanka’s history, points to the need for upholding such standards”.

“US humanitarian assistance, emergency response capabilities and environmental surveillance tools helped Sri Lanka respond to this tragedy and is emblematic of how we can be a positive force and strong partner to the people of Sri Lanka,” she said.

Sri Lanka, she said, is Asia’s oldest democracy and survived the tragedy of a civil war that resulted in unimaginable violence and continued ethnic and religious divisions.

“If confirmed, I am committed to speaking clearly and consistently in support of democratic values, human rights and a strong civil society that are essential to democracies and central to our foreign policy approach.

“We must also be strong partners in encouraging justice, accountability and reconciliation so that all Sri Lankans can share in the benefits of peace, security and prosperity,” Chung added.

Source: PTI

China offers to invest USD 800 million in renewable energy projects in Sri Lanka

The China National Energy Engineering and Construction Company Limited (CNEE), a Chinese state-owned energy conglomerate, has offered to invest USD 800 million on 400 MW Renewable Energy Projects in Sri Lanka.

The equipment and knowhow will be supplied by KE Electric, according to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Beijing.

Ambassador of Sri Lanka to China Dr. Kohona had recently visited the massive KE Electric plant in Shijuazhuang producing a range of equipment for the generation and distribution of electricity.

He was hosted by the Chairman of KE Electric, Chengsuo Zhang together with the Senior Management Team and was given a comprehensive tour of the establishment. Of particular interest was the equipment produced to generate and distribute electricity produced from solar power, the statement said.

Dr. Kohona explained the Government policy to produce 70% of Sri Lanka’s electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030. He also touched upon the locations being made available by the Government for the purpose.

He emphasised that the Government was looking for investors and will not take loans to finance any projects. The CINEE, which had already done some preliminary work on potential locations together with the KE Electric, was in the process of preparing its proposals.

Subsequently, the Sri Lankan team was taken on a tour of an impressive solar installation, Hongji PV Plant Project and Solar Demonstrative Project, in Beizhuang in Pingshan County of Shijiazhuang. Barren hillsides were covered with solar panels.

KE produced control equipment, inverters, transmission lines, etc., were evident. Interestingly, 25% of the revenue generated from this project was directly allocated to village upliftment and poverty alleviation.

A nearby village, which had witnessed devastation during the war against the Japanese, was now prospering from this novel source of income.

The proposed CNEE project is expected to be on a Build-Own-Operate (BOO) or Build-Own-Operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis, the embassy said.

American Muslim organization urges U.S. President, Congress to probe reports of anti-Muslim attacks in Sri Lanka

Washington, DC: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States has urged the President Joe Biden and the Congress to probe the reports of discrimination and attacks against Muslims in Sri Lanka.

Responding to recent reports of Muslim minority communities being discriminated against and attacked by state and non-state actors in certain African countries and Sri Lanka, CAIR called on the Biden administration and Congress to investigate and respond to recent claims made by Amnesty International on Sri Lanka.

“State discrimination and violence against Muslim and minority faith communities should not just be condemned by our government but responded to in the form of punitive designations and sanctions – whether it is occurring in countries where Muslims are the majority or minority,” said CAIR Director of Government Affairs Department Robert S. McCaw.

This week, Amnesty International issued the report “Sri Lanka: From burning houses to burning bodies: Anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment in Sri Lanka.” The report documents incidents where Muslims have been targeted, attacked and discriminated against, by various state and non-state actors.

CAIR supported Amnesty International’s call on the Sri Lankan government to put an immediate stop to the increasing police, armed forces and communal violence – and discriminatory state policies – targeting the island’s Muslim minority.

Those who used it to capture power won’t stay long: Cardinal

Those who used the Easter Sunday mayhem to come to power will not be able to stay in power for long if they are a part of it, Archbishop of Colombo His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said yesterday.

Cardinal Ranjith who was speaking at a service held to mark the 30th month since the gruesome suicide attack said it has become a curse as no one can live happily today while many are unable to earn a living.

“It looks like Sri Lanka is suffering from that curse since the Easter Sunday bomb attack as no one can live happily earning whatever they can while those who are in power find it difficult to run the country. Those who came to power using the Easter Sunday attacks will not be able to hold on to power for long,” Cardinal Ranjith said.

“We sometimes wonder whether those who rule the country today are also stakeholders of the Easter Sunday conspiracy when looking at the way the investigations are conducted.” he added.

“We have done everything possible to uncover the truth behind the Easter Sunday mayhem and now we seek divine intervention to uncover the truth and to mete out justice to those who were affected by the tragedy. God will help us as he helped Israelites to move away from Egypt where they were kept as slaves. Patron Saint of this church, St. Anthony will also intervene on behalf of us the way he helped to uncover the truth behind a murder his own father was accused of,” he said.

Sri Lanka reports 18 Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday, toll rises to 13,543

Sri Lanka Wednesday reported 18 deaths due to COVID-19 after the figures were confirmed by the Director General of Health Services on Tuesday, October 19.

Among the deaths reported today, 11 are of males and 07 of females. The majority of deaths – 15 – are of elderly people in the 60 years and above age group.

According to the data reported by the Government Information Department, the total deaths due to Covid-19 since the pandemic began last year has now risen to 13,543.

Namal meets with Indian PM Modi

Minister of Youth and Sports Namal Rajapaksa met with the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi today (20).

The Minister of Youth and Sports also presented the Indian Prime Minister with a Sinhala translation of the Bhagavad Gita.

Minister Rajapaksa attended the inauguration of the Kushinagar International Airport in Uttar Pradesh today (20).

The inauguration was marked by the landing of an inaugural flight at the airport from Colombo carrying a Sri Lankan delegation of over 100 Buddhist monks and dignitaries, including a 12-member holy relic entourage.

The inaugural flight also brought Sacred Kapilavastu relics of Waskaduwa for an exposition.

The greatest gift Sri Lanka received from India is Buddhism! We have always shared a close relationship between our nations & our people! It is the vision of HE President @GotabayaR & HE PM @narendramodi to strengthen this bond between our nations & our people. 🇮🇳🤝🇱🇰 pic.twitter.com/7GmesTWXqt

— Namal Rajapaksa (@RajapaksaNamal) October 20, 2021

Sri Lanka extends ongoing interprovincial travel restrictions

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has directed relevant authorities to continue ongoing interprovincial travel restrictions until 4.00 a.m. on October 31 (Sunday), says the Commander of Sri Lanka Army, General Shavendra Silva.

Sri Lanka lifted the island-wide quarantine curfew, which was in effect for over a month in a bid to curb the pandemic situation, on October 01 as the country started seeing a considerable drop in the number of daily COVID-19 cases and deaths reported.

The interprovincial travel restrictions however remained in effect despite the relaxation of the quarantine curfew.

A week later, the constraints imposed on crossing provincial borders were further extended until October 21. However, it was again decided that the restrictions would remain in place until the end of the month.

Massive farmer protests in Sri Lanka over fertilizer shortage

Hundreds of farmers in Polonnaruwa protested on Tuesday (19) rejecting any government attempt to import waste under the guise of importing organic fertilizer to the country.

“We have no party difference. We are here in unsion demanding fertilizer for the farmer community,” said one local farmer.

Some alleged that the decision makers have no understanding of the local agriculture standards, and thus they have caused a shortage in much needed fertilizer.

At the same time, another massive protest took place in the Mahaweli H Zone, also demanding fertilizer for cultivations.

A tensed situation arose when a lorry attempted to move pass the protestors, compelling local law enforcement to intervene to calm the situation.

“What we are showing is the might for the farmers and there is no politics involved here. We ask for at least half the quantity of chemical fertilizer and for the best quality compost,” echoed several farmers.

Effigies of political leaders were set on fire at another demonstration in Ambalantota, also demanding fertilizer.

For months, Farmers across many areas in Sri Lanka have been protesting against the shortage of fertilizer in the country.

The ban on chemical fertilisers — widely used in the tea and rice industries — was opposed by farmers who staged protests after reporting failing vegetable crops as existing stocks began to run out within weeks.

The promulgated regulation restricting and banning the import of fertilizers and agrochemicals is leading to widespread concern among Sri Lanka’s farmer community, industry associations, practitioners, and agricultural professionals.

The Sri Lankan Government has also decided only to use organic fertilizer in the country and plans on importing organic fertilizer from overseas.

Despite Indian pressure, Sri Lanka says provincial polls only after electoral reform

Sri Lanka’s long delayed provincial council elections will not be held until a suitable election system has been decided on, a cabinet spokesman said on Tuesday (19) despite persistent Indian pressure to have the polls by the end of the year.

The provincial council system was introduced through the controversial 1987 Indo-Lanka accord aiming to devolve power to the provinces as a remedy for issues faced by ethnic minority Tamils in the islan’ds North and East. The accord was signed amid a civil war raging in the north and east and amid vehement opposition from the majority Sinhalese.

However, successive governments hesitated to fully implement the 13th amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution which sought to incorporate the Indo-Lanka accord and the provincial council setup. Governments have repeatedly rejected full implementation by not devolving land and police powers to each province.

The tenure of each nine provincial councils in the island elapsed between 2015-2017 as the previous government proposed a new electoral system to hold the next elections to the provincial polls in 2017. However, the bill was not enacted by the parliament as there was no consensus on delimitation.

If Sri Lanka has to hold provincial polls, it has to pass an amendment with a simple majority to go back to the old system or with a two-third majority to go for a mixed system, legal and political analysts say.

“The amendment to the provincial council act submitted by the last government is a controversial one. We need to rectify that,” Cabinet Co-Spokesman and Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma told the weekly cabinet news briefing.

“We cannot exactly say when the elections will be held. It will be held after the election system is changed.”

Last week, Foreign Minister G L Peiris said the provincial polls will likely be held before March 2022 but it will not be due to pressure from India or any other foreign government.

 

Alahapperuma further said Sri Lanka has four different election systems for presidential, parliamentary, provincial, and local government polls.

The presidential election considers the whole country as one constituency, a system similar to what is seen in most democracies.

“But parliamentary elections are fully based on a representative system. A local government election amendment changed the system to 50 percent representative system and 50 percent electorate system,” Alahapperuma said.

“The provincial council election is going to be based on a 60 percent electoral system and 40 percent representative system. This system is a joke to the entire world.”

Alahapperuma said Sri Lanka needs to move on from the current practise of having a different election system for every election.

“The president is of the view that electoral reform must take place while preserving the good characteristics of the representative system,” he said.

“When [Sri Lanka’s first executive president]J R Jayawardena introduced the representative system, there were important and useful attributes to it that we should not ignore. In particular, minority representation was ensured under the representative system.”

“That is a good characteristic of that system. So it will be preserved under a new electoral system when elections are held in the near future,” he said.