Travel restrictions to be lifted on Monday: Army Chief

The ongoing island-wide travel restrictions will be lifted at 4.00 am on Monday (21), Army Commander General Shavendra Silva said.

He said, however the restrictions will be re-imposed again at 10.00 pm on June 23 till 4.00 am on June 25.

The Army Commander said that the restrictions on travel between provinces will also be effective during the period when the travel restrictions are relaxed.

He said that public meetings, gatherings and holding ceremonies will also be prohibited during that time.

Lion at Dehiwala Zoo tests positive for coronavirus

A 14-year-old lion at Dehiwala Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19, reports revealed today (June 18).

Accordingly, the health officials and the Department of National Zoological Gardens have decided to seek the assistance from India to treat the coronavirus-infected lion.

Ever since it was brought to Sri Lanka from South Korea in 2012, the lion, called ‘Thor’, had been in the exhibit at the Dehiwala Zoo for the past nine years.

Speaking on the matter, State Minister of Wildlife Protection Wimalaweera Dissanayake said an investigation into the incident is now underway. He stated that although it is yet to be confirmed if the lion is infected with the virus, the animal is under medical care.

The state minister said the lion was directed to a PCR test as it had been unwell for the past few days, showing various symptoms. The test has been carried out by the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

According to reports, two other animals held at the Dehiwala Zoo have also died suddenly. However, the state minister noted that the cause of death was not coronavirus infection.

Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr. Hemantha Herath, who spoke in this regard, stated that relevant authorities have already started to look into the incident. He said discussions will be held with the officials of the Dehiwala Zoo to confirm how the lion was infected, if the staff members have contracted the virus and whether the virus has spread out of the zoo premises.

UK marine experts support Sri Lanka with X-press Pearl pollution response

Following the X-Press Pearl container vessel fire that started in May, the UK Government is providing marine pollution expertise to help respond to the impact on the marine life and coastal habitats of Sri Lanka, the British High Commission in Sri Lanka said today.

British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Sarah Hulton said the UK Government’s Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) will provide expertise and analytical capacity to support plastic pollution monitoring, as well as environmental and socioeconomic impact assessments.

‘UK experts will partner with teams in Sri Lanka to support the emergency response,” she said.

Cefas is assisting with laboratory analysis of samples, particularly plastic pellets, and potential chemical contamination.

From their UK laboratory, the experts will work collaboratively with in-country teams to support their assessment of the consequences for marine and coastal habitats and species, including mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs. UK experts will also contribute to socioeconomic analysis to assess the impacts on local communities and livelihoods.

Following this, Cefas will continue to collaborate with the emergency response teams in Sri Lanka to provide guidance and training to enhance their capabilities to address any future incidents that could impact on the environment and livelihoods. UK experts will support clean-up action over the short term, as well as preventative work for the long-term.

Director General for Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate change at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, S. Hasanthi Urugodawatte Dissanayake said that damage to the marine environment is a cause for concern for all those who are looking towards the oceans for the future progression of mankind.

Dissanayake said that in this spirit of cooperation on environmental issues, Sri Lanka appreciates this initiative by the Government of UK offering assistance to understand the impact on marine environment, with opportunities for long term collaboration.

Decision tomorrow on extension of islandwide travel restrictions

A decision will be taken tomorrow to decide whether the ongoing island-wide travel restrictions will continue or lifted, Army Commander General Shavendra Silva said.

He said the COVID-19 task force will meet President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa tomorrow to review the current situation and take a decision.

The ongoing travel restrictions, as of now, are to be lifted at 4.00 am on Monday (21).

Sri Lanka confirms 51 more Covid-19 deaths

The Director General of Health Services has confirmed 51 more Covid-19 related deaths that occurred yesterday (16), according to the Government Information Department.

This pushes the official death toll due to the virus in Sri Lanka to 2,425.

According to the data released by the department, the 51 deaths confirmed today includes 20 females and 31 males.

Meanwhile 14 are between 30-59 years while the other 37 are aged 60 and above.

Textile industry at risk amidst cautions of losing GSP+

Sri Lanka’s textile industry is at a threat of being affected the most if the country is deprived of GSP+ concessions.

Sri Lanka had exported commodities worth 2.08 billion Euros to European Union nations in 2020.

Textile exports accounted for 1.08 billion Euros, but recording a sharp drop from 1.2 billion Euros in 2019.

Accordingly, the absence of GSP+ concessions will further impact the textile industry that is grappling with the effects of COVID-19.

Plastics and rubber exports accounted for 239 million Euros while the food and machinery industries recorded exports amounting to more than 100 million Euros.

Currently, Sri Lanka enjoys the GSP+ facility granted by the EU. This means Sri Lankan products are exempted from taxes in the European market.

The GSP+ facility was removed for Sri Lanka in 2010, before being granted in 2017, under certain conditions.

The EU said it would monitor Sri Lanka’s moves to amend the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the implementation of five conventions.

But now, the EU parliament has adopted a resolution seeking to consider the temporary withdrawal of Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status.

The resolution notes that Sri Lanka has excessively applied the Prevention of Terrorism Act, without adhering to international human rights principles.

Att.-at-Law Dr. Gehan Gunatilleke, a former foreign ministry advisor opines that the PTA can be amended without delays.

“…the Port City Bill. It’s a very complicated bill. But ultimately, they got it through very fast. This means, if they want to do something, they can do it,” he said during News1st’s Newsline show.

The GSP+ scheme currently offered to eight countries including Sri Lanka will be valid until December 2023.

Expect Sri Lanka to remain mindful of bilateral ties: India on port project

With Sri Lanka moving ahead with the China-backed Colombo Port City project, India on Thursday said it expects that the island nation will remain mindful of their ‘‘excellent bilateral cooperation’’, including for mutual security in the maritime domain.

Asked about the project at an online media briefing, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India has been closely following the recent developments from its security perspective.

The country has also taken note of the concerns raised in Sri Lanka regarding several aspects of the framework for the Colombo Port City, he said.

‘‘We expect that Sri Lanka will remain mindful of our excellent bilateral cooperation, including for mutual security in our shared environment, which includes the maritime domain,’’ Bagchi said.

His remarks come weeks after the Sri Lankan Parliament approved the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, with the government saying the Chinese-backed project would bring in investment and boost the island-nation’s economy.

On India-assisted projects in Sri Lanka, Bagchi said the country has a very extensive portfolio of partnership development projects in the island nation and it is in regular contact with the Sri Lankan authorities regarding their implementation.

Source: PTI

Indian envoy reiterates commitment to devolution under the 13 Amendment

The Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Gopal Baglay, told a five-member delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) here on Thursday, that India is committed to supporting devolution of power within the framework of a united Sri Lanka on the basis of the full implementation of the 13 th.Amendment of the Sri Lankan constitution.

“This would be in line with the Tamils’ aspirations for equality, justice, peace and reconciliation,” Baglay told the delegation led by R. Sampanthan, Member of Parliament.

The pre-scheduled meeting was held at India House the official residence of the High Commissioner, a release from the mission said.

The Leader of Ilangai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) Mavai Senathirajah and TNA Members of Parliament PLOTE Leader Dharmalingam Sithadthan, TELO Leader Selvam Adaikkalanathan and M.A. Sumanthiran were present during the meeting. The High Commissioner was assisted by Deputy High Commissioner Vinod K Jacob and Counsellor (Political) Ms. Banu Prakash.

Various aspects of devolution and developmental aspirations of the people from the North and East were discussed. The TNA delegation apprised the High Commissioner on the progress made regarding Provincial Council elections which constitute an integral part of the Sri Lankan polity and the Constitution.

The meeting discussed improving connectivity between India and Sri Lanka in the post-COVID period.

The High Commissioner stressed India’s longstanding commitment to creating social infrastructure such as housing that enabled all Sri Lankans, including the people from the Northern and Eastern Provinces, to enjoy the fruits of peace. He reiterated Indian support for rehabilitation and development in areas such as connectivity, health and education.

Sri Lanka signs USD 100 mn LoC with India for solar energy projects

India became the first country to partner with Sri Lanka in fulfilling the vision of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to ensure that 70% of Sri Lanka’s national power requirements are fulfilled by renewable energy sources by 2030, as reiterated during his address at the recently concluded Sri Lanka Investment Forum.

In this context, an agreement extending a USD 100 million Line of Credit (LOC) to Sri Lanka for projects in the Solar Energy Sector, signed between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Export-Import Bank of India, was exchanged by the High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay and Secretary to the Treasury S.R. Attygalle, in the presence of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, today (June 16).

This USD 100 million LOC will help finance various projects in the solar energy sector in Sri Lanka, including those announced during the Founding Conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) held in March 2018, such as rooftop solar photovoltaic systems for households and government buildings.

A total of 89 countries, including Sri Lanka, have signed the Framework Agreement of the ISA, which was jointly launched by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France, to bring together countries to promote the large-scale deployment of solar energy and overcome challenges related to technology, finance, and capacity.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the High Commissioner of India discussed the striking similarity in the national objectives outlined by India and Sri Lanka in connection with solar energy.

Over the past 7 years, solar power generation in India has increased significantly to reach 34.6 GW in 2021 from about 2.6GW in March 2014. The National Solar Mission of India aims to increase it further to 100 GW and beyond, the High Commission of India in Sri Lanka stated, issuing a press release.

The shared vision of the two countries in the renewable energy sector reflects their common national priorities and convergence of approaches for sustainable development, the High Commission stated.

Strengthening collaboration in this vital sector will help enhance the two countries’ overall energy partnership and contribute towards the global efforts to tackle climate change and reduce emissions, the press release further read.

2,436 COVID-19 cases, 59 deaths today

Sri Lanka has recorded 2,436 COVID-19 cases today (16).

According to the situation report of the Epidemiology Unit issued at 08.45pm today, the total number of infections has increased to 230,692.

The report adds that there are 34,232 patients under medical care and 194,145 recoveries at the moment.

In addition, the Department of Government Information states that the Director General of Health Services today confirmed 59 COVID-19 deaths that occurred yesterday.

Accordingly, the total number of COVID-19 fatalities is at 2,374.