Zelenskyy says Ukraine has delivered grain to Sri Lanka

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine has delivered grain to Sri Lanka and other countries despite Russia’s maritime blockade.

He says he reminded the SDG Summit held in the US that despite Russia’s maritime blockade, Ukraine has delivered grain to many countries around the globe.

The President named Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia, Tunisia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Viêt Nam, Iraq, Oman, Pakistan, Türkiye, and Yemen.

”Our products have also reached Ethiopia and Sudan via transit ports. In total, we provided 32 million tons of food. 32 million tons less chaos,” he said.

The President also thanked all of the leaders who have supported Ukraine’s export programs, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and “Grain From Ukraine”.

“We can accomplish even more if we work together. Ukraine proposes very concrete steps forward to mitigate the global food crisis,” he added.

No police personnel have been charged over Easter bombings yet – Minister

Minister of Public Security Tiran Alles has stated that no police personnel have been charged in connection with the Easter Sunday bombings of 2019 thus far.

Speaking in Parliament today (20 Sep.), he stated that as per the reports submitted by the relevant Presidential Commission of Inquiry, no police personnel have been charged in this regard, and have only been under observation thus far.

The Minister asserted this in response to a question raised by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Hector Appuhamy, pertaining to the officials allegedly accused in connection with the attack, adding that the relevant names of the personnel were handed over to the Attorney General for further proceedings.

“Therefore, it would be wrong of me to name certain personnel, as if they are already charged, until they are rightfully prosecuted”, he said in this regard.

Commenting on concerns raised pertaining to providing some sort of relief to the victims of the 2019 bombings, Minister Alles requested for a period of two days to provide an answer for the matter.

Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Colombo has claimed that using those accused in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks in order to brief MPs on the investigations into the said attacks, is an insult to the Parliament.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena, too, has emphasised the need for an international investigation into the attacks, claiming that this is the only way the truth behind the Easter bombings would be uncovered.

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Gazette issued stipulating minimum rates for tourist hotels in Colombo

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has published a Gazette Extraordinary stipulating the minimum rates that can be charged by tourist hotels located within the limits of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) area, for the occupancy of a room and the provision of meals.

The regulations in the communiqué, issued by the SLTDA chairman, will come into effect from October 01, 2023.

Accordingly, the rates for corporate and free independent tourist hotel rooms are as follows:

5-star tourist hotels – USD 100
4-star tourist hotels – USD 75
3-star tourist hotels – USD 50
2-star tourist hotels – USD 35
1-star tourist hotels – USD 20

The gazette notification notes these rates are payable for a period of 24 hours and excludes service charges and other applicable taxes, fees, or charges levied for any other services provided.

Meanwhile, for hotels that fall under the category of residence or apartments for short-term business (less than one month), there will be an additional charge of USD 15 or its equivalent in LKR per extra guest over double occupancy.

Additionally, the gazette notification has stipulated the rates for the meals provided to residential guests.

5-star tourist hotels – USD 10 (breakfast) / USD 15 (lunch) / USD 17 (dinner)
4-star tourist hotels – USD 9 (breakfast) / USD 14 (lunch) / USD 16 (dinner)
3-star tourist hotels – USD 8 (breakfast) / USD 10 (lunch) / USD 14 (dinner)
2-star tourist hotels – USD 6 (breakfast) / USD 8 (lunch) / USD 10 (dinner)
1-star tourist hotels – USD 5 (breakfast) / USD 7 (lunch) / USD 9 (dinner)

Iranian leader to visit Sri Lanka after President Wickremesinghe’s invitation

Iranian leader Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi has accepted an invitation by his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe to visit the South Asian island nation in the near future, President’s media unit said.

Wickremesinghe met Raisi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Wednesday.

“The two leaders engaged in cordial discussions and Dr. Raisi accepted President Wickremesinghe’s invitation to visit Sri Lanka in the near future,” President’s Media Division (PMD) said in a statement.

If visits, Raisi will be the first Iranian leader to visit Sri Lanka after Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in April 2008. Analysts say the diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Iran have been intact despite a sanction by the United States deprived Sri Lanka of receiving cheap Iranian light crude since 2012.

Colombo has been in the process of repaying a $251 million due for crude imports before the sanctions via tea exports to Tehran. Sri Lanka inked a deal in December 2021 to set off export of tea to Iran against the legacy oil credit owed by state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to the National Iranian Oil Company, without busting US sanctions.

When the foreign ministers of both countries met last month, both Iran and Sri Lanka agreed on the need to promote cooperation in trade and tourism as well as expanding cooperation in the scientific and cultural areas and in using their knowledge-based firms’ capacities.

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Sri Lanka to rebrand Port City in Abu Dhabi & Dubai

The Sri Lankan Government is planning on a rebranding of Colombo Port City, which is a Chinese investment, as Colombo Financial City in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

State Minister of Investment Promotion Dilum Amunugama told Parliament that the launch of the Colombo Financial City will take place next week, with former UK Prime Minister David Cameron leading the effort.

Port City Colombo is a city development built as an extension close to Galle Face Green, spanning 269 hectares of reclaimed land from the sea.

With breakwater, and the sea area, the Colombo Port City is around 446 hectares.

On the 20th of May 2021, the Sri Lankan parliament passed legislation to establish the Colombo Port City Economic Commission for the administrative operations of the Colombo Port City.

In the Sri Lankan parliament it was revealed that the Colombo Port City will be rebranded as the Colombo Financial City.

What is a ‘Financial City’?

A Financial City is a region that allow for transactions to take place with special tax concessions, and tax exemptions.

In addition, these are also called Tax Haven’s.

Switzerland is one of the most famous tax haven’s on earth, and that is why the term ‘Swiss Bank Account’ is popular.

In addition to Switzerland, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, British Virgin Islands, St. Kitts & Nevis, Panama, Puerto Rico, and the Seychelles are tax havens that cater to an elite clientele.

As financial transactions can take place freely in these regions, they are also considered as the best places to launder money in a massive scale.

Will the Colombo Port City become a tax haven?

The administrative operations of the Colombo Port City is carried out by the exclusive Colombo Port City Economic Commission.

Interestingly, certain laws and regulations of Sri Lanka will not apply to this region.

Notably, multiple tax legislations do not apply to the Colombo Port City, namely;

The Inland Revenue Act
The Value Added Tax Act
The Finance Act
The Excise (Special Provisions) Act
The Customs Ordinance
The Ports and Airports Development Levy
The Sri Lanka Export Development Act
The Betting and Gaming Levy Act
Termination of Employment of Workmen (Special Provisions) Act
The Entertainment Tax Ordinance
The Foreign Exchange Act and
Casino Business (Regulation) Act

In addition, tax exemptions and incentives can be provided for operations.

Sri Lanka should have a separate plan to generate an income, if it becomes a tax haven.

Therefore, it is questionable as to how it can be achieved when transactions are released from every possible law that would generate tax revenue.

Incidentally, it is former British Prime Minister David Cameron who will be leading the effort to rebrand the Colombo Port City to the Colombo Financial City.

Who is David Cameron?

David Cameron was the UK Prime Minister from May 2010 until July 2016.

He was also the leader of the Conservative Party from 2005 to 2016.

In 2016, David Cameron resigned, bringing an abrupt end to his six-year premiership, after the British public took the momentous decision to reject his entreaties and turn their back on the European Union.

He came under fire for breaking Britain’s economy with policies.

Moreover, Cameron also faced serious charges over his business endeavours.

On the 9th of August 2021 following a BBC expose’ it came to light that David Cameron made about $10m from Greensill Capital before the finance firm he lobbied on behalf of collapsed.

Greensill abruptly went bankrupt some two years ago.

David Cameron was at the center of controversy into his business dealings after revelations that he lobbied former colleagues by text message and over drinks on behalf of a finance firm.

Cameron from the Conservative party had directly lobbied senior Whitehall officials and the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, the current Prime Minister of the UK.

David Cameron, the former British Prime Minister is goind to lead the rebranding of the Colombo Port City, with such a history.

Dilum Amunugama, the State Minister of Investment Promotion said that Cameron was hired by the Chinese firm involved in the Port City, and not the government of Sri Lanka.

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Head of Channel 4 now in Geneva

A team from UK’s Channel 4 television, led by its chief, is now in Geneva, Switzerland, where the 54th session of the United Nations general assembly is in progress, reports social activist Shehan Malaka Gamage.

C-4 is expected to make a full revelation about its controversial documentary into the Easter Sunday terror attacks, which the UNGA has taken up.

They have made arrangements to discuss it with the foreign dignitaries as well.

More exposures are expected from several policemen, journalists and others now in exile in Switzerland.

Centre for Policy Alternatives expresses concerns over Sri Lanka’s Anti-Terrorism Bill

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has issued a statement expressing concern over the Sri Lankan government’s Anti-Terrorism Bill, meant to replace the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Here is the full text of the statement:

The CPA observes that the Sri Lankan Government published an ‘Anti-Terrorism Bill’ in the Gazette, on the 22nd of March 2023. This Bill seeks to abolish the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and introduce an Anti-Terrorism Act.

Such legal reforms must be studied in the context of the abuse of the PTA and Emergency Powers carried out by consecutive Presidential regimes, with the present draft providing broad powers to the executive with limited checks and balances.

CPA notes that the present Bill requires serious attention, especially when authorities have used security laws to target minorities, critics and protesters, entrenching a culture of torture and impunity in Sri Lanka.

CPA reiterates that law reform alone cannot achieve far-reaching change in the absence of a genuine political will to change the culture of dehumanising treatment of persons under the guise of counter-terror.

In this initial comment on the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill, CPA observes that the Bill bears significant similarity to the Counter-Terrorism Bill (the 2018 CTA) that was Gazetted in 2018, but subsequently never passed by Parliament.

However, the new Bill contains several offences that were not a part of the 2018 CTA, some of which raise serious concern for the freedom of expression, potentially giving the State an additional tool to crack down on dissent and criticism.

One improvement in the Bill is that confessions made by suspects in detention to a Police officer are no longer admissible in evidence – a general principle in the ordinary law, for which an exception was made in the PTA. The admissibility of confessions made in custody created a culture of ‘forced confessions’ leading to systemic injustices.

A major concern that remains, however, is with Detention Orders. The Bill places the power to make Detention Orders in the hands of a Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), a power which under the PTA is held by the Minister of Defense.

However, while the 2018 CTA allowed for the initial Detention Order by a DIG to extend up to 2 weeks, the Bill is more similar to the regime under the PTA, allowing the Detention Order to be made for up to 3 months. This is a major concern, which could lead to the suppression of the liberties of persons accused under this Bill, even if there is no substance to such allegations.

Detention Orders can thereafter be extended beyond the initial 3 months, up to a year, but the extension must be approved by a Magistrate.

Under the Bill, the President is also given the power to make ‘Proscription Orders’ against organisations. These orders are to be issued against organisations accused of an offence amounting to terrorism, but also when the President ‘has reasonable grounds’ to believe an organisation is acting in a manner ‘prejudicial to the national security of Sri Lanka, or any other country’.

This wide power may be used to target legitimate dissent in the country, which, based on recent patterns of crackdown must be considered a very likely possibility.

Similar to the PTA, the President has wide powers to make regulations under the Bill. CPA has over the years raised concerns with and litigated regulations made under the PTA which have the potential to be used as a tool of suppression and abuse. This regulation-making power must be curtailed in order to protect the liberties of the citizenry.

Especially concerning is the power granted to the President by the Bill to issue regulations to implement rehabilitation programmes for persons for whom the Attorney-General has recommended a deferment/suspension of criminal action, given the history of abuses and fundamental rights’ violations committed during such rehabilitation processes.

In 2021, CPA filed a Fundamental Rights Application challenging a similar set of regulations under the PTA, and the Supreme Court stayed the operation of the regulations.

CPA also notes that the definition of the ‘offence of terrorism’ in the Bill is overly-broad and contains vague undefined elements, such as acts ‘violating territorial integrity or infringement of sovereignty of Sri Lanka or any other sovereign country’. The use of such terms is concerning given Sri Lanka’s contentious history of repression and abuse of anti-terror laws.

Moreover, this definition of the offence of terrorism, lacks precision, and adherence to the principles of necessity, proportionality, and legality.

CPA is concerned with the secrecy surrounding and the timing of the publishing of the Bill that is deeply problematic and is indicative of the lack of interest to genuinely engage with the public on a critical issue.

The preliminary issues raised here are in the hope of constructively engaging with authorities and lawmakers, and to create a dialogue on whether such a law is even needed in Sri Lanka. This will be followed by a more detailed commentary on the clauses of the Bill in due course.

The present proposal must be viewed in light of Sri Lanka’s legacy of abuse, and the systems in place that have facilitated such abuse. At a time when Sri Lanka is pursuing a path of recovery and rebuilding, it is critical to ensure that genuine measures are taken to address recurring practices of abuse and impunity and uphold the rule of law and democracy in Sri Lanka.

Lawmakers must understand that given the history of abuse there is a long way to go in building public trust, and the onus is on the State to recover that trust by putting all the necessary checks and balances in place.

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President meets USAID Administrator Samantha Power

President Ranil Wickremesinghe met USAID Administrator, Samantha Power, on the side-lines of the UNGA in New York.

During the discussions the President expressed his appreciation for the support extended by USAID to Sri Lanka during the financial crisis.

The President presented a short briefing on the progress with the IMF program, while highlighting the Government’s commitment to its successful conclusion.

The efforts made by the Sri Lankan Government in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the welfare programs through the introduction of the Aswesuma initiative were illustrated during the meeting.

Samantha Power stated that USAID would continue to support Sri Lanka’s recovery efforts, while also making available necessary expertise.

Regarding the developments following the enactment of the anti-corruption legislation, President Ranil Wickremesinghe noted that the Anti-Corruption Commission is currently grappling with the task of recruiting staff with formal training.

Given this circumstance, it is anticipated that it will require an additional year to realize the anticipated outcomes of the anti-corruption law adoption, making the timeline for achievement approximately two years.

The President stated that the entire government machinery of his government has been fully adapted to the implementation of the anti-corruption policy, and requested for the necessary support to be provided for the completion of these activities as soon as possible.

Source: PMD

Sri Lanka’s top sleuth drops cluster bomb over Easter probe

The head of Sri Lanka’s premier criminal investigative unit at the time of the Easter Sunday attacks has publicly revealed the suspicious behaviour of intelligence services before, during and after the worst single terror attack in the country.

Senior DIG CID Ravi Seneviratne who retired in December 2019 had given evidence before three commissions of inquiry into the April 21, 2019 attacks, but his interview with TNL TV, on Monday night is the first time he went public.

Speaking to the network owned by President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s elder brother Shan, the now retired officer made it clear that there were several crucial unanswered questions on the role of intelligence operatives and agencies.

The Easter Sunday attacks killed at least 279 people and wounded another 500. The suicide bombers targeted three churches and three deluxe hotels. At least 45 foreigners were among those killed.

Seneviratne said there were attempts to distract the investigations into two other incidents prior to the Easter Sunday bombings but linked to lead bomber Zahran Hashim. These related to the role of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI).

Seneviratne was appointed head of the CID by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2012 and he was retained in the post by President Maithripala Sirisena. He remained in the post till his retirement in December 2019.

The following are the five key take aways from Ravi Seneviratne’s two-hour candid interview.

1) There was another individual who controlled Zahran Hashim, the lead suicide bomber in the Easter Sunday attacks. This person is highly intelligent, had the capability to organise the first ever coordinated terror attack in Sri Lanka, something even the LTTE failed to do.
Seneviratne noted that Zahran, an individual without a proper education, may not have had the wherewithal to carry out such a coordinated attack.

“There was someone above him. Some one who is very intelligent, with training and experience. With the ability to coordinate so many people to carry out such an attack.”

2) State and military intelligence units had known and even worked closely with Easter Sunday bombers/Zahran Hashim and his associates before, during and after the attacks.

3) Both military intelligence and the State Intelligence Service actively worked to divert attention to ex-LTTE cadres over the murder of two policemen at Vavunathivu. They had even planted “evidence” in a bid to prove it. CID was highly suspicious.

4) SIS inspector Bandara was the person who instigated Zahran’s group to get establish links and claim the Easter Sunday bombings as the work of the ISIS. Investigations into this matter was halted. There was no evidence to suggest that there was an external ISIS support to Zahran and company.

5) Current SIS chief Suresh Sallay had a difficult relationship with the CID. In fact, the CID had to report him to court to get required information. Channel 4 allegations against Suresh Sallay also must be investigated.

Access the full interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=RXa6F1qnR_0

Ex-SIS Chief Nilantha Jayawardena’s Briefing on Easter Attacks Disrupted by Opposition Protests

A planned briefing by former State Intelligence Service (SIS) Chief Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena for Members of Parliament regarding the Easter Sunday terror attacks was canceled due to protests by Opposition members at the parliamentary complex.

Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District SJB MP, Lakshman Kiriella, vehemently opposed the government’s decision to have police officers, who were responsible for not taking preventive action during the Easter Sunday terror attacks, provide instructions to MPs about the ongoing investigations into the incidents.

The Chief Opposition Whip voiced his strong objection when the Speaker announced a meeting scheduled at 2.30 pm in Committee Room I of Parliament, where officials from the Ministry of Public Security, along with senior police investigators, were set to brief MPs on the progress of the investigations into the Easter Sunday attacks.

Kiriella questioned how MPs could attend a meeting led by individuals who had failed to prevent the tragic events of Easter Sunday. He stated, “The Presidential Commission of Inquiry has recommended criminal proceedings against former SIS Chief Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena over the Easter Sunday terror attacks. Now, he is coming here to brief us about the investigations into the same matter. What is the logic behind this?”

In response, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena clarified that he was merely conveying an announcement.

Chief Government Whip Minister Prasanna Ranatunga chimed in, saying that the notice did not mention the police coming to provide instructions. He encouraged MPs to attend the meeting to discover the truth instead of making misleading statements without full knowledge.

Kiriella contended that the meeting was not aimed at revealing the truth but rather concealing it.

The meeting ultimately took place as scheduled, with Senior DIG Jayawardena replaced by head of the Counter Terrorism Investigation Division SSP Prasanna Alwis and some CID officials conducting the sessions, according to sources within Parliament.

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