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.

Tamil Nadu fishermen oppose Sri Lankan vehicle dumping in water

Fishermen in Tamil Nadu have objected to Sri Lanka’s initiative to submerge discarded vehicles into Sri Lankan waters, saying their fishing would also be affected, the New Indian Express reported. Experts from India also called the move ‘irresponsible’.

On June 11, the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Navy, submerged 20 degraded and discarded buses near Delft Island (‘Neduntheevu’) in its northern waters (‘Palk Strait’).

The move was termed by Sri Lanka as one ‘to help create artificial reef conducive to the marine environment’. Tamil Nadu fishers condemned it, saying it will affect their livelihood.

The submersion on June 11 was not the first. Sri Lanka has been dropping discarded vehicles for a while. The points of drop are in Sri Lankan waters. Yet, still, Tamil Nadu fishers are concerned.

“What is the guarantee that the vehicles will not get drifted underwater, will move towards the Indian waters across International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and deposited at the bottom of our waters? We saw the Tsunami washing up such objects for several miles and depositing them near our shore in December 2004. Our fishing will get affected. We request the state government to stop this outrageous move and save our waters, our shore and our fishing,” said RMP Rajendra Nattar, a fisher-representative from Nagapattinam.

Trawling continues to the primary fishing practice for Tamil Nadu fishers, whereas it is banned in Sri Lanka. Tamil Nadu fishers trawl in Coramandel Waters, Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar, which Sri Lanka also shares. The trawl nets can reach midwater and even the bottom of the sea. Tamil Nadu fishers fear that their trawl nets will get stuck in the submerged vehicles and damaged. They also call the move against India–Sri Lanka maritime boundary agreements (1974 – 1976).

The experts approve the reasoning behind the concern of Tamil Nadu fishers. Dr K Murali, the Head of Ocean Engineering Department in IIT – Madras, said, “The drifting of unsupported objects under the water, due to ocean currents is a real phenomenon. The drifting of debris of the aeroplane MH 370, which crashed in 2014, is an example of drifting induced by ocean currents. The debris drifted for hundreds of kilometres. Natural disasters like tsunamis and cyclones can drastically augment drifting.“

Tamil Nadu and Puducherry government collaborate with institutes like Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) and M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) like has been dropping structures in the sea for past two decades. The dropped blocks had become ‘artificial reefs’ over months and promote marine life, the idea which Sri Lanka is trying to explore through discarded vehicles. Dr H Mohamad Kasim, a retired principal scientist from CMFRI, said, “We spent a lot of research before deploying reef blocks. We analysed the seabed conditions. Each structure we dropped were only about three feet in height, weighed almost a ton and made of hard concrete. We dropped around 200 permeable and hollow blocks closely in deeper points. Thus, we deployed those reefs that and made them resistant against drifting or displacement. But, the vehicles are not similarly designed for this purpose. They can be overturned and washed away easily through strong ocean currents due to their structural disadvantages.”

The experts also call the dumping of vehicles disastrous for the environment and are against the ‘international laws on anti-dumping. Dr S Velvizhi, the Head of MSSRF- Fish for All Research Centre in Poompuhar, added, “Reefs formed out of concrete blocks are harmless to the ecosystem and is favourable to marine life. But, the bodies of vehicles Sri Lanka is dumping are made of corrosive metal materials. Metal rust is toxic to marine life. ‘Fish schools’ move indiscriminately in the sea across boundaries, so the point of metal dumping is irrelevant. Our seafood through fishing could thus become poisonous. Sea is not a ground for irresponsible dumping, above all.”

The Directorate of Fisheries in Tamil Nadu told The New Indian Express that they have responded to the Sri Lankan initiative. Director M Karunakaran IAS said, “We have received information in the regard through various media sources. We have urged the Tamil Nadu state government to bring it to the notice of the Union Government to stop the Sri Lankan initiative.“

China has been Sri Lanka’s ally since ancient times: PM

The Chinese Communist Party and its leftist movement supported Sri Lanka to position itself as a non-aligned nation, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said.

The Prime Minister made this statement while addressing the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, which was celebrated online.

Whilst referring to China as a great civilization and not just a country, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said although China faced many invasions, it never invaded another country.

“China’s support to ensure Sri Lanka’s independence at the UN Human Rights Sessions can never be forgotten. I always referred to China as our historical ally,” the Premier further noted.

Former General Secretary of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka – D. E. W. Gunasekara, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party – Former President Maithripala Sirisena, Former Prime Minister and Leader of the United National Party – Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Front – Wimal Weerawansa, and Leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya – Udaya Gammanpila also attended the online anniversary celebration of the Chinese Communist Party.

Sri Lanka to enter into a Preferential Trade Agreement with Bangladesh

The Sri Lankan government is planning to hold discussions with the government of Bangladesh on entering into a Preferential Trade Agreement between the two countries.

Both Sn Lanka and Bangladesh act as stakeholder member countries of the accords namely SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA), South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), Global System of trade Preference (GSTP), Asia — Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), a statement on cabinet decisions said.

However, trade movements between the two states lies at a minimum level despite of special provisions under the aforementioned accords.

During the diplomatic tour of the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Bangladesh in previous March, the leaders of the two member states had agreed upon the requirement of entering into a free trade accord for strengthening economic relationships between the two countries.

It has been agreed upon looking into the possibility of entering into a preferential trade agreement with a short list of goods as the initial step.

Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers agreed the proposal furnished by the Minister of Trade for holding discussions with the relevant authorities of that country with regard to entering into a preferential trade agreement with Bangladesh.