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 Sri Lanka will be a developed country only if it becomes the hub of the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the third meeting of the Asia Europe Political Forum (AEPF) and International Conference of Asian Political Parties 2019, launched in Colombo, yesterday.

“Sri Lanka has a very friendly relationship with other countries in the region. India has been our historical partner, which in fact, extends up to Pakistan and Bangladesh. We have an excellent relationship with Japan since the San Francisco Peace Conference, and we are one of the first countries which recognised the People’s Republic of China. The best example of this friendliness would be our expressway. China, Japan, India and ourselves all together have constructed the expressway in the country,” the Prime Minister said.“We are maintaining these relationships, else Sri Lanka cannot be the hub of the Indian Ocean,” he added.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also highlighted the importance of the Maritime Silk Road initiated by China under the theme, ‘One Belt One Road’.“The Mediterranean sea and the Indian Ocean are the oldest trade routes in the world. We have to remember, a bulk of world transport goes through the Indian Ocean. We are now putting together this system back which was broken by the Western colonial powers,” he said.“Japan and India currently working together on the Asia-Africa growth corridor and India itself are focusing towards the region with their, look West, act East and neighbourhood first policy,” he added.
India is our partner from our history. We share same civilization with Pakistan and Bangladesh. We joined Japan at the San Francisco Conference. Despite the opposition from the United States, Sri Lanka recognized People's Republic of China and first signed a trade agreement. We will maintain this situation. We do not get caught up in someone's competition."
"Many people consider that the Hambantota port is a Chinese military base. I accept that there will be an army camp. But it is a Sri Lanka navy camp. Once installed, a Sri Lankan Rear Admiral will be in control. Any ship from any country can come there. But we control the operations," the Prime Minister added.
Speaking further, the Premier said Sri Lanka can develop only if it becomes the hub of the Indian Ocean and in another twenty years Sri Lanka will become the hub in the Asian market.
The Third meeting of the Asia-Europe Political Forum (AEPF) and the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) will be held in Colombo from 5 to 7 April 2019.Approximately (90) ninety participants representing political parties in Asia and Europe are expected to be in attendance at this International Conference.
The Conference is organized by the Ministry of Primary Industries and Social Empowerment in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Minister Daya Gamage will be the co-chairman of the conference.The ICAPP, established in 2000, aims to promote mutual understanding between Asian and European countries. Sri Lanka is a functioning state of ICAPP.
The international conference is being held with the objective to promote cooperation among different political parties in order to enhance mutual understanding and confidence among Asian countries, to promote regional co-operation and to create an environment for sustainable peace and prosperity.

 The ‘Budget 2019’ was passed in Parliament yesterday with a majority of 45 votes.Following a division called by the UPFA at the end of Third Reading, it received 119 votes in favour and 74 votes against.The UPFA group divided into two groups during the vote, with MPs associated with Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa voting against the Budget together with some SLFP MPs while the rest of the SLFP MPs choosing not to turn up for the vote.

Notably, SLFP MPs Dilan Perera and S.B. Dissanayake voted against.A total of 31 MPs were absent. Notable absentees included MPs UPFA MPs Mahinda Amaraweera, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Mahinda Samarasinghe and Duminda Dissanayake. MPs Dr Wijayadasa Rajapakshe and Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera were also absent.
TNA MPs Sivasakthi Anandan and S. Adeikkalanathan were also absent.The JVP MPs voted against while 13 out of 16 TNA MPs voted in favour. Opposition MP from the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) Muthu Sivalingam voted in favour while CWC Leader Arumugam Thondaman was absent.All parties aligned with the United National Front (UNF) voted in favour of the Budget.
MPs Asoka Priyantha, Ananda Aluthgamage and S. Viyalendran, who recently joined with the UPFA, voted against the Budget. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera moved further amendments to the Budget winding up a month-long budget debate. The Budget 2019 themed ‘Empowering the People and Nurturing the Poor’ was presented by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera on March 5.
The Second Reading of the Budget passed with a majority of 43 votes in Parliament on March 12. After the final vote, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya hosted the traditional dinner party to all MPs at the Speaker’s Residence with about 80 visiting foreign Parliamentarary delegates also participating.
Supplementary Estimates passed without a division
The Supplementary Estimates to provide for the expenditure of Megapolis and Western Development Ministry and Internal and Home Affairs and Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry were passed in Parliament yesterday without a division.Thirty Supplementary Estimates were moved by Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella subsequent to the final vote of the Budget in place of the defeated Expenditure Heads of the two ministries. The UPFA in a surprise vote defeated the Expenditure Heads of the two ministries on March 28.
The supplementary estimates were presented by suspending the Standing Orders and nobody called for a division. TNA Leader R. Sampanthan said that his party abstained from voting for the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Speaker said that would be noted. Parliament will meet again on May 7.

 

 The Presidential Media Awards with a view to evaluate the mission carried out by journalists as well as their contribution to the field for establishing an excellent media culture in the country will be held on April 10, 2019 at the BMICH in Colombo under the patronage of the President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe.

The primary objective of organizing this award ceremony on annual basis is to evaluate skills, talents and special capabilities of journalists towards ushering in a media culture with social responsibility.
It is also aimed at encouraging the media in building up a well-informed civil society and to provide state sponsorship for journalists through evaluation of their performance covering the entire mass media field. Further, the identification and evaluation of talents, skills and the core competencies of journalists by Providing guidance and motivation to felicitate professional journalists will be an opportunity for young and energetic journalists to excel in the field of mass media

Applications submitted for awards should be a production of their own preferably sent through heads of the institution but it is also possible to submit it directly with the senders own certification.

Accordingly, only the creative work done within the period between 01.01.2017 and 31.12.2017 were considered for awards. The main criteria considered to be qualified for the awards were that the creative work should be their own and the relevant production must have been prepared as suitable to Sri Lankan viewers/ listeners. No foreign creations were considered.

The main committee was presented with nomination recommended for awarding through sub committees consisted of professionally qualified senior journalists appointed by the Ministry with the recommendations of media heads.
Following the advertisements published in the media on 13 July 2018, 1674 nominations were received within the specified period. It is expected to award to each field from all three languages. The numbers of awards to be given away are 51 covering all categories inclusive of the four life time awards.

In addition to selecting the award winners for their creations, the panel of judges have selected four distinguished media personnel for life time award. They are Dr.Edwin Ariyadasa in the field of Print Media, Mr.Karunarathna Amarasinghe in the field of Radio, Mr.Lucien Bulathsinhala in the field of Television media and Mr.Lakshman Jayawardene for the contribution in the field of web media.

This has been organized by the Ministry of Mass Media under the direction of Minister Ruwan Wijewardane and the supervision of the Secretary Ministry of Mass Media Mr.Sunil Samarweera.

 

 It is an absolute truth that the drug menace is raising its head across the country darkening the promising future of Sri Lankan children and oppressing the lives of the people.

The citizens across the country took the Bakmaha Divuruma, national pledge to eradicate the drug menace, today (03) to confirm their total commitment to control and eliminate the illegal drugs from the country.
The inaugural event of this programme was held under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena today (03) at the Independence Square in Colombo, with the participation of the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, ministers and members of parliament.
Governors, Chief Ministers as well as the Secretary to the President Udaya .R. Senevirathne, and secretaries to ministers, and other senior government officials, Heads of Tri Forces, Inspector General of Police, and the chiefs of security forces, were gathered at the event. The public attended the ceremony in large numbers.
The gathering made a pledge to commit themselves to make the country free of illicit drugs for the sake of the future generation, to successfully conduct and to accomplish drug prevention program and to take steps to shun drugs as an individual, and to dedicate with a utmost contribution for the great collective efforts to free the Sri Lankan public from drug menace.
This event was live streamed through electronic media, and it was simultaneously telecast to institutions, public offices, schools and the general public.
The President believes that the national task of building a prosperous Sri Lanka by free the country from the drug trafficking and the task should be continued with a community attitude change and with active participation of the family unit and the society.
The new program of the Bakmaha Diuruma, national pledge against drugs, was organized today (03rd) by President Sirisena for a new approach to create a drug free country. His intention is to obtain the cooperation of all sections for the success of the programme.

 Presidential Media Award Ceremony 2018 will be held on April 10, 2019 at the BMICH under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena, Secretary to the Media Ministry Sunil Samaraweera said today.This award ceremony will be the first ever Presidential Media Award ceremony to be held in the country in an effort to recognize the efforts of creative and talented media personals in the country. Media personals that have shown outstanding performances in year 2017 will be appreciated by the Presidential Media Award Ceremony 2018.

Ministry Secretary Samaraweera said that the event will be held annually and the Presidential Media Award Ceremony 2019 is planned to be held within this year as well.Samaraweera made these observations at a press brief held at Media Ministry premises today morning. The press brief was preceded by a special meeting held between the ministry officials and the heads of electronic and print media in the morning.
Secretary Samaraweera said that the government has taken upon this national endevour in order to appreciate the qualitative contribution and the role played by the journalists to create an excellent media culture in the country. Accordingly, 51 excellence awards will be presented at the ceremony for outstanding journalists in the media fields of print, television, radio and websites, who are working in all three languages, Samaraweera explained.

Furthermore, the ceremony will award the one time “Jury’s Special Award” to a cluster of veterans who performed a special role in the media field, Secretary Samaraweera said. Accordingly, one time Jury’s Special Award will be presented to four veterans in the media field including Dr. Edwin Ariyadasa for his contribution for print media, Senior Radio Journalist Karunarathna Amarasinghe, Lucian Bulathsinhala for his contribution to television media and Lakshman Jayawardane for his contribution for web media, Media Ministry today announced. Ministry Secretary Samaraweera said all the award winners will be granted a financial grant as well.
A panel member and a judge, Professor Patrick Rathnayake expressing his views at the press brief stated that the panel of judges that consisted experts from various fields, were given full authority to select the deserving recipients from the nominated list. Professor Rathnayake assured that the panel of judges has acted fair and impartial. He commended Media Ministry for establishing such a sound working atmosphere devoid of political meddling. Professor Rathnakaye also pointed out that in the next award ceremony, they will extend the appreciation to provincial journalists as well.

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The second day of the 15th Biennial Conference of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) held chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday (26th) morning at the BMICH.

Under the theme of ‘Quality Assurance, Qualifications and Recognition: Fostering Trust in a Globalized World‘, INQAAHE 15th Biennial Conference will be held until 28h March 2019 at BMICH. The ministry of Higher Education and University Grants Commission are organizing this conference jointly.
The International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) is an International association of three hundred organizations that is active in the theory and practice of quality assurance in higher education. The biennial conference host institution is the University Grants Commission this year.
Professors, academics and special representatives representing universities of many countries are participating in this Conference. The President presented mementoes to them at the Conference.
President of the University Grants Commission Prof. Mohan De Silva made the welcome address and Dr. Susanna Karakhanyan the Chairman of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education also spoke.
Minister Mr. Rauff Hakeem and group of invitees were also present at this event.

 Government of Sri Lanka has accorded high importance to the development of infrastructure including expressway network with inter-connectivity as it will directly contribute to the economic growth and will have indirect effects in raising the productivity and efficiency in different economic sectors. To complement the existing expressway network, Central Expressway Project (CEP) has been initiated with a purpose of linking Colombo with Kandy and Kurunagala.

Section 1 of the CEP will start from Kadawatha where four expressways, namely Outer Circular Highway (OCH) II, OCH III and Colombo-Katunayaka Expressway and the Central Expressway link through the Kadawatha interchange. This will create an uninterrupted connectivity from Hambanthota to Katunayaka or Hambanthota to Kandy linking several provinces and economically important ports, airports and commercial cities. This proposed highway will improve the inter regional connectivity and efficiency of the entire expressway network.
Accordingly, strengthening the financial cooperation between the Government of Sri Lanka and the People’s Republic of China in the field of the infrastructure development of Sri Lanka, the Export- Import Bank of China (EXIM Bank) has agreed to provide a concessional loan amounting to US$ 989 million covering 85% of the contract price, for the Central Expressway Project - Section 1 from Kadawatha to Meerigama. The total estimated cost of the project is US$ 1,164 million. Furthermore, this loan is the single largest loan approved by the EXIM Bank for Sri Lanka.
Since, the implementation of the Section 2 of the Central Expressway has already been commenced with the financial assistance of local commercial banks, this loan facility from China EXIM Bank will facilitate the speedy implementation of Kadawatha –Meerigama section ensuring the connectivity of the expressway network up to Kurunagala.
Accordingly, the loan agreement was signed on 22nd March 2019 by Dr. R H S Samaratunga, Secretary, Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka and H E Cheng Xueyuan, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Embassy of China in Sri Lanka on behalf of the Export – Import (EXIM) Bank of China at the Ministry of Finance, Colombo 01.

 The Enterprise Sri Lanka programme that targets to create one hundred thousand entrepreneurs by giving low-interest capital throughout the island has become successful.

Over 7000 business minded persons participated in the first Enterprise SL mobile service programs held under the patronage of Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera at Weligama on March 23 and 24.
Three State Banks identified 1,327 prospective business persons out of the total visitors participated in this mobile service as eligible to obtain loans. Bank of Ceylon registered 620 would be entrepreneurs to grant loans while People’s Bank registered 300 similar persons to provide loans. In addition, the Rural Development Bank registered 387 such entrepreneurial applicants for loans.
Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera proposed in his last year’s budget to provide low interest loans up to 750 million rupees under different loan schemes to enable prospective persons to set up business ventures and industries. Under this program, it is compulsory for the loan applicants to submit business proposals to the respective banks. However, many such applicants are facing difficulties as they have no understanding and sufficient knowledge to prepare such business proposals. Therefore, the ongoing Enterprise Sri Lanka Mobile Service has made arrangements to solve this problem. The assistance of university undergraduates was obtained to prepare 45 business proposals for the needy entrepreneurs during this Mobile Service in Weligama.
Southern Province is popular for tourism therefore 450 persons who were willing to open business ventures related to hospitality industry in the province were registered with state banks. On-the-spot loans were approved for 50 of the total registered applicants to tart with “Homestay” project under which persons who are willing to run Home stays for tourist can obtain loan upto Rs 5 million at the concessionary interest rate of 6 percent. The rest of the applicants under this category will be granted necessary loans after the officers of the Tourism Development Authority made field visits.
Mobile offices of Tourism Development Board, Export Development Board and Industrial Development Board were also operated as approval should be obtained from certain government institutions to open some business ventures
Significance in this Mobile Service is that the loan applicants were assisted to prepare all the necessary documents required by the respective state banks.
39,000 persons have been granted capital loans for 60,000 million rupees under various categories of loan schemes of Enterprise Sri Lanka program in 2018. The program has been extended further in the year 2019 thereby allocating 6100 million rupees just to pay the interest subsidy for such loans.
Loan schemes provided under Enterprise Sri Lanka has covered several sectors of development in the country and, among them are Agriculture, Small and Medium Enterprises, Housing and Construction and Caregiving Services.
The Finance Ministry expects these concessionary loan schemes to create one hundred thousand new entrepreneurs throughout the country and this would contribute to the growth of the national economic development.

 Applications are being called for the “Madya Aruna” – 2019, special loan scheme for journalists implemented by jointly Minisrty of Mass Media and Ministry of Finance in view of uplifting professionalism of Sri Lankan journalists.

Under this scheme, eligible journalists will be provided with an interest free loan up to a maximum of Rs. 300,000/- to purchase media equipment or a loan up to a maximum of Rs. 150,000/- with a 50% concession on the current interest rate to upgrade media equipment.

Journalists, freelance journalists, provincial journalists or web journalists below 60 years of age and have completed 3 years of service and currently serving full time or part time in a recognized electronic or print media institution may apply for this “Madya Aruna” special loan scheme.
Loans will be provided to purchase or upgrade computers (Laptop / Desktop / i-pad), camera, fax machines, digital recorders or any other media equipment recommended by the Ministry of Mass Media.
In the years 2017 and 2018, 823 and 554 journalists were selected respectively under the said loan scheme. All Journalists applied for and fulfilled the required qualifications have been selected for loan Scheme. People’s Bank and Rural Development Bank will be implementing loan scheme this year.
Perfected applications should be sent under registered post to reach Director (Media), Ministry of Mass Media, “Asidisi Medura”,No163,Kirulapone Avenue, Polhengoda, Colombo 05 on or before 30.04.2019.
Further information and the applications may be obtained by contacting Miss. Sanduni or Mr. Chandana via o11-2513645 / 011-22513459 / 011-22513460 or may be downloaded from the website www.media.gov.lk.

 The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Directors (CVCD) Excellence Awards was held under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena at the President’s House in Colombo.

The CVCD Excellence Awards Ceremony organized by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Directors, held once in two years and it is significant that this time it was held at the President’s House.
The CVCD Excellence Awards are given to recognize and honour the outstanding contributions and accomplishments of the staff in the Sri! Lankan Universities. The President presented awards under six (06) disciplines of study.

 Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe adressing the gathering at the Mirijjawila Export Processing Zone in Hambantota after the inauguration of construction work of the US$ 3.85 billion oil refinery project and the cement manufacturing plant, said that the implementation of these two projects usher in a new dawn for Hambantota and the surrounding districts.

The Prime Minister said the Hambantota oil refinery will boost a barely operated port that has piled debt on the country.
He further said that an extent of 200 acres has been allocated for these projects at the Mirijjawila Export Processing Zone. The new oil refinery complex is the first to be set up after 1968 and is a one hundred percent foreign investment project from Singapore and the Sultanate of Oman’s Ministry of Oil and Gas.
These USD 3.85 billion investmrents will create thousands of job opportunities in the Hambantota district and in surrounding districts.’
The Prime minster further said that these two projects are two mega investment projects that could be considered legacies and assets for the citizens of Hambantota. He said that we have a sea port without ships an air port without planes at Mattala, an international playground without cricket and an international convention hall without conventions.
“These are white elephants vested with us by the previous regime and we will make them tame elephants and money spinners,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minster said that this was the first time that an oil refinery will be set up in the country after the Sapugadskanda Oil Refinery in 1967.
He said that when they inaugarated the Mirijjawila Industrial Zone in Hambantota, they were pelted stones and protest campaigns were staged by the Rajapaksa clan. He said within another three months foreign investment will come to Hambantota in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority.When this happens,the stores complex at the Mattala Airport will no longer have to be used for paddy storage purposes.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said Hambantota will be converted to an international investment hub very soon with a host of investments flowing in. Tourism will be developed extensively with Minister John Amaratunga playing a key role. In addition, the fisheries industry will be given a boost.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that this was a land mark event parallel to the birthday of Prime Minster Ranil Wickremesinhe.
Oman’s Minister of Oil and Gas Mohammed bin Hamad Al Rumhi, Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China in Sri Lanka Cheng Xueyuan, Development Strategies, International Trade, Science, Technology and Research Malik Samarawickrama, Deputy Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Nalin Bandara, Housing Construction and Cultural Affairs Sajith Premadasa and a number of Ministers and Parliamentarians were present for the occasion.

 Legacy of protecting, nurturing of Tripitaka and to present it to the world in writing lies on us as Sri Lankans.

Maha Nayaka Theros commended the efforts taken by the President to declare Tripitaka as a World Heritage


The occasion of religious significance of presentation of the proposal to declare the Theravada Tripitaka, the sacred scripture of Buddhists, as a World Heritage as a Memory of the World to the UN Representative was held today (23) at the Maha Maluwa (Great Terrace) of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.
President Maithripala Sirisena handed over the proposal officially to the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Sri Lanka Ms. Hanaa Singer.
Recently, President Sirisena took steps to declare the Theravada Tripitaka as a National Heritage to ensure the sustainability of the pure Buddhism, and not limiting to this noble endeavor, he initiated the process to declare the Tripitaka as a World Heritage with the aim of preserving it for another thousands of years.
Addressing the ceremony the President said that the legacy of protecting, nurturing of the Tripitaka, which included the preaching of Gautama Buddha, and to present it to the world in writing, was lies on us as Sri Lankans. He also said that till the Tripitaka published it was preserved by the Maha Sangha of Sri Lanka and further said that this by declaring this noble inheritance as a world heritage, Sri Lanka will receive an opportunity to obtain the ownership and trusteeship of it.
Furthermore, the President said that despite the opposition by some people with vested interests and attempting to challenge and confront this endevour, the steps to take forward the objective to declare the Tripitaka as a World Heritage will move ahead successfully.
President Sirisena said that the Tripitaka is a vast knowledge resource apart from being a religious philosophy. He also said that he is pleased to see that all the Maha Nayaka Theros of all the Nikayas sitting together invoked blessings for this noble task.
President Sirisena recalled that former Burmese Prime Minister U Nu said in 1953 that Tripitaka was the most important historical heritage of Buddhism and described how it was first preserved by memory and then written on ola leaves in Sri Lanka and finally scripted in stone.
The President said even in non-Buddhist countries like Gemany there were laudable comments of Tripitaka in their ancient chronicles.
Delivering special sermon at the event the Maha Nayaka Theros pointed out that the initiative taken by the President to declare the Tripitaka as a World Heritage will be appreciated by all the Buddhist community in the world.

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