PM Rajpaksa advises to prepare urban development plan for every city in island

Aug 28, Colombo: The Prime Minister and Minister of Urban Development & Housing Mahinda Rajapaksa Friday instructed to prepare a formal urban development plan separating business and residential areas for all cities in the island.

Participating in the progress review meeting held at the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing in Suhurupaya, Battaramulla the PM instructed the officials to ensure that the residential areas reserved for the people in the urban areas are not affected by anyone and not reserved for business premises.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa

The Prime Minister also drew the attention of the officials to the formulation of a program to prevent the discharge of garbage into the rivers as a measure to prevent the discharge of waste into the sea.

The Prime Minister pointed out to the State Engineering Corporation the importance of focusing on competitive private sector development projects in addition to government development projects.

The Prime Minister, who ordered to look into the unfinished projects during the previous government and complete them for the benefit of the people, expressed surprise that some housing projects had been built without any responsibility even inside the elephant corridor.

The Ministry of Urban Development and Housing is to implement Rs. 28 billion worth of development projects in the next four months.

Secretary to the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing Sirinimal Perera expressed confidence that all institutions that became loss-making due to irregular appointments and activities during the previous government will be transformed into profit making institutions before December 31.

Although the monthly income of the State Land Corporation is 90 million rupees, its monthly expenditure is as high as 166 million rupees due to irregular appointments made during the previous government, the ministry secretary said.

It was revealed at this progress review meeting that the total number of houses constructed under the Urban Development Authority during the last four and a half years is less than 450.

Director General of the Urban Development Authority, Prasad Ranaweera said car parks will be constructed targeting major cities in Colombo, Kandy, Anuradhapura, Matara and Kurunegala, said the.

Mr. Ranaweera said the responsibility of disposing the garbage collected by the local government bodies has been handed over to the Urban Development Authority and the President has appointed a committee to look into the matter.

In the future, housing projects will be implemented under the guidance of the Ministry targeting low income, middle class, high income people and public servants.

Mr. Prasad Ranaweera said that 1400 new flats have been constructed to provide shanty dwellers free of charge and new housing projects will be implemented in the areas where the shanties used to be.

In addition, 608 houses have been constructed for middle class public servants and another 800 houses are to be completed for public servants in 2021.

In addition to these housing projects, 3300 houses that can be applied for and purchased by any individual will be constructed in the future under 10 projects, said Mr. Ranaweera.

The National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) has so far constructed 8701 houses and expects a revenue of Rs. 6 billion from the Housing Development Authority (NDA) next year, said its chairman Renuka Perera.

Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, State Minister of Urban Development, Coast Conservation Waste Disposal and Community Sanitation, Indika Anuruddha, State Minister of Rural Housing and Construction and Building Industry Promotion and senior officials from ministries and government agencies were present.

 

Sri Lanka explores to expand cooperation in trade and tourism with Hainan Province in Southern China

Aug 25, Colombo: The government of Sri Lanka is exploring the opportunities to expand cooperation in diverse areas focusing on trade and tourism with Hainan Province in Southern China.

On the invitation of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Hainan Province, Consul General of Sri Lanka, Priyangika Dharmasena with 72 Ambassadors, Consul Generals and diplomatic representatives from Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai visited Hainan province, referred as the ‘International Tourism Island’ from 12-15 August 2020, Ministry of Foreign Relations said in a release.

The program was organized to acquire a better understanding of the overall plan for the construction of the Hainan Free Trade Port, with its zero tariff policy and other incentives and also to promote friendly exchanges and pragmatic cooperation between Hainan and other countries.

Hainan is a tropical island at the southernmost part of China and it is China’s second largest island after Taiwan. Hainan Province is considered China’s largest economic zone and consist of duty free shops for off shore visitors with attractive cash limits. The province also has a 30 day visa free entry for travelers of 59 countries, to boost tourism.

During the program, Consul General, Dharmasena met with government leaders of Hainan, prominent stakeholders on tourism, officials of the Foreign Affairs Office of Hainan and industry officials, and discussed on cooperation in different areas including tourism, trade and investment and also the furtherance of the existing sister city agreement. Haikou, capital of Hainan is referred to as the “coconut city”, and Hainan is the main area of production of coconuts in China. However, to meet the shortfall of coconuts and coconut based products in China, the province imports such items from South East Asia.

Considering Hainan’s shortage of coconuts and coconut based products, and Sri Lanka’s potential to export such items, Consul General Dharmasena emphasized the furtherance of cooperation in that area.

The delegation also visited important industries in Hainan province, including Science, yacht and tourism.

During the visit, Consul General Dharmasena was interviewed by Hainan Sansha Satellite TV, aired and published on ‘Hainan Daily’ elaborating for furtherance of cooperation in diverse areas, between Hainan and Sri Lanka.

 

Sri Lanka to develop 2,600 new tourist attractions

Aug 25, Colombo: Sri Lanka has identified 2,600 new tourist attractions that have not yet been used for the tourism industry

Minister in charge of the subject Prasanna Ranatunga says that steps have already been taken to develop these sites expeditiously.

The Minister said when tourists start to arrive in the country with the opening of the airport, these places will be developed into 2,600 new tourist destinations.

The Minister said that the development work being carried out at the Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport will be expanded so that more tourists can visit the country at the same time.

 

Foreign Ministry, ICTA launch online portal for Sri Lankans overseas

Mar 27, Colombo: ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ an online portal jointly created by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Information & Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) for the benefit of Overseas Sri Lankans was launched Thursday (26 March 2020) at the Ministry of Foreign Relations.

The web link is hosted on the Ministry web page www.mfa.gov.lk and also can be accessed at www.contactsrilanka.mfa.gov.lk.

Establishment of the portal, is pursuant to the call made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for coordinated efforts by all Government stakeholders to fight the COVID-19 outbreak and to harness digital technology to prompt faster and more efficient service delivery.

All Sri Lankans living abroad are invited to register voluntarily on the platform’s basic functionalities allowing the Government of Sri Lanka to reach out and provide assistance during emergencies such as the COVID19 outbreak. This platform will allow the Ministry to access real time data for quick action. The open access platform would also facilitate Overseas Sri Lankans to interact between government stakeholders, promoting greater access to the Government services through a single centralized point at the Ministry of Foreign Relations. This Portal will also connect Overseas Sri Lankans with the network of Sri Lanka Missions abroad.

In the long term, the Portal will be expanded and is expected to serve as an official source of information and facilitate Overseas Sri Lankans in obtaining a wider range of digital services offered by the Government.

A dedicated team of officials have already been assigned by the Ministry of Foreign Relations to respond to queries of Overseas Sri Lankans and also to act as an online help desk, during emergencies in consultation with relevant stakeholders. Registration by country will also allow the Ministry to propose concrete policy decisions in critical response situations such as evacuation etc., depending on the number of emergency assistance requests generated.

For easy facilitation, the portal also includes a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which will serve as a guideline for generic queries. This user friendly platform can be easily navigated via the internet, on any browser or interface and can be accessed by all registered users to direct a query or request assistance, even from a mobile phone.

The data provided through this portal is protected to ensure the privacy of Overseas Sri Lankans and will not be shared without the consent of the users.

The ICTA will be working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Relations in expanding the features of the portal in stages, to create a comprehensive online service platform for Overseas Sri Lankans, via the ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ Portal.

The Ministry of Foreign Relations, is hopeful that this integrated platform will elevate its existing service delivery for Overseas Sri Lankans to a higher level, particularly allowing rapid response in times of emergencies. All Sri Lankans living abroad are invited to benefit from this portal.

 

Annual Sri Pada pilgrim season in Sri Lanka begins from 15th December

Dec 11, Colombo: The annual Sri Pada pilgrim season, which begins from the Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day, began at an auspicious time this morning for the 2019 – 2020 season.

A series of religious activities to mark the beginning of the season were held at the Sri Pada Raja Maha Viharaya temple in Galpoththaawala, Pelmadulla yesterday. The program was organized by the Sri Pada Vandana Pooja Committee under the guidance of Sri Padastanadhipathi and Chancellor of Uva-Wellassa Univerity, Ven. Bengamuwe Dhammadinna Maha Nayaka Thera.

Three processions, carrying the sacred casket of Relics of the Buddha, sacred objects, and the statue of God Saman from the Temple to the Sri Pada maluwa on Balangoda Road, Sri Palabaddala Road and Hatton Road reached the upper precincts of Sri Pada early morning today.

Nuwara Eliya District Secretary Rohana Pushpakumara said that all arrangements have been made to provide conveniences to the devotees coming from all parts of the country.

Police have also launched a special security program for the pilgrims. Police have taken steps to deploy police dogs with special police teams to apprehend persons arriving in Sri Pada Pilgrimage with drugs.

Sri Pada, also known as Adam’s Peak has been proclaimed as a world heritage site by the UNESCO.

Hundreds of thousands of local and foreign devotees belonged to all four major religions – Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Muslims- trek to the summit of the 7,359 ft high sacred mountain each year during the season.

Sri Pada pilgrim season will end on Wesak Poya Day in May 2020.

 

Gotabaya Rajapaksa wins Sri Lanka election

Colombo, Sri Lanka 17th November 2019 – The Sri Lanka Election commission has declared Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the winner of the Sri Lankan presidential election after a closely fought race against ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa.

Rajapaksa in a sort of victory speech among chants of his supporters said “I would like to inform everyone that I will execute everything you trusted in me [to do],” he continued “Especially, at this moment, I happily say that I will carry out all that is in my manifesto during my tenure.”

Rajapaksa, a former defence secretary during Mahinda’s 10 years in power, based his campaign for Saturday’s election on providing strong leadership on national security issues, following coordinated bombings in April that killed 269 people.

His campaign was also backed by Sinhala Buddhist monks who have called for greater controls to be placed on the island’s roughly 10 percent Muslim population following those attacks.

Rajapaksa secured victory with 52.25 percent of the vote, according to final results announced by Sri Lanka’s Election Commission, more than the 50 percent margin needed to ensure a runoff was not required.

“As we usher in a new journey for Sri Lanka, we must remember that all Sri Lankans are part of this journey,” Rajapaksa said in a Twitter post.

“Let us rejoice peacefully with dignity and discipline in the same manner in which we campaigned.”

Sri Lanka election
Thilaka Rohini, 62, a Rajapaksa supporter, said she was ‘very happy’ to see the president-elect win, and wanted to see his brother made prime minister [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]
Earlier on Sunday, Premadasa issued a statement conceding defeat.

“At the conclusion of a hard-fought and spirited election campaign, it is my privilege to honour the decision of the people and congratulate Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election as the seventh president of Sri Lanka,” he said.

Rajapaksa will take oath as president on Monday at a ceremony in the central town of Anuradhapura, an ancient Sinhala Buddhist heritage site located about 160km (100 miles) north of Colombo.

Focus on security
Keheliya Rambukwella, a spokesman for Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, said national security is Rajapaksa’s “primary concern”, along with the revival of the economy.

Rights groups have long called for investigations into alleged rights abuses committed during the Rajapaksas’ previous terms in power, including the United Nations’ allegations that more than 40,000 people were killed by security forces in the final days of the country’s civil war in the north, as Tamil rebels took shelter among civilians.

Rajapaksa’s campaign stressed on his credentials as the defence secretary that brought a close to that war, while also calling for an overhaul of economic policies implemented by Premadasa’s UNP during its five years in charge of parliament.

The Rajapaksas’ previous stint in power also saw widespread allegations of a crackdown on dissent, with rights activists and journalists subjected to enforced disappearances.

Sri Lanka election
A soldier stands guard outside Sri Lanka’s Election Commission as officials read out results to candidates inside on Sunday [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]
Sandya Eknaligoda, a human rights activist and wife of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who went missing in 2010, two days before Mahinda Rajapaksa was re-elected, said Rajapaksa’s tenure would be “a very bad time for human rights activists in Sri Lanka”.

“Many people’s lives are in danger now,” she said. “His government will jail people by filing different charges against activists, will disrupt major investigations such as my husband’s case [and journalist] Lasantha [Wickrematunge’s] murder.”

The Rajapaksas deny any wrongdoing during their previous terms in office.

Outside the Election Commission on Sunday, scores of SLPP supporters waved flags and raised a roar of approval when Rajapaksa appeared after the official results were announced to the candidates.

“These people ruled for four and a half years, but they did not do anything that the people can see,” said Thilaka Rohini, 62, a Rajapaksa supporter who had come to cheer on the president-elect.

Potential standoff with Parliament
Rajapaksa has said he will name his brother Mahinda prime minister in his government. Sri Lanka operates a semi-presidential form of government, where the president, prime minister and cabinet share executive authority.

Current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, chief of Premadasa’s UNP, has not indicated whether he will resign following his party’s defeat. At least three cabinet ministers resigned from their posts on Sunday.

As things stand, the UNP will remain in control of Parliament until at least February, when the president can constitutionally dissolve the body ahead of a general election. Alternately, Parliament can vote to dissolve itself, prompting a snap election.

On Sunday, Mahinda Rajapaksa announced his party was examining proposals to repeal the 19th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution, which introduced greater checks on the president’s powers and transferred some of that authority to the Parliament.

Sri Lanka election
Rajapaksa supporters cheer as they catch sight of the president-elect on Sunday [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]
Paikisothy Saravanamuttu, executive director at the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives, said Sri Lankans had elected “a majoritarian, authoritarian government”.

“The first thing that will happen is the prime minister will [likely] offer his resignation and Mahinda Rajapaksa will be sworn in,” he told Al Jazeera.

‘Polarising’ vote
In the north of the country, where Premadasa swept polls in areas dominated by the country’s roughly 15 percent Tamil minority, the vote was seen with concern, analysts said. Tamil voters have long indicated a preference against the Rajapaksas, mainly because of the rights abuse allegations from the final days of the war.

“This election, in particular, it was not so much a vote for Sajith Premadasa, it was more of a protest vote against Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” said Ahilan Kadirgamar, senior lecturer at the University of Jaffna.

Kadirgamar said a high turnout number even in areas that had traditionally eschewed the polls “reflects how the north has come into the national mainstream in terms of participating in national electoral politics”.

He warned, however, the fact that the poll still went to Rajapaksa, buoyed by his strong support from Sinhala Buddhist areas, could further polarise Sri Lanka.

“There are forces both in the south [Sinhalese areas] and the north [primarily Tamil areas] who thrive on polarisation and divisive politics, on keeping communities divided… This election provides an opportunity for both forms of ideologically polarising forces in the country.”

The scene at the UNP headquarters in the Sirikotha area of Colombo was a far cry from the loud slogans and fireworks that greeted a victorious Gotabaya Rajapaksa outside the Election Commission.

The whitewashed building complex, festooned with green party flags, was deserted with three police officers deputed to secure the location watching election results streaming in on television.

“If he [Premadasa] had won, there wouldn’t even be space for us to stand here,” said a caretaker, laughing.

Inside, a metal bust of Ranasinghe Premadasa, Sajith’s father, a former president who was assassinated in 1993 by Tamil rebels, looked out upon an empty auditorium.

 

Major international event to be held in SL after Easter attacks

By Charumini de Silva

Sri Lanka expects a major tourism boost from the first-ever carbon-neutral ‘Ashara Mubaraka’, a 10-day spiritual convention drawing 21,000 religious visitors from 40 countries from next week, with an expected revenue of $ 31 million.

This is the first major international convention the island nation is hosting after the 21 April Easter Sunday attacks, and was initiated by the Tourism Development Ministry as well as the Bohra community in the country, to boost the image and to demonstrate to the world that Sri Lanka is safe for travel.

Sri Lanka last played host to Ashara Mubaraka in 2009. Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, the spiritual leader of the international Dawoodi Bohra community, along with thousands of devout Muslims from around the world,gather every year in a 10-day long period that sees the community mourn the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussain.

The global convention this year, titled ‘We Believe in Sri Lanka’, aims at zero food and plastic waste, making it the first carbon-neutral religious commemoration held at the Dawoodi Bohra Masjid in Marine Drive, Colombo 4.

In addition, the Dawoodi Bohra community desires to take on the memories of the natural beauty of the island nation, and become a global tourism ambassador for Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Tourism expects visitors from 28 August to 12 September, while noting that 3,000 rooms in 100 hotels from Negombo to Mt.Lavinia have already been booked for the convention. In addition, 200 apartments in Colombo have been reserved for accommodation.

“Sri Lanka is all set to host the first-ever carbon-neutral ‘Ashara Mubaraka’ next month. Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, the spiritual leader of the international Dawoodi Bohra community, will visit the country on the invitation of the President, Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader to participate in this 10-day convention in Colombo,” Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Consultant/Director and Head of Tourism Relief Facilitation Unit Kavinda Makalanda told the Daily FT.

Sri Lanka Tourism expects visitors from Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, the UK, the US, Yemen and Zambia.

Noting that this spiritual convention will give a major boost to hotels and other sectors related to tourism, he said they expect revenue during the 10 days will top over $31 million or Rs.5.6 billion, as they calculate an average spending of a person to be around $1,500.

He also said that 50,000 meals will be freshly cooked twice a day, and over the 10-day period, a total of 600,000 fresh meals.

Makalanda said the Tourism Development Ministry expended a lot of effort to win the opportunity for the convention to be held in Sri Lanka, particularly after the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

“This is a significant opportunity for the tourism sector in particular, as well as for the entire economy, to recover from the 21 April Easter Sunday setback,” he added.

Makalanda assured that the Tourism Development Ministry was coordinating all facilities along with all other institutions,including the Defence Ministry, Sri Lanka Police, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Immigration and Emigration Department, Sri Lanka Customs, Airport Aviation Ltd., Urban Development Authority, Health Ministry, Disaster Management Ministry, Colombo Municipal Council, Central Environmental Authority and Transport Ministry, to ensure all logistics were in place for the convention.

Accordingly, 3,000 local and foreign volunteers will also participate at the 10day convention.

 

Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez promotes Sri Lanka tourism

Speaking at the promotional event in Mumbai Monday, the Bollywood star said despite the terror attack which took place in April, Sri Lanka is still a paradise isle and safe to travel to and urged the Indian tourists to visit the country.

June 25, Colombo: Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau along with the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) and national carrier SriLankan Airlines unveiled a total of 15 special promotional packages to Indian travel trade in Mumbai with a guest appearance by Sri Lankan-born Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez.

“Sri Lanka is my homeland. I have spent some of my most beautiful and fondest memories and holidays over there. Sri Lanka is absolutely safe to go back right now. And we really would love your support for Sri Lanka.”

“Sri Lanka tourism is something that I always try to encourage, I always try to promote because I am extremely attached and very fond of my homeland. So, it’s important in time like this, at time of distress.”

 

Who is National Thowheeth Jama’ath Sri Lanka

The horrible 6 blasts on Ester Sunday in Sri Lanka have reminded the island nation of the past decades troubled Sri Lanka, which many had already forgotten.

It is know that Police chief was warned by the Indian Intelligence agencies that such attacks might happen on Ester Sunday.

The National Thowheeth Jama’ath is an unknown terrorist outfit possibly inspired by an Indian Muslim organisation called Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath or an other organisation of Sri Lanka called Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath (SLTJ) with wich NTJ has saperated in 2016 according to wikipedia.

The National Thowheeth Jama’ath or NTJ was unknown before the Sunday blasts. Only after the blasts some corners in the Island have spoken about it but the organisation it self has not opened its mount. We still do not know their leaders names and their where-abouts.

It is quite interesting to note that there were 6 attacks 6 Indian nationals were in the causalities and the prior info was given by India. This is certainly a point to ponder what exactly was the reason behind this atrocity and what did the attackers wanted beside creating unrest and uncertainty in the country

 

Bombs exploded Churches and 5 star hotels in Sri Lanka scores dead and Injured

Apr 21 2019, Colombo: A dark day in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday bomb explosions witnessed at several churches outside Colombo and five-star hotels in Sri Lankan capital Colombo over 138 Including 9 foreigners have been killed and over 560 have suffered injuries.

Bomb blasts occurred in five places including St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, St. Anthony’s Church in Negombo and at St. Sebestian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, Katana, the Police Media Unit said.

Hotels that have been attached are Kingsbury, Shangri-La and Cinnamon Grand Hotels in Colombo.

The bombs have gone off at the same time in all the churches at around 8:45 am local time, according to reports.

Minister Harsha de Silva said there were many casualties including foreigners.

The injured are being rushed to the Colombo National Hospital. More than 80 people have been hospitalized, the reports say. Another explosion have been reported from the Zion Church in Batticaloa.

Sri Lanka Police meanwhile, requested the public to refrain from visiting blasts sites and remain calm and assist the Police in maintaining Law and Order.

The police reminded the public that spreading rumors and inaccurate news is legally punishable crime asked the people to refrain from stirring communal violence.

In a statement, the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo said that the hotel’s Table One cafe was hit just after 9 a.m local time. The hotel is popular with foreign tourists and the country’s business community.

“We are working closely with local authorities and emergency services to provide our fullest assistance and support to the affected staff and guests,” said the hotel.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the blasts.
“I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong,” he said on Twitter. “The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”

The country’s authorities had convened an emergency meeting involving the heads of the army, air force and navy, according to Sri Lanka’s economic reforms minister, Harsha de Silva.

He said on Twitter that all emergency steps had been taken and that the group would issue a statement on the blasts.