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August 16, 2017 [GMT]
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India and Lanka disagree on some changes in ETCA
[Sunday 2017-01-08 17:00]

Negotiations between India and Sri Lanka on an Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) hit the hard road at an officials-level meeting held in Colombo on January 4 and 5, the New Indian Express reported. Informed sources told Express that the Sri Lankan side was pressing the Indians to make certain concessions explicitly to enable it sell the pact to the Sri Lankan masses who tend to imagine that ETCA would be a rank give away to the Big Brother across the Palk Strait.

Negotiations between India and Sri Lanka on an Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) hit the hard road at an officials-level meeting held in Colombo on January 4 and 5, the New Indian Express reported. Informed sources told Express that the Sri Lankan side was pressing the Indians to make certain concessions explicitly to enable it sell the pact to the Sri Lankan masses who tend to imagine that ETCA would be a rank give away to the Big Brother across the Palk Strait.

  

The Indian side resisted these moves on the grounds that trade pacts are too serious, too far reaching and wide-ranging in their impact to be tailored to suit short-term political requirements. However, the Sri Lankan side had good reasons to pursue a political goal. Even as the talks were on in the city, posters against ETCA, describing it as “aggression”, appeared in parts of Central Colombo. At any rate the Sinhalese language slogan “ETCA EPA” (No to ETCA) has caught the imagination of the people.

With the opposition, led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, backing the anti-ETCA campaign, the pact is expected to be an issue in the forthcoming local bodies and provincial elections scheduled for June-July and September respectively, unless it is tailored to suit the electoral agenda of the ruling coalition. But tailoring it to an electoral agenda might mean India’s giving in to Sri Lanka in ways which could adversely affect the interests of its own private sector. This aspect has to be borne in mind as the primary driving force in the liberalized Indian economy is the private sector.

There were differences over priorities. The Sri Lankan side lay great stress on correcting the flaws or removing the irritants in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which became operational in 2000. The Sri Lankan side has been seeking the removal of a plethora of Non Tariff Barriers (NBTs) which impede the entry of Sri Lankan goods into the Indian market. Sri Lankans feel that if the NTBs are not there, the trade gap would not be as big as it is now. But the Indians have had difficulty in removing many of the NTBs. Or, as the Sri Lankans allege, they have been tardy and reluctant.

At any rate, Indians think that pegging the signing of ETCA to removing the flaws in the FTA is neither warranted nor practical because the two are different kettles of fish. FTA is about trade in goods while ETCA is about investment, services and economic cooperation. It is to be a re-designed reincarnation of the now abandoned Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CEPA). At official level trade talks, the minutiae tend to get a lot of attention. Discussions take place over every sentence and paragraph and the order in which they are written. It is said that the Sri Lankans wanted some things to be stated not only in the introductory statement but also in the main body of the agreement as a clause which the Indians resisted.

Above all, there were differences over the time period to end the negotiations and sign the pact. Not having been able to sign it by December 2016 to time with the second anniversary of the Sirisena regime, the Sri Lankans wanted the talks to be wrapped up fast by mid 2017 before the local bodies and provincial elections. But the Indians would not be hustled as trade talks are complicated affairs and take years to conclude internationally.

India was not averse to holding meetings often, say once in a month, but it was against rushing through as both sides have vital interests to be safeguarded or pursued. As the Indian Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said during her visit to Colombo last year, both India and Sri Lanka have concerns, interests and issues to address, and that India is not in favor having a strict timeframe to wrap up the talks. While no date was fixed for the next round of talks, it is likely that the next round could be held in February.

  
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Army Chief dismisses allegations No ex-LTTE men involved in crimes in North
[Wednesday 2017-08-16 18:00]

Army Commander Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake dismissed the direct involvement of ex-members of the now vanquished Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in the number of recent violent incidents reported from the Northern Province. Speaking at the media briefing, to announce the seventh annual Colombo Defence Seminar yesterday (15), the Commander made these comments responding to queries put forward by journalists.



‘Aava’ deputy leader arrested
[Wednesday 2017-08-16 18:00]

The Special Task Force (STF) in the early hours of yesterday arrested deputy leader of the violent ‘Aava’ group operating in the north, Ravindran Tharushan at Kokuvil in Jaffna. Investigations have revealed that Tharushan was responsible for attacking and causing injuries to two policemen in Jaffna last week and a number of other attacks carried out by the group. The suspect was handed over to the Jaffna police by the STF. Tharushan, who is a resident of Jaffna, fled to another area to evade arrest.



TN pushes for ferry service with Lanka
[Wednesday 2017-08-16 18:00]

Six years after ferry service between Tuticorin and Colombo was suspended, Tamil Nadu is making fresh efforts to re-establish sea links with Sri Lanka. The state government recently wrote to the ministry of external affairs (MEA) to facilitate voluntary repatriation of Sri Lankan refugees and to take steps to resume the ferry service between both countries, say sources. A meeting was initially scheduled to be held between officials in MEA, directorate general of shipping and bureaucrats from Tamil Nadu in February. "But this was cancelled because of the political turmoil.



India has an abiding interest in the security of Sri Lanka
[Wednesday 2017-08-16 18:00]

India says it has an abiding interest in the security of Sri Lanka and remains committed to Sri Lanka’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu said that India has always supported efforts to preserve Sri Lanka’s character as a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious society in which all citizens can live in equality, safety and harmony, and prosper and fulfill their aspirations.



Cabinet discusses delay in action against Rajapaksas
[Wednesday 2017-08-16 18:00]

The Cabinet of ministers, at its meeting chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday, had taken up what some members described as inordinate delay in taking action against the Rajapaksa family and ministers of the previous government. Political sources said that several ministers had strongly criticised the delay and veteran UNPer Gamini Jayawickrema Perera had stressed the need to handle the cases through the existing court system if the Constitution didn’t permit the setting up of a special court to hear high profile corruption and criminal cases.



Yoshitha leaves CID
[Wednesday 2017-08-16 18:00]

Yoshitha Rajapaksa, son of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, left the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) a short while ago after making a statement. He is being questioned regarding a defender vehicle used by his mother and former First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa's 'Siriliya Saviya' Foundation.



Wigneswaran notes differences of opinion with UN official
[Tuesday 2017-08-15 18:00]

Northern Province Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran noted he had differences of opinion with Subinay Nandy, the former United Nations Country Representative for Sri Lanka. Wigneswaran says the differences of opinion arose as Nandy had pushed him to fall in line with the Government. “We were not prepared to do so,” Wigneswaran said.



Tilak Marapana sworn in as new Foreign Affairs Minister Top News
[Tuesday 2017-08-15 18:00]

Minister of Development Assignments Tilak Marapana had been sworn as the new Foreign Affairs Minister before the President a short while ago. He was appointed to the post following the resignation of Minister Ravi Karunanayake.



Police seek court permission to hold ‘Aava’ suspects in different prisons
[Tuesday 2017-08-15 18:00]

Police have sought permission from the courts to transfer members of the ‘Aava’ group now in remand custody in the Jaffna prison to jails in other parts of the country. A senior police officer said that if all ‘Aava’ suspects were kept in the Jaffna Prison, they could plan subversive activities. Security had been beefed up in the Jaffna Prison due to those reasons, he said.



Google adds Sinhala and Tamil to speech recognition option
[Tuesday 2017-08-15 18:00]

Google today announced that it has added Sinhala and Tamil to its speech recognition option. Using voice to dictate a message can be up to three times faster than typing. With this in mind, Google said it was bringing voice typing (aka talking to your phone instead of typing) to 30 languages and locales around the world, covering more than a billion people. With the update, Google’s speech recognition supports 119 language varieties, in Gboard on Android, Voice Search and more. And now in the U.S. in English, you can use use voice dictation to express yourself with emoji.



UNP calls on President to act on Justice Minister
[Tuesday 2017-08-15 18:00]

UNP yesterday called on President Maithripala Sirisena to take action on Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe who has compromised “collective responsibility” of the Cabinet. Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe has been under fire for a number of controversial statements he made on Government’s move to lease Hambantota Port, leading to a number of UNP Ministers threaten him with No Confidence Motion.



Shiranthi concludes statement to CID; Yoshitha next Top News
[Tuesday 2017-08-15 18:00]

Former First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa has left the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after making a statement. She had been questioned by CID detectives for about 2 and 1/2 hours today over a defender vehicle used by her 'Siriliya Saviya' Foundation. The vehicle had originally been gifted to the foundation by the International Red Cross. Meanwhile, the CID is due to question Yoshitha Rajapaksa, the second son of Shiranthi Rajapaksa and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa tomorrow in relation to the same case.



Prez urged to release army-held land
[Monday 2017-08-14 18:00]

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader MP S. Sampanthan has urged President Maithripala Sirisena to ensure that the military vacates land at Keppapulavu, Mullaitivu district belonging to displaced Tamil Civilians. Having reminded President Sirisena that the TNA had taken up the issue in the third week of July, 2017, MP Sampanthan said: "Early action needs to be taken to return the land to the people. They were born and bred on this land. They want to return to their land. It is their birthright and this should not be denied. They have been kept out of the land for more than one decade;the armed conflict ended over 8 years ago. The people have been protesting in the sun and rain for the past 165 days. At the entrance to their land, demanding the vacation of their land. They are suffering but they are determined to continue their peaceful protest.



Global Tamil Forum calls for concerted attempts to address accountability issues in Sri Lanka
[Monday 2017-08-14 18:00]

The London-based Tamil Diaspora organization, Global Tamil Forum (GTF) has expressed dismay that more than eight years after the end of war, Sri Lanka has yet to demonstrate that it is genuinely committed to addressing the accountability issues occurred during the brutal armed conflict. The GTF in a statement said that despite twice co-sponsoring UNHRC resolutions calling for comprehensive transitional justice measures, the present coalition government has not lived up to its commitments and yet to take any meaningful steps in this respect.



MR says no-faith motion against Wijedasa will fail
[Monday 2017-08-14 18:00]

President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday predicted in Kandy that a no-confidence motion to be brought against Minister Wijeyedasa Rajapakshe would certainly fail. Mahinda Rajapaksa said it was unique to bring a no-confidence motion by a government against one of its own minister."Minister Wijeyedasa Rajapakshe holds the same opinion about the Hambantota port deal as we", the former President said, addressing a meeting of the Kandy branch of ‘Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’ on Saturday (12).



National Housing program builds 2500 houses in the North
[Monday 2017-08-14 18:00]

Chairman of the Housing Development Authority Lakvijaya Sagara Palansuriya said 2,500 houses are being built in the Northern Province under the "Samata Sevana" National Housing Scheme. The houses are being built in the Mullaitivu district of the Northern Province under the Mullaitivu District Housing Development Programme. The official, who was on an observation tour in the area to see the progress said the houses constructed at a cost of Rs. 12.5 million will be completed within the next two months. Another 1,000 houses are being in the Vavuniya District built at present.



Sri Lanka Navy arrests four Indian fishermen for poaching in Sri Lankan waters
[Monday 2017-08-14 18:00]

Sri Lanka Navy on Sunday arrested four fishermen from Tamil Nadu for allegedly breaching the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and poaching in Sri Lankan waters. Naval personnel attached to a Fast Attack Craft belonging to the Northern Naval Command arrested the four fishermen along with a fishing trawler engaged in illegal fishing practices in Sri Lankan territorial waters 18 nm north of Point Pedro on August 13.



Port agreement signed before committee report: Susil
[Monday 2017-08-14 18:00]

Several conditions favourable to the country had been recommended by the Cabinet Sub Committee appointed to study the contents of the Hambantota Harbour Lease Agreement, Minister Susil Premajayantha said. Minister Susil Premajayantha is a member of the Sub Committee. “Decreasing the 99 year lease period, the ratio of shares to 50 percent or to a close proportion, security of the harbour, leasing on partnership basis with China, jurisdiction under Sri Lanka are some of the amendment recommended by the committee,” he said.



Jaffna violence : Sword-carriers among more suspects snared
[Sunday 2017-08-13 18:00]

The police arrested more suspects this week in the North in operations against anti-social activities and criminal gangs. At least 13 suspects were snared for their alleged involvement in the recent attack on two police constables of the Kopay police station in Kokkuvil area, Jaffna, police said. All suspects were produced in court and remanded in custody until August 22 by the Jaffna Magistrate.



Indonesian earthquake: Tsunami warning withdrawn
[Sunday 2017-08-13 18:00]

The tsunami warning alert issued to the coastal areas of Sri Lanka this morning, following the 6.4-magnitude earthquake that hit off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, has been withdrawn, the National Tsunami Early Warning Centre of the Department of Meteorology said. It said there was no tsunami threat to Sri Lanka at present. “The coastal areas of Sri Lanka are declared safe and those evacuated to safe areas may now return to their usual places,” the statement said.


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