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February 19, 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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Attack on Noyahr: Three army men remanded, shocking details emerge
[Sunday 2017-02-19 18:00]

Criminal Investigation Detectives yesterday arrested an Army officer and two Sergeants over the May 2008 attack on journalist Keith Noyahr. The arrests came after the trio were summoned to CID headquarters on Friday and interrogated. The trio are Major Prabath Bulathwatte, Sergeant Duminda Weeraratne and Sergeant Hemachandra Perera. The formal arrests were made yesterday after interrogation overnight. Two more soldiers from the Army’s Military Intelligence are now being interrogated.

Nine killed in Katukurunda boat tragedy
[Sunday 2017-02-19 18:00]

At least nine bodies had been recovered following a boat tragedy in the seas off Katukurunda today, the Police said. They said around 20 boats had left Beruwala coast to attend a festival in Kalutara this morning and one of the boat had capsized. Police said another eight persons were receiving treatment at the Nagoda Hospital. The bodies were taken to the Hospital. The Navy and the Police are continuing search for other victims.

Two more soldiers arrested over assault on Keith Noyahr
[Sunday 2017-02-19 17:00]

Two more soldiers were arrested by the CID this morning in connection with the abduction and assault on journalist Keith Noyahr in 2008. Police said the suspects would be produced before Mt. Lavinia Magistrate today. Earlier, CID arrested three Army personnel including a Major over the incident. They were remanded until February 23.

Jaishankar in Colombo, to meet Maithripala, Ranil tomorrow
[Sunday 2017-02-19 17:00]

Indian Foreign Secretary Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar arrived in Colombo today for bilateral consultations on his third visit to the island in the last 11 months. As a part of New Delhi’s Neighbourhood First Policy, he will also visit China and Bangladesh later this week.

Rajapaksas offered huge bribes to stifle criminal investigations by FCID – Chandrika
[Sunday 2017-02-19 17:00]

Some members of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s family facing criminal allegations, have been accused of offering huge bribes to the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID). Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who now heads the Office For National Unity and Reconciliation, said at a meeting with the Foreign Correspondents Association in Colombo last week, that some officers of the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) had complained of attempts by agents of the Rajapaksa family of having attempted to bribe them with big sums of money, but they had refused the offers.

Heart surgery for Defence Sec
[Sunday 2017-02-19 17:00]

Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiaratchchi has successfully undergone heart surgery in a Singapore Hospital. Acting in his place as Secretary now is Puttalam’s Former District Secretary Kingsley Fernando, who is now attached to the Presidential Secretariat.

Tamil Nadu CM Palaniswami wins trust vote
[Saturday 2017-02-18 18:00]

Edappadi Palaniswami, who was sworn-in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on Thursday, won the trust vote in the Assembly where 122 MLAs voted for him, while 11 voted for O Panneerselvam. Majority needed was 68. This will pave way for him to continue on with the position. Palaniswami was administered the oath of office by Governor C Vidyasagar Rao after he submitted a letter on February 14 claiming he was elected as the Leader of the AIADMK Legislature party in a meeting of its MLAs that day.

BJP weighing up ‘political split’ in Rajapaksa camp?
[Saturday 2017-02-18 18:00]

Even as Sri Lanka’s former President Mahinda Rajapaksa angles for a political comeback, New Delhi appears to be weighing up possible political shifts in the island, including a split in the Rajapaksa camp, the Hindu reported. On February 10, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, known to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s point man on Sri Lanka, met President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo, a week before Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s scheduled official visit.

Indian Foreign Secretary Jaishankar to meet Sri Lankan leaders on Monday
[Saturday 2017-02-18 18:00]

Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar will be meeting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and other Sri Lankan leaders during a brief visit to the island on Monday. Officials described Jaishankar’s visit as a routine one to keep himself abreast of the latest developments in the island nation, besides keeping track of the progress of existing Indian development projects, and to explore possibilities of future engagement in the development and commercial sectors. Jaishankar will also explore possibilities for the Indian private sector investment.

Army Major, two soldiers arrested over assault on Keith Noyahr
[Saturday 2017-02-18 18:00]

An Army Major and two soldiers were arrested today over the abduction and assault on former journalist Keith Noyahr. Noyahr was abducted in May 2008 and was severely assaulted before being set free. The former Associate Editor of The Nation newspaper fled the country with his family following the incident fearing for his life. The police media unit said that the Army Major and two soldiers were arrested by a special investigations team of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

Army hits out at allegations made by CBK on abuse
[Saturday 2017-02-18 18:00]

The Army has rejected claims made by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga that Tamil women face widespread sexual exploitation by the army. Kumaratunga, the chairman of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation, said women who were widowed during the 37-year conflict were among the victims of abuse by officials who frequently demand sexual favours just to carry out routine paperwork.

Modi confirms participation at UN Vesak Day in Sri Lanka
[Saturday 2017-02-18 18:00]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has confirmed his participation in UN Vesak Day celebrations to be conducted in Sri Lanka in May this year, a minister said on Friday, according to the Xinhua news agency. The UN Vesak Day will be observed in Sri Lanka to mark the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha who founded the Buddhism religion. Sri Lanka is predominately a Buddhist country with more than 70 percent of the population following the region.

Sri Lanka still unsafe for Tamil asylum seekers to return
[Saturday 2017-02-18 11:00]

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, speaking at a press conference in Canberra together with the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, urged asylum seekers who had fled the country to return. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe emphasized in his statement, "Come back; all is forgiven; it is quite safe in Sri Lanka; we are just starting the missing persons office.” The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) would like to categorically state that Sri Lanka has not reached a point where every Tamil asylum seeker can just return without worrying about the consequences; indeed Sri Lanka is far from it.

SL must have foreign judges in war crime probe: HRW
[Friday 2017-02-17 17:00]

Sri Lanka must employ international judges and prosecutors to ensure accountability during trials of those responsible for alleged war crimes against mostly Tamils, Human Rights Watch Australia's director Elaine Pearson has told SBS News on Friday. Ms. Pearson's call, which echoes a recommendation in the 2015 UN Human Rights Council report of the OHCHR investigation of Sri Lanka, comes as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe visited Australia this week. On Wednesday, he beckoned asylum seekers who fled to Australia to return, assuring they would be "quite safe".

TNA split on UNHRC giving Sri Lanka more time
[Friday 2017-02-17 17:00]

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is split on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) giving the Government more time to address the accountability issue. TNA member and former Parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran said that the Illangai Thamil Arasu Katchi, a coalition partner of the TNA, is giving indirect support to the proposal to give the Government time. He says TNA leader R. Sampanthan and TNA member M.A. Sumanthiran have spoken in support of giving the Government time under some conditions.

President reveals why he removed Mohan Peiris
[Friday 2017-02-17 17:00]

President Maithripala Sirisena revealed, yesterday, that the first action he took using his executive powers was to remove former chief justice Mohan Peiris, when he came and begged him not to remove him from his post and expressed his willingness to do anything he wanted. The president disclosed how Mohan Peiris visited him at his residence after he assumed duties on January 9, 2015 and promised to take action in his favour and implored him not to remove him from his post of CJ. The president revealed this while addressing a public meeting in Warakapola.

UN and EU pledge to help reconciliation in SL
[Friday 2017-02-17 17:00]

Chief Minister of the Northern Province C. V. Wigneswaran had been informed by the United Nations and the European Union that they had pledged their cooperation to promote reconciliation between all communities in Sri Lanka. Coordinator to the United Nations Una Makoli and Ambassador of the European Union Toolai Margue had indicated this during a meeting with the Chief Minister on their tour of Jaffna on Wednesday (15). The visiting delegates had a lengthy discussion with the Chief Minister on the present political situation of Sri Lanka and also the affairs of the Northern Provincial Council.

Protest in Melbourne against honourary doctorate to Ranil
[Friday 2017-02-17 17:00]

A group of Sri Lankans belonging to the Sinhalese and Tamil Diaspora in Australia yesterday staged a protest in Melbourne calling for the revoking of the honorary doctorate conferred on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe by an Australian university earlier in the week. Those belonging to the Tamil Diaspora had protested by displaying LTTE flags while the Sinhala Diaspora for their part had carried the country's national flag, according to eye witnesses. The protest was held at the time Mr. Wickremesinghe was visiting Deakin University to deliver a lecture. Eyewitnesses said the Prime Minister had delivered his lecture in spite of the protest and left.

Eight asylum seekers arrested
[Friday 2017-02-17 17:00]

Eight Lankans were arrested in Negombo yesterday while preparing to seek asylum in New Zealand by going in boats, police said. Police said the suspects were arrested at the Kadirana police area in Negombo at 8.30 last night. The suspects aged between 23 and 42 were residents of Negombo, Marawila, Kalmunai and Mullaitivu areas. They are to be produced before the Negombo Magistrate today and the Katana police are conducting investigations.

Raviraj’s widow challenges acquittal in Court of Appeal
[Thursday 2017-02-16 17:00]

Mrs. Sashikala Raviraj the widow of the slain TNA Parliamentarian Nadarajah Raviraj, yesterday filed a revision application in the Court of Appeal, seeking to set a side the Colombo High Court order by Jury which acquitted all the six persons accused of the murder of Raviraj on November 10, 2006, in Colombo. The appellant had said that the accused were arrested and charged under the prevention of Terrorism laws and hence the trial could not be decided by a Jury. The applicant wanted the order of the High Court set aside, and a re-trial ordered without a Jury.

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