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May 23, 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 should be withdrawn within 6 months: Sivajilingam
[Tuesday 2017-05-23 17:00]

All military personnel, who had been deployed for security in the Northern Province, should be withdrawn within the next six months, Northern Provincial Council member M.K. Sivajilingam said yesterday. He said that soldiers who can be accommodated in 600-700 acres of land were enough for security in the region, he said. While addressing media at Jaffna he claimed that about 4,000 acres of land in Valikamam in the Northern Province was still under Sri Lanka Army. “They keep this land area forcibly,” he said. “About 600 to 700 acres of land area is more than enough for Army and no need of that much of army personnel in the North. Therefore, the Army should be withdrawn with in the next six months," Sivajilingam said.

President leaves for Australia
[Tuesday 2017-05-23 17:00]

President Maithripala Sirisena has left for Australia today on a three-day official visit on the invitation of Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. The President is scheduled to meet the Australian Prime Minister in Canberra on May 25.

Lankan refugee given ‘inadequate care’ before death
[Tuesday 2017-05-23 17:00]

A Sri Lankan asylum seeker who died from a severe asthma attack just hours after arriving at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre had received inadequate medical care, a West Australian coroner has found. Arulselvam Velmurugu fled communal riots in Sri Lanka in November 2012 and arrived in Australia almost six months later after two boat journeys and nearly three months in a refugee camp in Sumatra, where deadly fights broke out, The West Australian reported on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka condemns Manchester terrorist attack
[Tuesday 2017-05-23 17:00]

The Sri Lankan Government today condemned the terrorist attack in Manchester in which at least 19 people were killed and scores injured.Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mahishini Colonne said that Sri Lanka was saddened by the attack in Manchester. “Saddened by the attack in #Manchester. #SriLanka condemns this heinous act. Our thoughts n prayers are wt all those affected,” she tweeted.

UN urges Sri Lanka to take action against those inciting hatred and violence
[Tuesday 2017-05-23 17:00]

The United Nations (UN) has urged the Government of Sri Lanka to take action against those inciting hatred and violence. UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Una McCauley said it is time for Sri Lanka to "stand strong and be bold" to hold those inciting hatred and violence responsible for their actions. "Last week Sri Lanka celebrated Vesak and this week the teaching of the Lord Buddha - his message of peace, tolerance and respect for all are being drowned out," she said in a statement.

Families of disappeared in Sri Lanka write to UN Chief, British PM on their plight
[Tuesday 2017-05-23 17:00]

The families of disappeared and missing in Sri Lanka's North have written to the United Nations Secretary General António Gutteres and British Prime Minister Theresa May about their struggle to find answers as to the whereabouts of their loved ones. Mothers belong to the Association for the Relatives of the Enforced Disappeared in the District of Kilinochchi in northern Sri Lanka said they have been, for three long months, continuously staging protests by the roadside to draw the world's attention to their "agonizing plight". They said they just want to know what happened to their loved ones who have disappeared and the government of Sri Lanka has not taken any effort to find the answers.

New Foreign, Finance and Ports Ministers in cabinet reshuffle Top News
[Monday 2017-05-22 19:00]

A new Foreign Minister, Finance Minister and Ports Minister took oaths today in the cabinet reshuffle before President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Nine cabinet Ministers and a State Minister took oaths before President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera took oaths as the new Finance Minister and Media Minister while former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake took oaths as the new Foreign Minister.

KP exposes how MGR and Indira Gandhi supported LTTE
[Monday 2017-05-22 19:00]

Former prominent Liberation Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) leader Kumaran Pathmanathan, who was the chief international financier and helped smuggle weapons for the terror outfit, spoke to WION in an exclusive interview. KP, as he was known, took over leadership of the LTTE following the death of Velupillai Prabhakaran and was wanted in India in connection with Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. Ironically, as KP revealed, it was Rajiv Gandhi’s mother Indira Gandhi who asked RAW to aid LTTE. In his heydays, KP was a reclusive, overseas financier for the LTTE based in Thailand and avoided capture by constantly changing addresses and aliases.

Field Marshal says no withdrawal of security forces from North
[Monday 2017-05-22 19:00]

Former war winning army commander and current Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka yesterday said that the government would not dance to the tune of every Tom, Dick and Harry; it would not withdraw the security forces stationed in the north. Fonseka said: "We will not give in to pressure from Northern Province Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran." Addressing the media at the Kiribathgoda hospital, Fonseka said that Wigneswaran was making a vain attempt to urge the government to withdraw forces from the North.

Vasu admitted to hospital but condition not serious
[Monday 2017-05-22 19:00]

Opposition Parliamentarian Vasudewa Nanayakkara was admitted to hospital today after suffering a heart ailment. However the Colombo National hospital said that the Parliamentarian was out of danger.

Australia working with India and Sri Lanka to resettle refugees
[Monday 2017-05-22 19:00]

As part of broader measures to prevent human smuggling on the high seas, Australia is working with India and Sri Lanka to rehabilitate refuges interested in going back to the island nation, Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg said on Friday. “There are about 100,000 Sri Lankan people who fled to Tamil Nadu in the past...There are a certain number of them who want to go back. We have an obligation to assist India and Sri Lanka in that resettlement,” he said in an interaction with a select group of journalists.

Def Secy to Germany as envoy?
[Monday 2017-05-22 18:00]

Karunasena Hettiarachchi, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, is likely to be appointed as Sri Lanka's envoy to Germany, a top Government source told Ceylon Today. He said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already sent Hettiarachchi's credentials to the German Government for approval. The Defence Secretary confirmed that he was already aware of the development.

European Parliament to debate Lankan issues
[Sunday 2017-05-21 18:00]

Political and civil society groups, among them Tamil diaspora organisations, have pressured the European Parliament to debate the restoration of the GSP Plus tariff preferences to Sri Lanka. It will take place during the plenary sessions of the EU Parliament in Brussels on May 31. It will follow what is being billed as a “Commission Statement” where the European Commissioner for Trade will make a statement on Sri Lanka. He will take questions from members on issues raised by them.

Vidya trial-at-bar delayed; no decision yet on whether it should be held in Colombo or Jaffna
[Sunday 2017-05-21 18:00]

The trial into the rape and murder of 18-year old schoolgirl Sivaloganathan Vidya has been delayed because there is no decision yet on where it should be held. The three judges to the trial-at-bar to try the ten accused of the murder of the schoolgirl in 2015 at Punguduthivu in Kayts have been named, but the decision to hear the case in Colombo was put on hold following another proposal that it is more appropriate to hear the case in Jaffna.

Police search for gunmen who shot at them in Pallai
[Sunday 2017-05-21 18:00]

An operation was launched yesterday to apprehend those responsible for firing at a Police vehicle in Pallai, a senior police officer said. Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) Eastern Province and Acting SDIG Northern Province (NP), Sumith Edirisinghe said officers investigating Friday’s shooting at police officers in Pallai, Kilinochchi, have uncovered several vital clues, which they hope will lead to the speedy arrest of those responsible.

Royal Canadian Naval Ship HMCS Winnipeg arrives at Sri Lanka's Colombo Port
[Sunday 2017-05-21 18:00]

Sri Lanka Navy, in accordance with naval traditions, welcomed a Royal Canadian navy ship arrived at the Port of Colombo on Sunday. The Canadian Naval Ship, HMCS Winnipeg (FFH 338) arrived at the Port of Colombo for a training and goodwill visit today (20). HMCS Winnipeg, a Halifax class frigate, is on a six-month deployment from March to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on Royal Canadian Navy's Poseidon Cutlass 17 deployment.

All ministers invited for reshuffle
[Sunday 2017-05-21 18:00]

President Maithripala Sirisena has invited all ministers of the Cabinet, Deputies and State Ministers to be present at the Presidential Secretariat at 8.30 a.m. tomorrow (Monday). The move came as confirmation that the long awaited Cabinet reshuffle will take place tomorrow morning. Contrary to earlier reports that the upcoming reshuffle was to lead to a few changes, Government sources said yesterday that it would now be extensive.

Constitution making would not be delayed: PM
[Sunday 2017-05-21 18:00]

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday that he had informed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other world leaders that the constitution-making process would not be delayed. He said this at the opening of the new District Secretariat Office in Mannar and underscored the fact that Mr. Modi and other world leaders including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had hoped Sri Lanka would resolve the national question through a constitutional process.

Sri Lanka’s anti-terror bill falls far too short, raises concerns: Human Rights Watch
[Saturday 2017-05-20 18:00]

The global human rights organisation, Huma Rights Watch (HRW) says Sri Lanka’s latest counterterrorism bill falls far short of the Government’s pledges to the United Nations Human Rights Council to end abusive detention without charge. While the Counter Terrorism Act (CTA), which is drafted to replace the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) improves upon the PTA, it would still permit many of the abuses occurring under current law, and raises a number of new concerns, the Human Rights Watch said in a statement Thursday.

Jaffna district MP Raviraj Murder Appeal against HC order acquitting Navy officers
[Saturday 2017-05-20 18:00]

The Court of Appeal yesterday (19) fixed to be taken up on 30 June the appeal filed by the widow of assassinated Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Nadarajah Raviraj against the order by the Colombo High Court in Raviraj’s murder case. The Bench comprised Justices Deepali Wijesundera and Lalith Jayasuriya.

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