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September 19, 2017 [GMT]
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US legislators oppose 92% cut in aid to SL
[Tuesday 2017-09-12 18:00]

A US Senate committee has opposed Trump Administration’s proposal of a drastic 92 per cent cut in US aid to Sri Lanka, citing the geographical and strategic location of the country, the PTI reported today.
The Senate Appropriations Committee had said in a report that it won’t support President Trump’s budget request for Sri Lanka, which proposed a 92 per cent reduction in assistance from the prior fiscal year.

A US Senate committee has opposed Trump Administration’s proposal of a drastic 92 per cent cut in US aid to Sri Lanka, citing the geographical and strategic location of the country, the PTI reported today. The Senate Appropriations Committee had said in a report that it won’t support President Trump’s budget request for Sri Lanka, which proposed a 92 per cent reduction in assistance from the prior fiscal year.

  

The annual State appropriations bill for the fiscal year 2018, beginning October 1, landed on the Senate floor yesterday for consideration. The bill seeks USD 43 million for Sri Lanka. According to the PTI, this includes USD 35 million as economic support fund, USD 6.8 million for non-proliferation and anti-terrorism and USD 500,000 in foreign military financing and an equal amount for training of military personnel.

“The Committee recognises and supports the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka to advance democracy and the rule of law, and encourages further steps to address the underlying causes of the armed conflict by promoting justice and reconciliation,” the Senate Committee said. The committee’s report said that Sri Lanka is strategically positioned along key shipping lanes and emerging from decades of conflict. The House Appropriations Committee has also passed its Foreign Appropriations Bill, but defers from that of its Senate bill on Sri Lanka. Last week during a Congressional hearing, lawmakers had expressed concern over massive cut in US aid to Sri Lanka.

“In Sri Lanka, US foreign assistance will be cut by 92 per cent, mostly from accounts that have supported programs to promote the rule of law, democratic reforms, post-Civil War reconciliation and related efforts,” rued Congressman Ted Yoho, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Sub Committee on Asia and the Pacific. “These programs are cost-effective ways to contribute to Sri Lanka’s transformation while pursuing a partnership and strategic lead critical locations. Even at their height in 2016, US assistance commitments to Sri Lanka were about 42.5 million, and that’s a bit less than half the cost of a single F-35 fighter jet. That seems like a reasonable investment to gain a friend in one of the world’s most critical sea lanes,” Yoho said.

“While we’re forming a large Millennium Challenge Corporation compact in Sri Lanka, the MCC will focus on economic activities. I’m concerned that by changing course so drastically, we want to make sure that we’re not throwing away the investments we’ve already made in Sri Lanka, leaving a gap in the democracy and governance programs Sri Lanka badly needs, and potentially forcing the closure of our USAID mission,” said the US lawmaker. For the fiscal year 2018, the Trump Administration has requested USD 3.4 million in foreign assistance for Sri Lanka. It focuses on strong support for security cooperation and enhanced strategic trade controls, while contributing to Sri Lanka’s progress toward becoming a mine-impact-free nation by 2020.

Additionally, the MCC is developing a compact with Sri Lanka after it successfully passed the MCC policy scorecard in 2016. In June, MCC approved an initial USD 7.4 million to study potential projects and conduct due diligence work in the transport and land sectors. MCC is working closely with the Government of Sri Lanka to bring a compact for Board approval in 2018, the PTI reported quoting the US State Department.

  
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20th Amendment in the balance
[Monday 2017-09-18 19:00]

The parliamentary debate on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, scheduled for Wednesday, has been postponed indefinitely, senior ministers have confirmed. Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the debate on the constitutional amendment is to be postponed until President Maithripala Sirisena returns from New York. «The 20th Amendment will not be debated on Wednesday as planned. We will wait until the president returns from New York on 24 September to decide on the way forward,” he told Daily FT.



Sri Lanka likely not to sign UN nuclear weapons ban treaty
[Monday 2017-09-18 19:00]

Sri Lanka is unlikely to sign the UN nuclear weapons ban treaty which is scheduled to come up for signatures at the General Assembly meeting in New York on Sept 20, Sri Lankan government sources confirmed on Sunday. Sources said the item was listed as a topic of discussion during President Maithripala Sirisena’s visit to the US from Sept 17 to Sept 23. But, apparently due to last minute pressure from the US, any thought of signing the treaty has been dismissed, the sources added.



SF says troops have nothing to worry if not committed a crime
[Monday 2017-09-18 19:00]

Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka says soldiers involved in the war against the LTTE have nothing to worry if they have not committed a crime. He told reporters that establishing an Office of Missing Persons is not just for the people in the North and East but will also be open to those in the South.



President Sirisena arrives at New York to attend UN General Assembly Top News
[Monday 2017-09-18 19:00]

President Maithripala Sirisena arrived at the John F Kennedy Airport in New York today to attend the 72nd United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA) Sessions. The President was warmly welcomed by Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Dr. Rohan Perera, and embassy staff in New York. The President is due to address the UN General Assembly at 5.00 p.m., New York time, on September 19.



Monks from Myanmar refused visa at Katunayake Airport
[Monday 2017-09-18 19:00]

A group of monks from Myanmar have been refused a visa at the Katunayake Airport by immigration officers. Sources said that seven monks had been refused entry at the airport. The Government had earlier decided to suspend issuing visas for tourists from Myanmar following fears that Rohingya Muslims may attempt to enter Sri Lanka to seek refuge. Sources said that a discussion was held today between officials of the Immigration Department and the Foreign Ministry where the decision not to grant visas to Myanmar nationals was discussed.



Fonseka should ‘shut up’ says former Sri Lankan president
[Monday 2017-09-18 19:00]

Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa said the former commander of the army should “shut up”, after stating he would testify against a military colleague accused of war crimes. In an interview to Ceylon Today, Mr Rajapaksa rebuked former army commander Sarath Fonseka’s comments. “Everybody was shocked by Fonseka’s statement,” he said. “An Army Commander should not behave like this.” When asked what the former army commander should do next, Mr Rajapaksa responded, “he should shut up.”



Sri Lanka not likely to sign nuclear weapons ban treaty at UN
[Sunday 2017-09-17 18:00]

Sri Lanka, in an unprecedented move in the country’s diplomatic history, is not signing a major international treaty which it has already voted on. Along with 121 other countries, Sri Lanka voted last July to approve a landmark UN treaty that bans the possession, development, testing, and use of nuclear weapons worldwide.



Probe Into Commodities Imported From North Korea
[Sunday 2017-09-17 18:00]

The Foreign Ministry has launched an investigation into Sri Lanka importing commodities from North Korea. State Minister of Foreign Affairs Vasantha Senanayake told The Sunday Leader that Sri Lanka was found to be among the top countries importing commodities from North Korea. Meanwhile the Foreign Ministry is to issue a gazette on the sanctions imposed by the UN on North Korea. An official of the legal division of the Foreign Ministry said that the gazette will help local businessman to be aware of the sanctions.



India to assist in constructing Northern Expressway
[Sunday 2017-09-17 18:00]

India has agreed to assist in building the Northern Expressway, government sources said yesterday. Earlier this month India’s Petronet LNG obtained permission to establish a Liquid Gas Import Terminal here. The government handed over the Letter of Intent to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj when she was in Colombo to attend the Second Indian Ocean Conference as well as meet with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.



Pararajasingham murder: Pillayan and six others plead not guilty
[Sunday 2017-09-17 18:00]

Former Eastern Province Chief Minister Pillayan and six others pleaded “not guilty” in the Batticaloa High Court, to charges of their involvement in the murder of former Parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham. The charges were filed 11 years after the incident. High Court Judge M. Ellencheliyan fixed the next hearing for November 6 and 7, and directed the accused to appear in court on the days. Mr Pararajasingham was shot dead on December 25, 2005, while attending a church service in Batticaloa, with his wife. Charges filed against the accused are under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Penal Code.



Upcoming elections under the Electorate System
[Sunday 2017-09-17 18:00]

President Maithripala Sirisena said the upcoming provincial councils elections would be held under the Electorate System and this system would apply to the general elections as well. President said this when he met the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) members of the North-Central Provincial Council at the President’s House yesterday. He said he had proposed the ward system instead of the preferential voting system so as to introduce a new political culture as promised in his manifesto for the 2015 presidential election. The President said the preferential voting system made politicians think only of themselves and not about the people or the country. He said the new system would encourage politicians to work for the country.



President leaves for New York
[Sunday 2017-09-17 18:00]

President Maithripala Sirisena left for New York this morning to attend the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). This is the third time that President Maithripala Sirisena is addressing the UN General Assembly. The President was accompanied by First Lady Jayanthi Sirisena. The 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 72) convened at UN Headquarters on September 12. The President is due to address the General Assembly on September 19. He is also scheduled to hold bilateral discussions with several world leaders participating in the sessions.



NPC Head echoes UN Human rights High Commissioner’s warning to Lanka
[Saturday 2017-09-16 19:00]

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has expressed his concern over the slow pace of reforms in Sri Lanka and said the absence of action, on accountability meant exercising universal jurisdiction was even more necessary. This means that Sri Lankans can become subject to international law even in foreign countries. This statement needs to be seen in the context of the war crimes cases registered against former army commander General Jagath Jayasuriya in five South American countries, National Peace Council Executive Director Jehan Perera said in a statement issued yesterday



No intention of entering politics: Chathurika
[Saturday 2017-09-16 19:00]

President Maithripala Sirisena's daughter Chaturika, said at today's launch of the book authored by her and titled, "Janadhipathi Thaththa", that she had no intention of entering party politics but would use politics for community service, women empowerment and social justice. “So many people, including my friends keep asking me when I enter politics. I am reminded of what Aristotle said that man is either a political animal or an outcast. Though I agree with him, I have no desire to indulge in politics but to engage in social welfare,” she said at the ceremony held at the BMICH at the launch of the book which describes her father's political journey.



Trio jailed after man is murdered and left to die next to a pond in Milton Keynes
[Saturday 2017-09-16 19:00]

A man and a teenage boy have both been sentenced to life imprisonment of the murder of Suren Sivananthan in Milton Keynes. Gnanachandran Balachandran, 38, of The Fleet, Springfield, and a 17-year-old boy who cannot be named for legal reasons, were sentenced on Friday (September 15) at Luton Crown Court. They both had been found guilty of murder by a jury following a seven-week trial at Luton Crown Court which concluded on August 24.



Petronet to build Sri Lanka’s first LNG terminal
[Saturday 2017-09-16 19:00]

Petronet LNG Ltd, India’s biggest importer of gas, will partner with Japan’s Mitsubishi and Sojitz Corp to set up Sri Lanka’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal near Colombo, its CEO Prabhat Singh said on Friday. “Petronet will be the leader of the joint venture with the largest shareholding,” he told reporters after the company’s annual general meeting at New Delhi. Without disclosing the shareholding, he said the Sri Lankan government will also be a partner in the project.



JO claims Rs. 1.5 m collected on day 1
[Saturday 2017-09-16 18:00]

The Joint Opposition (JO) yesterday claimed to have collected close to Rs. 1.5 million in their first day of the ‘Pindapatha’ programme launched by the Buddhist monks in Colombo. The monks engaged in the practice to collect money to pay the fine of former Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and former Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) Anusha Pelpita. JO Member and UPFA MP Gamini Lokuge speaking to the Daily News, said that over 350 Buddhist monks participated in the programme.



OPV provided by the Indian Government arrives at the Colombo harbour
[Saturday 2017-09-16 18:00]

The Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) provided by the Indian Government to the Sri Lanka Navy, in a bid to expand its operational capabilities, arrived at the Colombo harbour this morning (16 September 2017). The ship was received by the Navy in accordance with naval traditions upon her arrival.



Need for DNA analysis and identification of exhumed remains in Sri Lanka – US committee
[Friday 2017-09-15 19:00]

The United States Senate Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific stated that there was a need to prosecute perpetrators of mass atrocities and DNA analysis of remains in several countries, including Sri Lanka, in a report released last week. The report, which opposed a 92% cut in US aid to Sri Lanka, said that the committee “recognizes that there is an ongoing need for DNA analysis and identification of exhumed remains”.



Five policemen in Jaffna undergrads’ murder bailed
[Friday 2017-09-15 19:00]

The Jaffna High Court yesterday granted bail to the five police officers remanded in connection with the murder of two university students in Jaffna. The suspects were released on a Rs.50,000 cash bail and two Rs. 200, 000 sureties each. The Court impounded the suspects’ passports. Two university students riding on a motorcycle in Jaffna died suspiciously on October 21, 2016 and investigations revealed bullet marks on the corpses. Five Police Officers manning a checkpoint in Jaffna close to where the students were found wounded were arrested and subsequently remanded in connection with the incident.


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