COUNTRY INFORMATION UPDATE – 29 NOVEMBER 2010

November 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm

EMBASSY OF SRI LANKA,
WASHINGTON, D.C.
COUNTRY INFORMATION UPDATE

November 29, 2010

PRESIDENT MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA MOVES TO SECOND TERM

The second term of office of President Mahinda Rajapaksa began this morning – Friday 19 November – following landslide election victories to Parliament and the Presidency held earlier this year.

He was sworn in before Chief Justice Asoka De Silva at the Presidential Secretariat. Following the swearing in the President addressed the nation.

Special representatives from India, Bhutan, China, Maldives and Pakistan are among a large number of official foreign representatives who have arrived in Colombo to participate in the inauguration ceremony.

Among them are Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Thinley together with a 18 member delegation, Special Envoy of the Chinese President, Sang Giuowei and Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Hu Zhengyue, a delegation led by Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed with special envoy to the President Ibrahim Hussain Zaki, Maldives Democratic Party Chairperson Mariya Ahamed Didi (MP) and Minority Leader of the People’s Majlis Moosa Maruku, and Chairman of the Pakistani Senate Farook Hamid Naek and State Minister Saleem Mandviwalla.

Congratulatory messages were also being sent by several world leaders on the occasion of the assumption of office by President Rajapaksa for a second term.

The fifth President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, credited internationally for liberating the country from decades of brutal terrorism, has restored peace across the island nation and set the country on the path to rapid socio-economic development.

President Rajapaksa’s vision for Sri Lanka is to deliver sustainable peace and prosperity for all, a major task and one designed to bring the country’s diverse religious population together in harmony.

Under his leadership President Rajapaksa is heavily involved in driving forward the country’s reconciliation programme having launched a thorough investigation the causes for the breakdown of the Ceasefire of 2002, and the progress of the humanitarian operation to free the Tamil people and Sri Lanka from the LTTE, and ensure restorative justice to those affected by the conflict. Speedy action has also been taken to resettle the internally displaced persons.

Remarkable economic progress has been made under President Rajapaksa. Sri Lanka recorded an economic growth rate of 8.5 percent in the second quarter of 2010.

And on the world stage Sri Lanka is making its mark as an exciting new nation in which to invest and one where tourism opportunities will grow. Huge developments are being designed and constructed, with particular emphasis on the war torn north and east of the island.

President Rajapaksa established a record in Sri Lankan political history when he led his party to a landslide victory in the Parliamentary Elections held two months after being elected for a second term of office as Executive President. His overwhelming majority was 1.8 million in a poll of six million votes.

His success in Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in January and April, 2010 came after a series of sweeping victories in elections to eight Provincial Councils by the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by him. The UPFA now has an over two thirds majority in Parliament.

Born on November 18, 1945, Mahinda Rajapaksa is a lawyer by profession. He was first elected to the Parliament in 1970 as the youngest member of Parliament at the age 24.

He is married to Shiranthi Wickramasinghe Rajapaksa and has three children.

EXCERPTS FROM PRESIDENT RAJAPAKSA’S INAUGURAL ADDRESS

Friends,

I recall how, five years ago on November 19, 2005, I took over this country in this premises. On that 19th of November when I took over this country it was divided and the Sri Lankan nation was losing this country. Yet, we toiled day and night with patience and commitment, facing all hostile forces, unshaken in the midst of rising storms.

Subsequently, on another memorable 19th – the 19th of May – we united this country achieving a victory over terrorism that had its global echoes. Today, on this 19th of November, I take over this country again with the determination, strength and courage to raise my motherland to a position of greatness in the world.

Our task as a nation, on the rise to be among the great nations of the world, is to prevent such bloodshed in another twenty or thirty years. Therefore, our first task is to ensure lasting national unity and sustainable, permanent peace in our motherland.

I believe that the eradication of poverty is greater than the defeat of uprisings. It requires true bravery….

What lies ahead is a period when all of us will have to work hard for our country. Our expectation is to modernize all areas of employment as to make them more productive and provide more revenue. The work of our people should be regarded as an asset and not the result of hiring or slavery. Our labour is an asset of dignity. It is by increasing the quality of work that my country can be made the Wonder of Asia.

We must move towards a future generation that is trilingual. It is my hope to raise the level of computer literacy to 75% in the near future and make our future generation true heroes of technology in the modern world. The name of Sri Lankan youth must top the list of those employed in the fields of science and technology. Our generation can achieve this victory by making our country the knowledge hub we intend it to be.

What I seek is a country where we can travel from one end to another in a few hours; an era which provides a good income for our people. We must rise by making this country the hub of development in the five-fold areas of naval, aviation, commerce and trade, power and energy, and knowledge. We must make this country one among those with the best quality of life.

There is no room for hatred on politics, community, caste or religion when our children are brought up in a life that is replete with all facilities, has shelter and security, and is rich in love and friendship.

Development does not mean living in isolation surrounded by concrete structures while abandoning great humanitarian values, distancing oneself from the greenery of trees, nature and other species around us. We should move towards development while safeguarding the great humanitarian traditions that exist among our people. Nature as seen in the trees, vegetation and animals in our habitat should also obtain the benefits of the development we achieve.

Remember this!

We are not a miniature of a developed country. We are Sri Lanka. Our motherland is Sri Lanka.

We have the inherited wisdom to tolerate all opinion and take mature decisions. We have a tradition of understanding our problems and conflicts and finding solutions for them.

We understand our problems with perceived wisdom, based on realities. The expectations of the people are not those of the terrorists.

We have carried out development work in the North and East as never before in the history of these regions. All development processes carried out in the North and East, are a closure of the highways to terrorism. I strongly believe that this infrastructure to banish poverty is a major part of a political solution.

The people of the North were able to use their franchise in freedom at the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. In the forthcoming elections too, we will ensure their right to vote freely and elect their representatives.

Never in any of my speeches have I referred to my motherland as a small country. I have never called the land of my birth, ‘small Sri Lanka’ or ‘small Island’. This is a land with a great history of many centuries, where the Kalawewa, Ruwanweliseya, Sigiriya, Yoda Ela, Lovamahapaya stand; a land where the Buddha has trod thrice. A land that won our freedom from the world’s most powerful imperialism from struggles that lasted nearly four centuries; and, has defeated the most ruthless and savage terrorist of the world. It is where people who follow four different faiths live in harmony and where today many communities live in brotherhood; and where the world’s largest habour and five other ports are being built, and the strides of development are proceeding to build airports, expressways and massive power stations. With such an abundance of greatness who would dare to say that this is a small island?

Therefore, never ever call this a small country. You too must develop your body, mind and word to match the dignity of this land of your birth and take this country to the greatness it deserves.

NEW PORT OPENING PROMISES ECONOMIC BOOST FOR SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka’s new deep sea port at Magampura harbour, Hambantota on the south coast of the island was officially opened Nov. 18 with the ceremonial docking of the first vessel to use the port facilities.

In a ceremony presided over by President Mahinda Rajapaksa as part of the week long festivities surrounding his official inauguration into his second term in office, the first vessel dropped anchor in Hambantota’s Magampura port to a traditionally warm and colourful Sri Lankan welcome.

The vessel, a traditional sailing yacht, was chosen in recognition of Sri Lanka’s age old role as a key stopping point on the ancient east-west silk trading route. It was followed into harbour by the Sri Lankan passenger ship Jetliner.

Phase One of the port, operated by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and completed ahead of the scheduled time in April 2011, is an integral part of the Government’s programme of positive economic action and reconstruction of the transport and trade infrastructure after the successful conclusion of the three decade long struggle against LTTE terrorism. It lies at the heart of a strategy to make Sri Lanka an import/export, marine services and transshipment hub at the locus of key worldwide shipping routes.

The port is located just 10 nautical miles from one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, used by up to 200 cargo vessels every day and can handle vessels of up to 100,000 DWT.

A government spokesman said: “The successful completion and opening of the superb docks and cargo facilities at Hambantota epitomizes the determination of the Sri Lankan Government and people to capitalise on the opportunity that is offered by the island’s new era of peace, to bring prosperity to all.

“The opening of first phase of Hambantota port ushers in a new era which will transform the face of Sri Lanka’s important transport and shipping industry. We look forward to welcoming increased global trade through what is one of the world’s most modern ports.”

Phase one of the new Hambantota port was constructed by the China Harbour Engineering Company at a cost of some US$ 360 million and includes provision for a high quality passenger terminal, cargo handling, warehousing, bunkering, provisioning, maintenance and repair, medical supplies and customs clearing facilities.

The 2,000 hectares of hinterland immediately surrounding the new port is to be developed as a dedicated investment and industrial zone with 65 domestic and international investor businesses having already expressed an interest. It is anticipated that, once phase 2 of the Hambantota port project is completed in April 2011, the port will provide 40% of Government income by 2020 and create 25,000 new job opportunities.

Further Government expansion of, and investment in, modern port facilities is underway at Galle, Oluvil, Trincomalee, Kankasanthurai and Colombo.

(Source: Government of Sri Lanka)

NEARLY 6200 EX-LTTE CADRES IN REHABILITATION: DEW

The Government says nearly 6200 Ex-LTTE cadres who were captured or surrendered are still undergoing rehabilitation.

Minister of Rehabilitation DEW Gunasekera said they will be released in batches.

According to the Minister these cadres are given various types of training including school education.

He said among those surrendered includes persons who were involved in activities such as driving LTTE Vehicles such as buses, lorries etc.

“Cooks are also among them” added Gunasekera.

The group mainly consists of members who have been in the battle field.

The Minister revealed that nearly 70% of the Ex-LTTE Cadres who are been rehabilitated has never studied beyond the 8th grade.

He said these Ex-LTTE cadres are now been taught school subjects and some of them have sat for Ordinary Level exams recently.

Nearly 1000 cadres have sat for both the ordinary and Advanced level examinations.

According to Gunasekera 10% of the Ex-LTTE cadres who are undergoing rehabilitation have never gone to a school and have become members of the LTTE Child soldier brigade.

The Government is planning to release these Ex-Cadres very soon. Sri Lanka has so far released around 5400 ex-fighters to the civil society after rehabilitation.

(Source: News360.lk )

UK PARLIAMENTARIANS HAIL POST-CONFLICT PROGRESS IN SRI LANKA


External Affairs Minister Prof G.L. Peiris, (fourth from right) meets with members of UK Parliament in Colombo in October

A cross-party delegation of members of Parliament from the United Kingdom concluded recently that the progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka on the resettlement of people displaced during the conflict against LTTE terrorists in the North and the East has been “remarkable”.

The group’s finding was conveyed during a meeting with Minister of External Affairs Prof. G. L. Peiris, on 22nd October 2010.

Rt. Hon Paul Murphy, MP (Labour), leader of delegation, expressed appreciation for the opportunity afforded by Sri Lanka to visit the country and to observe the post-conflict progress first hand. He recalled a previous visit to Sri Lanka in 2006, under very different circumstances and stated that this time, following the delegation’s visit to the North and the East, it was clear that peace had been restored in all parts of the country.

Sri Lanka ended a 26-year conflict against terrorism with the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009. Since then, it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to resettle the displaced and to rebuild regions affected by the conflict, namely in the North and East.

The delegation was also appreciative of the opportunity afforded by the Government to visit the few remaining IDP sites and to meet with a cross-section of the people, civil society representatives as well as civilians. The delegation said that it had witnessed that remarkable progress was underway in the country, particularly with the resettlement of IDP’s, reconstruction of infrastructure as well as restoration of security. The Delegation stressed the need for replicating the progress made in the East, particularly in the areas of infrastructure development and economic empowerment, in the North as well.

Lord Sheikh, Conservative MP stated that as a Muslim parliamentarian, he was personally impressed by the progress he had witnessed in the Eastern Province where the contribution and participation of Muslims was prominent.

The delegation comprised Rt. Hon Paul Murphy, MP (Labour – Leader of Delegation), Mr. Stephen Hammond, MP (Conservative- Deputy Leader of Delegation), Mr. David Amess, MP (Conservative), Mr. Aidan Burley, MP (Conservative), Lord Dholakia OBE DL (Liberal democrat), Mrs. Helen Grant, MP (Conservative) , Rt. Hon. Lord Grocott (Labour), Ms. Fiona O’Donnel, MP (Labour), Lord Sheikh (Conservative), Mr. Andrew Tuggey (Secretary CPA UK Branch) and Miss Hatty Cooper, Secretary to the Delegation.

(Source: Ministry of External Affairs, 22 October 2010)

SRI LANKA CLIMBS HIGHER IN WORLD PROSPERITY INDEX

Sri Lanka has climbed 9 positions from 2009 and is ranked 59th among 110 nations, in the World Prosperity Index released today (Nov. 1, 2010).

Sri Lanka is well above India, Pakistan and Indonesia representing the Asia Pacific region in the rating for 2010 released by London’s Legatum Institute.

The prosperity index is based on 89 variables over 110 countries, grouped into eight sub-indices, and claims to comprehensively rank the level of prosperity in 110 nations of the world.

It is done by taking into account both economic growth and citizens’ quality of life, drawing on data from various sources, including the Gallup World Poll 2009 and UN Development Report.

“The Legatum Prosperity Index is the world’s only global assessment of wealth and well being. It uses a holistic definition of prosperity, which includes factors ranging from economic growth to health and education, to personal freedom and governance,” Legatum Institute Senior Fellow Ashley Lenihan said.

India has slipped 10 places to the 88th spot, way below neighbouring China, in the World Prosperity Index. Last year India stood at 78th position, according to London-based Legatum Institute that compiled the index Agencies.

(Source: Colombo Lankapuvath)

NEW GARMENT FACTORIES TO OPEN IN THE NORTHERN PROVINCE

The officials for leading Garment factories in Sri Lanka who are willing to set up their factories in the Northern Province visited Vavuniya on 28 October.

Accordingly, officials of Brandix Limited, Hidramani Limited, Timex Garments Limited, MAS Holdings, and Omega Line Limited visited Vavuniya and had a discussion with Northern Province Governor G.A Chandrasiri at the District Secretariat, Vavuniya.


Gov.  G.A. Chandrasiri (center wearing sunglasses) discusses garment factory plans with visitors.

The investors revealed that they are willing to set up factories in Omanthai, Nelunkulam and Cheddikkulam areas in order to provide employment opportunities for the youth in the Northern Province.

The Investors visited the sites at Omanthai, Cheddikkulam and Nelunkulam in the Vavuniya district. Government Agent / District Secretary of Vavuniya Mrs. PSM Charles, Officials from the Sri Lanka Board of Investment, the Department of Environment and the USAID also participated at the event.

(Source: Defense Ministry of Sri Lanka)

SUCCESSFUL SRI LANKA, CHINA BILATERAL IN SHANGHAI


President Mahinda Rajapaksa held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister of China, Wen Jiabao on 31st at Xijiao Guest House in Shanghai. (Pix by: Sudath Silva)

During a recent round of bilateral meetings with China, His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa stated that the time was ripe to elevate the Sri Lanka- China partnership to a higher and a more invigorated process.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao held a bilateral meeting in Shanghai’s Xijiao Guest House Oct. 31st, when President Rajapaksa visited China as a Guest of the Chinese government to participate at the Closing Ceremony of the Shanghai Expo 2010.

The two leaders reaffirmed their earnest desire to take Sri Lanka-China bilateral relations to a greater height, the Sri Lankan Embassy in Beijing reported.

President Rajapaksa spoke of the many opportunities available in the tourism sector for Chinese investment. In the context of capacity building for generation of tourist traffic, President Rajapaksa stressed the need to have better air travel connectivity. The commencement of China Eastern Flights to Sri Lanka and the SriLankan Airlines flying to Shanghai from July 2010 were seen as positive approaches already taken.

Both leaders expressed satisfaction at the continued expansion in bilateral trade and pledged to continue to work together to enhance market access for Sri Lankan products. In discussing further avenues of deepening bilateral interaction both leaders resolved to intensify people to people contacts through culture and other exchange programmes. Premier Wen Jiabao expresed the desire to see the early completion of the Chinese cultural centre in Sri Lanka.

(Source: Office of the President of Sri Lanka)

IMF EXECUTIVE BOARD SEES CONTINUED GROWTH IN SRI LANKA

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund has commended Sri Lankan banking authorities, “for their satisfactory program performance, which has helped stabilize the economy and improve Sri Lanka’s near-term growth prospects. The current favorable environment offers a window of opportunity to address remaining macroeconomic challenges and build a strong foundation for private sector-led growth.”

The Board found that, “This will require continued fiscal adjustment, a more efficient capital market, and an improved business environment. Growth in the medium term will depend on progress in rebalancing the economy from traditional drivers of growth toward export of services, building on Sri Lanka’s strategic geographical location and comparative advantage in services.”

While acknowledging the improvement in fiscal performance, the Directors emphasized the need for forceful action to reduce the budget deficit and public debt. In addition to cuts in security-related expenditure, they encouraged the authorities to implement well-sequenced tax reform measures that would create fiscal space for social spending and for much needed reconstruction and infrastructure investment.

The Directors stressed that the 2011 budget would be a key step in embarking on a credible reform strategy, aimed at broadening the tax base, simplifying the tax and tariff systems, and improving tax administration. They welcomed the planned legal steps to establish a new investment incentive regime, complementing ongoing reforms to boost competitiveness. Continued efforts to achieve full cost recovery of energy services are also important for fiscal sustainability.

(Source: International Monetary Fund)

SRI LANKA ESTABLISHES INTER-AGENCY ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO FACILIATE LLRC RECOMMENDATIONS

A Cabinet Paper submitted by Minister of External Affairs, Prof. G. L. Peiris establishing an Inter-Agency Advisory Committee to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations in the Interim Communication of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers on 27.10.2010.

The Government’s intention to appoint a domestic mechanism for reconciliation was announced in 2009, against the background of the end of conflict and terrorism in Sri Lanka. Accordingly and pursuant to the Warrant dated 15th May 2010 issued by H.E. the President, the Commission began public sittings from 11th August 2010. In September 2010 the Commission submitted an interim communication to H.E. the President. According to the Interim Communication of the Commission, regular sessions of the Commission have been held, including in several locations in the North and in the East of the country, in order to facilitate the testimony of those directly affected by the conflict.

Given the multi-disciplinary nature of the recommendations, the Inter-Agency Advisory Committee chaired by the Attorney General, will consist of Secretaries to the Ministries of Defence, Public Administration and Home Affairs, Justice, Economic Development, Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms, External Affairs and the Secretary to the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement Development and Security in the Northern Province.

The Government of Sri Lanka is of the view that the recommendations of the Commission’s Interim Communication give impetus to the reconciliation process that is already underway, while helping to provide relief to those civilians affected. These objectives had been envisaged by the Government, when defining the mandate of the Commission.

(Source: Ministry of External Affairs, Oct. 29, 2010

SRI LANKAN DIPLOMAT VISIT MISSOURI ON A CULTURAL AWARENESS AND TOURISM PROMOTION MISSION

From left: Mayor Bill Nolan, Minister Wasantha Perera, St Missouri Chapter President of People to People Lori Scarlett and Ashley Koenig, Mohan Perera and Charlie Scarlett.

Embassy of Sri Lanka diplomat Wasantha Perera visited St. Louis, Missouri in October as part of a “Meet the Diplomat” exchange program organised by People to People International (PTPI). During the five-day visit to Missouri, Ms. Perera, stayed with a St. Louis-area family and met with U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, a number of state senators including Senator Jim Lembke and John Judd, Mayors Bill Nolan and Arthur McDonnell, representatives and local officials, as well as St. Louis County Executive Charles Dooley.

During her stay in St Louis, Mrs. Perera met with representatives of Washington University of St. Louis, the University of Webster and the University of Missouri to discuss possible student exchange programmes, the opening of branches and affiliated colleges and cultural exposure tours for students in Sri Lanka. She has also met the Kirkwood Chamber of Commerce to outline investment opportunities in Sri Lanka and to encourage travel to Sri Lanka.

As Chris Campbell of the Metro St. Louis Suburban Journal newspaper  reported: Sri Lanka is a tear-shaped island off the southeast tip of India. Slightly larger than West Virginia., it is noted for its exports of tea, coffee and cinnamon.

Wasantha Perera, a Minister attached to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington, was in Sunset Hills last week to get a taste of life in Middle America.

“This program is called ‘Meet the Diplomat’ and the idea is to give them a greater understanding of the diversity of people in this country,” said Scarlett, who hosted the Pereras with husband Charlie Scarlett.

“The trip has been very successful,” Wasantha Perera said. “We had a good meeting with Webster University about possible student and staff exchange programs. We’d like to get students to go to Sri Lanka and visit to local institutions and chat with St. Louisans gave me a insight to the US life in different States. I need to understand the United States; one place is very different from another and I’m now seeing the difference between D.C. and the Midwest.”

Sunset Hills Mayor Bill Nolan, hosted a International Relations luncheon for the Pereras at Sunset Hills Country Club, was excited to welcome the couple. It was attended by Congressman Akin, Senator Lembke, Senator Judd, St Louis judges, local officials, business leaders and Student Ambassadors of PTPI . At this forum Mrs Perera explained the country’s present position and way forward to make it ‘the Wonder of Asia’ and invited all Missourians to visit Sri Lanka.

UN CHIEF IN SRI LANKA NOTES THAT COUNTRY IS OVERCOMING EFFECTS OF ITS LENGTHY CONFLICT

Sri Lanka is overcoming the polarization and distrust associated with a long conflict, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Neil Buhne said addressing the 65th United Nations Day celebrations. He added that, more than most countries Sri Lanka is positioned to move beyond that and take advantage of the opportunities an interconnected world offers – to improve peoples’ lives.

During his speech, Buhne stated: “It is Sri Lankans who will make this happen.  However the United Nations can help Sri Lanka use the universal values of tolerance, mutual respect and human dignity to do this – values which are central in Dhamma Pada, the Bhagavath Gita, the Quran and the Bible.  The progress made so far needs to be recognized – whether it is in terms of the progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, or in the accomplishments of the people displaced as they return and rebuild their lives with the support of the Government, the UN system and international organizations, civil society and the private sector.”

Buhne noted the call from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to resolve to do more, adding that: “Here in Sri Lanka it also means helping the country take advantage of the opportunities development can bring – and supporting the government in ensuring that as this happens inequalities become less rather than more. It means helping the country to adapt to changes – including climate change so that peoples’ lives are not made worse as the climate changes.  It means recognizing and promoting, and preserving the richness, diversity of Sri Lanka’s environment and people, and helping the world to appreciate and recognize that unique beauty.

(Source: Government of Sri Lanka)

JAFFNA SECURITY FORCES COMMANDER AWARDED PRESTIGIOUS GUSI PEACE PRIZE

Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe has been awarded the prestigious Gusi Peace Prize for 2010.

The Philippines-based award, recognizing individuals working toward the attainment of peace and respect for human life and dignity has named Major General Hathurusinghe as one of the nineteen 2010 laureates for his contribution to the peace process of Sri Lanka.

Major General Hathurusinghe, who joined the Sri Lanka Army in 1980 as a Cadet Officer, took the leadership as the Jaffna Security Forces Commander in February 2010.

As the Security Forces Commander in Jaffna, he works in many community development activities spearheading government policy in liaison with all other agencies including building houses and promoting livelihood programmes for the displaced.

(Source: Government of Sri Lanka, Oct. 26, 2010)