Foreign exchange rates

These are indicative wholesale rates for foreign currency provided by the Bank of Canada on Friday. Quotations in Canadian funds.Australia dollar 0.9797Brazil real 0.3924China renminbi 0.1894Euro 1.4692Hong Kong dollar 0.164973India rupee 0.01995Indonesia rupiah 0.000096Japan yen 0.01131Malaysia ringgit 0.2998Mexico peso 0.07111N.Z. dollar 0.9377Norway krone 0.1540Peruvian new sol 0.3964Russia rouble 0.02132Saudi riyal 0.3436Singapore dollar 0.9325South Africa rand 0.09617South Korean won 0.001116Sweden krona 0.1528Switzerland franc 1.3368Taiwanese dollar 0.04217Thailand baht 0.03779Turkey lira 0.3558U.K. pound 1.6603U.S. dollar 1.2887Vietnam dong 0.000057 read more

Ottawa poised to offer financial assistance to newspapers in upcoming budget

OTTAWA — All signs point to print media getting a much-needed financial assist from the federal government in the next budget.The financing is expected to be doled out through the Canada Periodical Fund, which currently assists print magazines, non-daily newspapers and digital periodicals.Heritage Minister Melanie Joly reportedly discussed the matter during a meeting Thursday with representatives of the Federation nationale des communications, which represents 7,000 people who work in culture and communications.Postmedia records $5.8 million profit for fiscal first quarterPostmedia CEO Paul Godfrey says newspapers will survive but with reduced numbersJoly’s spokesman, Simon Ross, didn’t deny the report and says there will be an announcement in the coming weeks or months concerning the $75-million annual fund, which is currently under review.Ross said the government wants to correct some of the problems with the fund “to adapt it to the digital age” because it was created before the advent of the internet.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Quebec Le Soleil last week he was preoccupied with the financial crisis facing media in Canada and that the decision on federal funding would come in the next budget. read more

Sri Lanka firm to fight corruption

Sri Lanka recognizes that corruption constitutes one of the obstacles to the effective promotion and protection of human rights, as well as to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was told.The Sri Lankan delegation at the Council said in a statement that a negative consequence of corruption is the violation of human rights, particularly of the most vulnerable sectors of society. The statement said that it is noteworthy that corruption and its proceeds are not confined within national borders, nor is their impact on human rights. Sri Lankan says it is committed to ensure the full realization of human rights in the fight against corruption on the one hand, and to continue to adopt measures to strengthen anti-corruption efforts through the application of a human rights-based approach on the other. (Colombo Gazette) The statement was made during the panel Discussion on the Negative Impact of Corruption on the Enjoyment of Human Rights. The Sri Lankan delegation said that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption initiated the conduct of a “gap analysis” in order to identify gaps between the Convention and the existing Laws relating to corruption in Sri Lanka.“A Consultative Committee formed in this regard comprises the Hon. Attorney General; the Secretary/Ministry of Justice; the Chairman/Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption; the Legal Draftsman; and the Legal Advisor/Ministry of External Affairs. Steps are being taken by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption to identify the necessary amendments to the Law on Bribery and Corruption,” the statement added. The Sri Lankan government says it continues to take necessary measures to ensure the implementation of its obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). read more

Fonterra to fight injunction

New Zealand’s Fonterra, the world’s top dairy exporter, said on Monday an injunction banning the sale of its products in Sri Lanka because of alleged contamination was incorrect and unjustified and it will fight the ban, a Reuters news report said.On Friday, a Sri Lankan court banned the sale and advertising of all Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd milk products for two weeks. A trade union had sought the court ban because Fonterra products suspected of being contaminated with the agricultural chemical dicyandiamide (DCD) were still on the market. “We strongly refute the allegations on which this injunction has been made,” Johan Priem, Fonterra’s managing director Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, said in a statement issued to the New Zealand stock exchange. The Sri Lankan ban comes as Fonterra looks to recover from the global food scare caused by the finding of a bacteria that can cause botulism in whey protein concentrate, which is used in infant formula and other products.That contamination scare sparked product recalls and bans on some Fonterra products in countries including China, Russia and Vietnam. “Our independent testing has found no traces of DCD in any Fonterra branded products in Sri Lanka and no affected whey protein concentrate or products containing it have been sent to the country,” Priem said.Fonterra has said it would fight the official Sri Lankan ban, and is looking at legal options regarding Friday’s injunction. Fonterra said last week it had withdrawn two batches of milk powder allegedly containing DCD under orders from Sri Lankan authorities, although it has disputed the accuracy of the testing. read more

Iranian President wants ties with Lanka enhanced

For his part, Rohana Jeet, who submitted his credentials to President Rouhani, said that Sri Lanka is determined to deepen its close and friendly relations with Iran at the bilateral and international levels. The envoy further said that Iran plays a leading role in the region as well as the world, adding that his country welcomes the conclusion of nuclear talks between and world powers and that Colombo is seeking to develop its ties with Tehran in various fields.Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, US, Britain, France, and Germany) on July 14 reached a conclusion on a lasting nuclear agreement that would terminate all sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear energy program after coming into force. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for enhanced relations between Iran and Sri Lanka following a final nuclear agreement reached between Tehran and six world powers and the ensuing lifting of anti-Iran sanctions, the Tasnim news agency reported.Speaking at a Sunday meeting in Tehran with Sri Lanka’s new ambassador to Iran, Rohana Jeet, President Rouhani stressed that Tehran and Colombo should boost their bilateral ties with the improved conditions that would be available after the nuclear agreement takes effect and the sanctions are lifted. He further described the existing relations between Iran and Sri Lanka as good, underscoring that the two countries should make all-out efforts to improve ties based on the existing potentials. read more

Sampoor power project to get green nod soon

The NTPC, approached by this reporter for its version, did not send its reply. At present, the total installed power generation capacity of Sri Lanka is approximately 4,050 megawatt (MW), of which the share of coal-fired thermal power plants is 900 MW. On commissioning, the proposed Sampur plant will be next to the 600-MW Norochcholai coal-fired thermal power plant in terms of capacity. The Norochcholai plant has come up with Chinese assistance. The electricity demand in Sri Lanka grows by four per cent to six per cent annually.Sampoor has also been in news for another reason – resettlement of Tamils, who were displaced in 2006 during the Eelam War. The restoration of 818 acres of land to the Tamils in the area was an important issue at the time of Presidential elections early this year and the regime change facilitated it, after overcoming legal obstacles. In August, President Maithripala Sirisena and his predecessor, Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike, went to Sampoor to inaugurate the resettlement formally. But, this development raised questions on the future of the project, as it was originally not factored in to the EIA report, which was submitted to the CEA in February. One more issue – the impact of discharge of coolant water from the plant on the marine eco-system – also came under focus subsequently.“All these issues have now been addressed and we have held discussions with the CEB,” Mr Jayasinghe points out.Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board, Anura Wijayapala, who also heads the Trincomalee Power Company Limited [a special purpose vehicle for the project], feels that the project would now have been under implementation had the NTPC done EIA properly about two years ago. The Indian power utility had prepared the initial EIA report, which was rejected by the Authority. Consequently, using a local consultant, another EIA report was prepared. In the process, the timetable for the commissioning of the project was delayed by two years – from January 2018 to January 2020, Mr Wijayapala adds. Though he declines to give any specific time frame for the environmental clearance, he hints that it is only a matter of formality. Decks will be cleared soon for the take off of the 500-megawatt (MW) Sampoor thermal power project, a joint venture involving Sri Lanka and India, with the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) moving closer to giving the much-needed environmental clearance, The Hindu newspaper reported.“At present, the evaluation committee is scrutinising a report on environment impact assessment (EIA). As soon as it is over, our Board of Directors will take a look at the matter, after which the clearance will be given,” U.K.D.G. Jayasinghe, Deputy Director General of the Environmental Management and Assessment Division (EMA) of the CEA, says. Located in the Eastern Province and about 275 km from Colombo, the proposed Sampoor power plant, estimated to cost $ 512 million, will be coal fired. It has been proposed as part of a joint venture between the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the NTPC of India on 50:50 basis. An Indian official says there is no stipulation that coal has to be imported from India. read more

Government says no JF17 deal with Pakistan

Terming the reports as “incorrect,” Mahishini Colonne, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responded, saying that “if there arises a requirement for Sri Lanka to procure aircraft of this nature, in keeping with the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka to maintain transparency, expressions of interest will be called for, from all concerned.” The Government has denied reports that it has struck a deal with Pakistan for the purchase of JF-17 Thunder fighter jets, The Hindu newspaper reported.“The matter did not even come up for discussion during the talks [with the Pakistani government],” Karunasena Hettiarachchi, Defence Secretary, told The Hindu , adding that his government was still considering the purchase of fighter jets. According to the reports, Sri Lanka has been under pressure from the Indian government not to go ahead. Sections of the press, in the last few months, also carried reports that India had offered to Sri Lanka “Tejas,” a variant of Light Combat Aircraft, to counter Pakistan’s bid to sell JF-17 fighters, which were developed in collaboration with China. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Fonseka wants international monitors for war probe

Former army commander, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka today called for international monitors and foreign advisers to be invited to be involved in the investigation over the war.Speaking in Parliament, Fonseka, who is now a Minister in the Government, said that international participation is vital in order to ensure there is transparency and credibility in the investigation. He also insisted that the respect and dignity of the security forces must be protected when investigating incidents related to the war.Fonseka, who led the war during the final stages of the conflict, also backed an investigating over the alleged ‘white flag’ incident in which unarmed LTTE cadres who surrendered to the army were said to have been killed. However he said that if there was anyone who abused human rights and violated the law then they must be punished. “An investigation on the white flag incident is a must. The people must know if the white flag incident is true or not,” he said.The former army commander also said that some groups are now attempting to incite the public by spreading false claims.He urged the public not to be misled by groups claiming to stand for National interests and to ensure the peace in the country continues. (Colombo Gazette) “I led the war in line with the accepted laws and regulations. It was in line with Geneva protocols.” he said. Audio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume. read more

Lankan team went to Hong Kong to find Snowdens helpers

The role of the refugees who sheltered Snowden for about two weeks was only reported last September.Tibbo, who gave legal advice to Snowden and who has represented the three groups of asylum seekers since 2012, previously told the Post that their identities had been revealed to ensure their safety.According to the note sent by the local lawmakers, one of the asylum seekers reported that their immediate family members in Sri Lanka had been questioned, harassed and threatened by the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department, the military and government officials. Two local lawmakers in Hong Kong are calling on the police to investigate claims that Sri Lankan police investigators were in Hong Kong looking for the asylum seekers from the country who sheltered American whistle-blower Edward Snowden in the city, the South China Morning Post reported.“The families [one family of four and one individual] are very afraid of the Sri Lankan government, in particular the Sri Lankan Police Criminal Investigation Department and the military, as these bodies have been cited for their human rights abuses by the United Nations,” a statement sent by pan-democrat legislators Charles Mok and James To Kun-sun read. The note said the five, who are afraid of being illegally deported, would report the case to the city’s police. It also said they expected the local authorities to investigate the matter and wanted “necessary protection” to prevent any illegal cross-border law enforcement activities in Hong Kong. Snowden was sheltered in Hong Kong in 2013 by a Sri Lankan family of four – Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis and Supun Thilina Kellapatha and their two children – and Ajith Pushpakumara, who is a former soldier. They are all waiting for the city’s government to process their protection claims.The American whistle-blower who leaked sensitive intelligence files was also helped by a Filipino asylum seeker, who has a four-year-old daughter. Mok, To and the asylum seekers’ lawyer, Robert Tibbo, were not available for comment on Wednesday night. The statement said they were asked about the address and phone numbers of those who sheltered Snowden in Hong Kong. “Information on friends and other contacts of such persons were demanded with warnings to comply,” the note read.The United Nations Committee Against Torture reported last year that the Sri Lankan security forces had “committed widespread or systematic torture, enforced disappearances and other serious human rights violations.”The UN committee said it was “seriously concerned at the failure of the state party to carry out an institutional reform of the security sector.” (Colombo Gazette) read more

Champika warns cabinet of another 88′ – 89′ period

Sources said that Ranawaka has also proposed that a separate paying system be introduced for government universities. However he also noted that the Government must have a clear stand on the SAITM issue and not be divided.The Ministers at the group meeting agreed that the Government must speak with one voice on the matter.  (Colombo Gazette) Ranawaka told the Government at the meeting that if SAITM is not abolished violence may erupt in the country like what was seen during the 1988 – 1989 period, sources said. Cabinet Minister and Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) General Secretary Patali Champika Ranawaka has warned that the country may face a repeat of the 1988 – 1989 period.He has told a Government group meeting that the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) must be abolished. Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne however noted that Sri Lanka needs more doctors as for every 100,000 patients there are only 65 doctors.Senaratne said that the ratio must increase to at least 200 doctors for every 100,000 patients.At the discussion the President had also made inquiries about the ongoing case on SAITM. He said this will attract students like those who had joined SAITM expecting better education.However State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe had said that having a separate paid system will result in an overflow of medical students who will eventually not have jobs. Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera told the President he was confident the outcome of the case will be positive. read more

Sri Lanka keen to introduce an Aadhaarlike initiative

Sri Lanka will explore launching an application similar to the Unified Mobile Application for New age Governance (UMANG) in India, and it is in talks with New Delhi at the highest levels, said Minister of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Harin Fernando. “We can save $2 million a day if we digitise all our operations,” Fernando told Colombo-based foreign correspondents on Wednesday, The Hindu reported.Sri Lanka is also keen on adopting a mass digital initiative like the Aadhaar in India, he said. Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad will undertake a two-day visit to the island next month for discussions on bilateral cooperation and possible Indian investment in the sector, he said. “Indians see a lot of potential in Sri Lanka, especially in the IT sector. The environment here is very conducive for investment,” Fernando said, adding that the government would soon form a new digital secretariat to streamline initiatives pertaining to information and technology. Fernando said the Ministry aims to give Sri Lankans a unique identification number each, linked to their biometrics, to enable easier access to government schemes and services. He said such initiatives would not only help citizens access schemes and funds meant for them, but also help keep a check on corruption. The Ministry, he said, would liberalise the sector and opt for a highly privatised model.Recognising the importance of connectivity in digitisation, the government is focussing on creating at least 30,000 public wi-fi spots, including in 10,000 schools to enable students to use technology, he said. “Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is keen that school students be given tablets, and he has also discussed the initiative with the Indian Prime Minister,” said Fernando. In a separate initiative, the government has also been pushing for digitising the national identity cards of Sri Lankans with biometrics, a move that has made privacy advocates in the country concerned. read more

India proud of its development partnership with Sri Lanka

This is important considering the strong democratic credentials of both India and Sri Lanka, the Indian High Commissioner said. The General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) held its inauguration ceremony of Master’s Degree programme for the year 2018 today.High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu was the Chief Guest at the function. He delivered a key- note address on “India-Sri Lanka Relations for a Shared and Secured Future”. He noted that India-Sri Lanka relations are special, unique and stand on its own footing. The Indian Government says it is proud of its development partnership with Sri Lanka. The High Commissioner recalled that Sir Kotelawala was one of the most illustrious and brave sons of Sri Lanka. He noted that it is no coincidence that the motto of KDU is ‘For the Motherland and Forever’. High Commissioner cited the quote that the quality of a university is not measured by the kinds of students it takes in, but the quality of students it turns out. He complimented KDU for living up to the expectations of the countrymen.The High Commissioner highlighted importance of higher education and research in the growth of a country. He mentioned that India currently has the third-largest scientific and technical manpower in the world.India has also become the second largest market for e-learning with more than one-third of the top 1,000 global R&D spenders having their centres in India. Citing the 750 scholarships and 400 ITEC fellowships that India gives to Sri Lanka every year, The Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, said that whether it be the rehabilitation of the KKS Harbour, or setting up of model villages across the country, or helping the farming and fishing communities in the South or extension of emergency ambulance service island-wide, India is proud of the fact that she has been able to write the development partnership stories in Sri Lanka, based on Sri Lanka’s own priorities and requirements. The High Commissioner said that India, as a country, has never believed in keeping its resources to itself. He said that even while having to confront with its own developmental challenges, India has always believed in sharing what it has. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Budget final vote set for April 4th

The 2019 Appropriation Bill will be presented to Parliament on February 5th. The final vote for the 2019 budget is set to take place on April 4th, the Finance Ministry announced today.The Budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year will be presented to Parliament on the 5th of March.

Gotabaya says he will run for President

Gotabaya said the attacks could have been prevented if the island’s current government had not dismantled the intelligence network and extensive surveillance capabilities that he built up during the war and later on. Sri Lanka’s former wartime defense chief, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, said on Friday he would run for President in elections this year and would stop the spread of Islamist extremism by rebuilding the intelligence service and surveilling citizens, Reuters reported.More than 250 people were killed in bomb attacks on hotels and churches on Easter Sunday that the government has blamed on Islamist militants and that Islamic State has claimed responsibility for. “Because the government was not prepared, that’s why you see a panic situation,” he said in an interview with Reuters. Gotabaya said he would be a candidate “100 percent”, firming up months of speculation that he plans to run in the elections, which are due by December.He was critical of the government’s response to the bombings. Since the attacks, the government has struggled to provide clear information about how they were staged, who was behind them and how serious the threat is from Islamic State to the country. “Various people are blaming various people, not giving exactly the details as to what happened, even people expect the names, what organization did this, and how they came up to this level, that explanation was not given,” he said.Gotabaya is facing lawsuits in the United States, where he is a dual citizen, over his role in the war and afterwards.Gotabaya said the cases were baseless and only a “little distraction” as he prepared for the election campaign. He said he had asked U.S. authorities to renounce his citizenship and that process was nearly done, clearing the way for his candidature. He said that if he won, his immediate focus would to be tackle the threat from radical Islam and to rebuild the security set-up. “It’s a serious problem, you have to go deep into the groups, dismantle the networks,” he said, adding he would give the military a mandate to collect intelligence from the ground and to mount surveillance of groups turning to extremism.Gotabaya said that a military intelligence cell he had set up in 2011 of 5,000 people, some of them with Arabic language skills and that was tracking the bent towards extremist ideology some of the Islamist groups were taking in eastern Sri Lanka was disbanded by the current government.“They did not give priority to national security, there was a mix-up. They were talking about ethnic reconciliation, then they were talking about human rights issues, they were talking about individual freedoms,” he said. read more

Four convicts on death row to be executed

The executions would be the first time Sri Lanka has implemented the death penalty since 1976.“We are outraged that the President has signed the first execution warrants issued by Sri Lanka in 43 years. In one stroke, he will undo all the country’s progress in putting a stop to the use of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.“At a time when other countries have come to the realization that their drug control policies are in need of reform, and are taking steps to reduce the use of the death penalty, Sri Lanka is bucking the trend. This will be devastating to the country’s international reputation and we hope that President Sirisena will reconsider his decision,” said Biraj Patnaik. (Colombo Gazette) “The date has been set. I have informed the relevant authorities,” he said. Amnesty International said it was shocked by President Maithripala Sirisena’s announcement that he has signed the execution warrants of four death row prisoners convicted of drug-related crimes, and that they will be hanged in “the near future.” While the President has confirmed signing the death warrants, no names have been revealed and no details have been shared about any scheduled executions or information on the cases.Amnesty International said the lack of transparency makes it impossible to ascertain whether these prisoners have exhausted clemency appeals or if all safeguards were followed in their conviction or sentencing. There is also no confirmation that the four prisoners, or their families, have been alerted to their imminent execution. Four convicts on death row will be executed soon, President Maithripala Sirisena said today.He told media heads that he has signed the papers to execute the four convicts who have been sentenced to death on drug related offences. read more