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Bangladesh Pledges Support for Sri Lanka’s Agricultural Modernization Program

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has assured President Ranil Wickremesinghe of Bangladesh’s commitment to support Sri Lanka’s agricultural modernization program.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina are currently in New Delhi to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two leaders engaged in bilateral discussions this morning (10), where Prime Minister Hasina assured her country’s commitment to assist Sri Lanka to modernised agriculture.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe also affirmed his commitment to dispatch a delegation of Sri Lankan agricultural experts to Bangladesh. Their objective is to study Bangladesh’s agricultural modernization program through cooperative methods and gather valuable insights to enhance Sri Lanka’s own agricultural modernization efforts.

The leaders also deliberated on the prospect of signing a free trade agreement between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. President Ranil Wickremesinghe highlighted the potential for such an agreement following the conclusion of the India Free Trade Agreement.

Additionally, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh pledged to direct private investors from Bangladesh towards investment opportunities in Sri Lanka, further fostering economic cooperation between the two countries. Consideration was given to the initiation of a passenger ferry service connecting Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh Prime Minister extended an invitation to President Ranil Wickremesinghe to attend the BIMSTEC Summit in Bangladesh. President Ranil Wickremesinghe conveyed to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh that, as the conference will be held during the election period in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Foreign Minister Ali Sabri will represent Sri Lanka at the upcoming BIMSTEC Summit held in Bangladesh.

The President also assured the Prime Minister of Bangladesh that he would visit Bangladesh after the election. In response, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her satisfaction with the progress of Sri Lanka’s economy under the leadership of President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Recalling the support received from both, Bangladesh and India, President Wickremesinghe expressed gratitude for their assistance.

The event was attended by Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Aruni Wijewardene, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India Kshenuka Senaviratne, Private Secretary to the President Sandra Perera, and delegations from both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

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Allowance of LKR 10,000 for Each Flood-Affected Household

Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka said that an allowance of LKR 10,000 will be provided to every household affected by the flood.

He stated that this financial assistance is intended for cleaning the houses. Additionally, once the assessment reports on all partially and fully damaged houses and buildings are received, the subsequent steps will be implemented promptly.

Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka made these remarks while participating in an observation tour today (07) to assess the welfare of the residents in the Kolonnawa area impacted by adverse weather conditions.

During the tour, Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka inspected the houses affected by the floods and visited a medical clinic organized at the Kolonnawa Sri Sambuddharaja Purana Vihara to oversee the assistance provided to the affected individuals. Following this, he participated in a discussion at the Kolonnawa Divisional Secretariat to assess the current progress and future initiatives of the government’s relief program for the affected population.

Following the events, Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka addressed the media, stating,

After consulting with the Divisional Secretaries, it was decided to provide an immediate allowance of LKR 10,000 to each household affected by the floods. Additionally, plans are underway to assess the extent of damage to both partially and completely affected houses, with further compensation to be provided accordingly.

Previously, as per the 2019 circular, compensation was only allocated to individuals sheltering in relief camps during flood disasters. However, this protocol has been revised, and measures have been taken to offer a LKR 10,000 allowance to every household impacted by the floods. This adjustment aims to facilitate the return of affected individuals to their homes and enable them to resume their daily activities.

In accordance with the President’s directives, efforts are underway to reconstruct all houses completely devastated by the disaster, with the government bearing the costs and assistance from the army. Concurrently, a program has been devised to distribute essential medicines to those in need.

Following the abatement of the floodwaters, there is a heightened risk of disease outbreaks among the affected population, particularly among vulnerable groups such as young children and the elderly. Preventative measures are being implemented to mitigate these risks, including initiatives to address potential outbreaks of diseases such as dengue. Collaboration between the Navy, the Red Cross Society, and unaffected community members is facilitating the distribution of aid to affected individuals. Additionally, initiatives are underway to restore the functionality of wells for safe water access.

Medical clinics are being organized to address the healthcare needs of individuals in disaster-affected areas, with the support of foreign medical teams conducting clinic camps. Additionally, several medical clinics are being facilitated through Divisional Secretariats. The involvement of army medical teams is also poised to contribute to the improvement of the health conditions of those affected.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe remains vigilant regarding the well-being of individuals in disaster-stricken regions and has instructed officials to ensure the provision of necessary relief measures. Efforts are underway to devise an effective program aimed at preventing the recurrence of such devastating floods, with a focus on addressing issues such as unauthorized construction and land reclamation, which have been identified as contributing factors to these disasters. It is anticipated that a Cabinet order will be sought to curtail illegal construction and land reclamation activities to mitigate future flood risks.

In addition to these measures, plans are being formulated to establish a new city for residents residing along Kelani River bank. This city is envisioned to offer comprehensive facilities, including hospitals, schools and residential complexes. Given the presence of government institutions such as the IDH Hospital and Sri Lanka transport Board Depot in the area, discussions will be initiated with local residents to garner input and facilitate the implementation of future initiatives. The aim is to develop a comprehensive plan that receives consensus from all stakeholders and to realize the success of the program within the next decade.

The tour was attended by Member of Parliament Premanath C. Dolawatta, Director General of the Trade Union Saman Ratnapriya, along with former members of the Kolonnawa Pradeshiya sabha , political representatives and government officials.

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Railway strike called off

The four-day strike by the Locomotive Operating Engineers’ Union has been called off following discussions with the Minister of Transport.

At least twenty office trains were cancelled this morning due to the trade union action launched on Thursday.

The Union launched the strike action over several key demands, including solutions to the delays in second-class promotions of locomotive drivers.

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Railway strike to continue

The Locomotive Operating Engineers’ Union of Sri Lanka Railways says that the strike action launched from midnight yesterday (06) will continue further.

The trade union action is being carried out over delays in second-class promotions of locomotive drivers and several other issues, according to the Locomotive Operating Engineers’ Union.

However, only locomotive drivers from two out of the 05 running sheds have joined the strike. As a result, the power set trains will not be in operation, the trade union said.

It further stated that even though the morning office trains would experience minimal impact from the strike, there is a possibility that all the trains scheduled for this evening might be cancelled.

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President receives warm welcome in India

President Ranil Wickremesinghe arrived in India this morning (09) via Indira Gandhi Airport to attend the swearing-in ceremony of H.E. Narendra Modi, who has been elected as the Prime Minister of India for the third consecutive term.

President Wickremesinghe was warmly welcomed at the airport by Additional Secretary P. Kumaran on behalf of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka H.E. Santosh Jha, Indian Ocean Region Additional Secretary Mr. Puneeth Agrawal and H.E. Mrs. Kshenuka Senewiratne. The reception also featured a dance performance showcasing Indian culture.

The swearing-in ceremony, presided over by the President of India H.E. Draupadi Murmu, will take place this afternoon (09) at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. President Wickremesinghe’s arrival received significant media coverage in India, with billboards featuring his and Prime Minister Modi’s images displayed around key locations in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party alliance secured victory in the Indian general election, which was conducted over seven phases spanning 44 days. Following the confirmation of this victory, Modi was officially appointed as the leader of the National Democratic Alliance.

Accompanying President Wickremesinghe on this visit are President’s Secretary Mr. Saman Ekanayake, Foreign Affairs Ministry Secretary Ms Aruni Wijewardene, Government Information Director General Mr. Dinith Chinthaka Karunaratne, and President’s Private Ms Secretary Sandra Perera.

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Approval Granted for “Starlink” to Provide Satellite-Based Internet Services in Sri Lanka

State Minister of Technology, Kanaka Herath, announced that the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) has granted preliminary approval for ‘Starlink’ to provide satellite-based internet services in Sri Lanka.

The State Minister emphasized that a two-week period has been allocated for a formal public consultation process regarding the approval of this internet service. Following this period, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission will take steps to implement the service in Sri Lanka.

State Minister Kanaka Herath shared these remarks during a special media briefing held today (06) at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC).

The minister emphasized that this initiative will deliver a fast internet service as well as to the education, research, tourism, fisheries, and agriculture sectors, while also providing global access via this internet facility.

During his participation in the high-level session of the 10th World Water Conference in Indonesia, President Ranil Wickremesinghe held discussions with renowned businessman Mr. Elon Musk regarding expediting the application process to connect Sri Lanka with the “Starlink” network.

Consequently, “Starlink” has received approval to provide internet services via satellite technology.

Currently, approximately 2000 “Starlink” network centres are operational worldwide, providing high-speed internet access to 32 countries.

State Minister of Technology, Kanaka Herath, further said,

Starting today, we are collaborating with Starlink to provide internet facilities via satellite technology, marking a significant transformation in the technology sector. Unlike the limited internet facilities provided by towers, this satellite-based technology allows for internet connectivity from virtually anywhere. This represents a major advancement in the field of technology.

This internet facility offers significant benefits to education, research, tourism, agricultural and fisheries sectors by delivering the fastest internet service through this innovative technology. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka has approved Starlink to offer satellite-based internet services. A fourteen -day period has been allocated for public consultation, and action will be taken within two weeks following this consultation period.

Under Section 22 of the Telecommunications Act, internet services will be provided via satellite technology. President Ranil Wickremesinghe has instructed that a relief package be made available to school children, fishermen, and researchers to ensure they can access this internet service. Plans for implementing this relief package are currently being prepared.

Director General of Sri Lanka Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, Madusanka Dissanayake,

“Starlink” is not yet established as a telephone network company in Sri Lanka. However, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission has approved it under Sections 17 and 22 of the Telecommunications Regulatory Act, granting it a frequency license. The Act will be amended in the future to issue a Telecommunication Service provider license.

The initial setup or the registration cost, for this service ranges between US$ 400 and US$ 600, with a monthly fee of US$ 99. The satellite technology allows for internet access anywhere in the world and offers speeds several times faster than the existing fibre technology in Sri Lanka. This will significantly enhance the technology sector in the country. Secretary of the Ministry of Technology and Research Dr. Dharma Sri Kumaratunga also attended the event.

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Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka Steps in to Assess Health and Aid Needs of Kaduwela Flood Victims

Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka, the President’s Senior Adviser on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff said that the officials have been instructed to act according to the new circulars, apart from the old circulars, in providing relief to the people affected by the inclement weather.

He mentioned this while joining an observation tour today (08) to investigate the well-being of the people of the Kaduwela area affected by the flood and to look into the relief program being carried out for those people.

Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka looked into the program to restore the people’s lives after the flood subsided and instructed the officials to provide all necessary facilities to facilitate the resettlement of the people.

He also visited the houses in the flood-affected area, engaged in conversation with the house owners and discussed with them the measures needed to be taken to control the flood situation in the future.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka, who joined to inspect the medical clinic at the historical Sri Rankadu Pattini Temple premises in Kaduwela with the participation of a foreign medical team, did not forget to look into the affairs of the Rankadu Pattini Temple.

Expressing his views to the media Mr. Ratnayaka noted,

The President has instructed to provide all the necessary support for the restoration of the lives of the people affected by the disaster. We visit these areas from time to time according to the instructions given by him. We have given the authority to the officials to take the necessary decisions to make the work of providing relief to the people more efficient.

In cases where such decisions cannot be made, they have been submitted to an appeals committee to take the final decision. All these activities are expected to provide the necessary background for the affected people to restore their lives as soon as possible.

There have been many wage disparities in our country. This situation has arisen due to not arranging salaries in an orderly manner and providing immediate answers at various times. It was approved in the last cabinet to conduct a proper study on the wage disparity and prepare a report.

Those activities will take place in the future. But this is an occasion where people are facing a disaster. And this is also an instance when the country is facing a big economic problem.

The country’s economy has stabilized but the country is facing a financial problem, so we are going through a time where everyone should be careful. Therefore, this is not the right time to strike. I request all government officials to understand these facts and act accordingly. We will never ignore your questions. It must be said that we have an understanding regarding that and have prepared the necessary program to solve them.

Member of Parliament Premanath C. Dolawatta and former members of the Kaduwela Provincial Council and government officials attended the event.

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President inaugurates his political office

President Ranil Wickremesinghe inaugurated his new political office in Colombo today (06) at an auspicious moment. The office, located on Sir Ernest de Silva Mawatha, will serve as the center for future political operations.

The ceremony included religious rites and blessings performed by prominent religious leaders, including the Chief Sanghanayake of the Western Province, Venerable Dr. Murutthettuwe Ananda Nayaka Thero, the Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Chief Sanghanayake of the Uva Province with Colombo District, Venerable Maharagama Nanda Nayaka Thero, and the head of five major temples including the Kollupitiya Valukarama Maha Viharaya.

The establishment of the office was initiated by United National Party Chairman and Member of Parliament, Mr. Wajira Abeywardena.

The event was attended by Professor Maithree Wickramasinghe, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, other government ministers, Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayaka and numerous UNP activists.

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President re-appoints Shavendra Silva as Chief of Defence Staff

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has re-appointed General Shavendra Silva as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) until December 31st.

An extraordinary gazette has been issued, extending General Silva’s term as CDS under Section 3 of the Chief of Defence Staff Act, No. 35 of 2009.

General Silva’s new term will run from June 1, 2024, to December 31, 2024.

He was first appointed as Chief of Defence Staff on June 1, 2022.

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‘Sri Lanka Electricity Bill’ passed with amendments

The Speaker of the Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced to the House this evening (06) that the third reading of the ‘Sri Lanka Electricity Bill’ was passed in the Parliament with amendments.

Meanwhile, the second reading of the draft bill was also passed in the Parliament with a majority of 44 votes.

The ‘Sri Lanka Electricity Bill’, which incorporates the proposed reforms for the electricity sector, was presented to the parliament by Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera on April 25. It was published in the government gazette on 17 April.

The Bill seeks to provide for the establishment of the National Electricity Advisory Council and make the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) the regulator for the electricity industry in terms of the proposed legislation.

Further, it seeks to provide legislative measures applicable to the incorporation of corporate entities, in which all activities connected to the generation, transmission, distribution, trade, supply and procurement of electricity are vested.

In addition, the Bill also provides for the repealing of the Ceylon Electricity Board Act, No.17 of 1969 and the Sri Lanka Electricity Act, No.20 of 2009.

However, several parties challenged the proposed bill before the Supreme Court, following which the court informed the Parliament that several clauses of the proposed ‘Sri Lanka Electricity Bill’ are inconsistent with the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

The Supreme Court determination stated that these clauses shall only be passed by a special majority of Parliament, and that one clause requires approval through a referendum, the Speaker informed the House. However, the country’s apex court has stated that these clauses could be passed with a simple majority if amended as specified in the Supreme Court’s determination.

On Wednesday (05), the government agreed to accept all the amendments proposed by the Supreme Court to the relevant draft bill.

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Tiran orders CID probe into threats reported by Harsha

Public security minister Tiran Alles said he has directed IGP Deshabandu Tennakoon to order the CID to commence investigations into the threats reported by CoPF chairman Harsha de Silva against him.

Alles said on X that “we are committed to maintaining safety and security for all.”

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President Presides Over Tribute to Ravi: “Ravi – Self-Reflection on Half-Century in Cinema”

In recognition of veteran actor Ravindra Randeniya’s outstanding contributions to Sri Lankan cinema over five decades, the ceremony, “Ravi – Self-Reflection on Half-Century in Cinema” took place yesterday (05) at the Bandaranaike International Conference Hall in Colombo, presided over by President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Ravindra Randeniya, who entered the film industry with the 1974 movie ‘Taranga,’ has been celebrated for his exceptional acting skills, consistently delivering memorable performances that have left an indelible mark on Sri Lankan cinema audiences. Over the past five decades, he has starred in more than 100 films, including notable titles like Duhulu Malak, Podi Malli, Weerapuran Appu, Santhaya, Maya, Aradhana, Dadayama, Wedding Gift, Sagaraya, Selamuthu Pina, Sirimadura, Anantha Rathriya, and Kaludiya Dahara.

Randeniya has significantly contributed to elevating the local film industry and has been recognized with numerous accolades. These include the Swarna Sankha O.C.I.C. Best Actor award, which he has won more than fifteen times, seven Lifetime Achievement Awards, and various other honours. He also received the prestigious Darshan Suri Award from the University of Fine Arts for his services to cinema. His talents have extended to international films, with key roles in productions such as Street Child, Mother Teresa, Jungle Heat, Sandokan, and the upcoming Distant Teardrop.

During the event, two biographies of Ravindra Randeniya were launched: one in Sinhala by film critic Gamini Weragoda and another in English by Uditha Devapriya. Randeniya presented the first copies of these books to President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

President Wickremesinghe, in his remarks, praised Randeniya as a versatile actor with the ability to contribute to many fields. He also fondly remembered Randeniya’s close collaboration and support in his political endeavours.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe further said;

“I first saw Ravindra in the 1975 movie Kaludiya Dahara. I came to Kelaniya as the United National Party organizer in the same year. There I got to know Ravindra’s family from Dalugama. They were constantly giving support to our party. Accordingly, I did political work with him.

Also, with the open economy, there was a great development in the film industry in this country. We saw Mr. Ravindra Randeniya coming forward with it. He acted in many major films of that period. At the same time, he joined politics. He supported my political activities and finally, on my request, he was appointed as a Member of Parliament in 2001.

But his desire was not for politics, but for the field of art. He is a talented actor. We wish him long life. It should also be mentioned that he has the ability to contribute to many other fields.”

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, former President Maithripala Sirisena, Minister Bandula Gunawardena, State Minister Geetha Kumarasinghe, former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, his contemporaries and many distinguished guests representing all sectors related to the film industry attended the event.

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