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Rs. 1.1 million interest free loans to pursue higher studies

The government has decided to launch a programme where a bank loan of Rs. 1.1 million will be granted without any interest to students who have excelled at the Advanced Level Examination but do not get the opportunity to enter state universities due to strong competition.

This loan will be given to enable them to study in private universities in the country for a degree suitable for obtaining a job.

State minister of finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said that the loan facility will be granted to students with high Z-Scores to study courses where there are ample job opportunities through private universities.

Previously, a sum of Rs. 800,000 was granted interest-free through the Bank of Ceylon for students to enable them to engage in degree courses.

Under the new programme, Minister Siyambalapitiya said that a sum of Rs. 800,000 as well as Rs. 300,000 on behalf of daily expenses will also be provided.

It has been extended so that students can obtain this facility through the People’s Bank as well as the National Savings Bank.

The cabinet paper regarding this is to be submitted to the cabinet by the minister next Tuesday.

Arrangements will be made in the future to grant this facility to 500 students based on instructions of President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

After obtaining this loan facility and then leaving the university, while engaged in a job this loan has to be paid back within a year.

Since loan interest is 25% at present, students who want to study in universities are unable to engage in higher education by obtaining a loan to pay costs.

Their parents also cannot bear the burden of such high-interest loans.

Taking this situation into consideration the State Minister said that the loan facility for higher education without interest which had been halted will recommence.


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PAFFREL says LG polls unlikely on April 25

Local election monitor People's Action for Fair and Free Elections (PAFFREL) said the prevailing situation does not allow the holding of the local government polls on April 25.

Its executive director Rohana Hettiarachchi also noted the government was ignoring the court ruling on the election, while its MPs hid behind parliamentary privileges and criticized the verdict.

The decisive factor here is whether the government recognizes the people’s democratic rights by holding elections on time, said Hettiarachchi.

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Norochcholai break down : Update from Minister

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara says that the Ceylon Electricity Board has informed of a breakdown in unit 3 of Norochcholai power plant.

“Unit 3 was due to undergo major overhaul maintenance in April. To ensure an uninterrupted power supply, CEB owned Diesel & Fuel Oil Power plants will be used. There will be No power cuts due to the breakdown.” Minister said.

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Sri Lanka's economy contracted 7.8% in 2022

Sri Lanka's economy shrank 7.8% in 2022 from the previous year, government data showed on Wednesday, as the country struggled with its worst financial crisis in more than seven decades.

The island's fourth-quarter GDP contracted 12.4%, according to the figures.

Sri Lanka's growth is expected to shrink by 3% this year, Moody's Investors Service said on Monday but growth is expected to rebound in 2024.

Economic mismanagement coupled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic left Sri Lanka severely short of dollars for essential imports at the start of last year tipping the country into the worst financial crisis since Independence from the British in 1948.

Sri Lanka is waiting for a $2.9 billion bailout program from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be finalised on March 20.

“These numbers are broadly in line with expectations. In the last three months of 2022 Sri Lanka was hit by very high inflation, fuel shortages and high interest rates,” said Sanjeewa Fernando, Senior Vice President Research at Asia Securities.

“For the rest of this year, with IMF funds expected, the central bank should be able to keep the currency strengthened, eventually reduce interest rates, and continue to see inflation ease."

The state-run Census and Statistics Department said that the agriculture sector shrank 4.6%, while industries contracted 16%, and services dropped 2%, from a year earlier.

Sri Lanka's economy shrank 11.8% in the July-September quarter from a year ago, the second-worst quarterly contraction ever for the country.

Sri Lanka aims to announce a debt-restructuring strategy in April and step up talks with commercial creditors ahead of an IMF review of a bailout package in six months, its central bank governor told Reuters last Thursday.

Source: Reuters

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Royal College wins 144th Battle of the Blues

Royal College Colombo have won the 144th edition of the Battle of the Blues with a comprehensive 181 run win against S. Thomas' College Mount Lavinia.

This is the 36th time that Royal College have won the Battle of the Blues.

Royal, who were put into to bat first in the match held at the Colombo SSC ground, declared their 1st innings on 326 runs for the loss of 8 wickets.

In reply, S. Thomas' were restricted to just 153 runs.

Royal College then declared their 2nd innings 168 for the loss of 4 wickets, setting the Thomians a massive target of 342 runs to win.

However, S. Thomas' were only able to manage 161 runs in their 2nd innings.

Dasis Manchanayake, who led Royal College, scored a magnificant century in the first innings and scored 57 runs in the second innings.

Royal College last won in 2016.

View the embedded image gallery online at:

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SC interim order prevents holding LG polls for Kalutara Pradeshiya Sabha

The Supreme Court today (March 16) issued an interim order preventing the Local Government Election for the Kalutara Pradeshiya Sabha from being held.

A three-member Supreme Court bench delivered the interim order, granting leave to proceed with a petition challenging a Returning Officer’s move to reject a nomination paper submitted by the New Lanka Freedom Party (NLFP). Justices Preethi Padman Surasena, Gamini Amarasekara and Janak de Silva sat for the hearing.

Representing NLFP’s secretary W.K.T. Waragoda, Attorney-at-Law Viran Corea said the nomination paper had been rejected by the respective Returning Officer as one of the affidavits submitted along with it did not contain the official seal of the Justice of Peace.

Explaining that the other affidavits submitted with the nomination contained the relevant official seal, the lawyer noted that the Returning Officer’s move to reject the nomination paper is against the law.

Taking the presented submissions into consideration, the judge bench granted leave to proceed with the petition hearing.

Thereby, fixing the petition hearing for May 12, the judge bench also issued an interim order preventing the LG election for the Kalutara Pradeshiya Sabha from being held until the conclusion of the legal matter.

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Printing Dept refuses to hand over postal voting ballots without receiving payments

The Government Printer insists that the already-printed ballot papers of the postal voting in 2023 Local Government Election cannot be handed over to the Election Commission until the required payments are made.

According to Government Printer Gangani Kalpana Liyanage, the Printing Department has spent more than Rs. 200 million thus far to print ballot papers, despite receiving an initial payment of just Rs. 40 million.

Printing of ballot papers for 17 electoral districts is completed and they need to be proofread under the police security, Liyanage explained, noting that the Printing Department is yet to receive the remaining payments for the election-related work it has done so far.

In light of this matter, Liyanage said the Printing Department would not be able to hand over the postal voting ballot papers to the Election Commission on Monday (March 20) as planned.

Meanwhile, election chief Attorney-at-Law Nimal G. Punchihewa said the Local Government Election can be held on the scheduled date if the election body receives the ballot papers over the next few days.

The 2023 Local Government Election, which was initially planned to be held on March 09, was later rescheduled for April 25.

Meanwhile, as the term of office of 340 local government bodies expires at midnight tomorrow (March 19), the mayors and the Pradeshiya Sabha chairs of these institutions have been asked to return the official vehicles given to them without delay.

The allowances given to the members of these local government bodies would be paid only until March 19, the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs & Provincial Councils & Local Government mentioned.

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1.1 million welfare benefits applications verified

The information of nearly 1.1 million applications for welfare benefits out of 3.7 million has been verified as of now, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe said.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the applications from 334 Divisional Secretariats have been verified through an ongoing information survey.

The State Minister further said that the said information survey will conclude on 31 March 2023.

Emphasizing the need for accurate information, State Minister Semasinghe warned that the failure to submit the necessary information by the deadline will result in the loss of welfare benefits.

In October 2022, the Government launched the restructured welfare benefits programme for vulnerable persons/families targeting 3.1 million beneficiaries.

Vulnerable persons/families were informed to register for the new welfare benefits programme via applications from the following website – wbb.gov.lk

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Pasindu Gunaratne appointed Chairman of National Youth Services Council

Pasindu Gunaratne, a young engineer, has been appointed new chairman of the National Youth Services Council (NYSC).

Gunaratne’s appointment was made yesterday (17) by youth affairs and sports minister Roshan Ranasinghe.

The minister has strong faith in his leadership qualities and commitment for empowering youths, for which he has been acclaimed.

A civil-engineer by profession, the 25-year-old is presently an undergraduate at Sabaragamuwa University and a law student.

He also holds a BEng (Hons) in Civil & Infrastructure Engineering from the Kingston University and a BSc (Hons) in Quantity Surveying & Construction from De Montfort University (UK).

A proud product of Royal College, Colombo, Gunaratne is also president of Lion’s Club of Colombo 07, making a considerable impact on that community.

Minister Ranasinghe expressed confidence that his leadership qualities and engineering background will help him to spearhead new projects and new beginnings to empower youths and nurture their skills for their future success.

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Three decisions by Election Commission

The National Election Commission has taken three decisions pertaining to the Local Government elections.

The Commission has announced a 14-day grace period starting today, 16th March 2023, for all registered political parties to submit statements on their audited accounts for the year 2021.

The political parties that fail to submit the relevant statements by the end of the grace period will be removed from the list of registered political parties, the commission stated.

The National Election Commission has also decided to hold a discussion at 10.00 am on 23rd March 2023 with the secretaries of registered political parties contesting the 2023 Local Government polls.

election 2

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SJB wants Mangala’s tax policy to be implemented

SJB media spokesman S.M. Marikkar has urged the government to implement the tax policy introduced in 2019 by the then finance minister, the late Mangala Samaraweera.

Speaking to the media yesterday (16), Marikkar referred to the strike by trade unions on the previous day against an unfair tax policy, increase in electricity tariffs etc.

The President’s Media Division (PMD) failed in its propaganda war of updates every five minutes on uninterrupted train and bus operations and banks being kept open to claim the strike was a failure.

It completely ignored the sorry plight of the people, he said.

The PMD also finds the Rupee’s appreciation against the US dollar newsworthy, but keeps silent when it started to slide once again, said the SJB MP.

Meanwhile, the FPA’s Dr. Nalaka Godahewa said the taxes imposed in a hurry were unbearable for the public.

On the decline of the rupee again, he said, it will become worse once the IMF deal comes through, and noted a strengthening of the economy was the only option.

While imposing taxes to raise revenue, the government should be sensitive to public issues as well, he advised.

In the meantime, SLPP’s Mahindananda Aluthgamage said everyone should survive for the next six months amid all difficulties, or else the economy would suffer further.

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Saudi Arabia donates 50 tons of dates to Sri Lanka

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia donated 50 tons of dates to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

His Excellency Khalid Hamoud Alkahtani, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Sri Lanka, officially handed over this consignment of dates to Hon. Vidura Wickremanayake, Minister of Buddhashasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs, during a ceremony held at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Colombo, on Thursday

His Excellency the Ambassador praised the great humanitarian efforts of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center around the world, which reflect the keenness of the Government of the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and His Highness the Crown Prince Prime Minister – may almighty God protect them – to stand with brotherly and friendly countries and peoples in various circumstances and tribulations, noting the strong relations between the Kingdom and the friendly Republic of Sri Lanka.

From his side, Hon. Minister of Religious Affairs of Sri Lanka extended his sincere thanks to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and His Royal Highness Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince and Prime Minister – may Almighty God protect them – for all the assistance provided to the Sri Lankan people, indicating that this is not surprising from the Kingdom’s humanity and its generosity that have provided unlimitedly in all parts of the globe.

This gift comes within the programs offered by the Government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and His Highness the Crown Prince – may almighty God protect them – to a number of brotherly and friendly countries, with a view to reach the most needy families in different parts of the world. (Saudi Embassy)

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