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Asbestos ban which led to tea export crisis lifted

The government has decided to temporarily halt the imposed ban on Asbestos sales in the country. According to sources, the decision was made following a lengthy discussion held during the cabinet meeting yesterday (19).

Minister Navin Dissanayake is said to have expressed his views regarding the quality of the asbestos being imported from Russia at the meeting between Cabinet Minister. Based on these opinions the cabinet is said to have decided to postpone the ban on Asbestos which was to take effect from January 2018.

The government in 2016 had decided to ban all asbestos-related products in the country by 2024.

Meanwhile, it was also decided to deploy a special team to Russia. The team will report back on the quality of asbestos being imported from Russia sources claim. The team will comprise of officers from the Ministry of Science and Technology who will also present the cabinet with a health study report.

Tea and Asbestos investigation in Russia

Accordingly, two teams comprising of specialists attached to the government is set to visit Russia shortly where one team will hold discussions on the ban imposed by Russia on Sri Lankan agricultural products while the other team will look into the quality of asbestos sheets.

Speaking to ISIS news Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia Dr Saman Weerasinghe said the team from Sri Lanka will visit the country on December 24 to observe the quality of Asbestos produced there on a special invitation from the Russian officials.

He also maintained that he held discussions yesterday (19) with the Deputy Minister of Agriculture in Russia and officials in this regard. The invitation was made at this meeting he said.

According to Russian officials, Russian manufactured Asbestos is not harmful and the visit will give the Sri Lankan team a better insight into its quality and manufacturing process the Ambassador further added.

Tit for Tat?

The ban on tea exports from Sri Lanka to Russia took effect on December 18 while former Ambassador to Russia during the Rajapaksa regime Udayanga Weeratunga claimed the ban on tea had been a tit for tat move by the Russians due to the ban on asbestos products in Sri Lanka.

The ban on asbestos was imposed according to a policy of President Maithripala Sirisena with the country set to ban asbestos sheets fully by 2020 according to his vision.

The basis for the ban by the government and the President has been presented as its cancer-causing nature. Sri Lanka imports asbestos mainly from Russia.

However, sources say Russian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alexander Karchava had expressed his displeasure at the baseless ban imposed.

Problem can be resolved

However, Ambassador Dr Weerasinghe claims that there is no connection between the two bans adding that the ban on tea exports can be resolved shortly.

The team to discuss this ban imposed will leave to Russia today (20) he said. The team will comprise of officers from the Tea Board, Tea Research Center and Tea Exporters Association.

The dates of the discussion are yet to be set however he said it will most probably be held on Friday he added.

No issue with other countries

Meanwhile President of the Tea Exporters Association Jayantha Karunaratne said while tea exports to Russia have halted, the exports to other countries are continuing as usual. ]

He also went on to say the beetle found in the tea have not been found in Sri Lanka for over 10 years and that Russian officials have informed the Association that it is a incidental occurrence.

Both parties are interested in resolving the issue soon he said.

 

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Optimist that Russian ban on Tea will be lifted: Rishad

Sri Lanka is optimistic the Ceylon Tea ban by the Russian Federation could be lifted soon said Minister of Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen

“I am optimistic on a quick solution,” said the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen after urgent consultations with top officials recently.

“Russia and Sri Lanka have long-standing friendly and cordial relations. This ban is not a refusal of Sri Lanka by Russia but only a temporary stoppage of one export product from us" he said adding that the only reason for our concern is that nearly 80% of Sri Lankan exports to Russia consists of Ceylon Tea.

Last year (2016) Russia ranked as the second largest buyer of all types of Ceylon Teas (including green tea made in Sri Lanka) at $ 143 Mn–the leading buyer in 2016 was Iran, at $ 154.10 Mn. However, in 2015 Russia was the topmost buyer of Ceylon Tea at $156.65 Mn, and the second leading buyer was Turkey.

According Department of Commerce Ceylon Tea exports to Russia from January to August this year totalled US $ 114.18 Mn (83% of all types of Lankan exports to Russia from January to August 2017). Other main items that Sri Lanka exports to Russia are apparel, vegetable textile fibres, other clothing accessories (including gloves).

Sri Lanka’s total trade (both imports and exports) with the Russian Federation which was at US $ 435.83 Mn in 2015 declined to $ 381.71 Mn in 2016. This year in January to August period, it reported a total of US $ 260.78 Mn.

 

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SLT and Fontech to provide international Wi-Fi services to users

Sri Lanka Telecom has signed a deal with Fon that will enable the telco to deliver WiFi connectivity to their subscriber base. In addition to choosing Fontech’s carrier WiFi solution to deliver WiFi access locally, SLT Group has signed a roaming agreement with Fon to grant their users international access to WiFi in over 21 million locations globally.

With Fon's carrier WiFi solution, the telco said that it will be able to integrate Fontech technology into more than six router models equipped with FTTH, ADSL and LTE technologies with witch SLT will be able to provide customers with many different access alternatives, including captive portal, WISPr seamless connectivity, and EAP.

"Not only will Fontech’s technology complement our existing services in Sri Lanka through delivering seamless WiFi outside of the home, but we are also delighted to offer our customers the convenience of being able to access millions of Fon hotspots globally,” said Dileepa Wijesundera, CEO of SLT Group.

The service is currently being deployed and integrated, and will be launched in Q1 2018, targeting hundreds of thousands of CPEs.

"While Fon continues to specialize in the aggregation of WiFi networks, ensuring that the world’s largest community network continues to grow, Fontech is dedicated to developing the technology that operates the service," said Alex Puregger, CEO of Fon.

Fon has recently deployed Wi-Fi services 800,000 locations along with Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and China and with new roaming agreements with operators like Telekom Malaysia, Korea Telecom, and Softbank, Fon claims to include almost three million hotspots in the Asia-Pacific region.

Radhika Parashar
Economic Times

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Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Nimal Lanza joins the JO

People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Gampaha District Parliamentarian Nimal Lanza resigned from his post as the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs. Lanza said that he resigned for several reasons.

However, sources within the Joint Opposition claim Lanza has left to join the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. According to these sources, Lanza had recently even helped compile the party’s nominations for his seat while his brother is set to contest in the upcoming local government polls as well.

A spokesperson for the government when contacted said Lanza’s departure is, in fact, a blessing for the government and will not affect the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

He went on to claim that several powerful politicians from the JO are set to join the government in the near future. While saying he is unaware if Lanza is to join to JO he also said the decision would however not come as a surprise.

 

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FTA with Sri Lanka will facilitate exports of Malaysian products & services

Products and services from Malaysian companies are expected to easily penetrate the market in Sri Lanka if both countries are able to forge a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said among the main products Malaysia exports to Sri Lanka is palm oil, but it is subject to several specific taxes, and if the FTA were to be implemented, the taxation system in both countries would be reviewed.

Najib said this to the Malaysian media today after holding a meeting with Sri Lanka President, Maithripala Sirisena, and attending a roundtable negotiation between the government and private sector of both countries.

Najib said Malaysia's exports to Sri Lanka for the period from January to September 2017 amounted to US$499.1 billion (about RM2 trillion), an increase of 13.6% compared with the same period last year.

Malaysia's exports to Sri Lanka is 10 times the value of Sri Lanka's exports to Malaysia, and during the negotiations, Sri Lanka requested Malaysia to import more of its products.

"We will study the request and may look at importing products such as tea from Sri Lanka into Malaysia as the country's tea products are among the world's best, besides gemstones," he said.

Najib said during the roundtable negotiations, he had informed the participants that Malaysia had a lot of expertise including in international airport management services, highway construction and healthcare services.

"We have expertise in various fields and sectors, this is our opportunity (to participate) in the economic development in Sri Lanka," he said.

The Prime Minister said during the roundtable discussion, certain parties had shown keen interest in working with Malaysia's Digital Free Trade Zone, as Sri Lanka regarded Malaysia as the gateway to Asean and beyond, and felt that both countries could become business partners in various fields.

He said Sri Lanka also saw Malaysia's halal certification system as the best and could add value to their halal products.

The Prime Minister's three-day official visit to Sri Lanka starting Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of Malaysia-Sri Lanka diplomatic ties.

Najib's entourage is made up of International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subaramian, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, and Malaysia's Special Envoy on Infrastructure to India and South Asia Tun S. Samy Vellu.

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Will guarantee a good deal for local government areas : Prime Minister

Releasing a statement yesterday the United National Party (UNP) welcomed the announcement that the date for the Local Government Elections date is set for 10th February, 2018.

In response to the announcement, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe, Leader of the UNP said that the people can only gain a good deal from the local government in their area by voting for the UNP.

“The United National Party in the national government is fixing the mistakes of the past regime to build a stronger economy, because without a strong economy we cannot provide necessary funds to local governments” he said.

According to the Prime Minister in the 2018 Budget, the UNP in national government has committed over Rs. 25 billion for all activities at the local government level next year so that roads can be developed while improving local health amenities, provide clean drinking water and keep garbage off streets.

“So, at the local government elections cast your vote for the UNP to secure development in local areas to ensure UNP’s plan to build a stronger economy.” he further added.

 

 

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Ali-Bathiudeen alliance and Muslim politics

The Eastern Province based Muslim identitarian politics, brought to the fore by M. H. M. Ashraff, founder/leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), has entered a new phase with the alliance between the former General Secretary of SLMC, Hasen Ali and Minister and Leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) Rishad Bathiudeen.

Currently SLMC is the dominant force in Eastern (Ampara) based Muslim politics along with United People's Freedom Alliance's (UPFA) A. L. M. Athaullah. SLMC has hitherto been acknowledged as the undisputed representative of eastern Muslims. However, the current SLMC leader, Rauff Hakeem, hailing from Kandy (Kandiyaan), is rapidly losing support among the Muslims of Ampara (Mattayan).

Athaullah who has considerable power in Akkaraipattu, does not tolerate opposition to his authority and he is attempting to ensure that his son is his successor. He has also joined President Maithripala Sirisena. M. L. A. M. Hizbullah, leader of the Kattankudi Muslims is also supporting the President and President Sirisena has appointed over 10 Muslims organizers to Ampara.

Bathiudeen's Eastern arrival

However, during the 2015 General Election, Bathiudeen, 'invaded' Ampara and his ACMC obtained 33, 000 votes (10%), 18% votes in Kalmunai, 27% from Samanthurai and 10% from Pottuvil. Although they did not obtain a seat in Parliament, ACMC indicated they also have a considerable presence in Ampara. With the alliance with Ali, these numbers are sure to swell.

Bathiudeen became the figurehead of Muslim nationalist/identitarian politics during the 2015 General Election. When he was criticized by Sinhala nationalist/identitarian movement, Bathiudeen used that to increase his appeal among the Muslims. He sure is a great marketer and he is always present whenever there is even a slightest issue between the Sinhala and Muslim communities. Within few years he has become the 'other' of the Sinhala nationalist/identitarian movement as well as of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). As the animosity with the Sinhala and Tamil nationalist/identitarian movements becomes greater, Bathiudeen's popularity among the Muslims also increases.

Ali on the other hand is perceived as a gentleman politician, in both Colombo and the East. Although he has always entered Parliament through the national list, we all saw his abilities as an organizer during the 2015 Presidential Election.

In August 2015, many expected that the two national lists seats obtained by the SLMC would go to then Chairman of the SLMC, Basheer Segu Dawood and Secretary, Ali. However the SLMC leader appointed M.H.M. Salman and his brother A.R.A. Hafeez (who resigned in 2016 and M.S. Thawfeeq was appointed to the position).

Dawood and Ali, following Udaya Gammanpila, formulated a Pivithuru SLMC. This later morphed into United Peace Alliance. Mansoor A. Cader was appointed General Secretary of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) in place of Ali. Hakeem promised, before God, that he will remove Salman from the national list slot and give the position to Ali. However since this did not materialize, Ali formed United People's Alliance (UPA) with Bathiudeen.

Muslim politics in the North

Bathiudeen has managed to assume full control of the Northern Province, using the United National Party (UNP) as his cat's paw.

It is now obvious that 90% of the candidates contesting for the coming Local Government (LG) elections from the UNP led alliance will be Bathiudeen's acolytes.

Bathiudeen will now contest the Eastern Province separately and the SLMC has no other option but to join the UNP. Since the UNP does not have strong candidates in the east, the SLMC will have a significant bargaining power. The UNP list for the Northern Province will be created by Bathiudeen and contesting with the UNP is beneficial for him because the UNP can attract some Tamil votes in the North, a feat beyond Bathiudeen.

Plight of Sinhala & Tamil candidates

Bathiudeen will also have a significant say in selecting UNP's Sinhala and Tamil candidates in the North as well and anyone who wants nominations from the UNP must become a supporter of Bathiudeen. Or they must join the TNA, which is what has already happened in Thunukkai and Manthei. Bathiudeen is also responsible for selecting candidates for the seat for the Sinhalese in Vavuniya and thus the Sinhalese candidates who were to contest from the UNP are now planning to contest independently.

Kalmunai MC is the bastion of Muslim politics and it comprises of Kalmunai Tamil, Kalmunai Muslim, Karativu and Saindamaradu.

As Saindamaradu Pradeshiya Sabha has not been established, Chairman of the Jumma Mosque Y.M. Hanifa is to lead an independent group. Votes in Kalmunai are divided between SLMC, Ali - Bathiudeen alliance, SLFP and SLPP and will become further complicated by the Saindamaradu factor. This will also ensure that the number of votes SLMC gets will go below 50% for the first time.

Ampara has always had powerful Muslim politicians who held positions in the Chandrika - Mahinda administrations and they have artificially created local government bodies in the East. This has lead to anomalies. For example, one can walk from Karativu Divisional Secretariat office to Saindamaradu Divisional Secretariat office. And if a separate local council is established for Saindamaradu, the Tamils who live there will not be represented.There is also an idea that Muslims should only vote for a person named by the mosque in Maliyakkadu, which belongs to Karativu.

Unlike Muslim politics in Colombo and Kandy, Muslim politics in the East is not conscious and candidates who can either spend money or toe the racial line have a clear advantage. This dynamic will reach a new level this time.

The Hasen Ali - Rishad Bathiudeen alliance will clearly change the political dynamic in Ampara. However it is not still clear how it will affect Muslim politics at National level.

The writer, Keerthi Tennakoon is the Executive Director of Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE).

 

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Worm tape disease stunting the growth of estate children

The University of Peradeniya has discovered that a tapeworm disease is fast spreading among the children living in tea estates.

 According to Director of the Department of Parasitology at the Peradeniya University Medical Faculty, Dr Susiji Wickramasinghe. Around 30 percent of children under the age of 12 are said to be suffering from this disease.

Up Country 2 Dr Wickramasinghe says the children are suffering from the disease identified as Ascaris Lumbricoides and preventive measures should be taken immediately to halt its spread further.

 According to research done, it has been discovered that while only one percent of children in urban areas were found with the disease, 30 percent of estate children in Kandy and surrounding areas are suffering from the disease.

 According to Dr Wickramasinghe, the disease is fast spreading in these areas due to lack of sanitary facilities which has resulted in several families using the same toilet facilities, defecating in the outdoors and bacteria finding its way into food being consumed.

 He also pointed out that the disease stunts the growth of children while correct medication can prevent this disease.

 With sanitation being at the heart of the issue, Dr. Wickramasinghe says sanitary facilities in the estates should be improved. He also stressed that the Ministry of Health should continuously work to provide necessary medical treatment for those affected.

(Radio Gagana - Nadeeka Daya Bandara)

 

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Polythene ban in full force from January 1

The law banning the use and production of polythene less than 20 microns will be strictly implemented from January 1, 2018.

Central Environment Authority Chairman Prof. Lal Mervin Dharmasiri said offenders will be subject to a fine of not more than Rs 10,000 and or a jail sentence of not more than two years.

Addressing the media at the Central Environment Authority (CEA) yesterday, the Chairman said that the ban on polythene was officially announced on September 1.

But considering the repeated requests made by the Polythene Manufacturer’s Association, the time period was extended upto January 1, 2018.

The association had requested a grace period claiming that the time frame which had been provided to them to adapt to the new law is insufficient to replace their existing products and to clear the stock of banned products already manufactured by them.

Prof. Dharmasiri said the CEA has already taken action to inspect polythene manufacturing companies with the assistance of the Police, Sri Lanka Standards Institution and the Consumer Affairs Authority. The CEA has already conducted raids to apprehend those who engage in illegal polythene manufacturing.

Raids to nab wholesale shop owners still using polythene bags and other banned products will be conducted from January 1 and retail shops will also be monitored later, he added.

The CEA has also taken measures to implement a ban on the import of recycled plastic raw materials from July 31, to encourage local plastic recyclers.

The President has also instructed the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) to ban the use of polythene during the upcoming election campaign and strictly enforce the law against people who violate the polythene ban.

Gazette Notification No 2034/37, has prohibited the use of all forms of polyethene, polypropylene and polyethene products or polypropylene products as decorations in political, social religious, national, cultural or any other event or occasion.

Source : Daily News

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Rural economy Minister Harrison underspends: Audit reveals

The audit report of the Ministry of Rural Economic Affairs has revealed that the Ministry has not utilized around Rs. 2000 Million allocated to it. The funds have been allocated for the construction of five cold storage units sources said.

However, the audit revealed that the construction of these storages had not even commenced by June 2017. Originally they were supposed to be built and completed within the year of 2016.

The original concept of the storage facilities was that it would help the stabilization of rural market prices while it would also reduce post-harvest damage. The project was to be completed as a state and private partnership.

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Rosy named the UNP Mayoral Candidate for Colombo

The United National Party has decided to name Former Minister Rosy Senanayake as the Mayoral Candidate for Colombo.

 However despite the mayoral candidacy for Colombo has been named the party is said to have decided to leave the positions of Mayors, Deputy Mayor and Chairman of Municipal Councils, Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas open.

 The United National Front led by the United National Party is to handover their nominations for the local government polls today (20) and tomorrow (21).

 

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GoSL reiterates rejection of US announcement over Jerusalem

The Government of Sri Lanka on Sunday reiterated its rejection of US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

This came during a meeting between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap at the former's office in Colombo.

Wickremesinghe said the decision of the US recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would threaten the peace process in the Middle East.

He reiterated his country's firm position on the Palestinian issue, especially with regard to the city of Jerusalem, pointing out that Sri Lanka is following on with this matter.

Earlier on Sunday, Sri Lankan government spokesman and minister of health Rajitha Senaratne announced at a press conference his country's rejection of the US administration's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

He stressed that Sri Lanka's position is clear on the Palestinian issue; “To keep Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel. The Sri Lankan embassy will never transfer its embassy to Jerusalem,” he said.

Senaratne added that the US had been informed of his country's position. “The US had become isolated because of the unilateral declaration by President Donald Trump on Jerusalem, which all European countries have also rejected.”

He said that a sit-in will be held on Friday in the capital Colombo in support of Jerusalem and to show solidarity with the Palestinian people as well as protest against the US move.

Senaratne stressed that the final status of Jerusalem is to be determined by final status negotiations, in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations.

PIC: Onlanka

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