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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa visited the Dalada Maligawa, temple of the sacred tooth relic and received blessings today (July 13).

The President was welcomed by the Chief Custodian, Diyawadana Nilame, Nilanga Dela upon his arrival at the Dalada Maligawa premises.

President Rajapaksa called on Most Ven. Thibbatuwawe Sri Sumangala Thera, Mahanayake of the Malwatta Chapter and inquired into the well-being of the Thera.

The President also met the Anunayake of the Malwatta Chapter, Most Ven. Niyangoda Vijithasiri Thera and Most Ven. Dimbulkumbure Vimaladhamma Nayaka Thera and engaged in pleasantries.

The Mahasangha chanted pirith to bless the President during the visit.

In addition, the President visited and received blessings from the Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter, Most Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thero.

Ven. Anamaduwe Dhammadassi Anunayake Thero and the Registrar of the Asgiriya Chapter, Ven Medagama Dhammananda were also present at the occasion as well.

 
 

Mr. President,

In an era where humanity is threatened with inter-state conflicts, intra-state frictions, asymmetrical threats posed by non-state actors, natural disasters, health related issues and a variety of other challenges, Sri Lanka appreciates Germany’s efforts to initiate discussion on the timely subject of  “Peace Operations and Human Rights”. My delegation wishes Germany every success as President of the Security Council for the month of July and is confident that it will be a productive tenure.

Sri Lanka takes this opportunity to honor the thousands of men and women who for decades helped countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace by providing security and peacebuilding support under the Blue Helmet. Sri Lanka is proud to have a long association with United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, having served as a member of the 1956 Advisory Committee that led to the establishment of the first “classical” peacekeeping mission – UNEF 1, deployed  during the Suez crisis and later deployed  UN Peacekeepers to the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) in 1960.

With consistent effort, a wealth of experience and expertise gathered across diverse scenarios, the United Nations Peace Operations (UNPO) have become a vital- credible, dependable and versatile global instrument to ensure  human security in conflict situations. The significance of the current Peace Operations are such that, considering the magnitudes of violence and their frequency of manifestation, it would be hard to visualize the destiny of human lives in some of the conflict zones in the absence of assistance by the United Nations.

Human Rights remain an important element for UNPO. Several PKOs such as MONUSCO, MINUSCA, MINUSMA, UNAMID, UNMISS have integrated human rights components, as well as Special Political Missions such as UNAMI, UNSMIL, UNSOM, UNAMA and BINUH, to identify a few. This is crucial across a wide spectrum of missions and strengthens the Missions’ credibility.

Sri Lanka remains fully committed to UN Peacekeeping and upholding human rights, and in this context has taken a number of measures to ensure that all Sri Lankan Peacekeepers are suitably trained and fully equipped with theoretical knowledge and practical application of all necessary functions of peacekeeping, including the promotion and protection of  human rights.  Towards this end, a comprehensive package of education and training on relevant subjects are included in the pre-deployment training courses and continuity is maintained during the deployment by way of in-mission training, conducted in consultation with UN authorities. In addition, human rights has been included as part of the training of security forces and police in Sri Lanka. At the premier degree awarding tertiary institution established for military personnel, the Kotalawala Defence University, where many military cadets pursue degree programmes, human rights is taught as an important component of the academic programme. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and the ICRC also conduct a number of training programmes for the Military and the Police on human rights and international humanitarian law.

Mr. President,

It is observed that Peace Operations are becoming progressively complex in nature, with diverse socio-political challenges with increased impact on civilians as a result of direct and indirect actions of parties to conflicts. Sri Lanka has endorsed the Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians.

Violations of human rights in most conflict affected communities, disproportionately affect  women and children. In situations of heightened violence and insecurity, as one of the most vulnerable segments of the population, they may experience such violations from within the family itself, in addition to existing discrimination in society. As such, it is vital to be sensitive to issues of gender in looking at human rights.

In a number of missions, women protection advisers are responsible for monitoring, analyzing and reporting on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). Whilst assuring Sri Lanka’s continuous commitment to enhance the participation of women in Peacekeeping operations, it is emphasized that focusing on education and capacity building of women should be considered a priority task to achieve meaningful gender parity as a long-term solution to this issue.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the human rights situation, particularly in territories affected by conflict. Travel related restrictions and limitations enforced on human interactions have generated negative effects across the spectrum, ranging from difficulties in delivering humanitarian assistance to the provision of protection for vulnerable communities. Diversion of resources from funds allocated for UN field missions for humanitarian assistance to the pandemic mitigation effort would weaken capacities of peacekeeping missions in protecting civilians.

It is pertinent to mention that credibility of institutions that promote the adherence to and protection of  human rights can be significantly undermined when they are  unduly politicized. There have been instances where unproven allegations of human rights violations were used as instruments to unduly pressurize and manipulate contributions to peacekeeping by governments for undue political gains. Sri Lanka firmly believes that, the United Nations as the largest global body that is committed to ensure the rights of every human being, should always remain impartial whilst fully respecting the principle of sovereign equality in its all interactions with member states.

Mr. President,

The ever-changing dynamics of present armed conflicts and their rapid evolution makes the protection of human rights of vulnerable communities as a recurring task which is becoming increasingly challenging. In this context, the UN peacekeeping operations should remain a collective endeavor in ensuring the protection of vulnerable communities, and it is essential that there is engagement and interaction with various stakeholders, including civil society and the wider population.  This is also vital to build trust with local communities, where UN Peacekeeping Missions operate. Protecting civilians and upholding human rights are vital for the success of a UNPKO and shapes how a population will remember the Peacekeepers and reflects the manner in which the United Nations will be evaluated.

Having engaged in a humanitarian struggle with a terrorist organization that used human shields, suicide bombers and child soldiers, Sri Lanka’s armed forces and Police have been sharing expertise in handling difficult and complex terrains of the humanitarian engagement field in difficult areas of the world. Whilst acknowledging and commending the effort by the UN Secretariat and the Department of Peace Operations on their dedicated effort in promoting the human rights of communities undergoing hardships in conflict affected territories, Sri Lanka reiterates its full commitment to this noble cause, to protect and promote human rights and the protection of civilians.

The Cabinet of Ministers has taken another two weeks to submit their opinions on the expert committee report on the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement, Co-cabinet Spokesman Higher Education, Technology and Innovation and Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena said.

“Since it is a comprehensive report, the Ministers wanted more time to go through it and submit a report,” the Minister said.

He further said that nobody should worry about this matter since the government under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will never sign any agreement harmful to the country.

The Minister made this observation responding to a question by a journalist at the Cabinet media briefing held yesterday at the Government Information Department.

 
 

The final report of the committee headed by Prof. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan appointed to review the Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement presented its final report to Cabinet last week and all the Cabinet Ministers had been instructed to submit their opinion on the recommendations in the Report at the next Cabinet meeting.

Following corporate, individual donations and direct deposits, ‘ITUKAMA’ COVID-19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund balance has now surpassed Rs. 1450 million.

Members of the Wennappuwa Pradeshiya Sabha including its Chairman have donated Rs. 166,000 to the Fund. In addition, Ms. H. Priyanthi R. Peiris donated a sum of Rs. 5,000, Managing Director of the ‘A’ Group Construction & Consults Company, Engineer P.Thyaparan Rs. 200,000,   the President of the Vegetables, Fruit and Grain Wholesalers Owneres’ Welfare Association, Sunil Senevirathne Rs. 200,000, H.K.Sirisena Rs.50, 000, Ms. P.B. Sumanawathie Rs.6, 500, W. Manoj Lalith Fernando Rs.64, 000 and M.A. Peter Wilfred Rs.5,000 donated to the Fund. Cheques relating to these donations were handed over to the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during his visits to the Anuradhapura and Puttalam districts.

Girl child, D.M. Udula Vishwani has donated Rs.5,000, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka Rs. 263,628.56, Weettasinghe Pharmaceutical Distributors (Pvt) Ltd Rs. 50,000, Udunuwara Divisional Secretariat Development Officers’ Welfare Society Rs. 189,625.34 and the Director General at the National Secretariat for Non-governmental Organizations, Raja Goonaratne has donated Rs. 88,000 to the Fund.

The Fund’s balance has now reached Rs. 1,450,326,673.05.

Local, as well as foreign donors, have made their contributions to the Fund. Deposits can be made through cheques, telegraphic transfers, via www.itukama.lk or by dialling #207#.

For further information contact through 0760700700/ 0112320880/ 0112354340 or 0112424012.

The movie “The News Paper” received a Commendation award at the IndieFEST Film festival, California, USA.

The certificate of the award was presented to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat today(July 08).

A number of countries including the USA, Italy, India, Australia, Lebanon, Syria, Switzerland and the UK had presented their work to the film festival.

 The IndieFEST Film festival admired “The News Paper” for its outstanding depiction of liberation, social justice and concepts of antagonism in a motion picture. It is a co-direction of Sarath Kothalawala and Kumara Thirimadura while it was co-produced by Minister Bandula Gunawardana, Ravindra Guruge and H.D. Premasiri.

 
 

The commemoration ceremony of founder Theros of Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Nikaya was held under the patronage of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the BMICH, today (08).

The Amarapura Maha Nikaya was established in 1802 following countless efforts by the Most Ven. Welitara Mahakarawe Gnanawimala Tissa Thero.

The Maha Nayaka Theros such as  Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thero, Most Venerable Aggamahapandita Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero and Most Ven. Davuldena Sri Gnanissara Thero had given leadership to the Amarapura Maha Nikaya and Amarapura Nikaya produced widly respected prelates such as Most Ven.  Polwaththe  Buddhadatta Thero, and Most Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda, who nurtured the Sambuddha Sasanaya.

The Amarapura Day was celebrated felicitating all the founder Theros who rendered a noble service for the Sambuddha Sasanaya during the past 217 years.

Most Ven. Agga Maha Panditha Kotugoda Dhammawasa Nayaka Thero of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya presided over.

President Rajapaksa paid floral tribute for founder Theros.

The first copy of the Most Ven. Agga Maha Panditha Kotugoda Dhammawasa Nayaka Thero’s biography was presented to the Thero by President Rajapaksa.

“Amarapura Viharasthana Namawaliya”(Directory) containing details of all the Viharas come under Amarapura Nikaya was also launched.

A memento was presented to the President by Most Ven. Agga Maha Panditha Kotugoda Dhammawasa Nayaka Thero and Registrar, Prof. Ven. Pallekande Rathnasara Thero to commemorate the “Amarapura Day”.

Mahanayakas, Anu Nayakas and Nayaka Theros of the Trisects including Maha Sangha and laymen were present on this occasion.

M.A.H.P. Marasinghe, an 84-year old retired female teacher had handed Rs. 200,000 to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was in Puttalam today as a contribution to COVID Fund.

This donation was handed over to President during a public rally in Thaniwella in Madampe organized in support of candidates of Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna (SLPP) contesting the upcoming Parliamentary election.

“Dear President, set up a government that protects law, justice and virtue and build a prosperous country” she had written on the paper used to wrap Rs. 5,000 notes amounting to the value of the donation.

 
 

The United Nations in New York belatedly commemorated the International Day of Vesak virtually on 2nd July 2020. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prevented Member States  from gathering at the UN General Assembly Hall to celebrate this occasion, as in previous years. Rescheduling to July was also not without significance, as it was on the full moon  day of this month that the Buddha preached his first Dhamma sermon.

The event, organized by the Permanent Missions of Sri Lanka and Thailand, featured a keynote message from Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Foreign Relations of Sri  Lanka. Highlighting the value of Buddhism during this time of unprecedented global insecurity created by the pandemic, the Minister stated that the Buddha’s teachings could be a  guide through this haze of uncertainty, towards light. He upheld that the practice of the four virtues of loving kindness, compassion,sympathetic joy and equanimity could ease the  sufferings of mankind and generate trust and understanding. Minister Gunawardena outlined that the Dhamma is not only a religion but also a philosophy on the way of life,  symbolized by a Path of Knowledge with its’ goal being the destruction of ignorance, characterized, among others, by the futility of the egoistic notion.

The Minister emphasizing that even after 2600 years that the Teachings are still sought for its intrinsic wisdom and values, continue to provide solace, comfort and tranquility to  ensure peace of mind to humankind in this troubled modern world. He also paid tribute to Late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar for his leading role in obtaining recognition  for the Day of Vesak at the United Nations in 1999.

Ambassador Kshenuka Senewiratne, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in her opening remarks,referred to the teachings of the Buddha, being reflected in  the objectives of the UN Charter, including the practicing of tolerance and living as good neighbours, maintenance of global peace and security and achieving economic and social  development. Emphasizing the need to arrest the erosion of multilateralism, she pointed out the relevance of the Buddhist doctrine grounded on the principle of equality for all,  regardless of status or circumstances, which resonates in the UN tenets of sovereign equality and inclusivity of all nations. Stressing that the consequences of the pandemic have  further exacerbated the ceaseless suffering of mankind, she urged that countries must unite to build in a spirit of cooperation, compassion and equality, a peaceful and prosperous  world.

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres observed that the Buddha’s message of solidarity and service to others is more important than ever, as it reminds of  the need for unity to combat the pandemic. He highlighted that international co-operation, especially through the combining of energies and expertise, could ease the economic and  social consequence of the current crisis and build a healthier, more inclusive, sustainable, resilient and equitable world. He concluded that the sense of a shared fate and collective  compassion, both encapsulate the spirit of the Buddha and the animating force of the UN Charter, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

Elaborating on the severity of the current global pandemic, the President of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammed Bande, remarked that the world was facing a global health  crisis unlike any other, experienced during the 75 years of the United Nations, adding that it is during these times of great anxiety that faith can be a significant source of comfort  and community resilience. He observed that this commemorative event served to remind people of the importance of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding that are enshrined  in the teachings of the Buddha, which are the same values that the UN has been promoting and advancing throughout the world,that will enthrone peaceful co-existence in diversity.

The occasion also featured blessings in the Theravada tradition by venerable monks of the New York Buddhist Vihara, who chanted excerpts of the “Ratana Sutta” together with  blessings, to alleviate the suffering and fears of people during this time of a global pandemic. Blessings in the Mahayana tradition were also conducted by venerable monks from  China, Japan and Korea of the Buddhist Council of New York and the American Buddhist Confederation. In his sermon, Ven. Dr. Bellanwila Dhammaratana Nayake Thero, Chief  Incumbent of the Bellanwila Raja Maha Vihara and Advisor to the Buddhist Library in Singapore highlighted the concept of equality and inclusion in the teachings of the Buddha, 

which promoted equal opportunities for men and women, Brahmins and outcasts, the rich and the poor alike, to pursue the path of enlightenment. Ven. Dr. Phra Anil Sakya,  Deputy Rector, Mahamakut Buddhist University of Thailand, in his sermon highlighted that the Buddha’s teachings encapsulated the importance of Sustainable Development, as  advocated in the “Dhammachakkappavattana Sutta”.

Several Member States also spoke on the significance of Vesak, including the Permanent Representatives India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Lao  PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. In addition, Deputy Permanent Representatives and senior officials of the Philippines, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and  Singapore also spoke during the commemorative event. Many of these countries elaborated on the historic Buddhist ties in their countries and contribution that Buddhism makes  to global peace and solidarity and its relevance to coping with the challenges of modern life.

Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

2nd July 2020

The Central Bank, in consultation with the Government of Sri Lanka, has introduced the Saubagya Covid-19 Renaissance Loan Scheme to provide working capital loans at 4% interest rates to businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, through Licensed Banks, thereby supporting the revival of economic activity in the country. This Loan Scheme is available for COVID-19 affected businesses with an annual turnover below Rs. 1 billion, including self-employment and individuals. The Rs. 1 billion limit of annual turnover will not be applicable to businesses engaged in tourism, exports and related logistical supplies.

The Loan Scheme, which has been implemented in three phases, is expected to disburse a total of Rs 150 billion in working capital loans at the rate of 4% per annum. The total of working capital loan facilities provided by the Central Bank to be distributed among 20,240 businesses under the Loan Scheme as of 02 July 2020 exceeds Rs. 53 billion. These loans carry a concessional interest rate of 4% per annum with a repayment period of 24-months including a grace period of 6-months.

Under Phase-I of the Loan Scheme implemented with effect from 01 April 2020, the Central Bank granted approval for 13,926 loans amounting to Rs. 28 billion. Out of approved loans, Licensed Banks have already disbursed more than Rs. 21 billion among 10,270 affected businesses and individuals island wide as of 02 July 2020. Under Phase-II of the Loan Scheme implemented with effect from 19 June 2020, the Central Bank approved 6,314 loans amounting to Rs. 25 billion distributed among 6,314 businesses and individuals (See Table 1 for details). Out of Rs. 53 billion approved under both Phases I and II of the Scheme, 45% has been provided to businesses in the services sector led by trade services, while distributing 38% and 17% among businesses in the industry sector and the agriculture sector, respectively  

The Central Bank announced Phase-III of this Loan Scheme with a credit guarantee and interest subsidy with effect from 01 July 2020 with a view to accelerating lending at 4% per annum using the already available excess liquidity with Licensed Banks and to ensure adequate flow of funds for businesses which lack collateral to back their creditworthiness. Accordingly, the Central Bank will share a major portion of credit risk of end borrowers, while providing an interest subsidy of 5% per annum to banks to cover their cost of funds. The credit guarantee provided by the Central Bank ranges from 80% for the smaller loans to 50% for relatively larger loans. Submission of loan applications under the Loan Scheme can be made to respective banks until 31 August 2020

 Central Bank - https://www.cbsl.gov.lk/en/node/8159

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa engaged in religious observances in Veherabanda Kutiya and Thanthirimale Rajamaha Viharas today(July 04).

According to the Sinhala Shila Lekana Sangrahaya(Stone Inscriptions Volume), the King Bathiya the 1st has constructed the  Veherabanda Kutiya Rajamaha Vihara between 5th and 6th AD.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa visited the Veherabanda Kutiya Rajamaha Vihara in the morning. The President met with the chief incumbent of the vihara, Ven. Welisara Siri Jinawansa Thissa thero and received blessings.

The President also exchanged pleasantries with devotees who were present to observe sil on Esela poya.

President Rajapaksa also made medicinal pujas to Ashta Pala Bodhi during his visit.

Later he visited Thanthirimale Rajamaha Vihara and the chief incumbent Ven. Thanthirimale Chandrarathana thero blessed the President for his assumption to the office of the President and commended him for his successful strategies and governance in containing COVID 19 pandemic.

The stone reclining statue of the Lord Buddha at Thanthirimale vihara which resembles the statue at Polonnaruwa Gal Vihara was observed by the President.

President Rajapaksa opened the display of sacred relics at the vihara for public view and the president himself paid his obeisance.

The President also conversed with a number of devotees from all over the country at the vihara premises.

Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo engaged in discussions on matters of bilateral interest in a telephone conversation on 29 June evening.

US-Sri Lanka cooperation in COVID response-supply of PPEs to the US, donation of ventilators to Sri Lanka and COVID related bilateral assistance amounting to US$ 5.8 million- economic recovery initiatives, defence and security matters, counter terrorism and international economic cooperation featured in the discussions.

Minister Gunawardena briefed his US counterpart on the Review Report of the MCC, the forthcoming Parliamentary elections and thanked the US for the support extended to the reconciliation and resettlement processes in Sri Lanka.

He conveyed Sri Lanka’s felicitations for the forthcoming US Independence Day on 4th of July.

In order to develop villages the banking service in the country should understand the rural economy and the needs of the people, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa emphasized.

It is a timely necessity to develop export agricultural businesses instead of waiting for foreign countries to come into fray. Mere establishment of industries alone cannot be defined as development pointed out the President adding that rural entrepreneurship centered around agriculture should be promoted.

President made these observations during a discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat July (02) to review the current progress and the future activities of the Rural Development Bank (RDB).

The Government expects to achieve economic growth by developing the agriculture while properly assessing needs. President said it is vital to look at the context from the angle of the grassroots level.

In providing loans commercial banks give priority to the trading sector than to the production sector. It is the responsibility of the RDB to encourage farmers to increase their production.

The need of promoting the cultivation of Undu, maize, green grams and other varieties of grain without resorting to import them was also stressed. President said it is his wish to see that the rural banks reach the rural community and encourage farmers by setting different targets.

The loan defaulters who had taken large sums of money on a long-term repayment basis should severely be dealt with according to the law President said. He also said a mechanism should be formulated to collect debts owed to the State banks.

Secretary to the President, P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to Ministry of Finance, S. R. Attygalle, Governor of the Central Bank, Prof. W. D. Lakshman, Chairman of the RDB, Mahinda Saliya, General Manager / CEO , T. Kuhan and members of the Board of Directors participated in this meeting.

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