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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has decided to implement a national programme to provide essential food items at concessionary prices and a number of other benefits to individuals in low income groups.A special Electronic Card (e-Card) is to be given to all chosen recipients to purchase food items under the programme, a communiqué issued by the President’s media division said.

The beneficiaries will be chosen from Samurdhi recipients, non-Samurdhi recipients, individuals who do not have permanent jobs, needy workers in the plantation sector, disabled persons from families without jobs, families of widows without a proper income, elders without a permanent income and those suffering from serious illnesses.

Ensuring food safety and quality of life for such vulnerable groups is the objective of the programme.Under this programme, recipients will get essential food items such as sugar, tea, rice, flour, dhal, chickpeas, onions, chilies, dried fish, potatoes and milk powder at concessionary prices.

These food items will be issued through Lanka Sathosa outlets, Cooperative shops, and chosen retail food outlets across the country.Under the programme if the chosen retail food outlets, especially in the rural areas, do not have proper equipment such as refrigerators, they too would be provided at concessionary rates. Suitable shops to implement the programme are to be chosen from highly populated areas, settlements with a large concentration of low income families, rural areas, and plantation areas. Retail outlets managed by women entrepreneurs would be given priority.

The President through the programme also hopes to uplift the small scale entrepreneurs and producers of various food items. Food items produced by such entrepreneurs will be directly purchased from them by authorities without the involvement of any third party or middlemen. Priority at all times will be given to locally produced goods.

To coincide with the programme plans are afoot to supply clean drinking water to 150,000 identified households in rural, urban and plantation areas and develop 100,000 kilometers of rural roads.The recipients will also be provided with 100,000 land plots on a 30 year lease for agriculture and housing purposes through programmes implemented by Lands Ministry, the Land Reform Commission and the Bim Saviya programme.

Measures will be taken to further strengthen long-standing bilateral relations between Japan and Sri Lanka, Japanese State Minister for Regional Revitalization Kozo Yamamoto said.

Minister Yamamoto made these remarks when he paid a courtesy call on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat today (13).

Sri Lanka is secured and stable under the current government. The economy is also progressing. In this context, a conducive investment environment had been created in Sri Lanka for the Japanese investors, the State Minister added.

As a country that has mastered on industries such as security and development of high quality infrastructure among many other fields Japan has a lot to offer to Sri Lanka, he further said.

President Rajapaksa explained that the growth rate of Sri Lanka which was around seven percent in 2014 had since declined and the greatest challenge before him is to recover the growth rate.

President also requested the Minister Yamamoto to invest in high tech assembly plants in Sri Lanka.

Minister Yamamoto responded positively and promised to promote Sri Lanka with the Japanese business community.

– USD 10 billion target by 2025

– Will not hesitate to take necessary decisions

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa instructed officials to plan a target-based strategy to promote the tourism industry in Sri Lanka.

Increasing income from tourism to USD 10 billion by 2025, the industry can play the leading role in economic growth, President said during a meeting with officials of the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation held at the Presidential Secretariat today (13).

“We require a skilled team with expertise and dedication. Every step should generate immediate results. On my part I do not hesitate to take decisions for the benefit of the country. I expect the officials would commit themselves to pass benefits of such decisions onto the public. If there is a target -based plan, every challenge can be overcome”, said the President.

Issues identified related to the tourism sector and measures to promote the industry were broadly discussed.

President emphasized the necessity of upgrading the quality of facilities provided to tourists visiting the country and amenities at airports should be streamlined. Importance of developing places of tourist attraction and building an effective promotional mechanism was also highlighted by the President.

The indigenous Ayurvedic system has already become highly popular among foreigners. Priority should be given to promote unique activities such as surfing and promoting Ceylon tea.

Shopping malls should be equipped with requirements sought after by tourists. The need of a systematic mechanism to attract tourists was also stressed. The President instructed the Tourist Board to implement programmes with the participation of Sri Lankan envoys overseas to build the image of Sri Lanka and to promote it as a tourist destination.

The standard of the aviation sector should be enhanced. President described the importance of effective coordination and work in unison among entities which come under the purview of Tourist Board.

Establishing direct flights will increase the influx of tourists. Attention was paid to commence direct flights between Sri Lanka and European countries.

It was also discussed to provide training facilities to undergraduates in tourism field at hotel schools to produce qualified hotel managers.

During the discussion it was decided to reactivate the Tourism Police and to appoint a senior DIG in charge.

Attention was also drawn to amend rules and regulations in order to promote the sector and to remove unnecessary approvals procedures.

Ministers Prasanna Ranatunga, Arundika Fernando, Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation S. M. Mohomad, Secretary to the State Ministry of Tourism Promotion S. S. S. Fernando and several other senior officials were present at the discussion.


Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said a Sports University will be established in the future and Diyagama will be upgraded into a sports complex. He made these remarks at the South Asian Games medal winners’ felicitation ceremony held at Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre yesterday.The Prime Minister further said the government plans to concentrate more into sports economics because it plays a major role to sustain athletes and their developments.

“I’m very honoured and proud to deliver my speech in front of the winners who made our mother land proud,” said Prime Minister Rajapaksa who was the chief guest at the ceremony held by the Ministry of Sports to felicitate the South Asian Games medal winners.“When I was president of the Athletic Association of Sri Lanka Susanthika Jayasinghe won the Olympic medal and I was happy. I feel the same when I see you all here.Nilani Ratnayake who won the gold medal in the Women’s 5000 metres receiving her cash prize from Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Aruna Dharshana who won the gold medal in the 400m and 4x400m relay receiving his cash award from the Prime Minister.“We are very much behind in sports facilities compared to other countries but our athletes have won international medals. We need to uplift their standard more in the future.“When I was President (of the country) we tried to host the Commonwealth Games in Sri Lanka but were unable to. If we had got the opportunity to host the Games that time, it would have been more helpful for the athletes. We need to build the confidence levels of our athletes while developing the infrastructure,” he said.Speaking further the Prime Minister said, “Our government also plans to concentrate on athletes who come from the estate sectors and get them more involved in sports. Today President Gotabaya Rajapaksa submitted a cabinet paper increasing the salaries of estate workers by about Rs. 1000.”

The South Asian Games medal winners were felicitated by the Ministry of Sports and a total of 251 athletes received cash prizes with the Prime Minister presenting the medal winners with Rs. 500,000 for Gold, Rs. 300,000 for Silver and Rs. 200,000 for Bronze.The Ministry of Sports distributed cash awards to the winners to the total value of Rs. 85 million.The Sri Lankan team won 251 medals with 40 gold, 83 silver and 128 bronze and finished third in the medals standings behind India and host Nepal.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday told visiting American diplomat Alice Wells that when it came to future actions relating to the Millennium Challenge Cooperation (MCC) Agreement, the expectations of the people from both countries should be taken into consideration as both Sri Lanka and the US are countries which respect democracy. The US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells met President Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday.

President Rajapaksa told Wells that currently an expert panel is studying the proposals in the MCC agreement, a communiqué issued by the President’s Media Division said.Special attention of the expert panel has been drawn to facts such as how the agreement was enacted in other countries and related experience, the President further explained.President Rajapaksa went on to say that one of the priorities for his government was to eradicate poverty through a speedy development programme.

“The government has taken measures to introduce a simpler tax system and taken other measures to create a conducive economic environment to spur foreign direct investment,” the President said.President Rajapaksa further said that some of the sectors identified as in need of rapid development are education, agriculture, tourism and technological industries.While pointing out that currently the US was the biggest buyer of apparels produced in the country, the President said as Sri Lanka plans to develop the IT and other technology related industries in a big way he would like to invite the US to invest in such ventures.

Presidential Secretariat continues to receive complaints from the general public as well as reports from both print and electronic media that the tax benefits particularly from the reduction of VAT on the sale of goods at both retail, wholesale and import points effective from 1st December 2019 has not passed on to the consumers.

Among such goods, hardware, ceramics, cement and other building materials, cosmetics and day-today household items, garments, school books and several other goods are being mentioned. Further, several retail traders have informed that wholesale distributors have not given such benefits to retail businesses and it is few wholesale distributors and manufacturers control the market disrespecting fair trade and competitive practices. Domestic manufacturers are also requested to pass tax benefits to the people in doing their business in a competitive manner.

His Excellency the President has instructed the Consumers Affairs Authority and Inland Revenue Department to closely monitor this situation and also urged the business community, importers, manufacturers, wholesale and retail distributors to ensure full benefit of tax reduction is passed onto the consumers and general public. Such business community is also urged to create public awareness through media briefings and other form of information releases to ensure competitive practices are respected to the benefit of all. Business community is reminded that the Government is compelled to take all policy measures to ensure anti-competitive market practices are not tolerated. Relevant authorities, particularly the Inland Revenue Department have been instructed to check all large wholesale importers, manufacturers and distributors in this regard as small retail trade depends on large distributors.


The Madya Aruna loan scheme to assist journalists with purchasing equipment and scholarship schemes will be revised and re-implemented from March this year, State Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said adding that it has come to light that there had been many discrepancies in the manner the loan had been granted.

“For the whole of last year, only a hundred journalists had received letters signifying the Ministry’s approval to obtain loans, however I am aware that there are many more journalists who wish to apply and who should be granted this facility,” he said.

“We are presently looking at the discrepancies and will implemented a revised version of the loan scheme from March this year.

Information and Communication Technology and Higher Education, Technology and Innovation Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena said a decision was taken to conduct a practical test in addition to the Z-Score marks only for the entry to the Visual and Performing Arts University on a temporary basis.

The Minister arrived at this decision following a discussion with Inter University Student Federation (IUSF) representatives and the Students Union of the Visual and Performing Arts University at the Higher Education Ministry.

A protest organized by the IUSF and the Student’s Union of the Visual and Peforming Arts University was held opposite the Ministry and the Minister had given an opportunity to have a discussion on their issues with him. “I saw a heavy police contingent opposite the Ministry as I arrived at the Ministry. University authorities informed me of a protest too. I informed the Ministry Secretary to allow the students to meet me,” he said.

The Minister said he had a very cordial investigation with the students and arrived at a decision to have a pratical test only for the entry of the Visual and Peforming Arts University.

“We should look into how A/L questions papers are prepared by the National Institute of Education without consulting the professors of the Visual and Peforming Arts”, he said

The Minister said necessary changes will be made after having discussion with the National Institute of Education , Department of Examinations, Education Ministry Secretary

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday called Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to extend his sympathies to Australia over the devastation caused due to bushfires, a communiqué issued by the President’s Media Division said. President Rajapaksa had extended his condolences to families of the bushfire victims.The President had said, as a country which had suffered from many natural disasters including the 2004 tsunami, the Sri Lankan people could fully understand the pain and suffering the affected Australian people are going through.

President had Rajapaksa went on to say that Sri Lanka would donate a stock of Sri Lankan tea to the Australian people. The current bushfires in Australia are considered the most devastating in its history.Bushfires have been a part of the Australian landscape during this time of the year, but this time they have a wrought a significant amount of damage. Already around 30 people have died, including relief workers.It is said that around five million animals too have died but experts think that the numbers could be much higher.

The State Minister to the Ministry of Information and Communication said that it has been planned to provide benefits to a wider circle of journalists by introducing a loan scheme for them to purchase the equipment and the annual “Asidisi Media Scholarship Programme-2020” has already been launched aiming at improving the professionalism of the journalists. The state minister revealed this at a press briefing held at the ministerial auditorium today (7).

The state minister disclosed that an amount of Rs.200,000 is to be offered for a journalist between 18-55 in order to obtain the degree if he/she has completed three years of service as a journalist and has got registered at the Department of Government Information. He further said that an amount of Rs.100,000 is to be offered for short term courses and the applications must be sent to the Ministry of Information and Communication before 7th of February.

The state minister hereby emphasized that he has taken discussions with the Ministry of Finance to provide this loan scheme for purchasing equipment, at the end of March upgrading it in a manner enabling more journalists to reap benefits of this loan scheme. 

The state minister further added that several modal post offices have intended to be established to revive the efficiency of the Postal Department and as the first stage of this project, the Central Mail Exchange, Colombo, Matara-Makandura post office, and post offices in Slave Island, Homagama and Kurunegala have planned to be upgraded. Moreover he stated that 500 more sub post offices would be established in the form of teleshops in collaboration with Sri Lanka Telecom in order to provide all the online facilities of the people under one roof.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa Monday instructed the relevant officials to grant approval for construction plans of houses & small business within one day if the plans are properly prepared. The President pointed out that the people are greatly inconvenienced due to the strict rules and the lengthy time in approving the construction plans.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government to simplify the existing regulations and minimize the problems faced by the people, the President said at a special discussion held this afternoon (06) with the officials of the Ministry of Urban Development and Water Supply and Drainage.

The President advised to direct attention to give powers to the Local Authorities for planning approval and other agencies to make appropriate provisions expeditiously.The President also advised to take steps to appoint an officer with legal knowledge to approve plans which are not currently approved. It was made compulsory to issue the Certificate of Conformity in a day.

On a different note, the President said that tourists can be attracted by systematically and beautifully developing all the small towns around the country. Taking cities such as Talawakelle, Ella and Ginigathhena as examples, the President discussed how they could be modernized.

The President also instructed to expedite the Weressa Ganga Storm Water Drainage and Environment Improvement Project.Paying special attention to waste management, the President instructed the relevant authorities to make plans to convert the waste into organic fertilizer and to use the technology to the maximum.

The President pointed out that sand prices could be brought down by removing the accumulated sand deposits with the assistance of the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau. It will also address the flood threats faced by many areas.It has also been decided to promptly commence the project to clean up the Beira Lake. The President advised the relevant officials to take immediate action to close down the sites identified as adding waste to the Beira Lake.Ministers Gamini Lokuge, Indika Anuruddha and other officials were also present at the discussion.

The Sri Lankan government while expressing deep concerns of the growing tensions in the Middle East region in the aftermath of the assassination of a senior Iranian leader, yesterday urged all parties to excise utmost restraint and maintain peace and security in the region through constructive dialogue.

The statement issued by the Foreign Relations Ministry outlined that a constructive dialogue will help de escalate the threat to the stability of the region. The statement: “Sri Lanka is deeply concerned about the growing tensions in the Middle East following the assassination of a senior Iranian leader.

“Sri Lanka urges all parties to act with utmost restraint and maintain peace and security through constructive dialogue in order to de-escalate the threat to the stability of the region”.

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