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President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasised the importance of capital, particularly financial and human, for driving growth. He noted that Sri Lanka’s historical capital formation efforts had been disrupted over the years, leading to current financial struggles.

He pointed out that while the country had accumulated capital up to 2019, subsequent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn had led to a decline in financial strength. He drew parallels with other nations, pointing out how capital influx had fuelled their growth and called for a focus on reorganizing and restructuring the financial system.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe addressed the 36th Annual Conference of the Organization of Professional Associations (OPA) of Sri Lanka day before yesterday (9) at the Kingsbury Hotel Colombo. He commended the nation’s collective efforts in navigating through challenging times, comparing the present to the previous year and acknowledging the reversal of gloomy circumstances. He asserted that the country now holds renewed hope and prospects for the future. The President also expressed his gratitude for the invitation and highlighted significant areas that will shape Sri Lanka’s future trajectory.

President Wickremesinghe also underscored the necessity of moving forward with confidence and determination. He highlighted the importance of constructive solutions over political distractions, cautioning against the detrimental effects of agitation without viable solutions, and mentioned the vacuum in political leadership that the nation experienced. He emphasised the need for consistent leadership to address pressing issues. However, the President praised those who stepped up to take on responsibilities and contribute to the country’s stabilization.

The President also highlighted his acceptance of leadership during the crisis and the subsequent efforts to stabilize Sri Lanka both politically and economically. He acknowledged the co-operation of various parties and individuals in these endeavours, emphasising the critical role played by those who united for the nation’s betterment.

Turning to economic challenges, the President addressed the issue of domestic debt optimisation and the potential sabotage of these efforts. He underscored the dire consequences if such endeavours were to fail, which would severely impact the nation’s banking sector and economy at large.

Addressing the issue of human capital, the President highlighted the significance of education and training. He noted the departure of skilled individuals from the country and expressed concern over the loss of professionals to other nations. He emphasised the urgent need for the establishment of vocational training centres and universities to address the skills gap and meet the demands of a competitive economy. He outlined plans to collaborate with the private sector and institutions to create a robust framework for education and training and stressed the importance of creating an environment that encourages professionals to remain in Sri Lanka.

While underscoring the importance of attracting investment, President Wickremesinghe highlighted the need for a competitive economy. He emphasised that Sri Lanka’s historical capital formation had faltered due to various reasons and underscored the importance of foreign investments and the Colombo financial zone to secure necessary funds. He stressed the role of a streamlined investment procedure and called for the development of a more appealing investment environment to compete with neighbouring countries.

President Wickremesinghe also discussed the legislative changes being proposed, including the devolution of powers to Provincial Councils and streamlined procedures for new universities. He mentioned plans for the establishment of multiple institutions to cater to the evolving demands of various fields. He emphasised the importance of human resource development, especially in universities, and urged the participation of organizations like the OPA to ensure the required human resources for future growth.

He emphasized that the key to Sri Lanka’s future success lies in the strategic management of financial and human capital in driving the country’s economic prosperity, marking them as pivotal factors for the nation’s future development to foster a thriving and competitive economy.

  • The new economic commission law ensures the timely processing of investment and trade applications.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that the realization has dawned upon us and that rapid economic growth is only achievable through digital transformation. In today’s world, the 21st-century economy cannot compete effectively with out- dated 20th-century bureaucratic systems. To stay competitive, Sri Lanka must embrace change and modernize bureaucratic processes. By doing so, the nation can significantly reduce the time taken in administrative procedures, providing much-needed support to the people.

With the support of the International Trade Centre (ITC), Sri Lanka has successfully launched a crucial aspect of the new economy. The challenges that have been faced have underscored the importance of transforming into a competitive and export-oriented economy. To achieve this, it is not only essential to restructure the economy but also to empower and facilitate the private sector, particularly in the realm of trade. Trade plays a pivotal role as the essence of economic growth. Through trade facilitation, Sri Lanka can bolster its prospects for growth and advancement. The service that has been launched today is a vital component, contributing to both the restructuring of the economy and enabling digital transformation, the President said.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks while addressing the launch of key trade facilitation initiatives in Sri Lanka yesterday (08) at the Hotel Shangri La, Colombo.

The efforts to streamline processes are just the beginning; the implementation of the new economic commission law will further expedite applications, be it for investments or trade, within specific timeframes. This transformation requires a comprehensive overhaul of regulations and perspectives, going beyond the establishment of a one-stop Centre. Embracing change across the board is crucial to Sri Lanka’s success in today’s dynamic economic landscape.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe further mentioned the importance of trade facilitation and digital transformation and said that it has become evident when considering the effectiveness of a one-stop Centre. Without these essential elements, progress stagnates, hindering our restructuring efforts. Simultaneously, Sri Lanka is actively exploring new markets and has already signed free trade agreements.

The President further mentioned that an application to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) reflects the pursuit of vast opportunities in a significant market. However, gaining access to such markets hinges on trade facilitation and digital transformation. Engagements with India to upgrade trade arrangements highlight the advantages of trade facilitation. It has proven beneficial in dealing with major players like the European Union and American markets, enhancing the nation’s trade prospects. Trade facilitation and digital transformation are vital for propelling Sri Lanka into new markets, streamlining processes, and maximizing economic opportunities on the global stage.

The President stressed that a crucial aspect of the efforts is the promotion of trade integration, closely linked to the ease of trade facilitation. Enhancing Sri Lanka’s position in the ease of doing business index is a priority in this regard. To achieve this, a well-functioning global trading system is essential, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) has played a significant role in this arena since its establishment after the fall of the Berlin Wall, contributing to the era of globalization. The WTO serves as the arbitrator on the rules of trading, ensuring a fair and regulated global trade environment. “We extend our gratitude to the International Trade Centre (ITC), which has been instrumental in supporting our efforts to promote trade integration,” the President mentioned. “Their valuable assistance has been pivotal in advancing Sri Lanka’s trade objectives and fostering economic growth. Through trade integration, facilitated by organizations like the WTO and the ITC, we are optimistic about improving Sri Lanka’s position in the global trade landscape and enhancing the ease of doing business for the benefit of our nation’s prosperity.

Indeed, there are current concerns surrounding trade, particularly with regard to talks of decoupling and de-risking. While globalization has shown its flaws, it has also contributed significantly to the rapid economic development of Asian regions, such as East Asia and Southeast Asia. We believe that South Asia can similarly benefit from this process. Therefore, it is essential that the global trade system remains uninterrupted and continues to function effectively. To ensure stability and progress, we are committed to abiding by the rules set forth by the WTO. It is crucial for all nations to adhere to these rules and not deviate from them. A sudden departure from the principles of globalization can have detrimental effects on economies and hinder the path to development. If there is a need to make changes to the rules governing global trade, it should be a collective and consultative process, involving the consent of all nations. This way, we can collectively address any shortcomings and work towards a more inclusive and sustainable global trade system. Our goal is to maintain a fair and equitable trading environment that benefits all nations and fosters continued economic growth and prosperity.

We recognize that the current situation concerning global trade can have far-reaching impacts, especially for smaller economies like Sri Lanka’s. As the saying goes, ‘When elephants fight, it’s the grass like us that gets trampled.’ We are determined to prevent any negative consequences on our region and its development. This is a crucial moment for South Asia and the Indian Ocean to flourish, and therefore, we are committed to upholding the rules set by the WTO. Any changes to these rules should be made collectively, with the consent of the majority, as outlined.”

The President appreciated the work that has been done in the plant quarantine sector and assures to continue the efforts in other areas and sectors as well.

Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, State Ministers Shehan Semasinghe, Kanaka Herath, Dilum Amunugama, Deputy Ambassador of the Embassy of Germany Mr. Olaf Malchow, Director International Trade Centre Dr. Rajesh Aggarwal and other officials attended this event.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasised that Sri Lanka has demonstrated a strong commitment to addressing climate change goals. Going forward, Sri Lankan architects will play a pivotal role in this endeavour. They will need to integrate climate change criteria into their designs, ensuring that the built environment aligns with sustainable and environmentally responsible practices. Integrating sustainable and environmentally conscious practices into our architectural designs will be instrumental in achieving our climate goals ahead of the set timeline. Also, together, we can build a resilient and environmentally friendly future for Sri Lanka, contributing to global efforts to combat climate change and protect our planet for generations to come.

The President further mentioned prominent examples of significant architectural achievements such as the grand dagobas, including Ruwanwelisaya, Abhayagiri, and Jetavanaramaya, as well as iconic structures such as Sigiriya, which stand as prime examples of exceptional architecture recognised worldwide. These architectural marvels are further exemplified by the structures found in Polonnaruwa. Notably, even during a period of decline, architectural endeavours persevered, evidenced by the expansion of the Dalada Maligawa with its octagonal design, and the construction of the Kandy Lake under the reign of the last king.

President Wickremesinghe further stressed that, throughout history, Sri Lanka has showcased its architectural prowess, evident in remarkable structures such as the Trinity College Chapel, Kelaniya Vihara, Lake House building, Peradeniya University, Independence Square, and the Art Gallery, among others. The iconic Parliament building designed by Jeffrey Bawa, has added to this rich architectural heritage.

The President emphasised that, if remarkable architectural feats were accomplished 2,000 or 1,000 years ago, there is no reason why the same level of excellence cannot be achieved in the present and in the future. The responsibility to create a lasting impact through architecture was entrusted to the Architects.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks at an international conference on Architecture, organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Sri Lanka Chapter, in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Italian Embassy of Sri Lanka, on the theme: “Architecture: A Lasting Impact,” held on Saturday (5) at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo.

The vision to transform Colombo into a beautiful city is already in motion, with plans provided by Surbana Jurong Pvt Ltd, a Singaporean government-owned international consultancy company focusing on infrastructure and urban development. Similar plans have been prepared for Trincomalee, aiming to enhance the development in that region as well. Additionally, Surbana Jurong is actively involved in creating a tourist zone from Verugal Aru to Batticaloa and Arugam Bay areas, contributing to the growth of the tourism industry.

The focus on expanding the tourist industry is expected to create opportunities for non-government universities in Sri Lanka. The recent enactment of the new Act, allowing provincial councils to establish universities, marks the beginning of this endeavour. There is a growing need for skilled professionals, including engineers, architects, IT specialists, and others, with the demand estimated to be at least 10,000 engineers alone.

To address these requirements, discussions are underway with Japan, which has shown a willingness to assist, as in the past. Despite challenges posed by the recent crisis, the commitment to progressing these plans remains strong, with the hope of securing the necessary support to meet the country’s developmental needs.

Envisioning the future, the potential for architects to participate in the development of the Port City holds significant promise. A notable portion of the Port City land is under government ownership and is slated for diverse utilization. The involvement of the private sector in this initiative offers an added avenue to harness architectural expertise. This exploration requires collaborative dialogues involving relevant chambers and stakeholders.

These emerging opportunities symbolise valuable prospects for Sri Lanka. Seizing these chances has the potential to establish a notable standing for the nation. It’s imperative to acknowledge that as India’s progress persists, architectural possibilities might also arise there. Those with established recognition could potentially tap into this market, mirroring the engagement of architects in Africa for house design.

Effectively orchestrating these prospects is critical for architects’ personal growth and the broader advancement of the discipline. By tapping into these potentials, Sri Lankan architects can substantially contribute to the country’s advancement, while carving an illustrious identity for themselves on both regional and global platforms.

The President acknowledged that his expertise lies primarily in the field of the economy and not architecture. As the discussion revolves around architecture and the lasting impression it creates, the President opted not to delve into the topic extensively. It was emphasized that ancient architects achieved the task of leaving a lasting impression through their work.

Numerous architects have contributed to this legacy with their creations. However, the present challenge lies in not only preserving this rich heritage but also elevating it to meet global standards. This endeavour comes at a time when the construction industry is facing a downturn, a consequence of the recent crisis. Over the past two years, this sector has experienced significant setbacks, resulting in the unfortunate loss of numerous jobs and a noticeable reduction in available projects. However, amidst the challenges faced by the construction industry, the country now stands at a critical juncture. The last two years have witnessed a downturn in the construction sector, leading to job losses for many and a decline in available projects. Despite these difficulties, there is a pressing need to preserve and elevate this architectural legacy to international standards.

The future lies in how the nation can continue its architectural journey and build upon its heritage to create structures that not only exemplify Sri Lanka’s identity, but also meet global standards. Emphasising innovation and creativity will be crucial in revitalising the construction industry and rekindling its growth for a promising future.

In the past, the economy predominantly revolved around concrete-based development, primarily directed at infrastructure such as roads and irrigation projects. However, the resulting debt burden has contributed to the current crisis. This situation doesn’t mandate a complete halt to construction; rather, economic restructuring calls for a shift in focus to other sectors. While revitalising construction is desired, it may not reach previous levels. Furthermore, there’s a need to encourage our construction companies to explore international opportunities.

As part of this approach, the government is looking to involve private companies in building homes and structures. This is just the beginning. It will create more affordable housing for people of low and middle incomes. Government land that’s worth more than the buildings on it, can be used for this purpose, while relocating people there, and give the land to private companies to build affordable homes and apartments. This will also free up space in Colombo for other developments. It’s like a cycle – more buildings, more possibilities. Imagine what could happen if they repurpose places such as Welikada Prison or even the railway area. Certain buildings on Mount Mary can be retained, while the rest can be used for new projects. Many areas could benefit from this. And the cost of land today makes it feasible. The Treasury is working on the details to start next year or the year after, as the economy strengthens, this could become a reality.

The government is actively engaged in the promotion of tourism, with a target of increasing tourist arrivals from 2.5 million to 5 million, and potentially up to 7.5 million. This endeavor entails diverse categories of accommodations, including various styles of bungalows. The restoration of historical structures to create smaller boutique hotels and the revitalisation of larger hotels in various regions across the country represents a significant focus area. This ambitious goal involves doubling the existing capacity. It’s important to note that the majority of this expansion will be realised through the construction of new buildings or the renovation of existing ones, thereby offering yet another avenue for the involvement of architects.

A third strategic initiative involves the expansion of our existing investment promotion zones, with current discussions revolving around the establishment of expansive zones spanning thousands of acres, which will be gradually opened up. This expansion is set to facilitate the construction of additional factory buildings to accommodate growing industries. With Sri Lanka’s increasing role as a logistical hub, there will also be a heightened demand for logistics buildings, which are relatively straightforward to design.

These represent just a few of the concepts we’re considering. As the economy gains momentum, it’s likely that we’ll witness an increase in the construction of skyscrapers, high-rise structures, and residential homes. However, strategic planning is crucial to determine the locations, methods, and integration with our evolving transportation system. This is the direction I envision for the future, and it’s where our dedicated efforts must be focused.

The re-planning of Kandy Town to potentially extend its boundaries up to Teldeniya, along with considerations for incorporating Peradeniya and potentially Talatu Oya, are subjects currently under committee deliberation. The committee will be responsible for making informed decisions regarding these proposals. Notably, the extension of the new town and bridge to Peradeniya is viewed as a significant priority. These opportunities signify important prospects for development. Similarly, Galle is engaged in evaluating the enhancement of its urban landscape, particularly the sea frontage.

Additionally, it is likely that other regions, such as Nuwara Eliya town, will also require reimagining and redesigning in new locations. This presents a significant task. The pertinent question is whether we are prepared to embrace this challenge, which we must undertake. Collaboration with international counterparts will also be essential for successful execution.

The impending tasks are undoubtedly of substantial magnitude. However, there is another crucial aspect that warrants attention. Sri Lanka remains steadfast in its commitment to climate change objectives. Notably, upon assuming leadership, adjustments were made to hasten the timeline from 2060 to 2050 for achieving climate change targets. Recent discussions at a UN session, prompted by the concerning fires in Europe, have spurred a re-evaluation of this timeline. There is a contemplation of expediting these efforts even before 2050. This endeavor’s feasibility rests, in part, upon available resources. Consequently, architects now face the imperative of aligning their designs with climate change criteria, marking a significant shift in their role and responsibilities.

Reflecting on the past, Jeffrey Bawa’s remarkable work, such as the Kandalama project, highlights a growing trend of impressive designs in various scales. Sri Lankan architects are excelling in creating climate-responsive buildings, outperforming their counterparts elsewhere. Future laws and regulations will demand climate-adaptive constructions. An innovative concept emerges: establishing the International Climate Change University, comparable in size to Peradeniya University, within the former Kotmale Skanska camp. This presents significant opportunities. Presently, architects have a mission: leaving a lasting impact, reminiscent of historical achievements. The ability to achieve greatness in the past prompts a pertinent question: Why not now and in the future? This call is directed towards those pioneering architectural progress. The blueprint is set, and the drive to establish an enduring legacy rests with the architects of tomorrow.

Deputy Chief of Mission U.S. Embassy, Douglas E. Sonnek, Acting British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Lisa Whanstall, Representatives from the Italian Embassy in Colombo, and nearly 350 people, including architects from Sri Lanka and South and Southeast Asia, attended the event.

The ‘Yal Nila’ special luxury train from Mount Lavinia to Kankesanthurai commenced operations on Friday night.

Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana who joined in Yal Nila’s inaugural journey having a conversation with a group of passengers.

Formulation of a new Medical Act within six months :

Proposal to be drafted for establishing WHO standard benchmark level 4 lab facility:

President Ranil Wickremesinghe led a follow-up meeting at the Presidential Secretariat to bolster the nation’s healthcare system. He directed the formulation of a new Medical Act within six months with the aim of addressing shortcomings in the present Medical Ordinance and thereby provide better healthcare and protect citizens’ well-being.

A high-level Committee, consisting of the Secretary of Health, Legal Draftsman and President of the SLMC, was assigned to examine the provisions of the Medical Ordinance and formulate a new Medical Act with appropriate provisions.

To address immediate medical needs, an additional allocation of Rs. 30 billion was approved for medical supplies under the Provision to Ministry of Health, sufficient for the next three months.

On President Wickremesinghe’s directions to the NMRA to expedite the approval process for FDA-approved drugs and reference drugs from other countries that collaborated with the Health Ministry, the NMRA sought to obtain Cabinet approval to make the necessary amendments to the NMRA Act that will ensure faster access to critical medications.

The meeting resolved the issue of staff shortage at the NMRA. The President called for a detailed report to strengthen the role of the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) in regulating medical products and ensuring public health safety.

Efforts to improve medicine distribution and inventory management were discussed, with the President emphasizing the need for a web-based system to provide real-time information on available medicines and their distribution among hospitals with immediate effect as discussed during the meeting two weeks ago.

A five- member committee led by A.K.Seneviratne, Deputy Secretary to the Treasury was appointed to, among other tasks; devise a simple and transparent scheme for the procurement of quality drugs and medical devices.

The Ministry of Health requested the Department of Management Services to amend the Service Minute to align nurse recruitment qualifications with current healthcare requirements. The President urged health officials to consider recruiting and training individuals with Arts and Commerce Stream qualifications as nurses.

Additionally, the President instructed the Health Ministry and NMRA to draft a proposal for establishing WHO standard benchmark level 4 to assess the quality, safety and efficacy of medical products.

The Chief of Presidential Staff and Senior Adviser on National Security to the President Sagala Ratnayake emphasized to the health officials to immediately submit a list of unusable hospital equipment and equipment or related materials or goods that will expire or be removed within two years.

The meeting concluded with a commitment to promptly implement the proposed reforms, aiming to build a robust and accessible healthcare system for all citizens.

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Health Minister Dr. Keheliya Rambukwella, Chief of Presidential Staff and Senior Adviser on National Security to the President Sagala Ratnayake, Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, Secretary to the Prime Minister Anura Dissanayaka, Secretary to the Ministry of Health Janaka Sri Chandraguptha, Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena, Health officials and Finance Ministry officials attended the meeting.

Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana shares a light moment with UNDP Sri Lanka Resident Representative Azusa Kubota while Ministry Secretary Anusha Palpita looks on.

Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana said yesterday that his endeavour as a Media Minister is to create a win-win situation concerning responsible journalism and countering misinformation, disinformation and hate speech through a process of consultation, compromise and co-regulation.

“We need to safeguard freedom of expression while upholding the age-old journalistic dictum ‘news is sacred; comment is free’. Minister Dr. Gunawardhana made the keynote address at the workshop

on Media Capacity Building and the Meeting of Media Administrators organized by the United Nations Development Progrmme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Mass Media.

The Minister said:I understand the current series of workshops is part of the broader project known as “Countering Hate Speech Through Education and Advocacy for Improving Social Cohesion in Sri Lanka”, assisted by the UN Peace Building Fund and presented through the UNDP. It aims at enhancing the capacities of both journalists and media administrators of the country on responsible journalism and identifying and countering misinformation, disinformation and hate speech.

“I am of the view that this project is being implemented and the two-day workshop that begins today takes place at an opportune moment in the history of our country as we are slowly but steadily recovering from the unprecedented economic crisis since our independence that has caused political upheaval as well. Although we can see the distant light at the end of the tunnel turbulent times are far from over. Steering the country and the economy on the right path while ensuring democratic governance, stability and welfare of the people is an arduous task which requires positive contribution from all stakeholders especially the mass media. That is where responsible journalism matters most. Accurate and balanced reporting backed by constructive criticism is an essential ingredient for the success of this endeavour.

“We have suffered enough from the damage and harm resulting from misinformation,disinformation and hate speech, carried out wittingly or unwittingly, in the recent past. This dangerous practice must be put to an end for the good of all. However, it cannot be and shouldn’t be done by imposing restrictions on the mass media from above. That is not only undemocratic, unethical and immoral but also a remedy worse than disease,”he said.

As the Minister in charge of the subject of mass media my endeavour is to create a win-win situation concerning responsible journalism and countering misinformation, disinformation and hate speech through a process of consultation, compromise and co-regulation. We need to safeguard freedom of expression while upholding the age-old journalistic dictum ‘news is sacred; comment is free’. As I see one remarkable feature of today’s workshop is that it brings together owners of media organizations who make decisions, executives who implement and academics who guide, on one platform. I hope that they will discuss, debate and compromise on the best practices to be adopted.

In conclusion I extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to Azusa Kubota, Resident Representative, UNDP leadership and guidance in the Media Capacity Building project and financial assistance for the same. UNDP since its presence in Sri Lanka in 1967 has provided grant aid, expert advice and modern equipment to the country’s main development sectors

such as economic planning, health, education, the legislature, the judiciary and now communication and information to name a few.

I commend the valuable contribution made by my own staff led by the Mass Media Ministry Secretary in organizing the two-day workshop.

Meanwhile, Resident Representative UNDP Sri Lanka Azusa Kubota said she acknowledges the incredible transformational journey that the Sri Lankan media landscape has undergone over the years.

She said: Currently, there are 34 licensed electronic media companies and 7 print media companies that publish 29 national newspapers altogether with a wide array of provincial media platforms as well as social media platforms.

The growth of private media companies since the 1990s has contributed to a more pluralistic and diverse environment. And this development has opened avenues for more independent and investigative journalism.

Private media companies also brought fresh perspectives, innovative content, and diverse programming, which in turn provided the viewers with a wider range of opinions and views.

This pluralistic media landscape continues to evolve and mature, while responding to the changing needs and interests of the Sri Lankan audience at this critical juncture of history for the country. As the country requires collective efforts to ensure steady and impactful recovery from the crisis, the media industry plays a crucial role in shaping public discourse and promoting united action towards peace and prosperity.

Noting the important role that the media plays, UNDP has always valued our partnership with all of you as indispensable partners through our journey in pursuing sustainable and inclusive development. Our purpose here today is to examine how we can adopt some of the international, regional, and local practices to further enhance the commercial viability and enterprising nature of a fast-growing media industry.

This dialogue today comes at a time when the UN and the global community are gearing towards the historic event, the SDG Summit, planned for September in New York. The world is faced with poly-crisis, characterized by a confluence of crisis, be it climate change, prolonged war in Ukraine and its consequences on energy, food prices and migration, and many others.

The world is becoming ever more polarized and divided, and the trust in institutions is diminishing. And the space for genuine dialogue is shrinking. The Summit will aim to gauge high level political commitment and investments to turn the course of action. How do we make the necessary turn at the time of fiscal crisis that most governments around the world are faced with? I am sure you agree the picture looks very similar for Sri Lanka.

Protecting and promoting the economic, social, and human rights of the people requires the whole of the society commitment. And the media plays an important role in shaping the discourse and facilitating impactful actions at all levels, and shedding the lights on those who act.

I was recently in the Jaffna University and was truly inspired by the students who are trying everything they can to support the communities to get through difficult times. I saw the same with more than 500 youth across the country who participated in the Youth Community Leadership Prgramme supported by the government, WHO, UNV and UNDP. They demonstrated leadership to resolve challenges in the communities within their means while demonstrating incredible leadership. Their stories must be told to inspire.

As a member of the United Nations system, UNDP is deeply committed to a fundamental human right stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

To foster a society based on compassion, respect, tolerance, non-discrimination, pluralism, and freedom of opinion and expression, we also draw inspiration from the United Nations Secretary General’s Plan of Action on Hate Speech which calls for the strengthening of partnerships with new and traditional media to counter hate speech narratives and promote our shared values.

At the time of the polarization that the global community is faced with, we need to promote a safe space for open dialogue, underpinned by respect for diversity, so that we can collectively identify challenges, solutions, and actions to combat climate emergency and economic crisis. This is the only way through which we can ensure that no one is left behind.

When hate speech permeates media platforms, it can further fuel mistrust, discrimination, and social divisions, and at times disturbances.

It is not always easy to strike a delicate balance between giving a safe space for dialogue and expression and curbing hate speech. However, while safeguarding the right to freedom of expression, we must also be vigilant in preventing the spread of hate speech and disinformation.

On the other hand, we must be cautious not to use the issue of hate speech and disinformation as a pretext for excessive regulation, which could undermine the free media space and compromise the principles of a democratic society.

We all need to work towards fostering a media environment that promotes ethical and responsible journalism, based on facts and accurate information.

I look forward to your active participation in the discussions. Please share your insights, and I am confident you will make meaningful contributions to the formulation of a roadmap for which you will feel ownership and be an integral part of its implementation.

You all play an important role in fostering understanding, harmony, and prosperity as the global community grapples with formidable challenges.

  • Emphasizes Government’s Support While Ensuring Commission’s Full Authority and International Accountability Process.

During a discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (26), Mr. Ali Sabri, Minister of Foreign Affairs, highlighted the significance of establishing a Truth-Seeking Commission to address the ethnic problem’s impact on affected communities. He stressed that the commission should operate independently, with the government’s role limited to providing necessary support and facilities.

Once established through an act, the truth-seeking commission will be granted full authority. To promote its implementation, Minister Ali Sabri announced the organization of international forums. The Cabinet-approved Interim Secretariat is expected to lay the groundwork for expediting the commission’s operations.

Minister Ali Sabri Briefed Trade Unions and Civil Organizations on the Truth-Finding Commission at a discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday.

The Minister acknowledged the importance of an internationally recognized accountability process and assured that the government is committed to creating such a mechanism. He pledged to take all essential steps to instil confidence in the truth-seeking commission.

Mr. Saman Ratnapriya, Director General of Trade Unions to President Wickremesinghe, also expressed his views during the discussion. He pointed out that the three-decade-long war had caused extensive damage throughout the country as a whole, and there is a pressing need for a thorough investigation. He noted that previous commissions’ proposals on this matter were not adequately implemented, leading to the consideration of models from countries like South Africa to devise a suitable mechanism for Sri Lanka. Mr. Ratnapriya emphasized that informing society about the commission and garnering support for its implementation is vital to prevent the country from facing further difficulties.

Also addressing the event, Mr. Asanga Gunawansa, the Director General of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, drew attention to Singapore’s remarkable transformation into a developed country through reconciliation, two decades after gaining independence. He underscored that reconciliation is an indispensable factor for Sri Lanka’s own development. Mr. Gunawansa highlighted the commission’s potential to create an environment where the unfortunate past would not be repeated.

To support the establishment of this commission and contribute to a locally effective and internationally recognized mechanism, three divisions have been set up: the Interim Secretariat, Legal and Policy Division, and Public Relations Division, along with the Information Technology Division.

The event witnessed the participation of numerous representatives from trade unions and civil organizations.

  • To sustain the provincial council system in the future, existing shortcomings must be rectified.
  • The responsibility of formulating laws solely lies with the Parliament and his role is limited to presenting proposed laws on behalf of the country – President tells the All-Party Conference.

During the All-Party Conference at the Presidential Secretariat today (26), President Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed the significance of discussing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution with all parties, as it is a matter that affects the entire country. He highlighted that a decision on this matter should involve input from all relevant parties.

The conference was organized to update the Parliament’s party leaders on the National Reconciliation Program and the North-East Development Plan.

President Wickremesinghe recalled that neither he nor the previous seven Executive Presidents had the authority to pass new laws to address existing problems; that power rested solely with the Parliament. He asserted that he was bringing forth relevant proposals for the betterment of the country, but the responsibility of implementing them lay with all the representatives in the Parliament, as he alone couldn’t achieve it with his single vote.

The President noted that seven out of the nine provincial councils were located in areas with a majority of Sinhalese. If the provincial council system were to be maintained, he emphasized the need to address the shortcomings that had already been experienced. He suggested granting provincial councils powers over subjects currently under the central government, including grassroots activities like agriculture and tourism.

According to President Wickremesinghe, the central government should formulate policies for the country, while provincial councils should provide the necessary facilities for the successful implementation of development activities in all fields. Collaboration between all parties and levels of government was crucial for progress and development.

In addition, President Ranil Wickremesinghe called for collective discussions among all parties to decide on granting police powers to the Provincial Councils as outlined in the 13th Amendment of the Constitution.

Furthermore, President Wickremesinghe proposed arrangements that would allow members of the Provincial Councils to concurrently hold positions and be appointed as Members of Parliament, while members of Parliament could also serve as members of the Provincial Councils.

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, Former President Maithripala Sirisena, Tamil National Alliance Leader and Member of Parliament R. Samppanthan, M. A. Sumanthiran, General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna and Member of Parliament Sagara Kariyawasam, as well as other Members of Parliament such as Dallas Alahapperuma, Wimal Weerawansa, Gevidu Kumaratunga, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Udaya Gammanpila, Sarath Weerasekera, Venerable Athuraliye Rathana Thero, Weerasumana Weerasinghe, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, C.V. Vigneswaran, and Lakshman Kiriella, participated and expressed their views during the event. Numerous party leaders and representatives from various parties were also present at the occasion.

• Rs. 10 billion rupees for the modernization of postal service

• Postal Department will not be privatized at any cost
A new Postal Act will be presented to Parliament within this year to expedite the modernization process of Postal Department State Minister of Mass Media Shantha Bandara said.
The modernization process is planned to be carried out as a joint public-private sector partnership at a cost of Rs.10 billion and that the Postal Department will not be privatized at any cost, State Minister Shantha Bandara said.
He expressed these views,(16) during a press conference themed ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country’ held at the Presidential Media Center (PMC).
It is expected to convert the Postal Department into a profit-making institution within the next two years, through the digitization of the Department, the Minister pointed out.
Further the Minister said that by the end of 2023, the loss of the Postal Department will be reduced by Rs.4000 million.
“When President Ranil Wickremesinghe assigned me this Ministry he entrusted me with the challenge of converting the Postal Department into a profit generating institution. The Postal Service’s income in 2022 was Rs. 7, 000 million while the expenditure was Rs.14, 000 million. I discussed with the relevant officials and took steps to reduce the gap between the income and the expenditure of the Postal Department from Rs. 7, 000 million to Rs.4, 000 million. It is planned to resolve the gap between income and expenditure by the year 2024. In 2025, our goal is to create a Postal Department that no longer depends on the Treasury.” State Minister Bandara said.
“The Postal Department, which is one of the oldest Departments in this country, still has an Ordinance brought during the time of the Queen. It has been amended only once so far. We have identified the Post Office Ordinance as a major obstacle to the modernization process of the Postal Department and other relevant activities. Therefore steps are being taken to amend it urgently and its work has already been completed by 80 percent.” the State Minister said.
“We hope to create new revenue generation channels through Digitization of postal service. Currently, Rs. 4000 million, Rs. 668 million and Rs. 200 million has been earned annually by the sale of stamps, postage of stamps and Cash On Delivery (COD) service respectively. Also, in the future, it is planned to increase the revenue by popularizing the COD method. During the modernization of postal service, 1000 three wheelers will be deployed all over the country replacing the traditional bicycles that were used in field for a long time. We also hope to provide an official uniform. By doing so, our ultimate goal is to create a strong postal service in the country.” State Minister of Mass Media Shantha Bandara added.
 
 

Japanese Ambassador Mizukoshi Hideaki hands over the Technical Standards prepared by Japan on the Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting DTTB project to Minister of Transport, Highways and Mass Media Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana. Mass Media Ministry Secretary Anusha Palpita, JICA Sri Lanka chief representative Tetsuya Yamada and other officials are also participated.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe visited the historic Kataragama shrine and actively participated in religious rites yesterday (03). During his visit, he met with Venerable Kobawaka Dhamminda Nayaka Thera, the Chief Incumbent of the Kiriwehera Viharaya, and had a brief conversation, inquiring about his well-being. The President then joined the religious rites conducted at the Kiriwehera Seya and received blessings.

A significant highlight of the President’s visit was his participation in the final day of the Kataragama annual Esala Maha Perahara. He had the honour of placing the casket on the ceremonial elephant, Kandula, symbolizing the commencement of the Perahara. Additionally, President Wickremesinghe sought blessings at the Kataragama Saman Maha Devalaya.

Several dignitaries accompanied the President during this event, including his Senior Adviser on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff, Mr Sagala Ratnayake, Minister of State Mr Shashendra Rajapaksa, former Basnayaka Nilame of Kataragama Temple, Member of Parliament Mr Milan Jayathilaka, Thai Ambassador to Sri Lanka Mr. Poj Harnpol, former Colombo Municipal Councilor Mr Kitsiri Rajapaksa, and several others.

Decisions taken by the cabinet of Ministers on 26.06.2023

1. Allocation of lands to United Arab Emirates Capital Investment LLC on a long
term lease basis for executing a luxury hotel project


United Arab Emirates Capital Investment LLC has submitted a project proposal to
acquire a land adjacent to Maussakale Reservoir and a small island located in the same
reservoir, which are currently in the custody of the Ceylon Electricity Board, on a long-
term lease basis, for a project to build and run a hotel complex by using USD 25 million
as a direct foreign investment. Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the
proposal made by the Hon. President in his capacity as the Minister of Investment
Promotion to allocate those lands to the said company on a long-term lease basis to
implement the proposed project by obtaining the agreement of the relevant institutions.


2. Entering in to Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in tourism sector


An agreement has been reached between the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and the ‘Legal
entity of Public law’ of the Georgian National Tourism Administration Institute to enter
into a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the tourism sector. The draft
MoU prepared for this purpose has received the Attorney General's clearance.
Accordingly the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal presented by the Minister of
Lands to sign the Memorandum of Understanding above.


3. The project for Mainstreaming Wetland Biodiversity and Sustainable Land
Management in Sri Lanka through Partnerships and a New Financing Process


The existing biodiversity, the degradation of water catchment areas, the productive
capacity of the soil and the existence of annual and perennial crops including tea and
rubber in the wet zone have been severely affected by the high demand for lands, forest
fragmentation, deforestation and land degradation, rapid development processes, spread
of invasive alien plants, impact of unsustainable temperature and drought. Therefore, the
focus is on taking appropriate measures for sustainable land management and
conservation of small forests with high biodiversity around tea and rubber lands. The
United Nations Development Program has agreed to provide a grant around USD 4
million through the Global Environment Facility for the implementation of the project
for streamlining biodiversity and sustainable land management in Sri Lanka's wetlands.
Accordingly the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal presented by the Minister of
Environment to enter into an agreement between the United Nations Development
Program and the Ministry of Environment in order to obtain the relevant grant for the
proposed project planned to be implemented through public-private and community
partnership in the 6 districts namely Nuware Eliya, Rathnapura, Kegalle, Kalutara, Galle
and Matara.


4. Sri Lanka to Host the Integrated Field Exercise-2025 of Comprehensive Nuclear-
Test-Ban Treaty Organization On-Site Inspection


On 12.06.2023, the Cabinet of Ministers has granted their approval for the ratification of
Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by Sri Lanka on 24.10.1996. Article IV
of the treaty has established a verification mechanism for conducting an on-site
inspection to confirm whether a country has carried out a nuclear test/explosion. The
Integrated Field Exercise program has been introduced to carry out the activities and
tasks related to that and to provide training on test equipment. The Bureau of Geological
Survey and Mines has applied to host the Integrated Field Exercise-2025 as the Technical
Center of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization in Sri Lanka.
According to the eligibility assessment made as per the request, it was identified that the
area adjacent to the Maduru Oya National Park is suitable for conducting Integrated Field
Exercises. Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal presented by the
Minister of foreign affairs to host the On-Site Inspection Integrated Field Exercise 2025
was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.


5. Repatriation of Sri Lanka's cultural heritage held by foreign countries


According to Articles 7 and 13 of the Charter on the Prohibition and Prevention of Illicit
Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property adopted by UNESCO in
1970, any cultural property currently in the possession of a foreign country has the right
to request its return to the government to which it belongs. Accordingly, the government
of the Netherlands has decided to return the artifacts taken from the colonial countries
and currently deposited in the state museums of the Netherlands to the countries that own
the artifacts. A research project has been conducted with the participation of the museum
department and independent researchers regarding 6 such artifacts in the Netherlands and
it has been confirmed that all the artifacts were brought from Sri Lanka during the
colonial period. The Ministry of Buddhasasana and Cultural Affairs has already made a
diplomatic request to bring back the artifacts to Sri Lanka. Accordingly, the cabinet of
Ministers approved the proposal presented by the Minister of Buddhasasana and Cultural
Affairs to appoint an committee of officials to take further steps in this regard and to
prepare an action plan for repatriating the Sri Lankan artifacts currently in various
countries.


6. Establish and climate justice forums" of like-minded developing and climate-
vulnerable countries to accelerate global political action.


In the global climate dialogue, several critical areas are being discussed which will affect
the developing countries facing climate risks. Although more attention was paid to the
establishment of a loss and damage fund in the past discussions on climate change, the
establishment of the fund has been delayed due to various reasons. Therefore, Sri Lanka
has proposed the establishment of a "Climate Justice Forum" with the aim of accelerating


the financing of losses and damages and providing an alternative and non-traditional
approach. Also, Sri Lanka is of the opinion that it is appropriate to include "debt justice"
as an essential component of the overall solution proposal to be given to the climate-
vulnerable and developing countries for their mitigation and adaptation interventions,
taking into account the debt crises faced by those countries. In order to make that effort
successful, the cabinet approved the implementation of the strategic program presented
by the Minister of Environment as the proponent of establishing the Climate Justice
Forum.


7. Allocation of land from Vavuniya district under long term lease basis to the Sutech
Sugar Industries (Pvt.) (Green Field Sugar Development Project)


A project proposal for sugarcane cultivation and sugar production in Vavuniya with an
investment of USD 400 million has been submitted by Thailand's Sutech Engineering
Company. The proposed project is expected to produce 20% (MT 120,000 of sugar) of
the country's sugar requirement. For the factory premises and related facilities required
for this project, a 200 hectare land covered by a scrub jungle belonging to the Department
of Forestry in Vavuniya North Divisional Secretariat Division has been identified as
suitable. The Department of Forest Conservation has agreed to provide that land for the
implementation of the proposed project. Accordingly the Cabinet of Ministers approved
the proposal presented by the Hon. President in his capacity as the Minister of Investment
Promotions to take necessary further steps for implementation of this project.


8. Reform of the law on insolvent


Provisions relating to consumer insolvency and unincorporated small business insolvency
are contained in the Insolvency Ordinance 1853 and provisions for company insolvency
are contained in the Companies Act No. 7 of 2007. As the existing provisions under those
laws are not sufficient for the present needs, there is a need to introduce a new combined
law on insolvency Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the combined
proposal presented by the Hon. President and the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and
Constitutional Reforms to to authorize the Law Commission to discuss with the relevant
parties and prepare and submit preliminary drafts within a period of 3 months.


9. Social Security Contribution Tax (Amendment) Bill


Cabinet approval has been given on 30.01.2023 to introduce several amendments to the
Social Security Contribution Levy Act No. 25 of 2022 and to advise the legal draftsman
to prepare an amended bill for the same. The Social Security Contribution Tax
(Amendment) Bill prepared accordingly by the draftsman has received the Attorney
General's clearance. Accordingly the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal
presented by the Hon. President in his capacity as the Minister of Finance, Economic


Stabilization and National Policies to publish the said bill in the Government Gazette
and submit for the parliamentary approval consequently.

10. Deprivation of religious freedom and distortion of religious facts. by voice


The requirement to introduce legal provisions to secure religious freedom and prevent
insults to religious teachings / preaching has been recognized. Accordingly, considering a
proposal submitted by the Minister of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs, the
approval of the Cabinet of Ministers was granted to appoint a committee representing
religious leaders of the main religions namely Buddhism, Muslim, Hindu, Catholic and
Christian, those excelled in the legal sphere, media and civil society activists to submit a
report with recommendations by studying the matter.


11. Submission of orders formulated under the Convention against Doping in Sports
Act No. 33 of 2013 to the Parliament.


In terms of section 34 (1) of the Convention against Doping in Sports Act No. 33 of
2013, the orders refraining from doping in sports (prohibited list) No. 8 of 2022 prepared
by the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, has been published in the gazette
notification No. 2329/43 dated 27.04.2023. The Cabinet of Ministers has granted
approval to the resolution furnished by the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs to
submit the said orders to the Parliament for their concurrence.


12. Sri Lankan Chairmanship of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) – 2023 - 2025


The Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) comprised of 23 member
countries in the boundary of the Indian Ocean is scheduled to be handed over from
Bangladesh which is the present chairing party to Sri Lanka in this October 2023.
Measures should to taken to strengthen regional cooperation for the development of its
member countries along with the region during the period of bearing the office of the
chairman. The Cabinet of Ministers granted approval to the resolution furnished by the
Hon. President in his capacity as the Minister of Defence to initiate a national
performance force comprised of representatives from the relevant Ministries and
institutions under the chairmanship of a senior officer of the Presidential Secretariat in
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to initiate a Secretariat for a period of two years.


13. Submission of the regulations issued under Import and Export (Control) Act No. 1
of 1969 for the concurrence of the Parliament.


Regulations have been issued as per Import and Export (Control) Act No. 1 of 1969 to
suspend the import of certain selected goods with a view to ease the steaming pressure on
the foreign exchange reserves and the financial market due to unfavourable economic


circumstances prevailing within the country. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka, as well as
other relevant parties, have recognized the requirement to eliminate the limitations for the
import of selected goods categories that cause a minimum impact on the balance of
payments through easing the said regulations. Accordingly, it has been decided to remove
286 combined classification codes from the list consisting of 1,216 combined
classification codes in the schedule of suspending imports. The Import and Export
(Control) Regulations No. 9 of 2023 for the purpose has been published in the
Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 2335/26 dated 09.06.2023. The Cabinet of
Ministers approved the proposal furnished by the Hon. President in his capacity as the
Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies to submit the said
regulations to the Parliament for its concurrence.


14. Obtaining the assistance of the World Bank to implement the Economic
Stabilization and Restoration Programme through the Development Policies
Financing Programme.


Discussions have been held on 17.05.2023 in regard to obtaining assistance from the
World Bank under the Development Policies Financing Programme for a period of 02
years with effect from 2023 to 2024. Concurrence has been expressed to provide 371.2
million in two instalments which is equivalent to special draft rights (SDR) of United
States Dollars 500 million for the year 2023 under the above programme. Clearance of
the Attorney General’s Department and the concurrence of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka
have been obtained for the proposed financial facility. Accordingly, the Cabinet of
Ministers approved the proposal furnished by the Hon. President in his capacity as the
Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies to enter into an
agreement with the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank

Group in relation to obtaining the said financial facility.


15. Establishment of Gambling Regularization Authority


The requirement for the establishment of a regularization entity under the name of
Gambling Regularization Authority will affect all the gambling establishments operators
in charging expected tariffs from gambling, prevention of crimes related to gambling,
minimizing the negative impact on individuals and society through gambling etc.
Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal furnished by the Hon.
President in his capacity as the Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National
Policies to direct the Legal Draftsman to draft a bill to establish the Gambling
Regularization Authority


16. Access to the agreement on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is the independent trade
accord implemented by the 05 countries namely, Australia, China, Japan, South Korea


and New Zealand who are the regional countries that have entered into independent trade
accords already with the 10 member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) and its member states. Joining hands with the said agreement opens doors to
harvesting more economic and other benefits to Sri Lanka. Therefore, the Cabinet of
Ministers granted approval to the proposal submitted by the Hon. President to entrust the
Secretary to the President for directing a formal letter of concern to take part in the
Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).


17. Amendments proposed to the Banking Act No. 30 of 1988


It has been proposed to amend the Banking Act No. 30 of 1988, considering the
importance of maintaining a banking sector with the contemporary and resistant
capability that assists sustainable economic growth. Accordingly, the Cabinet of
Ministers approved the proposal furnished by the Hon. President in his capacity as the
Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies to direct the Legal
Draftsman to draft a statute for the amendment of the Banking Act No. 30 of 1988

Page 8 of 97

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