Archive | April, 2015

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19th Amendment shuts out dual citizens & Under-35 presidential aspirants

Posted on 30 April 2015 by admin

Marking the beginning of a new chapter in the contemporary political history of Sri Lanka, the Parliament on Tuesday night adopted the 19th Constitutional Amendment with an overwhelming majority. The legislation envisages the dilution of many powers of Executive Presidency, which had been in force since 1978.

Among the important features of the Bill are: the reduction in the terms of President and Parliament from six years to five years; re-introduction of a two-term limit that a person can have as President; the power of President to dissolve Parliament only after four and a half years [unlike one year, as prevalent now]; the revival of Constitutional Council and the establishment of independent commissions.

Though the abolition of the Executive Presidency was the major electoral promise of Mr Sirisena, the Supreme Court, in its ruling early this month, held that certain provisions, such as those making Prime Minister the head of Cabinet and empowering PM to determine the size of Cabinet, would require a referendum. So, the President remains the head of Cabinet. However, he can appoint Ministers on the advice of Prime Minister.

Three Rajapaksa's shut out

1. Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's dream of becoming the Executive President of Sri Lanka for a third time was permanently shut out as one of the clauses included in the 19th Amendment refers to limiting the tenure of Sri Lanka President to only two (02) terms. Rajapaksa has already completed his two terms and cannot come forward ever again as a contender;

2. Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa too is ruled out as dual citizens are shut out from contesting a Parliamentary Elections under the 19th Amendment. Rajapaksa is a dual citizen of the United States of America and Sri Lanka;

3. Former president’s eldest son and the Rajapaksa clan’s heir apparent, MP Namal may voted himself out of the 2021 presidential election by supporting the 19th amendment to the constitution.

The latest amendment raised the minimum age of a presidential candidate to 35 years, up from the earlier 30 that would narrowly disqualify Namal Rajapaksa from entering the next presidential election due in January 2021.

Born on 10th April 1986, Namal will complete 35 years of age three months after the next presidential election. The five year term limit on the presidency kicks in only from 2021.

Prime Minister thanked the opposition for supporting the bill that will limit president's powers and ensure the independence of the judiciary and police restoring democracy.

"This is a historical moment. We thank the President, Speaker, Opposition Leader, every parliamentarian and everyone who supported this," the Prime Minister said at the conclusion of the voting. The legislation was a major component of the President's election manifesto.

Editor's Note – The adoption of the 19th Amendment is an unequivocal victory for the people of Sri Lanka. It also brings the Constitution of Sri Lanka on par with most other democratically run countries around the globe. President Maithripala Sirisena must be congratulated for stick handling the passage of this super important amendment with the help of PM Ranil Wickramasinghe and his team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rooms at the Burj Al Arab, the world’s only seven-star hotel, range from 4,995 dirhams ($1,361) a night to 32,950 dirhams, excluding taxes and fees.

Posted on 29 April 2015 by admin

DUBAI, April 27 (Reuters) – Italian jeweller Bulgari and Dubai developer Meraas Holding plant to build a luxury resort and residential project on a man-made island off the coast of Dubai as the emirate steps up its expansion as an international tourist destination.

The 1.7 million square foot (157,935 square metre) Bulgari Resort and Residences project will cover about a quarter of Jumeirah Bay Island, joined to Dubai’s mainland by road bridges.

It will feature a 101-room hotel, 165 residential apartments, 15 mansions and eight penthouses and will be completed in the first quarter of 2017, Meraas’s chief hospitality officer Cherif Hosny said on Monday.

Hosny did not give the cost of the project or the expected sales value of the residential properties, which will go on the market in the next few days.

The project will be entirely financed by government-owned Meraas, with Bulgari, acquired by Paris-listed LVMH in 2011, licensing its brand for an undisclosed amount.

“Hotels are not a business venture for Bulgari — it’s a design, communication and public relations way of differentiating our brand,” said Silvio Ursini, Executive Vice President of Bulgari Hotels & Resorts.

Ritz-Carlton will operate the hotel under the Bulgari name.

“We don’t have the operating know-how,” said Ursini, adding the hotel’s 20 beachside villas will help average room rates become “by far the highest in the market”.

Rooms at the Burj Al Arab, the world’s only seven-star hotel, range from 4,995 dirhams ($1,361) a night to 32,950 dirhams, excluding taxes and fees.

The Bulgari link-up is the latest property venture by Meraas, which is owned by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and has about 12 local real estate projects.

Meraas is also majority shareholder in Dubai Parks and Resorts, which is building a $2.9 billion tourist attraction in the emirate. Dubai aims to double annual tourist numbers to 20 million in 2020 from 10 million in 2012, and treble tourism income over that period.

(Reporting by Matt Smith, editing by Louise Heavens – Courtesy: AME Newsletter)

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Historic day for Sri Lanka: 19th Amendment changes destiny of island nation

Posted on 29 April 2015 by admin

WATERSHED: 19A changes destiny of Sri Lanka

 

 

 

 

Following a two-day debate, the 225-member parliament yesterday passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution with an overwhelming majority of 211 votes with 212 voting in favour of the draft Bill after its third reading.

Only the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Ampara district MP Sarath Weerasekera voted against the Bill. Parliamentarian Ajith Kumara abstained from voting and 10 were absent.

MPs Prabha Ganeshan, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, D. M. Jayaratne, Keheliya Rambukwella, Premalal Jayasekara, Vinayagamurthi Muralidharan, Jagath Balasuriya, Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thera, Janaka Bandara, and Basil Rajapaksa were absent at the time of voting. Division on the bill was called by the Leader of the House at the end of committee stage debate which lasted for four hours from 7.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m.

Earlier in the day, the second reading of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed with a majority of 214 votes with 215 voting in favour of the draft Bill.

On that occasion too parliamentarian Sarath Weerasekera voted against while MP Ajith Kumara abstained.

Seven Parliamentarians namely, Keheliya Rambukwella, Premalal Jayasekara, Vinayagamurthi Muralidharan, Jagath Balasuriya, Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thera, Janaka Bandara, and Basil Rajapaksa were absent at the time of voting after the second reading

President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday morning presented the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution intended to reduce powers of the executive president and restore democracy by empowering independent commissions and judiciary.

President Maithripala Sirisena remained in Parliament for long hours yesterday taking enormous efforts till the last minute to iron out differences between the Government and Opposition members over two clauses in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

The two clauses over which there were differences were the composition of the Constitutional Council and the appointment of Cabinet by the President after consulting the Prime Minister.


Courtesy: Daily News – By: Sandasen Marasinghe, Irangika Range and Disna Mudalige


The Bill stated that a Constitutional Council constituted by seven non-political eminent persons and three politicians; the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and the Speaker, would be appointed to advice the President on the appointments to the independent commissions and key positions in the public sector and the judiciary. The Opposition demanded to appoint 10 elected members to the Constitutional Council. Finally, an agreement was reached to make the composition as seven MPs and three non political persons.

The President's Office in Parliament were extremely busy throughout the day, as the President held back to back meetings with members of both sides in a bid to secure two thirds majority to pass the much awaited Bill to provide for Constitutional reforms scrapping the executive presidential powers and strengthening the Parliament and independent commissions.

The President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe held one on one meetings and they also held several rounds of talks with their groups to muster support for the Bill.

The government and Opposition had submitted a total of 174 amendments to be included into the 19th Amendment at the committee stage of the Bill. The Government had submitted 63 amendments where as the Opposition had submitted 111 amendments. Of them 55 proposals had been submitted by MP Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, 29 by MP W. D. J. Seneviratne, eight each by MPs Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Douglas Devananda, seven by MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena, two by MP Sriyani Wijewickrama and one each by MPs Geethanjana Gunawardena and Dinesh Gunawardena.

The government incorporated as much of the proposals agreeable to both sides at the committee stage.

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution Bill was presented to Parliament on March 24 and the debate scheduled for the Bill was postponed twice. The Bill was scheduled to be taken for debate on April 10 and 11 and then later on April 20 and 21 but owing to differences of opinion between the government and Opposition it was postponed. Eventually the Bill was taken for second reading debate on Monday and yesterday and the vote was taken at 7.00 p.m.

Following the vote the 19th Amendment was moved to the committee stage and third reading. During the committee stage, amendments may be moved to a Bill before the committee stage. The Speaker had to adjourn the parliament for 15 minutes, as MP Dinesh Gunewardene raised the issue that the amended clauses have not been presented to parliamentarians in all three languages. Meanwhile, before taking the vote on the second reading, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe informed parliament that party leaders have reached a consensus on the composition of the Constitutional Council.

As per the new consensus, the constitutional council will be comprised of seven parliamentarians including the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the Opposition Leader, and three non-parliamentary experts.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sri Lanka parliament votes to curb president’s power

Posted on 28 April 2015 by admin

Sri Lanka's parliament voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to curb the power of the presidency, restoring a two-term limit and reviving independent bodies to manage key institutions such as the police and the judiciary.

A total of 215 out of the 225 lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment which restores presidential term limits, reversing a change by former strongman Mahinda Rajapakse who scrapped them after being re-elected in 2010.

The amendment was in line with a pledge by President Maithripala Sirisena. His election victory in January ended Rajapakse's decade in power, during which he granted himself greater powers over the police, judiciary and civil servants.

Tuesday's bill also removed the president's power to dissolve parliament, until it has completed four and a half years of its five-year term.

Previously the president had the power to sack parliament after one year, a threat Rajapakse had used to keep lawmakers in line.

The amendment was watered down, however, to ensure that the minority government secured the support of the opposition, whose votes were crucial to gain a mandatory two-thirds majority. Sirisena's government does not enjoy a majority in parliament.

The government agreed to accommodate four more legislators in a Constitutional Council which will make key appointments to run 11 public institutions such as the police, the judiciary, the elections office and the civil service.

"This is not ideal. We had to compromise because we don't have a two-thirds majority on our own," Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament.

He said the government hoped to reduce the number of politicians in the Constitutional Council, which aims to depoliticise state institutions and ensure their independence.

Wickremesinghe described the statute amendment as an interim measure ahead of more democratic reforms.

"After the next election, we can have more reforms. We can turn the next parliament into a constituent assembly and adopt a (brand new) constitution," the prime minister said.

The government did not say if parliament would be dissolved soon after passing the bill, in line with a pledge by Sirisena earlier this month.

The current parliament can run until April 2016, but Sirisena had said he would call fresh elections on April 23. He delayed the dissolution to give the opposition more time to pass the bill.

The government had initially planned to transfer many of the president's executive powers to parliament and return the country to the Westminster-style parliamentary democracy that existed till 1978, but the Supreme Court shot it down.

The court ruled earlier this month that power can be transferred from the executive, who is elected directly by the people, to parliament only if approved by a referendum, which the government said was too expensive.

Instead, leaders agreed to clip the president's powers and limit his immunity from prosecution.

By Amal Jayasinghe – Courtesy AFP

In a rare address to the assembly on Monday at the start of a two-day debate on the reforms, Sirisena said the bill was a "meritorious act".

He is expected to dissolve parliament soon and legislative elections could be held as early as June.

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SIAL Canada is North America’s Premier Agri-food Event

Posted on 28 April 2015 by admin

SIAL Canada is North America's Premier Agri-food Event and it on at the Direct Energy Centre from April 28-30, 2015.

It is also a one-of-a-kind opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition as you learn about innovative ideas and breaking trends in the agri-food industry!

At SIAL Canada, you will:

  • Make contact with 700 businesses from around the world and develop new business relationships.
  • Learn about local, regional and national products from 45 different countries, all under one roof.
  • Keep up with the latest industry developments by visiting the SIAL Innovation area where you'll find tomorrow's hottest products.
  • Browse new product lines organized by type: Organic, Kosher, Halal, Gluten Free, Fair Trade and Private Labels.
  • Deepen your knowledge through our program of cutting-edge educational sessions.
  • Participate in culinary workshops and demonstrations in La Cuisine by SIAL where you'll learn the latest hands-on skills, design techniques and industry innovations.
  • Grow your network of contacts in Canada and throughout the world.

SIAL Canada: International Food & Beverage Tradeshow

SIAL Canada 2015 will be the country's most important agri-food industry event. SIAL Canada is the only event of its size in the country, bringing together more than 800 national and international exhibitors from 45 countries, all while welcoming more than 14,000 buyers from Canada, the United States and 64 other countries.

In addition, SIAL Canada is the only domestic show offering up a complete range of food products, all under the same roof, and in so doing, meeting the needs of your clients – whether they're inretail, food service or food processing – that are on the lookout for new innovative, specialty, ethnic or regional products… from right here, or from across the globe.

Expected in 2015:

  • 14,000 professional visitors
  • 800 exhibitors from 45 countries, including Canada
  • 240,000 sq/ft of exhibiting space (+ 10% compared to 2013 in Toronto)

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Two-thirds majority secured for 19th Amendment to the Constitution

Posted on 28 April 2015 by admin

At its second reading in Parliament a short while ago, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed by a two-thirds majority with 214 MPs voting in favour. SLFP MP Sarath Weerasekara voted against while one MP abstained. Seven MPs were absent at the time of voting.

The second reading of the 19th Amendment was passed in Parliament with 215 MPs voting in favour. UPFA MP Sarath Weerasekera was the only Parliamentarian who voted against the 19th Amendment to the constitution. Seven MPs, including Basil Rajapaksa and Keheliya Rambukwella were absent during the vote and one MP amstained from voting.

 

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Committee finds previous regime malpractices running into millions at SLTPB

Posted on 27 April 2015 by admin

Tourism Ministry corruption exposed.

Committee finds malpractices running into millions.

 

Shirajiv Sirimane (shirajivs@gmail.com) – Courtesy: Daily News.

The Committee appointed to probe corruption and malpractices at the Ministry of Tourism, has found a series of irregularities running in to millions.

This prompted the Minister of Sports and Tourism, Navin Dissanayake to appoint a special committee.

Minister Dissanayake speaking to ‘Daily News Business’ said that this report was handed over to the Prime Minister last Friday and a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) will launch a special inquiry.

One allegation is that a senior official of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau under their Homes Stay Program has paid Rs. 14.5 million to a company in Manning Town, Colombo 8. However it was revealed that no services have been received from this company located at 2/2L Manning Flats and the committee has held the SLTPB Chairman responsible for this. For the 2013 May Day an alleged account under the term “Tourism Floating Parade’ was created and a sum of Rs. 8,369,000 were released. Out of this Rs. 16,978,400 was paid to artistes who attended the May Day. In addition a further sum of Rs. 12,988,135 was paid for vehicles that were hired for this May Day parade. Additional Rs. 4,081,22 was paid to print T shirts for the May Day.

During the Cricket World Cup the Sri Lanka Tourist Board has given a grant of Rs. 3,246,268 to a star class hotel in Hambantota to refurbish the hotel. The committee says that this is not a legal payment.

In 2014 Sri Lanka Tourist Board has paid Rs. 7.8 million to DAD Advertising in Maharagama and Pamunuwa to print 12,000 T-Shirts. However there is a balance of the number of printed T-shirts.

A similar incident has come in to light for the 2014 September 27, Tourism Day where Rs. 5,297,500 was given to Sign Tech to print t-shirts. The Inquiry has revealed that only 500 t-shirts were distributed for the Tourism Day while another 8,150 was distributed for supporters of a certain politician canvassing for the Uva elections.

It was also revealed that the Welfare Society of the SLTPB in September 2014, (Uva Election period) has taken Rs. 5,738,075/- stating that it was for domestic tourism promotions. But it is now revealed that this amount was used to provide lunch packets for three days for supporters of a certain political party engaged in election work.

Another irregularity that was pointed out was with regard to the Tourism Promotions Video where Rs. 4,000,000 was paid to an institution called Heritage Institution. The tender in this regard is alleged to have been done in seven days and it was later revealed that only 25 CDs were produced.

Similarly another CD presentation controversy has come in to light for ‘Lesser Known Tourism Attraction’ program. However facts are yet to be known in this regard and the probe is still on. This committee has also found stunning details on how over Rs. 50 million was misused under the guise of a Cooperate Social Responsibilities program involving print and electronic media. The total investment for the project was Rs. 55,447,955 and it is now reveled that only a sum of Rs. 2,540,275 was spent to publish advertisements in both print and electronic media.

The committee also found that a major cover up in this regard was instigated.

New appointments during the previous years to the SLTPB too have come to light as its revealed that no applications were called to appoint five persons.

The committee is headed by D. Dissanayake while N. Padmanathan and Russely Hussain have been appointed as committee members. The members said that they received tremendous support from the Ministry officials who provided documentary proof and helped in numerous ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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US SECRETARY OF STATE’S VISIT TO SRI LANKA, MAY 2-3, 2015

Posted on 27 April 2015 by admin

 
Washington DC, April 27: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will undertake an official visit to Sri Lanka from May 2-3, 2015. The press statement issued by the U.S. State Department in this regard is appended below.

SECRETARY KERRY TRAVEL TO COLOMBO, NAIROBI AND DJIBOUTI

Press Statement

Marie Harf
Acting Department Spokesperson,
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC

April 27, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Colombo, Sri Lanka, on May 2 for his first trip to the country and the first visit by a Secretary of State since 2004.

In Colombo, he will meet government leaders, civil society members, and other representatives from the country’s diverse communities to hear and express U.S. support for their vision for a more peaceful, stable, and prosperous future for its people. Secretary Kerry will also join his hosts for the celebration of the Buddhist holiday of Vesak.

Secretary Kerry will also visit Nairobi, Kenya, beginning on May 3, to reinforce the importance of our strong bilateral relationship. In his meetings with government officials, business leaders, opposition leaders, humanitarian aid organizations and civil society representatives, he will discuss a range of issues including security cooperation — particularly in light of the recent tragic attack at Garissa University College – refugee assistance, trade, and biodiversity.

This visit will focus on our common goals, including accelerating economic growth, strengthening democratic institutions, and improving regional security.

The Secretary will travel to Djibouti, Djibouti, on May 5, where he will meet high-level leaders to discuss our bilateral cooperation and their support to evacuation efforts from Yemen. He will engage with Djiboutian youth and religious leaders on a range of issues. The Secretary will also visit with U.S. military personnel at Camp Lemonnier.

This is the first time that a sitting Secretary of State will visit Djibouti.

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Ambassador WM Seneviratne describes relief effort in Kathmandu

Posted on 27 April 2015 by admin

By Norman Palihawadana – Courtesy: The Island – April 27, 2015.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Nepal, W. M. Seneviratne yesterday said that Sri Lankan aid workers had erected a large tent and converted it to a temporary hospital close to Kathmandu to treat the earthquake victims. Among the Sri Lankan aid workers who arrived in the Nepali capital Kathmandu were doctors, paramedics, and military personnel and they worked round the clock to assist in relief operations. Sri Lanka government also sent bottled water, medicine for the use of the distressed. Asked whether any Sri Lankans had been affected by the catastrophe, he answered in the negative, adding that some Sri Lankans who were already there such as students and workers would be despatched to Colombo in a special SLAF aircraft. The aircraft developed mechanical problems after reaching Kathmandu on Sunday.

Another 320 Sri Lankan students studying in Nepal would soon arrive in Colombo, the ambassador said.

"The Nepalese people have great respect for Sri Lankans and appreciated the assistance and support rendered to them at the most needed hour," Seneviratne said.

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Fears of breakaway rebel cricket league sparks ICC investigation

Posted on 25 April 2015 by admin


 

 

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