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Cabinet Reshuffle finally takes place in Sri Lanka

Posted on 22 May 2017 by TSL

Colombo, Sri Lanka. Monday, May 22, 2017.

Nine Cabinet Ministers and one state minister were re-allocated fresh ministerial portfolios in the morning of Monday May 22nd what was the first major re-shuffle since the formation of the current coalition Government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe took office in August 2015.

President Sirisena himself was the first to make the announcement that nine cabinet minister and a State minister had taken oaths before him after accepting their new portfolios. President Sirisena like the US President Donald Trump took to Twitter and tweeted “Nine Cabinet Ministers and a State Minister took oaths in their new portfolios a while ago”.

Nine Cabinet Ministers and a State Minister took oaths in their new portfolios at the Presidential Secretariat today.

  • Mangala Samaraweera – Minister of Finance and Mass Media,
  • Ravi Karunanayake – Minister of External Affairs,
  • S.B. Dissanayake – Minister of Social Empowerment, Welfare and Kandyan Heritage, 
  • W.D.J. Seneviratne – Minister of Labour, Trade Union Relations and Sabaragamu Development, 
  • Mahinda Samarasinghe – Minister of Ports and Shipping, Gayantha Karunatilake -Minister of Lands and Parliamentary Reforms, 
  • Arjuna Ranatunga – Minister of Petroleum Resources Development, 
  • Chandima Weerakkody – Minister of Skills Development and Vocational, Training, 
  • Mahinda Amaraweera – Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Development and State MInister of Mahaweli Development,
  • Thilak Janaka Marapana – Minister of Development Assignments.

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Building collapses in Wellawatta

Posted on 18 May 2017 by TSL

Wellawatte building collapse. Police to question owner, contractors

Trapped worker calls friends; more muffled voices of humans and canines heard

May 18, 2017.
 

By Norman Palihawadane – Courtesy" The Island.

 

Police have told The Island that they will question the owner and two contractors of the six storeyed building which collapsed at Wellawatte yesterday injuring 26 persons.  

The building housing Excellency Banquet Hall located near Savoy Cinema on Charlemont Road had collapsed around 11.00 am, police said, adding that the injured had been rushed to the National Hospital and Colombo South Teaching Hospital.

Twelve persons had been admitted to the Colombo South Hospital, Director of the Hospital, Dr Asela Gunaratne said.  

Police, tri-forces and firemen were rushed to the scene amidst heavy rains to rescue victims of the tragedy and to help evacuate residents in the immediate vicinity of the collapsed building as it was sinking.  The injured said that the tragedy had struck as the building was being renovated in view of a wedding ceremony scheduled to be held there next week. 

The police said they would question the owner of the building, its former and new contractors to ascertain who was responsible for the disaster and legal action would be instituted against the culprits.

The owner of the building is out of the country. At the time the collapse occurred construction work was in progress to add a couple of new storeys to the building. Wellawatte Police said that they suspected the foundation had caved in due to the additional weight.

Police declared the nearby area out of bounds for people as there could be danger from falling debris.

Muffled sounds of dogs and humans trapped under the rubble of the building could be heard, police said, adding that the heavy downpour had made the rescue operation significantly harder. 

Heavy traffic was in the area near the disaster, where fire fighters, police and the military personnel were desperately trying to free all individuals trapped under the rubble.

Police said a person trapped under the rubble of the building had made a call using his mobile asking his fellow workers to rescue him and operations were in progress to find those trapped.

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Udaya alleges attempt to give voting rights to overseas pro-Tiger groups

Posted on 17 May 2017 by TSL

 

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by Shamindra Ferdinando – Courtesy: The Island.

UPFA MP Udaya Gammanpila yesterday alleged that an attempt was being made to allow pro-LTTE groups resident overseas to vote at Sri Lankan elections. Alleging that the government was bent on appeasing those who still propagated separatist sentiments, Gammanpila said the move should be examined against the backdrop of dual citizens being denied the opportunity to contest elections at any level in accordance with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya leader Gammanpila explained the danger in giving dual citizens the right to exercise franchise here. The MP has challenged the Bill titled Registration of Electors (Special Provisions) in Supreme Court and the case will be taken up today (May 17).

MP Gammanpila said the vast majority of those living abroad had taken up foreign citizenship thereby paving the way for foreigners of Sri Lankan origin to get elected. The MP alleged that yahapalana government was blind to grave danger posed by those having divided loyalties being given the opportunities to elect their representatives.

Obviously, the ruling coalition hadn’t taken into consideration the 19th Amendment condition in respect of dual citizens seeking office here, the MP said, pointing out the danger in introducing laws to promote a particular community.

"We have had extremely bad experience with influential section of Diaspora groups pursuing anti-national agenda."

Responding to a query, MP Gammanpila said that large group of people living overseas receiving voting rights should be examined vis a vis various Diaspora groups having close relationship with political parties. The MP said that such a move would never be in Sri Lanka’s interest. Instead, it could plunge the country into unprecedented political crisis, the MP said.

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Sri Lanka: The most difficult CABINET RESHUFFLE

Posted on 15 May 2017 by TSL

 

By  – Courtesy.

  

Amidst international day of Vesak, visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other priorities, the much awaited cabinet reshuffle seems to have got further postponed. The reshuffle idea has been in the air as an imminent possibility now for several months. Each time speculation has been that it would happen before the New Year or before vesak or after some important foreign Visit by the President or the Prime Minister, but the reshuffle is yet to happen.

Cabinet reshuffles are a common feature in democracies, they happen in the mid-term of most governments when there is a need arising out of a new situation. But the question is why it has become so difficult in our country this time. The main reason appears to be the very nature of the government in power – the dual control of the government formed under the nineteenth amendment to the constitution.

Until the introduction of the nineteenth amendment,the 1978 constitution conferred all powers with regard to allocation of ministries and appointment and removal of ministers on the executive president. Whenever the political party to which the President belonged had the majority in parliament president enjoyed full powers with regard to appointment, dismissal or reshuffle of the cabinet. Even in the absence of the control of the parliament the president had substantial powers including the power to take over ministries.note-book

The situation after the introduction of the nineteenth amendment is quite different as the president’s powers have been curtailed to some extent giving more weight to the parliament. The amendment also makes special provision enabling the two political parties that emerge as the first and second parties in terms of the number of seats they win at a parliamentary election, to join together to form a government of national unity as found presently.

Accordingly, the SLFP faction led by President Maithripala Sirisena contested elections with the UNP on a common agenda and upon winning elections they had to agree on the sharing of cabinet portfolios and the number of ministries etc. in order to form the government. Naturally when two political parties with different ideologies try to form a government there will be disagreements and differences. This was obvious when two  xparties formed the current government and as a result there were delays in even swearing in of the new cabinet.

However, as the parties had agreed on a common agenda and won the elections, despite ideological differences,initially there was less friction between them.  Also, they had to somehow agree on the power sharing arrangement in the cabinet as there was an urgency to form the government and take over the reins of power.

However, upon formation of the joint government when the two parties had to work together there has been obvious friction and that is probably the main reason behind the difficulty in agreeing on a cabinet reshuffle. The current delay in effecting the much talked about reshuffle has to be understood in this context – It’s as difficult as renegotiating a contract half way through a project.

However, as time goes on any government whether it is a single party government or a multi-party one, realignment of forces can become necessary. Naturally some of the cabinet ministers who have been comfortable with their areas of power will want to hold on to their portfolios and a reshuffle will be difficult or nearly impossible if it is to be done with consensus.

On the other hand, if there is difficulty in continuing with the government without such realignment of ministerial functions, it is mandatory upon the two leaders  President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime  Minister  Ranil Wickremesinghe to rise above these differences and come to some compromise in order to carry on with the promised national agenda under the government of good governance.

Then there is the issue about change of subjects assigned to each party. A major reshuffle will also involve change of subjects and there will be major disagreements when it comes to changing the subject areas given to each party. If one looks at the way these subjects were shared at the formation of the joint government,it is clear that subjects that are necessary to reform the economy have been assigned to the UNP thus giving more leeway for Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to personally get involved in economic development and planning.

President Sirisena, at least at that point, seems to have preferred to play more of a regulatory and monitoring role as the head of the cabinet while keeping for himself some of the pet subjects like environment and Mahaweli Development, in addition to the subject of national defence which constitutionally came under his own purview.

Towards the second and third years, tension has developed between ministers of the UNP and the SLFP while allegations of corruption have been made against some of the key ministers from both sides necessitating some changes in the cabinet and this is the basis upon which a call for a major reshuffle has been made. President himself on several occasions has hinted that there would be some major changes in key positions.

Meanwhile, some of the key ministers whose portfolios were at stake have done everything within their power to avert any major reshuffle. Another story that has been in the political currency during the last few weeks is that there will be some board level changes in about fifteen key state institutions. Question remains whether such changes could be effected without changing the ministers because technically it is the respective ministers who have the authority to appoint or remove the directorates of the institutions coming under their ministries.

There were also reports that the UNP has made it clear to the President that they do not want any changes in the ministries which are currently under them. If that position is upheld changes, if any, will have to be made only in the portfolios held by the SLFP and such a limited change will be far below the kind of reshuffle that has been anticipated while it will also not satisfy the demands of those who have been clamouring for such a reshuffle.

All in all, indications are that sooner or later there will be some changes, but the nature and the extent of such a reshuffle is something that is difficult to predict right now. The other question is whether the current political landscape with a clear division within the SLFP is conducive for such a major shakeup in the government. This is more so because of the almost inevitable provincial council elections – elections in North Central, Eastern and Sabaragamuwa provinces that are much likely to take place after September this year.

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SRI LANKA, CHINA TO SIGN FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT

Posted on 13 May 2017 by TSL

 

By Zara Imtiaz – Courtesy: Sunday Observer.

PM Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prof. Maithree Wickremesinghe being welcomed at the Capital International Airport in Beijing last evening. The PM arrived in Beijing to take part in the ‘One Belt, One Road’ summit.

PM Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prof. Maithree Wickremesinghe being welcomed at the Capital International Airport in Beijing last evening. The PM arrived in Beijing to take part in the ‘One Belt, One Road’ summit.

Three weeks after signing a significant framework agreement with India to cooperate on economic matters, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will oversee a similar agreement with China during his current visit to Beijing.

To be signed between the Ministry of Commerce of China and the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, the agreement, initially drafted by the Chinese with revisions from Sri Lanka, was approved by the Cabinet last week, just before the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Sri Lanka and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe´s departure to Beijing yesterday. According to Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, Minister Malik Samarawickrema had already signed the Sri Lankan copy and had sent it to the Chinese Embassy before his departure to Beijing as per normal diplomatic procedures.

Titled the Outline of Medium and Long-term Development Plan for Investment, Economic and Technological Cooperation, the agreement envisages providing transparent legal foundations, institutional environments and favourable investment conditions for a number of priority areas, including agriculture, manufacturing, transportation infrastructure, public works, energy, electric power, information communication, tourism, and urban construction with a list of identified projects annexed to the agreement as priority projects.

These projects include:

  •  Central Expressway – Section 1 from Kadwatha to Mirigama
  • Kandy North Pathakumbura Water Supply Scheme
  • Talpitigala Reservoir Project
  • Polonnaruwa Integrated Development Project: East Polonnaruwa Water Supply, Agro Economic Centre Project, Section 4 of Central Expressway,
  • New Railway track from Kurunegala to Habarana via Dambulla
  • Waste water disposal systems for Chilaw, Puttlam, Maharagama and Boralesgamuwa
  • Upgrading of health facilities in selected hospitals
  • Lower Malwathu Oya Project
  • Thambuthegamuwa Water Supply
  • Katana Water Supply
  • Hambanthota Port: Operations, Shipyard, Operation of docks and rear oil tank area, Oil refinery, LNG receiving station and combined cycle power station, Industrial Park, Colombo International Financial City (Port City)
  • Ratnapura Expressway
  • Heda Oya Water Supply

The list includes an estimated cost for some of the items of US$2.76 billion.

This costs excludes the entirety of the Hambanthota Port projects, the Colombo Port City project, the Ratnapura Expressway and the Heda Oya Water Supply.

The agreement envisages a bigger role for commercial finance while acknowledging the ‘function of’ preferential loans. Funding for projects will be through preferential loans, joint financing, guarantees, medium and long term insurance and other forms, the agreement states. The agreement envisages policy support from China to improve Sri Lanka´s investment policy framework including support for investment policies relating to land, taxation, visas, working permits and to further improve the investment environment to attract more Chinese enterprises to invest in Sri Lanka.

The agreement also envisages the establishment of financial institutions and banks from the respective countries in the other and promotion of delivery of financial products and services to each other´s financial markets. Currently, both Sri Lanka and China has entry barriers in the financial sectors.

In a similar framework agreement signed in the last week of April in Delhi, Sri Lanka and India identified a number of other priority projects. These include:

A regasified Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) fired 500 megawatt capacity LNG Power Plant; An LNG Terminal / Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) in Kerawalapitiya/Colombo; a piped gas distribution system; retail outlets for supply of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to the transportation sector; and conversion of liquid fuel-based power plants to R-LNG fired power plants in Sri Lanka. A 50 MW (extendable to 100 MW) Solar Power Plant in Sampur. Upper Tank Farm in Trincomalee to be jointly developed by India (Lanka IOC PLC) and Sri Lanka (Ceylon Petroleum corporation or CPC). The land of the Lower Tank Farm, which is also in possession of Lanka IOC PLC, pursuant to the 2003 Agreement, to be leased to Lanka IOC directly.

A Port, Petroleum Refinery and other industries in Trincomalee.

Industrial Zones/Special Economic Zones in identified locations in Sri Lanka. Mannar-Jaffna and Mannar-Trincomalee Highways and Dambulla-Trincomalee Expressway under Indian investments.

The railway sector development including new projects of track upgradation and purchase of rolling stock, A Container Terminal in Colombo Port as a Joint Venture, which includes Indian investments considering that majority of transshipment in Colombo Port is related to India.

Agricultural sector and livestock development through techno-economic cooperation, water management, and promotion of agro-based industries. In the aftermath of the signing of the Indo-Lanka framework agreement, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay was quoted in Indian media as stating:

“The (Modi) government is internally focused on ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’ (development for all) and externally too in the neighbourhood, our vision to promote connectivity and development takes ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ to our external environment, and naturally to the neighborhood first. In this backdrop, with the objective to achieve greater economic, investment and development cooperation in a progressive manner…. the two governments signed this Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Economic Projects.” Sources indicate that the two framework agreements are the culmination of over two years of work on a strategy announced through the UNP´s election manifesto to create an ‘investment corridor’ linking Sri Lanka´s nearest neighbour and one of its biggest trading partners with the regional strategy of China´s one-belt, one-road initiative.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe elaborated his vision of the investment corridor during his visit to New Zealand in October last year, speaking on the theme of ‘Sri Lanka and its place in the world’.

Stating that with its two billion population, South Asia is a considerable market with growing significance, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe outlined the reasons for creating the North-South link, an investment corridor through Sri Lanka.

“Sri Lanka’s situation in the nautical corridor between the East and West is of import not only from a geostrategic perspective, but also from maritime economic and security perspectives. On the one hand, the Indian Ocean is a vast source of maritime economic resources, on the other; it is a maritime trading corridor through which nearly two thirds of the world’s oil is transported.

“In our perspective, the Indian Ocean remains key to Asian prosperity. An Indian Ocean order, which envisages at its core an ocean free of conflict despite competing economic interests – with lanes of communication, ease and safety of passage, freedom of navigation, secure and sustainable use of resources for the economic advancement of States in an equitable manner is imperative.

To fully tap this potential, Sri Lanka will engage in initiatives with regional players who have major economic stakes in the Indian Ocean,” the Prime Minister said. 

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SRI LANKA EMBASSY CONDUCTS “A DAY OF SRI LANKAN CULTURE” IN WASHINGTON DC

Posted on 12 May 2017 by TSL

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A Day of Sri Lankan Culture and Tradition in DC 

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Despite spring showers, the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington DC was a hive of activity on Saturday as thousands of visitors thronged to the embassy premises for a celebration of Sri Lankan culture. The Embassy opened its doors to the public as part of the annual Passport DC Around the World Embassy Tour, an event organized by Cultural Tourism D.C., which provides embassies in Washington D.C. the opportunity to offer a peak into their cultures and cuisine.

Throughout the day visitors to the Sri Lanka Embassy were treated to an array of Sri Lankan food and beverages, including Ceylon tea, while enjoying live traditional music, dances and folk games. As in past years, the ‘sari corner’ generated much excitement among the visitors, as they tried on the country’s colourful traditional attire and posed for photographs. The visitors were also eager to have their names written in the age-old Sinhalese and Tamil scripts, as a unique souvenir of their visit. Many were also eager to learn what made Sri Lanka such a globally popular tourist destination.

Around the World Embassy Tour is Washington D.C.’s citywide international cultural awareness program that provides its residents and visitors an opportunity to explore the international culture that is a crucial part of the city’s character.  

 

Embassy of Sri Lanka

Washington D.C.

 

May 6, 2017

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President’s Vesak Message Featured

Posted on 10 May 2017 by TSL

 

The year 2561 B.C. dawns, marking the commencement of the golden era in the Buddhist history of Sri Lanka. I believe it is an incomparable prestige that our Motherland, as a place where the Buddha visited on three occasions, receives the opportunity to hold the United Nations International Vesak Festival. This is the foremost gift bestowed on us since Sri Lanka was blessed with the greatest gift, the teachings of the Buddha.

Offering the pivotal role for us in the 14th UN International Vesak Festival certainly demonstrates the recent victories we have achieved in the international arena. All the citizens of Sri Lanka, who contributed for this accomplishment, will be added to the history as devotees, who benefitted from this meritorious deed.

This year’s theme for the International Vesak Festival is ‘Buddhist Teachings for Social Justice and Sustainable Peace’. The key condition for the social justice is equality. The Buddhist teachings also give prominence to this universal concept of equality. The equality, which is demanded by the contemporary world, had been taken into discussion during the period of the Buddha 2561 years ago. The Buddha said, the peace which is the key factor of the existence of human beings can only be built in a healthy society where equality has been established.

Our historical chronicle which starts with the Nibbana of the Buddha will enter a new path with Sri Lanka hosting the International Vesak Festival this year. With that pride let us determine to commit to rise in the global society by overcoming petty boundaries.

I wish the Buddhist population in the entire world a joyful and peaceful Vesak!

 


Maithripala Sirisena
President

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Vesak blessings to all our readers

Posted on 09 May 2017 by TSL

A young Buddhist devotee donates alms on Wesak Day, known as Buddha's birthday, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, May 21, 2016. Wesak Day, one of the holiest days for Buddhists, offers an opportunity for all followers to come together and celebrate not only Buddha's birthday, but also his enlightenment and achievement of nirvana. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

Buddha Purnima or Vesak is celebrated with religious fervour by the followers of Buddhism around the world. It not only marks the day when Gautam Buddha but also the day when he attained Nirvana (salvation) under the Mahabodhi tree at Bodh Gaya. The day falls on the full moon night in the Hindu month of Vaisakh. The date varies every year according to the Gregorian calendar but it usually falls in either April or May. On this day devotees preach the teachings of Lord Buddha, decorate Buddha’s idol with flowers, chant Buddhist scriptures, eat vegetarian food and donate food, money and clothes to people. Each country celebrate the birth of Buddha in a different way, here’s a peek at the major celebrations around the world.

 

What is Vesak Day?

The day of Vesak or Baisakha Puja is the day of worshiping or merit making for Buddhists all over the world.  On this sacred day Buddhist commemorate three great events, the birth of the Buddha, his Enlightenment and his Mahaparinibbana or passing away on same day of full moon day of this month.  Buddha’s main teachings is not to do any evil, cultivate good things and purify one’s own mind.  However, the core foundation of Buddhist teachings is called Four Noble Truths (Catu ariya sacca).

  • The fact that unhappiness exists     
  • The cause of that unhappiness       
  • The fact that unhappiness may cease      
  • The Way leading to the cessation of unhappiness 

These Four Noble Truths are the foundation of all the teachings of the Buddha.  The Way to end suffering is following the Middle Way. In his second sermon, the Buddha taught something unique: that Impermanence is a fact; that the experience of suffering is our reaction; suffering which we can reduce only if we develop selflessness / egolessness(non-soul identity) which the Buddha termed anatta. In November 1998 all the buddhist countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Nepal, India etc. proposed agenda for ‘International recognition of the day of Vesak’ to the United Nations. On 15th Dec. 1999 the UN’s General assembly adopted the resolution for the international recognition of the day of Vesak (Buddha Jayanti). Since, UN celebrates this day every year at its head office in New York and other regional centres all over the world. Presently, not only the buddhist but other faiths also celebrate this day with great joy by practicing moral ways and purifies the mind, which is the way (buddhamarga) to achieve real happiness and peace within.\r\n\r\nOn this auspicious day of Vesak Day every human being should take an oath to cultivate good, purify the mind for real happiness and peace and thus pay homage to the Buddha by practicing it.  May this holy day bring you good thoughts and good deeds always. Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam. May you be happy and peaceful!

 

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Rs 1.2 bn allocated for ministers’ luxury vehicles in 2017 alone

Posted on 09 May 2017 by TSL

 

May 9, 2017.

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By Shamindra Ferdinando – Courtesy: The Island.

 

The national economy was deteriorating at an alarming rate as revealed by the latest Central Bank annual report, but the ruling coalition had presented three supplementary budgets amounting to staggering Rs 1.2 bn to acquire more super luxury vehicles for politicians and officials this year alone, JO heavyweight Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday.

Addressing the media at Punchi Borella, Prof. Peiris attacked the controversial process of presenting supplementary estimates for the benefit of politicians and officials.

The media was told the circumstances under which the government presented two supplementary estimates in March and one in May this year. Among those who had been named as the beneficiaries of Rs 329 mn supplementary estimate presented in May is Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Parliamentary Secretary, Prof. Peiris said.

The former External Affairs Minister pointed out that a new post had been created to accommodate a person on the Prime Minister’s staff at the taxpayers’ expense.

Comparing a range of economic indicators given in the latest Central Bank publication with that of previous years, Prof. Peiris painted a bleak picture of the national economy.

JO member Peiris said that President Maithripala Sirisena had admitted Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves were down to USD 5 bn.

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TOURIST ARRIVALS UP IN APRIL (2017)

Posted on 06 May 2017 by TSL

 

Picture: Thilak Perera

Picture: Thilak Perera – Courtesy: Sunday Observer.

Tourist arrivals picked up last month and accounted for a 7.6% increase over the previous year. April attracted 54,674 tourists and this figure was 50,821 in 2016. Up to end of April there were 160,249 arrivals which is an increase of 17.5%. The largest number of arrivals were from India – 110,891. China followed with 99,045. United Kingdom with an 11. 8% growth had 76,978, while Germany (54,256) Russia (43,861) and France (43,861) followed.

The other four top countries of origin were Australia (24,929), Maldives (24,632), USA (20,615) and Ukraine (16,778).

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