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Asia’s Largest Investor Forum Comes To Sri Lanka

Posted on 18 October 2017 by admin



Craig Ryder

Craig Ryder – Courtesy: RoarTech

“I have one trick when it comes to making investment decisions in startups in Sri Lanka,” began Rajan Anandan, Vice President of Google of South East Asia and serial Angel Investor, whilst announcing the Venture Engine (VE) 2017 winners. “I call the business leader at 12pm on Sunday and if they’re enjoying a long brunch, I think “no way”, but if they’re in the office, I’m in!”

Events like this mark a new age of progress and development in Sri Lanka. VE is Sri Lanka’s signature annual Entrepreneurship Program and provides the country’s brightest innovators the opportunity to launch and grow their businesses with the support of some of the most inspirational figures in the region. The organisers, Asian Business Angel Forum (ABAF), are Asia’s largest startup investor forum and there is a real sense that this event will catapult Sri Lanka’s already thriving startup community into the stratosphere.

Yet, whilst the finalists are certainly a part of a vibrant community, there is a serious competition at stake. The twelve finalists, most of whom are first time founders and looking for seed-funding, are pitching for the opportunity of a lifetime. And by 9.30pm on day one of the event, after all the finalists had pitched, and the judges had beard-scratched their way to a head-spinning decision:

Roar Media, we are pleased to say, were announced winners of VE 2017.

Team Roar collecting the award on the night.

Inspiration From Above

The first morning kicked-off with five seasoned Sri Lankan business founders, all with organisations of 3-10 years old, revealing their backstories, their motivations, and providing inspiration on how to position oneself above the competition.

Lakmini Wijesundera, a serial entrepreneur with eighteen years experience in technology management and global distribution, introduced her burgeoning new company: BoardPAC. As the world’s most powerful organisations and governments make the shift from physical documentation to paperless technology, Wijesundera’s hyper-secure server and product enable board directors to access and share confidential documents to their iPads. Wijesundera, described, that in this case:

“Less is more. We have built one product company and that’s what sets us apart from our competitors. Dropbox and Microsoft are juggling multiple services, whilst we focus on one: Board Document Automation. And that’s what makes us the leader in the Asia-Pacific marketplace.”

Questions from the audience kept the experts on their toes.

Founder, Chairman and Chief Architect of WS02, Sanjiva Weerawarana humbly explained that most people in Sri Lanka and elsewhere probably would not have heard of his company or his trailblazing API, because it’s “middleware”. So although tens of millions of consumers use his products every day—“from every eBay user to any bus or tube commuter in London”—people never know because “it’s a behind the scenes company; two or three degrees removed from the consumer.” His unassuming approach has seen him step down as CEO of his own company in August 2017 and hire a Californian, Tyler Jewell, to take the reins on business development. “Mainly”, Weerawarana concedes, “because I’m a tech guy.”

The Finalists

Over 200 unique business plans were submitted in this year’s VE competition and the judges had whittled the finalists down to the twelve most sustainable ventures. The aim of the program is to ensure that every participant gains from the experience, regardless of funding; a notion encapsulated by Naafiah Saleem, co-founder offinalist Plush Box, a premium curated gifting service. At the event, she told Roar Tech:

“As we only began in January [2017], we were delighted to be selected for the final—a testament to the quality of our products.And although we have grown tremendously in the last few months, the Angels’ post-pitch questions have inspired me to revisit our business plan and rethink it with the intention of going international, sooner.”

All the presenters from the twelve finalists.

The finalists presented products and services spanning multiple sectors. In the health department, Ultimma Occta has developed appendage devices enabling visually impaired people to use smartphones to their fullest potential. In the entertainment arena, 444’s slogan of “Less Missing Out, More Going Out” perfectly captures the imagination of Sri Lanka’s nightlife scene as their concierge platform simplifies ticket bookings for movies, events, restaurants and more, all under one app.

The founder of 444, Amila Fonseka spoke to Roar Tech at the awards:

“We are extremely thankful for the Lankan Angel Network for creating a platform for us entrepreneurs to showcase our ideas to the world. We are proud to be recognised by ABAF as one of the top 10 startups in the Sri Lanka; the interest shown in the product by both local & foreign attendees has been overwhelming positive and further strengthened our vision of connecting Sri Lanka.”

Judges and angels testing a finalist’s pitch.

Winners of the Social Impact Entrepreneurship award was IgniterSpace, Sri Lanka’s first technology creative-space for kids. Charismatic leader Jehan Wijesinghe delivered an impassioned pitch and caught up with Roar Tech after picking up their award:

“IgniterSpace exists for a reason: to impact the lives of the future generation of kids, to make them develop creativity and inspire them to develop novel innovations to solve real world problems. Winning the Social Impact award from Aavishkar at VE 2017 is a great inspiration & motivation for us! This award has validated us as a startup with a tremendous amount of social impact. We hope to impact the lives of every single child in the world to make them more creative.”

Dr. Tan Steals The Show

“Hilarious”, “genius” and “a privilege” were some of the words used to describe Dr. Clarence Tan’s—former Ambassador for Singularity University and author and entrepreneur in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI)—keynote discussion.

Expounding on “exponential technology reshaping future startups”, Dr. Tan talked with enthusiasm about almost every innovation imaginable that will improve human life on earth and beyond: a hand-glove that can test women for breast cancer; 3D printing on a space-station allowing for onsite modernisation whilst out in space; and a robotic chef called “Moley” who has been trained by UK Masterchef to perfectly reproduce 2,000 dishes (although, Dr. Tan quipped, he would have preferred a French chef!).

Dr. Tan’s brilliant keynote presentation.

His explanation of the “4D” tenet of digitalisation is a masterclass in lucidity:

When a product or service becomes 1) Digital, it is information technology-enabled, allowing it to 2) Dematerialise (disappear), meaning it can 3) Demonetise (become free), empowering it to 4) Democratise (be accessible and available to all).

To illustrate his theory, Dr. Tan uses photography giant Kodak, “a household brand whose dominance in the photographic film business was unparalleled”, as an example. When Kodak led the innovation of the digital camera, it engineered its own downfall. Because whilst Kodak’s core industry was paper, ink and production of tangible photographs, they invented a digital product that would eventually render their service obsolete. Dr. Tan concludes, “the year Kodak went bankrupt [2012], Instagram sold to Facebook for $1 billion.”

Packed audience enjoying the competition and presentations.

Another of Dr. Tan’s observations is that “80% of GP’s will be redundant in the next generation” because of AI’s advances in the medical sphere. Arguably, best representing this idea at the event were startup Pregbuddy, who were second runners-up in the competition. Their product is a smart communication platform between doctors and chronic patients to provide faster care and reduce revenue leakage. Roar Tech spoke to one of PregBuddy’s founders, S.L. Sivareena:

“We’re super excited to be the second runner-up for Venture Engine 2017. We met investors from all over Asia which has opened up several investment and partnership opportunities. It has been a great learning curve throughout the program and we want to thank Lankan Angel Network and BOV for such an opportunity. We’re raising our first round of funding to build our technology across platforms and build partnerships across India.”

Plenty More To Discuss

Day two hosted a powerhouse of guest speakers.

During the discussion on “Regional Trends in Startup Investing” the pan-Asian panelists offered great insight into the startup ecosystems in their native countries. Putting Singapore firmly on the map, Dr. Mark Hon, Chairman of Business Angel Network Southeast Asia (BANSEA), described how 2016 saw the birth of approximately 4000 companies, only 800 fewer than startup behemoth, India. Contextualising India’s incredible growth potential, Padmaja Ruparel, “the woman behind the Indian’s largest angel network” (IAN), said they expect India to produce 10,000 startups in the year 2020. Whilst, Dr. Shuki Gleitman, Chairman of Guangzhou Israel Biotech Fund (GIBF), described how Israel, a country of only 8 million people, has cultivated a near perfect innovation ecosystem—comparable to Silicon Valley—with 62 accelerators, 40 co-working spaces, 60 “tech community” spaces and almost 70 investors.

Gaurav Deepak (centre), Brigitte Baumann (Right) and Pankaj Jain (Left) discuss “Driving Exits”.

On the “Sri Lankan Ecosystem in Context” panel discussion, Tony Weerasinghe, whose career spans founding MillennuimIT, then eChanneling, and latterly becoming the Director of London Stock Exchange Group, described how tech innovation is in the DNA of Sri Lanka. “Did you know”, he questioned, “that Sri Lanka was the first country to develop a smartphone app anywhere in the world?”

Mano Sekaram, chairman of Lanka Angel Network (LAN), who steered Sri Lanka’s flourishing tech industry into the $1 billion industry that it is today, said he was proud of seeing the second generation of innovators coming through and doing it even better.

Lahiru Pathmalal felt like “he was standing on the shoulders of giants”—specifically Weerasinghe and Sekaram—when he launched Takas, Sri Lanka’s foremost e-commerce business. In a conversation about disruptive technologies, Pathmalal described how e-commerce has changed the face of consumerism in Sri Lanka forever:

“In a demographic like Sri Lanka, where there is a high rural population, people did not have access to a large diversity of products, as flagships stores would ordinarily only be in Colombo, and maybe in one or two other cities. But Takas enables anyone from anywhere in the island to have access to thousands of products. This has disrupted the traditional market. Six percent of our top line comes from Uva Province, probably fuelled by a lack of access to products before.”

Let’s Celebrate!

The overriding feeling of the two-day event is one of celebration. A celebration of Sri Lankan entrepreneurs, business and software. And a celebration of Sri Lanka’s role in shaping the future of Asia and global business.

Great networking opportunity for everyone involved at Venture Engine 2017.

Capturing the joyous atmosphere was the spontaneous applause that followed random announcements of birthdays across the speakers and panelists: Prajeeth Balasubramaniam, BOV Capital Partner was first, then Satveer Thakral, CEO of Singapore Angel Network, and finally, Dr. Shuki Gleitman, on day two.

Australian Jordan Green, Chairman of ABAF, summed up the success of the event in the wider global context:

“The funding and intellectual support of Angel investors are key drivers of the entrepreneurial ecosystems that are growing all our economies. ABAF 2017 in Sri Lanka celebrates the Angel pioneers in this country and epitomises the cross-border reality that is the Asian Century.”

Cover Image. Sri Lankan Panel.

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Sri Lanka tourist arrivals fall 2.3-pct in September

Posted on 09 October 2017 by admin


ECONOMYNEXT – Tourist arrivals into Sri Lanka fell in September 2017 from a year ago mainly because of lower arrivals from big markets like China and Germany although the number of visitors from India, the biggest market, grew strongly. 

Total arrivals fell 2.3% to 145,077 in September 2017 from the year before, data from the tourism office showed. 

The biggest fall was in Germany, the second biggest European market, from where arrivals fell 15.1% to 8,574 while arrivals from China fell 14.3% to 18,939. 

Arrivals from China in the nine months to September are lower this year while those from Germany are stagnant. 

The number of visitors from India, grew 26.6% in September 2017 to 34,481 from a year ago and are up 6.1% to 267,601 so far this year. 

(COLOMBO, October 9, 2017)

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US 2019 Diversity Visa Lottery opens for Sri Lankans.

Posted on 09 October 2017 by admin

US 2019 Diversity Visa Lottery opens for Sri Lankans.

The US Embassy in Colombo announced the start of the 2019 Diversity Visa Lottery Program, also known as the “Green Card” Lottery.

The program will be open for online registration from October 3, 2017 to November 7, 2017.  The Diversity Visa Lottery allows randomly selected applicants the opportunity to interview for an immigrant visa and become legal permanent residents of the United States. 

The program is the “2019” lottery because applicants enter in 2017, interview in 2018, and—if selected and approved—receive Green Cards in 2019, the embassy said in a statement.

• The lottery application entry period is open from October 3, 2017 to November 7, 2017;
• The lottery is open to those born in qualifying countries – both Sri Lanka and Maldives qualify;
• Applicants may only apply once; multiple entries will result in disqualification;
• Applicants must meet all qualifications for the Diversity Visa Lottery;
• Applicants should keep the application confirmation number received after applying;
• There is no cost to register for the Diversity Visa Lottery.  

“Beware of scams, of persons or companies making claims of affiliation with the U.S. Government, and of those who promise improved odds of selection.  No third party assistance is needed to complete and submit an application,” it said.

Please go to U.S. Embassy Colombo’s website at to find out more about the program, including qualification requirements and detailed instructions on how to apply in Sinhala, Tamil, and English.  The only way to apply is online at , the statement added.

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Discrimination in Sri Lanka: Myth or truth?

Posted on 06 October 2017 by admin

  • A response to Dr. Nalaka Godahewa’s speech at the UNHCR session in Geneva

By K. Anaga – Courtesy: DailyFT.

Dr. Nalaka Godahewa’s speech delivered at the 36th session of the UNHCR in Geneva on 27 September as reported in various newspapers contains half-truths and untruths. In short it is devoid of facts. I would like to refer to some matters stated there in and give my views and clarification thereto.

The prominent Tamils

Lakshman Kadirgamar was considered a ‘good bat’ by the then Government for defensive batting, to distort facts to the world with regard to the discrimination heaped on the minorities in general and the Tamils in particular. This he did well to the satisfaction of his masters. However, Kadirgamar would have been respected by the Tamils too if he brought to light the problems faced by the Tamils as well, in the hands of the successive Sinhala governments. Instead he was keen to satisfy the Sinhala people only.

In appreciation, suggestions were made by certain individuals in the Government to ‘appoint’ him as the prime minister. He was never a contender. He was only an intended contender, but tenderly dissuaded from doing so, because he was a Tamil. Kadirgamar never had the capacity to fight his way through or demand, for fear of hurting the Government.

K.J. Sripavan was a Chief Justice of the country by fortuitous circumstances. The President and Prime Minister had to take oaths under him as he was the acting Chief Justice. There was a void in seat of the Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake due to the unfortunate situation created by the Rajapaksa Government. Sripavan was a good choice as he would never have gone against the Government’s thinking.

Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy appears to be good choice but what about his predecessor Arjun Mahendran? Mahendran was appointed as Governor of the Central Bank, but it appears that the reins were held by his friend the Prime Minister, which resulted in a pathetic situation.

The Bar Association is not a Government institution to talk high of Geoffery Alagaratnam’s appointment as its President.

Muttiah Muralitharan’s world record was not bestowed by the Government. It was an achievement by him through his efforts, supported by his team mates, especially by Arjuna Ranatunga. However, according to recent press report, moves are afoot to remove his name from the Pallekelle Stadium. Why?

The Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan took this position not by right. He was appointed by the Government to shield them from the onslaught from the Joint Opposition. True to the Government’s expectation Sampanthan is flirting with them, forgetting the purpose of his election by the Tamil people.

He has amplified his faithfulness by his actions including the failure to attend the recent UNHCR secessions’ in Geneva for fear of antagonising the Government. Sampanthan would have been very comfortable with Godahewa in Geneva, if he had gone there. In effect he is not a trustworthy leader of the opposition even for the Sinhalese.

It will be waste of time to write about the private companies which have grown up on their own despite obstacles placed by the Government. Most of these companies were remnants of the British companies. Due to sheer hard work they have been able to continue successfully. Nevertheless it may be prudent for people like Godahewa to analyse and ascertain the ethnicity of the senior executive staff in these so-called Tamil companies.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer.

National Flag

In the National Flag, the Sinhalese are not represented by the maroon background but by the lion holding the sword and the four bo leaves in the four corners. The Sri Lanka flag was originally designed only with a lion and the sword in the flag. However, when the Tamils and the Muslims protested, they were given two stripes (popularly referred to as amude).

You will note that the sword held by the lion is pointed at the strips as a warning to the Tamils and the Muslims. The need to give recognition to the minorities in the national flags of other countries did not arise as their national flags did not depict any ethnic divide. In the recent past too there were moves to erase the strip and sing the National Anthem in Sinhala only.


Thesavalamai does not prevent any Sri Lankans buying land in Jaffna. This is a deliberate misrepresentation of facts. Please refer the article written by Vivekanadan under the headline ‘The Myths and Misconception of the Thesavalamai Law,’ which appeared in the Sunday Times of 30 January 2015. Notwithstanding this, Thesavalamai is a proof of an existence of a separate kingdom.

Further, please note that the Tamils are not opposed to Sinhalese buying properties in the north and east individually. But, they naturally fear the State-aided colonisation so as to change the texture of the existing population, which was the hallmark of D.S. Senanayake.

This was/is continued unabatedly by others, with the ulterior motive of reducing the Tamil representation in Parliament and elsewhere. Even a part of the 75% of the population colonising the 25% of population may result in completely destroying the identity of the Tamils.

Caste system

The caste system prevails not only in Jaffna but almost all parts of Sri Lanka and Asia. Even among the Sinhalese the caste system prevails – Karavas, Goviyas, Dhobis, etc. Late C.P. de Silva, Colvin R. de Silva and even the late President Premadasa suffered immensely because of their caste. In fact, subtle efforts were made by the so-called high caste MPs to prevent Premadasa becoming the president.

It is said that Premadasa lived in constant fear of being ousted by his own party men, because of his caste. If you go through the matrimonial pages in the press, you will see caste being mentioned as Karawas, Goviyas, Bodu Govi, etc. as a prerequisite.

Sinhala Only

S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike advocated Sinhala Only as the official language. This was the breaking point. This was the beginning of the end of the cordiality between the Sinhala and Tamil people. The UNP too supported it. Even the LSSP stalwart Colvin R. de Silva who once stated “two languages one nation and one language two nations” subsequently caved in and supported the Sinhala Only Act and for Buddhism to be given the foremost place.

If the discrimination was a myth, why was it necessary for Bandaranaike and Dudley to enter into pact with Chelvanayakam at different times and later unilaterally abrogate the pact? Is it because the discrimination had ended?

Blood donation

It is an outright lie to say that that the blood bank in Jaffna would have gone dry if not for the blood donation made by the Sinhala soldiers. It is another publicity stunt to artificially enhance the value of the Army to be stationed in Jaffna.

It is a shame to say that the Army donated blood during the war. Only the Army was able to move about in Jaffna during the war freely. Naturally, they may have donated blood at the Jaffna hospitals, to assist the injured soldiers. Logically the injured terrorists would not have been there.

The donation of blood by 200 soldiers was a good move, but it was not due to the refusal of Tamils to donate blood but due to the soldiers wishing to donate blood and publicise it for political reasons. The press report on this matter was clarified by the hospital.

Thanks to Prabakaran, the caste system in Jaffna has been kept at bay. Today no one is prevented from entering the Hindu temples, or restaurants or schools. In fairness to the Tamil Christians, it must be said that they never prevented anyone from entering their churches or schools.


Sri Lanka you say has wiped out terrorism but who was responsible for its creation? A mass hysteria was created by the Government by introducing the standardisation of marks for the university entrance examination, which resulted in the Tamil boys/girls being pushed to the wall, resulting in the younger generation taking up arms. Even the parents could not control their children. War may be over! But has the reason for the war been eliminated?

Public documents

All public documents carry both Sinhala and Tamil languages, it is said. Please go to Police stations and try to make an entry in Tamil. I was at the Traffic Court No. 7 recently to assist a friend. I was called upon to sign a bond in support of my friend. The bond document was in Sinhala only. Neither Tamil nor English documents were available. Hence I was reluctant to sign this document as I did not understand Sinhala. But if I did not sign the bond my friend would have been in great difficulty. Hence, I had to sign the document to assist my friend; despite my knowledge of Sinhala being questionable.

The Sunday Times of 1 October carried a news item which states: “The Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) last week charged that the Ministry of Education (MOE) from the beginning of this year failed to issue circulars in Tamil language to schools.” This situation has been prevailing for quite some time.

Development funds

The development funds diverted to the north and east are a drop in the ocean. It is an eye-wash, to cheat the north/east population and the world. If the Government can release acres and acres of land held by the Army, the people there can look after themselves and mitigate their sufferings to a great extent.

The JVP detainees were released by JR without hesitation, but why not the Tamil detainees? Why is the Government reluctant to allow free flow of funds from diaspora through recognised banks to organisations involved in helping the Tamils?

Discrimination in dealing with the dead

Even in death, there is discrimination. When the beauty queen from Hambantota, Prema Manamperi, was raped and murdered during the JVP ‘insurrection’, the Army men responsible for it were taken to task and punished. Of course, the then CMU Leader late Bala Tampoe spearheaded the agitation successfully to ensure justice.

But what a about Isai Priya, the TV presenter of the north during the war, who was raped and killed by the Army at the end of the war? She was paraded naked like Prema Manamperi and tortured, but no action has been taken. Why?


You may have enough and more constitutional provisions with regard to language rights, but are they being implemented? Marriage certificates and death certificates are invariably issued in Sinhala and the Tamils have to go behind sworn translators for translations.

Even when a few of the public documents are in Sinhala and Tamil, there are no officers who understand Tamil in most places. Try your luck at the post offices to send registered letters addressed in Tamil and you will realise the difficulties. Almost all the commercial banks both private and Government have various different accounts titled in Sinhala only. No translation is provided – only transliteration is given.

In Canada all public documents are in English and French. All items put out for sale have to carry labels in both languages. What is the difficulty in doing so here? The Canadian Embassy in Sri Lanka greets you in both languages (English and French) when called. I understand that the Canadian Government funds the implementation of the language policy to a certain extent in Sri Lanka.

Finally, Dr. Godahewa needs to be thanked for prompting a reply with observations/clarifications for the Sinhala people to understand the trials and tribulation under gone by the Tamils at every turn. Facts are sometimes stranger than fiction.


Nalaka Godahewa

Discrimination in Sri Lanka – The reality

Thursday, 28 September 2017 00:00

Following is the speech delivered by Dr. Nalaka Godahewa at the 36th session of the UNHRC in Geneva on 27 September:


Mr. President, a myth has been spread over the years, that there is discrimination against Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Out of a population of 22 million people in Sri Lanka, 11.2% are Northern Tamils while the upcountry Tamils who came to Sri Lanka during British colonial times, are about 4.1%. But these are not the only minority communities in Sri Lanka; 9.3% of the Sri Lankan population are Muslim. Several other minority communities such as Burgers and Malays amount to 0.6% of the population. The majority community is obviously Sinhalese at 74.9%. 


Political propaganda

Since we gained independence in 1948, we have been repeatedly hearing this complaint that there is discrimination against Tamils. But interestingly, no other minority community in Sri Lanka seems to be complaining about discrimination based on ethnicity. Why?

That is because, discrimination based on ethnicity is a myth, created and successfully promoted by the Tamil political leadership for so many decades. It is pure political propaganda with an ulterior motive. 

Let me explain what I mean here. Since colonial rule, we have always had Tamils holding very high positions in our country, whether it is in politics, Judiciary, academia, in the Government service or in the private sector. 

Every Sri Lankan Government since independence has had high profile Tamil ministers in the Cabinet. A very good example would be our former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. When he was killed in 2005, by the Tamil separatists, Kadirgamar was a strong contender to be the next prime minister of Sri Lanka. Who knows – he could have even been the president of the country had he lived. 


The Chief Justice of the country who recently retired is a Tamil – K.J. Sripavan. The current Governor of the Central Bank is a Tamil – Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy. Even his predecessor was a Tamil – Arjun Mahendran. 

The last President of the Sri Lanka Bar Association was a Tamil – Geoffrey Alagaratnam. One of Sri Lanka’s most popular sportsman, Muttiah Muralitharan who holds the world record for the highest number of wickets in cricket is a Tamil.

Rudra Rajasingham, a Tamil, was a former Inspector General of Police. The current Navy Commander Tavis Sinnaiah is a Tamil. The Election Commission of the country has only three members and one of them is a Tamil – Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole.

Two members of the 10-member Constitutional Council are Tamils – Radika Coomaraswamy and R. Sambanthan. The Opposition Leader in Parliament is a Tamil – R. Sambanthan. There are 33 Tamil MPs in a Parliament of 225 members. 

The present Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council C.V. Wigneswaran is a former Supreme Court Judge. The Director General of Customs P.S.M. Charles is a Tamil. The immediate past Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange is a Tamil – Krishan Balendra. R. Theagarajah, a Tamil, was the CEO of Sri Lanka’s largest development bank, NDB, until recently. 


The largest media network – MTV, Sirasa – are owned by the Maharaja family who are Tamils. The largest supermarket chain – Cargills – is owned by the Page family who are Tamils. The largest brewery in Sri Lanka – Carsons – is owned by the Selvanathan family who are Tamils. 

I could go on and on…!

So where is the discrimination based on ethnicity in Sri Lanka?


History behind it:


To understand the truth behind this false propaganda, we must understand the history behind it.

The colonial rulers were well known for their policy of ‘divide and rule’. In order to create division amongst the communities, they offered the minority, administrative positions over the majority. As a result, when the independence was granted in 1948, the minorities, Tamils in particular, were holding most of the senior administrative jobs. 


The high caste, Western educated, English-speaking Tamils who were holding senior positions in the Government under the British rule did not want to lose their positions of power when the country gained independence. That’s how the 50-50 power sharing demand was put forward by the Tamil leaders though they represented less than 10% of the population. 


Wouldn’t that have been discrimination against the majority Sinhalese if 50:50 power sharing was granted as Tamil political leadership requested?


Let us now see what the actual position is with regard to the minority communities in Sri Lanka.

Even in our National Flag, while the Sinhalese are represented by the maroon background, the saffron stripe represents the Tamils and the green stripe represents the Muslims. How many other countries in the world have given such recognition to the minorities in the national flag itself? 


All public documents carry both Sinhala and Tamil languages – the marriage certificate, the death certificate and the immigration forms are examples. All Sri Lankan currency and notes are in Sinhala and Tamil. All communities receive the same free education and free medical facilities in the country with no discrimination whatsoever. 

There are no places anywhere in Sri Lanka that allows only Sinhalese to enter. Tamils, Muslims and all other communities enjoy same access to public utilities. Public transportation is common to all.


There is no race based discrimination is participating in sports or representing the country even at national levels. 


So where is the so-called discrimination?


Discrimination in Jaffna

Having said that, I must also point out that discrimination still exists in Jaffna where there is a specific land law called Thesavalami. This law does not allow anybody other than a Tamil to buy land in Jaffna. But Tamils have no restriction whatsoever to buy properties elsewhere in the country. Then this is clear discrimination against the other communities.


You should also know that the real discrimination of Tamils actually comes from within their own community. 

For example, the Jaffna Tamils think they are superior to the rest of the Tamils. The Trinco Tamils think they are superior to Batticaloa Tamils. Tamils in the north and the east have no regard for estate Tamils. 

This discrimination apparently existed even within the LTTE who fought for a separate land for Tamils. Colonel Karuna, the former Eastern commander who defected the LTTE in 2004, has repeatedly mentioned in his interviews, that the northern cadres treated the eastern cadres as an inferior lot. 


Can anyone deny that even today, the high caste Tamils discriminate against low caste Tamils in Sri Lanka? Do they sit and eat together; are there intermarriages between the high caste Tamils and low caste Tamils? Isn’t it true that those who mix-up are shunned by the rest? 


There was a time even the places of worship did not allow the low castes Tamils to enter. There was a famous incident in 1957, when C. Sunderalingam, a former Cabinet Minister, slept in front of the gates of Nallur Kovil to prevent low caste Tamils being allowed to enter the place of worship. 


Today the Tamil politicians cry about an imaginary discrimination based on ethnicity. But it was a Sinhalese leader, former Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who passed a bill in Parliament in 1957 allowing equal rights to all Tamils. The bill was needed because the high caste Tamils were denying their own low caste Tamil people the basic human rights.


The Social Disabilities Act 21 which was passed in 1957 had to define some very interesting offences. It says:

No person can be prevented admission to a school because of the caste 

No person can be denied employment because of the caste 

No person can be prevented of entering and being served in a restaurant because of the caste 

No person can be prevented or denied from using water from public water supply because of the caste 

No person can be prevented or denied entering a public cemetery because of the caste 

No person can be prevented or denied wearing any kind of clothes because of the caste 

No person can be prevented from worshipping at any place of worship because of the caste 

The list goes on…

Isn’t it shocking to even imagine that those people who have been propagating false propaganda about ethnic discrimination were actually denying the basic human rights of their own people?

Is the situation different today? Sadly the answer is no. 

The caste-based discrimination is very much alive in Jaffna. That is why the Jaffna blood bank has to repeatedly seek support of Sinhalese to find blood for Tamil patients. There are always blood shortages in Jaffna hospitals because most of the residents are reluctant to donate blood thinking it will be given to someone from another caste. 

During the war, it was Government soldiers who donated blood to Jaffna hospitals from which even the terrorists benefited. Just two months ago in June 2017, more than 200 soldiers and officers from the three armed forces donated blood in Jaffna responding to a special request from the blood bank. 

Sinister forces have not given up.

When post-independent Sri Lanka started offering equal rights to all citizens, the English-speaking, high caste Tamil politicians did not like it. When they couldn’t prevent it happening, they started poisoning the minds of ordinary Tamils with false propaganda that it is better for the Tamils to have a separate rule. The objective was very simple. The elite wanted to go back to their age-old practice of suppressing and exploiting their own people.

Unfortunately as it always happens, a lot of people were successfully misguided by these politicians. The emergence of terrorism, which brutalized the country for more than 30 years, was a result of this false propaganda.

Let us therefore be clear that Sri Lanka eventually faced a terrorist problem and not an ethnic problem. 

Sri Lanka has now wiped out terrorism. The people of all ethnicities now want to live in peace and in harmony. They have nothing against each other. We accept Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and all other communities of Sri Lanka as citizens with equal rights. The Sinhalese have already extended their hands of brotherhood to the people of the north and the east. Since the end of the war, the bulk of Government development expenditure were routed to the north and the east. Economic development opportunities are now available to all Sri Lankans. 

Yet the sinister forces have not given up. They continue to spread hatred. They continue to preach separatism. They continue to mislead the international community false information. 

It is up to the ordinary Tamils now to assess the true situation and decide how far this bogus ‘self-determination’ bid will lead them to. The must figure out whether this cry for separatism is for the benefit of all Tamils or to give power back to the elite who are unhappy with the equal rights regime?

There was a time when all Sinhalese, Tamils Muslims and other communities lived in peace and harmony. It was the colonial rulers who disturbed that peace first. Now it is continued by some Tamil elite who have ulterior motives. 


Rewrite our history books.

We must come together once again to rewrite our history books. The older generation needs to separate the realities from the lies. The younger generation should not be taught to carry the aspirations of the old and must be encouraged to live in peace and harmony. 

Let us therefore say no to ethnic-based solutions. Let us say no to the external forces who only want to divide us.

In conclusion, I like to emphasize once again that no minority is discriminated by any constitutional, legislative or judicial provision in Sri Lanka. Ethnicity-based discrimination in Sri Lanka is a total myth. Whether Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims we are all citizens of equal rights in a unitary state.


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Posted on 05 October 2017 by admin

By: Upali Obeyesekere – Editor, The Times of Sri Lanka.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 189 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world. Created in 1945, the IMF is governed by and accountable to the 189 countries that make up its near-global membership. The IMF, also known as the Fund, was conceived at a UN conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, in July 1944. The 44 countries at that conference sought to build a framework for economic cooperation to avoid a repetition of the competitive devaluations that had contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The IMF's responsibilities: The IMF's primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system—the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries to transact with each other. The Fund's mandate was updated in 2012 to include all macroeconomic and financial sector issues that bear on global stability.

A staff team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Jaewoo Lee visited Colombo during September 18-29, 2017 to hold discussions on the third review of the Sri Lankan authorities’ economic program that is being supported by a three-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) . The program aims to support the authorities’ ambitious reform agenda to put public finances on a sustainable footing and create space for social and development program.


Jaewoo Lee, Mission Chief for Sri Lanka

At the end of the visit Mr. Lee made the following statement:


“The mission made significant progress toward reaching a staff-level agreement with the government on completing the third review of the EFF. Discussions will continue in October in Washington D.C. during the Annual Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank.

“Overall, macroeconomic performance has been mixed. Growth has been subdued and inflationary pressures have increased reflecting the drought since late 2016 and the floods earlier this year. Growth is projected to remain below 4.5 percent for 2017, and to rebound next year as agricultural production normalizes and infrastructure projects pick up. The current account deficit is projected to widen somewhat this year due to higher imports of food and fuel related to the drought and floods. Capital inflows continue, supported by improving market confidence from the progress in reforms. As weather-related supply disruptions dissipate, headline inflation is expected to stabilize in the mid-single digits.

“The mission commends the authorities for the strong efforts in implementing their IMF-supported economic reform program with all quantitative performance targets through end-June 2017 having been met and the landmark Inland Revenue Act (IRA) legislation passed by Parliament. Progress, on the other hand, has been mixed in implementing structural reforms—especially in relation to state owned enterprises (SOEs) and public financial management.

“Fiscal consolidation based on stronger revenues remains essential for reducing high public debt. To remain on this path, further broadening of the tax base is needed to fund the social and development spending in the 2018 budget. To this end, the focus should shift to the smooth implementation of the IRA through supporting regulations and manuals, efficient tax administration, and greater awareness and preparedness of taxpayers through media outreach and information dissemination. Strengthening debt management capacity and developing a medium-term debt strategy would also enable effective management of the debt burden going forward.

“The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) should continue to remain vigilant in monitoring inflation pressures and stand ready to tighten monetary policy if needed to contain inflation or credit growth. The CBSL’s drive towards gradually rebuilding reserves should continue. In this regard, the mission welcomes the CBSL’s commitment to develop a roadmap for flexible inflation targeting and a flexible exchange rate regime, which will require strengthening the legal frameworks for CBSL’s governance, improving market functionalities, and enhancing communication.

“An important priority is to accelerate implementation of structural reforms in public financial management and SOEs. Large financial obligations of SOEs pose fiscal risks and need to be managed by enhancing oversight of performance indicators, developing SOE-specific reform strategies, and following through on fuel and electricity pricing reform. The mission also welcomes the broad-based strategy for improving trade and investment climate, which will help bolster competitiveness and boost private sector-led growth.”

The mission met with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, Minister of Finance Samaraweera, State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Indrajit Coomaraswamy, other public officials, and representatives of the business community, civil society and international partners.




SRI LANKA: MICE Tourism in high demand – Minimum Room Rates concept should be scrapped

Posted on 05 October 2017 by admin


By: Upali Obeyesekere – Editor, The Times of Sri Lanka.

The minimum room rates in Colombo hotels have been a hot topic in the tourism industry for some time. Many in the hotel trade consider this policy as disruptive as opposed to it been pro-active.

The ‘Minimum Room Rate’ introduced by Colombo City Hotels in Sri Lanka is a contentious policy. It has been a hot topic since introduced in 2009, by the Rajapaksa Government soon after the cessation of the north-east situation. Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, or Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events (MICE) is a type of tourism in which large groups, usually planned well in advance, are brought together for a specific event. According to JLL Research, around sixty-five percent of Colombo hotel demand was from business tourists or MICE tourism. This upward trend in tourism arrivals prompted the Minister of Tourism Development John Amaratunga to do away with ‘minimum room rates’ as it hurts the market opportunities.

The Tourism Development and Christian Affairs Ministry on a couple of occasions over the past two years had communicated that the minimum room rate would be abolished in early 2017 since the market forces best determine the intrinsic value of a product. However, on each occasion, within a period of days, various lobby groups managed to get these policy decisions reversed.

Just last week Mahesh Fernando, General Manager of Hilton Colombo speaking to a mainstream media outlet in Sri Lanka was highly critical of the ‘minimum room rate’ and was quite vocal when he said, “The regulation is highly unwarranted, and the bigger hotels do not want any authority dictating terms to them”. Quite a strong statement from the GM of Colombo Hilton who is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Fernando’s rationale is that room rates should be fixed in keeping with market sources (demand and supply). In most other countries, this does not happen, he emphasised.

It must be said that successful tourism destinations in the region such as Thailand, Bali or Singapore do not have a minimum room rate criterion. The Maldives tourism industry depends on upscale tourists who pay USD $180 to USD $2,000 per day for the resorts. Minimum room rates in these places will kill the industry. This will apply to Sri Lanka over a period of time, analysts say.

Talking of the tourism industry and hotel accommodation, Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo is scheduled to open soon and reservations are accepted as of October 2017. It is a 5-star hotel with 31 floors and 466 rooms. The hotel is equipped with five restaurants and 34 suites. Shangri La Colombo is expected to offer a new level of luxury hospitality in Sri Lanka. Shangri-La's world-renowned CHI, The Spa presents 10 private rooms and a soothing selection of traditional Sri Lankan and Asian treatments and therapies. The spa is complemented by a state-of-the-art, 24-hour Health Club and one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in Colombo.

To meet the needs of Colombo's dynamic business community, Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo, offers the largest and most extensive hotel conference and event facilities in the region, which can cater to up to 2,000 guests.

Hilton Colombo is celebrating its 30th anniversary with General Manager Mahesh Fernando stewarding the destiny of the hotel. Long standing patrons of Hilton Colombo might recall the name ‘Gamini Fernando’, who was General Manager of the hotel in the early years, a person who fashioned the property into a business cum family hotel.

GM Mahesh Fernando stays positive on forward bookings. “We also see a lot of Sri Lankan expats and their families coming and staying with us, especially towards the end of the year. With the growth of Sri Lanka tourism and seven new Hilton Hotels to be added in Sri Lanka from next year, we are very optimistic of the future,” He said.

Interestingly, as at date of writing the popular search engine Booking.Com shows room rates (Canadian dollars) in Colombo ranging from $109 to $225 for a hypothetical December 20th reservation. Jetwing Colombo Seven $171; Cinnamon Red $109; Mandarina Colombo $127; The Kingsbury $169; Movenpick Hotel Colombo $166; Galle Face Hotel $161; Taj Samudra $219; Cinnamon Lakeside $156; Fairway Colombo $113; Hilton Colombo $169; Cinnamon Grand $156; Sh

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SriLankan Airlines receives prestigious Four Star rating by Airline Passenger Experience Association

Posted on 28 September 2017 by admin

SriLankan Airlines Manager Product Development Senaka Bandaranayake(center) receiving the award on behalf of the Airline.

Colombo, September 28, 2017: SriLankan Airlines added another feather to its cap by being honoured with a prestigious Four Star Rating by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) in the first ever airline industry rating programme based solely on feedback from passengers.

Captain Suren Ratwatte, CEO of SriLankan Airlines, said: “We are delighted to receive this rating of excellence, which we consider extremely important since it was compiled using passenger feedback. We will continue our efforts to delight our customers and will aim to achieve Five Stars in the next edition of the rating.”

APEX ( is the world’s only non-profit membership trade association dedicated to improving the entire airline passenger experience

Siva Ramachandra, Chief Commercial Officer of SriLankan, said: “This rating is the culmination of continuous teamwork and innovation by every employee of our airline and demonstrates that SriLankan has the ability to compete with the finest airlines in the sky.”

A total of 470 airlines worldwide were rated, with only 12% of airlines achieving five-star status and 14% reaching four-star status. Using a five-star scale, more than 500,000 flights were rated anonymously by passengers between 24th October 2016 and to 31st July 2017. Passengers rated their overall flight experience and also provided ratings in seat comfort, cabin service, food and beverage, entertainment and Wi-Fi. SriLankan Airlines was placed in the Major Regional Airline category, with the other categories being Global Airlines and Low Cost Carriers.

The awards were presented at a gala ceremony in Long Beach, California on 25th September during APEX EXPO, a conference attended by more than 4,000 airline industry professionals which showcases airline related technologies, products and services. 

SriLankan recently won a host of accolades including ‘World's Leading Airline Operating to the Indian Ocean Region’ at the World Travel Awards; ‘Best Full Service Airline in Central and South Asia’ for two consecutive years at the Future Travel Experience Asia Awards; ‘Most Innovative Marketing Airline in China’ by Life Weekly magazine; ‘Best Airline in South Asia’ at the Top Travel Awards, also in China; and Best International Airline – Asia for two consecutive years at the Tamil Nadu Tourism Awards.

The airline has been rapidly modernizing its fleet with the addition of brand new wide body A330-300 and narrow body A320neo and A321neo aircraft. Passengers now enjoy a service with comfortable seats, state of the art entertainment systems, excellent in-flight cuisine, on board connectivity (Wi-Fi & GSM) and flight attendants famed for their warmth and caring.

SriLankan’s global network covers 105 cities in 47 countries and as a member of the oneworld global airline alliance it also connects its passengers to oneworld’s worldwide network of more than 1,000 destinations in 160 countries.


Corporate Communications

SriLankan Airlines

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Customs nab young couple with Rs.88M in local, foreign currency at BIA

Posted on 21 September 2017 by admin

Customs nab young couple with Rs.88M in local, foreign currency at BIA.

2017-09-22 – Courtesy of Daily Mirror.

A young couple bound for Dubai, who tried to smuggle out local and foreign currency amounting to Rs.88 million, making it the largest ever detection of local currency, were stopped by officials of the Customs Narcotics Control Unit at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) last night.

The couple was searched by the officials on suspicion when they tried to leave the airport through the 'Silk Route' private lounge with their baggage, Customs Spokesman Deputy Director Sunil Jayaratne said.

A 24-year-old man and his lady partner aged 22 were to leave for Dubai on Srilankan Airlines flight UL225, which was scheduled to depart at 6.25pm yesterday.

The couple who claimed to be business people had told Customs officials that they were from Dematagoda.

Customs Deputy Director at the BIA Parakrama Basnayake told the Daily Mirror that they had stopped the couple when they were waiting at the paid private lounge 'Silk Route'.

He said the couple was suspected to have used the services of the private lounge which is similar to that of a VIP lounge to attract less suspicion to their actions by the airport authorities.

The currency included a large amount of wads of Rs.1, 000 notes amounting to Rs.44 million, US Dollars 45,000, Euros 35,000, Omani Riyals 4,000, Bahrain Dinar 2,685, Saudi Riyals 599,500 and UAE Dirhams 72, 000.

Mr. Basnayake said the Customs authorities at the BIA had thwarted 17 attempts to smuggle out Rs.320 million worth of currency this year to date and this detection including Sri Lankan Rupees amounting to 44 million is considered to be the biggest stash of local currency ever detected while attempting to smuggle it out of the country in Customs history.

The currency was found neatly packed in black polythene bags in the check-in baggage of the suspects.

Customs suspects that the young couple might have been used as pawns by a third party to courier the currencies from Sri Lanka to Dubai.

The detection was made by Assistant Superintendents Nuwan Abeynayake, Rasika Samanjith and Srilal Ananda. Investigations are underway under the direction of Superintendent Nissanka Rathnayake on the instructions of Director Parakrama Basnayake and Deputy Directors Darshana Silva and Hapugaskumbura. (Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana)

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Strong contribution to the nation’s economy – SriLankan Catering wins yet another Presidential Export Award!

Posted on 21 September 2017 by admin

Hon. Malik Samarawickrama, Minister of Development Strategies & International Trade, presenting the award to SriLankan Airlines Group Chairman Ajith Dias at the Presidential Export Awards at the BMICH last week.

Colombo, September 21, 2017: SriLankan Catering Limited (SLC), a fully owned subsidiary of National Carrier SriLankan Airlines, covered itself in more glory when it was named the winner of yet another Presidential Export Award, the third such award in recent years, as recognition for its steadfast commitment to supporting the nation’s economy and the growth of the aviation industry.

Hon. Malik Samarawickrama, Minister of Development Strategies & International Trade, presented the award to SriLankan Airlines Group Chairman Ajith Dias at the Presidential Export Awards 2016 at a gala ceremony at Colombo’s main international convention centre the BMICH last week. SLC was adjudged the winner as the Highest Value Added Exporter in the Professional Services (Other) category.

Ajith Dias, Group Chairman of SriLankan Airlines, said: “We are honoured to receive yet another Presidential Export Award, as SriLankan Catering and its parent company SriLankan Airlines remain fully committed to serving the nation’s economy, the country’s air transport industry and the millions of travelers on all airlines that operate to Sri Lanka.”

The Presidential Export Awards were adjudged by a panel of judges appointed by the Sri Lanka Export Development Board. SLC was rewarded for its contribution of value added exports amounting to USD 45.23 million during the financial year 2016/17, an increase from the USD 42.15 million over the previous year.

Rakhita Jayawardena, Executive Director of SriLankan Airlines, said: “SriLankan Catering has always been an integral member of the SriLankan Airlines Group and we are delighted at the support that SLC continuously provides to the National Carrier. We look forward to an even greater performance in the future.”

Lalith Withana, General Manager of SriLankan Catering, said: “All credit goes to the hardworking team at SLC, which also won Presidential Export Awards in 2012 and 2013. The experience and talent of our team was aptly demonstrated recently when SLC won overall 6th place in the entire island and brought home 29 medals (7 Golds, 10 Silvers and 12 Bronzes) from Culinary Art 2017, the premier international exhibition and competition organized by the Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka.”

SriLankan Catering ( is the exclusive inflight caterer for all airlines that operate to BIA and serves over 6.3 million meals annually. It operates from its sophisticated full flight kitchen at Bandaranaike International Airport, which has a capacity of 25,000 meals per day. SLC also carries out a wide range of subsidiary operations including operation of passenger lounges and public restaurants at BIA; providing catering services for lounges operated by other institutions at BIA; management of the Serenediva airport transit hotel at BIA; the Semondu specialty restaurant in downtown Colombo’s bustling Fort business area; the Vanilla Pod boulangerie and patisserie; and the Aero Clean industrial laundry that serves airlines, hotels and other organisations around Katunayake and beyond.

SLC has gained a reputation for its high standards in quality and food safety and holds no less than four global certifications – ISO 9001:2008 for Quality Management System; ISO 22000:2005 for Food Safety Management Systems; HACCP-Codex Alimentarius for Food Safety Assurance; and ISO 14001:2004 for Best Environmental Practices. Among its many accolades are several Mercury Awards presented by the International Travel Catering Association (ITCA) and National Energy Efficiency Awards.

Caption: Hon. Malik Samarawickrama, Minister of Development Strategies & International Trade, presenting the award to SriLankan Airlines Group Chairman Ajith Dias at the Presidential Export Awards at the BMICH last week.


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SriLankan Airlines

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Sri Lanka secure World Cup berth after Windies defeat

Posted on 20 September 2017 by admin

Sri Lanka have become the eighth and final team to qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup, following West Indies' seven-wicket defeat against England in the first ODI at Old Trafford.

With September 30 set as the cut-off date, West Indies (78 points) now cannot move ahead of Sri Lanka (86 points) in the ICC ODI rankings, irrespective of how their remaining matches against England pan out.

They had gone into the five-match series needing to win by either 4-0 or 5-0 to amass enough points to leapfrog Sri Lanka, but their fate was sealed in a 42-over-a-side contest in which a Jonny Bairstow century guided England past their victory target of 205 with more than 19 overs remaining.

Sri Lanka, World Champions in 1996, now join Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa as the confirmed participants in the 2019 event, which will be held in England between May 30 and July 15.

West Indies, two-times champions in 1975 and 1979, must now compete in a 10-team qualifier in 2018, where they will be joined by the bottom three sides in the ICC team rankings – Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland – as well as the top four sides from the ICC World Cricket League Championship and the top two sides from the ICC World Cricket League Division 2. The top two sides will complete the World Cup line-up.

"You always know there's the potential of that [not qualifying direct], we knew it was going to be a tough ask," said Toby Radford, West Indies' batting coach. "But we are very positive as a group and are trying to develop in all formats. If it means the qualifiers next year, it means the qualifiers next year and we'll build our way back up."

Upul Tharanga, Sri Lanka's ODI captain, was relieved to have avoided that fate: "It's no secret that we have been going through a tough time, but I want to say a big, big thank you to our fans who've kept faith with us when things looked bleak.

"ICC events have always brought out the magic in Sri Lanka cricket, and I look forward to proving that once again.

"We have a clear plan toward the World Cup, and we will work hard at achieving each step. As we say in the dressing room, – Little 'w's [wins] add up to make the big 'W' – so that's what we'll be focusing on and I know you will see Sri Lanka's special brand of cricket out there once again soon."

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