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14th TIFA Council Meeting held in Colombo

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The United States and Sri Lanka marked the fourteenth Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council Meeting in Colombo today (18), solidifying their commitment to enhancing trade and investment relations. The technical level meeting, co-chaired by Mr. K.J. Weerasinghe of the Government of Sri Lanka and Mr. Brendan Lynch, Acting Assistant United States Trade Representative for South and Central Asia, witnessed productive discussions on a wide range of crucial issues.

Her Excellency Julie Chung, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Mrs. Chandanie Wijayawardhana, Acting Secretary to the President, set the tone with their opening remarks, acknowledging the 75th anniversary of bilateral relations between the two nations.

During the TIFA Council meeting, both delegations addressed policies impacting the investment climate, recent labour reforms, intellectual property protection and enforcement, customs and trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade and market access for apparel, gem and jewellery and agricultural products. The discussions also extended to collaboration and technical assistance in areas such as the digital economy, gem and jewellery industry, floriculture, boat building sectors and the Coconut Research Institute’s technology transfer and research commercialization.

Transparency and efficiency in approving foreign direct investment (FDI) were emphasized as key drivers of domestic economic growth and foreign investment attraction. The United States underscored the importance of adopting robust anti-corruption measures and Sri Lanka provided updates on its proposed anticorruption legislation, seeking technical assistance and training from the U.S. government.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to workers’ rights was highlighted and Sri Lanka outlined its ongoing labour law reform efforts. The United States stressed the importance of consulting relevant stakeholders and ensuring public review and comment in the process. Sri Lanka detailed its procedures for labour law reforms, with the United States expressing readiness to support these efforts.

Both nations discussed the reduction of agricultural trade barriers to enhance food security in Sri Lanka. The United States advocated for greater market access for U.S. exports of agricultural products, including animal feed. Biotechnology’s role in sustainable agriculture and food security was also explored.

Intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement were affirmed as crucial for bilateral trade and innovation. Sri Lanka shared updates on its IP legislative reforms and the United States offered capacity building support.

The meeting concluded with both governments committing to making sustained progress on trade issues, looking ahead to the next TIFA Council Meeting scheduled for 2024. The fourteenth TIFA Council Meeting served as a testament to the United States and Sri Lanka’s dedication to strengthening their economic ties and fostering mutual prosperity.

(President’s Media Division)

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SLPP MP temporarily ordained as monk

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SLPP Kandy District MP – Gunatileke Rajapaksa has been temporarily ordained as a Buddhist monk at the historical Isipathanarama Temple in India.

He is now known as Ven. Harispathuwe Dhammarathana Thera.
His son – Sandakelum Rajapaksa, who is an engineer by profession, has also been ordained as Ven. Ampare Dhammaloka Thera.

The MP had reportedly decided to enter into the religious order after the recent death of his wife. He too, was recently hospitalised after falling ill.

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Court delays ruling on Online Safety Act challenge

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The Sri Lankan Supreme Court today indefinitely postponed its decision on whether to hear a fundamental rights petition challenging the Online SafetyAct No. 9 of 2024.

President’s Counsel and Jaffna District Member of Parliament M A Sumanthiran filed a fundamental rights application in the Supreme Court on 14th Feb., challenging the Speaker’s certification of the Online Safety Bill as having been enacted into law.

During the hearing, Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam presented five preliminary objections, arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case since the Speaker has already signed the bill into law. 

He further emphasized that the legislature holds the sole authority to pass bills, and the court cannot intervene in that process.

Countering these arguments, Attorney-at-Law Suren Fernando, representing Sumanthiran, asserted that the petition aimed solely at the Speaker’s signing of the Act, which he claimed contravened previous Supreme Court pronouncements on related petitions. 

He emphasized the petitioner’s intention to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.

The three-judge bench, comprising Justices Priyantha Jayawardene, Shiran Gunaratne, and Achala Vengappuli, decided to postpone their decision on hearing the petition indefinitely. 

In his Petition, MP Sumanthiran claims that the government was seeking to enact the Bill without fully adhering the Supreme Court Determination, and that he had pointed out that the draft committee stage amendments would not sufficiently rectify the shortcomings, and provided his concerns in writing to the Speaker.

However, the Parliament had voted on the Bill prior to ensuring full compliance with the Determination, according to Sumanthiran.

The Petitioner claims that the Bill could have been passed by simple majority only if all the changes required by the Supreme Court were incorporated. If these were not incorporated, the Bill could only have been enacted if 2/3 of the whole number of MPs voted in favour of the Bill.

MP Sumanthiran states that the Bill was approved only by a simple majority of members present, and that therefore the Bill could not have become law.

Therefore he states that the Speaker, by certifying that the Bill was enacted into law, has violated the public trust and the fundamental rights guaranteed to Sumanthiran and the citizenry.

Sumanthiran also states that according to the Speaker, he had acted in accordance with advise given by the Attorney General, and if so, the Attorney General is also responsible for the violation of fundamental rights occasioned by the purported certification of the Bill.

The Speaker of Parliament and the Attorney General are named as Respondents to the Application.

(News 1st)

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English considered for legal proceedings in selected courts

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English language is to be considered for conducting legal proceedings and maintaining records in certain courts, according to a Cabinet decision.

The Cabinet has noted that particularly in the commerce sphere related to commercial activities are mainly used in the English language and require a considerable cost and time in translating those contents into Sinhala language.

Due to that, an extended period to settle commercial disputes takes place which leads to disadvantage when obtaining entrepreneurs, the cabinet has noted.

This situation also affected the position of Sri Lanka to be in a lower place the Ease of Doing Business ratings which envisage the ability of conducting enterprises in a country.

As a remedy to this, it has been recognized as appropriate to issue an order by the subject Minister of Justice with the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers and in par with the provisions of the statute 24 (4) of the Constitution permitting to use English language in relation to all the activities in recognized courts or legal records and proceedings precisely mentioned thereupon.

Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal submitted by the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms to take necessary actions in this regard.

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