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Japanese grant to strengthen facilities at BIA & Colombo Port

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With almost 1.5 million visitor arrivals and 7.5 million passenger turnovers recorded in 2023, Sri Lanka is on its way to recovery, stability, and growth after the Easter Sunday attacks, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the devastating economic crisis in 2022. 

As cross-border travel is expected to rise rapidly in the coming months, preparedness of Points of Entry (PoE) to Sri Lanka to operate without any closure has become a national priority than ever before.  

In this hopeful setting, the Government of Japan, a longstanding development partner to the people of Sri Lanka, has provided a grant of USD 8.4 million through the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to strengthen PoE facilities in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

The grant component for Sri Lanka aims to strengthen capacities at Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) and the Colombo Port – vital gateways to Sri Lanka, to be future-ready for responding to any public health emergencies such as pandemics and infectious diseases. The event for handing over the first part of the donation took place on 10th April 2024 at Bandaranaike International Airport. (BIA)

Under this initiative, BIA and Colombo Port are set to receive cutting-edge equipment and facilities, including advanced baggage scanners, full body scanners, Automated Border Control (ABC) gates equipped with a Face Recognition System (AFRS), full-page e-passport scanners, and biometric-based access control systems. Additionally, the project renovates approximately 150 washrooms at BIA with sensor-operated, touchless equipment providing hygienic benefits for passengers, crew, and staff.  

At the event, the Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka, – Mr. Mizukoshi Hideaki stated “I am proud to reaffirm Japan’s unwavering commitment to the recovery, growth, and development of Sri Lanka. Our support extends particularly to the enhancement of PoE, with a special focus on BIA and Colombo Port. Through this initiative, Japan aims to fortify PoE capabilities, ensuring seamless management of future emergencies, especially during pandemics.”

In addition, the project will provide much-needed medical equipment, and renovate and equip the isolation room at BIA in line with International Health Regulations (IHR), alongside enhancements to both BIA and Colombo Port waste disposal capabilities.

A four-story office building will be constructed for the Port Health Service at Colombo Port and 25 Sri Lankan Diplomatic Missions will receive biometric enrollment workstations enabling linking up with the Department of Immigration and Emigration to speed up passport issuance for Sri Lankans living overseas. For a greater outcome, the project will provide comprehensive training and staff capacity building to strengthen border health compliance in line with international standards enabling swift response to public health emergencies.  

Commenting on the timely initiative, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation, Nimal Siripala De Silva,  at the ceremony  stated  “I am immensely grateful for the generous financial support given by the Government of Japan and IOM Sri Lanka for this important initiative which will significantly bolster health preparedness at Sri Lanka’s main Airport and the Colombo Port, in consonance with International Health Regulations, and in turn garner public confidence for uninterrupted, safe, and secure cross-border operations benefitting passengers, crew, and staff.”

This project is implemented by IOM under the guidance of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Aviation in close coordination with the Airport & Aviation Services Sri Lanka Limited (AASL), Sri Lanka Ports Authority, the Department of Immigration and Emigration, and the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs. 

Commenting on the occasion, the Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration for Sri Lanka & the Maldives, Mr. Sarat Dash stated that “IOM strongly believes that strengthening the PoE is an investment for the future. The focus of the project extends beyond physical infrastructure and encompasses efforts for the economy, security, and digital landscape. IOM feels privileged to be a part of this project of national significance and is grateful for the support extended by all stakeholders for its successful implementation.”

The project intervention will reduce physical contact points, waiting time and congestion at points of entry for efficient, secure, and safe operations at BIA and Colombo Port. It will further improve traveller confidence, driving the potential for a boost in tourism and business travel offering an opportunity for mobility to return to pre-pandemic levels and adapt to the post-pandemic reality.

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New SL ambassador to China assumes duties

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The Ambassador-designate of Sri Lanka to the People’s Republic of China – Majintha Jayesinghe had assumed duties yesterday (May 20).

The post of the Sri Lankan ambassador to China was vacant for several months after the tenure of Dr. Palitha Kohona ended.

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Heavy showers today as well

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The Department of Meteorology says the Southwest monsoon conditions are gradually establishing over the island and hence, the prevailing showery and windy conditions will continue. 

Cloudy skies can be expected over most parts of the island.

Showers or thundershowers will occur at times in Western, Sabaragamuwa, Central and North-western provinces and in Galle and Matara districts.

Heavy showers above 100mm are likely at some places in Western, Sabaragamuwa and North-western provinces and in Galle, Matara, Kandy and Nuwara-Eliya districts.

Several spells of showers will also occur in the Northern and North-central provinces, it said.

Strong winds of about 40-50 kmph can be expected at times over the island.

General public is kindly requested to take adequate precautions to minimize damages caused by temporary localized strong winds and lightning during thundershowers.

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SL – Indonesia pledge stronger bilateral ties

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In a significant bilateral meeting during the 10th World Water Summit, President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Indonesian President Joko Widodo reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the longstanding relationship between their nations. The discussions, which covered a wide range of regional and international issues, underscored the importance of collaboration in addressing global challenges.

President Wickremesinghe, in his opening remarks, highlighted the historical ties between Sri Lanka and Indonesia, dating back to their joint participation in the 1956 Bandung Conference. He expressed appreciation for President Widodo’s leadership in regional, international, and bilateral matters, noting the importance of such summits in fostering global cooperation.

A major topic of discussion was the critical issue of water management. President Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of the World Water Summit and expressed Sri Lanka’s willingness to participate in the Global Blended Financial Alliance, an initiative aimed at addressing common financial challenges faced by countries in managing water resources. He commended Indonesia for establishing a Secretariat for the Alliance, recognizing its significance for Sri Lanka.

President Widodo, in his remarks, focused on the economic cooperation between the two countries. He stressed the need to finalize the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) by the first quarter of 2025 to enhance economic ties. Additionally, he highlighted Indonesia’s interest in entering the Sri Lankan vaccine market through Indonesian pharmaceutical companies, and called for the lifting of import restrictions on Indonesian palm oil and related products.

The Indonesian President also showcased Indonesia’s advancements in renewable energy, specifically the country’s largest floating solar power project. He emphasized the importance of hydro diplomacy and political leadership in achieving sustainable water management and development goals. Furthermore, he welcomed Sri Lanka’s leadership in the Indian Ocean Rim Association and its aspirations to become a sectoral dialogue partner.

President Wickremesinghe reiterated the importance of completing the PTA by early 2025, noting Sri Lanka’s existing free trade agreements with India, Singapore, and ongoing negotiations with Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. He emphasized the potential benefits of joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), suggesting that Sri Lanka’s inclusion could encourage other South Asian countries to follow suit. 

He also mentioned the ongoing removal of import restrictions and assured that Sri Lankan health authorities would address the entry of Indonesian pharmaceuticals into the market.

The discussion also touched upon regional security and economic cooperation in the Indian Ocean. President Wickremesinghe supported ASEAN’s Indo-Pacific outlook and stressed the need for closer bilateral and regional cooperation regarding Indian Ocean affairs. He proposed more frequent meetings between heads of government and a specific bilateral agreement with Indonesia to enhance commercial collaboration in the region.

President Widodo thanked Sri Lanka for co-sponsoring the Global Blended Financial Alliance, emphasizing its role in achieving sustainable development goals. He called for continued collaboration between relevant ministries from both countries to support this initiative. Looking ahead, President Widodo mentioned the upcoming presidential transition in Indonesia and expressed hope that the new administration would continue to strengthen ties with Sri Lanka.

In conclusion, President Wickremesinghe expressed his eagerness to work with Indonesia’s new leadership and extended a personal invitation to President Widodo to visit Sri Lanka after his term ends in October. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing bilateral relations and addressing shared global challenges through continued cooperation.

(President’s Media Division)

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