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New US Embassy in Colombo opened (Pic)

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The newly revamped United States Embassy in Sri Lanka was officially declared open in Colombo yesterday.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, and the US Department of State’s Under Secretary for Management John Bass officially opened the new Embassy in a festive event.

Below is the full statement issued by the American Embassy in Sri Lanka.

Colombo, October 28, 2022: In a celebration of more than 70 years of U.S.-Sri Lankan friendship, partnership, and bilateral ties, the Honorable President Ranil Wickremesinghe, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, and the U.S. Department of State’s Under Secretary for Management John Bass officially opened the new U.S. Embassy on Galle Road today in a festive event that included officials and private citizens from both countries.

“It was a great honor to celebrate our new Embassy in the presence of the President of Sri Lanka, honored guests, and colleagues,” said U.S. Ambassador Chung. “We have had an embassy in Colombo since Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948, and the new campus symbolizes our enduring partnership with Sri Lanka. Americans and Sri Lankans worked together to build this state-of-the-art facility that epitomizes respect for the environment and appreciation of Sri Lankan architectural, cultural, and artistic themes. We are pleased to open our new doors to our Sri Lankan friends.”

Under Secretary Bass stated: “The new embassy highlights the important diplomatic relationship between the United States and Sri Lanka and provides the first impression of the United States for many Sri Lankans. It also demonstrates sustainable design, construction, and operations that represent the best of U.S. architecture, engineering, and building standards.”

The new Embassy is situated on the existing, expanded embassy site along the seafront in central Colombo and provides a secure, modern, sustainable, and resilient platform for U.S. diplomacy in Sri Lanka. The architecture and landscape of the new Embassy were designed to embrace Sri Lanka’s ecology, history, and culture and are heavily informed by Colombo’s tropical climate. Domestically sourced natural stone and wood reference the region’s rich selection of materials in a neutral palette that draws attention to the lushness of the landscape. The Embassy’s interior incorporates textures and patterns inspired by local culture, art, and the surrounding gardens.

A model of environmental stewardship, the new embassy was designed to reduce energy costs and greenhouse-gas emissions while increasing security and augmenting renewable energy usage. To mitigate the effects of strong sun and heavy rainfall, the new embassy integrates regionally available weather-resistant materials, an advanced stormwater management system, and, soon, photovoltaic arrays that will offset roughly eleven percent of the building’s annual energy use. The project is registered with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) — a global green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices — and is on track to achieve Silver certification.

The new Embassy also contains a permanent art collection, curated by the Office of Art in Embassies, that includes art in a variety of media, including painting, photography, textiles, and sculpture by both U.S. and Sri Lankan artists. Highlights include site-specific commissions of Birds for Sri Lanka and a wall sculpture representing the atolls and coral life in the oceans. These works reflect an understanding of the diversity and richness of U.S. and Sri Lankan ecology and cultural heritage.

The Bureau of Overseas Building Operations spearheaded the new embassy’s construction. Integrus Architecture of Seattle was the architect for the project, and Caddell Construction Company, LLC of Montgomery, Alabama, constructed the complex, injecting roughly $90 million into the local economy.

-US Embassy Colombo

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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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