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President returns to SL after India visit

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe returned to the island on Friday night (July 21) after concluding his official two-day visit to India. 

This was his first visit to the neighbouring country after taking office in 2022.

Accompanied by a 17-member delegation, Wickremesinghe departed for New Delhi on Thursday (July 20) at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The visit took place as both countries celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year.

During the course of his visit, the Sri Lankan leader engaged in bilateral with his Indian counterpart Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Modi and several other top Indian dignitaries in New Delhi, including billionaire industrialist Gautam Adani, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister Dr. S.Jaishankar on a wide range of matters of mutual interest.

The Indian president told President Wickremesinghe that New Delhi’s prolonged support to Sri Lanka in the past year to tide over the economic challenges is a testament to its long-standing commitment to bilateral relations with the island nation.

President Murmu said that India’s partnership is enduring and beneficial to the common people of the two countries and the larger Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and that India looks forward to continuing and strengthening its developmental partnership with Sri Lanka under the leadership of President Wickremesinghe.

Delivering a joint statement with PM Modi following their bilateral talks, President Wickremesinghe expressed his sincere gratitude to the government and people of India for their continued support during Sri Lanka’s most difficult times in recent history.

Commending the impressive economic, infrastructure, and technological advancements made under PM Modi’s leadership, President Wickremesinghe emphasised that India’s growth would have positive impacts on both, the neighbouring countries and the Indian Ocean region.

Meanwhile, PM Modi appealed to the Sri Lankan leader to implement the 13th Amendment and ensure a life of “dignity and respect” for the island nation’s Tamil population.

He also announced a package of INR 75 crores for various development projects in the northern and eastern part of Sri Lanka.

During President Wickremesinghe’s visit, Sri Lanka and India adopted a vision document for our Economic Partnership. “This vision is to strengthen the maritime, air, energy and people-to-people connectivity between the people of both the countries. The vision is to accelerate mutual cooperation in tourism, power, trade, higher education and skill development. This is the vision – of India’s long-term commitment towards Sri Lanka,” PM Modi said.

To this end, the two sides agreed to work together for the establishment of a multi-product petroleum pipeline from the southern part of India to Sri Lanka, in a bid to ensure an affordable and reliable supply of energy resources to Sri Lanka.

Accordingly, it was also decided to undertake mutually agreed joint exploration and production of hydrocarbons in Sri Lanka’s offshore basins with an aim to develop Sri Lanka’s upstream petroleum sector.

The resumption of passenger ferry services between Nagapattinam in India and Kankesanthurai in Sri Lanka and Rameshwaram and Talaimannar, and other mutually agreed places, was alos discussed.

The two leaders agreed to further develop Trincomalee as a national and regional hub of industry, energy and economic activity on the basis of mutual understanding.

In addition, Sri Lanka and India also signed five key Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) on (1) animal husbandry and dairying, (2) cooperation in the field of renewable energy, (3) cooperation for economic development projects in Trincomalee District, (4) Unified Payments Interface (UPI) acceptance in Sri Lanka, and (5) energy permit for Sampur Solar Power Project.

The signed agreements were exchanged in the presence of the Indian PM and the Sri Lankan President.

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IMF approves Sri Lanka program review

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The International Monetary Fund has approved a review of Sri Lanka’s program, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry has said.

On a X post, he has said, “This achievement is a testament to our dedication to driving forward economic reforms and securing a prosperous future for all Sri Lankans.”

According to the State Minister of Finance – Shehan Semasinghe, “a favorable outcome from the review is expected to unlock the 3rd tranche of approximately USD 330 million”.

The IMF had earlier said Sri Lanka had made “sufficient progress” on debt restructuring for a review on June 12, despite final deals pending with bilateral creditors and private creditors.

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Another probe related to Easter Sunday attacks

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed a Committee of Inquiry to investigate the actions taken by the State Intelligence Service (SIS), Chief of National Intelligence (CNI), and other relevant authorities concerning prior intelligence received about the bomb attacks on April 21, 2019. This decision follows the findings of the Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry, dated January 31, 2021, which highlighted that Indian Intelligence agencies and other sources had provided advance warnings about the impending attacks.

The Committee of Inquiry will be chaired by Ms. A.N.J. De Alwis, Retired Judge of the High Court. Other esteemed members of the committee include SLAS special grade Officer Ms. K.N.K. Somaratne and Senior Lawyer Mr. W.M.A.N. Nishane, AAL. 

The committee’s mandate includes examining whether actions or measures were taken by the SIS, CNI, and other relevant authorities based on the prior information or intelligence on an impending attack on April 21, 2019 by Indian intelligence agencies and any other sources and if so, adequacy of the actions and measure taken by the SIS, CNI and other relevant authorities. 

Additionally, the committee will investigate the circumstances surrounding the Directorate of Military Intelligence’s (DMI) and Criminal Investigation Department’s (CID) initial belief that the Vavunathivu killing of two police officers on November 30, 2018, was connected to the LTTE. This belief was held for four months before suspects with alleged links to the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) were identified.

A compact disk containing the Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry on the Bomb Attacks of April 21, 2019, has been provided to the committee. The President has authorized the committee to inquire relevant officials and examine pertinent documents to thoroughly investigate these matters.

Ms. Sarathanjali Manoharan, Senior Assistant Secretary to the President, will serve as the Secretary to the Committee of Inquiry. The committee is expected to submit its report, including findings and recommendations, to the President by September 15, 2024.

(President’s Media Division)

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New, free train ride for pilgrims visiting Mihintale (Video)

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Cabinet Spokesman Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena has said that a new short train ride between Anuradhapura and Mihintale will be arranged for pilgrims during the Poson season.

He said this at the Cabinet briefing held today (June 12) at the Government Information Department.

Since work on the Northern railway line have been delayed, 400 special buses will be deployed to Anuradhapura instead during the Poson season, he added.

Noting that a special railway line from Anuradhapura to Mihintale has been reconstructed,  the minister said that Sri Lanka Railways has been directed to arrange special, free train rides on this line for pilgrims.

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