UN rushes aid to new Darfur arrivals in Central African Republic

12 June 2007The United Nations is rushing aid to refugees pouring into the Central African Republic (CAR) from the troubled Darfur region of Sudan, a spokesperson said today. The United Nations is rushing aid to refugees pouring into the Central African Republic (CAR) from the troubled Darfur region of Sudan, a spokesperson said today.Jennifer Pagonis of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters in Geneva that the agency and its partners are providing supplies to 2,650 newly arrived Sudanese “who are in a desperate condition in the east of the country where they have been surviving mainly on mangoes for the last few weeks.”On Sunday, as part of a convoy of UN humanitarian aid from the capital Bangui, the agency sent materials including 600 pieces of plastic sheeting, clothes, soap and 600 jerry cans to help the refugees in Sam Ouandja located near the border with Sudan.The refugees began arriving in Sam Ouandja late May after fleeing repeated attacks on their home town of Dafak and surrounding villages in south Darfur, according to UNHCR, which cited accounts of homes being bombarded by planes and helicopters and attacks by men in military clothing. “The refugees are rapidly running out of food and have only a nearby creek for their water supply resulting in a number of refugees falling ill with diarrhoea while others have malaria,” said Ms. Pagonis.In response, UN agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) sent on Sunday’s convoy 80 metric tons of food, seeds and agricultural tools for 1,000 families, water purification sets, some medical supplies and other basic household items such as kitchen sets and education kits. The aid is expected to take about 10 days to reach the refugees because of poor road conditions.WFP has also scheduled 15 metric tons of high-nutrition biscuits to arrive in Bangui on Thursday, from where they will be flown to Sam Ouandja. A doctor from the World Health Organization (WHO) is already at the site and two nurses are expected to leave today to the area.Ms. Pagonis said UNHCR is planning to fly a small team to Sam Ouandja to register the newly arrived refugees, arrange for their safety in cooperation with local authorities and organize aid distribution. CAR hosts some 10,000 refugees, mainly from Chad, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to UNHCR. In the northern part, there are also more than 212,000 people who have been displaced within the country.Since 2003, the conflict in Darfur has killed some 200,000 people and forced another 2 million to flee their homes while threatening to spill over into neighbouring countries, including CAR. read more

Insecurity hindering efforts to aid displaced Somalis says UN relief official

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says there are now more than 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have fled the fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, and set up shelters along the 15-kilometre route from the city to Afgooye. About 25,000 people per month have been displaced from Mogadishu in January and February, bringing the total number of those needing assistance in the country to between 1.8 million and 2 million, according to OCHA. “Somalia is the most difficult place in the world for humanitarians to do their job, due to the ever-shifting insecurity,” noted William Paton, the acting UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator there.Rising insecurity has forced the cancellation of several missions to Afgooye in February. In addition, there are nearly 400 checkpoints around the country where humanitarian convoys are often subject to threats and violence. There have been nine shooting incidents at checkpoints in the first two months of this year alone.“We are going to continue to work hard to improve security for our staff members and thus deliver more,” stated Mr. Paton, who recently visited some of the more than 100 settlements that have sprung up along the road to Afgooye. Amid the difficulties, UN agencies and their partners are continuing to provide food, water and other vital supplies to the affected populations throughout the country, which has not had a functioning government since 1991. In addition, some 56,000 children and 11,200 pregnant mothers have been immunised and mobile clinics are providing maternal and child health services.Meanwhile, OCHA reports that some 850,000 Somalis in the country’s central regions – including some 170,000 IDPs – are suffering the consequences of a prolonged drought that is threatening livestock and the livelihoods of pastoralists. High rates of acute malnutrition and possible disease outbreaks due to water scarcity are among the major concerns right now. UN agencies are trucking in water and have already handed out 4,300 tons of food to around 230,000 people. 5 March 2008Deteriorating security in Somalia in recent months has made it more difficult for aid workers to assist hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by fighting in the strife-torn nation, a senior United Nations relief official said today. read more

Republic of Congo calls for increased support for joint UNAU mission in

29 September 2008Bringing an end to the protracted conflict in Darfur, on Sudan’s western flank, would serve as a catalyst for peace across the wider region, a top official from the Republic of Congo said today, calling for stepped-up support for the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission known as UNAMID. “We welcome the resumption of diplomatic relations between [Chad and Sudan], an initiative that needs to be further consolidated through putting in place military units of surveillance at the common border lines,” Basile Ikouebe, Foreign Minister of the Republic of the Congo, told the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate.He encouraged the neighbouring nations to pursue all avenues towards normalizing relations and consolidating regional peace.“Solving the conflict in Darfur would contribute largely to these developments,” Mr. Ikouebe said, launching a “pressing appeal” to allow for the deployment at full strength of a 26,000-troop strong UNAMID.Currently, it has only 9,900 personnel on the ground and still lacks essential equipment, including helicopters.For its part, the Republic of Congo is preparing to send 140-person police unit to join UNAMID, the Foreign Minister noted.But he stressed that the international community must continue its efforts to implement the terms of the peace agreement concluded in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2006 between the Government of Sudan and the largest rebel force.“The parties who are not signatories to the Accord should be targeted and pressure exerted to bring them to the negotiation tables,” Mr. Ikouebe said, adding that his country believes the recent war crimes charges laid by the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor against the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir are “counterproductive.”Some 300,000 people in Darfur are estimated to have been killed, either through direct combat or as a result of disease, malnutrition or reduced life expectancy, and more than 2.7 million others have been uprooted from their homes in the five-year conflict that pits rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.In an earlier address today, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abubakr Al-Qibri also spoke out against the ICC prosecutor’s move to try to indict Mr. al-Bashir.Such matters should not be used as a pretext for interfering in the internal affairs of individual States, he said, calling for greater respect for Sudanese independence and encouraging Government dialogue with various factions. read more

Sri Lanka UN official voices concern after another aid worker is slain

Neil Buhne, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka, issued a statement condemning the shooting death of A. Vigneswaran, who worked for the Norwegian Refugee Council, by unknown gunmen in Batticaloa. He urged authorities to “vigorously pursue” the perpetrators.“For humanitarian workers to meet their responsibilities fully, they must be able to work without fear,” he said. “A successful investigation resulting in the killer being brought to account would not only bring solace to Mr. Vigneswaran’s family and to his colleagues, it would reduce this fear and create a better environment for the more effective implementation of humanitarian programmes in Batticaloa benefiting tens of thousands of people.”Thousands of Sri Lanka have been displaced from their homes or are now dependent on humanitarian aid as a result of continued fighting between Government forces and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). 3 December 2008The top United Nations humanitarian official in Sri Lanka today called on authorities to mount a thorough investigation into last week’s murder of an aid worker in the east of the violence-wracked country – the third staff member from the same relief group to have either disappeared or been killed in the Asian island nation. read more

UN envoy lauds courageous decision of Somali President to step down

“It is my understanding that this is the first time in Somalia’s modern history that a President has decided to leave office peacefully,” stated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. “It is a patriotic and courageous decision.”The President formally announced his resignation, effective today, in a statement before the Parliament and cabinet members present in Baidoa. “Indeed President Yusuf has taken his courageous decision on his own and in total independence. I have no doubt that members of his family, his friends and allies support this decision,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah said. Stressing that “a new page of Somali history is now open,” the Special Representative called on the Somali people to support the President in these “historic” times and urged unity and solidarity. He added that now is the time for Somalia’s friends to help the country “and for the spoilers to stop their destructive behaviour.”The upsurge in fighting this year in Somalia, which has not had a functioning central government since 1991, has led to massive humanitarian suffering and widespread displacement. The violence continues despite the signing in June of a UN-facilitated peace accord, known as the Djibouti Agreement, by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), by which both sides agreed to end their conflict and called on the UN to deploy an international stabilization force to the troubled nation.While noting the progress made in the Djibouti peace process, Mr. Ban has stated in recent weeks that conditions are not yet right for a UN peacekeeping operation in Somalia.Instead, he recommends strengthening – through financing, logistical support, necessary training, equipment and other reinforcements facilitated by the UN and Member States – the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Noting the recent decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council to extend the mission for a further two months, Mr. Ban today reiterated his call on Member States to provide financial and logistical support to existing AMISOM troops, and for the deployment of additional contingents.In a statement issued by his spokesperson he commended “the dedication and courage shown by AMISOM personnel in providing security and humanitarian relief in Somalia, despite the numerous challenges,” and said he was encouraged by the readiness Uganda and Burundi to contribute one additional battalion each, and the pledge by Nigeria to deploy a battalion. He called on all parties that have not yet done so to join the Djibouti peace process. 29 December 2008The top United Nations envoy to Somalia today called for unity and solidarity among all the people of the strife-torn nation in the wake of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed’s resignation from office, which he called a “patriotic and courageous” decision. read more

New displacement from fighting in Pakistan leads to boosted UN humanitarian appeal

A total of $127 million will be required to assist newly displaced persons from in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and in the Swat District of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), the UN Officer for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.With $29 million in funding available from original appeal for the Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan, this leaves an unmet requirement for 2009 of $98 million, the Office explained.The Response Plan was launched as a $55 million flash appeal in September 2008 for the duration of six month, after unusually heavy monsoon rains and flash floods affected over 300,000 people, most of whose immediate needs have by now been met. 30 January 2009The United Nations today announced an appeal for more humanitarian funding for Pakistan, projecting that fighting between the Government and militant groups in north-western border areas will escalate throughout 2009, causing new displacements of up to 625,000 people. read more

Palestinian economy wins boost from online programme for customs – UN

10 August 2009International businesses based in the West Bank are set to benefit from a state of the art web-based system for tracking goods coming in and out of the area, launched today by Palestinian customs in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). International businesses based in the West Bank are set to benefit from a state of the art web-based system for tracking goods coming in and out of the area, launched today by Palestinian customs in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).The online system, known as ASYCUDA WORLD, will speed up transactions and lower costs for Palestinian exporters and importers, according to a news release issued by UNCTAD.Palestinian customs clearance agents and private trading companies will be able to process customs declarations and related documents electronically from their own premises without having to visit customs offices.UNCTAD said that the new software, the final stage in upgrading Palestinian customs’ computerized system, is also expected to improve the customs authority’s risk management and post-auditing processes, reduce fraud and smuggling, provide better data to inform public policy and increase customs and tax revenues. The launch ceremony – sponsored by Salam Fayyad, Palestinian Authority Prime Minster and Minister of Finance – was held in Ramallah, and attended by representatives from the European Commission (EC) and UNCTAD, the main partners for the Palestinian customs modernization programme. read more

Ban speaks out against Israeli plans to expand settlements

10 March 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has repeatedly called for Israel’s settlement construction to come to a halt, has condemned its announcement that it is building 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem. “He reiterates that settlements are illegal under international law,” according to a statement by his spokesperson issued last night in New York.“Furthermore, he underscores that settlement activity is contrary to Israel’s obligations under the Roadmap, and undermines any movement towards a viable peace process,” it added.The Roadmap, endorsed by the diplomatic Quartet comprising the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, calls for two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security.Yesterday, Israel’s Interior Ministry announced that it has approved plans to build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem.“Unfortunately, the decisions that have been taken in the past few days are not helpful… to build a climate of trust,” Filippo Grandi, the new Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told reporters in New York today.The Secretary-General noted last month that while Israel’s efforts and willingness to resume peace talks are welcome, returning to negotiations is hampered by developments on the ground, including continued settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territory.“At this crucial juncture, Israel should refrain from taking steps which have the potential to prejudge negotiations and create tensions,” especially in East Jerusalem, where settlements are expanding and Palestinians are being evicted, he stressed in a message to the UN-backed International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace held in Qawra, Malta. read more

Cyprus UN envoy says negotiations should start where they ended

“It’s our view that the process should continue on the basis of what has taken place so far,” Alexander Downer, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, told journalists in New York. “We don’t want to see the process start all over again when so much has been achieved over the past 18 or so months.” In 2008, Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias committed themselves to working towards “a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality, as defined by relevant Security Council resolution.” Following the last round of talks on 30 March, Mr. Talat and Mr. Christofias said important progress had been made in the areas of governance and power-sharing, European Union (EU) matters and the economy. Last week, Mr. Talat was voted out of office, replaced by Dervis Eroglu. Mr. Downer said today that both he and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have since spoken to Mr. Eroglu, as well as to Ahmet Davutoglu, the Foreign Minister of Turkey. “We would like to see the progress continue from there, for the two leaders to build on the process made.” Noting that the negotiations are hosted by the UN on its grounds, Mr. Downer emphasized that he hoped they would come to a successful conclusion before too long. “This is not an indefinite process. This is a process that needs to move forward – at least to move forward with a good deal of momentum.” While in New York, Mr. Downer has also met with senior UN political and peacekeeping officials and the head of key countries as well as other interested parties. “A basis for these negotiations is to create a united federal system in Cyprus and I’ve been impressed with what has been achieved. It has taken time. But I’ve been impressed,” Mr. Downer said. A UN peacekeeping mission, known as UNFICYP, has been in place on the island since 1964 after an outbreak of inter-communal violence. 27 April 2010Negotiations on the unification of Cyprus should continue where they left off, the United Nations envoy tasked with steering the talks said today as he made his first public remarks since the election of a new Turkish Cypriot leader. read more

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne pledges 25billion for fund to help keep companies

TORONTO — Premier Kathleen Wynne is promising to create a $2.5-billion fund aimed at keeping businesses in Ontario.Details are scant, but officials say companies would be able to apply for government grants.They say the applicants would have to meet certain criteria to receive the money, details of which will be in Thursday’s budget.Wynne says she believes in “working actively to help create the conditions for companies to succeed.”She says her government will also create what the Liberals are calling the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.The minority Liberals need at least one opposition party to support their budget to avoid an election. read more

Googles Play Music streaming subscription service expands to Canada to cost 999

TORONTO — Google is stepping into the streaming music game in Canada with the launch of Google Play Music.The all-access subscription service, which was released Monday, is the latest in a growing line of subscription and free services that could be a game changer in how people listen to music.Google says Play Music will cost $9.99 per month, after an introductory price, and offer on-demand music on mobile phones, tablets and personal computers.Users will have access to 25 million songs, which the company says is several million more tracks than its U.S users can access.The presence of legal on-demand streaming music in Canada has been limited until recently.Last month, Shaw Communications partnered with digital service Rdio to help expand its presence, while free streaming music service Songza opened an office in Toronto last year. read more

Rebound in crude prices helps loonie break through 70 cents US

TORONTO — Strengthening oil prices helped the commodity-sensitive loonie punch through the 70-cent U.S. mark, closing at 70.03 cents U.S.That’s an increase of 1.02 cents from Wednesday’s close.The Canadian dollar hasn’t closed above 70 cents U.S. in more than a week.Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, says the loonie received a “double boost” from the rebound in crude prices and the Bank of Canada’s decision Wednesday to hold its benchmark interest rate steady.Global markets lick wounds after torrid two days that wiped trillions of dollars off stocksHow the weak loonie is boosting Canadian resort real estate sales among U.S. buyersThe Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index climbed 192.75 points to 12,035.86 as the March contract for benchmark crude oil rose $1.18 to US$29.53 a barrel.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 115.94 points to 15,882.68, while the broader S&P 500 added 9.66 points to 1,868.99 and the Nasdaq inched 0.37 of a point higher to 4,472.06.Elsewhere in commodities, the February contract for natural gas climbed two cents to US$2.14 per mmBtu, while February gold fell $8.00 to US$1,098.20 an ounce and March copper rose four cents to US$2.00 a pound. read more

Competition Bureau investigates allegations of bread price fixing

TORONTO — An investigation by the Competition Bureau into allegations of price fixing of packaged bread products comes as demand for the pantry staple faces pressure from health-conscious consumers and heightened competition from discount retailers.John Williams, a partner at retail consulting company J.C. Williams Group, called the probe “shocking” given that Canada’s major retailers are governed by very-well defined codes of ethics.He also noted that the bread industry has been in “turmoil” as consumers look for healthier or artisan versions of the food staple, while increased competition from discount retailers also puts pressure on prices.“It now has almost become a fashion item… Huge aisles of white bread are slowly shrinking,” Williams said.The Competition Bureau said Tuesday that the Ontario Superior Court in Ottawa granted search warrants “based on evidence that there are reasonable grounds to believe that certain individuals and companies have engaged in activities contrary to the Competition Act.”Bureau spokeswoman Marie-France Faucher said it was conducting the searches and gathering evidence to determine the facts, but that there has been no conclusion of wrongdoing at this time and no charges have been laid.Faucher added that she could not reveal more details as the bureau is required to conduct investigations confidentially.Shares of Canada’s major grocers were little changed on Wednesday, a day after several confirmed they were aware of and co-operating with the probe.Loblaw Companies Ltd. and George Weston Ltd. released a joint statement late Tuesday confirming they were aware of and co-operating fully with an industry-wide investigation, but declined to comment further. Metro Inc. also put out a statement saying the investigation concerns certain suppliers and Canadian retailers, and that it was fully co-operating.Canada Bread said in a statement “it has been informed it is included in an industry-wide investigation by the Competition Bureau into pricing conduct dating back to 2001. The company is co-operating fully.”A spokesman for Walmart Canada said Wednesday that it is providing “full co-operation” to the bureau and it “takes its legal obligations very seriously.”Canada’s Competition Act prohibits agreements that “prevent or unduly lessen competition or to unreasonably enhance the price of a product,” according to the bureau.That could include agreements between competitors to fix prices, or to restrict production of a product by setting quotas or other means would be considered cartel activities. Penalties for price fixing could include fines of up to $10 million, imprisonment to a maximum term of five years, or both.However, the bureau says price-fixing conspiracies are, by their nature, difficult to detect and prove.“Suspicions and evidence of identical prices are not enough to prove a criminal offence,” the bureau says on its website.The Competition Bureau has in recent years examined price-fixing or deceptive pricing of a variety of products, including e-books, mattresses and chocolate. read more

Australia files WTO complaint against Canada over wine sales rules

TORONTO — Australia has filed a complaint about Canada’s rules around wine sales with the World Trade Organization.The complaint filed Friday argues that Canada’s distribution, licensing and sales measures discriminate against imported wine.It targets product mark-ups, market access and listing policies used in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.‘Canada has just detonated a bomb’: Trade relations with U.S. plummet after WTO complaintCanadians want to be freed from provincial alcohol monopolies: pollThe complaint acts as a request for a consultation between the two countries in an effort to avoid litigation.If the matter is not resolved in 60 days, a panel can be brought in to adjudicate the case.The complaint comes two years after Australia pressed Canada to lower trade barriers on the wine industry like it had done for the European Union. read more

MS will not give MR polls nominations

President Maithripala Sirisena has reportedly refused to give nominations to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Parliament elections.According to reports, the President has said that Rajapaksa will however be able to enter Parliament on the National List of the United People’s Freedom Alliance. Meanwhile Mahinda Rajapaksa is to brief the media on Wednesday about his plans for the Parliament elections. (Colombo Gazette)

Government committed to post conflict reconciliation process

The Government is committed to the post conflict reconciliation process, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Sweden Damayanthie Rajapakse said.She said this while participating at a ceremony held at the Sri Lankan Embassy premises in Sweden to mark the 68th Independence Day of Sri Lanka, the Foreign Ministry said today. She also expressed the desire to strengthen relations between Sri Lanka and Sweden.Religious observances were conducted at the ceremony by the Buddhist, Hindu and Christian clergy bestowing blessings upon Sri Lanka for the country’s prosperity and good governance. Ambassador Mrs. Damayanthie Rajapakse hoisted the National Flag and delivered a speech at the ceremony elaborating on the Government’s commitment to embark on the post conflict reconciliation process and for economic development. A large gathering of Diplomatic community and Senior Officials representing the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden attended the event. A group of Sri Lankan children and adults residing in Stockholm adorned this event with the rendition of patriotic songs and presentation of Sri Lankan dance forms captivating the audience.At both the events, two minutes silence was observed in honour of National Heroes and the National Anthem of Sri Lanka was sung in Sinhala and Tamil. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Sri Lanka to strengthen cooperation with EU bank

“New support from the European Investment Bank will help unlock essential new investment to improve sanitation in Colombo. I look forward to strengthening cooperation between the EIB and Sri Lanka in the years to come,” Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said following his meeting in Brussels with senior European Investment Bank officials responsible for lending in South Asia. The existing water supply and sewage network in Colombo was built a hundred years ago and is not adequate for the city’s needs. Once complete the upgraded water network will enable clean water to be supplied 24 hours a day and seven days a week, compared to the currently heavily restricted service.The new water investment programme will include provision of a new sewage network in currently un-served areas of Kirillopone. Under the initiative a new wastewater treatment facility will also be built to reduce pollution at the Wellawata sea outfall.“It is encouraging to see others joining in this effort to improve Colombo city dwellers’ quality of life which will cater to the increasing demand in the city for improved water and wastewater services,” said Sri Widowati, Country Director, Sri Lanka Resident Mission, Asian Development Bank. “This loan is a further example of the European Union’s support for Sri Lanka’s long-term development. Studies show that modern sanitation is one of the most important factors in people’s health and well-being. In addition, water supplies in many developing countries are under growing pressure from urbanisation and climate change, which puts a premium on the efficient use of those resources. We are pleased to provide assistance to help address these challenges and improve access to water and sanitation for the people of Colombo.” highlighted Tung-Laï Margue, European Union Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.The 25 year long-term was formally agreed at a signature ceremony in Brussels by Ravi Karunanayake, M.P., Minister of Finance and Malik Samarawickrama, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade of Sri Lanka and Andrew McDowell, European Investment Bank Vice President responsible for lending operations in South Asia. The new loan represented the EIB’s fifth sovereign loan in the country. Sri Lanka is to strengthen cooperation with the  European Investment Bank, the bank said in a statement today.The European Investment Bank is to provide EUR 50 million to support improvement and expansion of sewage networks across the Sri Lankan capital Colombo. The new loan will help Colombo Municipal Council to achieve its goal of providing full sanitation coverage to benefit people living and working in the greater Colombo area. The new EIB loan is European Investment Bank’s first ever support for water investment in Sri Lanka and the first loan for public sector investment agreed with the new post civil-war government. The European Investment Bank has supported investment in Sri Lanka since 2002 including backing climate related investment, private companies and post-tsunami recovery.The European Investment Bank is the world’s largest international public bank and one of the largest lenders for water investment worldwide. Over the last decade the European Investment Bank has provided more than EUR 37 billion for water related investment in 67 countries around the world. (Colombo Gazette) The new European Investment Bank loan to the Government of Sri Lanka will be used to finance investment works being undertaken by the Colombo Municipal Council. The Asian Development Bank will also support the water investment project and this new initiative marks the first time that the European Investment Bank has financed a project alongside another International Financial Institution in Sri Lanka. “Increased access to sanitation to be achieved by this project will improve the lives of thousands of people living in Colombo and contribute to achievement of sustainable development goals in Sri Lanka. The European Investment Bank is pleased to be working closely with partners in Sri Lanka to ensure an environmentally sustainable future for the country’s capital and is grateful for the excellent cooperation with the Asian Development Bank in our first joint support in the country. The fruitful discussions with Ministers Karunanayake and Samarawickrama have outlined how the EIB’s global experience can support new investment to improve lives and enhance opportunities in Sri Lanka.” said Andrew McDowell, European Investment Bank Vice President. read more

China says Port City project in the best interest of Sri Lanka

Sun said the development within Sri Lanka’s biggest commercial city, which will be built on 269 hectares of reclaimed land, would accommodate 200,000 residents and consists of apartments, hotels, offices, shopping malls, exhibition centres, as well as provide 80,000 new jobs. It is expected to be completed by 2030. China says the Port City project is in the best interest of Sri Lanka. China is building a new city along Colombo’s coastline that will become the city’s central business district by 2030, creating 80,000 jobs for Sri Lankans, under the mainland’s “Belt and Road Initiative”.“Sri Lanka is in urgent need of a high-end platform to attract financial institutions, multinational companies, shoppers, tourists as well as provide jobs for well-educated locals as a part of its post-war reconstruction. The Port City project is planned in the best interest of Sri Lanka,” said Sun Ziyu, vice president of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) in an interview with the South China Morning Post. Sun said the reclamation work had helped transform the area’s coastline which was previously hit by strong winds blowing towards the Indian Ocean that made it less livable.“[This has] also improved coastal protection, and is a boon to the environment,” he said. With an initial investment of US$1.4 billion, Colombo Port City is China’s biggest project in Sri Lanka, a key node along the Maritime Silk Road of the Belt and Road plan. China’s “Belt and Road” plan comprises a belt of overland corridors and sea routes connecting Asia, Africa and Europe through building infrastructure and boosting financial and trade ties for over 60 countries that lie along the routes.In 2016 alone, Chinese firms signed new construction projects worth a total contractual value of US$126 billion. CCCC accounted for one-tenth, or US$12.6 billion of the projects. (Colombo Gazette) read more

NP Governor says he was misquoted on Bachelet comments

Dr. Suren Raghavan said that he has the utmost respect for the High Commissioner and her work. “I am deeply disappointed by the spin that has been put on my discussion with the Sri Lankan Government delegation,” she said, noting that other news outlets in Sri Lanka were also continuing to significantly misrepresent the Human Rights Council process in Geneva.The High Commissioner said she and her Office remained committed to assisting the Government and people of Sri Lanka to implement the Human Rights Council’s resolutions 30/1 (2015) and 34/1 (2017). And last week the Human Rights Council in another resolution (40/1) gave the Government two more years to deliver fully on the set of commitments it originally accepted four years ago. (Colombo Gazette) Monday’s article in a local newspaper cited a member of the Government delegation, Northern Province Governor Dr. Suren Raghavan, claiming the High Commissioner “admitted that certain facts incorporated in the UNHRC report against Sri Lanka could not be condoned whatsoever.” It also said he claimed she had advised two of her senior officials who attended the meeting “to be more responsible and cautious hereafter.”“Neither of these claims are true,” Bachelet said. “Either the newspaper misunderstood the Governor, or the Governor misunderstood – or misquoted – me.” The High Commissioner said she stands fully behind the report and the oral statement she made when presenting it to the Human Rights Council, and that she believes it fairly and objectively reflects the situation in Sri Lanka. Bachelet said this week that a newspaper article quoting a senior Sri Lankan official “seriously misrepresents” her discussion of the recent UN Human Rights Office report on Sri Lanka with a Government delegation attending the Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 20. Northern Province Governor Dr. Suren Raghavan says he was misquoted by some local newspapers on comments he made with regards to the meeting between the Sri Lankan Government delegation and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet in Geneva last week.The Governor said that his comments made to the media had been particularly misquoted by some English newspapers resulting in the High Commissioner’s office issuing a clarification. read more

Four suspects deported from Dubai released

Four suspects who were arrested in Dubai and deported were released after being questioned by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).The four were among several Sri Lankans arrested at a hotel in Dubai with notorious underworld leader Makandure Madush. They were deported to Sri Lanka and were detained at the Bandaranaike International Airport yesterday with actor Ryan Van Rooyen.