Chinas president meets European leaders on dealfilled trip

PARIS — Chinese President Xi Jinping is meeting with the leaders of France, Germany and the European Commission, as European countries seek to boost relations with China while also putting pressure over its trade practices.German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker came to Paris to join Xi and French President Emmanuel Macron for Tuesday’s meeting. The leaders are notably preparing for a crucial EU-China summit.Tuesday’s meeting is a key moment in Xi’s European tour, which has involved huge business contracts, including one of the biggest deals ever for European plane maker Airbus.Xi also received the full honours of a formal reception in the French presidential palace Monday night.The EU is China’s biggest trade partner and wants to solidify that relationship.The Associated Press read more

New Zealand and France to call for an end to online terror

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she and French President Emmanuel Macron will host a meeting in Paris next month seeking to eliminate acts of violent extremism and terrorism from being shown online.Ardern says she and Macron will ask world leaders and chief executives of technology companies to agree to a pledge called the “Christchurch Call,” named after the New Zealand city where an attack took place last month.But Ardern didn’t release any details of the pledge, saying they were still being developed.The man accused of murdering 50 people in two Christchurch mosques livestreamed the attack on Facebook after mounting a camera on his helmet. The chilling 17-minute video was copied and viewed widely on the internet even as tech companies scrambled to remove it.The Associated Press read more

Drought hits Panama Canal shipping highlights climate fears

GATXDAN, Panama — An intense drought related to this year’s El Nino phenomenon has precipitously lowered the level of Panama’s Gatun Lake, forcing the country’s Canal Authority to impose draft limits this week on ships moving through the waterway’s recently expanded locks.The restrictions on how deep the vessels can reach below the surface means large ships, primarily from the United States and China, must pass through with less cargo, which translates into lower revenue for the voyages. The driest period in memory for the canal basin is also hitting small indigenous villages that depend on tourism along the tributaries of the inter-oceanic passage.The economic hit to canal operators stands to be minor — an estimated $15 million this year, compared with the $2.5 billion in revenue generated in 2018. But the drought and the resulting restrictions highlight the difficulties Panama faces in satisfying increased demand for fresh water to feed the canal while irrigating fields and keeping the taps flowing in the capital as climate change threatens more extreme weather events.“This year I do not think there will be problems with drinking water … due to the resources we have,” Steve Paton, who heads the long-term climate monitoring program at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, said, referring to an accumulation of rainfall from the last rainy season.“As for the future, it is difficult to forecast,” Paton continued. “But we are observing in the canal area that climatic events are becoming increasingly extreme. … The biggest droughts and the eight or nine largest storms have occurred in the last 20 years, in the same way that 2014 to 2016 were the driest years in the canal’s history.”El Nino is a recurring phenomenon in which warm ocean temperatures in the Pacific lead to drier than usual conditions in some areas and wetter in others.Carlos Vargas, vice-president of environment and water for the Canal Authority, said recently that Gatun — one of the largest artificial lakes in the world, with an area of 168 square miles (436 square kilometres) — was 4.6 feet (1.4 metres) below normal levels for this time of year. It has dropped more than a half foot (0.2 metres) since early April. A smaller lake that also supplies the waterway, Alajuela, was 7.2 feet (2.2 metres) below usual.“These low levels in the Panama Canal are the product of four or five months of almost zero precipitation,” Vargas told The Associated Press. “It really has been the driest dry season we’ve had in the history of the canal. The flow of rivers to the lake is down 60%.”That forced the Canal Authority to notify customers in early April that the maximum freshwater draft of 44 feet (13.41 metres) for Neopanamax vessels would be a foot less beginning at the end of the month. It marks the fourth reduction in drafts imposed during the current dry season, which runs from January through April. When water levels are optimal, maximum draft for those ships is about 50 feet (15.2 metres).The limits affect only the Cocoli and Agua Clara Locks, a multibillion-dollar project inaugurated in 2016 to accommodate the larger Neopanamax ships. On average, 7 1/2 vessels move through those locks daily day, though there have been days with as many as 12 crossings.The canal charges shipping companies based on a vessel’s capacity and also a percentage of the cargo it carries, so lighter ships mean less profit for everyone.The Canal Authority has had to deal with extreme weather patterns in the past. A severe dry season also associated with El Nino in 2015-2016 affected the crossing of cargo in the old locks and cost $40 million in revenue.The canal and most Panamanians rely on rains over a watershed of nearly 1,300 square miles (more than 3,000 square kilometres) — covered with forests, rivers and lakes — that generates 95% of the water consumed by Panama City and Colon, whose metro areas combined are home to nearly half the country’s population of just over 4 million.Panama has one of the highest levels of annual rainfall among tropical countries. Last year marked one of the highest amounts of rainfall on record for the basin, which experts say has helped cushion the ravages of the current drought.“Gatun and Alajuela lakes have been below optimum levels, but on the other hand it could have been much worse,” Paton said.The canal is promoting short-term drought measures such as suspending generation of hydroelectric power at Gatun as well as water recycling via tubs in the new locks that cut water use by 60%.“This has helped us alleviate the effect for the moment,” Vargas said. “In the medium term, we will continue with reforestation programs in the basin” that have already resulted in more than 17,000 acres (7,000 hectares) of plantings.Paton forecast that the canal has enough water to last at least 18 years, although if extreme climate patterns persist, water could reach precariously low levels within 15 years.The Canal Authority says it needs more water reserves to cushion the impact of extreme events. Canal administrator Jorge Luis Quijano has said that before considering another set of locks, an additional source on the scale of Gatun or Alajuela would be necessary. The lakes fill when it rains heavily, but there is no place to store that surplus during the dry season.During a recent boat tour of Gatun, numerous tree trunks flooded more than a century ago when the lake was created were dried out and exposed to the sun.Water supply for citizens so far has not been affected by the drought, but small indigenous communities scattered along the Gatun’s tributaries have been hit.Telvinia Tascón, an artisan in San Antonio Wounaan on the Gatun River, said tourists typically visit every day to buy handicrafts, but lately the outboard motorboats are having trouble navigating the depleted channels and the logs and mud at the docks.Relief for them — and canal operators — could come by late May or mid-June, when torrential rains from the wet season fill the lakes.“This is the strongest drought we can recall,” Tascón said. “For me it’s sad. This never happened to us.”Juan Zamorano And Arnulfo Franco, The Associated Press read more

Senior UN official hails Lebanese seizure of refugee camp

“The Lebanese army has extinguished this serious threat posed by Fatah el-Islam to Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty and stability,” said UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Geir O. Pedersen said, noting that over 150 Lebanese soldiers died “to uphold these principles.” “The fight against Fatah el-Islam in Nahr el-Bared was a fight of both Lebanese and Palestinians against terrorism and is a victory for all of Lebanon,” he noted. The humanitarian obstacles facing Palestinian families displaced by the violence must be tackled, while the efforts must be intensified to rapidly reconstruct the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp and support Lebanese communities affected by the conflict, the Special Coordinator said. Mr. Pedersen said he gives his full support to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s call for a donor meeting in the capital Beirut on 10 September. He also conveyed the UN’s condolences to the families of the soldiers and civilians killed, and expressed wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured. Before the fighting began in late May, the camp in northern Lebanon was home to nearly 31,000 people, including about 8,000 classified by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as special hardship cases. 4 September 2007A senior United Nations official welcomed the Lebanese army’s full seizure over the weekend of the Nahr el-Bared camp, which has been the scene of months of intense combat with Fatah el-Islam gunmen. read more

Security Council extends UNs Western Sahara mission through April 2008

31 October 2007The Security Council today extended through next April the mandate of the United Nations mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which has been in the Territory since 1991 to monitor the ceasefire between Morocco and the Frente Polisario. The Security Council today extended through next April the mandate of the United Nations mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which has been in the Territory since 1991 to monitor the ceasefire between Morocco and the Frente Polisario.In a unanimously adopted resolution, the Council called on the parties “to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to engage in substantive negotiations.”In a bid to break the impasse, the UN sponsored talks between Morocco and the Frente Polisario in Manhasset, just outside New York, in June and again in August. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his latest report on Western Sahara, said the two sides held mutually exclusive positions that prevented them from seriously discussing each other’s proposal during the talks.Morocco holds that its sovereignty over Western Sahara should be recognized, while the Frente Polisario’s position is that the Territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum that includes independence as an option.The Secretary-General’s report also recommended a six-month extension of MINURSO’s mandate, set to expire today. In adopting that proposal, the Council called on the parties to continue negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General “without preconditions and in good faith… with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations.”It also noted “the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect.” read more

UN expert marks first anniversary of landmark declaration on indigenous peoples

Earlier this week, James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, presented his first annual report to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.In it, he details the different measures that countries, international organizations, indigenous peoples themselves and others can take to ensure that the Declaration and other human rights instruments are effectively implemented.Characterizing the Declaration as a “remedial instrument,” Mr. Anaya told the Council that it “takes basic human rights principles that are applicable to all and elaborates upon them in the specific historic, cultural, political and social context of indigenous peoples.”The document seeks to overcome the marginalization and discrimination that indigenous people have faced due to “historical processes of colonization, conquest and dispossession,” he noted.The expert also cautioned that such legacies persist, and urged States and the international community to take steps to ensure the 350 million indigenous peoples in more than 70 nations are guaranteed the rights enshrined in the Declaration and other pacts.In honour of the anniversary, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will hold its first-ever meeting of representatives of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and of the UN Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues from 15-17 September in Paris. 13 September 2008A United Nations independent expert today commemorated the first anniversary of the General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, calling on States to renew their commitment to the historic document. read more

UN agency urges global uptake of flood devastation prevention measures

26 September 2008With 200 million people worldwide living in coastal flood zones, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) is urging States to take measures to prevent flooding from turning into a disaster. The devastation caused by floods was evident recently in Bangladesh, Nepal and India, where thousands of villages were submerged as rivers burst their banks, according to a news release issued by the ISDR Secretariat in Geneva.“Flooding is already on the rise due to increasing populations living in flood plains, and climate change will make floods more frequent and severe, with a particular impact on deltas. The recent floods… are glimpses of a future that we need to start adapting to now,” said ISDR chief Sálvano Briceño. Successful flood control systems have been implemented across several countries such as Viet Nam, which has used mangrove reforestation to considerably reduce the impact of flooding on coastal populations. Meanwhile, China has spent around $3 billion in flood control efforts between 1960 and 2000, helping to avert an estimated $12 billion in losses. Cost-effective methods to prevent flooding from turning into disaster include risk assessments, evacuation plans, education and not building in flood-prone areas, all of which would require community participation. read more

Food crisis corruption could reverse progress in West Africa says UN envoy

21 January 2009Challenges – including youth unemployment, corruption and the food crisis – threaten to roll back positive gains made in West Africa, the Secretary-General’s envoy to the 15-nation region told the Security Council today. “Many of the root causes of conflict in a number of West African countries have yet to be addressed in an effective and durable manner,” Special Representative Said Djinnit said, briefing the 15-member body on the latest report by the Secretary-General on the region.West Africa has been heavily affected by soaring food prices and food insecurity, and coupled with the threat of a global recession, many of its nations might not achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, he noted.“It is expected that food insecurity will remain a special challenge to the region over the next few years,” Mr. Djinnit, who heads the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), said.Cross-border organized crime, especially drug trafficking, is also cause for concern, the Representative told the 15-member Council.“Taking advantage of porous borders and weak state and security institutions, criminal networks are increasing using West Africa as a transit route for narcotics bound for Europe from Latin America,” he said. Unlike groups operating with low-level authorities in the past, today they are “infiltrating state institutions, fuelling corruption and destabilizing the political and social fabric of nations.”In spite of progress made in consolidating democratic governance, military coups in Mauritania and Guinea have served as setbacks, Mr. Djinnit stated. Although these takeovers were bloodless, not addressing the resurgence of coups decisively could have a domino effect across West Africa.UNOWA has made efforts to foster constructive dialogue while also engaging countries of the region in preventive diplomacy together with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), he said.While nations such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana have held recent peaceful and transparent polls, “democratization processes, if not properly managed, could trigger political violence, economic disruption and social strife in fragile societies in the region,” the envoy noted. With critical elections slated for this year several countries, it is essential to continue the partnership among the UN, the African Union (AU) and ECOWAS to ensure free and fair polls, he said.In December 2007, the Council extended the mandate of UNOWA – based in Dakar, Senegal – until 21 December 2010. read more

Knowledge crucial for African development – UN officials

2 July 2009With knowledge being an essential element in Africa’s development process, a United Nations librarian has called on African governments to help narrow the digital divide. Citing the example of the United States, where people can access the Internet in public libraries for free, Abraham Azubuike, Chief Librarian of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that even with limited resources, African countries can still afford to help people go online.“Development plans without an emphasis on access to, and utilization of, knowledge are bound to fail as development itself is a learning process,” he said, speaking at the First International Conference on African Digital Libraries and Archives which began at ECA headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.The three-day event has drawn some 250 people – representatives from international and inter-governmental organizations, universities and libraries – and is exploring how to disseminate knowledge to promote development, from the grassroots to upper political levels.“The most successful route to building knowledge societies is through building strong knowledge institutions and spreading awareness of new technical and cultural possibilities for sharing of information and resources,” Lalla Ben Barka, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said yesterday at the start of the Conference. read more

Challenges remain for Sierra Leone despite acknowledgement on corruption – Ban

18 March 2010Welcoming the recognition by Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma that corruption poses a serious threat to the West African country, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that while he is encouraged by some improvements in its political climate, challenges to fostering political tolerance and promoting non-violence remain. “There is an urgent need to build trust and mutual confidence between major political parties,” the Secretary-General states in his latest report on the work of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), designed to keep the country from slipping back into the violence that marked the long-running civil war that ended in 2002.Noting recent clashes between the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and the major opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Mr. Ban calls on both political parties to abide by the code of conduct in the joint communiqué of 2 April 2009. The clashes “do not augur well for the peace and stability of the country,” nor for the presidential elections scheduled for 2012, he writes.Looking at development within the country, the Secretary-General appeals to the international community to fill an anticipated shortfall in donor funding for the implementation of the Government’s so-called Agenda for Change, the national poverty reduction plan which focuses on ensuring a reliable power supply; increasing productivity in agriculture and fisheries; improving the national transportation network; and boosting social services.“The attainment of these goals will in turn help to improve the difficult socio-economic indicators which have all contributed to making Sierra Leone a fragile State, notwithstanding progress thus far achieved,” Mr. Ban says.He also calls on international development partners to provide additional support to the National Human Rights Commission and the Government’s Special Trust Fund for War Victims. In addition, he requests Member States to donate vehicles and boats for Sierra Leone’s security sector agencies to improve their ability to fight organized crime. read more

In solemn session UN marks 65th anniversary of end of Second World

6 May 2010The United Nations today marked the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War by paying homage to the “extraordinary bravery” of those who waged the “epic struggle for freedom and liberation” and vowing to banish the prospect of a repeat of such a scourge. “It is fitting, today, that we commemorate the war’s end at a moment when nations are gathered to advance the cause of peace,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a commemorative special session of the General Assembly, citing the five-yearly review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) currently under way.“The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is also a document of hope, a vision for a nuclear-weapon-free world,” he said. “Thank you for helping us to remember the past, so that we may better shape our future.”Mr. Ban, who last month praised the agreement by Russia and the United States to reduce their nuclear arsenals, told reporters afterwards that progress was being made along the road to a nuclear weapons-free future. “I am confident that we will continue to do so, if only because we must,” he said.In his address to the Assembly, he recited a litany of major battles, horrors and terrible costs of the war. “The names and places resonate, despite the passing of many years – Stalingrad and Kursk, Auschwitz and Dachau (death camps), D-Day and the final battle for Berlin,” he said.“Its cost was beyond calculation, beyond comprehension ¬– 40 million civilians dead, 20 million soldiers, nearly half of those in the Soviet Union alone. Those were years of unspeakable atrocities, of lost faith and lost humanity. Those years saw extraordinary bravery, as well. World War II was one of the most epic struggles for freedom and liberation in history. And in the end, idealism had its triumph, too.”He stressed that the end of the war coincided with the San Francisco conference that established the UN “an organization founded on that most human of hopes, an end to the ‘scourge of war’.”Acting Assembly President Abdalmahmoud Mohamad, Ambassador of Sudan, said the commemoration was a wake-up call to intensify efforts to settle all disputes by peaceful means.“As we celebrate the end of one of the deadliest conflicts in human history, we also reflect on the immeasurable human cost of war,” he added. “Collectively, and with the needed political will, we can reinforce international peace and security around the globe, and ensure a better future for the coming generations…“The international community has strived to achieve progress towards reconciliation, cooperation and the promotion of democratic values, human rights and fundamental freedoms. We must renew this commitment. We must continue our path towards a world that reigns with peace, security and prosperity for all. Today’s meeting is an excellent opportunity to renew our resolve to achieve this goal.”Although the Second World War continued in Asia until August 1945 beyond May’s end of fighting in Europe, the General Assembly unanimously resolved in March to hold a special solemn meeting in the second week of May “in commemoration of all victims of the war.” read more

UN refugee agency seeks 120 million to shelter floodhit Pakistanis

25 August 2010The number of people in need of shelter in flood-devastated regions of Pakistan has continued to rise as more areas become inundated, the United Nations refugee agency reported today, revising upwards the amount of funding it requires to ensure the homeless have emergency accommodation. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it will now need $120 million, up from the $41 million the agency sought previously, to enable it provide emergency shelter and other forms of assistance to an estimated 2 million people during the next four months.The agency said that its field staff have reported that encampments were mushrooming across Sindh province as the floods spread into new areas of southern Pakistan over the past few days.“Our field staff report that some 700,000 displaced people are living in 1,800 settlements – many of these located in schools or colleges or in the few camps set up by the Government,” said Andrej Mahecic, UNHCR’s spokesperson in Geneva. “UNHCR is distributing tents and other relief items and providing technical advice to local officials on camp management and camp coordination issues,” he added.In Balochistan, people are taking shelter on the rooftops of Gandhaka after more high tides hit the area, according to UNHCR.The floods, the result of unusually heavy monsoon rainfall, are now estimated to have affected more than 17 million people. At least 8 million of those affected are believed to be in need of humanitarian assistance. Over 1.2 million homes have been damaged or destroyed. read more

UN aims to help Iraq improve housing for its poor

Under a memorandum signed in Baghdad, the UN will “collaborate in the implementation of the Iraq’s national housing policy, especially in implementing the pro-poor aspects of the policy, including informal settlement upgrading, special housing programmes for the poor and vulnerable, improving access to land and housing finance, and enacting revised housing construction norms and standards to reflect current affordability levels.”UN-Habitat also announced the publication of its new study, Urban Baghdad: Impact of Conflict on Daily Life, which calls on the Government to collaborate with Iraqi NGOs, civil society, the UN and international partners to develop new urban policies for improving everyday life in Baghdad. The report, developed jointly by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UN-Habitat and the UN mission in Iraq (UNAMI), highlights the displacement and fragmentation of the city caused by conflict, as well as poor access to basic services for internally displaced persons, host communities and those returning from displacement, the agency said. According to the agency, violence has left more than a tenth of Baghdad’s population of about seven million displaced, many within the city, living in “unacceptable conditions with limited access to basic services or income. Approximately 48,000 families live in 136 camps dotted around the city.The report was launched during the visit of the UN-Habitat Executive Director, Joan Clos, to Iraq, accompanied by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Christine McNab. Dr. Clos noted that 70 per cent of Iraqis live in cities. “That number is growing, particularly in the five past years due to internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have migrated in large numbers to cities like Baghdad. Embracing new urban planning can be a future solution to improve daily life for Iraqi citizens. Well-planned and managed cities are centres of economic growth and job creation,” he said.Ms. McNab said: “Baghdad’s current housing situation reflects not only the growing pains of cities globally, but also the extraordinary additional stresses experienced in cities throughout Iraq resulting from years of conflict, sanctions and displacement. This now represents one of the Government of Iraq’s most immediate challenges.” 2 June 2011The United Nations well help the Iraqi Government to improve housing for the poor under an agreement announced today by the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). read more

Senior UN official discusses democratic transitions in Tunisia and Egypt

B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told officials in Tunis today that the UN and the international community are watching the country’s transition with great interest.“Tunisia is the vanguard of democratic transition in North Africa and the Middle East and thus it is in all of our interest to help it succeed,” he said.Acknowledging that the transition will take time and require patience from the population, Mr. Pascoe voiced confidence that Tunisians will be able to conduct credible elections that are scheduled for October.He added that the UN had made available some of its best electoral experts to assist Tunisia in the staging of the polls.In Egypt, where he met with Government officials, political party leaders, youth representatives, candidates for upcoming elections and UN staff, Mr. Pascoe expressed confidence that the transition process will move forward in that country as well.The Under-Secretary-General confirmed that the UN has offered Egypt technical and logistical assistance to help carry out elections later this year.But he also emphasized that Egypt’s democratic transition is a nationally-owned and led process.“This is very much an Egyptian operation. It is up to them to figure out how far they want to go and how fast. We are willing to help and assist as much as it’s appreciated and wanted.”Mr. Pascoe heads the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA), whose tasks include overseeing the provision of UN electoral assistance. At least 100 countries have received such help in the past two decades. 19 July 2011The top United Nations political official today wrapped up a four-day visit to Tunisia and Egypt, where he discussed the two North African countries’ democratic transitions just months after they underwent revolutions that toppled long-standing regimes. read more

Markets update at midmorning

On the markets at midmorning (ET):The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 8.80 points to 15,091.01, after 90 minutes of trading.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 90.55 points to 21,934.32. The S&P 500 index down 11.83 points to 2,456.28 and the Nasdaq composite index was down 48.85 points to 6,296.26.The Canadian dollar was trading at 79.10 cents US, up from Wednesday’s average price of 78.75 cents US.The September crude contract was up 27 cents to US$47.05 per barrel and the September natural gas contract was up two cents to US$2.91 per mmBTU.The December gold contract was up $6.30 to US$1,289.20 an ounce and the September copper contract was down one cent to US$2.94 a pound. read more

CB says IMF funds will boost reserves

The Executive Board of the IMF met in Washington on Monday and completed the seventh review of Sri Lanka’s economic performance under a program supported by a Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). The completion of the review enables the immediate disbursement of about US$ 426.8 million, bringing total disbursements under the arrangement to an amount equivalent to about US$ 2.13 billion, the IMF said in a statement.The Central Bank said that its gross official reserves now stand at US dollars 6.1 billion, which is equivalent to 3.6 months of imports. However the Central Bank said in a statement early Tuesday that with the IMF approving the loan the disbursement as well as other inflows on account of workers’ remittances, inflows to the government to finance various infrastructure development projects and inflows to the private sector have helped raise the country’s foreign reserves to a comfortable level. The Sri Lankan Central Bank said that the announcement by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it had approved a US dollar 427 million loan will help boost the country’s foreign reserves.Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves had in recent times seen a drastic drop resulting in the bank allowing the Sri Lankan Rupee to depreciate as against the U.S dollar to record low levels. With the receipt of the eighth tranche from the IMF, the total outstanding value will exceed 300% of Sri Lanka’s current quota, thus requiring the payment of an interest surcharge of 2.0% on top of the current interest rate for the portion exceeding the 300% of the quota.Despite the relatively higher interest rate, Sri Lanka considered opting for the IMF tranche favourably in view of the current uncertain global environment, the Central Bank said. read more

Duminda cant remember

Parliamentarian Duminda Silva says he cannot remember the shooting incident in Mulleriyawa last October in which presidential advisor Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra was killed.The police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) said it had recorded a statement from Silva who is receiving treatment at a hospital in Singapore. The CID informed court today on the statement it had recorded from the MP who is the main suspect in the shooting incident.Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra was killed last October when his convoy came face to face with Duminda Silva and his bodyguards on the road in Mulleriyawa. read more

Cong withdraws ad with Lankan child

Unfazed by the resultant controversy, the Congress spokesmen had said that the photo was only symbolic but the idea was to highlight the issue of malnutrition in Gujarat. (Daily Pioneer) Succumbing to intense criticism from all quarters, the Gujarat unit of the Congress has withdrawn its advertisement on malnutrition that had used a flood affected Sri Lankan baby’s photo to ‘prove’ its allegations.Sources said that the controversial advertisement has been withdrawn from all the media like hoardings, internet, newspapers and other forms. Claiming that about 45 per cent children in Gujarat are malnourished, the Congress advertisement had shown a skinny child’s picture but it was soon revealed by internet savvy people that the baby was of Sri Lanka origin. read more

Fresh legislation sought to limit spending by candidates

“Such ceilings have been introduced in proportion to the number of voters living in the area concerned,” Rohana Hettiarachchi, the Executive Director of PAFFREL said. “We hope that you will act this proposal a reality by introducing fresh legislation to limit spending before the next local authority election,” he said.He said the proposal by the Prime Minister is especially important in the context that the next election will be conducted under a mixed system of ward and proportional representation system. Hettiarachchi says the absence of a ceiling on campaign financing is bound to have a direct impact in determining the public mandate at the election.He also said that if the campaign finance laws are not introduced, the purpose of introducing the new electoral system for local elections will not be served to the expectations of potential candidates whose services are needed by society and therefore not meet the expectations of society itself. (Colombo Gazette) Hettiarachchie appreciated the proposal by Wickremesinghe, as Prime Minister and leader of the United National Party, for imposing a ceiling on spending by candidates during elections. The Government has been urged introducing fresh legislation to limit spending by candidates before the next local election.The Peoples Action For Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) has written to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe saying legislation that imposes a ceiling on campaign financing has been implemented successfully in other countries in the region. read more

Water leak forces temporary closure of some BIA immigration counters

A water leak forced the temporary closure of parts of the immigration and emigration counters at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA).Sources said that the water leak had resulted in officers being unable to carry out their duties at some counters. Report by Indika Sri Aravinda