Grace period to pay utility bills extended for disaster victims

The Ministry of Finance has decided to extend the grace period granted to the people affected by the recent floods and landslides as well as the fire at the Kosgama army camp to pay their electricity and water bills. Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said that the grace period of one month has been extended by another two months from yesterday (16). He also said that the installments of the vehicles obtained under leasing facility by the said affected people can be paid with a delay of two months.  Karunanayake said that a sum of Rs 380 million was handed over to the Ministry of Disaster Management yesterday in order to provide the people affected by floods in Kolonnawa with an advance of Rs 10,000.  
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Sri Lankan rupee 1-wk forwards trade steady amid CB moral suasion -

Sri Lankan rupee one-week forwards traded steady on Friday, but dealers said the local currency was under pressure due to lack of exporter dollar conversions and moral suasion by the central bank, which is holding the currency at current levels.   One-week dollar/rupee forwards, which have been acting as a proxy for the spot rupee in the absence of trade in three-day forwards on Friday, traded at 145.40/60 per dollar at 0555 GMT, little changed from Thursday’s close of 145.35/60.   The market is confused with the central bank intervention in both spot rupee and forwards, dealers said.  “You never know where the central bank wants the rupee. Exporters are not converting the dollars aggressively any more while there is demand for dollars from importers,” a currency dealer said asking not to be named.   “When there was downward pressure, the central bank on Thursday brought down the spot rate by 25 cents to signal appreciation. There is no reason for rupee appreciation because we do not see large inflows coming in.”   Foreign exchange reserves were falling as the central bank is selling dollars to defend the currency amid some debt repayments, the dealer said.   Central Bank officials were not available for comment. The central bank reduced the spot rupee’s peg to 144.50 per dollar on Friday, from 144.75 in the previous session. The spot rupee was not traded for a fourth straight session on Friday, dealers said.   

On Monday, the spot closed at 144.85/95 per dollar.  The spot rupee has been pegged down from 145.75 levels in early June after the local currency rose following increased dollar conversions by exporters and overseas funds. For a second stratight day, there was no active trading in three-day dollar/rupee forwards, known as spot next, dealers said. The forwrads closed at 144.85/90 per dollar on Wednesday.   Spot next, which has acted as proxy for the spot currency since January, indicates the exchange rate for the day followingconventional spot settlement. For Friday’s trade, the spot next settlement takes place five days ahead due to the intervening weekend. Foreign investors net bought 8.47 billion rupees ($58.53 million) worth of government bonds in the week ended June 8,central bank data showed.   A lack of large inflows from exporters, and borrowings were weighing on the currency, dealers said.  The Sri Lankan stock index rose 0.23 percent to 6,450.32 as of 0611 GMT, a day after falling 1 percent due to concerns over a government decision to reintroduce capital gains tax, Reuters reports. 
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Susanthika hospitalised following assault; husband arrested -

Olympic Silver medallist Susanthika Jayasinghe has been admitted to the Gampaha Hospital following an assault incident. Her husband has been arrested by Weliweriya Police on suspicion over the incident, police said. Susanthika, Sri Lanka’s only female Olympic medallist, is currently receiving treatment in ward No. 8 of the Gampaha Hospital for injuries sustained in the attack. Susanthika said her husband had arrived at her home in Weliweriya at around midnight yesterday and asked her to open the door. As she opened the door, the suspect had allegedly attacked her with a certain blunt object striking her on the head and legs multiple times.  It has been reported that he had also caused damages to Susanthika’s car which was parked outside the home.  Speaking to Ada Derana, the former star athlete said she had been living separately from her husband for some time now and that he had harassed her and her family on several previous occasions.   Susanthika Jayasinghe is the winner of Olympic silver-medal for 200m event in 2000 summer Olympics in Sidney, Australia.
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Woman killed by MP’s vehicle; driver arrested

A woman has died after being hit by a vehicle belonging to UPFA Digamadulla District MP Sriyani Wijewickrama. The driver of the vehicle has been arrested over the accidnet which had taken place in the Ampara town last night, police said. The 66-year-old woman who was hit by the MP’s vehicle had succumbed to injuries after being admitted to the Ampara Hospital. - See more at:
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Gujarat riots: India court jails 11 for life over Gulbarg massacre

A court in India has sentenced 11 people to life in prison for their roles in a notorious massacre during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat.
Twelve others convicted in connection with the so-called Gulbarg Society killings were jailed for seven years by the special court in Ahmedabad.
In the attack, 69 people were hacked and burned to death by a mob.
More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in the riots, sparked by a fire on a train that killed 60 Hindu pilgrims.
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Guatemala ex-president and deputy face fresh corruption charges

A former president and vice-president of Guatemala have been formally charged with corruption and money-laundering.
Otto Perez Molina and Roxana Baldetti are among 70 people accused of involvement in a scheme that embezzled millions of dollars of government money.
Both strongly deny the accusations.
Mr Perez Molina, who was elected in 2012, and Ms Baldetti are already facing trial in another case that led to their resignations last year.
Announcing the latest charges, Prosecutor Julio Barrios Prado said the pair had been involved in illegal financing, embezzlement and money laundering.
Addressing Mr Perez Molina in court he said: "That money was used to buy goods and services for you and Baldetti including real estate and luxury vehicles, as well as $4.3m (£3m) in gifts."
He said shell companies had been used to try to conceal the money.
Ms Baldetti is also accused of receiving $38m (£26.6m) in bribes for government contracts. Prosecutors allege that, on one shopping trip to Miami, she spent more than $27,000 of the cash on shoes and clothing.
Mr Perez Molina and Ms Baldetti are already facing trial over a corruption scheme dubbed La Linea (The Line) that involved businesses paying bribes to government officials and custom officers in return for being allowed to evade import duties. They have denied any wrongdoing.
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Syria conflict: US diplomats press for strikes against Assad

Dozens of US State Department officials have signed an internal memo protesting against US policy in Syria and calling for targeted military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's government.
They argue the current approach is working against the Syrian opposition and helping Mr Assad to stay in power.
It was signed by 51 mid-to-high level officials who advise on Syria issues.
It is not unusual for internal "dissent cables" to be filed through State Department channels.
However, it is rare to have this number of diplomats voice opposition to a White House position.
A State Department spokesman acknowledged receipt of the memo but declined to comment on its contents.
However, an official familiar with the letter told the BBC that it was sent "because the status quo is not sustainable".
The document urges a credible threat of military action against the Assad government. Otherwise, it says, Damascus will feel no pressure to negotiate with the rebels.
This reflects concerns that the collapse of a joint US-Russian peace process is benefitting the regime.
There have been violations of the ceasefire by both the opposition and the government.
But President Assad has openly defied the truce, and his forces, backed militarily by Iran and Russia, seem intent on regaining strategic territory such as the crucial city of Aleppo.
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Better for Sri Lanka if UK stays in EU - Harsha

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Harsha de Silva says that Sri Lanka has formally applied for the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+) and that the country will see a “serious dilution of the benefits” from the trade arrangement if the UK leaves the EU. Addressing a group of over 200 Sri Lankan British community leaders in London last evening, he spoke on why the Sri Lankan government believes the United Kingdom should ‘stay’ in the European Union.

  “I articulated the PM’s position that if UK leaves the EU that it will certainly have a significant negative impact on Sri Lankan exports to the EU,” de Silva wrote on his Facebook page.  Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando and Deputy Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister Rosy Senanayake also addressed the gathering. The UK will hold a referendum on June 23 to decide if it will stay in or leave the European Union, a prospect dubbed ”Brexit”. The deputy minister said that Sri Lanka stands to lose if the latter happens. “As a matter of fact we formally applied for GSP+ yesterday and if Brexit happens we will see a serious dilution of the benefits we will get from winning back GSP+ as almost 40% of our exports to the EU is in to the UK.”  “So if UK is not a part of the EU we will lose the duty free benefit. True, if UK exits, then we could renegotiate a FTA with the UK, but they will have to do a whole series of FTAs with European nations and others before they get to us.

 That will certainly take a long time,” he said. In fact, we don’t need any more disruptions in the global economy, he said, adding that the challenges we have to face would be easier to deal with in a more stable global environment.  While it is each British person to decide, we have and will speak to ‘our community’ to let them know as a country we would like for UK to stay, de Silva added. However, the deputy minister said that speaking to the Sri Lankan community he got mixed reactions with some for UK staying and some against.
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Lanka ties moved ahead after Maithripala Sirisena took over - Indian Envoy

India-Sri Lanka relations have moved ahead from “being focussed on the past” after President Maithripala Sirisena took over from his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa in January 2015, the Indian envoy said.   Indian High Commissioner YK Sinha said bilateral ties have become robust and entered a new phase with highest-level engagements. 

  Recalling a flurry of high-level visits between the two South Asian neighbours across the Palk Strait, Mr Sinha said ties entered a new phase since Mr Sirisena took over from Mr Rajapaksa.   He said relations have moved ahead from being focused on the past.   After Mr Sirisena’s ascent to power, there have been several high-level visits between India and Sri Lanka starting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2015, which marked the first visit to the island nation by an Indian leader since 1987.   Mr Sirisena has twice visited India since January 2015. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also made his first overseas visit to India, Mr Sinha said.  

 Delivering a lecture on ‘India-Sri Lanka relations in the 21st Century’ at the Bandarnaike Centre for International Studies, Mr Sinha said bilateral trade between the two nations have formed the cornerstone in the growing relationship.   Contrary to perceptions, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries have been most fruitful, he said.   Sri Lankan exports have grown 13 times since the FTA was signed in 1999. This will show who has benefited most, the Indian ambassador said.   Sri Lanka and India enjoys a robust partnership and New Delhi is Colombo’s largest partner in defence training, he said.   On the fishermen issue, Mr Sinha said it was a humanitarian issue with implications on the livelihoods of those involved.   Negotiations are continuing to try and resolve the issue of fishermen of the two countries crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), he said.   He said Sri Lanka’s security is in India’s interest. India stresses the need for reconciliation in Sri Lanka through a negotiated political settlement where all communities can agree. This must be within the framework of a united Sri Lanka, Mr Sinha said.    

 Mr Sirisena has taken steps to reconcile with the Tamil minority.   Several confidence-building-measures such as the release of Tamils-owned lands, lifting of travel restrictions to the North and de-escalating the military presence have been taken since January as part of efforts to ensure reconciliation after three decades of civil war with the LTTE that claimed more than 100,000 lives, NDTV reports
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India minister Sushma Swaraj's fridge tweet goes viral

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has had to gently tell a Twitter user that she is not the best person to approach for issues with appliances.
Her tweet to a disgruntled owner of a Samsung fridge has gone viral in India and generated a spate of responses.
"Brother I cannot help you in matters of a Refrigerator. I am very busy with human beings in distress," Ms Swaraj tweeted to user @M_VenkatM.
The minister often responds to users who reach out to her for help.
As the tweet gathered traction among people, many congratulated the minister for her response:
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