Monday, February 28, 2011

Pakistan Week Colombo inaugurated by the First Lady of Sri Lanka

Pakistan Week Colombo inaugurated by the First Lady of Sri Lanka
Pakistan Week Colombo “Colours of a Culture” was formally inaugurated by the first Lady of Sri Lanka Madame Shiranthi Rajapaksha on the evening of 20th February 2011 at the Galadari Hotel. The High Commissioner of Pakistan Mrs. Seema Ilahi Baloch, managing Director of Pakistan International Airline Capt. Nadeem Khan Yousufzai and several high profile personalities attended the inaugural ceremony.

This week long festive celebration brings together the culmination of various aspects of the vibrant culture of Pakistan. The festival is featuring Mystical Sufi Music performance culinary testes of Pakistani food, trade stalls, fashion show and gahazal singing performance and much more to enthrall the Sri lankan audience.

Madame Rajapaksha visited the stalls which contained the traditional Pakistani handicrafts, dresses, Jewellary and many other traditional items. She took keen interest in the traditional Pakistani products and appreciated the craftsmanship and skills which were reflective in the displayed Pakistani products.

The ancient and mystifying, history of Pakistan depicts a rich diversity, which is greatly reflective in its people and culture. Thus, these influences are greatly reflective in its cuisine which is a refined blend of various regional cooking traditions of the Subcontinent.

Combining these rich flavours, “Pakistani food festival” is the highlight of Pakistan Week Colombo from the 20th – 26th February 2011. With authentic ingredients sourced directly from Lahore, the festival presenting a richer, fuller mouth feel of exotic flavours prepared directly by master Chefs of Avari Hotel Pakistan, flown in especially for the festival.

As a part of Pakistan Week Colombo daily Gazal performances at the trade stalls showcasing various handicraft will promise everything from beauty, dignity and style. The items at the display reflect hereditary skills and intricate craftsmanship. Thus, the ambiance is set for a rich evening of “experiencing Pakistan” in all its splendour.

The grand finale of Pakistan Week Colombo is the  fashion show by Talat Hafeez Khan a renowned Pakistani fashion designer. She is well known to blend the traditional with the more chick and extravagant modern day Pakistan in her clothing. “Tania’s Collection” that will be showcased on the 25th of February, sees a clear fusion of modernity and tradition brought together in creating that perfect attire for the unpretentious side of every woman.

Pakistan Week Colombo seeks to reach out its splendour to all communities  and exhorts to savour the exquisiteness of culture, food and tradition brou

Two 2010 Mercury Awards for Sri Lanka Catering

Two 2010 Mercury Awards for Sri Lanka Catering

The Sri Lanka Catering Institute has won two Mercury Awards at the recent International Travel Catering Association award ceremony for the method used by the Institute to sterilize food waste.
The winners presented their awards to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday  at the Temple Trees during a meeting with the President on garbage disposal and its effects to the environment. The awards were for the method used by the institute to sterilize food waste.

A Mercury is the most prestigious award in travel catering worldwide, sought after by the best and most pro-active companies in the industry.

Minister of Environment and Wildlife Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Minister of Civil Aviation and Highways Priyankara Jayaratne, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Chairman of Sri Lankan Airlines Nishantha Wickremasinghe and Chairman of Airport and Aviation Services were also present

Speech of Dr. Fehmida Mirza Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan At the 3rd Plenary on “Mother and Child”

Speech of
Dr. Fehmida Mirza
National Assembly of Pakistan
At the 3rd Plenary on “Mother and Child”
3rd Regional Conference of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association 

Mr. Chairman Honourable Abdul Hamid, Speaker of the Jatio Sansad
 Respected Speakers from CPA Asian and Indian Regions, Distinguished Parliamentarians,
 Ladies and Gentlemen!
 Assalam-o-Alaikum and a very good afternoon to all of you!
 It’s indeed a pleasure and a privilege for me to address the 3rd Plenary of The CPA Asia Region’s Conference.
 I avail this opportunity to place my deepest gratitude to Excellency Rajapakshe and the Parliament of Sri Lanka for the arrangements of the 3rd CPA Asia Regional Conference and for the generous hospitality extended to my delegation and me.

(Sri Lanka is surely beautiful but let me say that it’s the extra touch of your unique Sri Lankan hospitality, which has truly made our visit memorable)
 And as I refer to the beauty of your great country, my thoughts also go for the innocent victims of the ongoing floods in the Eastern part of Sri Lanka. Pakistan has recently faced a similar catastrophe and therefore I can well understand their miseries and pains. On behalf of the people, Parliament and the Government of my country, I offer our heart-felt grief and assure our complete support and assistance to our Sri Lankan brothers and sisters.
 Ladies and Gentlemen!
 The topic of this Plenary focuses on an issue of utmost importance, which holds a serious concern for our Region and is, therefore, very close to my heart, namely “mother and child”.
 South Asia, which includes the four countries of the CPA Asia Region, today comprises one-fifth of all of humanity.  With an over one billion people to feed, it presents a unique dilemma of wasted or unmanaged resources, rising poverty and renewed conflicts.
 The Unabated growth in population is hampering the region’s economic progress. The natural resources are at risk because of insufficient conservation. This, in turn, is causing the environmental degradation, leading to natural calamities. And to add this vicious cycle are the multiple ethnic, religious and social conflicts.
 This entire quagmire is badly hampering our respective national progress and in this whole process, women and children have come out as the worst effected, who are made to face the burden of this chaos.
 The fact that South Asia is a region:
·        Where every third child-death of the world occurs;
·        Which carries two-thirds of the global burden of malnourished children
·        Which has the most dis-balanced sex ratios in the world with more than 50 million “missing women” and
·        Where one third of all maternal deaths take place
---  explains the adversity, which we are all confronted with.
 As signatories to the UN Millennium Development Goals, we are duty-bound to reduce the under-five child and maternal mortality rates up to 75% by the year 2015--- a target which seems not only daunting but in some cases, even impossible to achieve.  With less than four years remaining, the UN’s fact-sheets indicate that in South Asia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are most likely to achieve this target. Pakistan and Bangladesh may only succeed if wide-ranging changes in the entire state policies are made. This naturally is an uphill task. 
 Therefore we, the elected representatives of our Region, must take a lead to make it our common agenda for a comprehensive redressal. Let us look at this adversity as a common challenge. Let us re-fix our respective priorities.
 (And on this point of re-setting of priorities, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am reminded of an interesting comparison from history, which also involves our own Region.  When Mumtaz Mehal, the favourite of all wives of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan died during the birth of her 14th child, the Emperor built the Taj Mahal to memorise their strong bond of love and respect.
 Incidentally, it’s around the same time, when the King of Sweden had built the world’s first well-equipped maternity home in memory of his beloved wife, who had also died of the same reason ---- birth of their child.
This explains the historic neglect of our society in addressing a core issue. As a result, South Asia continues to have the highest maternal deaths in the world till to-date while countries like Sweden rank top among the nations, who have finally overcome this menace.
 Can this fine example still inspire South Asia to re-set its priorities and adopt a more focused approach?
 The answer is YES --- if we succeed in building a strong, sustained and well-resourced community-based healthcare system, which does not only ensure safe deliveries through skilled midwives but which also nurtures “protected childhood”.
 This is precisely what our Sri Lankan friends have succeeded in doing in terms of safe motherhood and hence have become a proud example for all developing countries. This is exactly what our great Leader, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto intended, when as Prime Minister she introduced a locally drawn dedicated corps of Lady Health Workers, assigned to provide neonatal, antenatal and child care facilities to the far-flung under-served areas.
 A research paper, based on the case-studies of these LHWs, was published in “The Lancet”, which emphatically pleaded that community based primary healthcare can save lives.
 Ladies and Gentlemen!
I would like to quote our late Prime Minster who once said:
“ I dream of a Pakistan, of an Asia, of a world where every pregnancy is planned, and every child conceived is nurtured, loved, educated and supported.”
This mission continues to remain at heart with the present democratic leadership of my country. It is with this commitment that we have renewed our efforts through a re-organised Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Programme, which aims at:
·        Ensuring comprehensive and basic obstetric and new born care at the district level
·        Enrolment, training and deployment of community midwives in rural areas
·        Awareness, Advocacy and demand creation and
·        Availability of family planning services at all health outlets

But we must also not forget that such ambitious programmes cannot thrive if are not zealously backed by a strong and committed political will.
Thoraya Obaid, the former Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund once remarked:
 “The sum used by the world’s governments for six days of military expenditure would be enough to reduce maternal mortality in the world by 75 per cent. This explains where the political priorities lie”
 It is a fact that the critical questions of healthy mothers and prospering children are closely attached to the status of women in any given society.  There is, after all, a strong link between women's right to education, economic independence, own land, political participation and their sexual and reproductive health.
 Statistics confirm that increased levels of female education have facilitated decreased IMR and U5 MR.
 I am, therefore, especially pleased to note that our friends in the Maldives have already succeeded in achieving the MDG Target 2, pertaining to the attainment of universal primary education while Bangladesh has excelled in achieving the MDG Target 3, which relates to the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment.  These achievements will not only bring prosperity to you but will also have positive impact on the whole of South Asia.
 Women in Pakistan too are vigorously following the same path. The fact that today’s Pakistani Parliament has more than 22.7% women representation, which is the highest in the Region, makes it all the more important for them to seek a greater role in decision-making and solving issues related to women and children. It is thus that the vibrant Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, working under my patronage, is fast becoming the “critical mass”, which has effectively lead the Parliament to keep its focus on development issues. A point in case is the passage of important pieces of legislation like the Act of Harassment at Workplace, corresponding amendments in the Penal Code and now the Reproductive Health Rights & Services Bill and Domestic Violence Bill, which are expected to be law within this year.
 Only last week, at a plenary session of the Women’s Caucus, reproductive health care was the subject of discussion and the need for trained midwives came as a strong recommendation. This will now be placed for consideration in the concerned standing committees of the Parliament.
 I am also pleased to inform that the Caucus also took the initiative of organising the first-ever National Convention of Women Parliamentarians last year. The women leaders from all the federating units and regions of Pakistan came in overwhelming numbers and one representative each from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka joined them to collectively discuss the vital issues of peace-making, security and reconciliation. I am sure that the Caucus can provide a similar platform to the women legislators of South Asia for devising a common plan of action for their less fortunate sisters and children in the region.
 Ladies and Gentlemen!
All these bright examples from our respective countries clearly indicate that despite the harsh challenges, there are many silver linings. The only missing link is the lack of coordination and the absence of an effective mechanism of resource and experience sharing among us. 
·        Why cannot we all benefit from the Sri Lankan expertise of trained midwives?
·        How can the Maldives lead us in overcoming extreme poverty and hunger and in achieving universal primary education?
·        Will Bangladesh take a lead in sharing its success in effective population control and women empowerment?
·        And how can Pakistan’s Women’s Parliamentary Caucus be a role model for CPA Asia Region in fostering close links among our women parliamentarians to jointly pursue a common agenda of development?
Such meaningful and targeted cooperation can turn CPA Asia Region into a dynamic and action-oriented forum and only then as fellow parliamentarians, we can transfer the benefits of our cooperation to our people. It’s about time we re-fix our priorities.
There might be opposition from some quarters within our societies. But let us not forget:
It is the Leaders who break the status-quo and become agents of change.
So, let us commit ourselves to an agenda for change.
An agenda that fills our mother and children with a hope of a better future.
·        A future free from diseases, which rack and ruin.
·        A future free from polio, from goitre, from mal-nutrition, HIV-AIDS, unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortions
These are the battles that we must fight, not only as nations but as a regional and global community.
Because, these are the very battles on which history and our people will judge us.
I thank you all.

Pakistan Speaker calls on President

Pakistan Speaker calls on President

Speaker of the National Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Dr.Fehmida Mirza, who is currently in Sri Lanka to attend the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s Regional Conference, paid a courtesy call on President Mahinda Rajapakse at Temple Trees on Saturday, Feb 12.
She was accompanied by Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Seema Illahi Baloch.

The Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Dr. Fehmida Mirza and the Pakistan Parliamentary delegation paid a courtesy call on the President of Sri Lanka H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees on 12th February 2011.
The Honourable speaker was accompanied by the Deputy Chairman, Senate of Pakistan, the Speakers of Provincial Assemblies of Sindh and Balochiatan and the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Sri Lanka M.E. Mrs. Seema Ilahi Baloch. The Speaker of the Sri Lankan Parliament Chamal Rajapaksa and the Secretary to the President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga also attended the meeting.  
The Speaker thanked the government and the people of Srilanka for the warm welcome and the hospitality extended towards the Pakistani delegation. She also appreciated the arrangements made by the Srilankan Parliament for organizing the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association's 3rd Asian Regional Conference.
The Speaker congratulated the President for his re election as President for the second term and commended his government’s resolve with which the menace of terrorism was eliminated from Srilanka. She said that the Government and people of Pakistan greatly values its relations with Srilanka in the regional and bilateral context. The Speaker said Pakistan fully supports the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka. Our two countries enjoy commonality of views on regional and international issues and coordinate their positions at the United Nations and SAARC, she added.
She underscored the need for enhanced exchange of Parliamentary delegations between the two countries to promote people-to-people contacts. Such visits will help promote greater cooperation between the two Parliaments, she said. She also appreciated the establishment of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentarians Friendship Association and said that efforts are underway to reactivate the Srilankan Parliamentary Friendship Association in Pakistan.
While apprising the Srilankan side on the damage and devastation caused by the floods in Pakistan, the honourable Speaker said it is the biggest human tragedy in the history of Pakistan, floods have left the entire agriculture sector in shambles, livestock have been equally devastated, standing crops worth billion of dollar have been destroyed. She said that the victims of this immense tragedy need solidarity, concrete help and assistance from the world community.
On the occasion, the Speaker conveyed the appreciation of the Government, parliament and people of Pakistan for the flood relief assistance provided by the Government and people of Sri Lanka. She also said that during devastating floods in Srilanka the Government of Pakistan has extended support by sending the much needed humanitarian relief assistance. The Honorable President appreciated the Speaker for the efforts made by the Pakistani government for alleviating the sufferings of the flood victims.
The Speaker expressed satisfaction over the volume of trade between two countries which has been doubled from US$ 140 million to around US$ 300 million in the last four years. She hoped the figure of US$ 1 billion will be achieved by 2012. She also assured that Pakistan will continue to work towards economic progress of Sri-Lanka and urged the Srilanka side to encourage the flow of investment towards Pakistan.
While talking on the cultural cooperation between the two countries, the Speaker said that the Government of Pakistan attaches great importance to the preservation of the Gandhara heritage, Buddhist relics and sites, as a standing tribute to the shared past of our two nations.
The two side agreed that the high level visits from Pakistan (including that of the President, Chairman Senate, Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Naval staff) and those from Srilanka including that of the Srilanka Parliament Speaker have reinvigorated the traditional friendly ties between the two brotherly countries.
In a separate development the Prime Minister of Srilanka D.M. Jayaratne called on the honourable Speaker on 12th February 2011. The Honorable Speaker thanked the Government of Srilanka for the hospitality and warmth extended by the Srilankan side and attributed it to the historic ties between the two brotherly countries.
The Srilankan Premier appreciated the support extended by the Pakistani Government for the flood affectees. He also noted that Pakistan was the only country which extended unflinching support to Srilanka during the 3 decade internal conflict and immensely helped for the elimination of the menace of terrorism from the Srilankan soil.
The two sides agreed to further strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries and stressed upon the need to work closely in the regional and global context.
The Honorable Speaker National Assembly has arrived in Colombo to attend the 3rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Association's Asian Regional Conference which is being held from 11th to 16th February, 2011 at Colombo, Sri Lanka. She is accompanied by a 5-member Parliamentary delegation from the National Assembly of Pakistan. The delegations of the Provincial Parliaments of Pakistan are also attending the CPA Regional Conference.
Apart from Pakistan Parliamentary delegation, delegates from Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka will participate in the Conference. The Conference is focused upon variety of subjects that commonly affect the region. The main Poverty alleviations, climate change and Mother and child healthcare will be the topics for discussion at plenary level.

Sri Lanka bans Cricket World Cup Song

Sri Lanka bans Cricket World Cup Song

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has banned the World Cup song which carries passing remarks against certain cricketers of other countries.

It is reported that  President Mahinda Rajapakse upon hearing the Sinhalese and Tamil mixed song was appalled that the song was allowed in the first place and has instructed it be taken off from all state-run radio and television channels. He has also censured sports authorities for allowing the "insulting" lyrics.
The news report further said that the President felt the song was in poor taste, and what he wants is a song to inspire the team and fans and not to insult other nations.

First Colombo-Tuticorin Ferry sails on 28th

First Colombo-Tuticorin Ferry sails on 28th

Ferry Services between Colombo harbour and the Indian port of Tuticorin are set to start next week.  The first ferry, a vessel with a capacity of 500 passengers run by a private Indian operator, is scheduled to sail from India on February 28.
Reports said that a big warehouse in the Tuticorin port has been converted into a passenger terminal and passenger seating, baggage scanning and immigration counter facilities have been installed in this terminal.
Initially there will be two voyages a week and will be increased to three voyages subsequently.
The Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Ports Mr. Anura Jayawickrema, who visited the South Indian Port recently to check on arrangements there, said the Colombo Port is also refurbishing its passenger terminal building.
Sri Lanka’s ferries will be operated by the state-owned Ceylon Shipping Corporation, and negotiations have been concluded for chartering vessels required for this service.   The Shipping Corporation officials said that they are looking to hire a ferry with a capacity of 500-600 passengers, including cabins.
Shipping Corporation sources also said that fees for the voyage have not yet been decided but it will be lower than air fares.  Each passenger will get a baggage allowance of 100 kilos which would be the main attraction for the travellers using the ferry service. However, each item of luggage on the ferry will be restricted to a maximum of 25 kilos. The voyage between Colombo and Tuticorin is estimated to take 10 – 12 hours.
Meanwhile, the airline sources said that many of the passengers on board the usually heavily booked flights between Colombo and Chennai are businessmen and traders who are frequent flyers to the South Indian city for shopping. They said that due to lack of big shopping complexes in Tuticorin, as in Chennai, the new ferry service will not affect much on the heavily booked air travel between Colombo and Chennai.  They said that the ferry services are likely to cater to a different market than airlines unless or until voyages become quicker than the proposed 10-12 hours or fares much cheaper than the air fares.  They also said pilgrims and others who go on package tours are unlikely to switch unless the tours are changed to suit ferry services.(niz)

Vaiko, workers taken into custody for trying to stage protest in Chennai

Vaiko, workers taken into custody for trying to stage protest in Chennai

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader Vaiko and Communist Party of India's Tamil Nadu secretary D Pandian, besides 400 party workers, were taken into custody today for trying to stage a protest in Chennai against the alleged disrespect caused to the mortal remains of slain Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Prabakaran's mother, Parvathy Pillai, in Sri Lanka.
The protesters alleged that the Lankan army had "caused disrespect" to the remains of Parvathy, who died at a private hospital in the island nation recently following illness.
The protesters also demanded closure of the Sri Lankan deputy high commission in Chennai and tried to march towards it but they were not granted permission for the protest, the police said.
Those taken into custody included Tamil Nationalist Movement leader P Nedumaran.

Sri Lanka new port factory construction to start in March

Sri Lanka new port factory construction to start in March
 (LBO) -
Investors who bid to set up industries in a new port in southern Sri Lanka are to start building their factories in March, Sri Lanka Ports Authority chairman Priyath Wickrama said.
He said 23 proposals of 27 received for the deep-water Hambantota port on the south coast had qualified. "Three parties have said they plan to start building their factories during March," Wickrama told a seminar organised by the Import Section of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on opportunities in port development.
He said that although the port was not yet equipped with cranes it can handle ships with their own cranes bringing in project cargo for construction work.
The first phase of the port project built with Chinese loans and by a Chinese consortium was completed last November.
The port is meant to be an industrial and bunkering port in the first phase.
"We had to wait until we competed the project to attract investors to the port and then only generate cargo at Hambantota," Wickrama said,
"After that ships will come."
Wickrama said a range of industries and activities will be set up at the industrial zone of the new port including cargo consolidation, cement grinding and bagging, automobile assembly, LPG distribution, warehousing and ship services.