Saturday, April 9, 2011

US does not support separatism — Blake

US does not support separatism — Blake

Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Robert O. Blake says in a letter to The Island in response to our recent reports on his meetings with members of the Global Tamil Forum etc that the US does not support separatism and he has never met individuals or organisations that espouse terror or violence.

Full text of the letter:

I would like to clear up some misinformation and inaccuracies reported in The Island over the past week concerning the meeting I held with Sri Lankans abroad and my plans to visit Sri Lanka.

First, regarding my meeting with representatives from the Global Tamil Forum, I meet regularly with Sri Lankan and diaspora groups whose members represent a variety of ethnic backgrounds and viewpoints. Likewise, I meet with diaspora representatives from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and other South and Central Asian nations. I also meet regularly with a variety of non-governmental organizations to hear their perspectives on a range of issues. And, of course, I communicate frequently with government officials from all countries in the region. U.S. policy is not crafted in a vacuum. I and my colleagues at the State Department and at U.S. Embassies listen to a variety of perspectives to gain a better understanding of issues in order to best determine our policy interests and positions. At the same time, we use these meetings as an opportunity to explain U.S. policy priorities.

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The High Commissioner of Pakistan H.E. Seema Ilahi Baloch met with Rohana Dissanayake Deputy Minister of Transport

The High Commissioner of Pakistan H.E. Seema Ilahi Baloch met with Rohana Dissanayake Deputy Minister of Transport

The High Commissioner of Pakistan H.E. Seema Ilahi Baloch met with Honourable Rohana Dissanayake (M.P.), Deputy Minister of Transport of Sri Lanka today (April 6, 2011). During the meeting various issues of importance in context of bilateral relationship between Pakistan and Sri Lanka were discussed.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 1948, the two countries have consistently maintained close, cordial and mutually supportive relationship.

Pakistan and Sri Lanka being located in the South Asian region and being members of various regional and international bodies like UN, commonwealth, NAM and SAARC are mutually important for each others. The relationship between Pakistan and Srilanka is based on mutual trust and commonality of interest in maintaining regional peace, security and stability. Pakistan has always supported the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka. Both countries have shared common perceptions on almost all regional and international issue and are working together on all these forums for shared values and interests.

Pakistan is the 2nd largest trading partner of Sri Lanka within the South Asian region. The level of bilateral trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka increased as a result of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Trade between the two countries increased from US$ 150 million to over US$ 300 million during the last three years, as it doubled within a short period of time with the positive support gained from the FTA.

The civilizational links between Pakistan and Sri Lanka date back to the dawn of Buddhism. The archaeological sites in Taxila, adjacent to Pakistan’s capital city Islamabad, are a living testimony to this fact. Ghandara trail was a part of the silk route and many Buddhist pilgrims from different countries used to visit these sites on this historical route.

3rd Meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries

3rd Meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries

The 3rd Meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries was held in New Delhi on March 28-29, 2011. The Sri Lanka delegation was led by Mr. Ranjith Uyangoda, Additional Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs of Sri Lanka and the Indian delegation by Shri T.S. Tirumurti, Joint Secretary (BSM), Ministry of External Affairs of India. The leader of the Sri Lankan delegation called on the Foreign Secretary of India, Smt. Nirupama Rao on 29th March 2011.

Both sides welcomed the convening of the Joint Working Group on Fisheries, the last meeting of which was held in January 2006 in Colombo. The two sides reviewed developments since 2006.

Both sides reiterated the high priority given by their respective Governments to issues of fishermen and their livelihood. They stressed the need for all fishermen to be treated in a humane manner. To ensure the safety and security of fishermen, both sides agreed that the use of force cannot be justified under any circumstances. The need to respect the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) when fishing was stressed by the Sri Lankan side.
The Sri Lankan side informed that the recent violent incidents in January 2011, which resulted in the death of two Indian fishermen, are being further investigated. In this context, the two sides noted that the Joint Statement on Fishing Arrangements of 26th October 2008 had led to a decrease in violent incidents in 2009-2010. They welcomed the Joint Statement issued during the visit of the Foreign Secretary of India to Sri Lanka in January 2011.

The two sides noted that given the socio-economic and livelihood dimensions to the issue, there was need for enhancing cooperation by building on the agreements reached earlier. They agreed on the need to discuss arrangements based on the current situation so as to further strengthen the safety, security and livelihood of the fishermen.

Both sides welcomed the visit of a group of Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka between 20-23 March 2011. They had called on the Hon’ble Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of Sri Lanka and had also meetings with Hon’ble Minister of Small and Traditional Industries of Sri Lanka and their counterparts from the Northern Province. Recalling the initiatives taken earlier in August 2010 by the fishermen of both countries, where a Sri Lankan fishermen delegation visited India, both sides agreed on the need to foster greater understanding between their respective fishermen and fishermen associations. Noting the invitation extended by the Indian fishermen to their Sri Lankan counterparts, the two sides agreed that a return visit to India would be important to take this process forward.

Both sides discussed the various regulatory measures being put in place to manage the fishery resources in their respective waters. They noted the growing importance of fisheries to the livelihood of the coastal communities in Northern Sri Lanka. The two sides agreed that a road map needs to be put in place to ensure resource sustainability, livelihood, safety and security of the fishermen of both countries. Both sides also discussed measures to expedite the release of bonafide detained fishermen from both countries.

The draft Memorandum of Understanding on Development and Cooperation in the field of Fisheries was also discussed and it was decided to continue discussion on the draft. The Indian side offered to continue its assistance to the fisheries sector in Sri Lanka, which was welcomed by the Sri Lankan side.

The Indian delegation also thanked the Sri Lankan authorities for facilitating the visit of Indian fishermen and pilgrims to Kachchativu for the festival of St. Anthony earlier this month.

Sri Lanka at ‘Destination Nature Fair’ in Paris

Sri Lanka at ‘Destination Nature Fair’ in Paris

The annual ‘Destination Nature Fair’ was held in Paris from 25th to 27th March 2011 with the participation of more than 200 companies, including companies from Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s participation, which was facilitated by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, saw the participation of Exotic Global Holidays (Pvt.) Ltd., NKAR Travels and Tours (Pvt.) Ltd. as well as Eco Team (Pvt.) Ltd.

Held for the 27th consecutive year the Fair focused on outdoor activities linked to gastronomy, romance, fauna and flora, culture, urban well being, greenery, attitude, solidarity, festivity and luxury. Attracting more than 52, 000 visitors, this specialized consumer fair was divided into four key categories, namely, France area, foreign destinations, sports equipment and bloggers.
A special Tea Tasting event was also conducted by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in association with the Sri Lanka Tea Board through out the duration of the fair.

Several visitors to the Sri Lanka Pavilion expressed a keen interest in visiting Sri Lanka especially since there were a large number of outdoor activities available in the country through out year round. From wildlife and nature sanctuaries, to kayaking, canoeing and white water rafting, snorkeling and scuba diving, and whale and dolphin watching, among a myriad other activities in varying terrain from the golden beaches to the tea capped mountains and from lush forests to ecologically friendly environments, Sri Lanka has much to offer the adventurous traveller


How Japan is Acting to Ensure Safety of Farm Produce Exports

How Japan is Acting to Ensure Safety of Farm Produce Exports

Providing Accurate Information; No Need for Curbs on Travel to Japan
In response to global concerns about the safety of Japanese products triggered by damage to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the Government of Japan has taken every possible measure to make sure no contaminated farm product will be sold at home or abroad.

However, an increasing number of countries and regions are moving to screen imports from Japan by introducing tests related to radiation levels. “We take it seriously,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama said during a press briefing on March 31 following a meeting at the State Secretary level called to discuss steps to be taken towards import restrictions. “We will keep a close watch on import curbs and take necessary action in liaison with this meeting,” he added.

Measures Taken by MOFA

Reiterating these remarks, Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeaki Matsumoto told a press conference on April 1 that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has been gathering information through diplomatic missions abroad while providing foreign embassies and international organizations in Tokyo with information and explanations. “We are approaching countries that seem to be taking excessive measures for corrective actions,” he added. Upon the request of the European Union, Japan is preparing to issue certificate of origin as one of the measures to ease its concerns, Minister Matsumoto said, citing remarks at the State Secretary-level meeting. “MOFA will continue providing each country with sufficient information on the latest state of the nuclear power plant, and will work in close cooperation with the ministries and agencies concerned in order to prevent excessive reaction or unreasonable import bans overseas,” he said.

Japan has requested countries and regions concerned not to overreact to the nuclear incident by imposing unjustifiable import regulations and restrictions. According to MOFA Press Secretary Satoru Satoh, the move is an effort to avoid unfounded rumors and ensure smooth economic activities, including foreign trade. As part of the effort, a Japanese envoy called on World Trade Organization (WTO) members to abide by the WTO rule that bans trade restrictions not based on scientific grounds. At the informal sessions of the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee on March 29 and SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) Committee on March 30, Ambassador Yoichi Otabe at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the International Organizations in Geneva said Japan will “continue to try to provide accurate information for the international community as quickly as possible with a view to ensuring maximum transparency.” He requested WTO members “not to overreact by implementing unjustifiable import regulations and restrictions.”

ICAO: “No Restrictions on Travel to Japan”

During his March 31 briefing, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuyama cited a report from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism(MLIT) showing there are no international restrictions on travel to Japan. The report is based on a statement issued on March 18 by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other U.N. agencies. “International flight and maritime operations can continue normally into and out of Japan’s major airports and seaports, excluding those damaged by the tsunami,” according to the statement shared with the World Health Organization(WHO), the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA), the World Meteorological Organization(WMO) and the International Maritime Organization(IMO).

“No Need for Radiation Tests on Passengers from Japan”

ICAO and IMO also posted the following information on April 1 stating that there is no need for radiation screening tests on passengers arriving from Japan.

“Radioactive material from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant is gradually spreading outside Japan into the global atmosphere but at extremely low concentrations that do not present health or transportation safety hazards, according to the U.N. organizations closely monitoring the situation”.

“Japanese authorities confirm that all airports in the country, with the exception of Sendai which was affected by the tsunami of March 11, continue to operate normally for both international and domestic operations. Continuous monitoring around these airports confirms that radiation levels are well within safe limits from a health perspective”.

“Japanese authorities also confirm that all international seaports not damaged by the earthquake and tsunami are operating normally and that no health risk has been detected around the ports, based on the results of measurements of radiation levels by local governments”.

“Screening for radiation of passengers arriving from Japan is currently considered unnecessary at airports around the world.”

Daily Government Briefing

To help convey accurate information globally, the Government of Japan is conducting a daily briefing for foreign media in Tokyo. Officials from MOFA and other ministries and agencies concerned participate in the briefing conducted at the Prime Minister’s Office each evening to provide detailed information such as radiation levels measured daily at selected points in areas surrounding the Fukushima plant, the outcome of work dedicated to ensuring the safety of the plant and the condition of each reactor.

Foriegn minister Prof. Peiris Discusses Trade Opportunities with Lord Green,British Minister of State for Trade and Investment

Foriegn minister Prof. Peiris Discusses Trade Opportunities with Lord Green,

 British Minister of State for Trade and Investment

Minister Peiris outlined the recent expansion of opportunities in Sri Lanka for broadening business and trade links between the two countries following the end of the conflict. He explained that Sri Lanka was engaged in a major programme of infrastructure development while other sectors such as tourism and services have also expanded considerably in recent months. Furthermore, arrangements such as the India-Sri Lanka and the India-Pakistan Free Trade Agreements offered major incentives for foreign companies including from the UK using Sri Lanka as an investment base for export into the vast South Asian markets. Against the background of strong bilateral links and the mutual familiarity of each others administrative, financial and legal structures, it was an opportune moment for strengthening interactions in the trade and business sectors.

Lord Green responded that British businesses are keen to strengthen engagement with Sri Lanka. In addition to the significant number of British companies already active in the country, the UK side could encourage in particular the British SME’s which are the back-bone of the British business sector. Minister Peiris invited Lord Green to lead a business delegation to Sri Lanka.

Minister Peiris also met with Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. The meeting was a follow-up to their meeting in Colombo in February, where avenues for further strengthening bilateral relations were discussed.

Prof. Peiris addressed the Annual General Meeting of the Association of Professionals of Sri Lanka in the United Kingdom. He commended the exceedingly useful work which was being done by the Association which consists of more than 400 professionals drawn from a variety of disciplines.

The Minister briefed the Sri Lankan professionals about current developments in the country and, in particular, the significant progress achieved by the government in respect of the economy, infrastructure development and reconciliation. He said that the professionals should look upon themselves as ambassadors of goodwill who have a vital role to play in conveying to British professionals and civil society the fullest information regarding the progress in all these fields.