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Mahinda mantra at UN

Sep 23, 2011 4:13:19 PM - www.ft.lk
  • Gives comprehensive address highlighting issues of developing countries
  • Shoots down discriminatory practices by developed countries
  • Outlines post-war development, reiterates stance against terrorism
  • Backs Palestine, Cuba and Africa

By Nisthar Cassim in New York
In his much-anticipated address to the UN, President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday took a comprehensive local, regional and world view, with a strong stand for developing nations needing international support and firing down discriminatory policies.

He dealt with several key issues, including supporting the Palestinian cause, criticising protectionist policies by the west and human rights impositions but urged for international support to rebuilding the nation.

On development, the President remarked that multilateral organisations must give developing countries a level playing field. It is vitally important to insist that the structures and procedures of multilateral organisations are uniform and consistent and devoid of discrimination, he stated.
“My country has reason for concern with approaches tainted by an unacceptable degree of selectivity, which we have brought to the notice of the organisations in question in recent weeks. The developing world must keep a vigil against these irregular modalities which should be resisted through our collective strength,” the President said, clearly pointing at the controversial UN report and its handing over to the Human Rights Council without Sri Lanka’s knowledge.
Dealing with a range of topics in his address, the President noted, “We must acknowledge the need for that spirit of openness and adaptability today, more than at any other time. This is because the foundations of the world order are being transformed dramatically and fundamentally. At the heart of these changes is the need to protect smaller countries in the developing world and to advance their interests vigorously.”
Referring to the international community’s continued campaign to draw attention to human rights regarding Sri Lanka, he stated: “It is important to remind ourselves that every country cherishes the values and traditions, and deeply held religious convictions it has nurtured over the centuries. These cannot be diluted or distorted under the guise of human rights, by the imposition of attitudes or approaches which are characteristics of alien cultures.”
He added: “If this were done, it would amount to a violation of human rights in a fundamental sense. It must also be pointed out that even where sanctions are imposed, extreme care has to be taken to ensure that the people at large, men, women and children yet to be born, are not harmed by such action.”

The President then expressed his support for Cuba.
Referring to the Palestine campaign to upgrade their UN membership, Rajapaksa emphasised that it was time to take action supporting their demands in this “window of opportunity”. He also called for support for African countries.
“Whilst the clash of ideas, opinions and values continues, we have clearly to recognise that dialogue, deliberation and consensus offer the only viable means for resolving differences. The might of powerful nations cannot prevail against justice and fair play.”
Reiterating Sri Lanka’s stance against terrorism, he called for solid practical action to stamp out world terrorism. However, he pointed out that alleged double standards employed by the West could undermine these efforts.    
“The most significant challenge to stability and progress in the modern world is posed by the menace of terrorism. Recent experience the world over amply demonstrates that inconsistent standards and discriminating approaches can unintentionally give a fresh lease of life to the forces of terror. An explicit and uniform response which refuses to recognise political shades of terrorism is necessarily required.”
He warned that terrorists operate under front organisations and that “conferring legitimacy on these has the inevitable effect of providing comfort and encouragement to the merchants of terror”.
Delving extensively on the economic development and ethnic integration in the country, the President told the UN that the Northern Province GDP has grown by 22% amid strong macroeconomic performance.  
Responding to US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Robert O. Blake’s observances during a recent visit, the President revealed that 669 Tamil Police officers have been recruited, bringing the total number of Tamil members to 1143.
“Towards consolidation of these trends, leaving behind us, the trauma of the past, we ask of the international community the hand of friendship and goodwill, based on understanding of our nation’s determination to confront with courage the challenge of a new era in our history.”
He further said: “We ask our friends in distant lands to drop preconceived notions. We strongly believe in home-grown solutions for them to be sustainable. It is clearly impractical to conceive of universal remedies for problems which afflict our societies.”

Stocks dive…
As blue chip counters fell and trading in illiquid stocks continued, the CEO of a broking firm said stocks appeared overvalued at the Price to Earnings multiple of 18-19 times.
Activity levels on the Colombo market had dropped turnover levels, which ranged around the Rs. 5 billion mark a year ago, and are now much lower.
The highest contributors to turnover yesterday were Regnis which saw 630,000 shares trade contributing Rs. 183 million to turnover, Renuka Holdings which saw 2.2 million shares trade contributing Rs. 144 million to turnover and Radiant Gems which contributed Rs. 72 million to turnover when 382,500 shares traded. Renuka was up Rs. 3.50 to close at Rs. 64.20 and Radiant Gems closed up Rs. 8.90 at Rs. 192.50.  
It was rumoured that Regnis shares were being picked up by a high net worth individual, although this remains a relatively illiquid counter with about 4.6 million shares in the free float. Regnis shares closed up Rs. 26.30 at Rs. 304.30. The CEO of a stock broking firm who preferred to remain anonymous said firms required to clear their debtors’ positions must have done so by now.
Reuters reported that the rupee closed flat at 110.29/110.30 a dollar amid importer dollar demand, with a State bank, through which the Central Bank directs the market, selling the greenback at a flat rate of 110.30, 109.70/110.20, dealers said.  
The Central Bank mopped up Rs. 25 billion from the market through a repo auction at 7.08%.

Suspension of…
“The system is an efficient one and has been used by many countries all over the world. We are confident that the implementation and the activation will run smoothly.”
Visa on arrival scheme will be available for tourists from Singapore and Maldives only as they offer the same facility for Sri Lankans travelling to their countries. Tourists from 84 other countries will have to request visas via the online system.
According to Sri Lanka Tourist Development Authority statistics, the country welcomed 11,875 tourists from Singapore in 2010 while 35,791 came from Maldives. The latest figures shows that during the first eight months of the year arrivals from the two countries show a 40% and 21% increase over the same period last year, reporting 9,248 and 24,598 tourists respectively from Singapore and Maldives.
Statistics formed during the January to August period lists India, UK and Germany as the top three tourist markets for Sri Lanka; 107,201 have arrived from India, 71,151 from UK and 34,944 from Germany during the period.
Tourism industry leaders protested the move by the Government to scrap visa on arrival as Sri Lanka is still largely a last minute destination for most travellers.

CB releases full…
The following are the salient features of the amendments for Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Financing Act (CSTFA) No. 25 of 2005:
Applicability of terrorist financing law to include citizen of Sri Lanka and non-citizens while present in Sri Lanka, the “funds” is defined to include “assets of every kind be it tangible or intangible, movable or immovable” which are kept in Sri Lanka or outside Sri Lanka.
In addition, terrorist financing offences which before the amendment was confined to terrorist group is widened to include financing by a terrorist (single terrorist) and/or for any terrorist act.
Authority for Police to freeze or suspend terrorist funds and properties relating to the terrorist financing or activities before indictment.
Under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) No. 5 of 2006 applicability of the law has been expanded to cover any person who has committed a money laundering offence while in Sri Lanka.
Recovery of corresponding value of the properties related to a money laundering offence in the absence of properties derived/realised through money laundering.
At present offences punishable exceeding seven years imprisonment under any other law has been considered as an offence for money laundering. The threshold of seven years has now been reduced to five years covering more offences punishable under money laundering offence.
Foreign predicate offences are included as unlawful activities, the statement added.

Budget…
According to Wickremesinghe, the committee could prepare a report and present it to the House for approval.
The Government however has not responded to Wickremesinghe’s proposal. Budget 2012 is expected to be presented in Parliament on 15 November.
Earlier it was reported that the Budget would likely contain a 10% salary increase for all public officials as well as significant tax incentives for local investors. The Inland Revenue Head had stated that this was to encourage more projects and business expansion by the private sector.
However, the International Monetary Fund in its last review advised the Government not to make too many tax changes and focus on building predictability for greater confidence from international investors.

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