Due to the difficulties of organizing physical export promotion programmes during this pandemic situation, the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) in collaboration with Foreign Ministry and the Sri Lankan Missions overseas has initiated online sessions to enable foreign buyers and Sri Lankan exporters meet via virtual platforms with the objective of creating trade linkages between Sri Lanka and the rest of the world, as it is imperative to sustain the nation’s export promotional activities in spite of severe challenges caused by COVID-19.
Numerous B2B meetings were conducted by the EDB under this initiative in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Missions overseas and foreign trade chambers. The B2B meetings were conceptualised based on the products that have potential to access the respective markets. The Sri Lankan Missions overseas took the responsibility to introduce potential buyers/ importers for the selected products and the EDB coordinated with both the Sri Lankan Missions and Sri Lankan exporters to organize online meetings in an effective manner.
Initial webinars were conducted prior to the B2B sessions to make exporters aware of the market conditions/trends, tariffs, taxes and other regulations as well as available concessions through free trade agreements and other preferential trade arrangements in the particular market areas. This series of meetings covered all the regions -the Americas, Asia, the EU, and the Middle East for the identified potential product sectors.
Targeting the Americas region, B2B events were carried out with buyers mainly from the USA, Brazil and Chile for product sectors such as personal protective equipment (PPE), tea, cinnamon, curry leaves, coconut oil, beer, fabrics, lingerie, shapewear, coir-related products. As a result, some exporters are currently discussing with foreign buyers to send samples while few of them are making arrangements for their first orders.
Another virtual business meeting was conducted between six buyers from Qoo10 online platform and Sri Lankan companies related to kids’ stationary and educational toys in partnership with the Sri Lankan High Commission in Singapore and Singapore Business Federation. Sri Lankan exporters in apparel and spice sectors benefitted by a B2B meeting programme jointly organized by the EDB and the Sri Lanka Embassy in Poland in collaboration with the Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka in Poland.
For the Japanese market, three B2B sessions were held for coir-related products, cocopeat and ayurveda and herbal cosmetics.
Promoting agriculture-related products
Several B2B meetings took place with the participation of Sri Lankan companies in the spices and concentrates sector with buyers from the USA. Further, participant exporters benefited from the B2B events organized in collaboration with the Sri Lankan High Commission in the UK for the ayurveda and herbal cosmetics, coconut milk and vanilla product sectors.
A number of B2B meetings were conducted for the Sri Lankan coconut-based products with the Turkish buyers for sub-sectors such as desiccated coconut, cocopeat, activated carbon and coconut kernel products. Preliminary discussions have been held with the Sri Lankan Mission in South Africa to organize B2B meetings for edible coconut products, coir and growing mediums. Fruitful and productive business meetings were organized for coconut products and spices by the EDB and the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Jordan.
Creating opportunities for industrial products
A virtual B2B meeting for the apparel industry for products such as men’s wear, women’s wear, kids wear, rainwear, hats etc. was conducted during the last two months, and many Sri Lankan companies reaped benefits by the meetings they had with buyers from France and Poland.
A business meeting session was also conducted between Sri Lankan boat building companies and a boat builder from Denmark. This was followed by additional meetings for the boat building sector in different markets and consequent to it, there is an ongoing discussion to form a joint venture between a Turkish ship builder and a reputed Sri Lankan ship building company in the near future. Furthermore, proposals from the Sri Lankan companies were shared with an Omani party to explore suitable collaboration in the boat building sector. B2B meetings for printing and packaging products were carried out with two buyers from India with the support of the Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi.
Focusing on high-value exports, the EDB in collaboration with theirs Lankan Embassy in Thailand organized a meeting to create linkages between SLINTEC and a Thai auto manufacturer and a battery manufacturer to promote graphene for Lead Acid and Lithium Ion batteries. It is believed that these discussions will create more business collaboration with Thailand enabling Sri Lanka to penetrate this emerging market.
The EDB and the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai organized a virtual B2B session with the Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturers’ Association from 05th to 09th October in which 66 B2B meetings were held with 10 Sri Lankan companies. Further, business sessions were conducted among Sri Lankan electronics and electrical sector manufactures/exporters with buyers from Germany in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Embassy in Germany.
Promotions for the export services sector
A key online event was held in August for the ICT/BPM sector in which leading Sri Lankan start-ups and product engineering companies successfully pitched for clients in Japan. The main objective of this event was to introduce 07 start-ups and product engineering companies to the Japanese market and create business linkages to strengthen Japan – Sri Lanka Business partnership. Forty-five (45) Japanese participants attended the event.
In order to highlight the potential of Sri Lanka’s logistics services, two webinars were held connecting the Sri Lankan missions in countries from the Far East and Europe. Hub operators who participated in those webinars are in communication with the Sri Lankan missions seeking further opportunities to connect with the business community in the targeted markets.
Forthcoming online B2B programmes
The EDB is eagerly exploring options to conduct B2B programmes with China for multi products in collaboration with the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Guangzhou, China, and Yunnan Commercial Office in Colombo. Additionally, the details of interested companies have been shared with the Bank of China for the online match-making event which will be conducted to coincide with the 3rd China International Import Expo in November 2020.
At the same time, discussions are ongoing to organize B2B programmes for the identified products such as automobile components, spices (red pepper varieties), natural rubber, kitchen utensils, porcelain products for the South Korean market and coconut, tea, betel leaves and rubber products for the Pakistan market. Another program is being planned for the Turkey market for multi sectors in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Embassy and the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEIK) while a separate interactive virtual conference followed by B2B meetings will be held by companies in the country’s logistics sector for the Federation of Indian Exporters Organization on 10th November.
As the online platform is the best mechanism to promote exports in the international market owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EDB will discuss with other Sri Lankan overseas missions to organize more webinars as well as B2B programmes. (EDB Press Release)
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AG not bound by its recommendations, yet to receive report
PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks:
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC is not bound by recommendations made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, or presidential directives in that regard, according to authoritative sources.
They said that the AG couldn’t under any circumstances initiate legal proceedings until he had received the full PCoI report.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the PCoI report on Feb 1. The President’s Office delivered a set of PCoI reports to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Feb 23, a day after the report was presented to the cabinet of ministers. The Island raised the matter with relevant authorities in the wake of a section of the media reporting the PCoI recommending punitive measures against former President Maithripala Sirisena, Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, IGP Pujitha Jayasundera, Chief of State Intelligence Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena, Chief of National Intelligence retired DIG Sisira Mendis and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader and Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Rishad Bathiudeen et al over the Easter Sunday carnage.
Sources pointed out that due to the inordinate delay in sharing the PCoI report with the AG, the department hadn’t been able to take preliminary measures required to initiate the proceedings. Sources said that a team of officers would take at least six weeks or more to examine the report before tangible measures could be taken.
With the AG scheduled to retire on May 24, 2021, even if the AG Department received the P CoI it would be quite a tough task to initiate proceedings ahead of retirement, sources said. However, in terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in last October, both the AG and the IGP could receive extensions beyond 60 at the President’s discretion.
Dappula de Livera received an Acting appointment as the AG a week after the Easter Sunday carnage whereas his predecessor Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, was elevated to Chief Justice.
Responding to another query, sources said that the Attorney General two weeks ago requested Secretary to the President for a copy of the P CoI. However, the AG was yet to receive one, sources said. In spite of the AG not receiving a P CoI copy, the AG had instructed the IGP to obtain a copy of the report when he requested the police to complete investigations into the Easter Sunday carnage. The AG issued specific instructions after having examined police files pertaining to the investigations.
The IGP, too, hadn’t received a copy so far though some sections of the report were in the public domain.
Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage displayed at a live political programme on Derana a copy of the P CoI report he received at the cabinet meeting earlier in the day.
Sources said that the Attorney General’s Department couldn’t decide on a course of action in respect of the Easter carnage on the basis of a section of the report. In terms of the Commission of Inquiry Act (Section 24), the AG enjoyed significant powers/authority in respect of investigations; sources said adding that the Department urgently required both the P CoI report and police investigations report. The Attorney General’s Department has raised the delay in receiving a P CoI report amidst the Catholic Church attacking the government over the same issue.
Sources said that ministerial committee appointed to study the P CoI report couldn’t decide on how to proceed with the recommendations and the matter was entirely in the hands of the AG. Sources pointed out that the delay on the part of the government to release the report had received the attention of sections of the international media, including the New York Times. Public Security Minister retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera having met Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at the Bishop’s House on Dec 8, 2020 said that the AG would get a copy of the P CoI report once the President received it. Minister Weerasekera said that the CID had handed over the relevant files after having completed investigations into eight blasts. Referring to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) report on the Easter Sunday carnage, the former Navy Chief of Staff said that all such documents would have to be brought to one place and considered before initiating legal proceedings. Acknowledging that there could be delays, lawmaker Weerasekera said that on the instructions of the Attorney General a 12-member team of lawyers was working on the case. The minister vowed to expose the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks. Investigations continued while some of those wanted were overseas, the minister said.
The minister acknowledged that the Attorney General couldn’t proceed without the P CoI report. Minister Weerasekera reiterated that once the President received the P CoI report, it would be sent to the Attorney General. The minister said that there were documents two to three feet high that needed scrutiny. The minister assured comprehensive investigation. The minister said that investigations pertaining to eight blasts had been completed and the reports handed over to the AG. However, the Attorney General had found shortcomings in those investigations.
JVP picks holes in PCoI report
By Saman Indrajith
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday bombings had failed to identify the mastermind of , the JVP said yesterday.
Addressing the media at the party headquarters in Pelawatte, JVP Propaganda Secretary MP Vijitha Herath said that the PCoI report had levelled accusations against former President Maithripala Sirisena, former IGP and head of intelligence for their dereliction of duty, shirking of responsibilities and not taking action to prevent the attacks and negligence. There were reference to the causes of the terror attacks and actions to be taken to avoid such attacks and the influence of extremist organisations. “However, there is no mention of the mastermind of the attacks, the handlers of the attackers and those whose interests the carnage served. It is also not mentioned whether there has been any foreign or local organisation behind those attacks. As per the PCoI report the attack took place as a result of culmination of extremism.
“According to the PCoI the extremist activities were a result of the prevailing political situation then. The entire nation was waiting to see who was responsible and who masterminded those attacks. The PCoI has failed to identify the true culprits responsible for the terror attacks. The report says that the leader of the suicide cadres killed himself in the attacks and it was a puzzle. That means those who are actually responsible for the attacks are still at large. The report does not provide exact details of the sources of the attacks. The PCoI had sittings for one year and five months. It summoned various persons and got their statements but it has failed to shed any light on the terror attacks. Everybody knows that the top leaders of the government and heads of security and intelligence establishments failed in their duties. Ranil Wickremesinghe was the second in command and he too is bound by the responsibility but the PCoI report fails to identify him as one of the persons against whom legal action should be instituted. The PCoI has treated Wickremesinghe and former President Maithripala Sirisena differently. We are not telling that this report is a total failure but we cannot accept this as a complete report. The PCoI handed over its report to the President on Feb 1. After 23 days it was sent to Parliament. Now, a copy of the report is there in the parliamentary library for the perusal of MPs.”
Herath said that the PCoI did not have powers to take punitive action. “It only has powers to name those responsible and recommend action to be taken against those named.
TNA MP faults govt. for delay in answering questions, gets under Johnston’s skin
By Saman Indrajith
It did not matter whether the MPs were wearing pressed clothes or had travelled long distances when their questions were answered, Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando told Parliament yesterday.
The Minister said so in response to a complaint by Batticaloa District TNA MP Shanikyan Rasamanikkam, who expressed his dismay for government taking time to answer a question raised by him.
MP Rasamanikkam has raised a question whether the Minister of Health is aware that the Dikkodai ospital, located in the Batticaloa district is not used for public purposes and the patients who visit the hospital for receiving services, face inconveniences, owing to that. On behalf of the Minister of Health, the Chief Government Whip and Minister asked for additional two weeks time.
MP Rasamanikkam: I come to parliament from Batticaloa, which is 422 km away. To attend Parliament we take great care including pressing our clothes. After taking so much trouble to come there braving the pandemic threat we do not get answers. There is a Health Minister and Acting Health Minister and neither of them is here. I saw Minister Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle in the House this morning. She too has gone out. I travel more than 800 km. We could attend to many other problems. It is because the government does not give answers we are conducting protest marches, but when we do so we are hauled up before courts.
Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando: Every MP comes here wearing pressed clothes. But that has nothing to do with questions and answers here. I have been requested by the subject minister to ask for two weeks’ time. The MPs have a right to ask questions and in the same way the ministers have the right to ask for time. On the other hand, whether you cover 400 km to reach parliament does not matter. The majority of MPs travel 200 to 250 kilometers to come to Parliament. It is for that purpose they contest elections and get elected. Once elected the distance is not an issue you have to come to Parliament. The government has answered all your questions. This is the first time the Minister has asked for additional time. It is unfair for you to level charges. A more responsible conduct is expected of you as an upcoming political leader.