DAILY BRIEF: FRIDAY, 23ND DECEMBER 2016

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*A Daily Brief will not be published in the last week of 2016, and will resume in the new year.

UN Peacebuilding Fund to provide skills training to refugees in Kenya. Image Credit - Pete Lewis/ Wikimedia Commons

UN Peacebuilding Fund to provide skills training to refugees in Kenya. Image Credit - Pete Lewis/ Wikimedia Commons

LOCAL NEWS

Government notes a 50% decrease in illegal fishing

The Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, Mahinda Amaraweera, has stated that information from the Sri Lankan Navy and Coast Guard indicate a decrease of approximately 50% in South Indian vessels entering Sri Lankan waters.

Minister Amaraweera emphasized that Sri Lanka would continue the policy of apprehending and confiscating Indian fishing vessels and gear, until the situation is ‘permanently redressed.’

President to launch sustainable development campaign

President Maithripala Sirisena is to launch a three-year campaign advocating sustainable development on 2 January 2017, while unveiling the ‘National 2030 vision.’

The campaign promotes the 17 goals of Agenda 2030, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.

Ban Ki-moon calls President before vacating office

The outgoing Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has conversed with President Maithripala Sirisena through a telephone call, on 22 December.

Secretary General Ban commended the leadership of President Sirisena, and expressed his willingness to continue his support for Sri Lanka, after stepping down as Secretary-General.

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

South Korean court begins impeachment process

The South Korean Constitutional Court has begun hearings regarding President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment. President Park was indicted following a vote by the National Assembly on 9 December.

The Constitutional Court will have until June 2017 to confirm the indictment, after which the President will be reinstated or officially impeached. The South Korean Prime Minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, is currently serving as acting president.

Syrian government reclaims Aleppo

Representatives from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have stated that eastern Aleppo is now under government control. Around 40,000 civilians and rebel fighters evacuated the city this week, including 4000 evacuees who left Aleppo on 22 December.

The Syrian army described the city’s reacquisition as ‘a strategic change and turning point in the war against terrorism’.

UN to fund Somali refugee project

The UN Peacebuilding Fund is to allocate USD 3 million for a project to provide professional skills to Somali refugees in Kenya.

The project will build on an existing agreement among the Somali and Kenyan governments and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, regarding the repatriation of refugees living in Kenya’s Dadaab region.

DAILY BRIEF: THURSDAY, 22ND DECEMBER 2016

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EU proposes countermeasures to terrorism financing. Image Credit - sashk0 / depositphotos

EU proposes countermeasures to terrorism financing. Image Credit - sashk0 / depositphotos

LOCAL NEWS

Thailand willing to strengthen tax collection process

Thailand’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Nopporn Adchariyavanich, has stated that his country is willing to assist Sri Lanka in strengthening tax collection procedures. The Ambassador shared these views during a meeting with the Minister of Finance, Ravi Karunanayake.

Ambassador Adchariyavanich highlighted the need to identify and guide tax evaders, to ensure higher government revenue.  

Ministry of Defence hosts Japan-Sri Lanka Defence Dialogue

The Japan-Sri Lanka ‘Defence Dialogue 2016’ took place on 20 December at the Ministry of Defence. The discussion was led by the Japanese Vice Minister of Defence, Hiroyuki Miyazawa, and State Minister of Defence, Ruwan Wijewardene.

During the discussion, Japan extended its support to enhance defence cooperation, and strengthen Sri Lanka’s maritime security. Vice Minister Miyazawa also proposed to provide a naval vessel and training to Sri Lanka in the future.

Government approves Chinese agreement on Hambantota Port

The Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama, has announced the approval of President Sirisena and the Cabinet for the Hambantota Port agreement with China Merchant Holdings.

Minister Samarawickrama confirmed that the Framework Agreement had already been signed, and that a concession agreement would be finalised in January 2017. The implementation of this agreement will grant China Merchant Holdings 80% of shares in the Hambantota Port, worth USD 1.12 billion.

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

European Commission asks Poland to change its constitutional amendments

The Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, has given the Polish government two months to rewrite proposed amendments to its constitutional tribunal.

The Polish parliament previously passed eight pieces of legislation regarding the constitutional tribunal, which critics argue could minimise the court’s ability to hold the government to account. Vice President Timmermans expressed his concern about the independence of the tribunal.

Japan approves increase in defence budget

The Japanese government has approved a 1.4 percent increase in defence spending, to USD 43.66 billion. The increased spending enables an upgraded missile defence system, following advances in North Korea's ballistic missile programme, as well as construction of a new submarine.

The funding will also be used to boost coast guard capabilities, to help defend the disputed East China Sea.

EU proposes stricter controls on terrorism financing

The EU has proposed new measures to combat the financing of terrorism, including tightening controls on cash and transfers of precious metals. The measures form part of an EU "action plan against terrorist financing", unveiled after the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015.

The EU’s proposal also calls for greater cross-border judicial and police cooperation to combat money laundering.

DAILY BRIEF: WEDNESDAY, 21ST DECEMBER 2016

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Argentina and the UK sign deal on Falkland war victims. Image Credit - quixoticsnd / depositphotos

Argentina and the UK sign deal on Falkland war victims. Image Credit - quixoticsnd / depositphotos

LOCAL NEWS

ADB to provide loan to improve electricity

The Asian Development Bank has signed an agreement with the Secretary to the Treasury, Dr. R.H.S. Samarathunga, to provide a loan of USD 115 million to Sri Lanka. The loan is expected to fund projects to improve the country’s electricity supply.  

The funded projects are expected to focus on advancing renewable energy systems and improving the reliability of the electricity supply, especially in underdeveloped and isolated regions of Sri Lanka.

Foreign Minister condemns assassination of Russian Ambassador

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mangala Samaraweera, has condemned the assassination of Andrey Karlov, former Ambassador of Russia to Turkey. The Minister expressed on social media that the act violates a diplomat’s right to represent their nation in a peaceful manner.

Minister Samaraweera conveyed condolences to the family of the former Ambassador, and to the government and people of Russia.  

Tourism Fest 2016 launched in Colombo

Tourism Fest 2016 has been launched at Independence Arcade in Colombo. The three-day event, which is being held for the second time, is a public-private partnership hosted and promoted by many stakeholders of the tourism sector.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Minister of Tourism Development, John Amaratunga, and other dignitaries from the diplomatic and religious communities participated in the event’s opening ceremony.

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Venezuela reopens border with Colombia

Venezuela has decided to gradually reopen its border with Colombia, after closing it for eight days. The decision follows a telephone call between the President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, and his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos.

President Maduro closed the border and at the same time, withdrew the country’s highest denomination bank note from circulation, to disrupt illegal trafficking of goods and cash.  

Russia, Iran, and Turkey discuss peace deal for Syria

Representatives of the governments of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Moscow on 20 December to work towards an agreement to end the war in Syria. Representatives from the US and the UN were not consulted or invited to the meeting.

The three countries announced that they were ready to broker a peace deal, and adopted a declaration that sets out the principles of any potential agreement.

UK and Argentina to identify Falklands war victims

The UK and Argentina have agreed to identify the bodies of Argentinian soldiers buried in the Falklands Islands, following the 1982 war between the two countries. The Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK, Sir Alan Duncan, and the Deputy Foreign Minister of Argentina, Pedro Villagra Delgado, signed the agreement in London.

Sir Alan Duncan also expressed that the two countries will work to increase the number of flights between the Falklands Island and Latin America.