JUST IN

COPE to table report on higher education institutes

Navy arrests 16 Indian fishermen in Jaffna

More narcotics will be destroyed in future -Thalatha

Bangladesh’s bowlers snuff out Zimbabwe for 170

India to develop Sri Lanka’s IT sector

2017- The Year in Review


2017-12-30

JANUARY

LOCAL: The Delimitation Review Committee looking into the demarcation of electoral boundaries in local Government wards handed over its final report to Minister of Local Government and Provincial Councils Faizer Mustapha. Minister Mustapha earlier refused to accept the report of the Delimitation Committee as only three members of the five-member committee had signed the report.

The Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms appointed by the Prime Minister on the 26th of January 2016 handed over its complete report to the Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also welcomed the report.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera said “Sri Lanka is committed to the implementation of the United Nations resolution, which it cosponsored in October 2015 so that we as a country can deal with the past honestly and truthfully, accept that past, put it behind us, and then move forward to build our Sri Lankan nation anew.”

INTERNATIONAL: Donald Trump was officially sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, ushering in a new political era on the 20th of January. Mike Pence also took oath as Vice President of the US.

SPORTS: Written off as dead man walking, Roger Federer, won his eighteenth men’s singles Grand Slam title by defeating Rafael Nadal in a five-set final at the Australian Open. Serena Williams meanwhile overcame her sister Venus in the women’s singles final, surpassing Steffi Graf to become the player with the most major wins in the women’s game in the Open Era.


FEBRUARY

LOCAL: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who visited Canberra meeting his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull said asylum seekers detained in Australia’s offshore detention centers can return as it is safe to return to the island now. Australian Prime Minister Turnbull offered practical aid for reconciliation measures in Sri Lanka. Turnbull also commended Sri Lanka on its strong economic growth and considerable progress toward national reconciliation since the end of the conflict in 2009.

The UK delivering the statement at the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UK Minister for Asia and the Pacific Alok Sharma said more time should be given to Sri Lanka to fully implement the October 2015 resolution.

Former LTTE leader turned politician Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman launched a new political party to voice the concerns of minority Tamils in the North and East.

Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran said the party is for a public referendum on the proposed new Constitution. The MP said the TNA is prepared to engage in a meaningful discussion on the issue of devolution of power instead of insisting on words.

MP Athuraliye Rathana Thera addressing the inaugural conference of the Sri Lanka National Council said that land and Police powers should be given to the people of the Northern Province.

INTERNATIONAL: North Korea prompted international condemnation by test firing a ballistic missile across the Sea of Japan.

SPORTS: Kandy Sport Club retained their ‘A’ Division Dialog Rugby League Title for the 3rd year in a row after beating CH & FC by 59 points to 03 in their final match of the 2016/17 season. Kandy won 12 out of the 14 matches and finished ahead of Havelock Sports Club and Navy SC.


MARCH

LOCAL: Government presented a Bill to ratify and implement the ‘International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance’. The Bill seeks to ensure the right to Justice and reparation for victims of enforced disappearances.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to United Nations in Geneva Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha addressing the 34th Regular Session of the UNHRC said the National Unity Government is firm in its commitment to a zero-tolerance policy on torture. UN said Sri Lanka’s slow progress in accountability mechanisms necessitates international participation. Sri Lanka meanwhile sought two more years from the UNHRC to probe alleged war crimes committed during the conflict with the LTTE.

Sri Lanka reaffirming its commitment to the reconciliation process and commitments articulated in the UN Resolution 30/1 it cosponsored in 2015, announced that it will be co-sponsoring UN Resolution 34/1 which will grant Sri Lanka two more year to implement the 30/1 proposals.

The United States while commending Sri Lanka for the important steps taken since 2015, toward implementing its key human rights, justice, and reconciliation commitments, suggested the Sri Lankan Government to make public a strategy and timetable for implementation of the reforms and commitments outlined in the UN Resolution 30/1.

UNHRC without a vote adopted the consensus resolution on Sri Lanka giving two more years beyond 2017 to fulfill its commitments for reconciliation and transnational justice.

INTERNATIONAL: The UN warned that the world is facing the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II, with up to 20 million people at risk of starvation and famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.
The United Kingdom triggered article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, starting the Brexit Negotiations, the talks for the United Kingdom to Leave the European Union.

SPORTS: The 138th Battle of the Blues Big Match cricket encounter between Royal College and St Thomas’ College ended in a draw after rain abandoned play soon after tea on the 3rd day at the SSC ground in Colombo. Royal scored, 255 all out in the first innings while were struggling for survival in their second innings on 154 for 8. S. Thomas’ College in their 1st innings scored 357 for 9 wickets declared to take honours in the traditional encounter.


APRIL

LOCAL: The Cabinet approved the Counter Terrorism Bill to be enacted in place of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The government had taken an undertaking to replace the PTA and replace it with fresh legislation on countering terrorism in conformity with international standards.

The Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly decided to let the judiciary decide whether the Constitutional reforms require a referendum.
President Maithripala Sirisena said he was ready to abolish or prune down the powers of the Executive Presidency.

INTERNATIONAL: In response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town, the US military launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an air base in Syria. Russia described the strikes as an “aggression”, adding they significantly damaged US–Russia ties.

SPORTS: Fiji won their third Hong Kong Sevens title in a row after a sensational display in the final against South Africa in the 2017 Hong Kong Sevens tournament. Fiji has won their third Hong Kong Sevens title in a row after a sensational display in the final against South Africa.


MAY

LOCAL: Sri Lanka regained the Generalized System of Preferences Plus or GSP+ tariff concession from the European Union. The announcement was made by the Ambassador of the EU delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Tung Lai Margue. He said with the provision of GSP+ Sri Lanka’s economic growth is expected to rise drastically adding the re-granting of the GSP+ will definitely benefit Sri Lanka in terms of provision of more job opportunities.

The Cabinet approved the proposal made by President Maithripala Sirisena to implement the National Reconciliation Policy drafted by the Office for National Unity & Reconciliation Chaired by Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

President Maithripala Sirisena honouring the working people on the International Workers’ Day called on the country’s working class to play a major role in the struggle to establish reconciliation and achieve economic prosperity for the people.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe speaking at the UNP May Day rally at Campbell Park in Colombo said that new campaigns will be started to develop the economy in the North with the assistance of India.

INTERNATIONAL: Computers around the world were hit by a large-scale ransomware cyberattack, which went on to affect at least 150 countries.

A terrorist bombing attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England killed 22 people and injured over 500.

Chris Cornell, the Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman, was found dead in his hotel bathroom by a family friend in what is believed to be a suicide on the 18th of May.

SPORTS: Chelsea was crowned English Premier League champions for the second time in three years. Chelsea have won their sixth English title – and fifth in the Premier League era – in Antonio Conte’s first season in charge.


JUNE

LOCAL: The Office of Missing Persons Amendment Bill was unanimously passed in Parliament. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, presenting the Bill in the House, said this institution is paramount in order to put an end to the issue pertaining to the disappearance of persons as soon as possible.

The United Nations assured to support the government’s plans for bringing about reconciliation and the conditions for lasting peace when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called on the UN Secretary General António Guterres at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The Cabinet of Ministers directed law enforcement authorities and the Attorney General to take immediate action against instigators and perpetrators of violence and hate crimes against religious and ethnic groups.

INTERNATIONAL: Amidst wide criticism, the US announced its decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement in due time.

The World Health Organization estimated that Yemen has over 200,000 cases of cholera.

SPORTS: Pakistan beat India by 180 runs, to win the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy in the final.

Graham Ford stepped down as Sri Lanka coach following the team’s early exit from the Champions Trophy. It followed an inconsistent year for Sri Lanka who suffered their first ever Test loss to Bangladesh and a whitewash in South Africa.

Rafael Nadal won his 10th French Open title and 15th Grand Slam singles title, defeating Stan Wawrinka in the final. Nadal is the only man ever to win 10 singles titles at the same Grand Slam event.

Ireland and Afghanistan were granted Test status by the International Cricket Council. It increases the number of countries competing at the top level of international cricket to 12. They are the first admissions since Bangladesh gained Test status in 2000.


JULY

LOCAL: Sri Lanka signed a US$1.1 billion deal today to lease the southern Hambantota port to China, after several months of delay caused by protests. The amended agreement was signed between the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and the China Merchant Port Holdings.

President Maithripala Sirisena signed the Office on Missing Persons Act, paving the way to set up an office to trace around 20,000 people still missing, eight years after the end of the nearly three-decade-long civil war.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe marked 40 years of uninterrupted political life this year having entered Parliament in 1977 on the 23rd of July. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe entered politics as a young parliamentarian winning the Biyagama electorate representing the United National Party at the general election in July 1977.

President Maithripala Sirisena in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces has appointed Major General Mahesh Senanayake as the 22nd Commander of the Army after promoting him to the rank of Lieutenant General. Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake succeeds General Crisanthe De Silva who was appointed the new Chief of Defence Staff after promoting him to the rank of General a few days ago.

The European Court of Justice in Brussels removed the LTTE from its terrorism blacklist. By the judgment the Court of Justice reaffirming its case-law, said the European Union had not provided any evidence showing that the LTTE was a risk after their military defeat in 2009.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issuing a statement on the anniversary of Black July in Ottawa reiterated Sri Lanka should establish a process of accountability that will gain the trust and the confidence of the victims of the war.

INTERNATIONAL: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is voted for by 122 of the 193 UN member states.
Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington died at the age of 41 with a coroner claiming Bennington apparently hanged himself. His body was found at a private home.

SPORTS: Angelo Mathews stepped down as Sri Lanka’s captain, a day after the 30-year-old described the one-day series loss to Zimbabwe as one of the lowest points in his career.


AUGUST

LOCAL: The 20th Amendment to the Constitution introducing a new electoral system was presented in Parliament. The Amendment seeks to change the Provincial Council electoral system and to hold elections on a single day.

Parliament passed the Local Authorities Elections Amendment Bill with amendments. During the third reading 120 MPs voted in favor and 44 abstained from voting while no votes were cast against the bill. Joint Opposition MPs abstained from voting for the bill.

The Local Government Elections Amendment Bill came into effect with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya signing the Bill into law.

President Maithripala Sirisena accepted a request by the United National Party leadership to remove Minister of Justice and Buddhasasana Wijedasa Rajapakshe from his Ministerial portfolios. The Head of State forwarded the letter in this regard informing Wijedasa Rajapakshe of the decision.

Thalatha Athukorala was sworn in as Minister of Justice before President Maithripala Sirisena. Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera was sworn in as Minister of Buddha Sasana also before the President. The Justice Ministerial portfolio comes in addition to Thalatha Athukorala’s Foreign Employment Ministerial portfolio. Gamini Jayawickrama Perera received the Ministry of Buddha Sasana in addition to his current ministerial portfolio of Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife.

INTERNATIONAL: The UN Security Council unanimously approved fresh sanctions on North Korean trade and investment.

Hurricane Harvey struck the United States as a Category 4 hurricane, causing catastrophic damage to the Houston metropolitan area, mostly due to record-breaking floods. At least 90 deaths were recorded.

SPORTS: Usain Bolt, the greatest sprinter in modern times, retired after running his final race at the world championships in London. The 30 year old Bolt took home gold medals in all three Olympics appearances during his career, starting in 2008 in Beijing, in both the 100m and 200m. Usain Bolt said he was “saying goodbye to everything” and “almost cried” as his successful career came to a close at the World Championships.


SEPTEMBER

LOCAL: Vision 2025 to build a strong economy through reconciliation and democracy was launched at a ceremony in Colombo under the patronage of the President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The Vision 2025 proposed to build a strong economy through reconciliation and democracy ushering in a change in political culture escaping from the dark shadows of the past.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya signed the Provincial Council Elections Amendment Bill into law.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein updating human rights issues in 40 countries at the 36th session of the UNHRC in Geneva urged the Sri Lankan Government to accelerate the pace of fulfilling the UNHRC resolution adopted in October 2015.

President Maithripala Sirisena signed the Gazette Notification to operationalize the Office of Missing Persons to help several families of missing persons across the country to discover the fate of their loved ones.

President Maithripala Sirisena addressing the 72nd Session of UNGA in New York urged the international community to support Sri Lanka’s reconciliation effort. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres while meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena on the sidelines of the 72nd UNGA Sessions said the UN is ready to provide every possible assistance to Sri Lanka in efforts to build a prosperous nation.

INTERNATIONAL: North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

The Caribbean and United States were struck by Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane that is the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin outside the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. The storm causes at least 134 deaths and at least $63 billion in damage.

On the 32nd anniversary of the deadly 1985 Mexico City earthquake, a 7.1 earthquake struck central Mexico killing more than 350 and leaving up to 6,000 injured.

Hugh Hefner — who founded Playboy and turned it into a globally iconic brand – died at the age of 91. Playboy said Hefner died peacefully at home surrounded by loved ones.

SPORTS: Dubbed the return of international cricket to Pakistan, the 2017 Independence Cup saw the Pakistan team take on a specially drafted World XI side for a three-match T20I series in Lahore. The series, which Pakistan won 2-1, was seen as a watershed moment for Pakistan cricket as the confidence it created facilitated Sri Lanka’s visit to Lahore for the last of their three-match T20 series with Pakistan.


OCTOBER

LOCAL: President Maithripala Sirisena opening the special session of the Parliament held to mark 70 years of Parliamentary democracy in Sri Lanka said the support of all parties is necessary to enact a new Constitution which ensures a Unitary State and strengthens Parliament. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing the House said a political solution to national issue is paramount to achieve economic prosperity.

Seven suspects arrested over the rape and murder of Vidya Sivaloganthan were sentenced to death by a Trial at Bar at the Jaffna High Court. 18 year old Vidya Sivaloganathan was found raped and murdered on the 13th of May in 2015 leading to a protest in the Jaffna town following which the nine suspects were arrested.

The three day debate on the interim report of the Constitutional Steering Committee pertaining to the proposed new Constitution commenced in Parliament and was extended by a further two days in order to facilitate the views of all members of Parliament.

INTERNATIONAL: Fifty-eight people were killed and 546 injured when Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd in Las Vegas.

The United States announced its decision to withdraw from UNESCO and was immediately followed by Israel.

A massive blast caused by a truck bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia killed at least 512 people and injured 316 others.

At the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping assumed his second term as General Secretary and the political theory Xi Jinping Thought is written into the party’s constitution.

Catalonia declared independence from Spain, but the Catalan Republic is not recognised by the Spanish government or any other sovereign nation.

SPORTS: Lewis Hamilton was crowned Formula One world champion for a fourth time after finishing ninth at the Mexican Grand Prix. Hamilton joined Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Vettel as only the fifth driver to have won more than three titles.


NOVEMBER

LOCAL: The ‘2018 Budget, Blue Green Enterprise Sri Lanka’ was tabled in Parliament by Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera. Minister Samaraweera commencing his opening address said the 2018 Budget is focused on sustainable development goals. According to the 2018 Appropriation Bill, the government’s estimated expenditure for the 2018 fiscal year was set at Rs.3,982 billion.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe launched the five-year national action plan to protect and promote human rights at a ceremony held at the parliamentary complex.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa participating in the Constitutional Assembly debate on the Interim Report of the Steering Committee on the proposed new Constitution expressed hope that the new Constitution would promote national and religious unity. The government decided to obtain the opinion of the public on the Interim Report of the Steering Committee on the Constitution online.

The Colombo High Court sentenced a LTTE cadre for life imprisonment for conspiring and abetting to explode a claymore mine targeting a commuter bus at the Piliyandala bus stand in 2008, which killed 26 people and injured scores.

INTERNATIONAL: A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck the border region between Iraq and Iran leaving at least 530 dead and over 70,000 homeless.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is placed under house arrest, as the military took control of the country and resigned six days later, after 37 years of rule.

SPORTS: South Africa’s Court of Appeal issued an order to double the sentence imposed by a lower court on Oscar Pistorius, a double-amputee Olympic sprinter convicted of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in his home in February 2013. After his initial trial in 2014, Pistorius, known as Blade Runner, was sentenced for manslaughter, but that was later changed on appeal to murder. He was jailed for six years in July 2016.

Four-time winners Italy missed out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after they could only draw 0-0 with Sweden at the San Siro in the second leg of their play-off. Italy will not be present at their first World Cup since 1958.


DECEMBER

LOCAL: The third reading of the ‘2018 Budget, Blue Green Enterprise Sri Lanka’ was passed in Parliament with a two thirds majority. The 2018 Budget was passed with a majority 99 votes with 155 voting in favour and 56 voting against. The third Budget of the good governance government was presented in Parliament by Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera on the 9th of November.

Operations of the Hambantota Port under the new Sri Lanka – China agreement officially commenced with a special function commemorating the commencement in Parliament. Accordingly the Chinese Company that obtained the Hambantota Port on a 99 year lease, handed over the first instalment of 292 million USD of the 1.1 billion USD lease to the Premier in Parliament today.

Chairman of Elections Mahinda Deshapriya said the Local Government Election will be held on the 10th of February 2018. The acceptance of nominations for all 341 Local Government Bodies was also completed with several nominations lists of the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna and other political parties and groups subsequently rejected.

Sri Lanka became the 163rd country to accede to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention or Ottawa Convention fulfilling the pledge made to join the international community in supporting the ongoing landmine clearance program.

INTERNATIONAL: The United States officially recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The UN Security Council votes 15–0 in favor of additional sanctions on North Korea, including measures to slash the country’s petroleum imports by up to 90%.

SPORTS: Former Test all-rounder Chandika Hathurusingha was appointed as the head coach of the Sri Lanka cricket team. Hathurusingha rejoined Sri Lanka Cricket after previous stints as head coach of the Sri Lanka A team and shadow coach of the national team. SLC had negotiated his release from Bangladesh where he was head coach and was credited for the team’s good showing. He is expected to coach Sri Lanka to the 2019 World Cup in England.

All-rounder Thisara Perera was named as Sri Lanka’s captain of the ODI and T20I teams for series against India. Sri Lanka were completely outplayed during the tour, losing the ODI series 2-1 while T20 exchange resulted in a 3-0 whitewash.

Russia was banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang by the International Olympic Committee, following an investigation into state-sponsored doping.