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October 28, 2016    Reading Time: 2 minutes

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Sri Lankan Foreign Minister attends IORA Council of Ministers Meeting in Bali, Indonesia. Image Credit - GoodOlga / depositphotos

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Foreign Minister in Indonesia for IORA Council of Ministers Meeting

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mangala Samaraweera, has attended the 16th Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Council of Ministers Meeting in Indonesia. During his address to delegates, Minister Samaraweera called for the sustainable use of the Indian Ocean’s resources, measures to ensure the security of the region, and greater preparation for climate change.

While in Indonesia, Minister Samaraweera also met with his Indonesian counterpart, Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi. They discussed enhancing economic and political ties, as well as strengthening cooperation within IORA.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya addresses the Inter-Parliamentary Union

The Speaker of Parliament, Karu Jayasuriya, has represented Sri Lanka at the 135th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly held in Geneva. The Speaker led a parliamentary delegation that participated in a debate at the Assembly, on the topic: ‘Human rights abuses as precursors of conflict: Parliaments as early responders’.

Speaker Jayasuriya’s address to the Assembly emphasised that building trust and harmony in Sri Lanka through reconciliation is key to building peace and preventing the recurrence of conflict, and noted that the challenge lies in balancing reconciliation and accountability, which are interdependent factors.

Amended VAT Bill to come into force in November

The Inland Revenue Department has announced that the Value Added Tax (VAT) Amendment Bill, which the Cabinet approved on 26 October, will come into effect on 1 November. The amended bill increases VAT from 11% to 15%, and affects sectors such as healthcare and telecommunications.

The amended bill was passed with a majority of 53 votes, as 76 Members of Parliament voted in favour of it, and 23 Members of Parliament voted against it.


China holds anti-terror drills with Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan

China and Saudi Arabia have held their first set of joint anti-terrorism drills on 10-26 October. Twenty-five members of each country’s military participated in the exercise. The drills took place near the city of Chongqing, China.

China also held similar drills with Tajikistan on 20-24 October, involving more than 400 troops from each country. The drills took place along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border, and appear to be motivated by concerns related to instability in Afghanistan and the accompanying risk of terrorism for Chinese companies and citizens.

Belgium agrees to EU-Canada trade deal

The Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, has announced that Belgium is ready to approve the EU-Canada trade deal. All five regional parliaments of Belgium have reached an agreement with the federal government.

The delay in all-regional approval appears to have been related to a reluctance to compete with Canada’s agricultural sector. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, has welcomed Belgium’s decision and stated that he expects to sign the trade deal once all EU procedures are finalised.

World’s largest marine protected area created

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has unanimously agreed to designate the Ross Sea in Antarctica as a marine protected area, making it earth’s largest protected area on land or sea. The CCAMLR consists of the EU and 24 other member states, including Russia, China and India.

While the agreement does not aim to reduce the total amount of fish caught in the Ross Sea, it will move fishing activities away from crucial habitats to less harmful locations. The agreement also marks the first time that countries have agreed to protect an oceanic area beyond their individual jurisdictions.

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