MONTREAL — Aluminum giant Rio Tinto Alcan is studying its options, including whether to seek the reopening of collective agreements, at it moves to reduce costs over the next 12 to 18 months to offset the challenges of a tough global market for the metal.The Montreal-based aluminum division has provided cost reduction targets to each of its facilities around the world, but won’t release them publicly.Rio Tinto Alcan met Thursday with Canadian Auto Workers union representatives to discuss employee concerns about the weak global aluminum market, cost-reduction efforts and the planned closure this year of its cathode facility in Arvida. About 50 employees affected by the closure will be relocated to other facilities.The meeting followed a general meeting of union employees about 10 days ago.[np-related]Company spokeswoman Claudine Gagnon says Rio’s facilities in Quebec and elsewhere around the world have to reduce costs. The Arvida facility also faces an additional challenge because it will no longer meet Quebec’s environmental standards as of 2015.She said the company hasn’t made any decisions about seeking the reopening of some collective agreements, but it is one of the options being considered. Other options include achieving savings by changing work rules.CAW officials couldn’t be immediately reached for comment, but Marc Maltais of the United Steelworkers in Alma, Que., said the union has yet to meet with Rio about its demands.While the union recognizes the difficulties facing the global aluminum industry, he said cheap energy makes Quebec one of the lowest cost operations in the world. read more

The Toronto stock market was sharply higher Thursday and commodity prices advanced amid strong showings in manufacturing indexes in China, the U.S. and Canada.The S&P/TSX composite index ran ahead 98.33 points to 12,584.97.Traders also digested big losses handed in by two major gold miners and an announcement from TransCanada Corp (TSX:TRP) that it is going ahead with its Energy East pipeline project to transport crude from western provinces as far east as Saint John, N.B. TransCanada shares were ahead $1.05 to $47.98.The Canadian dollar was down 0.44 of a cent to 96.91 cents US as Royal Bank’s latest purchasing managers index for the manufacturing sector came in at 52 for July, down slightly from the June reading of 52.4. Any level above 50 indicates expansion.China’s official purchasing managers index hit 50.3 last month. That is up only slightly from June’s 50.1 reading but economists had expected a modest decline to below 50, the level which divides contraction and expansion. However, analysts note that the index has held between 49 and 51 for the past 15 months in an indication that the days of double digit Chinese growth aren’t coming back.“And even if it wanted to (grow that much) it can’t because it has an inflation problem,” observed Kash Pashootan, portfolio manager and vice-president at First Avenue Advisory in Ottawa, a Raymond James company. “That inflation challenge that they didn’t have five or six years ago which they have more of now puts downward pressure or sort of a ceiling on the rate on which they can grow.”U.S. indexes got extra lift after the Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index for July came in at 55.4, higher than June’s reading of 50.9 and the best level since April, 2011.The Dow Jones industrials gained 122.91 points to 15,622.45, the Nasdaq composite index was ahead 35.85 points to 3,662.22 while the S&P 500 index was ahead 16.27 points to 1,702.Markets sentiment was also boosted by Wednesday’s statement from the Federal Reserve, which wrapped up its two-day meeting without any change to its monetary policy that has supported the economy by keeping interest rates ultra-low. That, in turn, has encouraged lending and spending and also boosted stock markets.There has been much speculation over the last two months about when the Fed might start to wind down a key element of stimulus, its US$85 billion of bond purchases every month. Traders believe that the central bank could move on tapering its purchases as early as its next meeting in September.Commodity prices were mainly higher in the wake of the Chinese data with the September crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up $2.51 to US$107.54 a barrel and the TSX energy sector rose 1.65 per cent. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) rose 62 cents to C$32.45.Imperial Oil Ltd. (TSX:IMO) weighed on the sector as it said its net income was $327 million in the second quarter, a decline from $635 million in the year-earlier period. The main reason cited by the company was a $264-million non-cash charge related to its conversion of a refinery in Dartmouth, N.S. into a fuels terminal. Its net income per share was 38 cents, below analyst estimates of 85 cents. Adjusted earnings were 34 cents per share compared with an analyst estimate of $1 per share and its shares slipped $1.69 to $42.38.The industrials sector advanced one per cent and shares in transport giant Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) gained four cents to $5 as it said it had adjusted net income totalling US$158 million in the third quarter, equivalent to nine cents per share and in line with analyst estimates. Bombardier’s revenue was about US$300 million higher than last year, rising to US$4.4 billion, slightly better than the estimate of US$4.34 billion, but the adjusted earnings were down slightly from the second quarter of 2012.Financials also boosted the TSX as CIBC (TSX:CM) climbed 69 cents to $78.62.The base metals sector climbed 0.2 per cent while copper added to Wednesday’s eight-cent rise, up six cents to US$3.18 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) advanced 26 cents to C$24.32 while HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM) dropped 47 cents to $6.45 as the miner reported deepening losses. Its second quarter loss came in at $52.7 million or 31 cents a share, compared to a loss of $29.6 million or 17 cents a year ago.The gold sector fell 0.4 per cent while December bullion in New York shed gained $2.40 to US$1,315.40 an ounce. Allied Nevada Gold (TSX:ANV) faded 18 cents to C$6.74.Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) posted a US$8.56 billion loss and lowered its quarterly dividend in the wake of lower prices for bullion and copper. Excluding unusual items, Barrick had adjusted earnings of US$663 million or 66 cents in the quarter ended June 30 — better than the analyst estimate but down from 82 cents per share last year and its shares jumped 66 cents to C$17.66.Kinross Gold Corp. (TSX:K) reported a net loss of $3.2 billion for its latest quarter, as it was also hit with a substantial impairment charge related to lower gold price assumptions and suspended its dividend. Adjusted earnings fell to 10 cents a share, beating analyst expectations of seven cents a share. Its shares started off higher but by mid-morning they were off six cents to $5.28.Traders also turned their attention to the release of the U.S. non-farm payrolls report coming out Friday. Economists looked for the data to show that the economy created about 190,000 jobs during July.Overseas, London’s FTSE 100 index edged up 0.6 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX rose 1.39 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 gained 1.12 per cent. read more

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador will borrow $5 billion over 40 years to help finance the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Tuesday as she announced that the federal loan guarantee for the development is finalized.Dunderdale made the announcement Tuesday evening during a news conference at the provincial legislature in St. John’s.“We are affirming that the Muskrat Falls project is indeed one of the most significant ventures Canada has ever undertaken,” Dunderdale said of the $7.7-billion development, which is under construction.“This is a project with tremendous vision. Our province will be practically 100 per cent renewable, powered by clean, emissions-free energy and our electricity customers can bank on stable electricity.”She said the completion of the loan guarantee will result in more than $1 billion in savings through lower interest rates and enabled the province to secure a $5 billion loan for the project to be repaid over 40 years at an interest rate of 3.8 per cent.Proponents of the development cleared a major hurdle last month when Nova Scotia’s Utility and Review Board approved the $1.5-billion Maritime Link. The subsea link would bring Muskrat Falls power to Nova Scotia as part of the joint project to help cut that province’s reliance on coal.Prime Minister Stephen Harper affirmed the loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls a year ago, requiring that partners in both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador remain committed.The development is a joint venture between Nalcor Energy, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Crown utility company, and Nova Scotia utility company Emera (TSX:EMA).Muskrat Falls will be capable of generating up to 824 megawatts of electricity with first power expected in 2017. About 170 megawatts would go to Nova Scotia annually for 35 years, serving around 10 per cent of that province’s power needs.The Maritime Link deal also grants Emera a commercial guarantee from Nalcor for access to cheaper market-priced power above that amount.Nalcor is building the dam and power station in Labrador as well as transmission lines on the island of Newfoundland at an estimated cost of $6.2 billion.Emera would build the 170-kilometre subsea Maritime Link to bring power from southwestern Newfoundland to Cape Breton.The deal has been touted as a big step for cleaner, renewable energy. But it’s also the target of ongoing aboriginal protest in Labrador along with legal challenges.“I find it a bit remarkable that the federal government has gone through with a loan guarantee,” said Todd Russell, president of the NunatuKavut Community Council. “At least two aboriginal groups in Labrador have outstanding court cases relative to issues of consultation.”His group, representing about 6,000 Inuit-Metis in southern Labrador, has vowed to keep fighting the project.“Environmentally, this is huge,” Russell said. He cited aboriginal concerns for how the dam and power station will affect not just the lower Churchill River but eight other waterways.The Nunatsiavut government has also raised alarms about how potential mercury contamination from associated flooding could affect Lake Melville, a key food source for about 2,000 Inuit.Nalcor says it has broadly consulted with aboriginal groups as part of lengthy environmental assessments. It has also maintained that any mercury pollution will be diluted to “no measurable effects” but has said it will monitor water samples.Russell said such assurances are cold comfort.“It’s an old Cree prophecy: ’You can’t eat money,”’ he said in an interview. “And people’s rights are at stake. People’s rights are being trampled on.”But Dunderdale defended the merits of the project.“No project in our history has been investigated more thoroughly or by authorities more knowledgeable or in details more accessible to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said. read more

The Bank of Canada says the economy is well-positioned to ride out any economic shocks from China —even though the Asian country has become Canada’s second-biggest trading partner.Senior deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins says the bank estimates that if economic growth in China’s economy comes in one percentage point lower than projections — then Canadian growth would slip one-tenth of a percentage point.By comparison, Wilkins says if the same decline happened to the United States, the impact on Canada’s gross domestic product would be six times greater.Global shockwaves from China are only going to get worse, IMF warnsIMF’s Christine Lagarde warns of political risks to global economy amid mediocre growthIn prepared remarks for a speech Tuesday to the Vancouver Board of Trade, Wilkins says the bank has been exploring how Canada might be affected by any shocks that could emerge as China’s maturing economy slows to a more sustainable pace of growth.She also notes that Canadian banks have little direct exposure to China and that any negative reverberations would mostly be felt through a slowdown in trade and weaker commodity prices.Wilkins says the Bank of Canada believes China has the potential to grow at an annual rate of about six per cent over the next 15 years.She says two-way trade between Canada and China has increased more than five-fold over the past 15 years and that about 400 Canadian companies now have footholds there. read more

TORONTO — A new report says the number of Canadians cutting the cord on their TV services is expected to increase this year.The Convergence Research Group estimates in a report released Wednesday that TV subscriptions in Canada will drop by 247,000 this year, up from 220,000 subscriber losses last year.That would represent an annual drop of two per cent, and the consulting firm says that decline is expected to grow by three per cent in 2019.Television cord cutting hits record level in 2016 for Canada’s big providers: reportCord cutting escalates for Canada TV subscribers in first three quarters of 2016The report estimates 3.8 million households or 26 per cent did not have traditional TV services at home last year and projects that will rise to 4.18 million or 28.4 per cent this year.Canada’s major telecommunications providers have been racing to add next-generation TV services such as streaming to their offerings in a bid to retain and add new TV customers.The Canadian Press read more

WINNIPEG — Grain quotes Tuesday for tonnes, basis Lakehead:Canola (Vancouver): Open High Low Close MonJuly ‘ 17 516.30 517.30 509.40 510.40 517.30Nov. 489.70 491.20 482.50 483.40 489.70Jan. ’18 496.00 496.60 488.70 489.20 495.70March 499.60 499.60 494.50 495.00 501.40May 0.00 0.00 0.00 497.20 503.60July 0.00 0.00 0.00 498.50 504.90Nov. 0.00 0.00 0.00 484.60 491.00Jan. ’19 0.00 0.00 0.00 484.80 491.20March 0.00 0.00 0.00 484.80 491.20May 0.00 0.00 0.00 484.80 491.20July 0.00 0.00 0.00 484.80 491.20Barley (Western): Open High Low Close MonJuly ’17 0.00 0.00 0.00 138.00 138.00Oct. 0.00 0.00 0.00 140.00 140.00Dec. 0.00 0.00 0.00 140.00 140.00March ’18 0.00 0.00 0.00 140.00 140.00May 0.00 0.00 0.00 140.00 140.00July 0.00 0.00 0.00 140.00 140.00Oct. 0.00 0.00 0.00 140.00 140.00Dec. 0.00 0.00 0.00 140.00 140.00March ’19 0.00 0.00 0.00 140.00 140.00May 0.00 0.00 0.00 140.00 140.00July 0.00 0.00 0.00 140.00 140.00ICE Futures Canada cash prices:Feed wheat: Track Thunder Bay CW: $178.00Canola:Thunder Bay No. 1 Canada: $541.40Vancouver No. 1 Canada: $557.40 read more

TORONTO — Looking to capture the growing number of consumers cutting their cable cord, DAZN has launched a sports streaming service in Canada.And DAZN (pronounced Da Zone) has started with a bang by offering live and on-demand coverage of every NFL game as the new, exclusive Canadian home of NFL Game Pass, the league’s premium digital subscription product.The DAZN package includes all Sunday games previously offered on NFL Sunday Ticket, plus NFL RedZone, a game-day channel owned and operated by NFL Network.The new streaming platform is leaving Canadian cable providers out in the cold on the deluxe NFL service.The DAZN cost is $20 a month or an introductory annual price of $150, with the first 30 days free. The service will be available on everything from smart TVs to tablets and smart phones.The NFL is the only sport on the Canadian menu so far. But DAZN promises to add more, as it already has in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan. All four launched last August.For example, the German package now includes English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1 soccer plus a Bundesliga highlights package. It also includes NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball as well as cricket, rugby and tennis among others.The German package will be bolstered by Champions League soccer beginning 2018-19.The Japanese package is built around an exclusive 10-year rights agreement for the domestic J-League soccer.Hockey will be the big question mark for Canada, with Rogers seemingly holding all the cards thanks to a US$5.232-billion, 12-year deal with the NHL that runs through the 2025-26 season.That deal gives Rogers national rights to all NHL games, including the Stanley Cup playoffs, on all of its platforms in all languages. Bell is also involved, via regional NHL broadcasts.But the NFL is a good first card to throw down.DAZN follows some of Netflix’s business model, in terms of flexibility of contract.“When you see the breadth of other rights, hopefully in the next couple of weeks, you’ll see that we’re trying to really (provide) choice to the consumers as well and offer up a selection of different sports and different leagues,” Alex Rice, DAZN managing director for rights and strategic development, said from London.DAZN will offer full games live, as well as making them available on demand. In some cases, a condensed game will also be available.Like Netflix, DAZN recognizes the need to keep varying the menu.“You obviously have to keep spending — and spending on content. And that’s the long-term plan in all the markets,” Rice said.There will be French-language commentary “on key events.”Canada offers DAZN a connected audience in terms of broadband penetration, shown by the success of entertainment streaming services.“We could see there was clearly an appetite and clearly a movement, in some cases, to cord-cut — and obviously attract a cord-never generation who never bought a pay-TV package and are more used to buying subscription services in this way,” Rice said.The DAZN menu will be a blend of exclusive and shared properties.Rice declined to divulge subscription numbers in DAZN’s existing markets but says there are plans to expand to other countries.The DAZN announcement seemed to catch competitors by surprise Thursday.In the past, NFL Sunday Ticket has been available via Canadian cable companies. Rogers, for example, was still advertising it on its website Thursday morning as part of its $39.95 monthly Super Sports Pak.Rice called it an administrative error, saying DAZN had acquired the Sunday Ticket package.“And we’ve chosen not to distribute that on the linear pay-TV platforms in Canada, it will just be available through via the DAZN service,” he said.A Rogers spokeswoman said a selection of NFL games will continue to be available through Canadian and U.S. TV channels.“It will be disappointing for our customers that the new NFL rights-holder has decided not to make RedZone or NFL Sunday Ticket available on TV to Canadian sports fans at home,” the spokeswoman said.NFL Sunday Ticket will continue to be available to Rogers’ commercial customers.Bell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.DAZN has substantial backing behind it in the form of Perform Group, a digital sports content and media group. The majority owner of Perform is Access Industries, founded in 1986 by chairman Len Blavatnik, a Ukraine-born American who ranks 40th on Forbes 2017 list of billionaires with a net worth of US$19.5 billion.The Canadian launch comes two months after Perform struck a deal with the NFL to market the league’s TV rights in various global territories and NFL Game Pass outside the U.S. and Europe.The “strategic media relationship” covers more than 100 countries and territories, including Canada, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, and Turkey.—Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter read more

Some of the most active companies traded Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange:Toronto Stock Exchange (15,454.23, down 0.69 of a point):Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Aerospace, rail equipment. Down 14 cents, or 5.91 per cent, to $2.23 on 9.6 million shares.Pembina Pipeline Corp. (TSX:PPL). Oil and gas. Down 71 cents, or 1.66 per cent, to $42.12 on 5.2 million shares.Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE). Oil and gas. Up 24 cents, or 1.93 per cent, to $12.69 on 4.6 million shares.Polaris Materials Corp. (TSX:PLS). Building Materials. Up 84 cents, or 30.43 per cent, to $3.60 on 4.5 million shares.Air Canada (TSX:AC). Airline. Up $1.11, or 4.20 per cent, to $27.51 on 3.8 million shares.ECN Capital Corp. (TSX:ECN). Financial Services. Up 19 cents, or 5.04 per cent, to $3.96 on 3.7 million shares.Companies reporting major news:Restaurant Brands International Inc. (TSX:QSR). Fast food restaurants. Down 22 cents, or 0.27 per cent, to $79.97 on 227,813 shares. A group representing frustrated Tim Hortons franchisees says its board members have been accused by the company of helping leak confidential information. The Great White North Franchisee Association said its board members have been served with notices of default. read more

The Sri Lankan ambassador in Geneva Tamara Kunanayakam has received an anonymous threatening letter which is being followed up by the police and UN security, the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said today.Tamara Kunanayakam took over as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Geneva in August 2011. Prior to her assignment at Sri Lankan Missions abroad, the Ambassador served as the Secretary to the Working Group on the Right to Development, the Working Group on structural adjustment programmes and economic, social and cultural rights, and also that on enforced and involuntary disappearances, at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). H.E. Ms. Kunanayakam was also attached to the ILO and UNDP. (Colombo Gazette) Kunanayakam earlier served as Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Republic of Cuba and also served as Minister Counsellor at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Brasília. read more

The moving pictures were captured by diver Tony Wu, who wanted to highlight the blue whale’s desperate plight in a bid to reduce devastating ship strikes.He said: ‘The whale was collateral damage. It made me incredibly sad to see it in such a state. The animal looked like it had been struck by a ship during the night as it rested at the ocean surface. According to the Daily Mail report marine experts believe the blue whale – an endangered species with as few as 5,000 left in the wild – had been struck by a container vessel. Tony added: ‘When a big ship hits a whale, the impact wouldn’t register. It’s like a tractor-trailer hitting a butterfly – you would feel nothing. ‘To us, whales are huge. But even then, compared to a fully loaded ship, it would stand practically no chance of surviving a direct hit. It is a big, big problem, especially when endangered species like the blue whale are caught in their path and killed.’Unofficial figures show thousands of whales – many critically endangered species – have been killed by container ships.And experts believe many more cases go unrecorded simply because ships don’t even notice they have hit anything. The body of a majestic blue whale has been found near Sri Lanka after it was fatally injured as it slept in a busy shipping lane, the Daily Mail reported.The whale was spotted floating near the surface of the Indian Ocean off the southern tip of Sri Lanka. A gaping wound shows the horrific point of impact with the bow of the ship – leaving the gentle giant’s tail fin in tatters. ‘There are very active shipping lanes just south of Sri Lanka. Here huge ships travel at high speeds day and night. It is constant.‘They are ferrying consumer goods and supplies between major ports and could be hitting many more whales than we know about.‘It’s not clear how big the problem is because there could be so many unrecorded cases. ‘The only statement that can be made is that ship strikes are a serious problem, and the number of whales killed by ships is far higher than most people probably understand.’Tony, who runs snorkelling tours to see marine life, added: ‘A few days after I got back to Japan, there was a humpback whale that was killed by a boat there.‘One of the toughest issues is that In the case of ship strikes there’s no immediate villain, which makes it more difficult to get people worked up about it.‘But in truth, when you look to the bottom line, it is consumers that are responsible.‘Most of the goods being transported when whales are hit are either consumer goods such as appliances, cars, and electronic goods. The problem needs to be looked into most definitely.’  (Report and pics from the Daily Mail) read more

Bandaranayake, 54 awaits removal from the position early January after parliament holds a vote on the recommendations of the parliamentary select committee submitted last week.The report was released after Ms Bandaranayake and her lawyers walked out of the proceedings calling it unfair.Following concerns raised internationally, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Tuesday, said he would appoint an independent panel to seek its views on the select committee report prior to acting on them. Lawyers across Sri Lanka went on strike on Wednesday protesting the impeachment motion against the island nation’s first woman Chief Justice, bringing the judiciary to halt.The protesters were seen clashing with pro-government protesters who called for the resignation of Ms Bandaranayake staging counter demonstrations in support of the impeachment Mr Rajapaksha said the BASL committee had resolved to condemn the procedure adopted and the findings of the parliamentary select committee on the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. The parliamentary panel last week announced that Ms Bandaranayake has been found guilty of three of the 14 charges slapped against her by the government.The protesting lawyers said that some of the court’s functioning was crippled in many provincial areas throughout today and is likely to remain so tomorrow. “We have come out today to protest in the branch association across the country on the single theme, ‘let’s protect the independence of the judiciary’”, Wijayadasa Rajapaksha, the head Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) said. However, the lawyers rejected the President’s offer. “The President’s statement that he would appoint an independent panel to review the report is an admission by the President that it was an unlawful process and that the report is flawed. Therefore the said Report must be withdrawn immediately. Any future inquiry must take place only after a fair procedure and tribunal are lawfully introduced. Until then the agitation of the Bar will continue”, a lawyer’s union statement said. (The Hindu) read more

The delegation, led by the UAE Ambassador to Sri Lanka Abdulaziz Bin Abdurrahman Al-Jammaz, consisted of the envoys to Sri Lanka from Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia. “However, the protracted IDPs expelled in 1990s are yet to be resettled. The process in this regard is taking place as per the government promise,” he added. (Colombo Gazette) Several Muslims expelled from the Northern Province by the LTTE in a systematic and organized manner during a two week period in 1990 are yet to be resettled, the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said.He said this when a delegation consisting of seven Ambassadors to Sri Lanka and a First Secretary witnessed the plight of Muslim IDP settlements in the Mannar region, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said in a statement today. The delegation visited Muslim IDP resettlements in the Talaimannar Pier area, the Museli division, and the Marichikatti divisions. They were temporarily sheltered in Puttalam, Anuradhapura, Kurunegala, and Colombo. According to the Report, around 14,000 Muslim families had returned to Mannar in 2011 and 2,455 to Mullaithivu.However he noted that due to landlessness, the original land becoming jungles, non-availability of infrastructure facilities and lack of assistance from the donor communities they couldn’t resettle themselves fully in their places of origin.The displaced during the height of war and later were accommodated at Menik Farm while the new IDPs from the war were all resettled. “They witnessed the plight of these helpless IDPs first-hand and lent a sympathetic ear to their issues,” the Ministry said.Minister Bathiudeen told the delegation that according to para 5.137 of  the LLRC Report, 75000 families were expelled from the Northern Province by the LTTE in a systematic and organized manner during a two week period in 1990. read more

“Even the President said that the investigation does not have a political hand,” he said. Senaratne said that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had raised concerns over the FCID when he met President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday. However he said that the President had noted the investigation is part of the promise given in the President’s election manifesto so it will continue. (Colombo Gazette) The Government today insisted that the investigations being conducted by the police Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) is not influenced by any politician.Cabinet spokesman and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said that the Gazette notification issued once the FCID was launched may need some amendments but the probe will go on.

Nimal Siripala de Silva said that even Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Rauff Hakeem, who is a cabinet Minister, had initially agreed to the proposals but was not calling for more changes. (Colombo Gazette) The opposition today assured its full backing for electoral reforms through the 20th Amendment to the constitution.Opposition leader Nimal Siripala de Silva said that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) want the reforms approved by Parliament soon. He said that while the UNP had agreed to the proposals on electoral reforms which was approved by cabinet last Friday, they were now saying they are not happy. The Opposition leader also accused the ruling United National Party (UNP) of attempting to derail moves to get the 20th Amendment passed by Parliament. read more

The MP said that the Government had proposed that the debate take place only tomorrow but some political parties had wanted more time and so it was greed to hold the adjournment debate tomorrow and on Wednesday.He also said that following the adjournment debate the Government will be in a position to decide on its stand over the 20th Amendment and if any changes need to be made. (Colombo Gazette) The adjournment debate on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution will begin tomorrow and will be held over two days, United National Party (UNP) MP Ajith Perera said.The MP said that the debate will be held tomorrow evening and on Wednesday following a request put forward by the party leaders. He said that by holding an adjournment debate the true position of all the political parties on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution will be revealed. Ajith Perera said that once the position of the political parties is clear, then changes can be made to the 20th Amendment, if required. read more

A candidate from the Nawa Sama Samaja Party filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court today against the security and privileges accorded to former President Mahinda Rajapakse.The petition filed by candidate Senaka Perera, stated that the security provided to Rajapakse was unfair towards the other candidates who were contesting the parliamentary elections scheduled to be held in the island nation next month. Several questions however have been raised by minor political parties against the privileges and security accorded to the former President stating that his privileges should be withdrawn due to him contesting for a seat in the 225 member parliament. Rajapakse himself is contesting the polls which will elect a new parliament, from the opposition United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) on Friday also lodged a complaint at the Human Rights Commission stating that due to the former President contesting the parliamentary election as a candidate, the privileges provided to him was a disadvantage to other candidates.In his complaint, JVP candidate Sunil Watagala stated that the security and privileges accorded to Rajapakse was in violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution. (Colombo Gazette) read more

UK Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka next week, sources told the Colombo Gazette.Swire is scheduled to have talks with the Government and the opposition during the visit. Following the August Parliamentary elections, the British Government had said it looks forward to continue working with Sri Lanka.While congratulating Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera on his reappointment to the post in August, Hugo Swire had said he looks forward to continue working with Sri Lanka on peace and prosperity. (Colombo Gazette)

He also insisted that the Chinese companies involved in several projects in Sri Lanka had not offered bribes for any projects. Xianliang said that China does not get involved with the internal politics of any country and will work with the Government in power.As part of this policy, he said China is now working with Sri Lanka to strengthen its economy and to develop the country.He also said any country can work with the Chinese company involved in the port city project and he dismissed fresh concerns raised on the impact to the environment as a result of the project. The Ambassador was speaking to a group of journalists and Editors at the Chinese Embassy in Colombo today. The new Government suspended the port city project after it took office in January last year saying it had concerns over the deal the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government signed with China.“We should not politicize economic cooperation,” the Chinese Ambassador said.He also said that Sri Lanka should have a consistent policy and not change its policy every time a new Government takes office. The Ambassador said the Chinese company suffered a total of approximately USD 140 million from the time the project was suspended by the new Government and till it resumed. The Chinese Government today hit out at several allegations raised over its role in Sri Lanka.The Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Yi Xianliang insisted that the Chinese Government has no hidden agenda in Sri Lanka. Xianliang warned that Sri Lanka faces the risk of losing foreign direct investments if it fails to maintain a consistent policy.The Ambassador also denied claims that China was giving loans to Sri Lanka at a higher interest rate.He said he had even discussed the claims with Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, adding that if Sri Lanka was not happy then it did not need to turn to China for money.“We give loans to developing countries like Sri Lanka at 2 percent interest and not 5 like most other countries,” he said.The Ambassador also said that several social groups in Sri Lanka have sought financial support from the Chinese Embassy and when money is given it is seen as a bribe by others.Xianliang asserted China has done nothing wrong in Sri Lanka and he urged Sri Lanka to respect the friendship shown by China towards the island. (Colombo Gazette) He said that the Sri Lankan public and the media have the wrong image about China and its role in Sri Lanka.The Ambassador said that China came forward to assist Sri Lanka in its development drive and during natural disasters. read more

In the first case, the suspect allegedly assaulted a 51-year-old factory worker, and robbed her of her mobile phone, ATM card, and RM80 cash at around 7.14am on March 19. “The victim received two stitches on her forehead,” he told The Star.ACP Mohd Taib said the second victim was a 27-year-old woman who works at an electronics factory in Bandar Baru Uda.He said the victim was waiting at a bus-stop along Jalan Padi 1 at 4am on March 20 before being approached by the suspect who tried to force her to sit next to him. “The victim refused to do so and the suspect began strangling her before dragging her to a nearby bush area where he tried to molest her. Johor Baru (North) OCPD Asst Comm Mohd Taib Ahmad said the victim had just got off from a bus and was walking towards her workplace at a food factory in Tampoi here before the suspect attacked her. “The victim, who sustained several injuries, was found lying on the side of the road by the public who alerted the police. She was brought to Hospital Sultanah Aminah in a semiconscious state.“Initial investigation showed that the suspect had punched the victim several times, causing her to suffer bruises on her face, eyes and head, and a split lip. In the space of 24 hours, a Sri Lankan national allegedly assaulted two women sexually and physically in Bandar Baru Uda in Malaysia.He was later arrested by police on Monday evening, The Star in Malaysia reported. “She screamed loudly which alerted a male passerby, but the suspect had already fled the scene,” he said.ACP Mohd Taib said that police spotted a man who fit the description made by one of the victims walking along Jalan Padi 1 here at around 6.30pm on March 20.He said the suspect, in his late 30s, tried to escape but the police successfully arrested him following a scuffle. The mobile phone that was stolen from the first victim was found on the suspect.ACP Mohd Taib added the suspect was being remanded to assist in the investigation under Section 394 of the Penal Code and Section 354 of the same Act for robbery and causing hurt as well as for assault on person with the intent of outraging her modesty. (Colombo Gazette) read more