Touchwood working on framework to invest in trees
Touchwood Investments Ltd has welcomed any Central Bank investigation into their business and said the company was working with the regulatory authorities to establish a framework to ensure that only credible companies with the required resources offer to the public investment products like trees.

“Touchwood welcomes departments like the Central Bank to investigate the system under which we work so as to develop the long-awaited framework under which companies like Touchwood should operate,” the firm’s Chairman Roscoe Maloney said in a statement.

“Systems we employ in our business plan are those that have been enacted and operating in many other countries for decades now. The product we have developed and marketed is an investment in private forestry, otherwise known as a managed investment,” he said.

The managed investment is internationally regarded as one of the most profitable and secure investments available, he said. The investor in a managed investment owns the company’s products and employs the company to expertly manage and maintain it. If the company suffers any financial difficulty the investor can immediately take possession of the product invested in, Maloney said.

“The investor is not last in line for funds distribution. This is the most unique and secure aspect of the investment in our wood lots,” he said. In the conventional method of share investment or a fixed deposit investors do not have priority in case of a financial disaster, Maloney said.

“Unlike other investments only our Mahogany wood lots give the investor this magnitude of control over the investment. Our clients receive not only a good return but also the ownership of the wood lots and land as a collateral during the investment period.” Maloney said the investment industry still does not understand the new industry.

EDI project to be launched
By Suren Gnanaraj
Following the government’s E-Sri Lanka initiative, eServices Lanka officials announced that Sri Lanka’s eagerly anticipated electronic cargo clearance system is set to commence operations from January 2003.

This project, which has been on the drawing board for several years, was given a boost in July this year, when Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake spearheaded the $3 million project following the long felt need for a national gateway for the import and export sector.

Under this project, a centralised switch known as an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) would be installed, incorporating what is known as UN/EDIFACT (EDI for administration, commerce and transport) standards, which is the standardised messaging system used across the globe, linking various institutions such as the Sri Lanka Customs, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Sri Lankan Airlines, Board of Investment, SAGT, Shipping Lines and later on financial institutions.

The objectives of this project is to create a completely electronic cargo clearing system, which would inter-link all relevant sectors and expedite cargo clearance procedures.

Managing Director of eServices Lanka Ltd Rohan Weerasinghe said that the international messaging service used for this project would be incorporating both EDI and the latest XML technologies to facilitate electronic document interchange. “The EDI messaging service is accepted and is adopted internationally,” he said.

Weerasinghe said the primary technology partner in this project, Global eXchange Services, is using the same advanced technology which it has successfully implemented in Thailand and Hong Kong, which boasts of nearly 15 million e-transactions per annum.

Weerasinghe said the electronic cargo clearing system would be launched in three stages, the first being import cargo clearance in January, followed by transhipment clearance and finally incorporating the export cargo clearance system in the third stage.

A standard fee of $4.50 would be levied on each e-transaction. eServices Lanka will also link up all major importers to the system and would also connect special bureaus, which will be set up to help importers who do not possess the necessary IT facilities to communicate via EDI.

“In fact we hope these new bureaus will create a new industry in Sri Lanka, to help small and medium scale importers to use this new technology, and would undoubtedly benefit importers who cannot invest in the necessary infrastructure,” he said. The EDI facility will be accessible both through a dial-up mode and the Internet.

Director General of Customs Sarath Jayatileke said that EDI would help reduce the amount of documentation delays and expedite the release of goods within a day.

He said that through the facility, reputed traders with proven track records would be able to clear their goods almost instantly through a green light channel system, which will be incorporated in to the system.

He said the beauty of the system is the fact that it allows any player to trace a consignment of goods from the ship to its final destination, facilitating transparency and accuracy. General Manger IT of South Asia Gateway Terminals (SAGT) Upul Jinadasa, who is the secretary of the government appointed Advisory Committee for this project, was of the view that this system should have been installed in Sri Lanka 10 years ago. “We’re glad that the government has shown great interest in initiating this project, and the support of the trading community in achieving our commercial objectives of an efficient cargo clearing system, has been resounding.”

Jinadasa said that it was true that each player did not possess the same levels of technology. “This was one of the challenges that eServices had to face. To link up all players using their existing technology, instead of making them all invest in the latest technology.” He said that if each player were to acquire the latest technology, it would have been a costly and time consuming exercise.

“Our ultimate objective is to create a paperless situation, in which the delays caused in physically obtaining so many documents from various authorities, and the hazards of standing in queues would be completely eliminated.”

Documents such as Customs declarations would now be initially filled by a clearing agent, and the data would then be shared amongst all relevant authorities connected to the EDI system. Approvals and payments would also be made through the system, saving considerable time for a clearing agent who previously was required to physically visit the relevant institutions and seek approvals and make the necessary payments.

However, Jinadasa said that it would take around 1 or 2 years for a paperless situation to come about, due to the possible legal issues which could arise. “The main thing is to get the EDI system operational and induce such changes gradually, avoiding complications as far as possible.” Customs Director and Chairman of the Advisory committee P.D.K Fernando said that the customs staff had the necessary training and IT infrastructure to initially adopt the new system, and would seek the help of external consultants in order to constantly improve the department’s resourcefulness of the facility.

TV talk show from Sri Lanka First
Sri Lanka First, an apolitical business organization, has announced the launch of a TV talk show on issues related to peace and the peace process. It will be launched on Rupavahini on January 23, the first anniversary of the cessation of hostilities between the government and the LTTE.

The show is aimed at giving people a better understanding of the issues concerning Sri Lankans as a nation, including the need for a bipartisan approach, federalism and cultural synergies.

The Sri Lanka First TV Show will feature a weekly panel discussion with well-known and respected members of civil society across different professions. From business leaders, academics, artists and musicians to sports personalities as well as the general public.

Ms. Neela Marikkar, spokesperson for Sri Lanka First said, “The Sri Lanka First Talk Show will involve the public through interviews conducted across the island. People’s opinions and viewpoints will be video taped and played during the programme and also taken up for discussions by the panelists.

The programme will be trilingual, (English, Tamil and Sinhala) using the spoken word and subtitles. There will be an equal language mix to ensure that
it has an extensive reach.

After the first telecast on December 23, the Sinhala programme will be aired every Monday between 8.00pm and 8.30pm. The English programme will be aired every Thursday commencing December 26 from 9.30 pm to 10.00pm on Channel Eye and the Tamil programme will be aired every Monday from 8.00- 8.30pm.

Eden voted one of top 10 hotels
Eden Resort and Spa, a flagship of the Confifi Group, was declared as one of the top ten hotels in the world by the UK’s leading up market tour operator, Saga Holidays.
The Saga Annual Award Dinner 2002 was held recently at Hilton Paddington in London when Stefan Furkhan, Managing Director of the Confifi Group, was present to receive the award for the third place in the top ten category of Travellers World, which was won by Eden Resort and Spa.

Saga is one of the UK’s biggest and most up market tour operators specializing in holidays for mature clients. Saga Annual Awards Ceremonies are held in recognition of those partners and suppliers who have achieved extremely high standards and help achieve Saga’s customer satisfaction goals.

The awards are purely based on the results of the questionnaires completed by customers at the end of their holiday.

Dilmah assists Hope Cancer Project
Dilmah has become an official partner of the Hope Cancer Hospital Project, which is spearheaded by the Sri Lankan cricketers, the company announced. At a simple ceremony held recently at the Cancer Hospital in Maharagama, Dilmah presented the Hope Project with a cheque for Rs 500,000, bringing the company’s total contribution to in excess of rupees one million, and formerly announced that they would adopt Hope as their key corporate social responsibility project.

Dilmah commenced its association with Hope by supplying one hundred thousand cricket posters for use as a project fundraiser. Dilmah’s contribution is based on sales of Dilmah Tea in Sri Lanka, as well as, an outright contribution by the company, innovatively linked to the Dilmah Cricket Network website.

With sales of Dilmah Tea within Sri Lanka, Dilmah will donate one rupee for every 500 grammes of tea sold, which will provide the public with an opportunity to contribute towards the success of this vital institution for the benefit of all Sri Lankans. In effect, every consumer becomes an active participant in the project.

To date, the cricket players’ performances have earned nearly rupees quarter million for Hope, which will be borne by the MJF Foundation. Dilmah will also utilise its varied communication programmes to promote the Hope Project. The company is looking to widen its support for the project through other schemes in 2003.

The MJF Foundation is a charitable arm of the MJF Group, which actively promotes the welfare of the Group’s staff and workers, as well as pursuing charitable projects with wider objectives. The Foundation sponsors free breast cancer screening facilities at the National Hospital in Sri Lanka and operates nutrition, health and education development programmes.

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