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13 mn US funding, training for 100 lobby correspondents, refurbishment of media centre

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… ready to work with new govt

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The US provided funds to the tune of Rs 1.92 bn to Parliament at the request of the previous UNP-led yahapalana government. Funds were utilized to refurbish Parliament’s Media centre, training of more than 100 lobby correspondents on parliamentary procedures and strengthening of House staff research capabilities.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in late Nov. 2016 launched a Rs. 1.92 billion (USD$13 mn) partnership with the Parliament of Sri Lanka to strengthen accountability and democratic governance in Sri Lanka.

In response to several questions as regards US funding raised by The Island, the US Embassy has sent us the following statement: “The United States Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other US Government agencies, has provided a range of assistance to Sri Lanka over the last 70 years.  The support to Sri Lanka’s Parliament supported by USAID was provided at the request of the Sri Lankan government and in consultation with the Secretariat of the Parliament.  It has included the refurbishment of Parliament’s media center, modernizing Parliament’s offices, the training of more than 100 lobby correspondents on parliamentary procedures, non-partisan support for increasing the political participation of women and other underrepresented groups, and strengthening parliamentary staff research capabilities.  We look forward to collaborating with the new Parliament as requested.  Assistance provided by USAID conforms to development assistance agreements concluded by the Government of Sri Lanka and the United States Government.”

The embassy was responding to the following questions that were submitted as requested:

Q: Did Sri Lanka parliament utilise the entire amount of funds provided by the USAID?

Q: Did Sri Lanka parliament seek additional funding after the completion of the three-year project?

Q: Will you extend the same facility to the new Parliament?

Q: Would it be possible to know how the funds were spent? And projects funded by it?

Q: Did Sri Lanka project meet US standards?

Q: Are you (US embassy) satisfied with Sri Lanka project and do you believe USAID project helped strengthen accountability and democratic governance in Sri Lanka and achieved objectives?

 Q: Why is aid given to Sri Lanka channelled almost entirely through NGO outfits?

Why is the legitimately elected government bypassed when it needs international help, especially at a time when the country is fighting a pandemic better than most countries?

 Q: Is Sarvodaya a credible NGO, being more or less a family run organisation? (Recently US announced USD 1.5 mn in support of Sarvodaya).

 



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Fuel crisis: Key CPC facility opened for VIPs, friends as public transport shrinks

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya trade unionist Ananda Palitha yesterday (01) alleged that members of Parliament, Chairmen of various government institutions, and other politically connected persons, continued to obtain unlimited petrol and diesel from the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) facility at Kolonnawa.

The former CPC employee declared that the powers that be had transformed the Kolonnawa depot into a special facility to cater to the needs of the politically influential.

Those who touted the ‘One Country, One Law’ concept had created a special category while almost the entire nation suffered due to the unprecedented disruption of fuel supplies, Palitha said.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera and CPC Chairman Sumith Wijesinha didn’t answer their phones.

Ananda Palitha said that none of those who had been given access to the Kolonnawa depot came under essential services. “Why should lawmakers, whatever their status in society, be given access to the special facility when they aren’t included among essential services,”

Ananda Palitha asked.The SJB activist said that the government was struggling to maintain public transport after having repeatedly promised to sustain.

The trade unionist alleged that though they brought the clandestine operation at Kolonnawa to the attention of the government, it continued unabated. Barrels full of fuel had been taken from Kolonnawa, he said, among the beneficiaries were owners of V8 and other super luxury vehicles.

Ananda Palitha said that the Opposition should have taken up this issue vigorously.

Responding to another query, Ananda Palitha said that according to information available to them, Ceypetco had approximately 3,000 mt of diesel, 2,500 mt of petrol 95,600-700 mt of petrol 92 and was not in a position at least to meet the requirement of the essential services.

“The government is yet to come up with a plan to obtain petrol and diesel,” Ananda Palitha said, urging the government to take the public into confidence.

Palitha pointed out that the police had carried out numerous raids, targeting those who hoarded diesel and petrol, whereas a primary fuel depot that was not supposed to pump fuel for outsiders, engaged in business. The government should be ashamed of this situation, the trade union leader said, pointing out the country was heading for chaos.

The Island yesterday afternoon brought Ananada Palitha’s allegations to the notice of Lalith Weeratunga, Senior Advisor to the President,Gotabaya Rajapaksa

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Energy cooperation sought from Saudi Arabia on urgent basis

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Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has requested Charge d’ Affaires of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdulelah A. A. Orkobi, to facilitate Environment Minister Naseer Ahamed to visit Saudi Arabia from July 02-05 as Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka.The request was made when the envoy called on Prof Peiris at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday (30).

At the meeting, Foreign Minister Peiris briefed the Saudi envoy on the current economic situation, including fuel shortage and its negative impact on all sectors in Sri Lanka. Prof. Peiris sought avenues for energy cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as an utmost urgent matter.

Charge d’ Affaires of Saudi Embassy Orkobi, emphasized the importance attached to the Sri Lanka – Saudi bilateral relationship and assured all possible support to Sri Lanka, at this juncture.

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‘Halting assistance’: Japanese envoy reassures Prez

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Japanese Ambassador Hideaki Mizukoshi yesterday (01) met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa against the backdrop of reports that Japan wouldn’t provide financial assistance due to the possibility of such being mismanaged.A section of the media quoted the Japanese envoy having said so at a meeting with a group of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members during a recent visit to the north.

Subsequent to the meeting at the President’s House, the President’s Office said that the Japanese envoy reassured the President of their support to the proposed IMF programme with Sri Lanka and bilateral development assistance.

However, the Japanese embassy didn’t issue a statement on the meeting though it regularly issued statements on a range of issues.

Recently Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Japan Sanjiv Gunasekera suddenly quit the top diplomatic posting. The government has nominated former Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage as Gunasekera’s successor.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office has sought a clarification from the Japanese embassy regarding the controversial declaration and received an assurance that the envoy didn’t say so at the meeting with the TNA (SF)

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