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200 Indian-origin leaders hold top government positions in 15 countries

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by S VENKAT NARAYAN,

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI:

Two hundred Indian-origin leaders are holding top government positions in as many as 15 countries across the globe, according to a survey made by a US-based organisation.

They include five Heads of Government, three Deputy Heads of Government (US Vice-President Kamala Harris is one of them), 59 Cabinet Ministers, 79 Parliamentarians, 10 Ambassadors, two Consuls General, four Chief Justices, and four Heads of Central Banks in the countries that are their homes now.

The survey was made by Indiaspora, a nonprofit community of global Indian diaspora leaders from various backgrounds and professions. It was released on February 15.

Drawing from government websites and other publicly available resources, the 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders’ List recognizes more than 200 leaders of Indian heritage who have ascended to the highest echelons of public service in 15 countries across the globe.

“It is a huge source of pride to have the first woman and first person of colour as the Vice President of the world’s oldest democracy be someone of Indian heritage. We wanted to use this seminal moment on Presidents’ Day to highlight a host of others in the diaspora who also are in public service,” said Indiaspora Founder MR Rangaswami, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and investor.

“These leaders are building a legacy for future generations, and one that extends beyond our community to all of the constituents and communities that they serve,” he added.

The List also includes diplomats, legislators, heads of central banks and senior civil servants from countries with significant histories of diaspora migration, such as Australia, Canada, Singapore, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States.

“It is an honour to be included on the 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List. As the longest-serving Indian-American Member of Congress, I am proud to be a leader in the Indian American community, which has become an integral part of American life and society,” said Congressman Ami Bera, Chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia.

There are more than 32 million People of Indian Origin (PIOs) globally, according to India’s Ministry of External Affairs. Indians are the largest diaspora population in the world. Half of them have taken citizenship of the countries they live in. The over 200 PIOs figuring in this survey belong to this category.

The rest hold Indian passports.

The officials on the 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List collectively represent more than 587 million constituents, and their countries account for an estimated US$ $28 trillion in GDP, demonstrating the impact that these leaders are having globally.

“It truly is inspiring to note the remarkable contribution that government leaders of Indian heritage have made to advance the societies that they now represent,” said Rosy Akbar, Fiji’s Minister of Education, Heritage, and Arts. “For a sizable segment of the population, it is government policy addressing social injustices that lead to a transformative path of sustainable socio-economic progress.”

The List includes immigrants from India, as well as professionals born in countries such as Singapore, South Africa, England, Canada and the U.S.

“As a proud Indo-Canadian, it is an honour to be included in the 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List alongside an accomplished and diverse group of leaders from the India diaspora,” said Senator Ratna Omidvar. “I am eternally proud of my Indian heritage, but also being Canadian. Canada has given me its protection and its opportunities. And, in return, I am committed to making it a better place so that it continues to be a land of protection and opportunity for future Canadians.”

“It is inspiring to see the number of Indian diaspora who are entering the public arena,” said Indiaspora Board Member Arun Kumar, Chairman and CEO at KPMG India, who served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Barack Obama administration.

He said: “Having had the opportunity to serve, I can speak to what a memorable and fulfilling experience it was. Above all, it was a meaningful way to give back. My hope is that this cohort of leaders will set an example for even more of the Indian diaspora to aspire to public service.”

The Indiaspora Lists highlight the advances of the Indian diaspora and raise their profile in the global consciousness in areas such as government, business, academia, and philanthropy.

The second of the Indiaspora Lists, the inaugural Indiaspora Business Leaders’ List, released in July 2020, featured the Indian diaspora who are leading the largest global companies—CEOs, Presidents, or Chairpersons of the Board of Directors.

 

 



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Covishield recipients in dilemma over second jab

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) yesterday (11) said that the ‘health administration’ hadn’t been able to reach a consensus on the second jab for those who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccine first dose.

The government, both in and out of Parliament has acknowledged a shortfall of over 600,000 Covishield doses.

Top GMOA spokesperson Dr Naveen de Zoysa told The Island contrary to various statements made over the past several days in that regard, health authorities hadn’t been able to take a decision, in case ongoing efforts at government level to procure a sufficient stock, failed. Responding to another query, the outspoken GMOA official said that they were in a quandary.

When The Island pointed out that the success of the vaccination programme, depended on the availability of the second dose within 12 to 16 weeks after the first, Dr. Zoysa said that some expressed the view it would be better to have the same in spite of a slight delay. Then others talked of a ‘vaccine mix’ or vaccine cocktail’ to meet the requirement, Dr. Zoysa said. However, at the moment, the issue at hand hadn’t been addressed, the GMOA spokesperson said.

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemic & Covid Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday afternoon assured that the government was trying hard to obtain the required number of Oxford-AstraZeneca doses for the second jab.

The government launched the second round on April 28. The first round launched on January 29 was brought to an end on April 6.

GMOF (Government Medical Officers’ Forum) President Dr. Rukshan Bellana emphasized that the government owed an explanation to the public how it intended to solve  the issue at hand. Responding to The Island queries, Dr. Bellana said that the very purpose of the vaccination programme would be jeopardized if over 600,000 people couldn’t receive the second jab.

Dr. Bellana urged the government to reveal its response to the crisis without further delay. “We know, Sri Lanka received approximately 1,264,000 covishield doses from India in three separate consignments. Of them, half a million were a donation. Having used 927,000 for the first dose, the country had about 330,000 at the time the government launched the second round. We are now faced with over 600,000 shortfall. That is the undeniable truth,” Dr. Bellana said.

Appreciating the introduction of Chinese and Russian vaccines and efforts to procure US vaccine, too, Dr. Bellana said that those who had received covishield were really anxious whether the second dose could be received within the stipulated time.

The GMOF Chief said that the deepening health emergency in India shouldn’t be an excuse for those who turned a blind eye to the developing situation here. If the government made timely intervention, the situation wouldn’t have deteriorated so rapidly, Dr. Bellana said adding that the country was now paying a huge price for the government not taking tangible measures ahead of Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera didn’t answer his hand phone.

Dr. Bellana alleged that influential persons had jumped the queue to secure the second covishield jab. The GMOF urged the government to look into that matter and ensure transparency in the process.

The Island also sought an explanation from Chief of Vaccination Plan Lalith Weeratunga, who is also President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s principal advisor regarding how the government intended to ensure the second jab. Weeratunga said that the government was in touch with three countries in that regard. “We are quite confident the required stock could be secured to meet the shortfall,” Weeratunga said, adding that in addition to 600,000 Sinopharm vaccines received from China free of charge, the country could get as much as 3 mn doses from Beijing. Referring to consensus with Russia to procure 13 mn doses, Weeratunga emphasized that Chinese and Russian vaccines were going to be Sri Lanka’s mainstay against the backdrop of the situation in India.

Weeratunga said that in spite of on and off setbacks, the government pursued a proper vaccination strategy. He said that the government was quite confident that by August-Sept a substantial percentage of people could be vaccinated.

 

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Johnston: Country will become a metropolis with efficient interconnected expressways

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Chairman of the RDA Chaminda Athaluwage handing over the contracts to the construction companies to develop the Pasyala to Kadugannawa section of the Colombo – Kandy road (A001), as per the instructions of Minister Johnston Fernando.

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando says that with a highly networked system of expressways covering important cities of the country making transport and travelling efficient Sri Lanka could be like one big metropolis in the  foreseeable future.

 Speaking to the media after a meeting with his Ministry officials to review the tender awarding process to private companies for the widening of the Kadugannawa to Pasyala section of the Colombo-Kandy road on Monday, Minister Fernando said plans had been completed to develop the particular stretch of 55.7 km in four phases with funds from the Asian Development Bank.

 The first phase of the project from Pasyala to Ambepussa covering 14.9 km is planned to be developed at a cost of Rs 1,603 million. The estimated cost for the second section from Ambepussa to Kegalle covering 12.9 km is Rs 1,507 million. The third phase from Kegalle to Mawanella covering 13.9 km is planned to be developed at a cost of Rs 1,345 million while the cost of developing 14 kilometers in the fourth phase from Mawanella to Kadugannawa is estimated at Rs 1,630 million.

 Minister Fernando said that he had instructed the Secretary to the Ministry R.W.R. Pemasiri, and the Chairman of the Road Development Authority Chaminda Athaluwage to get the construction companies to complete the entire project within 18 months. A stretch covering 44.3 km from Colombo to Pasyala on the A001 Road has been widened and carpeted as of now.

 Minister Fernando said that infrastructure including the road development was continuing at an unprecedented speed as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour programme to provide people with better roads and boost the country’s economic development. “There is no economic development without infrastructure development and in that regard a highly developed road network is a must,” the Minister said.

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Illegal withdrawal of Rs 43 mn, using forged cheques:

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Another suspect arrested, CID looking for three more persons

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Another person wanted in connection with an ongoing inquiry into the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 43 mn from the account of a leading steel manufacturer at the Sampath Bank has been arrested.

With the latest arrest, altogether five persons have been taken into custody. Police spokesman DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that among the arrested was a bank employee, who masterminded the ‘operation.’

Asked whether the money had been recovered, DIG Rohana said that investigators recovered a part of it. “We are looking for three more persons who withdrew money, using forged cheques,” DIG Rohana said.

The Police Spokesman said the three remaining persons too had been identified. According to the DIG, five persons had withdrawn money from six branches of the same bank at the behest of  the bank employee, and the person who printed counterfeit cheques, to withdraw money amounting to Rs 43 mn belonging to steel manufacturer Melwa. The police identified the counterfeit cheque printer as a resident of Hanwella.

DIG Rohana said that those who had been sent to the different branches of the same bank wore clothes identifying them as Melwa employees.

Though the large sum was withdrawn fraudulently on April 12, the day before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the company remained unaware of the heist until the re-opening of  its main office after the April holidays, he said.

 The Police Spokesman said that a wider investigation was required to ascertain printing of counterfeit cheques and the role played by the bank employee. DIG Rohana said that against the backdrop of the counterfeit cheque case, both state and private sector banks would have to take tangible measures to prevent similar frauds.

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