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A daunting challenge: GL explains efforts to re-open schools



… about 50% of 10,000 schools re-opened a few weeks ago

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Education Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (14) said that in spite of severe difficulties, the government had no other option but to explore ways and means of re-opening schools, gradually next year in line with Covid-19 health guidelines.

Minister Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the ruling SLPP, emphasized that indefinite closure of schools could be as bad as the catastrophic Covid-19.

Fielding questions at the weekly SLPP briefing at its Nelum Mawatha Office in Battaramulla Prof. Peiris said that every effort would be made to re-open schools though they realized the risks involved.

Prof. Peiris explained measures taken by the government to improve various sectors, including education as the world battled the rampaging epidemic. He appreciated the support provided by the international community while referring to an assurance received from the WHO Representative here to supply a significant number of temperature testing equipment for the benefit of the student population.

 At the onset of the briefing, the Education Minister said that the countrywide percentage of attendance of students and teachers was 51 % and 77%, respectively though turnout in some Education Zones was really impressive. The minister provided figures in respect of provinces to back his assertion. According to Prof. Peiris, the percentages referred to in yesterday’s briefing dealt with 5,100 schools out of 10,165 countrywide and that too in respect of grades 6 to 11.

Responding to questions, Minister Peiris explained current efforts to resume primary sections of those schools that were opened a couple of weeks ago, in addition to tuition classes as well as pre-schools.

The minister expressed confidence that ongoing efforts spearheaded by the health sector and earnestly backed by the armed forces and police would ultimately succeed in bringing the situation under control.

Pressed for an assurance of a corona-free environment for students, the Minister said that decisions in that regard would be taken in consultation with health authorities.

The minister noted that the government went ahead with Year 5 Scholarship and GCE AL examination regardless of repeated attempts to discourage them. Had the government succumbed to politically motivated pressure, both examinations would have been put off, the minister said.

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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters




(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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Foreign News

US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China




US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF



Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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