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A farewell for UN Ambassador Kshenuka Senewiratne

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Ambassador Kshenuka Senewiratne was presented with a plaque by the President of the Sri Lanka Association in New York (SLANY) Sanjeev Silva and his wife.

The Sri Lankan expatriate community in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, hosted an outdoor farewell luncheon last week to honour Sri Lanka’s outgoing Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Kshenuka Senewiratne and her husband Suren Senewiratne.

Conforming to rigid health regulations against the coronavirus pandemic, over 75 Sri Lankan expatriates, most of them masked, braved the spreading virus and turned up for the lunch at Medwick Park, Carteret, New Jersey.

Ambassador Senewiratne and her husband arrived in the company of a Police escort vehicle as befits diplomatic protocol.

The expats at the lunch included alumni of Royal, St Thomas’ and Ananda Colleges, and representatives of the Sri Lanka Association of New York (SLANY), the Sri Lanka Medical Association of North America (SLMANA) and The Association of Sri Lankan Muslims in North America (TASMINA).

Attending the farewell were Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey who is serving his 16th Full Term in the US House of Representatives representing the sixth Congressional District and former Franklin Councilman Rajiv Prasad – both strong political supporters of Sri Lanka.

Congressman Pallone was instrumental in establishing the first Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka in October 1998, served as Co-chair for ten consecutive years, and currently serves as an important and most knowledgeable member within the Sri Lanka Caucus in the US Congress.

Both Pallone and Prasad praised Kshenuka for her accomplishments, including being the first SL woman ambassador to the UN.

Dr Wije Kottahachchi, one of the organisers of the farewell and a former president of SLMANA, singled out the Ambassador’s “brilliant diplomatic career and her service to the Sri Lankan community in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.”

Among her significant contributions to the Sri Lankan community, he said, was the pandemic response where she set up two hotlines manned by mission staff to assist community needs with four Sri Lankan doctors volunteering their services to the community and facilitated by Ambassador Senewiratne.

In his vote of thanks on behalf of the organizing committee, Vajira Gunawardana, a former President of Royal College Old Boys’ Association East Coast Foundation, thanked the ambassador for her exceptional service to the country, the United Nations, and the Sri Lankan community.

As the first female Sri Lankan ambassador to the UN, he said, “you introduced a new level of sophistication to the office of ambassador. This coupled with your demeanor, humility, and social engagement with the whole spectrum of the community, has brought new respect to the office of the ambassador.”

With the current campaign of gender empowerment at the UN, he said., Ksenuka’s superlative credentials should be an asset when women activists search for the right candidate to be elected the first woman UN Secretary-General next year.



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

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(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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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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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

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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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