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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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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder

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State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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SJB threatens to walk out of Chamber over MP Edirimanne reading AG’s report implicating Sajith

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB yesterday threatened to leave the Chamber if what it called derogatory remarks on Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa made by SLPP backbenchers, were not expunged from Hansard.

Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella threatened to boycott the third reading debate on Budget 2023 if the Chair failed to conduct House proceedings, as per the Standing Orders of Parliament.

Kiriella said that as per Standing Orders, an MP could not abuse parliamentary privileges to level personal attacks on an Opposition Leader, or an MP, during their absence in the House. “If there are any charges, or accusations, against a particular MP, then that should have been raised through a substantive motion.”

Kiriella said so when SLPP backbencher from the Kalutara District Sanjeewa Edirimanne had alleged that Opposition Leader Premadasa was involved in financial misappropriation are regards the Central Cultural Fund.

Presiding member, Deputy Chairman of Committees, Angajan Ramanathan, said that the point of order raised by the Chief Opposition Whip had been noted and permitted MP Edirimanne to proceed.

As Edirimanne continued to speak of the CCF affair, Kiriella asked the Chair to stop Edirimanne.

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that MP Edirimanne was making his speech on the basis of an Auditor General’s report and therefore it should be permitted.

Kandy District SLPP MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage, too, stood Edirimanne.

Kiriella said it amounted to character assassination and the MPs who have only three years of parliamentary experience should study the Standing Orders. “The CCF matter has been investigated by several institutions. The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption has ruled that there was no evidence to prove the allegations against the Opposition leader in the CCF affairs.

It is now before the parliamentary watchdog committee – COPE. How could that matter, under investigation, be abused to level allegations against the Opposition Leader?”

Kiriella asked the Chair to stop the violation of Standing Orders and give a ruling on the matter immediately or otherwise they would walk out of the Chamber.

Deputy Chairman of Committees Ramanathan told MP Edirimanne to refrain from levelling personal attacks on MPs who were not present in the Chamber.

MP Aluthgamage: It is not possible to assassinate a character of a person if that person has no such character. There is no character assassination in this instance.

Kiriella: We will walk out. As per the Standing Orders on character and conduct of an MP could not be debated in this manner.

As Kiriella led SJB MPs to walk out the Chamber, the Deputy Chairman of Committees promised to refer the matter to the Speaker for a ruling.

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