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Army recalls President’s outstanding military career

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Army Commaner Gen. Shavendra Silva welcoming President Rajapaksa

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s participation at the 72nd Army Day Anniversary celebrations at the Saliyapura Gajaba Regiment’s Regimental HQ in Anuradhapura on Sunday (10) was a landmark event for two reasons, the Army has said. It was the first time a Head of the State visited the military facility, and the dignitary happened to be a former combat officer of the regiment itself.

The Army said in a media statement: “His visit was historic; he is the first President to join an Army Day and receive honours at Saliyapura, the first visit to the GR Headquarters after taking the mantle of Presidency in November 2019 and the first President to be accompanied to the location by the then Adjutant, now the incumbent Army Chief, groomed by the same prestigious GR itself when HE the President was commanding the 1 GR. His succession to the Presidency also joins history since he is the first Commanding Officer of the 1 GR to have reached these impressive heights.

“Gotabaya Rajapaksa served as the Second-in-Command of the 1st Battalion of the GR immediately after the formation of the GR on 14 October 1983 by Lieutenant Colonel Vijaya Wimalaratne with the amalgamation of the Rajarata Rifles. The young Officer upon receipt of his commissions on 26 May 1972 was posted to the Sri Lanka Signal Corps, and subsequently to the Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment as an infantryman at that time, and proved his mettle after joining the GR as a pioneer member of the Keterian family.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa accompanied by Army Commander General Shavendra Silva for the Army Day celebrations at Saliyapura on Sunday.

In his first military mission, the enthusiastic and budding GR officer energetically and voluntarily pursued fleeing terrorists along with GR members of his battalion and destroyed them following the attack on the Mahavilachchiya Police Station in 1985, demonstrating bravery and determination. Similarly, it was he who commanded the men when the Muttur military base came under siege by the terrorists. He and his men marched through dense jungles covering more than 35 km to reach the besieged military base and saved the camp with the help of others.

In another offensive, the ‘Operation Liberation’ in 1987 to liberate Vadamarachchi, he played a leading role in neutralizing the enemy. Again in 1990, he was fortunate to be under the command of the reputed military veteran, Major General Denzil Kobbekaduwa, who launched ‘Thrivida Balaya’ to rescue troops trapped inside the Jaffna Fort. No doubt, his commitment to the cause earned him military decorations such as ‘Rana Wickrama Padakkama’ and ‘Rana Sura Padakkama’ three times and his acts of bravery in the face of the enemy were lauded by his superiors.

In view of his career prospects, Lt. Colonel Gotabaya Rajapaksa was afterwards appointed to the office of Deputy Commandant at the then Sir John Kotelawala Defence Academy, a post he held until his early retirement from the Army in 1992.



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Vasu defends constituents’ right to differ

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Prez chairs govt. group meeting:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara has strongly defended the right of the SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) constituents’ to take up contentious issues in public.

Minister Nanayakkara told SLPP parliamentary group meeting at the President’s House on Sunday night (24) that their right to differ on matters of public interest shouldn’t be questioned.

Nanayakkara said so when Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena and MP Tissa Kuttiarachchi faulted some constituent parties for dissenting views on certain issues.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was present at the meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The meeting lasted for about two hours.

The SLPP held Sunday’s meet in the wake of some constituent parties of the ruling coalition asking for a discussion on the questionable agreement between the government and the US New Fortress Energy Company over the Yugadanavi power plant, etc. Sources said that initially, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa indicated that the issue could be discussed with the Premier but subsequently arrangements were made for the Sunday’s meeting.

The New Fortress recently announced that a definitive agreement had been executed for the external investment in West Coast Power Limited (WCP).

WCP owns the 310 megawatts Yugadanavi Power Plant based in Colombo. The deal is also for the rights to develop a new LNG Terminal off the coast of Colombo. In terms of the agreement, New Fortress will acquire a 40 per cent ownership stake in WCP. The US energy firm plans to build an offshore LNG terminal located off the coast of Colombo.

Minister Nanayakkara has said it is not unusual for members of a coalition to hold different views depending on the issues as they also represent the interests of the public.

Nanayakkara has pointed out how the left parties remained with the UPFA though they didn’t agree with the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to enact the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Parliament passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution with a two-thirds majority on 08 Sept. 2010, enabling the President to seek a third term among other things.

The SLPP constituents have differed with the government on several issues such as fuel price increases announced by Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila on 12 June as well as the abortive bid to transfer 49 percent of shares of the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo port to India and Japan.

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa spearheaded the constituents’ campaign. He sought an explanation particularly as regards Cabinet approval for the controversial energy deal with the US firm, without a discussion among ministers.

NFF sources told The Island that their leader felt the urgent need to take up the matter to prevent further deterioration of relations among the coalition members.

Several parties including government ally the Jathika Sanvidhana Ekamuthuwa moved the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, respectively against the secretive energy deal with the US firm.

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‘Those who hesitate to get vaccinated pose a threat to others’

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath said yesterday a significant number of people had not received the Covid-19 vaccine, and posed a threat to society.

“No matter what your age category is, you will be at a higher risk of being infected and spreading it to others. So please get vaccinated,” he urged.

The DDGHS said that a booster shot would be given to people from 01 Nov.

The Health Ministry would carry out the ongoing vaccination drive until everyone got the first two doses, he said.

“However, we won’t keep hundreds of vaccination centres open. Most likely, those who have not got vaccinated will have to go to designated locations to receive the vaccine.”

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School attendance high as parents have faith in teachers – CTU head

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Teachers and principals protested at Colombo Fort yesterday urging the government to rectify their salary anomalies. The protesters marched from the Fort Railway Station towards the Presidential Secretariat but police did not permit them to proceed beyond the Telecom rounadbout. Pic by Nishan S Priyantha

By Rathindra Kuruwita

School attendance was high Despite inter-provincial travel restrictions, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) General Secretary, Joseph Stalin said yesterday. “The government announced on 22 October that primary sections of all schools would be reopened on 25 October. Despite the short notice the attendance was high, and this is testament to the faith parents have in teachers,” he said.Primary sections of 9,155 schools recommenced yesterday.

“However, we will only teach. Teachers do a lot of additional work instead of teaching and most people who slander us have no idea about this,” he said.

Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath urged relevant authorities to provide safe and adequate transport facilities to students. It was vital that those vehicles were ventilated, and social distancing was maintained.

“We urge parents to buy reusable face masks for kids. If your child has any symptoms of COVID such as fever and cold, don’t send him/her to school until you are certain this is not COVID. Teach your child the importance of washing hands, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. This is the way we can ensure there is no spread in the school system,” Dr. Herath said.

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