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Buddhism is India’s most precious gift to Sri Lanka

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Milinda Moragoda urges Special Relationship with India

BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, July 30: Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner-designate to India Milinda Moragoda says Buddhism is India’s “most precious gift” to the island nation, and is keen that a “special relationship” should be established between the two neighbours.

Moragoda pushes for exceptional relations with India in his 10,000-word report titled “Integrated Country Strategy for Sri Lanka Diplomatic Missions in India 2021-2023” to be presented to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Though appointed early last year, he continues to be home-bound due to the coronavirus pandemic and the absence of flights between Colombo and New Delhi. The report was prepared under his guidance by Acting High Commissioner to India Niluka Kadurugamuwa and his senior colleagues at the Deputy High Commission in Chennai and the Consulate General in Mumbai.

The document notes that, being both essentially multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural countries, Sri Lanka and India have much in common. The sharing of their similar experiences is an ongoing process.

Given this backdrop, the report says the overarching goal of the Diplomatic Representations of Sri Lanka in India should be to contribute to the process of continuously maintaining the momentum of the existing partnership. This can be achieved by creating “multi-faceted platforms for strategic level dialogue and cooperation, with the ultimate objective being the elevation of the partnership to a special relationship—one marked by inter-dependence, mutual respect and affection.”

Moraguda says: “The fact that India’s greatest emperor, the Buddhist ruler Dharmashoka, saw fit to send both his son and daughter on separate occasions to our country as emissaries to introduce and spread the teachings of the Blessed One, epitomises the strong and unbreakable civilisational bonds that exist between our two nations.

“In addition, our two countries are bound by circumstances of geography, economics, culture, history, and just as importantly, our democratic values. Against this backdrop, any setbacks to our relationship, however intractable they may appear to be at any given point in time, can only be temporary.”

To achieve this overarching goal, his report suggests that the Sri Lankan diplomatic missions in India must foster political relations at all levels, through constant communication and by building trust. This process has to be carried out at the Central Government level by the High Commission in New Delhi, and by the Deputy High Commission in Chennai and the Consulate General in Mumbai at the level of states, under their respective consular jurisdictions under supervision of the High Commissioner in New Delhi.

It calls for strengthening the bilateral relationship through regular exchange of high-level political visits between the two countries, and enhancing cooperation with India at multilateral and regional level.

There should be an exchange of at least one high-level political visit, such as the Head of State/ Head of Government from either side each year, and also at Foreign Ministerial levels both ways, since it is imperative to maintain constant communication and to develop mutual trust at political level with India.

Additionally, exchanges between line ministers are also important. These exchanges need not necessarily be physical but can be by virtual means. Coordination with India in multilateral and regional fora is important to strengthen the bilateral relations. Foreign Ministry-level coordination should be facilitated for close cooperation in multilateral and regional fora, such as United Nations platforms, SAARC, BIMSTEC and IORA.

The report also suggests boosting parliamentary diplomacy. In addition to strengthening ties at the highest political level, it is important to foster relations between influential members of Parliament of the two countries, as also connectivity between people’s representatives of the two democracies. Exchanges between the Sri Lankan Parliament and the two Houses of the Indian Parliament (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha) will be imperative to strengthen this relationship.

It seeks the re-constitution of a functional and vibrant Indo-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Group in India’s Parliament, consisting of influential parliamentarians drawn from across the political spectrum of both Houses. This will provide the required impetus for the enhancement of political connectivity between the two countries.

The report recommends bilateral visits by Speakers of both Parliaments, a Sri Lanka-India Parliamentary Friendship Group in the Sri Lankan Parliament and mutual visits by MPs.

It seeks expansion of Sri Lanka’s footprint at the state level in India, and favours promoting greater interactions between Sri Lanka and the Indian states considered important from the Sri Lankan perspective. While enhancing political relations at both central government and parliamentary level, the island’s diplomats should endeavour to foster relations at the state level, too.

Interestingly, the cover of the document features an illustration of the Girihandu Seya stupa situated in the Eastern coastal village of Thiriyaya in the Trincomalee district. It is believed to be the world’s first Buddhist stupa, built by seafaring Indian merchant-brothers Tapassu and Bhalluka, enshrining the Buddha’s sacred hair relics.

It is believed that the Buddha gave his hair relics to the two merchants, who were his first lay disciples, and who offered him alms on the 50th day after his enlightenment. Chronicles say that soon after, in one of their trade voyages, the two brothers brought the sacred hair relics to Sri Lanka and built the stupa enshrining them.

The original stupa was built during the Buddha’s life time over 2,500 years ago. The present structure or the ruins of the ‘Vatadage’ (circular shrine house) consisting of a small stupa encircled by two concentric circles of stone pillars and a retaining wall of stone slabs, is believed to have evolved with time.

The stupa predates the advent of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and stands as an epitome of one of the earliest recorded interactions between Sri Lanka and India.



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Explanation sought over Monetary Board Secy.’s sudden transfer

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Rohini calls for social media campaign against govt. move

By Shamindra Ferdinando

 The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) has sought an explanation from the government over the sudden removal of the Secretary to the Monetary Board of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, K.M.A.N. Daulagala on16 Sept.

Matale District lawmaker Rohini Kaviratne yesterday (19) questioned the rationale behind Assistant Governor Daulagala’s removal. The former UNP MP emphasised that Daulagala had played a critically important role in the Central Bank’s response in the wake of Treasury bond scams perpetrated in 2015 and 2016. Therefore, her removal was quite suspicious and might facilitate efforts to suppress those scams as well as future frauds as well.

MP Kaviratne represented the UNP during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Prime Minister (2015-2019).

Declaring that Daulagaha had been at the forefront of the efforts to create a clean administration, Kaviratne stressed that she was second only to Rohini Nanayakkara of the Bank of Ceylon (BOC) and earned the respect of all for courageously taking a stand against fraudulent practices.

The SJB spokesperson said that Daulagala, in her capacity as the head of the non-banking sector financial institutions, handled the ETI investigation at the onset (2010-2012) of the probe. In the wake of her recommendations pertaining to the ETI being rejected by the Central Bank, she received a transfer to another section, MP Kaviratne said.

The Monetary Board is responsible for making all policy decisions related to the management, operation and administration of the Central Bank. It comprises Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Finance Secretary S.R. Attygalle, Sanjeeva Jayawardena, PC, Dr (Mrs) Ranee Jaymaha and Samantha Kumarasinghe.

Cabraal, who served as the Governor (2006-2014) recently replaced W.D. Lakshman on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s request.

Kaviratne asked who had benefited from the removal of the Secretary to the Monetary Board?

MP Kaviratne said that Daulagala had been involved in the internal process following the first Treasury bond scam and the subsequent developments, including the coordination between the Central Bank and the Attorney General’s Department pertaining to the Treasury bond scams. Urging women’s organsations, civil society and law abiding citizens to take up Daulagala’s removal through social media, lawmaker Kaviratne said that the issue at hand should receive attention of the parliament.

“The Parliament is responsible for public finance. The Parliament cannot turn a blind eye to what is going on in the Central Bank. The national economy is in such a perilous state every effort should be made to investigate past frauds and thwart future adventures,” the MP said.

MP Kaviratne also recalled the role played by Deepa Seneviratne, Superintendent of Public Debt at the time of the first Treasury bond scam in exposing the then Governor’s culpability. “Unfortunately, we seem to be unable to change the direction regardless of exposure of past misdeeds,” she said.

Declaring that she had no intention of protecting any wrongdoer under any circumstances, MP Kaviratne said that the incumbent government should ensure transparency and accountability in public finance.

Examination of COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), COPA (Committee on Public Accounts) and COPF (Committee on Public Finance) proceedings revealed a frightening picture, lawmaker Kaviratne said. Shocking revelations made by the watchdog committee should be examined against the backdrop of overall deterioration of the national economy over the past several years, the MP said.

She said that it would be a grave mistake on the government’s part to blame the current crisis on the raging Covid-19 epidemic. Acknowledging the difficulties caused by the economic downturn, MP Kaviratne said that the country was paying a huge price for unbridled waste, corruption, irregularities and negligence.

The MP asserted that the citizenry could play a bigger role in a political campaign on social media. The vast majority of those who use social media strengthened democratic opposition, she said. Removal of Daulagala could be a rallying point, she said, urging public onslaught on the SLPP government.

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Those responsible for Easter carnage will be haunted eternally – Bishop Galle

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Text and pictures by PRIYAN DE SILVA

The Chief Celebrant of the 114th annual feast of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Matara, Bishop of the Diocese of Galle, Rev. Dr. Raymond Wickremasinghe told a virtual congregation that the conscience of those responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage would never be at peace and it would haunt them eternally.

 The celebrations of the 114th annual Feast of the National shrine of Our Lady of Matara commenced on 05 September with the raising of the flagstaff and ended on Sunday 12 September. This year’s feast was held in keeping with strict health guidelines sans public participation.

 Rev Dr. Wickremasinghe reiterated that it was the wish of the general public, especially all Christians that those who carried out and those masterminded and those who knew but did not prevent the Easter Sunday carnage would be exposed and Justice served. “It is our prayer that the divine father guides the authorities in their endeavours” the Bishop added

 Rev. Wickremesinghe also called upon every person including decision-makers to heed the advice of the experts and act intelligently to overcome the pandemic.

 The Marian procession carrying the miraculous statue of our lady of Matara. accompanied by clergy and security personnel paraded the town, concluding this year’s festivities.

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Wild jumbos destroy houses in search of newly harvested paddy

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BY CYRIL WIMALASURENDRE

KANDY— Herds of wild elephants raid Ududumbara and Minipe area sdestroying houses in search of newly harvested paddy.

Farmers of Minipe, Hasalaka and Udadumbara keep paddy in their houses as they are without proper storage facilities.

Kandy District Secretary Chandana Tennakoon visited the house of a farmer destroyed by elepheants in Kongahaela, Hasalaka.

The victim informed the District Secretary Tennakoon that a herd of elephants including young ones were roaming had attacked his house.

Similar complaints were made to the District Secretary by farmers at Minipe, Hasalaka, Welgala, Ulpathagama and Udunuwara.

The farmers said at least they should be provided with an adequate number of elephant crackers to scare the elephants away. The farmers had to travel about 30 km to the Randenigala Wildlife Office office to receive one cracker each, they said, adding that they needed many more.

District secretary Tennakoon told the farmers that steps would be taken to resolve the issue this year by putting up an elephant  fence around the affected villages of Ududumbara, Medsadumbara, Minipe and Hasalaka sector.

The project would cost about Rs. 100 million. The length of the fence would be about 43 km, he said.

Divisional Secretary of Minipe Nuwan Hemachandra and Deputy Director of Plan Implementation Palitha Rajapakse were present.

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