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CEJ Executive Director Withanage elected chair of Friends of the Earth International



By Ifham Nizam

Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) Executive Director Hemantha Withanage has been elected the chair of Friends of the Earth International.

Withanage is the first South Asian to clinch the top post of the Netherlands based institution which has a membership of 75 countries.

The Lankan Environmental Scientist succeeds Karin Nansen of Uruguay, whose two terms as chair ended in June 2021.

Speaking to journalists, Withanage said, “I am honoured to be elected as the chair of the world’s largest grassroots environmental justice organisation which, for 50 years, has been leading the fight against polluters and natural resource exploiters for a just and equitable future.

My priority for the next two years is to strengthen the member groups and Friends of the Earth International’s work with communities around the world fighting for a just society in line with our vision and mission.”

He said the current global governance and patriarchal power systems hindered a move towards such a society. As the world continued to exceed sustainable levels of production and consumption, many were failing to match the urgency and level of commitment required. The global Covid-19 pandemic had further exposed the current systemic environmental, social-economic and gender injustices.

“Corporations are hijacking our food systems and natural resource governance, as well as pushing for false solutions and exacerbating the climate and biodiversity crises,” he stressed.

Greater meaningful effort was needed from global governance bodies and national governments. It won’t happen without a system change, he said.

Withanage added: “We will continue to work alongside the peoples and communities who are leading the way with solutions. We will continue to build our Internationalist Solidarity System partnership with allied movements and struggles.”

Withanage, a science graduate from the University of Kelaniya, joined the environmental justice movement in 1990 as an environmental officer for the Environmental Foundation Ltd. In 2004, he co-founded the CEJ.

From 2005-2008, he was Executive Director of the Philippines based NG0- a network of civil society organisations monitoring the Asian Development Bank – for which he has also been the elected International Convenor a number of times. Hemantha has held leadership positions in a number of other regional and international networks and is a leading environmental activist in the Asia Pacific region. Hemantha was an elected member of Friends of the Earth International’s Executive Committee from 2010-2018.

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Shocking 17,500 video clips of Lankan children being sexually abused



By Norman Palihawadane

There were over 17,500 video clips of Sri Lankan children being sexually abused, on the Internet and action had been taken to arrest those responsible, Police Spokesman Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday. The Sri Lanka Police had sought the assistance of international law enforcement agencies and the Internet service providers to track down the persons involved in uploading those video clips and child sex trafficking via internet, the SDIG said.

Crimes against children in Sri Lanka were rising at an alarming speed, the SDIG said.

The police would conduct a special awareness programme together with the National Child Protection Authority to curb the alarming trend, he said.

The first programme was held recently in Nuwara Eliya where it especially focused apprising police officers attached to that Division.

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Private buses to insist that inter-provincial commuters carry proof of vaccination?



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A limited number of Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) and National Transport Commission (NTC) buses and trains would maintain limited inter- provincial operation from 01 August, State Minister of Transport, Dilum Amunugma said.

The State Minister said that certified documents issued by the respective depot superintendents and the letters of approval by the NTC were mandatory, he added.

“The buses and trains will be permitted to operate only in the morning and in the evening for office workers,” Amunugma said.

The State Minister added that passengers should behave responsibly when using the inter-provincial transport services and understand that those services were only for commuters engaged in essential services.

“The Delta variant is spreading rapidly. If one infected passenger travels in a bus, all other commuters will contract it” he warned.

The Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) has decided to make proof of vaccination compulsory for inter provincial travel from 01 August

LPBOA President Gemunu Wijeratne said they had written to the President and Transport Minister asking for permission to enforce it.

Wijeratne said that all bus operators in the Western Province should ensure they were inoculated by August 15.



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TNA Leader complains against appointing Sinhala officers to Tamil areas



By Dinasena Ratugamage

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader, R. Sampanthan had written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, objecting to the appointment of Sinhala government officers to the Northern Province, former TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah told journalists on Wednesday (28.)

The President and the Prime Minister are appointing officials violating democratic principles, Senathirajah said after a meeting of party activists at Karachchi Divisional Secretariat Office, Kilinochchi.

“A lot of Sinhalese are appointed to the North and the East. They must appoint Tamils. These appointments undermine our struggle for a just language policy,” he said.

Senathirajah said that it was customary to appoint Tamil officers to Tamil majority areas. However, this tradition was being violated increasingly in recent times, the former MP said.

“The TNA has nothing against Sinhala government officers. However, appointing Sinhala state officers to majority Tamil areas is a great injustice to the people. So, our leader has written to the President and the Prime Minister asking them to stop this practice,” he said.

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