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Chagie picks holes in controversial US resolution

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Flabbergasted by LTTE being rechristened as ‘independence group’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Retired infantry Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage says the recent US declaration that some sections of traditional Tamil homeland remains so militarized 12 years after the war with ‘up to one soldier for every two civilians in the most war affected regions,’ underscored Sri Lanka’s daunting challenge in countering the high profile propaganda.

The Gajaba veteran insists even during the height of the war there had never been such intense deployment. Over the years, the scale of deployment has been reduced and forces deployed only to meet present-day requirements, he said.

 Having served the Army for over three decades in frontline combat roles, military strategist Gallage retired in late August 2018-two years after Australia declined to issue him a visa over unsubstantiated war crimes accusations.

 Referring to a resolution dated May 18, 2021 (H.Res.413) moved in the US House of Representatives, Gen. Gallage said that the LTTE had been recognized as a Tamil independence organization in spite of it still being on a list of organizations proscribed by the US, accepted traditional Tamil homeland claim and also acknowledged a merged northeastern region. Gen. Gallage pointed out that the US showed its bias against Sri Lanka by calling predominantly Tamil speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces as ‘historically oppressed northeastern region.’

Obviously, the submission of the House of Representatives resolution that has been subsequently referred to the House Foreign Relations Committee coincided with the 12th anniversary of the end of war was meant to cause further rifts, Gen. Gallage said.

 Asked whether the government was taking steps to set the record straight, Foreign Secretary Admiral (retd) Jayanath Colombage said that the Foreign Ministry was in the process of addressing the issue at hand.

 Gen. Gallage dismissed much repeated public assertion the US policy had been influenced by the Tamil Diaspora. The outspoken retired officer said that the latest US resolution should be carefully examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka-China partnership culminating with the Colombo Port City Economic Commission as well as collapsing of talks on MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) Compact and SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) though ACSA (Access and Cross-Servicing Agreement) finalized in Aug 2017 remains intact.

 The combat veteran questioned the rationale in the US grouping the LTTE among what the House of Representatives called ‘various armed Tamil independence organizations.’ An irate much decorated infantry officer emphasized that those terrorist groups formed by India in the 80s had been devilishly called independence groups. The US obviously disregarded the well-known fact that except the LTTE, all other groups gave up arms in terms of the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987 and entered parliament in 1989 during the tenure of President Ranasinghe Premadasa. Gen. Gallage said that the LTTE couldn’t be under any circumstances promoted as an organization that fought for Tamil independence.

 When The Island pointed out that the US resolution strongly criticized Sri Lanka for not repealing the longstanding Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) having recently adopted a bipartisan Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (DTPA) of 2021 to investigate acts of domestic terrorism, Gen. Gallage said the US acted swiftly after the US Department of Justice underscored the need for domestic anti-terrorism law in the wake of the January 6 Capitol attack. There couldn’t be a better example than that to highlight the absurdity of the US stand on the PTA introduced by President JRJ to fight those who have now been rechristened by the US as Tamil independence groups.

 Gen. Gallage found fault with the US resolution for not making reference to the origins of terrorism in Sri Lanka. He said that the US needlessly faults Sri Lanka for the deployment of the armed forces to control rampaging Covid-19 epidemic. Did they at least bother to check the actual ground situation here? General asked, pointing out that the armed forces rendered a yeoman service in support of the health sector.

 The bottom line is that the civilian establishment and the police couldn’t have coped up with Covid-19 challenge without the combined security forces backing, Gen. Gallage said.

 Responding to another query, Gen. Gallage alleged that the US seemed to have quite conveniently forgotten how its wartime Defence Attache Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith cleared Sri Lanka of bogus war crimes accusations at the first Colombo Defence Seminar held in May-June 2011, two years after the successful conclusion of the war. Gen. Gallage, who had been present on that occasion recalled how an embarrassed US State Department claimed that their man hadn’t been there in an official capacity. Thanks to Lord Naseby’s disclosure in the House of Lords in Oct 2017, now the entire world knows Lt. Col. Smith’s British counterpart, Lt. Col. Anthony Gash, who had been in Colombo during the war, too, denied unsubstantiated war crimes accusations.

 Gen. Gallage said that having backed war winning Army Chief the then Gen. Sarath Fonseka at the 2010 presidential election, the US now expressed concern over elevation of persons alleged to have implicated in war crimes to senior government positions.

 Appreciating the US backing for eradication of the LTTE, Gen. Gallage said that the Super Power accelerated the demise of their conventional military capacity by providing specific intelligence that led to the sinking of four ships carrying millions of dollars’ worth of armaments in the high seas.

 Gen. Gallage said that the US should take note of the 2011 UN recommendation (Panel of Experts report) that prevented proper investigation for a 20-year period. The undeniable truth was the accusation of 40,000 civilian deaths (Panel of Experts report/paragraph 137) hadn’t been investigated yet, Gen. Gallage said. But that didn’t prevent UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issuing a report in 2015 (the

OISL Report) that outlined the occurrence of war crimes and crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law during the war in Sri Lanka.

Gen. Gallage urged the political leadership to take tangible measures to counter the continuing politically motivated anti-Sri Lanka campaign. The Gen. said that it was the responsibility of the parties represented in parliament to address the latest attack also taking into consideration Canada recognizing the genocide of Tamils and the display of LTTE flag in the UK Parliament Square. The retired soldier pointed out that in spite of the eradication of the LTTE’s conventional military power, the separatist agenda was alive in foreign parliaments as well as our own. Gallage said so referring to a group of lawmakers in current parliament seeking UN intervention to set up an international war crime probe. Those who wrote that letter had ignored the fact that the TNA recognized the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people in 2001. That status remained until the Army shot and killed Prabhakaran on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, Gen. Gallage said.



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Vaccinations: eminent group follows-up with Prez., PM and ministers

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The group of eminent academics, professionals and civic activists, led by former Colombo University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Savitri Gunasekera, who wrote to the Director General of Health earlier this month (Sunday Island June 6) together with some others have now written a follow-up letter to the President, Prime Minister, the Health Minister and state ministers of health.

We reproduce its text below:

“We are writing to you as a follow up to our letter to the Director General Health, which appeared in the Sunday Island of June 6, 2021.

We raised in that letter certain  critical issues in regard to the current Covid vaccination programme. We highlighted the need for clarity in policy planning and programming and the importance of ensuring equitable access to Covid vaccines.

We asked that all front line workers providing Covid health services should be given priority. We questioned the exclusion of some and the need for rational system for determining front line workers and vulnerable categories. That should be given priority in the administration of the vaccine.

“We trust that the specific questions we have asked will receive clear answers from the Director General. We hope that the Minister of Health and State Ministers will facilitate that process as soon as possible, and as a matter of urgency. This will inspire public  confidence in the health system that the whole country witnessed, and was  acknowledged even globally, when the government commenced its Covid response programme in 2020.   

“We now understand that some stocks of Astrazeneca vaccine are still available for distribution. We also understand from an official press release and the media that new stocks of Astrazeneca  have arrived or are expected soon. We are now writing to urge and call upon you to please ensure that this vaccine is distributed in a completely transparent and planned manner to those citizens who received the first Astrazeneca vaccine.

 “All those who received the first Astrazeneca vaccine in the initial phase of  the Ministry of Health vaccination programme (after February 2021),  have a right to receive the second in the manner that is medically recommended. There is a lack of clarity in regard to the recommended period of time between the two doses of the vaccine. Already three months have passed since the first Astrazeneca vaccine was administered. A prolonged lapse of time between the vaccines can make the vaccine ineffective. This will impact on the success of the vaccination campaign in responding to the Covid pandemic. It is the duty of the Health Ministry to ensure that the second Astrazeneca vaccine is given to persons who received the first, as soon as the vaccines come to the country, without any further delays.

 “In doing so, we ask that within this group, priority is given to all front line workers directly involved in Covid health services, and to citizens over the age of 60-years, taking account of the date and the locations of the vaccination points. These are categories considered most vulnerable to the Covid disease globally, and according to the evidence base and statistics currently available in Sri Lanka. The Director General in media statements on the Ministry of Health guidelines, has also recognized senior citizens as a vulnerable category that must be given first priority in vaccine distribution and  administration. This is being recognized (and should continue to be recognized) in relation to the current Sinopharm and Sputnik vaccination distribution.

“Denying citizens their right to receive the second Astrazeneca vaccine in completion of the first part of their vaccination regime is a violation of the right to equality and non-discrimination in access to health care.  We call upon you to ensure that necessary priority is given to all front line workers and other identified vulnerable categories in the administration of the second Astrazeneca vaccine. Early information on the date and time for vaccinations should be provided as is the practice now followed in regard to the new vaccines, which have come into the country.

“Successive governments have respected, fulfilled and protected the important right to equitable access to health care from the time of independence, for over 70 years. We call upon the Government to collectively fulfill this responsibility to the People, in administering what is left of the Astrazeneca vaccines and in distributing new stocks.”

 

The signatories to the letter are:

Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Emeritus Professor of Law and Former Vice Chancellor, University of Colombo; Dr. G. Usvatte-aratchi, Retired from UN/DESA, New York; Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict;  Prof. Arjuna Aluvihare, Emeritus Professor of Surgery and former Vice Chancellor, University of Peradeniya, former Chairman, University Grants Commission; Prof. Gananath Obeysekere, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University, USA; Bishop Duleep de Chickera, retired Anglican Bishop of Colombo; Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka, former Executive Director of the United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission; Mr. Chandra Jayaratne, former Chairman, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce; Prof. Deepika Udagama, Professor of Law, University of Peradeniya, former Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka; Prof. Camena Guneratne, Department of Legal Studies, Open University of Sri Lanka; Prof Gameela Samarasinghe, Department of Sociology, University of Colombo; Dr A. C. Visvalingam – Past President, Society of Structural Engineers, Sri Lanka; Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris, former General Secretary of the National Christian Council, former Principal of the Theological College of Sri Lanka; Dr. Ranjini Obeyesekere, Retired Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, Princeton University, USA; Mr. Priyantha Gamage, Attorney-at-Law, Commissioner, Legal Aid Commission of Sri Lanka; and Mr. SCC Elankovan, Attorney-at-Law and social activist

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Legendary conservationist to speak to Lankans on June 17 under WNPS aegis

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17th June 7 pm via Zoom and FB Live

Please register online https://forms.gle/8esbeh7SXbKdGuAK6

Dr. Jane Goodall, a legendary scientist, conservationist and humanitarian, who was named a UN Messenger of Peace in 2002, honoring her for a remarkable career that demonstrated her “dedication to what is best in mankind,” will deliver a public lecture on June 17 under the aegis of the Wild Life and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) and the Nations Trust Bank, the organizers announced last week.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make,” WNPS said announcing the ‘Can’t Miss’ event via zoom and FB live beginning at 7 p.m.

The event is intended to “empower young people to make the world a better place

by caring for the world they inhabit and living sustainable lifestyles,” the WNPS news release said.

Jane Goodall made her name in the conservation world through detailed observations of chimpanzee behavior in Gombe National Park in Tanzania in the ‘60s; she revolutionized what it means to be human and challenged conventional theories held at the time, including tool use by chimpanzees and that chimpanzees are omnivores, not herbivores and have complex emotional lives and social constructs.

At heart she has always been a primatologist and it was her love for apes that thrust her career into conservation, in an effort to help protect their habitat and to preserve Earth for all species.

Participants can register online at https://forms.gle/8esbeh7SXbKdGuAK6

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Virtusa adds 24/7 COVID-19 Care Portal for employees to growing list of Pandemic Response and Recovery Initiatives

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SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. – (June 7, 2021) – 

Virtusa Corporation (NASDAQ GS: VRTU), a global provider of digital strategy, digital engineering, and IT services and solutions, recently introduced a 24/7 COVID-19 Care Portal tailored to ensure the health and safety of its team.

In Sri Lanka, Virtusa enabled all team members to update their health and risk factors remotely, tracking and managing the well-being of its workforce and their families through the portal, mitigating threats of spread, recording vaccination progress, validating healthy employees and providing the option of safely returning to the workplace.

The app is supported by the 24/7 Virtusa call center that provides end-to-end pre and post COVID-19 care and assistance to employees, inclusive of transport, medication, food, help in procuring hospital beds and ambulances, self-quarantine and homecare support, in light of the recent surge of new cases in Sri Lanka.

Over 450 Virtusans have registered as ‘War Room’ volunteers to assist the core team in procuring necessary service providers and other amenities to ensure the smooth running of care efforts. A Virtusa COVID Care Fund was also set up to enable global team members to lend support financially, with Virtusa matching the contribution to cover medical exigencies beyond comprehensive group medical insurance plans.

A COVID-19 Information Center was also launched online to provide details related to vaccination centers and other regulated health and safety procedures in Sri Lanka.

“At Virtusa, our priority is to provide the best of care to our Virtusa family,” says Sundar Narayanan, Chief People Officer at Virtusa, who is also leading the Care Portal Initiative across the company.

“This means that everyone has access to best-in-class healthcare from the safety of their homes. At the same time, we are also reviewing our dashboard continuously, committed to exploring new scalable, replicable and digitized solutions that can address any eventualities that may arise going forward.”

Other key initiatives include enhanced medical insurance coverage, at home and drive-in COVID testing facilities, medical consultations and vaccination support for all team members. Virtusa also partnered with two private hospitals to dedicate eight beds exclusively for Virtusans and their family members who require urgent COVID-19 related medical attention. The team is also empowering employees with mental and physical well-being initiatives virtually, all the while ensuring benchmarked customer service and delivery at a global scale.

Having successfully partnered with the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka to execute COVID-19 immunization drives in the Colombo Municipality earlier this year, the Virtusa Sri Lanka team continues voluntary services at Government vaccination centers in the Western province to support vaccination drives across local communities.

In neighboring India, home to a number of Virtusa offices, where the fight against COVID still continues, teams have been equipped with additional resources including makeshift COVID Care centers manned by Virtusan volunteers and medical experts in isolated parts of Virtusa facilities, home quarantining support as well as procurement of oxygen cylinders, with orders placed for oxygen concentrators to be made available for support during medical emergencies.

Furthermore, a mobile app – vRaahat, was developed and launched by internal teams to provide team members end-to-end support with real-time and proactive features including triggering an SOS alert, access to pre and post Covid-19 care, assistance in procuring oxygen cylinders among other features.

 

 

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