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Chief Govt. Whip confident teachers will return to work tomorrow

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Chief Government Whip and highways Minister Johnston Fernando says the government is confident that teachers will return to work on Thursday (21), despite the JVP’s efforts to sabotage the reopening of schools. The JVP has denied the allegation.

Speaking to journalists after a meeting at the Kurunegala District Secretariat on Monday to review arrangements in place for the first stage of reopening of schools shut down following the pandemic outbreak, the Minister said: “Ours is a history with teachers giving high priority to children’s education. Even during the times of JVP terror during the 1987-89 period, teachers reported for work while the JVP threatened to kill them if they did so. Some teachers and principals were shot dead by JVP death squads and some of the victims were beheaded to scare others. We hope that teachers will defy threats from the JVP and report to work on 21 Oct.”

Asked whether any disciplinary action would be taken against those who would not report to work on that day, the minister said that such actions were regular administrative procedures. “It is expected that those who draw salaries as public servants should report to work when they are asked to. Those procedures are outlined in the Establishment Code. This is the usual procedure applicable to all public servants. Responding to a query from a journalist about the soaring prices of essential commodities, the Minister said: “As I have said in many other forums, this is a temporary outcome triggered by the pandemic-related developments. In the face of the pandemic, our first priority, as a government, was to save lives. Some limits had been imposed to achieve that goal. Such limits resulted in queues and price increases. Now the situation is changing fast and an unreeling effect is seen. Limits have been removed and queues are decreasing so that the prices will settle soon. I assure you that the situation will reach its normalcy in a few weeks. Shortages are temporary, even in the UK there is a similar situation in fuel distribution. The Opposition’s attempts to capitalise on those temporary crises will not be successful. For example, UNP’s trade union leaders said that there would be fuel shortages. That created panic among the public and people rushed to fuel stations to get fuel. That created queues but soon people understood that there is no fuel shortage and queues no longer are there near fuel stations. The Opposition could resort to such tactics but we as a government would not let people suffer,” Minister Fernando said.

Asked to comment on statements by political leaders of a possible election and whether the government politicians were in a position to visit their electorates to get votes, the Minister said: “We have no problem in going to our electorates. The Opposition seems to think that we cannot. It’s their wishful thinking but not the reality. They thought the same soon after the COVID-19 outbreak. They even predicted that we would not be able to hold elections stating it would take at least three days for people to cast votes if a one meter gap was maintained between two persons in the polling booths. At the end we held the election and people gave us two-third powers. We should hold elections on time. It is the Yahapalana method of governance to delay elections. We will not delay elections because we have not been permanently marred with crimes such as the Treasury bond scams.”

Asked to comment on the possibility of the SLFP, which is an allied party of the government, going solo in politics, the minister said: “You should ask them about it.”Responding to a question whether the government does not need the SLFP support, the Minister said: “We have not told anyone that we do not need support. Yet, if anyone thinks of taking an independent stance, it is up to them to decide. We cannot make decisions for other parties. There is no point in asking us about the affairs of their party, you should ask them.”

Asked to comment on the Opposition Leader’s statement that the incumbent government which came to power promising to create a land of prosperity has created a wasteland, the minister said: “We accepted a wasteland. During the last months of the Yahapalana government they could not even get the Municipal workers to remove garbage that piled up along the road sides. We cleared them all within 48 hours of assuming office. Opposition Leader Premadasa has forgotten who imported garbage to this country.”Commenting on the fertiliser issue, the minister said that the government had recognised it as a very sensitive issue. “We have also identified who is behind the protesting farmers. The farmers are being instigated and led to the road by the JVP that set hundreds of agrarian centres on fire during the period of 1989-90. The SJB and UNP too are running after them. All those three parties had in their manifestos that the country should go for organic fertiliser. Now we have started it and they are trying to find fault with it,” the Minister said.Wayamba Province Governor Raja Collure, Chairman of the Kurungegala District Development Committee Gunapala Ratnasekera, Kuruegala District Secretary R.M.R. Ratnayake, provincial education ministry officials, education zonal and divisional officials and the police attended the meeting that focused on health and hygienic measures to be taken in view of reopening of schools.



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Scotland Police to stop training Lankan cops

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Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

Concerns over the human rights record in Sri Lanka has led to the halt of the police training contract between the Sri Lanka and Scottish Police, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of the Scotland Police confirmed.

He said they have written to the British High Commission in Colombo to inform the Sri Lanka government that they are no longer planning to renew the training contract with Sri Lanka’s police force due to end in March next year.

The British Foreign Office reported last week that Sri Lanka’s human rights situation deteriorated during the first half of 2021.

The report said: “Security forces increased their surveillance and intimidation of human rights activists and their use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, with a number of arbitrary arrests.

The government proposed new regulations with powers to arrest and send individuals to rehabilitation centres to be ‘de-radicalised’ with no judicial oversight or requirement for further process.”

News of Scotland’s Police not renewing the contract was welcomed by critics of Sri Lanka including Mercedes Villalba who is a Scottish Labour politician who has been a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for North East Scotland since May 2021.

British MPs and MSPs jointly sent a letter to the Scotland Police and the British High Commission in Sri Lanka a few weeks ago requesting them to stop the training programme.

Villalba was one of the signatories and after this announcement, she said “I have been pleased to support the campaigners and thank them for their tireless efforts in securing the commitment from the chief constable. I also want to thank Police Scotland for being responsive to the real concerns which were expressed about Sri Lanka’s record of human rights violations.”

Talking about the decision to stop training, Chief Constable Livingstone said that a review must be done to accurately reflect the current security and human rights issues in the region, which have changed since the initial deployment after the end of the Civil War in 2010.

“We remain of course committed to supporting the international development of policing services right across the world so that we can enhance and enable human rights and we can underline the values that we hold dear in Police Scotland of integrity, fairness and respect. Those values will always be at the heart of the work we deliver in Scotland and at the heart of everything we do internationally”, he added.

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Interfaith Week celebrated in London

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Sujeeva Nivunhella reporting from London

A Pooja to celebrate Interfaith Week was organized here last week with the advice and guidance of Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayake Thera, head of the London Buddhist Vihara and the Chief Sangha Nayake of Great Britain.

This annual event begins on Remembrance Sunday, a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of the World War I to remember armed forces personnel who died in the line of duty. This tradition was inaugurated by King George V in 1919.

Adhering to the country’s Covid guidelines, this year’s celebration was held using Zoom technology on the theme “Altruism in each religion”.

Ven. Seelawimala welcomed everyone who joined the session. Notable participants of the event were Ven. Thawalama Bandula Thera, Ven. Kalugamuwe Kassapa Thera from London Buddhist Vihara, Dr Harriet Crabtree – Director of Interfaith Network, UK, Ranjish Kashyap, General Secretary/Director Hindu Council,UK, Dr. Pujya Samaniji Pratibha Pragya, who is a Jain nun from Harrow, Rev Gyoro Nagase, Japanese monk, London Peace Pagoda, Battersea, Dr Desmond Bidulph – Chairman of Buddhist Society and Charanjith and Ajith Singh MBE, Hounslow Friends of Faith, who represented the Sikhs.

All present chanted prayers according to their own faiths to eradicate human suffering, to have peace and especially to see an end to the pandemic situation in the world.

A pre-recorded video of Devotional Songs by London Buddhist Vihara Dhamma School Children was played at the event.

Interfaith Network – UK was founded in 1987 with representatives from the Buddhist, Bahai, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Islam, Sikh and Zoroastrian communities,

National and local interfaith bodies, academic institutions and educational bodies concerned with inter-religious issues are affiliated to the organization. Then head of the London Buddhist Vihara late, Ven. Dr. Medagama Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera was actively involved in forming the Network and was a founding member.

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Frankfurt Consulate massive white elephant, alleges Lankan living there

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Foreign office looking at closing some overseas mission due to financial constraints

by Harischandra Gunaratna

Sri Lanka’s Consulate in Frankfurt has turned out to be a white elephant although the Sri Lankan government spends a whopping Rs. 200 million per year for its operations, Azad Shaukatally, a businessman and a Sri Lankan expatriate in Frankfurt told the Sunday Island.

“Over the years, this consulate has not contributed anything tangible to the country. All that has happened is successive governments appointing political loyalists to head the Mission. None of them have done anything concrete to promote business between the two countries,” he said.

According to him, the Mission could have contributed a great deal by promoting Sri Lankan exports and tourism as Frankfurt is the business hub of Germany.

“What actually happens is, the Consulate in Frankfurt simply replicates several tasks performed by the Embassy in Berlin and that’s it. But it cost the country exorbitantly without the knowledge of the authorities. This is sheer waste of national resources and it needs to be brought to an end,” Shaukatally said.

When the Sunday Island contacted the Foreign Ministry on the matter, its Acting Director General Sugeeshwara Gunaratna said: “The Foreign Ministry regularly evaluates individual performance of each Sri Lankan mission abroad, and constructively engages with them from time to time on specific issues or matters which are mutually beneficial in promotion of Sri Lanka’s bilateral and multilateral relations with the host country and various international organizations while ensuring best interests of the people of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan citizens living abroad.”

He said that any decisions related to opening of new missions or closure of particular Missions/Posts abroad including the Consulate General in Frankfurt would be taken after wider consultation with relevant stakeholders based on the relevance of each Mission/Post in promotion of Sri Lanka’s relations abroad.

“Under the current financial constraints, the Foreign Ministry is in the process of closing down some of the Sri Lankan Missions/Posts abroad after obtaining the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers. However, no final decision, has so far, been taken with regard to the Missions/Posts which would be closed down in the near future,” Gunaratna said.

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