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Colombo Uni. Muttiah Road Hostel to make way for ‘green patch’ in Slave Island



UDA awaits Cabinet approval for acquisition


Amidst protests by the Arts Faculty Teachers’ Association, the Colombo University’s Muttiah Road Hostel for Women and Differently-abled Students, is expected to be acquired to covert the area into what a senior Urban Development Authority (UDA) official described as a “green patch”.

“We have already submitted a proposal to the Cabinet to take over the 2.5 acre land, where the Muttiah Road hostel is situated, in terms of our plans to carve out a ‘green zone’ in Slave Island”, says UDA Director-General, N. P. K. Ranaweera.

Any form of development such as the construction of buildings will not be permitted within the area as what is envisaged is to create a ‘green patch’ encompassing the Beira Lake, the land where the hostel now stands and the Muttiah playground, he noted.

The prime property in question belongs to the government and was given to the Colombo University for hostel accommodation, a senior UDA official in charge of the subject, said.

“There was no payment involved as the Colombo University is also a government institution”, he clarified.

Expressing concern over the move to ‘seize’ the property, the Arts Faculty Teachers’ Association – Colombo University (AFTA-CU), the official trade union of the Faculty of Arts, in a letter to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, said the Muttiah Road complex houses more than 550 female students, including differently-abled students, most of whom are from the Faculty of Arts.

As one of the eight permanent hostels of the University of Colombo, its convenient location, capacity to accommodate a considerable number of students, close proximity to the faculty and the safety of the locale makes it an ideal place of residence for students, the AFTA-CU outlined.

“We have already earmarked a two-acre land at Orugodawatte to build a new hostel for the students”, the Director-General said.

On the aspect of convenience as Muttiah Road is centrally located within the city for the students to travel to university, he remarked, “Orugodawatte is not far away for them to travel to Colombo. In many countries, students travel around 15 kilometres to attend campus. In developed countries, most of them cycle the distance”.

The new Orugodawatte hostel plan was endorsed by the University Grants Commission (UGC), Ranaweera continued. “We are awaiting Cabinet approval to go ahead with implementing the project”.

The hostel has also been recently renovated by the University of Colombo to provide better access to the differently-abled students. The hostel facilities serve the neediest students from rural areas and are a vital resource that ensures their uninterrupted education, the AFTA-CU further said in its letter to the premier.

The University of Colombo does not have adequate hostels and is in the process of enhancing the facilities. In light of the government’s plans to increase the annual intake of students to all state universities, this move that will result in curtailing the limited resources available to the university seems counter-intuitive, it said.

Any move to ‘seize’ the property immediately, will not only deprive the needy students of a chance to better education but also endangers their safety amidst the pandemic which makes finding alternative housing nearly impossible, it added.



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Dhammika asks Ranil to resign as FM



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Investment Promotion, Dhammika Perera, yesterday told the media, in Colombo, that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had to resign from his post as Finance Minister.

Minister Perera said that the Prime Minister was blocking all dollar earnings, borrowings, bridging finance, available essential food credit lines and other credit lines.

“I am joining the Aragalaya from today. I have been in the government for seven days. I have seen what happens. The Prime Minister must stop his political game as the Minister of Finance,” he said.

Perera added that Wickremesinghe had no plan to boost the cash flow, about feeding people, or bringing in dollars.

The Minister of Investment Promotion said that instead of describing the people’s economic woes, the Finance Ministry had to find solutions.

“For example, the proposal to give investors 10-year multiple visas was finalised some time ago. One month has since elapsed, but the Treasury is sitting on it. This is because Ranil is in the habit of stopping projects if they bring in dollars. More than 50 people have come to get the visa by paying 100,000 USD.

About 300 more are on the list. We can bring in 30 million dollars to Sri Lanka, this month, with the help of this visa scheme. Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister is inviting disaster,” Minister Perera said.

Perera added that while Wickremesinghe could continue as the Prime Minister, but as the Finance Minister, the latter had no desire to resolve the foreign currency crisis. All of Sri Lanka’s economic woes are linked to the dollar shortage, he said.

“I challenge Ranil and his economic experts to an open media debate. Maybe he can answer my questions. I challenged him to a debate in 2019, and he ran away. I am challenging him again,” Minister Perera said.

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JVP Leader accuses govt. of hatching plot against his party



By Saman Indrajith

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday said that the government was planning to suppress his party by levelling false allegations against the latter.

Addressing the media at the party headquarters, Pelawatte, Dissanayake said that the plot hatched by the government could lead to bloodshed.

“A video has been released, on social media, instructing how to make Molotov Cocktails. The voice, in the footage, instructs the viewer to make bombs in a similar manner, and tie them to their bodies and explode themselves at the President’s House. The video says that after the explosion I would be appointed the President. Anyone would know that the JVP would not do anything stupid like that. This video is another attempt by the government to justify the use of violence against its critics. There have been similar instances in the past and this country has suffered heavily as a result,” Dissanayake said.

He said that his party lawyers would submit the video to the CID and demand an investigation from the police on who had created and uploaded it to social media. “There is a massive protest to be held in Colombo centering the Galle Face Aragalaya.

“We, too, will participate in it. The government’s response to the protests is to use the police and the army. In addition there are several other developments, including the creation of a para-military force against us. Each SLPP MP is given a chance to recruit five persons, loyal to him or her, as home guards to provide security to the MP. There was a letter from the IGP to Defence Secretary warning of possible bomb attacks. Our party’s name is there in that warning. I have queried this letter in Parliament, too, yet there is no explanation yet. It is in the same context some MPs have requested for personal firearms from the Defence Ministry. Taken together, these developments could indicate the plans of government suppression and what is there in store for us. We do not think that they could fool the people with these tricks. The CID is capable of investigating and finding the sources of any video against the President, in social media, within 24 hours. So we expect the same expedient action would be taken with regard to our complaint, too,” Dissanayake said.

He said that the JVP was prepared to stabilize the country and help bring it out of the current crisis in a short period of time.

Dissanayake said the JVP does not intend to do it alone and was confident that the citizens of the country, and Lankans overseas, would extend their support to the party for this purpose.

“This crisis cannot be resolved by changing posts or individuals, and especially not through a government that has lost the trust of the people,” he added.

When inquired about Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement in Parliament on his willingness to step down to allow Dissanayake to implement his economic plans, the MP said he was prepared to take up the task.

He said, however, that the President and Prime Minister must resign if he were to take up the challenge and implement JVP’s programme to save the country from the crisis.

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Move to set-up smoke-free zones: PHI union says member engaged in project harassed; Ministry says action in line with establishment code



by Ifham Nizam

Public Health Inspectors’ Union has accused a section of the Health Ministry officials of working against a project to establish smoke-free zones in Sri Lanka.

The union alleged that a PHI who served the anti-tobacco campaign and went to the extent of sacrificing his personal leave for the same had been denied annual increments.

It said that the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) organised a project, under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), to set up at least one smoke-free zone in each Medical Officer of Health Division countrywide. The union said that it played a significant role in the project.

The union alleged that PHI T. G. S. L. Prakash, of the Principal Public Health Inspectors’ Unit of the Ministry of Health, had been invited as a resource person as he innovated a 10-step process for establishing smoke-free zones for combatting second hand smoke.

However, the Deputy Director General (Public Health Services) of the Ministry of Health Dr. S. M. Arnold had obstructed the project by blocking Prakash’s participation, the union alleged.

Responding to The Island queries, Dr. S. M. Arnold said that he acted in terms of the Establishment Code and recommendations made by the relevant committee. Dr. Arnold said that the PHI concerned applied for leave for his PhD on Elephant Ecology study overseas, and work-related to NATA did not come under their purview. Dr. Arnold pointed out that the PHI Union President was also working for NATA.

Public Health Inspectors’ Union, President. Upul Rohana has previously asked the Health Secretary to conduct an investigation into the conduct of Dr. S. M. Arnold. According to the union for more than five years, PHI Prakash has conducted various research on the establishment of smoke-free zones in collaboration with NATA and the WHO and published and presented the research results at local and international fora.

The union said that the Chairman of NATA had requested that PHI Prakash to participate in the project as the outfit could benefit from his experience and expertise he had gained overseas in tobacco prevention.

The union claimed that the PHI concerned had participated in the project utilising his personal leave. The union alleged that Dr. Arnold had said that he wouldn’t recommend the annual salary increment for the particular PHI Prakash as his attendance was unsatisfactory.

PHI Chief Rohana emphasised that the concerned Deputy Director General continued to harass the officers who volunteered for their duties, abusing the power of his positio. He said although the union had complained to the health authorities, no action has been taken in that regard so far and their union would not hesitate to resort to trade union action seeking justice.

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