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DEW issues warning over cremation of COVID-19 victims, stresses need to take public into confidence

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Govt. party leaders’ meeting:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Minister and Communist Party veteran D.E.W. Gunasekera has urged the SLPP government to address the simmering crisis over its policy of cremating the Muslims who die of COVID-19. He cautioned that Western powers could exploit the issue to undermine the country as in the past.

The former lawmaker issued the warning at party leaders’ meeting chaired by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat recently. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was also present.

Political sources said that the discussion had lasted for about three hours and was the first such since November 2019 presidential election.

Gunasekera said that the government couldn’t afford to turn a blind eye to geo-political realities against the backdrop of China-US confrontation and Sri Lanka’s strategic importance.

Gunasekara underscored the importance of responding to situations swiftly and decisively. The former General Secretary of the CP said that over 6.9 mn people had voted for Gotabaya Rajapaksa because they had faith in him.

Gunasekera warned that if the dispute over the cremation of all corona victims got out of control, extremists would take advantage of the situation. He also found fault with members of parliament for failing in their responsibilities both in and outside parliament. None of those present responded to Ginasekera’s criticism.

During the lengthy discussion, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pointed out that the SLPP MPs hadn’t at least visited areas affected by recurrent armyworm (Sena caterpillar) invasion. The President recently toured Anuradhapura, where significant crop losses had been caused by insects.

Gunasekera also took exception to a recent article written by Asanga Abeygoonesekera in his capacity as a civilian attached to the Defence Ministry, a subject coming under the purview of the President. Gunasekera said Abeygoonesekera shouldn’t have taken a hostile stand towards China, which was a friend of Sri Lanka.

Gunasekera said that such a stand would cause irreparable damage to the bonds between the two nations. He said the writer in his capacity as a Defence Ministry official had called for a common front against China.

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa raised the apparent government decision to go ahead with the handover of the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo harbour to India’s Adani Group.

Weerawansa alleged that the deal on ECT would be detrimental to the country. The previous yahapalana government in late May 2019 entered into an MOC (Memorandum of Cooperation) with India and Japan in respect of the ECT although the latter is no longer part of it.

The proposed deal on ECT has sharply divided the government with trade unions vowing to scuttle it.

Gunasekera said that interested parties could take advantage of the recent developments, particularly the cremation of bodies of Covid-19 victims, a sensitive issue for the Muslim community.

Gunasekera last served the Cabinet in 2011. President Maithripala Sirisena left Gunasekera out of the National List following 2015 parliamentary polls.



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Asian Century will not happen if China and India could not join hands – Jaishankar

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Bangkok:External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday that the relationship between India and China is going through an “extremely difficult phase” after what Beijing has done at the border and emphasised that the Asian Century will not happen if the two neighbours could not join hands.

Jaishankar made the remarks while responding to a series of questions after delivering a lecture on ‘India’s Vision of the Indo-Pacific’ at the prestigious Chulalongkorn University.

Responding to a question, Jaishankar said that the Asian Century will happen when China and India come together but the Asian Century will be difficult to happen if India and China could not come together.

“At the moment (the India-China) relationship is going through an extremely difficult phase after what China did at the border,” he said.

Chinese and Indian troops are engaged in a prolonged standoff in Eastern Ladakh. The two sides have so far held 16 rounds of Corps Commander Level talks to resolve the standoff which erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas.

“I think if India and China have to come together, there are many reasons to do so, not necessarily only Sri Lanka,” he said, adding that it is in India and China’s own interest to join hands.

“We very much hope that wisdom dawns on the Chinese side,” he said while replying to another question from the audience.

Jaishankar said India has done the best of its abilities to assist Sri Lanka. This year alone India has extended USD 3.8 billion of support to Sri Lanka, including line of credits and swap arrangements, he said.

Sri Lanka, a nation of 22 million, is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis that has led to severe shortages of fuel and other essentials. The Sri Lankan government is negotiating with the IMF for a bailout package.

“Any help we can give to Sri Lanka at the IMF that we will naturally do,” Jaishankar said.

On the issue of Rohingya refugees, he said the issue has been discussed with Bangladesh. “What matters for them is repatriation. We have been supportive of Bangladesh,” he said.Currently, Bangladesh is hosting more than 1 million Rohingya refugees, who fled Myanmar following a military operation against them a few years ago.

Responding to another question, Jaishankar dismissed criticism for importing discounted Russian oil, saying India is not the only oil importing country.The US and European nations have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.

India has raised oil imports from Russia after the Ukraine war despite criticism from the west and continues to engage with Moscow for business.Jaishankar, who arrived here on Tuesday, co-chaired the 9th India-Thailand Joint Commission Meeting with his Thai counterpart and Deputy Prime Minister Don Pramudwinai on Wednesday during which they discussed advancing bilateral contacts in political, economic, security and defence, connectivity and health domains. – NDTV

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Colombo District land value up by 17 percent in first half of this year

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The Colombo District land value increased by 17.0 percent during the first half of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021, the Central Bank has said.This is according to the Land Valuation Indicator (LVI) for the District.However, this shows a deceleration of the increasing trend observed in the second half of 2021, the Central Bank said.

“All sub-indicators of LVI, namely Residential LVI, Commercial LVI and Industrial LVI contributed to the overall increase. Industrial LVI recorded the highest annual increase of 20.6 percent, followed by Commercial LVI and Residential LVI,” the Central Bank said.

Per perch bare land prices are obtained from the Government Valuation Department on a semi-annual basis, the bank said in a statement.

The Land Price Index (LPI) compiled from 1998 to 2008 on an annual basis and from 2009 to 2017 on a semi-annual basis, covering 5 DS divisions in the Colombo District. Subsequently, from 2017 onwards, its geographical coverage was enhanced to represent all 13 DS divisions in the Colombo District.

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Power consumption down by over 20 percent

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Electricity consumption has decreased by more than 20% during the past two months, Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) Janaka Ratnayaka says.At the beginning of this year, the daily electricity consumption rate was at least 48 megawatt-hours and that 2,800 MW of electricity was required at the peak time.

However, during the past two months, electricity consumption has dropped to 40 megawatt-hours per day. “The volume of electricity required during the peak time was reduced to 2,100 MW. This represents a 20% reduction,” Ratnayaka said.The PUCSL Chairman said that with the electricity tariff increase the consumption might drop a bit more.

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