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Dr. Arambepola for more space for women activists, welcomes Dr. Amarasuriya’s appointment



SJB accommodates Diana Gamage on its NL

State Minister Seetha Arambepola says political parties should pave the way for women civil society activists to seek political office. Viyathmaga nominated consultant ENT surgeon Arambepola believes her unexpected entry into parliamentary politics may inspire more women activists.

 Having campaigned for Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s successful presidential bid, Arambepola received appointment as State Minister for skills development, vocational education, research and innovation. She was among two SLPP National List nominees made State ministers, the other being former Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal.

 Asked whether she desired political office at the onset of the Viyathmaga movement, State Minister Arambepola emphasized entering parliament was never her intention. She said: “I volunteered. The Viyathamaga project really appealed to me.”

 Arambepola was the only woman among 11 Viyathmaga activists given SLPP nominations (9 contestants) and on the National List (2) of the party at the recently concluded 2020 general election.

 Pushing for an enhanced role for women in local government, provincial councils and parliament, the new entrant pointed out that often women entered parliamentary politics in the wake of their husbands’ assassinations or their passing away, in some cases death of husband or some other family member. Then there had been actresses, Arambepola said. Emphasizing that she had no issue with that, the State Minister pushed for more space for activists.

 Arambepola welcomed the JVP-led Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB) nominating prominent woman activist Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, senior lecturer, Department of Sociology, Open University of Sri Lanka.

 Political parties should be encouraged to field more women at all levels of elections and also accommodate on their respective National Lists at the general election, Arambepola said.

 Responding to another query, Arambepola stressed that she was a taxpayer and engaged in politics at the expense of lucrative practice. Arambepola said that she never sought office. “Of course, when I was offered the post of Governor, Western Province, there was no hesitation on my part in accepting the new assignment. Similarly, I accepted the offer to accommodate me in the SLPP National List”, she added candidly.

 The SLPP thanks to its overwhelming victory at the general election won 17 out of 29 National List slots. The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) won seven and the remaining six were shared one each by other contesting political parties.

 The JJB’s decision to field an activist who had been on both print and electronic media over the years was a welcome sign whatever the stand she took up on the political stage.

 Amarasuriya has been a strong critic of SLPP policies.

 Arambepola and academic Amarasuriya are among over a dozen women elected to the 9th parliament. They are Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Muditha Prashanthi Zoysa, Geetha Kumarasinghe, Rajika Wickramasinha, Kokila Gunawardena, Manjula Dissanayaka, Thalatha Atukorale and Rohini Kaviratne and Diana Gamage. Newcomer Diana Gamage represented Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) National List. The SJB accommodated her in terms of an agreement between them and Ape Jathika Peramuna (AJP). The Election Commission recognized Sajith Premadasa led UNP dissidents’ request to re-name AJP as the SJB. Diana Gamage had functioned as the Secretary of AJP.

 Geetha Kumarasinghe, who entered parliament at the August 2015 general election from the Galle district, was deprived of her seat in terms of the 19th Amendment that prohibited dual citizens from contesting general and presidential elections.

 Kumarasinghe gave up her Swiss citizenship to contest 2020 general election.

 State Minister Arambepola said that Viyathmaga received tremendous backing from women voters, both at the presidential and the recently concluded general election. A survey would reveal they played a significant role in both victories, the State Minister said, urging all political parties to enhance women’s representation at parliamentary level.


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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving



Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest



By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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