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Empowering youth a human right and investment – UNDP Rep in SL



Robert Juhkam, Resident Representative, UNDP in Sri Lanka

The National Youth Dialogue (NYD) on Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship is an annual national youth engagement exercise led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka.

This year, too in adapting to the new normal, the National Youth Dialogue for 2020/2021 presented a fully virtual participant experience, via Zoom, spanning over five weeks, from Feb 16 to March 18 and included 28 sessions under 10 themes with over 100 speakers and facilitators joining in to share their stories, expertise and experiences with over 2000 participants, the UNDP said.

Together with Youth CO: Lab, the UNDP Asia Pacific programme on youth co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation, NYD Sri Lanka is part of a family of National Youth Dialogues held each year in more than 20 countries across Asia and the Pacific region.

Speaking at the virtual closing ceremony, Robert Juhkam, Resident Representative, UNDP in Sri Lanka, stated, “Through existing and scaled up platforms for youth, such as the NYD and the HackaDev programme, UNDP Sri Lanka remains steadfast in our support to GoSL and other sectors to continue to build an alliance around youth development – create new partnerships and collaborations, and strengthen existing ones which will be the foundation upon which we can collectively invest our efforts and resources to provide an improved service offering. Empowering youth is both a human right based imperative and a needed investment to build forward better.”

The annual event serves as a national platform to foster meaningful youth participation and learning and engages a diverse group of young people across the island to set the agenda for youth policy action on the part of UNDP and its partners. The event also showcases the impact of UNDP Sri Lanka’s umbrella youth programme- HackaDev.

Speaking on her experiences as a participant this year, Zahra Taha noted, “This platform helped me identify the access points around me to new knowledge, resources, professional expertise support systems, new technologies and also awareness on crucial topics. I wish to highlight that the online experience that we gained through NYD was extraordinary. The interactive nature of the sessions using many online tools, kept the program lively and interesting.”

The event comprised thought and action provoking mini dialogues and innovative learning and development offerings, carefully curated for the benefit of youth.

Highlighting the Government’s role in engaging with youth, Theshara Jayasinghe, Chairman – National Youth Services Council, stated, “It is important to focus on how young people can come forward and lead, challenge existing notions and the status quo, and take risks in being innovative and entrepreneurial. This is why I am pleased that UNDPs National Youth Dialogue, not just in Sri Lanka, but across Asia and the Pacific region, through the Youth Co:Lab programme, has a heavy and consistent focus on these three key elements – leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship”.

The National Youth Dialogue tackled two main issues for young people; the post pandemic new normal and the decade of action towards realizing the sustainable development goals by the year 2030. Under this, a wide range of thematic areas covered during the dialogue included climate change, peace, gender, community engagement, personal development, arts and sports, digital citizenship, education, skills and employment opportunities.

Speaking of their role as an implementing partner of the project, Ravin Basnayake, Country Officer, Citi Sri Lanka Sri Lanka, noted, “We believe youth engagements such as the National Youth Dialogue helps in fostering learning and the development of future leaders, who can face the development challenges of today. This is why Citi Foundation together with UNDP created the Youth Co:Lab programme in the Asia and the Pacific Region and we are very happy about the impact of the programme thus far”.

Facilitators comprised of resource personnel from diverse fields including international athletes, global tech giants, private sector leaders, public officials, education reformists, media influencers and peacebuilders. The sessions were made possible through the efforts of over 25 partner and collaborator organizations, including six UN agencies.

Addressing the gathering Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka stated, “As countries around the world consider their post COVID-19 policy options, through your leadership, innovative ideas, and entrepreneurial spirit, we need you to step up and re-engineer the post COVID world to make it more peaceful, just and where no one hopefully is left behind.”

The National Dialogue in Sri Lanka was convened in partnership with Biodiversity Sri Lanka, Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU), Vocational Training Authority (VTA) of Sri Lanka, Citi, Cisco, Centre for Communication Training, WHO Sri Lanka, UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office, UNICEF Sri Lanka, UNFPA Sri Lanka, UNV Sri Lanka, HackaDev, Hashtag Generation, neOOne Associates, Sri Lanka Association for Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM), Citra Social Innovation Lab and Facebook.

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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament



Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.



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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert



By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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