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Five-year-old Sri Lankan boy left on school bus found walking alone 10km from home in Melbourne



The parents of a five-year-old boy who was left behind on a Coober Pedy school bus last week say better procedures are needed to safeguard against potential tragedies.

The family said the driver of the Coober Pedy Area School bus that Thinula Rayon Hettiarachchi got on last Wednesday afternoon failed to drop him at home. He was then left inside the vehicle after it was parked up at the end of the school round.

Thinula was found walking alone on the side of a dirt road heading towards the Stuart Highway later that day, more than 10 kilometres from his home.

“My child opened the [bus] door and walked one kilometre to find us, heading towards the Stuart Highway,” the boy’s father Gayan Indunil Hettiarachchi told SBS News.

“We couldn’t believe it. We never expected anything like this to happen,” the boy’s mother Chintha Rohini Sinhapurage said.

The couple, who are originally from Sri Lanka and moved to the outback mining town from Melbourne four years ago, estimated their son was walking alone for more than an hour, carrying his school backpack in the humid 32-degree heat.

“I don’t know what was going through his mind,” Ms Sinhapurage said. “He told me ‘I cried and I got angry.’”

“I never wanted to hear that kind of thing.”

Thinula told his parents he waited on the bus for so long he wet his pants and eventually opened the door and got off.

“Luckily he turned left. If he turned right there are so many mine shafts we don’t know what could have happened,” Mr Hettiarachchi said.

“My main concern is they do not follow a procedure. They need to check the bus after every shift and make sure no one is left.”

The incident follows the death of a three-year-old boy who was left on a childcare bus in Cairns last year.

Thinula’s parents made a formal complaint to the school the day after the incident, following a phone call from the school. They asked the school to “urgently” clarify how the incident happened and what action would be taken.

“There has been negligence at the extreme level, by the school and its workers when dealing with a very young kid,” the written complaint said. The couple said they did not receive a response until they followed it up on Monday.

The day after the incident a letter from Coober Pedy Area School principal Maurice Saah was sent to parents saying the school was aware of “an incident in which a child was left unsupervised on a bus”, and that it had been reported to South Australia’s Department of Education.

“The matter is under investigation and we anticipate the department will provide its findings to us in coming weeks,” the letter continued.

“In the interim we have taken steps to make sure this cannot happen again, reinforcing the protocol that ensures all children are accounted for at pick up and drop off.”

“We have contacted the family and expressed our sincere apology.”

Mr Saah told SBS News in a statement on Tuesday: “We unreservedly apologise for what has happened”.

“My priority is the welfare of the child and rebuilding trust with the family and we are working to regain their confidence.”

“We will also be cooperating fully with the investigation and taking any further actions identified as a result of that process.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education told SBS News “a lead investigator has been appointed by the department to examine this matter”.

The couple said their son was still traumatised by the incident and recounted the story of his ordeal daily, including how he was “saved by the nice lady”.

Thinula was found by local woman Ariane Montminy-Roberge. She said he was confused but said he was OK when she asked him how he was.

“He said, ‘I’m looking for my grandmother.’”

Ms Montminy-Roberge offered to help him and soon tracked down a phone number for his parents through a teacher at the school.

“If I hadn’t found him and he’d wandered in another direction, no one would have known what happened to this child,” she said.

Thinula’s parents said they are considering legal action. (sbsnews)

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has announced that the IMF Executive Board approved Sri Lanka’s program under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). The program will allow Sri Lanka to access financing of up to US$ 7 billion from the IMF, International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and multilateral organizations.

This is a historic milestone for the country as the Government seeks to restore macroeconomic stability and achieve debt sustainability. Earlier this month, Sri Lanka received IMF-compatible financing assurances from its official creditors, including Paris Club members, India and China, allowing the IMF to convene an Executive Board and consider Sri Lanka’s request for a loan. The program is expected to provide much-needed policy space to drive the economy out of the unprecedented challenges and instill confidence amongst all the stakeholders.

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MPs urged to defeat move to conduct Law College exams only in English medium



Ali Sabry responds to accusations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Opposition MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (19) alleged that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was going ahead with a project launched by former Justice Minister Ali Sabry with the backing of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to conduct Law College examinations only in the English medium, much to the disadvantage of Sinhala and Tamil students.

Addressing the media at Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya at Thunmulla, the leader of civil society group Yuthukama urged all political parties, regardless of whatever differences, to vote against extraordinary gazette notification of 2020 Dec 30 No 22018/13 to be submitted to Parliament by Sabry’s successor, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, tomorrow (21).

The SLPP National List MP said that those who represented the interests of the South, the North as well as the Upcountry could reach a consensus on the issue at hand quite easily.

Responding to The Island query, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya, consisting of a section of rebel SLPP MPs, backed the campaign to protect the language rights of Sinhala and Tamil communities. The first-time entrant to Parliament said that MPs with a conscience couldn’t back this move, under any circumstances, whichever the party they represented.

At the onset of the media briefing, MP Cumaratunga said that the denial of language rights of current and future students was a grave violation of the Constitution-Article 12 and Article 18. In terms of Article 12, no one should be discriminated against on the basis of language whereas Article 18 recognized Sinhala and Tamil as National Languages with English being the linking language.

Alleging that the previous Gotabaya Rajapaksa goverenment planned to implement the controversial law even without securing parliamentary approval, lawmaker Cumaratunga appreciated Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse’s decision to place it before parliament.

The civil society activist said that this despicable move should be examined against the backdrop of growing external interventions as the country struggled to cope up with the developing political-economic-social crisis. The passage of the new law could cause further deterioration of parliament, MP Cumaratunga said, adding that the House faced a serious credibility issue.

“How could elected MPs whichever party they represented back a move that directly affected the concerned communities,”? Lawmaker Cumaratunga asked.

Referring to a recent call by the Justice Minister to discuss the issue at hand, MP Cumaratunga said that among those present on the occasion were Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, and Dr. Athula Pathinayake, Principal of Law College. “Those who opposed this move asked Dr. Athula Pathinayake what he really intended to achieve by conducting Law College examinations in English, only. However, the Law College Principal failed to provide a plausible response,” the MP said.

Responding to strong criticism of their stand, MP Cumaratunga stressed that the importance of English as a language couldn’t be underestimated. But, ongoing efforts to promote English shouldn’t be at the expense of Sinhala and Tamil, MP Cumaratunga said, questioning lawmakers’ right to deprive Sinhala and Tamil communities of basic rights.

Ratnapura District SLPP MP Gamini Waleboda said that an influential section of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was behind this move. In a note dated March 17, addressed to all members of parliament urged them to defeat the contemptible move.

Lawmaker Waleboda said that there was no prohibition for those who wanted to sit law examinations in English. There was absolutely no issue over that but the bid to deny the language rights of those who wanted to sit examinations in Sinhala and Tamil was not acceptable under any circumstances. According to him, the BASL hadn’t consulted its membership regarding this move.

MP Cumaratunga also questioned the failure on the part of the apex court to make available to Parliament its interpretations in Sinhala. The Supreme Court continues to provide such clarifications in English only.

Responding to MP Cumaratunga’s allegation that he with the backing of the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resorted to action to make English compulsory for those studying at the Law College, incumbent Foreign Minister Sabry said: “That’s not correct. It is the council of legal education which formulates regulations.  The council consists of CJ, two senior SC judges, AG, SG, Secretary Justice and six senior lawyers of vast knowledge and experience.

 In terms of the constitution all higher education institutions can decide the language of studies and education. That’s how medical faculty, engineering faculty, IT faculty and management faculty conduct studies in English. Already Peradeniya and Jaffna universities do legal studies in English. It is good to do it, that’s how they become competitive. Even in India all legal faculties are in English. “

The President’s Counsel alleged that the kith and kin of certain people articulating this position received their education in English. The minister questioned why politicians get involved in this issue if the council of legal education made the relevant suggestion.

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No power cuts due to N’cholai unit failure – Minister



By Ifham Nizam

The breakdown of the Unit Three of the First Coal Fired Power Plant Complex in Norochcholai 270 MW intake of the 300MW will cost an additional Rs. 20 a unit due to thermal power generation, says the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).  “It will cost the CEB Rs. 96 million extra a day while the Norochcholai machine is out of order,” a senior Electrical Engineer told The Island.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday said Unit 3 of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant had failed. He said the CEB had informed him of the breakdown, but he said there would be no power cuts.

“The Unit 3 was due to undergo major overhaul maintenance in April. To ensure an uninterrupted power supply, the CEB-owned Diesel and Fuel Oil Power plants will be used,” the minister said.

The Norochcholai Power Plant has experienced breakdowns several times on previous occasions as well.The first generator at the power plant was shut down on December 23, last year to manage the coal stocks and for maintenance purposes.

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