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FM highlights importance of adequate funding for developing countries to overcome challenges to achieving SDGs

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Sri Lanka has reiterated the call of the Group of 77 for adequate funding for development initiatives, enabling the developing countries to overcome the multifaceted challenges that hinder the achievement of the SDGs amidst the current global situation due to the pandemic.

Issuing a statement for the 44th Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena noted that the unprecedented consequences arising from the current health crisis has spilled over to economies, as reflected globally by exacerbating the vulnerabilities in trade, tourism, investment, and employment, and Especially, developing countries are facing an additional burden.

In this context, the Minister recalled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s call to the international community at the Financing for Development Conference, for debt relief and to adopt fiscal policies to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

The Forty-Fourth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 was held virtually on Thursday (12 November), chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

The interactive dialogue was held on the theme “Major priority issues and the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the obstacles it poses to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and achievement of the SDGs”.

In a video statement, Minister Gunawardena highlighted the strong mandate given by the people of Sri Lanka to the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa both at the presidential election and the general election, for his Vision for Prosperity and Splendor that gives confidence to Sri Lanka to commit further to the goals of the G-77.

He noted that Sri Lanka’s commitment to achieve the SDGs was reflected in the appointment of a Working Group to study the current status of Sri Lanka’s implementation and progress of the SDGs.

Sri Lanka’s Presidential Task Force in charge of Economic Revival and Poverty Eradication operates with the objective of creating a production economy promoting local industries. The Government has granted financial relief to over six million families and vulnerable groups and established a COVID – 19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund. We underscore the priority of making available a vaccine for COVID-19 to all.

The Foreign Minister further underscored the platform provided by the Group to developing countries in articulating and promoting collective interests on all major international economic issues within the UN system and in promoting South-South cooperation for development.

“Poverty remains a great obstacle for the development of the Members States and we share the commitment of this Group to eradicate poverty in all its forms,” he said.

He also recalled the original contribution of Sri Lanka’s Economists, led by Dr. Gamani Corea, former Secretary General of UNCTAD, in mobilizing support for South-South cooperation.

Minister Gunawardena congratulated the President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, of Guyana for his stewardship of the Group, who made the key note address. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly and António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations also addressed the Meeting.

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Sajith blames ‘Viyathmaga doc’

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Cause of Mahara Prison riot:

By Saman Indrajith

The recent Mahara Prison riot erupted as 120 inmates afflicted with COVID-19 had been taken there from the Welikada prison at the behest of a Director in charge of prisoners’ health, who was a Viyathmaga member, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday.

“Many explanations have been given by ministers about the riot at Mahara Prison. The number of deaths is not yet known and around 120 are wounded. One minister said that there was an invisible hand behind the clashes. Another said the motive was to bring the government into disrepute internationally. A theory was concocted that prisoners had taken some narcotic tablets called Reverse and they and fought because they wanted to see blood. But the truth is otherwise. The real cause is that 120 inmates infected with coronavirus were transferred to Mahara from the Welikada prison at the behest of a director in charge of prisoners’ health. That director is a member of the Viyathmaga. Those who were transferred to Mahara prison caused a cluster of 183 persons. As the infection spread fast there was unrest and tension. That was the reason for Mahara riots.”

He said that ministers had their own theories, but one day the truth would surface. “I hope that the ministerial committee appointed to probe the riots will conduct an impartial investigation and they will reveal the truth.”

“Prisoners have rights. I do not wish that this country would permit the perpetuation of the killing culture and state terrorism. The government members should keep in mind that there is a concept called rule of law and we all are expected to uphold it. So, we should dump those theories of Reverse tablets and strive to find the truth.”

Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera: The health officer in charge of Mahara Prison is not a member of Viyathmaga.

Opposition Leader Premadasa: I did not say so. What I said was that 120 inmates were transferred from Welikada prison to the Mahara prison violating COVID-19 protocols. That order to transfer those had been given by a doctor who is a member of Viyathmaga. I do not mention his name. You can easily find it.

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said that the Opposition leader talked of lofty ideals of prisoners’ welfare but the yahapalana government had failed to construct at least a single prison to ease the congestion in the prisons. “When I was incarcerated by your government, I was in a cell with 51 other inmates. There was no place to sleep. In the Kegalle prison, they put 225 in a hall enough for 50 inmates. The former government pre-occupied with the task of constructing new courts to imprison its political enemies but did not build a single prison for the benefit of inmates.”

Opposition Leader Premadasa: We did not want to build prisons, we built schools. Mahatma Gandhi has once said that when you open a single school, thousand prisons could be closed. We followed that.

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‘It will take four years to ensure quality of drinking water from small projects’

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By Saman Indrajith

The safety of drinking water from small scale community drinking water projects could guaranteed only after the implementation of a project to check the quality of water and that would take four years, Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara told Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said so, when Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana pointed out that although the safety of drinking water from the National Water Supply and Drainage Board was guaranteed the same could not be said of water from small scale projects.

“There are many harmful elements in water such as lead, cadmium and mercury. We know that Water Board supplied water is purified, but water from small scale project could be contaminated with them. It is said that mercury in a CFL bulb has the potential to pollute around 6,000 litres of ground water and causing kidney diseases. This is a dangerous situation. One trillion rupees have been allocated for the Water Supply ministry. Apart from the COVID-19 threat, the biggest threat to the lives of people in this country is from non-communicable diseases. Can the ministry introduce a mechanism to provide each district with at least a single testing unit to ensure the safety of drinking water supplied by the small scale community drinking water projects.”

Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara said that safety of water from the Water Board was guaranteed owing to sophisticated purification methods employed by treatment plants. He said that it would take at least four years to provide testing units to ensure drinking water from the small scale community drinking water projects countrywide too is safe from harmful elements.

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Teachers’ Union boss Stalin accuses govt of attempting Akila’s failed stunt

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was an attempt to create a new post, Director General – Sports, at the Ministry of Education and to appoint a political henchman, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) General Secretary, Joseph Stalin told The Island yesterday.

“According to the Education Administrative Service minute, any appointment has to be made through a competitive exam. However, this post has been created through a Cabinet paper and an SLPP henchman is to be appointed to it.”

The CTU General Secretary said that during the yahapalanaya administration, then Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam had tried to appoint a UNP henchman to the post of Director – Sports at the Ministry. Kariyawasam had been compelled to back off due to the stiff opposition of the education sector unions, Stalin said.

“The court has also ruled that people should be appointed in keeping with the Education Administrative Service Minute. The President came into power promising to uphold the rule of law, but this government, too, is attempting to undermine the education system by appointing unqualified people to high posts.”

The post of Director General – Sports would have the same perks of an Assistant Secretary and the person to be appointed was a person representing a government affiliated union, Stalin said.

“95% of unions of the education sector will oppose if the government creates this post for the benefit of a henchman. We will resort to trade union and legal action.”

Minister of Education, Prof. G. L. Peiris was not immediately available for comment.

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