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Foreign Secretary sounds ‘consensual resolution’ as pressure mounts in Geneva

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by Shamindra Ferdinando

Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage on Monday (25) night revealed that the government was having discussions with the UK-led Sri Lanka Core Group in a bid to explore the possibility of reaching a consensus on what he described as a ‘consensual resolution’ ahead of the 46th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) scheduled for Feb-March this year.

Admiral Colombage acknowledged that an agreement on a consensual resolution was a politically challenging task. FS Colombage said so in conversation with Faraz Shauketaly on ‘News Line’ on TV 1.

Asked whether the government was under pressure to co-sponsor the new resolution or face a vote in case Sri Lanka rejected the UK-led move, the naval veteran said there was dialogue between the two parties in this regard. Talks have to be concluded today (27)

Prof. Colombage ruled out the possibility of Sri Lanka co-sponsoring the new resolution. The top Foreign Ministry official also dismissed the interviewer’s assertion the government was under pressure to accept the new resolution.

Admiral Colombage said they were also studying some suggestions made by the Core Group.

Asked whether the government would try to convince the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led political grouping that had demanded an international war crimes investigation in addition to a range of punitive measures to reverse its decision, FS Colombage emphasized that Sri Lanka waged war against an internationally proscribed terrorist group.

The interviewer sought the Foreign Secretary’s assertion of retired justice C.V. Wigneswaran, MP, who signed Jan. 15 dated petition, in his capacity as the leader of Tamil Makkal Thesiya Kutani (TMTK). Altogether, 13 lawmakers represented the three political parties that called for external intervention.

Declaring that serious war crimes hadn’t been committed during the war, FS Colombage questioned the motives of those continuing to harp on unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. Referring to the failure on the part of the Northern Provincial Council to spend the funds allocated for the benefit of the public, FS Colombage asked whether an agenda detrimental to post-war national reconciliation was being pursued.

In the wake of Sri Lanka quitting in Feb 2020 Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by the previous government against one’s own country in Oct 2015, Geneva has warned Sri Lanka of serious consequences. In addition to freezing assets and travel bans slapped on those who had been ‘credibly accused of human rights violations,’ Geneva recommended the launch of criminal proceedings at the International Criminal Court and an international mechanism to gather evidence.

Referring to the US travel ban imposed on Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva in Feb 2020, the interviewer sought the Foreign Secretary’s opinion on the Geneva report. Refuting allegations, Admiral Colombage alleged serious shortcomings, including factual errors.

Asked whether the recent appointment of a three-member Commission of Inquiry (CoI) chaired by Supreme Court Judge Nawaz to examine previous CoI reports et al wasn’t too late as well as insufficient just ahead of the 46th sessions, Admiral Colombage explained how eruption of first Covid-19 wave that resulted in the postponement of general elections scheduled for April 2020 caused serious setback to government efforts.

Commenting on simmering controversy over the Sri Lanka-India agreement on the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo harbour, Admiral Colombage expressed confidence the issue could be resolved soon. The former Navy Chief categorically denied India’s valuable support to Sri Lanka at Geneva et al would be linked with agreement on ECT.

Responding to criticism directed at India over a spate of issues, including the forced imposition of the 13th Amendment thereby creating the Provincial Council system, Admiral Colombage pointed out the Tamil Nadu factor. Admiral Colombage, having reiterated President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s foreign policy statement, assured Sri Lanka’s commitment to friendly ties with major powers.

FS Colombage emphasized that Sri Lanka’s bilateral relations wouldn’t be at the expense of another country.

Admiral Colombage regretted the recent mid-sea collision involving an SLN Fast Attack Craft and an Indian fishing trawler that resulted in the deaths of four fishermen. The FS emphasized that the incident happened well within Sri Lankan waters near Delft Island.

Navy headquarters last week alleged that the Indian vessel collided with FAC while trying to flee a naval cordon.

Admiral Colombage said that the SLN vessel would have suffered serious damage if the Indian trawler happened to be one with a steel hull.

Asked whether US, India, Japan and Australia would take a common stand vis a vis Sri Lanka in respect of accountability issues, Admiral Colombage asserted that wouldn’t be the case. “Sri Lanka is important to them” Admiral Colombage said, while describing them as the four pillars of the Quad-a security alliance.

Commenting on the disclosures made by Lord Naseby in the House of Lords in Oct 2017, Admiral Colombage appreciated the British politician’s efforts to set the record straight as regards war crimes accusations. The Foreign Secretary said that the revelations were made on the basis of genuine and accurate sources.

The British Lord used classified wartime British HC cables (Jan – May 2009) obtained following a legal battle to counter Geneva accusations. Sri Lanka is yet to officially request Geneva to revisit the 2015 resolution on the basis of Lord Naseby’s revelations.



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Vaccinations: eminent group follows-up with Prez., PM and ministers

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The group of eminent academics, professionals and civic activists, led by former Colombo University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Savitri Gunasekera, who wrote to the Director General of Health earlier this month (Sunday Island June 6) together with some others have now written a follow-up letter to the President, Prime Minister, the Health Minister and state ministers of health.

We reproduce its text below:

“We are writing to you as a follow up to our letter to the Director General Health, which appeared in the Sunday Island of June 6, 2021.

We raised in that letter certain  critical issues in regard to the current Covid vaccination programme. We highlighted the need for clarity in policy planning and programming and the importance of ensuring equitable access to Covid vaccines.

We asked that all front line workers providing Covid health services should be given priority. We questioned the exclusion of some and the need for rational system for determining front line workers and vulnerable categories. That should be given priority in the administration of the vaccine.

“We trust that the specific questions we have asked will receive clear answers from the Director General. We hope that the Minister of Health and State Ministers will facilitate that process as soon as possible, and as a matter of urgency. This will inspire public  confidence in the health system that the whole country witnessed, and was  acknowledged even globally, when the government commenced its Covid response programme in 2020.   

“We now understand that some stocks of Astrazeneca vaccine are still available for distribution. We also understand from an official press release and the media that new stocks of Astrazeneca  have arrived or are expected soon. We are now writing to urge and call upon you to please ensure that this vaccine is distributed in a completely transparent and planned manner to those citizens who received the first Astrazeneca vaccine.

 “All those who received the first Astrazeneca vaccine in the initial phase of  the Ministry of Health vaccination programme (after February 2021),  have a right to receive the second in the manner that is medically recommended. There is a lack of clarity in regard to the recommended period of time between the two doses of the vaccine. Already three months have passed since the first Astrazeneca vaccine was administered. A prolonged lapse of time between the vaccines can make the vaccine ineffective. This will impact on the success of the vaccination campaign in responding to the Covid pandemic. It is the duty of the Health Ministry to ensure that the second Astrazeneca vaccine is given to persons who received the first, as soon as the vaccines come to the country, without any further delays.

 “In doing so, we ask that within this group, priority is given to all front line workers directly involved in Covid health services, and to citizens over the age of 60-years, taking account of the date and the locations of the vaccination points. These are categories considered most vulnerable to the Covid disease globally, and according to the evidence base and statistics currently available in Sri Lanka. The Director General in media statements on the Ministry of Health guidelines, has also recognized senior citizens as a vulnerable category that must be given first priority in vaccine distribution and  administration. This is being recognized (and should continue to be recognized) in relation to the current Sinopharm and Sputnik vaccination distribution.

“Denying citizens their right to receive the second Astrazeneca vaccine in completion of the first part of their vaccination regime is a violation of the right to equality and non-discrimination in access to health care.  We call upon you to ensure that necessary priority is given to all front line workers and other identified vulnerable categories in the administration of the second Astrazeneca vaccine. Early information on the date and time for vaccinations should be provided as is the practice now followed in regard to the new vaccines, which have come into the country.

“Successive governments have respected, fulfilled and protected the important right to equitable access to health care from the time of independence, for over 70 years. We call upon the Government to collectively fulfill this responsibility to the People, in administering what is left of the Astrazeneca vaccines and in distributing new stocks.”

 

The signatories to the letter are:

Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Emeritus Professor of Law and Former Vice Chancellor, University of Colombo; Dr. G. Usvatte-aratchi, Retired from UN/DESA, New York; Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict;  Prof. Arjuna Aluvihare, Emeritus Professor of Surgery and former Vice Chancellor, University of Peradeniya, former Chairman, University Grants Commission; Prof. Gananath Obeysekere, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University, USA; Bishop Duleep de Chickera, retired Anglican Bishop of Colombo; Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka, former Executive Director of the United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission; Mr. Chandra Jayaratne, former Chairman, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce; Prof. Deepika Udagama, Professor of Law, University of Peradeniya, former Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka; Prof. Camena Guneratne, Department of Legal Studies, Open University of Sri Lanka; Prof Gameela Samarasinghe, Department of Sociology, University of Colombo; Dr A. C. Visvalingam – Past President, Society of Structural Engineers, Sri Lanka; Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris, former General Secretary of the National Christian Council, former Principal of the Theological College of Sri Lanka; Dr. Ranjini Obeyesekere, Retired Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, Princeton University, USA; Mr. Priyantha Gamage, Attorney-at-Law, Commissioner, Legal Aid Commission of Sri Lanka; and Mr. SCC Elankovan, Attorney-at-Law and social activist

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Virtusa adds 24/7 COVID-19 Care Portal for employees to growing list of Pandemic Response and Recovery Initiatives

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SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. – (June 7, 2021) – 

Virtusa Corporation (NASDAQ GS: VRTU), a global provider of digital strategy, digital engineering, and IT services and solutions, recently introduced a 24/7 COVID-19 Care Portal tailored to ensure the health and safety of its team.

In Sri Lanka, Virtusa enabled all team members to update their health and risk factors remotely, tracking and managing the well-being of its workforce and their families through the portal, mitigating threats of spread, recording vaccination progress, validating healthy employees and providing the option of safely returning to the workplace.

The app is supported by the 24/7 Virtusa call center that provides end-to-end pre and post COVID-19 care and assistance to employees, inclusive of transport, medication, food, help in procuring hospital beds and ambulances, self-quarantine and homecare support, in light of the recent surge of new cases in Sri Lanka.

Over 450 Virtusans have registered as ‘War Room’ volunteers to assist the core team in procuring necessary service providers and other amenities to ensure the smooth running of care efforts. A Virtusa COVID Care Fund was also set up to enable global team members to lend support financially, with Virtusa matching the contribution to cover medical exigencies beyond comprehensive group medical insurance plans.

A COVID-19 Information Center was also launched online to provide details related to vaccination centers and other regulated health and safety procedures in Sri Lanka.

“At Virtusa, our priority is to provide the best of care to our Virtusa family,” says Sundar Narayanan, Chief People Officer at Virtusa, who is also leading the Care Portal Initiative across the company.

“This means that everyone has access to best-in-class healthcare from the safety of their homes. At the same time, we are also reviewing our dashboard continuously, committed to exploring new scalable, replicable and digitized solutions that can address any eventualities that may arise going forward.”

Other key initiatives include enhanced medical insurance coverage, at home and drive-in COVID testing facilities, medical consultations and vaccination support for all team members. Virtusa also partnered with two private hospitals to dedicate eight beds exclusively for Virtusans and their family members who require urgent COVID-19 related medical attention. The team is also empowering employees with mental and physical well-being initiatives virtually, all the while ensuring benchmarked customer service and delivery at a global scale.

Having successfully partnered with the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka to execute COVID-19 immunization drives in the Colombo Municipality earlier this year, the Virtusa Sri Lanka team continues voluntary services at Government vaccination centers in the Western province to support vaccination drives across local communities.

In neighboring India, home to a number of Virtusa offices, where the fight against COVID still continues, teams have been equipped with additional resources including makeshift COVID Care centers manned by Virtusan volunteers and medical experts in isolated parts of Virtusa facilities, home quarantining support as well as procurement of oxygen cylinders, with orders placed for oxygen concentrators to be made available for support during medical emergencies.

Furthermore, a mobile app – vRaahat, was developed and launched by internal teams to provide team members end-to-end support with real-time and proactive features including triggering an SOS alert, access to pre and post Covid-19 care, assistance in procuring oxygen cylinders among other features.

 

 

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Legendary conservationist to speak to Lankans on June 17 under WNPS aegis

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17th June 7 pm via Zoom and FB Live

Please register online https://forms.gle/8esbeh7SXbKdGuAK6

Dr. Jane Goodall, a legendary scientist, conservationist and humanitarian, who was named a UN Messenger of Peace in 2002, honoring her for a remarkable career that demonstrated her “dedication to what is best in mankind,” will deliver a public lecture on June 17 under the aegis of the Wild Life and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) and the Nations Trust Bank, the organizers announced last week.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make,” WNPS said announcing the ‘Can’t Miss’ event via zoom and FB live beginning at 7 p.m.

The event is intended to “empower young people to make the world a better place

by caring for the world they inhabit and living sustainable lifestyles,” the WNPS news release said.

Jane Goodall made her name in the conservation world through detailed observations of chimpanzee behavior in Gombe National Park in Tanzania in the ‘60s; she revolutionized what it means to be human and challenged conventional theories held at the time, including tool use by chimpanzees and that chimpanzees are omnivores, not herbivores and have complex emotional lives and social constructs.

At heart she has always been a primatologist and it was her love for apes that thrust her career into conservation, in an effort to help protect their habitat and to preserve Earth for all species.

Participants can register online at https://forms.gle/8esbeh7SXbKdGuAK6

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