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GL: over 500 quarantined AL candidates sat examination



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (6) paid a glowing tribute to all those who had made it possible for the successful conclusion of the GCE Advanced Level examination under extremely difficult conditions due to the unexpected eruption of corona second wave.

Minister Peiris said that the conducting of the examination was a real challenge as the situation gradually deteriorated with the government compelled to bring the entire Western Province under quarantine curfew.

Western Province comprising administrative districts of Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara was brought under quarantine curfew at midnight on Oct 29.

Responding to The Island queries, Prof. Peiris said that putting off the examination for the second time could have caused major issues. The examination was to be held in August.

The Education Minister said the media coverage during the examination highlighted the fact that the parents of those who sat the examination threw their weight behind the government decision. At one point some interested parties threatened to sabotage the examination over some shortcomings. But, overall everybody supported, the Minister said, adding that all those who contributed to the successful effort could quite rightly be proud of the achievement.

Recalling the difficulties experienced in holding the Year Five Scholarship examination on Oct 11 before the commencement of the Advance Level examination on the following day, Prof. Peiris said on the first day three candidates under quarantine sat the examination. As the epidemic spread, many more were categorized and had to be brought under a special system in place for them to sit the examination, the minister said.

Prof. Peiris said that by the time the examination concluded yesterday, altogether 568 sat the examination while being under quarantine. According to statistics provided by the Media Unit of the Education Ministry, 27 sat for the examination at the Angoda Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH), one at the hospital at the Panagoda Army cantonment and one at the Mulleriyawa hospital. In addition to them, 12 special centres accommodated students from Minuwangoda, Gampaha, Ja-ela, Seeduwa and Ekala. A total of 362,824 sat the examination.

Prof. Peiris said that government servants went out of their way to make it possible. “We arranged special transport with the support of the SLTB and the Railways Department whereas the staff played a crucial role,” the minister said.

Prof. Peiris said that they faced the daunting task of preventing an outbreak in any of the 2,648 examination centers. “We were concerned about the countrywide situation though curfews were declared in the Western Province and several other police areas in the provinces,” the minister said.

On the last day of the examination nearly 35,000 candidates sat the final paper.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP



By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms



Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations



… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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