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Government investigations won’t pin responsibility for gas explosions: JVP



by Sirimantha Ratnasekara

The JVP last week asked people not to have hopes that the government investigations would identify those responsible for the unexplained gas explosions/fires in various parts of the country during the past few days.

“This is a government that could not bring to the book those responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage. Therefore, people should not have high hopes that the ongoing investigations would find those responsible for the incidents of explosions owing to gas leaks,” JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said on Thursday addressing a press conference at party headquarters in Pelawatte.

He said that the president has appointed a committee which will submit a report within two weeks.

“Don’t be surprised or upset if the committee does not find anyone responsible for the gas explosions. It is certain that no politician or official will be found responsible for what has happened,” Dissaanayake said.

“Today we have a government which has no sense of what is happening around us and the dangers this country will face in the coming months. The government needs over six billion US Dollars within the next three months for the import of essentials, honoring letters of credits (LCs), and the payment of debt installments, but has no proper plan to attract required foreign exchange to meet these obligations. There is a serious decrease of funds flowing into the country, including the decline of inflows from migrant workers in 2021 compared to 2020.

“In June 2020, migrant workers remitted 573 million US Dollars. In June 2021, it declined 16% to USD 475 million. Migrant worker remittances were down 50% in September 2021 from a year earlier. The government has no proper plan to bring migrant worker earnings back to Sri Lanka. The Cabinet of Ministers is not finding solutions for the economic crisis that we are in.

“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa does not even seem to know what the crisis is all about. His decisions suggest that he is unaware of the depth of the crisis as his decisions are not those that a President should take during a crisis; his decisions worsened the crisis.

“Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is focused on other things. Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa has not divulged proper details about this crisis to Parliament,” Dissanayake said.

The JVP leader said that there were clear indicators of the worsening economic crisis all around us.

“Over 1,000 containers with essential goods are held-up at the Colombo Port. Even though the goods are imported, banks are not releasing dollars to clear them. The Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery has been closed as there are no dollars to import crude oil. There are critical shortages and prices are increasing daily,” he said.

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Foreign News

Pope Francis to evict Cardinal Raymond Burke from Vatican




US Cardinal Raymond Burke has been a leader in the Catholic Church for decades (BBC)

Pope Francis is evicting US Cardinal Raymond Burke, an outspoken critic, from his Vatican apartment and revoking his salary.

Cardinal Burke is part of a group of American conservatives who have long opposed the Pope’s plans for reforming the Catholic Church.

A Vatican source told the BBC that Pope Francis has not yet carried out his intention to evict the 75-year-old and the decision is not meant as a personal punishment, the source added. Instead, it comes from the belief that a person should not enjoy cardinal privileges while criticising the head of the church.

Still, the move is “unprecedented in the Francis era”, Christopher White, a Vatican observer who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, told the BBC. “Typically, retired cardinals continue to reside in Rome after stepping down from their positions, often remaining active in papal liturgies and ceremonial duties,” he said. “Evicting someone from their Vatican apartment sets a new precedent.”

White warned that the decision could “provoke significant backlash” and deepen divides between the Vatican and the US church, where there is already “fragmentation”.

Cardinal Burke has yet to respond to the news and the BBC has reached out to his office for comment.

The Pope revealed his plan to act against the cardinal at a meeting with heads of Vatican offices last week. His frustration with US detractors who take a more traditional or conservative view on several issues appears to be coming to a boil.

Earlier this month, he fired Joseph Strickland, a conservative Texas bishop who had blasted his attempts to move the church to more liberal positions on abortion, transgender rights and same-sex marriage. The removal followed a church investigation into governance of the diocese.

A few months before, the Pope told members of the Jesuit religious order in Portugal that there was “a very strong, organised, reactionary attitude in the US church”, which he called “backward”, according to the Guardian.

Tensions with Cardinal Burke, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, have been simmering for nearly a decade, with the American prelate openly criticising Pope Francis over both social and liturgical issues.

“Cardinal Burke’s situation seems to stem from his gradual alienation from the Pope,” said  White. “It appears the Pope perceives Burke as fostering a cult of personality, centred around traditionalism or regressive ideals. This action seems aimed at limiting Burke’s influence by severing his ties to Rome.”

Pope Francis with hand up in front of Vatican building
Pope Francis waves to crowds while leaving St Peter’s Square (pic BBC)

Most recently, the cardinal held a conference called The Synodal Babel in Rome on the eve of the Pope’s synod, or meeting of bishops, last month.

He also joined fellow conservatives in publishing a “declaration of truths” in 2019 that described the Catholic church as disoriented and confused under Pope Francis, saying that it had moved away from core teachings on divorce, contraception, homosexuality and gender. Notably, he disagreed with the Pope promoting Covid vaccines.

Within church politics, he and Pope Francis were at odds over the firing of the head of the Knights of Malta after the order’s charity branch was found to have distributed condoms in Myanmar.

The Pope, in turn, has demoted Cardinal Burke within the church hierarchy or moved him to posts with less influence over the years.

Michael Matt, a columnist for the right-wing Catholic newspaper The Remnant, wrote that the most recent action taken against Cardinal Burke showed that Pope Francis was “cancelling faithful prelates who offer hierarchical cover to pro-life, pro-family, pro-tradition hardliners”. He accused the Pope of putting critics into “forced isolation”.


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Foreign News

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dies aged 100




Henry Kissinger at the State Department's 230th anniversary celebrations in 2019

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has died at the age 100.

He served as America’s top diplomat and national security adviser during the Nixon and Ford administrations.

In a statement, Kissinger Associates, a political consulting firm he founded, said the German-born former diplomat died at his home in Connecticut but did not give a cause of death.

During his decades long career, Mr Kissinger played a key, and sometimes controversial, role in US foreign and security policy.

Born in Germany in 1973, Kissinger first came to the US in 1938 when his family fled Nazi Germany. He became a US citizen in 1943 and went on to serve three years in the US Army and later in the Counter Intelligence Corps. After earning bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees, he taught international relations at Harvard.

In 1969, then-President Richard Nixon appointed him National Security Adviser, a position which gave him enormous influence over US foreign policy in two administrations.


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Rupees 1,500 million allocated for ‘Greater Kandy Urban Development Program’ – State Minister for Provincial Councils and Local Government




State Minister for Provincial Council and Local Government  Janaka Wakkambura participating in a Press Briefing held at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) on Wednesday (29) under the theme ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country’,  announced that President Ranil Wickremesinghe has allocated Rs. 1,500 million for the “Greater Kandy Urban Development Program” in this year’s budget and that part of the allocation would to be utilized to develop the approach roads to Kandy City.

He also announced that the President had allocated  Rs. 1,000 million to develop tourism by enhancing facilities through the involvement of local government bodies.

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