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Govt. won’t reverse decision to re-open schools on Jan 11 – GL



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Education Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (28) said that the government was going ahead with plans to re-open schools on January 11 in areas not isolated due to the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing the media at the Waters Edge, Battaramulla, Prof. Peiris, flanked by SLPP National List MPs, Sagara Kariyawasam and Charitha Herath emphasized schools couldn’t be kept closed indefinitely though the pandemic posed a quite a threat.

Prof. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the ruling SLPP said that the decision to re-open schools wasn’t political. The veteran law academic turned politician said that the government in spite of difficulties was making every effort to gradually restore normalcy.

The Education Ministry in consultation with health authorities took the

decision as the government couldn’t allow the epidemic to disrupt countrywide schools, he said.

Based on representations received from various interested parties, Prof. Peiris said that the vast majority of parents wanted schools to re-open. Therefore, the government felt the need to go ahead with planned re-opening of schools.

 Minister Peiris said that Central Province Governor Lalith U. Gamage recently accommodated some students studying in schools situated in areas isolated due to the corona epidemic at the Manikdiwela Madya Maha Vidyalaya.

 The renowned academic here and abroad, while appreciating the Governor’s move said that the ministry, too, could explore the possibility of adopting the same approach in other affected areas.

 Prof. Peiris said that he along with Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera held consultations with medical experts over the last weekend as regards schools re-opening. One-time External Affairs Minister however said that the government wouldn’t be hasty in its decisions not only in respect of education but other sectors as well. But, the government wouldn’t hesitate to take decisions for the wider wellbeing of the population, the minister said, assuring the student population of a cohesive plan to resume schooling.

The minister said that the government was ready to make modifications, if necessary, in case shortcomings were brought to the notice of the Education Ministry.

Assuring that the public would be informed of the schools reopening plan within the next couple of days, Prof. Peiris said altogether the government allocated Rs 105 mn to provide disinfectants and other required items to schools.

 The minister also appreciated the support provided by UNICEF and the WHO for the reopening plan. The international community provided equipment required to test temperature in addition to other items, he said.

 Acknowledging that the vast majority of schools were under Provincial Councils, Prof. Peiris said that the Governors had a critically important role to play in the absence of the Provincial Councils.

 Prof. Peiris assured parents that everything possible would be done to protect the student community. Contrary to criticism, schools re-opening plan was feasible and could be implemented with the support of all stakeholders.

 He also pointed out how the government conducted Year 5 Scholarship examination and the GCE Advanced Level examination in Nov-Dec though many expressed doubts about the Education Ministry’s efforts. The ministry with the support of the health and security authorities made arrangements even for several hundred Covid-19 affected students to sit for the GCE AL examination, the minister said.

The minister urged parents and authorities of respective schools to meet during the January 4-11 period to make the required arrangements.

Underscoring the importance of reopening primary sections of schools, Prof. Peiris said that the student population could be divided into two and one allowed to attend classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the rest on Tuesday and Thursday.

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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters




(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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Foreign News

US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China




US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF



Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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