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GTF-TNA pushing for bigger US intervention

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From left to right standing: Scott Urbom - Acting Director for Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Maldives, Kanag-Isvaran PC - TNA Delegate, Dr Ilangovan - GTF (US) and Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ambassador Kelly Keiderling , Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. On screen: Assistant Secretary of State, Ambassador Donald Lu - Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Suren Surendiran - GTF (UK) and Mrs Vanitha Selvarajah - CTC/GTF (Canada). Right of the screen standing left to right:M A Sumanthiran MP/PC – TNA, Bhavan Bhavaguhan - GTF (UK), Raj Thavaratnasingham - CTC/GTF (Canada) and Dr Karunyan Arulanantham - GTF (US)

The GTF and TNA delegation had several significant engagements in the US between November 15 – 22, articulating Tamil people’s concerns to key US Government policymakers and Members of the US Congress, GTF said in a press release.

GTF added that they are pleased with the outcomes of their discussions and remain encouraged by concerns and responses from US representatives.

Given below are excerpts of the press release: “In Washington, the Delegation met with Assistant Secretary of State, Ambassador Donald Lu; Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ambassador Kelly Keiderling; Acting Assistant Secretary for Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Lisa J. Peterson; Ambassador Michael Kozak of the Office of Global Criminal Justice; and Director for South Asia Security Affairs and Director for Democracy and Human Rights of the National Security Council at the White House.

“The delegation also met with senior staff members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; the Assistant Administrator of the USAID; Legislators from the United States Congress; and former US Ambassadors to Sri Lanka and Assistant Secretaries for the region.

“In New York, the Delegation met with the US Deputy Permanent Representative for the UN General Assembly, the Permanent Representatives to the UN General Assembly for Norway, and the Irish Republic, along with senior officials from the Office of the UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs.

“The Delegation expressed its deep appreciation for the US leadership at the United Nations Human Rights Council (“UNHRC”) in promoting accountability, reconciliation, and human rights in Sri Lanka. While calling for continued leadership of the United States Government (USG) at the UNHRC and in light of Sri Lanka’s failure to make satisfactory progress on implementing UNHRC Resolution 46/1, USG was encouraged to consider a multifaceted approach in addressing the many challenges in Sri Lanka.

“The particular focus of the current engagement was to call for a proactive USG role in promoting a holistic approach to reconciliation, which would include addressing the root cause of conflict and human rights violations, the denial of political rights to the Tamil people. The Delegation emphasised that addressing the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace, dignity, and meaningful power devolution is critical in guaranteeing non-recurrence.

“The present conditions in Sri Lanka and its trajectory towards authoritarianism and militarised governance; further marginalisation of Tamil, Muslim, Hindu, and Christian communities; the serious economic difficulties faced by the people; and the vulnerability of the country for external manipulations – were also highlighted to the US.

“The challenges faced by the Tamil community on a daily basis to protect their land and preserve their identity in the Tamil majority Northern and Eastern Provinces against rampant militarisation and state sponsored initiatives aimed at altering regional demography was discussed. Details of some of the recent land appropriation measures by the government of Sri Lanka were presented and the urgency to counter such measures with international assistance was sought.

“The opportunities and challenges for changing the present conditions in Sri Lanka was highlighted and the transformative role that the USG could play, in alignment with India at this critical juncture was underscored. Preventing further deterioration of the governance and economic ills of the country and fostering equality and reconciliation among all its communities was emphasized and called for.

“GTF, from the time of its inception in 2009, has played a constructive role in promoting peace, justice, equality, and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. While promoting accountability, including at the UNHRC, GTF has maintained high level engagements with all stakeholders in Sri Lanka, including politicians, civil society activists and media personnel, with the firm conviction that a durable political solution in Sri Lanka ultimately supports all of Sri Lanka’s communities. GTF has also been involved in targeted activities related to rehabilitation, medical emergencies and development initiatives across many regions and communities in Sri Lanka.

GTF, in partnership with all stakeholders in Sri Lanka, varied interests and perspectives in the Diaspora and the international community, remains committed to playing a constructive role in advocating primarily, for the betterment of the Tamil people and others.”



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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine

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Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today

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by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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