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GTF welcomes President’s offer

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The UK-based Global Tamil Forum yesterday (21) described President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s declaration that he was ready to have a dialogue with the expatriate Tamils as certainly a progressive move. GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran welcomed the announcement made in New York on the sidelines of the 76th UNGA.

The Island: President GR told the UN Chief he was ready for a dialogue with the Tamil Diaspora. He reiterated he wanted to discuss domestic mechanisms with the Tamil Diaspora. What is GTF’s response to Prez’s declaration?

GTF : Isn’t it interesting that this is the same President on his watch, a gazette notification was issued in March 2021, only six months ago, to proscribe most of the Tamil diaspora organisations including GTF and individuals including myself, as terrorists. Now, from New York, he has declared that he wants to engage with us. We wonder why the sudden change of mind.

In any event, wanting to engage is certainly a progressive move and we welcome it. As for the domestic mechanisms, in transitional justice, there are judicial and non-judicial processes and mechanisms. We will be very happy to engage and discuss about the latter but as for the former, for judicial mechanisms, in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution 30/1 which describes what exactly needs to happen. If the President so wishes, he can engage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the relevant UN bodies and special mandate holders (Special Rapporteurs) and they will be very willing to progress these as described in the already adopted resolutions.

The Island: During the previous administration GTF had talks with Prez Maithripala Sirisena and in fact met him in London. Do you think a similar dialogue can take place now?

GTF: GTF met President Maithripala Sirisena twice in London (2015/2018) and once in Berlin (2016). We are ready to talk to anybody if grievances of our people, in fact, grievances of all peoples of Sri Lanka can be resolved. The first impediment that the President will have is that he will have to somehow justify his actions or the seeming u-turn to his constituency.

The GTF didn’t stop its engagement with the people of Sri Lanka just because of the ill-advised action of this administration. Even recently, we facilitated multi-million US dollars’ worth of medical equipment to assist in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, not just in the north and east of the country but the entire Sri Lanka.

Just for the record, we recently did a calculation of the potential loss of foreign currency income for Sri Lanka due to the proscription of organisations and persons being over US $300m per annum. This is in addition to the professional help and assistance that many organisations and people used to render.

The Island: What are the other Tamil Diaspora groups working with the GTF?

GTF: We have members and associates in Norway, Australia, US, UK, Canada, South Africa and many in Sri Lanka from all communities

The Island: Will GTF take up this issue with TNA?

GTF: We work and will work very closely with the TNA, as democratically elected by our people in Sri Lanka, not just on this but on a multitude of matters concerning our people.



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New species of copepod discovered in Indian Ocean

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A team of researchers has discovered a new copepod species, a planktonic crustacean, from the coast of Great Nicobar, which is part of the Andaman-Nicobar archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, said a news report published by The Hindu yesterday.The report filed from Kerala said: The copepod has been named ‘Tortanus dhritiae’ in honour of Dr. Dhriti Banerjee, the first woman director of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).

The team led by Sanu V. Francis, assistant professor, department of zoology, Mary Matha Arts and Science College, Mananthavady, and Jasmine Purushothaman, head of protozoology section, ZSI, discovered the new species. Prof. Bijoy Nandan, Dean, School of Marine Sciences, Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat), was also a member of the team.

“Among marine zooplankton, copepods are the most dominant group in marine subtropical and tropical waters and exhibit great diversity in their morphology and habitats. They form a crucial link between primary producers and higher trophic levels in the food web. Any change in copepod populations may disrupt the pelagic food web of the entire marine ecosystem. Therefore, the study of copepods is of great importance,” said Dr. Sanu.

Tortanus dhritiae, which belongs to the genus Tortanus and subgenus Atortus, is mainly found on coral islands in the Pacific Ocean. Among these, only seven species have been found in the Indian Ocean so far, he added.

“Tortanus copepods are distributed mainly in the coral reef ecosystems, so they can only be found and collected using advanced methods such as scuba diving. In addition, identifying these microscopic organisms requires expertise, but only a few experts are available in the country. That may be a reason why very few species are found in the Indian Ocean” Dr. Jasmine said.

Studies on copepods in the Indian Ocean have not been conducted extensively. As part of expeditions in the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and Lakshadweep communities, Dr. Sanu and Prof. Nandan have discovered around 70 copepods and their DNA barcodes.

“Climate change and habitat disruptions are challenging for the survival of the coral reef ecosystem. Hence, studies regarding the marine taxa should be indispensable” Dr. Jasmine said.The discovery has been published in the recent edition of the international taxonomy journal Nauplius.

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Process of securing X-Press Pearl fire damage expedited

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The Minister of Justice has instructed officials to expedite measures to take legal action and secure damages for the devastation caused by the MV -X Press Pearl fire. More than a year has passed since the vessel carrying a hazardous chemical cargo caught fire on 20 May 2021 while at anchorage 9.5 nm off the Colombo Port. The fire and ensuing chemical leak caused serious damage to Sri Lanka’s marine environment. It has been called the ‘single worst incident of plastic marine pollution in the world.’

Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe gave these instructions to the officials at a meeting held in the Ministry of Justice this week to discuss the legal measures taken to date, how compensation has been provided and how the relevant institutions will proceed in this regard. The special discussion was also attended by Attorney General Sanjay Rajarathnam, PC and relevant Government officials.

Rajarathnam presented legal action taken to date while Marine Environment Protection Authority Chairperson Dharshani Lahandapura explained the matters included in the report prepared regarding the damage to the environment, the cleaning of the seashore and the removal of the waste material.

The Minister of Justice gave instructions to the officials to take the necessary steps without delay regarding the legal actions and obtaining the compensation. Wijeyadasa pointed out that the incident attracted the attention of the general public as well as various parties, and reminded the officials that these groups are keeping watch on the Government and its actions in this regard.

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Opposition to head parliamentary watchdog committees

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By Saman Indrajith

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament, on Friday, that top posts of three parliamentary watchdog committees, the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), Committee on Public Accounts (COPA), and Committee on Public Finance (COPF), would go to the Opposition. He said so in response to a question raised by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella. Parliamentary committees are being reconstituted following the opening of the third session of the ninth Parliament.

Kiriella said that party leaders, at a meeting held three weeks back, had decided that the heads of the COPE, the COPA and the COPF should be Opposition MPs, and demanded to know from the Speaker when that would be done.The Speaker said that decision would be implemented.

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