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India commits to strengthen defence cooperation with Lanka

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High level Lankan delegation participates in DefExpo2022

A three-member official delegation from Sri Lanka, led by State Minister of Defence Premitha Bandara Tennakoon and comprising Army and Navy officers, is currently on a visit to India for attending India’s premier biennial global defence exhibition DefExpo2022, Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a release.It said: The exhibition was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Oct 19 at Gandhinagar, Gujarat. This is the second occasion in the past year during which a Minister from Sri Lanka is participating at an event inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi. It may be recalled that Ministers from Sri Lanka were a part of the inaugural international flight to Kushinagar airport in October 2021.

Speaking at DefExpo2022, State Minister Premitha Bandara Tennakoon hailed the partnership between India and Sri Lanka in the defence sphere.  He highlighted the importance of defence industrial base in augmenting Security policy and noted that DefExpo 2022 provided a great avenue for a deeper understanding of the nature of transformation in modern warfare across five dimensions.

DefExpo2022 is the biggest-defence exhibition, which showcases the growing prowess of India’s defence industry to achieve the vision of ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ as well as self-reliance in the defence domain. Live demonstrations showcasing the equipment and skill sets of the Armed Forces, Defence Public Sector Units and industry were also organized.

The Sri Lankan dignitary met Minister of State for Defence and Tourism of India Shri Ajay Bhatt on Oct 17 along the sidelines of DefExpo2022.  During the meeting, India’s readiness to continue to support Sri Lanka in the defence sphere was reiterated. The Sri Lankan delegation also had cordial interactions with Defence Minister, Defence Secretary, Chief of Defence Staff and all three Service Chiefs of India during the visit.

Bilateral engagement in defence is multi-dimensional in nature. High level exchanges continued both ways despite the challenges posed by COVID-19. SLINEX (Naval Exercise) and exercise MITRA SHAKTI (Army Exercise) are held every year alternatively in India and Sri Lanka. Both Armed Forces collaborate closely in dealing with common security challenges such as drug and human trafficking.   The Colombo Security Conclave has emerged as a key security platform in recent times to address such issues at a regional level. The first ever Dornier maritime reconnaissance aircraft from India to enhance the maritime surveillance capabilities of Sri Lanka was inducted into Sri Lanka Air Force Fleet on Aug 15 in the presence of President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Experience sharing and capacity building has been a key pillar of India-Sri Lanka defence cooperation, which is marked by great camaraderie and mutual benefit in enhancing our shared security. Indian military establishments including NDC have been the preferred choice of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces for decades and have produced leaders of Sri Lankan Armed forces. Annually, 1500-1700 slots are allocated to Sri Lankan trainees which amounts to around INR 500-550 million (more than USD 6 million). Similarly, Indian Armed Forces officers are also hosted by the friendly Armed Forces of Sri Lanka, including for specialized training modules in various fields such as counter insurgency.

Both sides cooperate also on humanitarian aspects such as averting large scale environmental damages,  expeditious supply of Liquid Medical Oxygen and other assistance materials, repatriation of around 700 Indian nationals back to their motherland with the assistance of Sri Lanka Armed Forces during COVID-19 etc.

The futuristic partnership between the two neighbours underscores India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy as well as Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) doctrine. India will continue to strengthen its multi-dimensional cooperation with Sri Lanka for mutual benefit and also for enhancing regional peace, security and stability.



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NHSL narcotics mafia: DG points finger at SLFP union, blames govt. for inaction

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Deputy Director of the National Hospital, Dr. Rukshan Bellana, who had to be rescued by the police recently as an unruly minor staff laid siege to his office and threatened to cause him bodily harm, yesterday (03) alleged that he was under threat subsequent to the exposure of what he called a narcotics mafia operating in government Hospitals.

In a brief interview with The Island the beleaguered President of the Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) found fault with the government for its lethargic response to threats emanating from a trade union affiliated to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

Responding to queries, Dr. Bellana alleged that a section of the minor staff was trying to force him out of the National Hospital at the behest of trade union leader Roy de Mel. “Contrary to reports and claims, I’m still here,” Dr. Bellana said, warning the government of dire consequences unless action was taken to discipline National Hospital staff.

Dr. Bellana emphasized that the SLFP trade union, under any circumstances, couldn’t be allowed to dictate terms to the health administration. The outspoken official said that the situation was so bad the National Hospital seemed to be in the hands of ruffians in the garb of trade unionists.

The Island raised Dr. Bellana’s accusations with the SLFP trade union leader De Mel who strongly defended their response to what he described as a wholly unnecessary issue caused by the Deputy Director.

There could be some drug addicts as well as drug pushers among the minor staff of the National Hospital, De Mel said, while referring to the recent reportage of the arrest of a minor female employee carrying heroin with a street value of Rs. 250,000 by the Katunayake police. However, Dr. Bellana for some reason only known to him had repeatedly slandered the entire minor staff, de Mel claimed, challenging the Deputy Director to prove his accusations.

Both Dr. Bellana and De Mel accused the Health Ministry of failing to address the issues at hand. Dr. Bellana said that for want of clear instructions from the Health Ministry, the SLFP union was trying to terrorize him. The official demanded that the ministry initiate a no holds barred investigation into the conduct of the SLFP union.

De Mel said that the Health Ministry owed an explanation as to how Dr. Bellana repeatedly exploited mainstream and social media to propagate his accusations whereas other doctors faced disciplinary measures. Reference was made to cases involving doctors at Kataragama and Karapitiya hospitals.

The trade union leader said that it wouldn’t be fair to declare the entire minor staff of the National Hospital drug addicts on the basis of a few cases or unsubstantiated allegations. De Mel pointed out that there had been cases of security forces and police personnel, including an SSP being arrested with narcotics. But such arrests didn’t justify calling the services and police drug addicts, de Mel said, urging the Health Ministry and law enforcement authorities to investigate Dr. Bellana’s accusations.

“We are ready to face investigations, at any level,” De Mel said, claiming that actually he took up the alleged drug issue among minor staff before Dr. Bellana went public with it. De Mel claimed that he appealed not only to minor staff at the National Hospital but other health sector institutions as well.

Dr. Bellana said that de Mel commanded about 200 minor employees whereas the total strength of National Hospital minor staff was approximately 3,200. The total staff consisted of 11,500 including 1,500 doctors and 3,000 nurses.

Referring to a recent appeal made by Public Security Minister Tiran Alles to police officers not to accept hampers from drug dealers, Dr. Bellana said that he expected law enforcement authorities to restore normalcy at the National Hospital. The police seemed to be hesitant to rein in unruly minor staff against the backdrop of a weary political response, Dr. Bellana said, adding that he briefed Minister Alles of the developing situation.

Dr. Bellana said that workers shouldn’t be allowed to threaten disruption of services. Alleging that some minor staff went to the extent of disrupting surgeries, Dr. Bellana said that the Health Ministry couldn’t turn a blind eye to the developing situation.De Mel claimed Dr. Bellana was practicing what he knows best. “He is causing chaos as he did under previous administrations.”

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Seven million Lankans in need of humanitarian assistance:UNICEF

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UNICEF has said seven million people in Sri Lanka are in need of humanitarian assistance due to the economic crisis.In its Sri Lanka Humanitarian Situation Report, issued on 02 February, the UN agency said essential services for children such as health, nutrition, and education have been severely impacted by shortages of medicine, food insecurity, lack of fuel and long power cuts.

In 2022, UNICEF reached over 1.3 million people, including 750,000 children with humanitarian assistance through humanitarian interventions.Over 800,000 people in urban areas have access to safe drinking water, 285,403 children in rural and estate areas were provided with educational materials, and 205,000 adolescents benefited from mental health and psychosocial support services in communities and in schools through UNICEF initiatives, the report said.

UNICEF also piloted a humanitarian cash transfers program which reached 3,010 mothers with young children for three months in the Colombo municipal area in 2022.

This is to be further scaled up to reach 110,000 mothers and caregivers in 2023, the report said.It said that in 2022, UNICEF appealed for 25 million U.S. dollars to provide life-saving humanitarian services to nearly 2.8 million Sri Lankans, including 1.7 million children affected by the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

UNICEF received USD 34 million, however there is uneven distribution of funding received, it said.

UNICEF said: “Some sectors (Education, WASH and Child Protection) remain significantly underfunded, while others (Nutrition and Social Protection) have received almost triple the asked amount. This situation highlights the need for fresh funding into 2023 particularly for the underfunded sectors. In addition, the generous contribution to the cash-based programming was only made available in the fall.

UNICEF Sri Lanka Country Office launched its Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) on 10 June 2022 aligned with the UN inter-agency Humanitarian Needs and Priorities (HNP) appeal for Sri Lanka. The HAC has been funded thanks to the generous contributions of bilateral, public, and private donors. UNICEF expresses its sincere gratitude to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, USAID, the Central Emergency Response Fund, UNICEF USA, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (UK) and Global Thematic Humanitarian Funds and many others for their generous contributions, without which UNICEF could not meet the most pressing needs of woman, children, and most vulnerable populations affected by the worst economic crisis the country has experienced since independence. While the HNP expired in December 2022, the need for continued funding to sustain prevailing humanitarian needs post-HNP is critical.”

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Archbishop Emeritus Oswald Gomis passes away

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Archbishop Emeritus Oswald Gomis passed away yesterday, while being treated at a private hospital. He was 90. He received his primary education at St. Bendict’s College, Kotahena, and at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. He was ordained in 1958 and was appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo, in 1968. He was appointed as the Bishop of Anuradhapura and as Archbishop of Colombo in 2002.

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