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India-Nepal ties are back on track

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Foreign Secretary to visit Kathmandu on Nov 26

BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, November 10:

Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla will visit Nepal this month-end for the delayed formal dialogue between the two countries, according to informed sources.

Analysts see this as a sign that New Delhi is willing to go an extra mile to improve bilateral ties that had nosedived earlier this year.

The decision to send the foreign secretary comes days after Indian Army Chief General M.M Naravane’s visit to Kathmandu, during which he was conferred the honorary rank of general of Nepali Army.

When Gen Naravane met Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, the latter had underscored that the two countries could resolve all problems between them through dialogue since India and Nepal have a long-standing special relationship.

Oli had faced resistance within his cabinet to Gen Naravane’s visit but had dealt with it, by taking over the defence portfolio from deputy prime minister Ishwar Pokhrel.

Gen Naravane’s visit was crucial, because he was the first one within the Indian government to react to protests by Nepal’s government over a border road India built in Uttarakhand. In May, he had said it was very possible that Nepal had raised the issue at someone else’s behest. The remark was interpreted to imply that Beijing could have prodded Nepal to create a new boundary dispute with India.

People familiar with the discussions said Prime Minister Oli did make a pointed reference to the fallout of the row over Nepal’s political map, describing it as a “misunderstanding”. At the same time, he did underline that Nepal takes its sovereignty very seriously, a remark that is being seen in New Delhi to explain his decision to issue a fresh political map.

During his two-day visit on November 26 and 27, Shringla hold meetings with his counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyal (who took charge just last month) and Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali. He will call on President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Oli.

Shringla’s conversations in Nepal are also expected to lead both sides to finalise the schedule for the meeting of the Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee.

“This is not a single-agenda visit,” a senior diplomat said. The visit could see India committing to help Nepal with coronavirus vaccines once its production starts. The two sides will also discuss the revival of the Pancheshwar multi-purpose project on river Mahakali as well as other hydro-electric projects.

India had been holding off on Harsh Shringla’s visit for most of this year to convey New Delhi’s displeasure over the communist government’s move to issue a new political map that included the Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani areas from India’s Uttarakhand state. New Delhi had rejected the map, brushing away what it had said was Nepal’s effort at a cartographic expansion.

Nepal had been working at mollifying New Delhi for some time, and withdrew school textbooks that contained the new political map. Last month, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) Chief Samant Kumar Goel had done the groundwork for restoring ties during his visit to the Himalayan nation.

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Sajith blames ‘Viyathmaga doc’

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Cause of Mahara Prison riot:

By Saman Indrajith

The recent Mahara Prison riot erupted as 120 inmates afflicted with COVID-19 had been taken there from the Welikada prison at the behest of a Director in charge of prisoners’ health, who was a Viyathmaga member, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday.

“Many explanations have been given by ministers about the riot at Mahara Prison. The number of deaths is not yet known and around 120 are wounded. One minister said that there was an invisible hand behind the clashes. Another said the motive was to bring the government into disrepute internationally. A theory was concocted that prisoners had taken some narcotic tablets called Reverse and they and fought because they wanted to see blood. But the truth is otherwise. The real cause is that 120 inmates infected with coronavirus were transferred to Mahara from the Welikada prison at the behest of a director in charge of prisoners’ health. That director is a member of the Viyathmaga. Those who were transferred to Mahara prison caused a cluster of 183 persons. As the infection spread fast there was unrest and tension. That was the reason for Mahara riots.”

He said that ministers had their own theories, but one day the truth would surface. “I hope that the ministerial committee appointed to probe the riots will conduct an impartial investigation and they will reveal the truth.”

“Prisoners have rights. I do not wish that this country would permit the perpetuation of the killing culture and state terrorism. The government members should keep in mind that there is a concept called rule of law and we all are expected to uphold it. So, we should dump those theories of Reverse tablets and strive to find the truth.”

Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera: The health officer in charge of Mahara Prison is not a member of Viyathmaga.

Opposition Leader Premadasa: I did not say so. What I said was that 120 inmates were transferred from Welikada prison to the Mahara prison violating COVID-19 protocols. That order to transfer those had been given by a doctor who is a member of Viyathmaga. I do not mention his name. You can easily find it.

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said that the Opposition leader talked of lofty ideals of prisoners’ welfare but the yahapalana government had failed to construct at least a single prison to ease the congestion in the prisons. “When I was incarcerated by your government, I was in a cell with 51 other inmates. There was no place to sleep. In the Kegalle prison, they put 225 in a hall enough for 50 inmates. The former government pre-occupied with the task of constructing new courts to imprison its political enemies but did not build a single prison for the benefit of inmates.”

Opposition Leader Premadasa: We did not want to build prisons, we built schools. Mahatma Gandhi has once said that when you open a single school, thousand prisons could be closed. We followed that.

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‘It will take four years to ensure quality of drinking water from small projects’

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By Saman Indrajith

The safety of drinking water from small scale community drinking water projects could guaranteed only after the implementation of a project to check the quality of water and that would take four years, Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara told Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said so, when Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana pointed out that although the safety of drinking water from the National Water Supply and Drainage Board was guaranteed the same could not be said of water from small scale projects.

“There are many harmful elements in water such as lead, cadmium and mercury. We know that Water Board supplied water is purified, but water from small scale project could be contaminated with them. It is said that mercury in a CFL bulb has the potential to pollute around 6,000 litres of ground water and causing kidney diseases. This is a dangerous situation. One trillion rupees have been allocated for the Water Supply ministry. Apart from the COVID-19 threat, the biggest threat to the lives of people in this country is from non-communicable diseases. Can the ministry introduce a mechanism to provide each district with at least a single testing unit to ensure the safety of drinking water supplied by the small scale community drinking water projects.”

Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara said that safety of water from the Water Board was guaranteed owing to sophisticated purification methods employed by treatment plants. He said that it would take at least four years to provide testing units to ensure drinking water from the small scale community drinking water projects countrywide too is safe from harmful elements.

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Teachers’ Union boss Stalin accuses govt of attempting Akila’s failed stunt

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was an attempt to create a new post, Director General – Sports, at the Ministry of Education and to appoint a political henchman, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) General Secretary, Joseph Stalin told The Island yesterday.

“According to the Education Administrative Service minute, any appointment has to be made through a competitive exam. However, this post has been created through a Cabinet paper and an SLPP henchman is to be appointed to it.”

The CTU General Secretary said that during the yahapalanaya administration, then Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam had tried to appoint a UNP henchman to the post of Director – Sports at the Ministry. Kariyawasam had been compelled to back off due to the stiff opposition of the education sector unions, Stalin said.

“The court has also ruled that people should be appointed in keeping with the Education Administrative Service Minute. The President came into power promising to uphold the rule of law, but this government, too, is attempting to undermine the education system by appointing unqualified people to high posts.”

The post of Director General – Sports would have the same perks of an Assistant Secretary and the person to be appointed was a person representing a government affiliated union, Stalin said.

“95% of unions of the education sector will oppose if the government creates this post for the benefit of a henchman. We will resort to trade union and legal action.”

Minister of Education, Prof. G. L. Peiris was not immediately available for comment.

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