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“It’s a kind of magic”

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The Superhero of safe water sets her sights upon Poonakary

Shaan Corea is a woman with a mission. Like a human torpedo she wills her way to deliver on her one and only target: safe water for all who live in a desolate war-torn area in the North of Sri Lanka.

This is her story and it reads like the lyrics by rock superheroes Queen: “One dream, one soul, one prize, one goal, one golden glance of what should be.”

It’s a kind of magic. One woman. One mission. Shaan has single-handedly moved mountains of apathy and inequity to deliver the most basic of needs: water to the children and people of Poonakary, at the cost of a mere 9 US dollars per child.

Shaan is the founder of Re-Awakening Lanka/ Appé Lanka, which was started in 2015. Her goal is to empower the 25,500 people of Poonakary, a forgotten division of the Kilinochchi District in Northern Sri Lanka and epicentre of the 30-year conflict that ended in 2009. 

“The people in Ponnaveli had undrinkable water” says Shaan about the situation in the first of 19 Grama Niladhari Divisions of Poonakary to become water secure thanks to her tireless work. The 2,000 people depended on bowsers to bring water to the villages daily. This was not always possible, due to poor road infrastructure and weather conditions. There was also no drinking water available to the 6,420 students attending school in Poonakary.

Shaan believed that the government would sooner or later solve the water issue in Poonakary but she was adamant that the issue needed to be solved immediately. Thus, since 2017 she has undertaken the task of making it happen, starting with giving safe drinking water to the schools in Poonakary. In August 2019 Shaan finished installing Reverse Osmosis Water Purification systems in 21 of the 24 schools in Poonakary. In addition, one of the biggest schools in the Division is getting drinkable water next week.

“People in Sri Lanka were shocked when they realized that there were areas like Poonakary that did not have access to safe water. The whole secret of Appé Lanka’s success is that people realised that they could give more than just their money, that they could give their talents, their resources or their know-how so that nobody goes thirsty. Once people believed in the cause, they wanted to join in and solve the problem quickly. Children broke their piggy banks… musicians sang… artists painted… celebrity chefs cooked… to ensure that the children in Poonakary have safe water all the time”, says Shaan about the reception and success of her project. 

The project continued and was miraculously completed during the current pandemic. “During Covid, it was difficult for the team to go to Ponnaveli, but because we have trained the local people including a Field Officer from one of the villages, Seladurai Rajendran, they were able to manage and maintain the system on their own”, says Shaan about what allowed her project to continue during the pandemic.

“The moment we give them safe water, families are able to successfully cultivate their home gardens, making them self-reliant”, says Shaan about the positive effects that have come about due to their access to clean water.

Ponnaveli is a coastal town, thus the main source of protein is the fish they catch but they have to travel far to purchase the fruits and vegetables they need. The added vegetables from their home gardens will balance their diets and will no doubt make a difference to their health and nutrition.” Shaan also excitedly recounts how on a recent trip to Poonakary, young children invited her to have a meal with them with all the vegetables they had grown in their new home gardens.

“Ponnaveli is the first Grama Niladhari division in Poonakary to get safe water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and tending of home gardens. This is a case study, and since it is successful, we are going to be working in the Grama Niladhari divisions of Kiranchi and Mulankavil. The plan is to give them all safe drinking water,” Shaan says about her plans for the future.

“It is very nice-tasting water Madam”, and “Very good project, thank you Appé Lanka Water Madam”, the children of Poonakary tell Shaan as they hold her hand and share glasses of this beautiful water with her.

To paraphrase the well-known expression: “The Cape fits. Shaan wears it.”



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JVP accuses EC of conspiring to delay LG polls

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By Saman Indrajith

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, MP, has told Parliament that the Election Commission and its Chairman are collaborating with the government to postpone the local government elections.

Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023, on Friday, MP Dissanayake said that as local government bodies should be reconstituted before March 20 2023, the Election Commission had to publish a gazette calling nominations by late December or early January.

“The EC has the authority to do so. It has sought the Attorney General’s opinion on some matters. There is no need at all for it to seek the AG’s advice,” he said.

“This is a conspiracy. The Elections Commission can publish the gazette even tomorrow. It is clear that the Elections Commission is collaborating with the government,” he said.

Dissnayake said that Election Commissioner Nimal Punchihewa’s impartiality was in question. “We know where Punchihewa worked before and at what party office. We know the governments and persons he has worked with closely. He is not an independent person.”

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Diana wants bars open 24/7

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By Saman Indrajith

State Tourism Minister Diana Gamage says liquor outlets should be kept open longer if the country wants to boost tourism.Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023 on Friday, State Minister Gamage said: “We have to keep these places open 24/7. I have spoken about it many times. Liquor is the highest tax earner in the country. In this paradise, we are closing bars after 11pm. Foreigners in hotels can’t get any alcohol if they need, because all the places are closed.

We need to keep this country open 24 hours. Like Singapore and other countries, people must have entertainment.”

“I talk about the night life, and when I talked about that earlier many criticized it and saw it as a big sin. That is ones who are incapable of understanding it,” she said.

“What we call night life is actually a night economy. All the countries in the world have developed because of night economy. These countries get 70 percent of their income from the nigh economy. They only get 30 percent during the day time. We have to develop a night economy in this country. That will earn 70 percent of the income. Only that can develop this country.

“We can do that. And also our museum, that closes at 5 pm. In other countries, museums earn most during night. It must be opened 24/7.  This night economy is essential for a country’s economy. People must have places to spend their money.”

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SJB asks govt. to introduce political reforms fast

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has asked the government when it will introduce the political reforms demanded by the international community.

Speaking in Parliament on Saturday, Kiriella said that when the Opposition parties met the members of the Colombo-based diplomatic community during the Aragalaya protests, the latter had demanded that Sri Lanka implement political and economic reforms to receive foreign assistance to get out of the prevailing crisis. “That was six months ago. We have been asking the government repeatedly to inform this House whether it has implemented those reforms.

“The riginal plan was to establish an interim government for six months to restore the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. It was stated that an election would be held after six months. Now, what has happened? The politicians who are responsible for the crisis are still in power.

“Foreign Minister Al Sabry met USAID Administrator Samantha Power on Friday. Samantha Power called for the same political and economic reforms again. The international community is asking for the same.”

Leader of the House, Minister Susil Premjayantha said that political reforms were being implemented. “It is as part of the political reforms we are setting up a National Council, Sectoral Oversight Committees and three other committees. Counter terrorism act is in the pipeline. It will be taken up within couple of weeks. We passed several bills with your support. There were nine amendments to be introduced to the criminal law,” he said.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa: “The bills and amendments that have been passed are not enough as far as the international community and we are concerned. The biggest request is to allow the people of this country for a new mandate. Allow the people to express their will. Give them a chance to establish a new government or to maintain the same government now they have.”

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