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Japan donates large shipment of canned fish to Lanka

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Kitamura Toshihiro, Charge d’Affaires ad interim of Japan to Sri Lanka and Andrea Berardo, WFP Deputy Country Director of Sri Lanka, sign the Exchange of Notes for the donation of canned fish, in the presence of N.H.M. Chitrananda, Secretary of the Ministry of Education, L.M.W. Darmasena, Additional Secretary, School Activities of the Ministry of Education and Renuka Peiris, Director, Health and Nutrition of the Ministry of Education. 

The Government of Japan has donated a large shipment of canned fish, weighing 388 MT and worth JPY 300 million (LKR 519 million), to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Sri Lanka, to meet the protein needs of school children covered by the national school meal programme.

The donation was formalised at a ceremony held at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Colombo, at which the Exchange of Notes were signed by Kitamura Toshihiro, Charge d’Affaires ad interim of Japan to Sri Lanka and Andrea Berardo, WFP Deputy Country Director of Sri Lanka. The event was presided over by N.H.M. Chitrananda, Secretary of the Ministry of Education, L.M.W. Darmasena, Additional Secretary, School Activities of the Ministry of Education and Renuka Peiris, Director, Health and Nutrition of the Ministry of Education.

“The Governments of Sri Lanka and Japan have had a strong bond with a mutually supportive relationship between the people of our countries for many years,” says Kitamura Toshihiro, Charge d’Affaires ad interim of Japan to Sri Lanka.

“The Government of Sri Lanka and its people demonstrated their solidarity to Japan in the immediate aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011, through a cash donation of US$ 1 million and 3 million tea bags. The canned fish provided by Japan is sourced from the areas supported by Sri Lanka, as an extension of the continuous supply provided by Japan, reflecting our appreciation of our Sri Lankan friends for lending a hand to Japan in times of need. We will continue to support Sri Lanka, in the spirit of unity and solidarity in our joint battle against the effects of Covid-19”.

Through this agreement, the Government of Japan commits to making available to the Government of Sri Lanka – through WFP – 388 MT of canned fish, enough for the preparation of 19 million nutritious meals, rich in protein, for 270,000 school children. This latest contribution ensures that canned fish will continue to be offered to school children, for the period 2021 – 2022, in addition to the previous consignment of canned fish supplied by the Government of Japan which will last up to mid next year.

“Nutritious meals are the foundation to good health, especially for children,” says Andrea Berardo, WFP Deputy Country Director in Sri Lanka. “This generous contribution from Japan comes at a crucial time when so many Sri Lankan families are hard hit by COVID-19 with reduced incomes and job loss. Fish is a great source of protein and by including it in school meals, we can be certain that children are getting the right nutrients they need to grow and develop.”

Lack of adequate protein intake could result in several health issues amongst children, including slow growth, poor concentration and decreased immunity. In Sri Lanka, nutrition surveys have indicated that 40% of primary-level school children were too thin before Covid-19. Consumption of protein-rich foods such as fish is vital to help children meet their dietary requirements.

“The Government of Sri Lanka has been conducting the National School Meal Programme for several decades,” said the Secretary of the Ministry of Education, N.H.M. Chitrananda. “The programme was developed with the objective of ensuring that children are healthy and can optimally benefit from educational opportunities provided to them. We are thankful to the Government of Japan and WFP for providing canned fish to supplement the school meal programme and for supporting us in enhancing the nutritional status of school children.”

The National School Meal Programme which WFP has supported since 2003 was disrupted by Covid-19-induced school closures in March 2020. The Government of Japan, through WFP, has been supporting the programme since 2011, with approximately 1,500 MT of canned fish worth more than JPY 1 billion, to supplement school meals twice a week, adding diversity, nutrition and taste. WFP, together with the Government of Japan, will continue to support the Government of Sri Lanka in its efforts to scale up and enhance the National School Meal Programme.

 



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Aircraftsman sets swimming record with flying colours

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Leading Aircraftman Roshan Abeysundara of the Air Force yesterday set a new Asian record by swimming from Talaimannar to Dhanushkody in Rameshwaram. During his preparation for the event, Abeysundara renewed the national open water swimming record twice. He has also created a new record by swimming a 25 km distance from Matara to Koggala on 03 Jan, clocking 10 hours and 37 minutes, and went on to surpass the record by swimming a distance of 49Km from Matara to Hikkaduwa and back to Unawatuna on Feb 27 in 23 hours and 10 minutes.

He started swimming from Talaimannar at 2 am on Saturday and reached Dhanushkody and returned to Talaimannar around 7 am yesterday by completing 59.3 km in 28 hours 19 minutes and 43 seconds, breaking a 50-year-old Asian record set in 1971 by V.S. Kumar Anandan’s, who took 51 hours to swim across the Palk Strait. Abeysundara also set a new Lankan record by swimming from Talaimannar to Dhanushkody in 19 hours and 31 minutes.

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JVP women raise fears about cost and safety of food for New Year

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By Saman Indrajith

The JVP women’s wing led by Women for Rights says that exorbitant prices of food and fears over their safety will make the forthcoming Sinhala and Tamil New Year a miserable affair.

“The prices of essential food items are at unprecedented highs. In addition, there are fears in the minds of the people about the quality and safety of food items being sold in the market. There were no such fears and doubts whether the food items in the market were fit for human consumption in the past as it is now,” Secretary of the WFR Samanmalee Gunasinghe said addressing a press conference held at the party headquarters in Pelawatte Friday.

Gunasinghe said that all those issues with regard to food prices and their standards and safety were about food security of the country. “Food security is a prerequisite for national security which this government promised to achieve. Food security no longer exists in this country and, worse, people are worrying about food safety.”

She said that social media was full of posts expressing people’s concerns about food safety.

“They are afraid because the government is putting their lives in danger not only by permitting coconut oil imports with high levels of aflatoxin but also allowing the adulteration of other food items. Some months ago, they brought down container loads of canned fish past shelf life and released them to the market. There are fears that milk, chilli powder and packaged food items contain various toxins. Scientists make statements to the effect that the fertilizers being used for paddy cultivation contain huge amounts of arsenic.”

President of the WFR Saroja Savithri Paulraj said that children of the country had not been able to celebrate the last Sinhala and Tamil New Year because of the COVID pandemic and now the people were gripped by fear of toxic food and their prices. Price of kilo of green grams is now Rs 850-1000, cowpea Rs 1,200, Undu (urid) Rs 1,700, chicken Rs 800, Chillies nearly Rs 1,000.

“This government has no answers for the problems created by the Easter Sunday terror attacks even after two years. The forests are being cleared and no responsible action is taken to prevent them. Women who become victims of micro-credit schemes are staging protests. Farmers staging protests in various places in the country. It is with those problems that people this time are compelled to mark the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.”

Exco member of WFR Prabhashini Wickramasinghe also addressed the media.

 

 

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Govt. claims SLPP-SLFP relations remain strong

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… admits Easter Sunday carnage a contentious issue

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (11) strongly denied reports that a section of the ruling party coalition, led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), was on a collision course with it. Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage insisted that in spite of some minor disagreements among coalition members there was absolutely no threat to the government.

Participating in a newly launched live SLBC programme, the Kandy District MP accused the bankrupt Opposition, that was struggling both in and outside Parliament of propagating lies.

Acknowledging that a section of SLPP lawmakers had met at the SLFP Office at Darley Road, under former President Maithripala Sirisena’s chairmanship last Thursday (8), Minister Aluthgamage said that members of a coalition administration could hold diverse positions on a particular issue.

The Minister was responding to interviewers, Himananda Rajapaksa and Inusha Weebedde on ‘Kannadiya’ produced by Sudarmika Wijeratne. Rupavahini and The Island were represented by Vijaya Dissanayake and Shamindra Ferdinando, respectively.

Referring to what he called a contradictory position taken by National Freedom Front (NFF) leader and Minister Wimal Weerawansa in respect of some contentious issues, Minister Aluthgamage said that the stand taken by the former JVPer on the East Container Terminal (ECT) proved right. Minister Aluthgamage appreciated the cancellation of the proposed agreement on the ECT following protests by a section of the government. Earlier the government announced plans to transfer ECT’s controlling shares to India’s Adani Group.

The minister said that the consensus on the ECT should be compared with the previous administration handing over the controlling shares of the strategic Hambantota port to China.

Minister Aluthgamage also dismissed claims that the SLFP led group was planning to conduct a separate May Day rally. The minister insisted the coalition was still strong regardless of issues – a situation experienced by coalition administrations in the past. Aluthgamage asserted that divergent views among coalition members were helpful in facilitating a better stand on a particular issue.

The programme was told difficulties experienced by the government should be examined against the backdrop of former President Maithripala, one of those named by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday carnage now being a member of the SLPP led government.  The SLMC and the ACMC flayed over the Easter Sunday massacre switched their allegiance from UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to Sajith Premadasa, the leader of the breakaway UNP faction recognized as the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB).

It was also told that the break-up of the coalition was unlikely though in political turmoil.

Top SLFP spokesman and Minister Mahinda Amaraweera confirmed the stand taken by his ministerial colleague, Aluthgamage. Declaring the role played by the SLFP in helping wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa win the 2019 presidential election, Minister Amaraweera reiterated their commitment to the government.

The SLFP group in the government consisted of 14 lawmakers. The government parliamentary group comprised 145 members.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, Aviation Minister Prasanna Ranatunga and Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (ret.) Sarath Weerasekera explained how President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government handled the Easter Sunday issue.

Attorney-at-Law Harigupta Rohanadeera, Presidential Secretariat Director General – Legal Affairs said that the government’s response was three-fold. “We provided relief, punishment to those responsible and remedial measures to prevent similar attacks,” Rohanadeera said.

Dismissing accusations as regards the ongoing investigations/process, Rohanadeera pointed out that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa having consulted the Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith retained the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) appointed by the then President Maithripala Sirisena.  The lawyer underscored the government determination to implement the CoI report along with the recommendations of the Sectoral Defence Oversight Committee.

The Presidential aide explained the need to address issues without being diverted by political factors. The official rejected assertions that the CoI was meant to delay justice to those killed and their families.

The interviewers raised issue over SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera reiterating concerns that the person recently named as the mastermind wasn’t so and there were other powerful interested parties bent on destabilizing the country.  The programme was reminded of former UNP lawmaker and one-time Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, warning of Western destabilization projects as long as the Hambantota port remained in Chinese hands.

The previous UNP led government finalized the deal on Hambantota port in 2017.

The programme was told the high-profile Western intervention at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) largely influenced by the ongoing battle for supremacy between the US and China. However, almost all political parties represented in parliament had been in one way or another implicated in the Easter Sunday violence.

Near simultaneous Easter suicide attacks claimed the lives of 270. Over 500 received injuries.

The mystery of India infiltrating the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ), too, was raised though there was consensus Sri Lanka should be grateful for intelligence provided by India in the run-up to Easter blasts. The interview was asked of the need to be wary of foreign intelligence services operating in Colombo.

 

PIC SAVED AS MAHINDANANDA

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