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Japan supports project to improve facilities of Special Needs Children’s Centre in Buttala 

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Japanese Ambassador SUGIYAMA Akira and President of the Surangani Voluntary Services Wickramage Nalin Vipulendra.

The Government of Japan provided a grant of US$ 83,692 (approx. Rs. 15 million) for “The Project for Improving Facilities of Centre for Disabled Children in Buttala, Moneragala” through the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP). The grant contract was signed on 30th November 2020 between Japanese Ambassador SUGIYAMA Akira and President of the Surangani Voluntary Services Wickramage Nalin Vipulendra at the former’s residence in Colombo.

Given that 2 percent of children aged between 5 and 14 years have some form of disability and are excluded from mainstream education with participation declining with age, the Government of Japan remains steadfast to help the country achieve inclusive education through enhancements to ancillary services so that no one is left behind.  

The Little Tree Special Needs Children’s Centre in Buttala is home to 35 differently abled children and youth aged between 4 and 21 years and has provided educational opportunities and vocational training since its inception in 2010. It is also the only institution to offer a dedicated service for the entire Monaragala district. Surangani Voluntary Services started this center in response to requests from parents in Buttala where there had been no educational service for children with special needs back then.

This project aims not only to enhance educational facilities and uplift the quality of the vocational training environment but also to include the provision for a collective organic farm, sanitary facilities, a sick room, and a school van to increase attendance of students with special needs. 

Upon receiving the grant, Mr. Vipulendra in his remarks stated; 

“The Little Tree Special Needs Children’s Centre since its launch has grown by leaps and bounds especially with the support of the Japanese people. The Government of Sri Lanka is focusing on supporting persons with special needs and we at the centre continue to work with the objective of improving the quality of services provided especially, since both parents and children rely on us wholeheartedly. As a consequence of this valued service, we have not only attracted the attention of the community which holds this centre in high esteem, but also observes a recent influx of student enrollment which has been recognized by government officials.  It was also an honour for the parents to have met with the Ambassador at the centre on his last visit in September to see the activities carried out in the snack processing factory and the resource centre which intends to generate education and employment opportunities for the children. We are undoubtedly grateful to the people of Japan for their continued support and pledge to provide high quality services towards this worthy cause.” 



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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