A Victoria University of Wellington PhD student has been killed in Weliweriya, allegedly by her former husband, two days after arriving from New Zealand.
Apsara Wimalasiri died last Sunday in the town of Weliweriya during a short holiday to visit family and take part in the Galle Face protests.
The 33-year-old moved to Wellington in 2020, completing a masters by thesis, before moving on to become a PhD candidate at the university’s School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies on a full scholarship.
Her PhD supervisor and friend, Dr Corrine Seals, said Wimalasiri was “so loved by so many people” and was connected to many communities both in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, New Zeland media reports said.
“She was an activist and a scholar, who was always supporting everyone around her. She was a very central part of my school … but she was also connected to Samoan studies and psychology and had friends all across the university.
“She was constantly impressing people, both academically [and] also with her heart and who she was as a person, which is why this has impacted so, so, so many people.”
Wimalasiri “connected instantly and easily” with people as soon as she met them, making them laugh and smile, Seals said.
João Guilherme, Wimalasiri’s flatmate of two years, described her as the type of person that would be more excited about her friend’s achievements than her own.
“She was always supportive, always there for you.”
As an activist, Wimalasiri was “really involved in anything to do with Sri Lanka and supporting Sri Lanka”, Seals said.
She had previously been at the forefront of protests in Wellington about the civil unrest in Sri Lanka and had planned to participate in protests during her trip to her home country to visit family.
She had previously met Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and been “empowered and inspired” by her, Seals said.
Guilherme said Wimalasiri had felt proud to see Sri Lankans of all different ethnicities joining together to protest and wanted to be there.
She hadn’t told her former husband she was coming to Sri Lanka, as he had previously made threats against her family after their relationship had broken down, Guilherme said.
He felt as though Sri Lankan authorities hadn’t taken the threats seriously enough.
Weliweriya Police told the media that, a 37-year-old resident of Matara, had attempted to commit suicide after allegedly killing Wimalasiri and critically injuring her sister and friend.
He is now in hospital under police guard.
In her academic studies, Wimalasiri was passionate about empowering people with multilingual background, and had also studied at the University of Colombo Sri Lanka and The Open University of Sri Lanka.
Professor Sarah Leggott, who is Victoria University acting Pro Vice-Chancellor, Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, said the university community was grieving the loss of Wimalasiri.
“The thoughts of the whole university community are with Apsara’s family. The university is providing support to impacted staff and students. A commemorative event for Apsara is being planned by friends and colleagues at the university.”
A social media post on the page of The Open University of Sri Lanka’s Postgraduate Institute of English department (PGIE) said staff were saddened and shocked Wimalasiri’s death, describing her as one of the “brightest graduates”.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said MFAT and the New Zealand High Commission in Colombo were aware of the death of a Sri Lankan citizen in Sri Lanka, who had studied in New Zealand. They directed queries to Sri Lankan authorities.
Sri Lankan police have been approached for comment and a spokeswoman for New Zealand police said they had not yet been notified of the death.
Weerawansa’s wife sentenced to RI
Lawyers appearing for Shashi Weerawansa, MP Wimal Weerawansa’s wife, yesterday (27) appealed against a Colombo Magistrate’s Court decision to sentence their client to two years rigorous imprisonment.Colombo Chief Magistrate, Buddhika Sri Ragala found her guilty of submitting forged documents to obtain a diplomatic passport circa 2010. The Colombo Magistrate’s Court also imposed a fine of Rs. 100,000 on Mrs. Weerawansa. If the fine is not paid she will have to serve an extra six months.
Additional Magistrate Harshana Kekunawala announced that the appeal would be called for consideration on 30 May.The case against Mrs. Weerawansa was filed by the CID after a complaint was lodged on 23 January 2015 by Chaminda Perera, a resident of Battaramulla.
Unions predict end of energy sovereignty
By Rathindra Kuruwita
A government decision to allow all privately-owned bunker fuel operators to import and distribute diesel and fuel oil to various industries was a rollback of the nationalisation of the country’s petroleum industry and another severe blow to energy sovereignty of the country, trade union activist of the SJB Ananda Palitha said yesterday.Earlier, Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera Tweeted that ‘approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations provided in bulk’.Commenting on the decision, Palitha said that according to the existing law those companies only had the power to import, store and distribute fuel for ships. Those companies did not have the authority to distribute fuel inside the country, Palitha said.
“Only the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) can distribute fuel inside the country. There is a controversy about the licence given to the LIOC as well. If the government wants other companies to import fuel, it needs to change the laws. The Minister does not have the power to make these decisions. A few months ago the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration used to rush Bills that adversely affected the country through Parliament. Now, since they don’t have a majority in parliament, they are using the Cabinet to make decisions that are detrimental to the country’s interests.”
Palitha said that the controversial government move would further weaken the CPC, and that the ultimate aim of the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government was to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) purchase fuel from private distributors. With a weakened CPC and a CEB under the mercy of private companies, the Sri Lankan state would have little control over the country’s energy sector, he warned.
“The CEB already can’t pay the CPC, and therefore how can it pay private companies? It will have to sell its assets. This is another step in the road to fully privatise the energy sector. When this happens no government will be able to control inflation or strategically drive production through fuel and energy tariffs. The people will be at the mercy of businessmen and the government will only be a bystander,” he said.
Modi government moves to ‘solve’ Katchatheevu issue
The Narendra Modi government is mulling restoring the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island of 285 acres, sandwiched between India and Sri Lanka in the Palk Bay, with the BJP hoping the move could lift its political fortunes in the southern state.The government will push Sri Lanka to implement “in letter and spirit” the 1974 agreement reached between Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, then prime ministers of India and Sri Lanka, on the island.This will have to be done by withdrawing the “Executive Instructions” issued in 1976 without questioning Sri Lanka’s “sovereignty” over Katchatheevu, sources aware of the internal discussions in the BJP told the Indian newspaper, Deccan Herald.
Sources added that the discussions were “ongoing” at “various levels” including reaching out to Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka. The recent visit of TN BJP chief K Annamalai to Sri Lanka is also part of the outreach. Many feel the instructions issued in 1976 “superseded the provisions of the legally valid” pact between India and Sri Lanka, thus making Katchatheevu a subject of dispute in the Palk Bay.While the 1974 agreement gave away Katchatheevu, which was part of the territory ruled by the Rajah of Ramanathapuram, to Sri Lanka, the 1976 pact drew the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka in the Gulf of Mannar and Bay of Bengal.
“We cannot disturb the agreement signed in 1974. We are now finding ways and means to implement the agreement in letter and spirit. All we plan is to ask Sri Lanka to invoke Article 6 of the Katchatheevu pact. If Sri Lanka agrees, the issue can be sorted through Exchange of Letters between foreign secretaries of both countries,” a source in the know said.Another source said the time is “ripe” to push forward on the issue. “With fast-changing geopolitical situation in the region, we believe Sri Lanka will slowly come around and accept the rights of our fishermen,” the source said.
“The opinion within the party is that time is ripe to push this cause, with Sri Lanka beginning to realise that India can always be relied upon, given PM Ranil (Wickremesinghe) is pro-India.”
Articles 5 and 6 of the 1974 agreement categorically assert the right to access of the Indian fishermen and pilgrims to Katchatheevu and state that the “vessels of Sri Lanka and India will enjoy in each other’s waters such rights as they have traditionally enjoyed therein”.
However, fishermen from India were prohibited from fishing in the Sri Lankan territorial waters around Katchatheevu in 1976 following the signing of an agreement on the maritime boundary. The battle for fish in the Palk Bay has often ended in Indian fishermen being attacked by Sri Lankan Navy for “transgressing” into their waters.The BJP, which is yet to make major inroads in Tamil Nadu, feels a “solution” to the long-standing issue will give the party the much-needed momentum ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and provide a chance to get into the Tamil psyche. Political analysts feel that it might also allow the BJP to needle the DMK and the Congress by pointing out that it has restored the rights “surrendered by them,” to Tamil fishermen
Senior journalist and Lanka expert R Bhagwan Singh said: “If BJP succeeds in its efforts, it will certainly help the saffron party in the coming elections.”
But a source said the move will “take time”. “We don’t want to rush and create an impression we are forcing Sri Lanka. We will take it slow. We will take every stakeholder into confidence and reach an amicable settlement with Sri Lanka. All we want to do is restore traditional rights of our fishermen,” the source said.CM Stalin also raised the issue at an event on Thursday, telling Modi that this is the “right time” to retrieve Katchatheevu.
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