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Maldives to enhance cooperation with Lanka in boat building 

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Virtual meeting between the NBAM and the Representatives of the Sri Lanka Boat and Ship Building Industry in collaboration with the EDB.

A virtual meeting between the National Boating Association of Maldives (NBAM) and the Representatives of the Sri Lanka Boat and Ship Building Industry was hosted by the Foreign Ministry in collaboration with the Export Development Board (EDB).

An EDB release said that the meeting, held on Monday (11), aimed at enhancing mutual cooperation in the field of Ship and Boat Building industry between Sri Lanka and Maldives.

During the welcome remarks, Additional Secretary of the Foreign Ministry, P. M. Amza, noted this as a landmark event for enhancing collaboration between the two countries to share knowledge and resources which would pave the way for greater physical engagement to conquer the world together.

Additional Secretary Amza further noted that the Export Development Board has identified ship and boatbuilding as a priority area for Sri Lanka whilst emphasising on the strategic location of Sri Lanka. He continued that this first ever engagement would be mutually beneficial to both countries and a priority to further enhancing the economies and strengthen the existing bilateral ties and that it would be good for the sectors if an Agreement between the counterparts could soon be effective.

The Director General of Export Development Board of Sri Lanka (EDB) Chithranjali Dissanayake indicated that the initiative is an important step forward to energise the collaboration towards a more sustainable partnership in the industry and stressed that the focus of EDB is the Boat Show 2021 to be held from October 25-29 virtually and that Sri Lanka has taken steps to enter the nautical tourism as well and that collaboration in this field is certainly vital to meet the partners globally .She also called the Maldives boat Industry to register and participate at the boat show to have more interactions.

President of the National Boating Association of Maldives (NBAM) Ahmed Afrah presented on the boat building industry in connection to the tourism sector of Maldives ensuring economic and social development aspects.

Afrah further noted that the Marine Exhibitions, Maldives boating awards event and the Stay Safe Afloat as some of the important activities carried out by the association in addition to the magazine publications on environment awareness promotions.

Managing Director of Boat Building Technology Institute of Sri Lanka (BBTI) Gamini Herath underlined that the focus of BBTI is to promote Sri Lanka as a Boat Building Hub in the South Asia region. Further that some of the products include boat accessories, life jackets, boat and ship repairing including repairs of super luxury vessels and yachts, and that their services have expanded to markets in Africa, Europe and some Middle Eastern countries as well as to Indonesia and the Maldives.

During the discussions, the Maldivian side pointed out that around 10,000 to 20,000 movements in the Maldives get around the island nation and raised the concern of Sri Lanka having not much prepared to pitch in the Maldivian market. It was also proposed to have joint ventures in the industry to facilitate better investment and business engagements.

The Sri Lankan side noted the absence of the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement which results in the lack of approaching the sector due to tax burden among other obstacles and both sides agreed to work on drafting an Agreement on the industry for closer cooperation and taking the relations to newer heights. The meeting was arranged by the High Commission of Sri Lanka in Male. Senior Officials of the Foreign Ministry, Export Development Board and the representatives of Colombo Dock Yard and executives of the Sri Lanka boat and ship building industry and the executive members of the NBAM participated at the event.



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SL defenceless, warn experts

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New COVID variants

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Due to the lax testing at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), there is a strong possibility that any new variant of COVID-19 entering the country, College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President, Ravi Kumudesh told The Island yesterday commenting on the detection of a new coronavirus variant spreading in South Africa.

Even a travel ban would be useless unless the country enhances its testing and surveillance capacities, Kumudesh said.

Kumudesh said that PCR tests were not conducted on passengers on arrival and that it was likely that even those not fully vaccinated were entering the country. “Gene sequencing in respect of those infected with COVID inside the country was at a minimal level, and therefore, there is no way we can find out whether a new variant has entered the country until it is too late.

“There are two state-of-the-art labs in the BIA but no tests are done there. We are not ready, at all. Several nations are imposing travel bans on travellers from South Africa and the region. Perhaps, we should follow suit. However, the fact that we don’t test those coming in means that even a travel ban might be useless,” he said.

Kumudesh added that the number of PCR tests conducted had dropped to such a low level that reagents used in some labs for PCR testing are now nearing the expiry dates. The attitude of health officials at the airport is such that everyone operates on the basis that testing of passengers is not important.

Executive Director of the Institute for Health Policy (IHP), Dr. Ravi Rannan-Eliya yesterday said the detection of the new South African variant was potentially very bad news for all countries, and certainly for Sri Lanka.

“We still don’t have sufficient data on this, but I am very worried. It was only discovered a few days ago, but the scanty evidence strongly indicates that this new variant is driving a rapid increase in infections in S Africa. Only 100 cases have been confirmed officially, but reports indicate it may be 90% of new cases since Wed in Johannusburg,” he said.

Dr. Rannan-Eliya said that his best guess was that three out of four South Africans had been infected by COVID during the pandemic. Thus, a large number of them had acquired natural immunity. Moreover, 25% of others have been vaccinated.

“So this rapid spread despite a lot of immunity is very disturbing. This really points to this new variant—B1.1.529—being both more infectious and also significantly immune resistant. Something that also matches with its particular mutations,” he said.

Dr. Rannan-Eliya said he was not surprised at the emergence of the new variant because contrary to many experts who drink the kool-aid, there is no scientific basis to think SARS-CoV-2 had matured in its evolution. It might still have a lot of potential to evolve greater immune evasion and virulence, and that we should act on that basis.

“Second, because most of the world is following the misguided strategy of just accepting the virus (hey you – USA, UK, Sri Lanka…), the virus has plenty of chances to keep on mutating more because the truth is more of the virus is circulating than ever before. Third, despite a lot of nonsense about how T-cell immunity is going to protect us, there’s really no evidence that either infection or current vaccines and boosters will ever give us long-lasting immunity. We simply don’t know.”

Countries like South Africa, Peru, etc., who had such high levels of infection that much of their population was infected more than once, still continue to suffer new waves of infection.

“So this is bad news for all of us humans on planet earth, but very definitely for us in Sri Lanka. Why? Because based on how our medical establishment and govt authorities think, we will be slow or refuse to put the necessary border controls in to prevent this entering. And when it does enter-which is inevitable if this variant spreads globally–we will be slow to detect its entry, we will refuse to sound the alarm, and we will do everything but actually attempt to stop it. That’s been our track record, so why would it change? Worth noting that if this starts a new wave in Southern Africa, it’s just three to four months after their third wave. So just as immunity starts waning appreciably from natural infection (or vaccines). That gives us a strong hint of what our future holds unless we end this pandemic.”

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Navy deploys lagoon craft at Kurinchankerny until construction of new bridge

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Residents waiting for the boat

Sri Lanka Navy began providing transport facilities at the Kurinchankerny lagoon following the recent tragedy that claimed several lives. This service will continue until the construction of a new bridge at Kurinchankerny, Kinniya in Trincomalee is completed.

This initiative was set in motion following the directives of Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne. The Navy deployed a Lagoon Craft, capable of carrying 25 passengers safely at a time from Thursday (25) under the supervision of the Eastern Naval Command. The lagoon craft will be in service from 7.00 a.m. to 8.00 a.m. and from 12.00 noon to 2.00 p.m. each day. Further, the Navy erected a temporary jetty to allow passengers to board the vessel safely.

A schoolgirl on her way to the ferry
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UN Assistant Secretary General during talks with President pledges to work closely with Sri Lanka

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The United Nations will always work closely with Sri Lanka, said Khaled Khiari, UN Assistant Secretary General for Political, Peacebuilding and Peace Operations. Khiari made these remarks when he met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat, on Thursday (25).

UN Assistant Secretary General Khiari is visiting Sri Lanka as a follow-up to the bilateral meeting with the President and the UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres held in September this year on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly. Khiari conveyed the best wishes of UN Secretary-General Guterres to President Rajapaksa and said that the UN is willing to engage in a constructive and positive engagement with Sri Lanka.

Expressing satisfaction over the President’s affection and interest in the environment, the Assistant Secretary General appreciated Sri Lanka’s commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The President explained that steps are being taken to plant 100,000 mangroves with the assistance of the Navy and actions are being taken to prevent climate change through environmental conservation programmes.

President Rajapaksa expressed gratitude to the UN agencies and donors that have assisted Sri Lanka through the COVAX facility to make the vaccination drive successful and in facing other challenges in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic.

The President pointed out that the government’s development programme implemented in the North and East after the end of the war in 2009 had brought about rapid development. The President recalled his invitation made while participating in the UN General Assembly to the diaspora to work together with all communities after visiting Sri Lanka. The President said that he hoped that the invitation would be met with positive initiatives.

The two sides exchanged views on unity and relations between communities. An environment where all communities can live freely has been made available in Sri Lanka. The President pointed out that the Minister of Justice is from the Muslim community, the Attorney General is from the Tamil community and many of those holding other key posts are of different communities. President Rajapaksa said the government has undertaken a great task in building unity among the communities and therefore, no one should have any doubt in this regard.

Both sides were of the view that education was fundamental to unity among the communities. President Rajapaksa said that the process by which South Africa has been able to end apartheid and move forward will be studied and the lessons that can be learned from it and what can be implemented will be looked into. The President also expressed hope that the United Nations will provide assistance in this regard.

Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera and Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Sri Lanka Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, and Political Officer at the UN Peace Operations Department’s Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Department Chiaki Ota were also present.

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