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No decision by Education Ministry to deploy Air Force personnel as IT and English teachers, says GL

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By Saman Indrajith

Education Minister Prof G.L. Peiris told Parliament yesterday that his Ministry had not made any decision to deploy Air Force personnel as teachers at schools.

The Minister said so responding to a question raised by SJB Matale District MP Rohini Kumari Wijeratne, who said that there were media reports quoting teachers’ unions that Air Force personnel had been deployed to teach English and IT in schools at Kebitigollewa and Vavuniya; the Secretary to the Ministry of Education had accepted a proposal by the Commander of the Air force. The use of military personnel would violate the provisions of the Teacher Service Minute and there would be questions regarding the quality of education, the MP said.

MP Wijeratne said that the teacher-student ratio of the country was 20:1. “So every 20 students have a teacher and that shows there is no such teacher shortage but a problem of the Ministry failing to manage the numbers. During the time of the yahapalana government we introduced a national policy as regards teacher transfers. There are many other persons who have completed teacher training and are awaiting appointments. In such a situation, how could the government deploy Air Force personnel as school teachers.”

Minister Prof. Peiris said that there had been no such decision made by the Ministry of Education, but he would look into the allegation made by the unions.

 Responding to a question raised by SJB Ratnapura District MP Hesha Withanage, the Minister said that the Education Ministry had taken several initiatives to eliminate shortages in rural schools.

“We took action to improve conditions in rural schools. We increased facilities and improved projects such as e-thaksalawa and Gurugedara to rectify disparities. We know that there is more work to be done and have taken action to create equal opportunities for all students. Some of the programmes we implemented have yielded positive and progressive results. For example, there were ten students who scored 200 out of 200 marks at the last Grade Five scholarship examination. All those are from outstations.”



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India begins trial run for trans-shipment of goods to its NorthEast via Bangladesh port

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, August 9: India on Tuesday began trial runs for the trans-shipment of goods to its own states in the NorthEast using two key ports in Bangladesh, with a vessel arriving at Mongla port with two containers of transit cargo.

The land route between Kolkata and key cities in the northeastern states is more than 1,200km. The use of Chattogram (Chittagong) and Mongla ports in neighbouring Bangladesh for trans-shipment will cut the distance and cost to almost half. The trans-shipment arrangement will facilitate the movement of heavier cargo at a lower cost.

The trial runs were initially scheduled for July, but were pushed to August in order to enable Bangladeshi authorities to complete certain arrangements, including customs procedures.The development comes ahead of a planned visit to India by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the first week of September.

Announcing the start of trial runs for operationalising a bilateral agreement signed in October 2018 for the transit of goods from India via Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh, the Indian high commission in Dhaka said the vessel carrying two Indian transit containers had arrived at Mongla port on Monday.The vessel MV Rishad Raihan with cargo bound for the northeastern states was subsequently flagged off by Mongla Port Authority Chairman Mohammed Musa, and India’s assistant high commissioner in Khulna, Inderjit Sagar.

The trial runs are being undertaken by Maersk India Ltd, and will be done on two routes – Mongla-Tamabil-Dawki and Mongla-Bibir Bazar-Srimantapur. After being transported by riverine routes in Bangladesh, the goods will enter India through border checkpoints at Dawki in Meghalaya and Srimantapur in West Bengal. These two routes are among eight approved routes for transit of goods under the 2018 agreement.

India had earlier carried out a trial trans-shipment of goods from Kolkata to Tripura via Chattogram port in southeastern Bangladesh in July 2020. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic delayed plans for further trial runs.

The Indian high commission in Dhaka said the transit and trans-shipment of goods under the 2018 agreement will reduce both time and cost for transporting cargo to the northeastern states. It will also create economic gains for the logistics and services industry of Bangladesh as only Bangladeshi trucks will be used for moving freight.

The trial runs will help iron out any rough spots and align the immigration and customs set-ups in both countries, people familiar with the matter said. The two sides are looking at several land routes leading to the northeastern states of Meghalaya and Tripura for movement of goods, they said.Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had reiterated her country’s offer to use Chattogram port for trans-shipment of goods to India’s northeastern states and to increase connectivity at a meeting with External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in Dhaka on April 28.

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About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months

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Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:

By Saman Indrajith

About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.

Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.

MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.

Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.

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Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands

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Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.

He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.

“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.

“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.

Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)

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