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Planters decry mob-violence on Park Estate, demands swift legal action against perpetrators



The Planters’ Association of Ceylon (PA) condemned what it called the “shocking violence instigated by CWC Member of Parliament M. Rameshwaran at Park Estate in Kandapola on January 17, 2021”, which damaged property and left a Trainee Assistant Superintendent in hospital.

The Association called for an impartial investigation and swift justice following the brutal mob attack which resulted in the Trainee Assistant Superintendent being admitted to the Nuwara Eliya General Hospital. The victim of the assault was reported to have received severe injuries and was undergoing respiratory difficulties as a result of the assault perpetrated against him by a mob that was transported from outside of the region in two buses facilitated by the MP Rameshwaran, the PA claimed in a statement on behalf of all 21 Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) in the country.

The PA also called for further investigations to ascertain the extent of damage done to the Estate Manager’s Bungalow and grounds – all of which are classified as state property of significant historical value.

“The conduct of the MP is utterly disgraceful and totally unacceptable from any citizen, let alone a duly elected representative of the people of Sri Lanka. We call on law enforcement authorities to uphold the rule of law and take swift action to ensure that the perpetrators of the brutal attack are immediately arrested, charged for their violent and illegal actions, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the PA said.

The attack took place following a phone call made by the MP Rameshwaran to the Estate Superintendent wherein he (the MP) demanded an immediate meeting on Sunday, January 17, 2021 around 5.30 pm. The Estate Superintendent had calmly and politely suggested an alternate date, given that he was on leave at the time and was driving to Kandy to urgently purchase essential cancer medication for his father in-law, the statement continued.

Dissatisfied with the response, the MP had launched a crude verbal assault against the Estate Superintendent, who had then hung up. Thereafter, the Rameshwaran coerced workers at the estate to give him the Estate Superintendent’s wife’s number, whom he also verbally abused, which was unbecoming of an MP. This phone call had multiple witnesses, the statement asserted.

Subsequently, MP Rameshwaran, together with the Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman travelled directly to the estate in two buses full of people from outside the region to gather a mob and incite them to violence. At around 5.30 pm, the MP forcibly and unlawfully entered the bungalow premises with the mob., it further said.

A young Trainee Assistant Superintendent in the premises at the time had tried to de-escalate the tense situation, but was brutally assaulted by the mob led by the MP. Following the vicious assault, the MP and his thugs prevented anyone from entering or exiting the premises. Instead they unlawfully detained those present, including the assault victim who was denied any medical attention or assistance for at least five hours after the assault took place, it said.

Following the intervention of the Police Special Task Force and local police, the Trainee Assistant Superintendent was finally removed from the premises under armed escort and immediately transported to the Nuwara Eliya base hospital where he remains hospitalized at present. As a result of the grievous assault, the victim is still recovering from severe contusions and suffering from respiratory distress and other multiple injuries, it added.

Meanwhile, the MP and the mob continued the unauthorized and unlawful occupation of the bungalow premises for over 24 hours, burned rubber tires, damaged building structures, and also compelled workers from the estate, as well as surrounding estates of the company to stage a strike – resulting in loss of wages to workers and revenue to the company, the PA said.

“At a time when RPC’s are making every possible endeavour to keep the industry and the national economy afloat by managing the estates in a manner that safeguard the livelihood of the plantation community, such random violent incidents have undone a lot of our efforts, and will ultimately hurt the workers most”, the PA further noted.

“This is true financially, but in the context of a global pandemic, the foolish actions of MP have also seriously increased the risk of COVID transmission in the very communities he is supposed to represent. While RPCs had taken every possible measure to protect them from these risks, the conduct of the MP may have severely compromised their safety”, it said.

“This is utterly inexcusable, in addition to being totally illegal. He must not be allowed to break the law with impunity. We hope that his standing as a Member of Parliament will not be an impediment to him being brought to justice,” the PA added.

Asked for comment on the incident, Rameshwaran said he was busy at a meeting and to call later.

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‘Those who fear exposure making a din over Easter Sunday carnage PCoI report – PM



Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that some of those who fear that they will be held accountable under the law for the Easter Sunday attacks are now making a big noise over the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the carnage.

“They know that they will be exposed. That’s why they are making a din in the belief they could escape being taken to task under the law”, the premier told The Sunday Island.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has declared March 7 as ‘Black Sunday’ to demand justice to the victims of the attacks by bringing before the law those responsible for the carnage.

Church leaders have their congregations to be attired in black when they attend mass on Sunday. Church bells will toll at 8.45 am, the time of the near-simultaneous attacks, and special prayers will be offered for justice for the victims.

Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that the CID will begin investigations shortly to initiate the process of filing legal action against those responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks.

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Sri Lankan High Commission in India remains headless for 14 months




Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, March 5:

The Sri Lankan High Commission in India has remained without a Head of Mission for 14 months now.

Veteran civil servant Austin Fernando, who was posted here as the High Commissioner, went back home in January last year.

Former Minister Milinda Moragoda was appointed as the new High Commissioner with a Cabinet rank late last year, and India has accepted the appointment shortly thereafter.

But Moragoda is yet to take charge. It is not clear when he is planning to arrive in India.

Being a large neighbour and in view of excellent relations between the two countries, India is important for Sri Lanka.

Besides, as many as 92 New Delhi-based Ambassadors and High Commissioners are also concurrently accredited to Sri Lanka. Only 41 countries maintain their diplomatic missions in Colombo.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, direct flights between the two countries were suspended early last year. But Air India has been running special flights at regular intervals from Colombo to New Delhi and other cities to bring back Indian nationals stranded in Sri Lanka while on a holiday or a business trip.

India has also created air bubbles to allow flights to over 20 countries, including Bangladesh. But Sri Lanka is not one of them. Negotiations are said to be in progress to make this happen in due course of time.

Sources in Colombo said Moragoda is expected to leave later this month.



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WFP and Korea to Help Supply Thriposha to Children and Mothers



COLOMBO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) are supporting the Government of Sri Lanka with funding worth USD 600,000 (LKR 117 million) to procure maize for the production of Thriposha.

The funding will be used to produce Thriposha, a maize-based fortified food product, which will be provided to 1.1 million mothers and children. The grant from Korea helps ensure continuation of the Thriposha programme, which the Government of Sri Lanka has been conducting for almost 50 years to provide nutrition to undernourished children and pregnant and lactating women.

Thriposha, which means triple nutrients, is a locally produced supplementary food product, provided free of charge to children below 5 years of age who are underweight or with a slow rate of weight gain and pregnant and lactating women with a low body mass index (BMI), through the public health system.

“The world is facing unexpected circumstances while battling with the pandemic,” says Kang Youn Hwa, KOICA Sri Lanka Office Country Director. “The contribution from KOICA for the Thriposha National Programme was extended with the objective of improving the nutritional status of vulnerable people, especially children and pregnant/lactating women who are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. KOICA stands in solidarity with the Government of Sri Lanka during this difficult time.”

This latest contribution forms part of the activities carried out by KOICA — the Official Grants Division to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea — in response to Covid-19. KOICA has been present in Sri Lanka for over two decades, with programmes that support a variety of sectors including education, health, rural development, water management and transportation. One such intervention is the “R5n” programme, a joint project conducted with WFP since 2019. “R5n” aims to improve the lives and livelihoods of rural smallholder farmers by strengthening their resilience to recurring climate shocks, especially drought. KOICA’s support for the procurement of maize to produce Thriposha complements its on-going assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka.

Covid-19 has brought about fresh challenges in the country, including an estimated rise in unemployment and reduced incomes. This affects a family’s ability to access nutritious food and threatens to have long-lasting impacts on the health and nutrition standards in the country. The Thriposha programme provides a readily accessible source of nutrition to mothers and children when they need it the most.

The Ministry of Health requested WFP’s support in ensuring a continuous supply of Thriposha. In response to this, WFP together with KOICA, arranged to provide funding to bolster the Thriposha programme and help safeguard the health and nutrition of women and children.

“WFP has been supporting the Thriposha programme for over a decade, as part of its efforts to improve nutrition standards in the country,” says Andrea Berardo, Deputy Country Director of WFP Sri Lanka, highlighting that Sri Lanka ranks among the countries with the highest rates of wasting, known as thinness, among children under 5 years of age (15 percent). “This latest contribution reflects our long-standing support to the government to not just treat, but also prevent these high rates of malnutrition and importantly, safeguard development gains made within the country.”

In 2021 and beyond, WFP will continue to work with the government to enhance the national health system as part of its efforts in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 of enhancing food security and improving nutrition in the country.

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