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‘President should be supported to ensure SL retains its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity’

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When leaving Sri Lanka, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, tweeted: “My meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Gunawardena reaffirmed Sri Lanka’s pivotal role as an Indo-Pacific partner. Together we’re committed to advancing our shared interests in the region, including security, and stability.”

Although our biggest fears were on the MCC and SOFA agreements, they were not signed, and the effort to get Sri Lanka to accept the USA positions condemning China were rejected does not appear to have upset Pompeo. His whole argument was that China posed a danger to Sri Lanka and other Asian countries. That it had military ambitions to occupy our land, particularly with regard to countries in South East Asia. That China was giving loans with the ulterior motive of getting us into debt and exploiting that to their advantage. It was therefore necessary for Sri Lanka to join the USA in its effort to wage war on China to achieve a regime change, which the USA has done successfully many times in other countries.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa effectively countered these arguments. He showed that China had helped from the time of the LTTE war and that much of this was as grants and not loans. Even in the matter of loans they were low interest and affordable.

On the question of military dangers and bases, he said Sri Lanka would not under any circumstances allow any foreign power to violate our independence, sovereignty or territorial integrity. The latter statement was particularly a blow to USA’s ambitions in Sri Lanka.

However, both sides agreed on the need to ensure that shipping lanes and the use of the sea should be left open to all. That there should be freedom of movement in the region. That there should be free trade and exchange and that assistance in terms of technology and investment was welcome. But what has appealed most to Pompeo is that no changes have been made in the ACSA Agreement, which had already been signed by the Yahapalanaya Government.

This allows the USA to make use of any airport or harbour in Sri Lanka. Thus, the USA can continue to make use of Katunayake for its big transport planes to bring its heavy armaments and take them across to Trincomalee to be loaded on to their aircraft carriers for use in the whole Indo-Pacific region.

The ACSA agreement also provides for the training of Sri Lankan troops by the USA and their use when necessary. Thus, without actually setting up a USA military base through the ACSA agreement, those needs can be fulfilled.

The commitment of Sri Lanka under the ACSA agreement to be a partner and help in the implementation of the Indo-Pacific arrangement draws Sri Lanka to work with India, Australia, Japan and the USA. Increasingly, the link between India and Sri Lanka will be strengthened and thereby the needs of the USA will be fulfilled.

For instance, the joint military exercises of Sri Lanka with India and the USA will be promoted. In this way, we will become a part of the Indo-Pacific Alliance which is mainly focused against China. It will require great determination to ensure that we are not drawn into a position of conflict with China.

I hope that the SLPP-led Government will be able to face up to this challenge. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has already displayed his capability. We must all give him maximum support to ensure that we retain our independence, freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity.



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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