President stresses need for concerted effort to revive economy
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said that everyone in the region should work together to revive the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic situation.
The President made these remarks delivering the Inaugural Address at the Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Saturday (04).
President Rajapaksa said the measures adopted worldwide to combat the pandemic, although they proved invaluable in saving countless lives, came at a steep cost. “The rapid decline in economic activity these measures caused have had serious long-term consequences on global travel, trade, and economic growth.” The President pointed out that developing countries in particular have been very badly impacted by this and that this can only be achieved through the support provided by richer nations to developing countries.
The President said the COVID-19 pandemic will not end until everyone, everywhere is inoculated against the virus and requested the nations with capabilities to provide assistance to underprivileged nations to make their vaccination drives productive.
In contrast to the leadership provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the global pandemic response, no world institution has stepped forward to help countries navigate their economic recovery. Although the pandemic has affected rich and poor countries alike, a disproportionate impact is borne by poorer countries.
The President pointed out that the economies that are already burdened with external debt obligations are facing hardships and therefore, it would be greatly appreciated if more action could be taken by wealthy nations as well as multilateral organisations to forgive, restructure, or grant moratoria for the debt repayments of poorer countries struggling in the wake of the pandemic.
As the pandemic has shown, adverse situations in one country can quickly have ramifications on the wider region and eventually on the globe itself. That is why the countries across the region and the world at large must work together to solve problems that affect nations, whether in terms of epidemics, economy, or ecology. The President said the ongoing climate crisis is perhaps the most difficult challenge that humanity needs to overcome.
“The X-Press Pearl disaster was not an isolated incident. The fire on board the MT New Diamond was successfully doused through concerted efforts.” The President pointed out that both these incidents point towards the urgent need for stricter controls surrounding the oceanic transport of hazardous and environmentally sensitive materials.
Extra-territorial fishing by well-equipped trawlers is another significant problem in the region that affects the livelihoods of poor communities that rely on local fishing for their sustenance. The President said coordinated action to mitigate such issues will be critical in sustaining the overall ecology and the viability of local economies in the Indian Ocean region in the future and proposed the establishment of a regional mechanism to coordinate such issues relating to sustainability.
While stating that it must be admitted that the Indian Ocean region is also the location of considerable criminal activity, including human smuggling, drugs smuggling, and terrorism, President Rajapaksa said narcotics trafficking remains a significant problem for countries in this region and that this can only effectively be dismantled through coordinated efforts between the intelligence services, Coast Guards and Navies of regional countries.
The President pointed out similar coordination and cooperation will be required to contain human trafficking and said such coordination will also be required to counter the threat posed by religious extremism and terrorism in countries in the region. The President said extremist and terrorist ideology can spread with ease from nation to nation unless carefully monitored and suppressed.
The first Indian Ocean Conference commenced in 2016 with the objective of discussing issues of common interest and concerns to countries in the Indian Ocean region and other countries using the Indian Ocean. The Fourth Summit was held in the Maldives in 2019 and the theme was “Securing the Indian Ocean Region: Traditional and Non-Traditional Challenges”.
MPs urged to defeat move to conduct Law College exams only in English medium
Ali Sabry responds to accusations
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Opposition MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (19) alleged that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was going ahead with a project launched by former Justice Minister Ali Sabry with the backing of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to conduct Law College examinations only in the English medium, much to the disadvantage of Sinhala and Tamil students.
Addressing the media at Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya at Thunmulla, the leader of civil society group Yuthukama urged all political parties, regardless of whatever differences, to vote against extraordinary gazette notification of 2020 Dec 30 No 22018/13 to be submitted to Parliament by Sabry’s successor, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, tomorrow (21).
The SLPP National List MP said that those who represented the interests of the South, the North as well as the Upcountry could reach a consensus on the issue at hand quite easily.
Responding to The Island query, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya, consisting of a section of rebel SLPP MPs, backed the campaign to protect the language rights of Sinhala and Tamil communities. The first-time entrant to Parliament said that MPs with a conscience couldn’t back this move, under any circumstances, whichever the party they represented.
At the onset of the media briefing, MP Cumaratunga said that the denial of language rights of current and future students was a grave violation of the Constitution-Article 12 and Article 18. In terms of Article 12, no one should be discriminated against on the basis of language whereas Article 18 recognized Sinhala and Tamil as National Languages with English being the linking language.
Alleging that the previous Gotabaya Rajapaksa goverenment planned to implement the controversial law even without securing parliamentary approval, lawmaker Cumaratunga appreciated Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse’s decision to place it before parliament.
The civil society activist said that this despicable move should be examined against the backdrop of growing external interventions as the country struggled to cope up with the developing political-economic-social crisis. The passage of the new law could cause further deterioration of parliament, MP Cumaratunga said, adding that the House faced a serious credibility issue.
“How could elected MPs whichever party they represented back a move that directly affected the concerned communities,”? Lawmaker Cumaratunga asked.
Referring to a recent call by the Justice Minister to discuss the issue at hand, MP Cumaratunga said that among those present on the occasion were Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, and Dr. Athula Pathinayake, Principal of Law College. “Those who opposed this move asked Dr. Athula Pathinayake what he really intended to achieve by conducting Law College examinations in English, only. However, the Law College Principal failed to provide a plausible response,” the MP said.
Responding to strong criticism of their stand, MP Cumaratunga stressed that the importance of English as a language couldn’t be underestimated. But, ongoing efforts to promote English shouldn’t be at the expense of Sinhala and Tamil, MP Cumaratunga said, questioning lawmakers’ right to deprive Sinhala and Tamil communities of basic rights.
Ratnapura District SLPP MP Gamini Waleboda said that an influential section of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was behind this move. In a note dated March 17, addressed to all members of parliament urged them to defeat the contemptible move.
Lawmaker Waleboda said that there was no prohibition for those who wanted to sit law examinations in English. There was absolutely no issue over that but the bid to deny the language rights of those who wanted to sit examinations in Sinhala and Tamil was not acceptable under any circumstances. According to him, the BASL hadn’t consulted its membership regarding this move.
MP Cumaratunga also questioned the failure on the part of the apex court to make available to Parliament its interpretations in Sinhala. The Supreme Court continues to provide such clarifications in English only.
Responding to MP Cumaratunga’s allegation that he with the backing of the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resorted to action to make English compulsory for those studying at the Law College, incumbent Foreign Minister Sabry said: “That’s not correct. It is the council of legal education which formulates regulations. The council consists of CJ, two senior SC judges, AG, SG, Secretary Justice and six senior lawyers of vast knowledge and experience.
In terms of the constitution all higher education institutions can decide the language of studies and education. That’s how medical faculty, engineering faculty, IT faculty and management faculty conduct studies in English. Already Peradeniya and Jaffna universities do legal studies in English. It is good to do it, that’s how they become competitive. Even in India all legal faculties are in English. “
The President’s Counsel alleged that the kith and kin of certain people articulating this position received their education in English. The minister questioned why politicians get involved in this issue if the council of legal education made the relevant suggestion.
No power cuts due to N’cholai unit failure – Minister
By Ifham Nizam
The breakdown of the Unit Three of the First Coal Fired Power Plant Complex in Norochcholai 270 MW intake of the 300MW will cost an additional Rs. 20 a unit due to thermal power generation, says the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB). “It will cost the CEB Rs. 96 million extra a day while the Norochcholai machine is out of order,” a senior Electrical Engineer told The Island.
Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday said Unit 3 of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant had failed. He said the CEB had informed him of the breakdown, but he said there would be no power cuts.
“The Unit 3 was due to undergo major overhaul maintenance in April. To ensure an uninterrupted power supply, the CEB-owned Diesel and Fuel Oil Power plants will be used,” the minister said.
The Norochcholai Power Plant has experienced breakdowns several times on previous occasions as well.The first generator at the power plant was shut down on December 23, last year to manage the coal stocks and for maintenance purposes.
CBSL chief expresses optimism
Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe told the media, on Sunday, that the country’s dollar crisis could be managed as the IMF was set to approve a 2.9 billion-dollar bailout package on Monday. He said that Sri Lanka now had adequate foreign reserves for imports for essential sectors.
Dr. Weerasinghe added that the IMF package would boost investor confidence and enhance the country’s access to more foreign funds and investments.
The IMF package would include budgetary support, which was a new element in IMF lending, he said. Sri Lanka started negotiations with the IMF, in 2022, following the onset of the current economic crisis.
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