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Prof. Peiris denies Geneva sessions influenced their Jaffna visit



Ministers Prof. Peiris, Sabry PC and Devananda at the opening of a new three storeyed building at Kokuvil, equipped with smart class rooms (Pic courtesy Justice Ministry)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris during a three-day visit to Jaffna that ended up with a pow-wow with civil society activists at the Jaffna District Secretariat on Monday (31) repeatedly urged the Northern community to integrate with the South.

Twice Foreign Minister Prof. Peiris who is also the Chairman of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) emphasised the responsibility on the part of the government as well as all communities to achieve genuine post-war national reconciliation.

Jaffna District SLFP MP Angajan Ramanathan and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) heavyweight M.A. Sumanthiran, too, associated with the government’s latest initiative, ‘Access to Justice’ in Jaffna spearheaded by Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC.

Ministers Peiris, Douglas Devananda and Sabry launched the ‘Access to Justice’ project at the Jaffna Central College on Saturday (29) morning. The programme was meant to educate the northerners of the government initiatives, promote reconciliation and pay compensation to families of those who had been reported missing during the conflict.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

Addressing a gathering at the Jaffna University soon after the event at the Jaffna Central College, Prof. Peiris explained the work undertaken by the Justice Ministry.

Prof. Peiris was flanked by Minister Sabry and Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University Professor Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah.

Minister Peiris pointed out that compensation amounting to Rs 100 mn had been so far paid through the Office for Reparations for missing persons’ families.

The Office for Reparations is one of the four mechanisms Sri Lanka promised to establish in terms of the 30/1, 34/1 and 40/1.The other mechanisms are Office on Missing Persons, Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel and Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-Recurrence.

Recalling a visit to the Jaffna University during his tenure as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo and subsequent visits as a politician, Prof. Peiris urged the academics and the undergraduates therein to seek closer ties with the South.

Referring to the forthcoming sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), Prof. Peiris stressed that a section of the media had misinterpreted their visit to the North. Prof. Peiris stressed that their programme was not related whatsoever to the Geneva sessions

The next Geneva session is scheduled to commence later this month.

Prof. Peiris said that the failure on the part of the communities to resolve their differences was nothing but a national tragedy. The minister said that the communities had been sharply divided and engaged in disruptive strategies for decades.

Pointing out how the Jaffna University accommodated students from all communities, Prof. Peiris discussed how that environment could be used to encourage closer relationships among the people.

Before his meet with Jaffna-based civil society groups, Prof. Peiris addressed the media at the Jaffna Divisional Secretariat where the Foreign Minister focused on the allocation of a substantial amount of funding for northern development.

Referring to his visits to the South and Batticaloa, Prof. Peiris said that the government was keen to know about the needs and priorities of the people. The problems faced by those living in one province could be different from another region, Prof. Peiris said, explaining the efforts made by the government to meet high profile UN initiative-Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Declaring that he felt comfortable and didn’t experience hostility at all, the foreign minister said that the youth whether Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim wanted to do well in life. As their objectives were common, all communities could work together to achieve national objectives, Prof. Peiris said.

Responding to queries, Prof. Peiris explained ongoing efforts to secure assistance of friendly countries to overcome the financial crisis. Reference was also made to the ongoing talks with China to secure 1 mn tonnes of rice before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

Other issues addressed by Prof Peiris were the closure of the Palaly Airport at the height of Covid-19 and Indian fishers poaching in Sri Lankan territorial waters.

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More than 6 bn worth of substandard drugs dispensed to patients



The Committee of Public Accounts (COPA) has disclosed that Rs. 6,259 million worth of drugs faced a quality failure from 2011 to 2020 due to improper storage. The COPA report has further revealed that 99% of such drugs had already been dispensed to patients when the condition was brought to attention. In that situation, it was not possible to recover the cost of substandard drugs from the suppliers, the Parliament said.

The Committee on Public Accounts has directed the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine to expedite the process of facilitating better storage of drugs to ensure their safety.

It has also been observed that the temperature in the warehouses, owned by the Medical Supplies Division, is maintained properly and that the medical supplies are stored in the corridors of the central drug warehouses and hospitals.

Furthermore, the Secretary to the Ministry has pointed out that if there is a system to detect the failure of drugs as soon as they are received, the loss can be recovered from the suppliers and if the quality testing of 60 drugs can be done by the State Pharmaceutical Corporation, this situation can be avoided to some extent.

These concerns and observations were contained in the first report of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament on COPA, which was tabled in Parliament recently (20) by Prof. Tissa Vitarana, the Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts.

The report contains information about the investigations of seven state institutions summoned before the Committee on Public Accounts and one Special Audit Report during the period from 04.08.2021 to 19.11.2021.

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CBSL Chief: Economy could be stabilised in year or so if …



By Hiran H. Senewiratne

The prevailing Balance of Payments (BoP) crisis could lead to a major social crisis as the available foreign reserves were only sufficient for a few weeks’ imports, Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe warned on Monday.

“The economy can be stabilised in the next 12 month if the IMF negotiations and debt restructuring are finalised within the next seven to eight months. Until then we have to support the poor people,” Dr. Weerasinghe said, addressing a seminar on the “State of the Economy and Talks with the IMF”. It was organised by the Press Club, together with the Press Institute, at Colombo Hilton.

The CB Governor said the current BoP crisis would worsen and, therefore the economic pain could only be minimised if essential policies and measures were implemented in an expeditious manner. But “IMF technical level virtual meetings are likely to conclude this week, and thereafter further discussion will take place to finalise everything,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.

Dr. Weerasinghe suggested that the monetary and fiscal authorities tighten the monetary policy by higher margins and fiscal policy by restoring tax rates to pre-2020 levels.

The Governor said, “We have three categories of creditors namely International Sovereign Bonds, which raise short term funds from global markets, which account for 35 percent of the government debt, while other two creditors are Paris Club and non-Paris Club (India and China).

Dr. Weerasinghe said that the country’s debt needed to be brought to a sustainable level. “For that purpose a debt sustainability analysis needs to be drafted with a fiscal policy for the IMF bailout”, he said.

Speaking about the country’s worsening economic fundamentals, Dr. Weerasinghe said: “The nation is currently experiencing a historically low economic growth and falling trend of per capita GDP since 2017 with rising levels of poverty. It is also running the highest fiscal deficits since 1988 with the lowest ever government revenue as a percent of GDP.

“Amid those developments Sri Lanka’ poverty level will increase, unemployment level soar and local industries will have to shut down due to restriction of importation of raw material. Therefore, we have to seek humanitarian assistance from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other bilateral and multilateral agencies”, the Governor said.

“We are seeking short-term bridging facilities from official creditors until an agreement is reached with creditors on restructuring,” he said.

In his presentation, Dr. Weerasinghe analysed the links between banking and the currency crises. He pointed out that the problems in the banking sector typically precede a currency crisis with the currency crisis deepening the banking crisis, thus activating a vicious spiral.

Sri Lanka also had the highest-ever government debt which was unsustainable at the moment. Debt dynamics might be worsening in the next few years unless the debt was restructured, he said.

Sri Lanka also recorded the highest rate of inflation in 12 years which was increasing sharply and was experiencing the highest-ever levels of money printing by the CBSL, he added

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Dragonfly thought to be extinct found again



By Ifham Nizam

Scientists have rediscovered Sri Lankan Clubtail (Anisogomphus ceylonicus), one of the rarest species of dragonflies in the country. The team that made the discovery comprised Amila Sumanapala of the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences, University of Colombo, T. Ranasinghe of the Butterfly Conservation Society of Sri Lanka, and D. Sumanapala of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Sri Jayewardenepura. According to lead scientist Amila Sumanapala Sri Lankan Clubtail is one of the rarest species of dragonflies.

First collected in 1859, it was only known from the original collection and another collection record made a century after in 1962. This species had not been found anywhere in Sri Lanka for close to 60 years until the team encountered a larva during a survey conducted in 2021.

Anisogomphus ceylonicus is one of the few Odonates of Sri Lanka with no photographic records of a living specimen available hitherto.

The present observation provides the first photographs of a live A. ceylonicus larva and the most recent documentation of the species. These observations, coupled with previous work (Lieftinck 1971, Bedjanič & van der Poorten 2013), provide an improved understanding of the species, which might enable further targeted surveys to be made

It was first discovered from Ramboda over 140 years ago based on a female specimen, which was originally described as Gomphus ceylonicus and later assigned to the genus Heliogomphus by F.C. Fraser (Bedjanič & van der Poorten 2013). Almost a century later, Lieftinck (1971) collected an immature male and its exuvia of a clubtail dragonfly from Rambukpath Oya, 10 miles northwest of Hatton in 1962 and described it as Anisogomphus solitaris. However, Bedjanič & van der Poorten (2013) recognized that H. ceylonicus is conspecific with A. solitaris, and thus reassigned it to the genus Anisogomphus. Since the discovery of the species, only these two records have ever been documented (Bedjanič et al. 2014), despite odonatological surveys and numerous biodiversity explorations conducted countrywide.

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