… blames govt. for not assisting Oxford-J’pura dengue control project
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe making a public appearance after several weeks said, on Sunday, that the government had not given any support to the joint research by the Dengue Control Centre at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura and the University of Oxford to find a cure for the coronavirus.
He said that the Health Minister was drinking what he called ‘engine oil’ without having purported cures tested.
Addressing a ground breaking ceremony for the new Rs. 900 million Lions’ Anniversary Vocational Training Centre at Biyagama, UNP leader Wickremesinghe said: “We turned Biyagama into a major industrial city. I have read in several reports that Katunayake is the second best trading zone in South Asia after Biyagama. We are proud of that. We must continue to hold that position.”
He said that Biyagama lacked a vocational training centre.
“Today, we are opening a Vocational Training Centre at the building which previously housed the Fertilizer Corporation. I thank the Lions Club. Nimal Senadheera, the then Sinha Commander, made this proposal. The then Minister Malik Samarawickrema approved it. This land which belonged to the Board of Investment (BOI).”
“The Lions Club in this area was started by Sunil Gunasekara. He worked hard to develop the Biyagama Lions Club. When the Lions Club started, some people protested. But later it contributed to the development of the area. I learned that some factories are also helping the project. In the past, only illegal liquor was here. I will do our best to help move this development forward.”
Wickremesinghe said it was just the beginning. “New careers are set to emerge in the future and therefore it is required to provide training.”
The former PM said that there was a need to introduce vocational training courses to suit the changing world.
He stressed that the Biyagama Zone should be protected as the best trade zone in South Asia. The work done by the Lions Club was exemplary. Due to the corona epidemic, the opening of the centre had to be postponed two or three times, he said.
The former Prime Minister said that the spread of the corona pandemic had become a major problem in the country, today. “The pandemic has spread to many parts of Colombo. Therefore, we must act with caution. According to reports, another wave of infections are likely to occur. That is what has happened in the US and the UK, which is about to go for another shutdown. Even in countries like, Japan, China and South Korea this pandemic is returning. Many Christian countries have even banned Christmas celebration,” the former Prime Minister said.
Wickremesinghe said the UK had predicted that there would be another wave of COVID-19 early next year. Gatherings have been restricted to four persons each even during Christmas in that country.
“The pandemic is not over yet. We must speak the truth about this issue. Officials are spreading various stories. One official says we are going to close the country. Another says we are going to open the country. The people have no idea of what is going on. If the country needs to be shut down, tell the people. Then people will be able to prepare for it. If the country is opened on certain conditions, say so. Do not change your mind from time to time. The corona wave is not over yet, and we have to be prepared for it.
“Many institutions say that vaccines have been produced, but they are still at the experimental stage and two people in the UK fell ill after being vaccinated.
“Even if the government provides the vaccine for free, it is unlikely that the corona pandemic will end. It will take another two or three years to see if the preventive measures are effective. Billions of people need to be vaccinated. The vaccine is being manufactured in Hyderabad, India. China has also developed a vaccine. But there is a question of how to keep the vaccines safe.”
Wickremesinghe said that research was being done on indigenous medicine in India.
“What has happened in Sri Lanka today? Take various medications.”
The Dengue Control Centre at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura in Sri Lanka and the University of Oxford are conducting joint experiments, he said.
“But our government is not doing anything. The British government has also provided assistance for experiments. The British High Commissioner has visited the Jayewardenepura University two or three times to inquire into the matter. The British High Commissioner mentioned this to me personally.”
The event was attended by a large number of people including Lions Club officials.
Foreign Secretary sounds ‘consensual resolution’ as pressure mounts in Geneva
by Shamindra Ferdinando
Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage on Monday (25) night revealed that the government was having discussions with the UK-led Sri Lanka Core Group in a bid to explore the possibility of reaching a consensus on what he described as a ‘consensual resolution’ ahead of the 46th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) scheduled for Feb-March this year.
Admiral Colombage acknowledged that an agreement on a consensual resolution was a politically challenging task. FS Colombage said so in conversation with Faraz Shauketaly on ‘News Line’ on TV 1.
Asked whether the government was under pressure to co-sponsor the new resolution or face a vote in case Sri Lanka rejected the UK-led move, the naval veteran said there was dialogue between the two parties in this regard. Talks have to be concluded today (27)
Prof. Colombage ruled out the possibility of Sri Lanka co-sponsoring the new resolution. The top Foreign Ministry official also dismissed the interviewer’s assertion the government was under pressure to accept the new resolution.
Admiral Colombage said they were also studying some suggestions made by the Core Group.
Asked whether the government would try to convince the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led political grouping that had demanded an international war crimes investigation in addition to a range of punitive measures to reverse its decision, FS Colombage emphasized that Sri Lanka waged war against an internationally proscribed terrorist group.
The interviewer sought the Foreign Secretary’s assertion of retired justice C.V. Wigneswaran, MP, who signed Jan. 15 dated petition, in his capacity as the leader of Tamil Makkal Thesiya Kutani (TMTK). Altogether, 13 lawmakers represented the three political parties that called for external intervention.
Declaring that serious war crimes hadn’t been committed during the war, FS Colombage questioned the motives of those continuing to harp on unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. Referring to the failure on the part of the Northern Provincial Council to spend the funds allocated for the benefit of the public, FS Colombage asked whether an agenda detrimental to post-war national reconciliation was being pursued.
In the wake of Sri Lanka quitting in Feb 2020 Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by the previous government against one’s own country in Oct 2015, Geneva has warned Sri Lanka of serious consequences. In addition to freezing assets and travel bans slapped on those who had been ‘credibly accused of human rights violations,’ Geneva recommended the launch of criminal proceedings at the International Criminal Court and an international mechanism to gather evidence.
Referring to the US travel ban imposed on Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva in Feb 2020, the interviewer sought the Foreign Secretary’s opinion on the Geneva report. Refuting allegations, Admiral Colombage alleged serious shortcomings, including factual errors.
Asked whether the recent appointment of a three-member Commission of Inquiry (CoI) chaired by Supreme Court Judge Nawaz to examine previous CoI reports et al wasn’t too late as well as insufficient just ahead of the 46th sessions, Admiral Colombage explained how eruption of first Covid-19 wave that resulted in the postponement of general elections scheduled for April 2020 caused serious setback to government efforts.
Commenting on simmering controversy over the Sri Lanka-India agreement on the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo harbour, Admiral Colombage expressed confidence the issue could be resolved soon. The former Navy Chief categorically denied India’s valuable support to Sri Lanka at Geneva et al would be linked with agreement on ECT.
Responding to criticism directed at India over a spate of issues, including the forced imposition of the 13th Amendment thereby creating the Provincial Council system, Admiral Colombage pointed out the Tamil Nadu factor. Admiral Colombage, having reiterated President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s foreign policy statement, assured Sri Lanka’s commitment to friendly ties with major powers.
FS Colombage emphasized that Sri Lanka’s bilateral relations wouldn’t be at the expense of another country.
Admiral Colombage regretted the recent mid-sea collision involving an SLN Fast Attack Craft and an Indian fishing trawler that resulted in the deaths of four fishermen. The FS emphasized that the incident happened well within Sri Lankan waters near Delft Island.
Navy headquarters last week alleged that the Indian vessel collided with FAC while trying to flee a naval cordon.
Admiral Colombage said that the SLN vessel would have suffered serious damage if the Indian trawler happened to be one with a steel hull.
Asked whether US, India, Japan and Australia would take a common stand vis a vis Sri Lanka in respect of accountability issues, Admiral Colombage asserted that wouldn’t be the case. “Sri Lanka is important to them” Admiral Colombage said, while describing them as the four pillars of the Quad-a security alliance.
Commenting on the disclosures made by Lord Naseby in the House of Lords in Oct 2017, Admiral Colombage appreciated the British politician’s efforts to set the record straight as regards war crimes accusations. The Foreign Secretary said that the revelations were made on the basis of genuine and accurate sources.
The British Lord used classified wartime British HC cables (Jan – May 2009) obtained following a legal battle to counter Geneva accusations. Sri Lanka is yet to officially request Geneva to revisit the 2015 resolution on the basis of Lord Naseby’s revelations.
UK takes up forced cremation of Covid-19 victims
The UK has raised human rights concerns with Sri Lanka including forced cremation of COVID-19 victims.
High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Sarah Hulton OBE said in Tweeter message that the UN report in this regard is to be published next week and she would inform the approach to UN Human Rights Council.
“UK raising human rights concerns with Sri Lanka, including forced cremation of COVID19 victims. UN report to be published next week, will inform the approach to @UN_HRC,” she tweeted.
Electors unaware of electoral register revision process – CMEV
Text and pictures by PRIYAN DE SILVA
National Coordinator of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Manjula Gajanayaka, who visited the polling districts of Puttlam and Vanni, last week, to look into allegation that more than 7,000 voters in the polling division of Mannar were to be struck off the electoral register, said that electors were unaware of the electoral register revision process. He called upon the Election Commission of Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to educate the public on what actually is taking place; he urged the political parties not to capitalise on the situation.
Additional Commissioner of Elections Rasika Pieris said that electoral registers had been revised annually in accordance with the Registration of Electors Act 44 of 1980 to make voting more convenient to the electors by assigning them to the polling stations closest to residences.
Pieris added that in addition to convenience there were many more advantages to be registered as an elector in the district one resides in.
Retired Irrigation Engineer A. L. Burhanudhdheen is a chief occupant that has received the Revision of Electoral Register Notice sent by the Assistant Election Commissioner, Mannar.
Burhanudhdeen had been a resident of Akaththimurippu, Mannar until being driven out by the LTTE in 1990. After being displaced he took refuge in Puttalam and at present lives in a modest house at Nagavillu, Puttlam.
Burhanudhdeen said that he visited his property in Mannar whenever it was possible, but was unable to construct a new house there due to financial constraints. He also said that whenever possible he and his family had exercised their right to vote in the polling district of Mannar up to the 2020 Parliamentary election. At the last presidential election they had been provided with transport while the Election Commission arranged for a cluster voting facility in Puttlam for the last Parliamentary election, he said.
Voicing his fears Burhanudhdeen said that he and his family might be struck off the electoral register in Mannar if their appeal was not accepted and added that they had not registered as voters of the Electoral District of Puttalam even though they were resident there.
Assistant Commissioner of Elections Mannar J. Jeniton said that taking action based on reports submitted by Grama Seva Niladharis nearly 10,000 revisions of election register notices had been sent by registered post to electors in the Mannar polling division.
Jeniton said that the majority of them were known to be persons who were forced to flee from their homes in 1990 due to the conflict. It had been found that they were not resident in that area, he added.
Jeniton said that about 700 persons had been requested to attend the inquiries and bring with them documents to prove their residence, but only 15 persons had been present.
Chairman of the Musalee Pradeshiya Sabha A.G.H. Subeeham said that 3,542 constituents in Musalee had been served with Revision of Electoral Register notices requesting them to explain why their names should not be struck off the electoral register. Subeeham said that he did not understand the basis on which the list had been compiled as even persons who had been resident in Musalee for the past 10 years had received such notices. He appealed to the authorities to give the IDPs a grace period of two years to resettle.
The polling districts of Mannar, Mulaitivu and Vavuniya make up the Vanni Electoral District and six Members of Parliament represent the District.
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