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Ranil stays put as UNP leader



Vajira new Chairman, Ravi, Naveen not among new office-bearers

No decision yet on NL slot

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The UNP Working Committee yesterday (13) unanimously appointed former Galle District lawmaker Vajira Abeywardena the party Chairman.

The WC met at Sirikotha under the leadership of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The meeting lasted for about one hour.

Abeywardena succeeded Kabir Hashim, who switched his allegiance to the then UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa in the run-up to the last parliamentary polls in August 2020, which they contested from the new party they formed, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya.

Premadasa now leads the breakaway UNP faction SJB, which was immediately recognised by the Election Commission.

Among other key appointments WC reached consensus on were Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene, General Secretary Range Bandara, Assistant Leader Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Treasurer attorney-at-law Misbah??, Senior Deputy Chairman former minister D.M. Swaminathan and three Deputy Chairpersons, former ministers Sagala Ratnayake, Daya Gamage and Sunethra Ranasinghe.

However, defeated Colombo District candidate at the last parliamentary election Ranil Wickremesinghe retained the leadership, while the party still refrained from naming its solitary National List MP though some sections of the media speculated that former Gampaha District MP and former State Defence Minister Wijewardena would receive it. Ironically the newly formed breakaway rival SJB won 54 seats, including seven National List slots.

Sagala Ratnayake did not contest the last general election.

Interestingly former MP Navin Dissanayake, who served as the National Organizer of the party is not among those who received appointments yesterday. Former Assistant Leader Ravi Karunanayake, too, had been left out, political sources said, pointing out that former minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne was also not among the recipients of positions in the party.

Other appointments were Deputy General Secretary Nalaka Kolonne, Assistant Secretary former lawmaker Anoma Gamage, Chairman policy and research former Minister and ex-Ambassador in China Karunasena Kodituwakku, Legal Secretary Nissanka Nanayakkara, PC, international affairs and Local Government former MP Sandith Samarasinghe and head of Finance Committee former lawmaker Ananda Kularatna.

Abeywardena, the first UNPer from the South to receive the Chairmanship entered parliament in 1994 after having served three terms as a Southern provincial Councillor since 1988. Abeywardena retained his parliamentary seat till his defeat at the last general election in which the party failed to win a single seat. The UNP is yet to reach consensus on its single National List slot.

Political sources said that the post of the National Organizer remained vacant and there was likelihood of the party reaching an understanding with the former minister Navin Dissanayake????. Sources said that in spite of some disagreements, efforts to re-build the party were continuing.


GL sounds far-reaching educational reforms  



Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (21) acknowledged that for want of tangible measures on the part of successive governments, there was a critical mismatch between the education provided and the availability of job opportunities.

The academic, in quarantine as a result being identified as potential Covid-19 contact, emphasised the need for far reaching changes to address the issue as part of their efforts to restructure the entire system.

Prof. Peiris said so in his short remarks at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the University of Colombo.

The one-time External Affairs Minister said: “It is a great pleasure for me to felicitate the University of Colombo, my alma mater on this happy occasion. It is a significant milestone because we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the faculty of arts, faculty of science and the library of the University of Colombo. As we look back on that span of a full century, the characteristics of the University which comes to mind is its resilience. During that period the University has had to face and indeed overcome many challenges. The society of our country has undergone a fundamental transformation during that period.

The University had the strength to cope with rapidly changing circumstances. I would identify that as a principal accomplishment of the University of Colombo.

The University proved its capacity for development, change and refinement and adaptation in order to keep pace with dramatically changing circumstances. The University proud as its history is I am sure will have an even more magnificent future. It has an important role to play in the far reaching changes we are contemplating in the educational system of our country. It is our intention in the course of this year 2021 to restructure the entire system in order to address the fundamental problem of a rather critical mismatch between the education we provide in our Universities and other educational institutions on the one hand and the availability of employment, livelihoods on the other. There is regrettably gap in this regard and it should be our collective endeavor to address this problem. We are also revisiting the curricular. The substance of our curricular  the methods of teaching in such a way  as to serve better the public in a  better way   In all these efforts I have no doubt the expertise of the University of Colombo by any standards  will be of enormous assistance to us in achieving goals we have set ourselves (SF)

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China slaps sanctions on 28 Trump administration officials, including Pompeo



China has imposed sanctions on 28 former Trump administration officials, including outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agency reports said yesterday.

In a statement released just minutes after President Biden took office, China’s foreign ministry said it had decided to sanction those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues.”

The list of names features former Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar; former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro; former national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Matthew Pottinger, who recently resigned as deputy national security adviser. Former national security adviser John Bolton and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were also included.

The sanctions prohibit those individuals and their immediate family members from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. They are also restricted from doing business with China, as are any companies or institutions associated with them.

“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” the ministry said.

The move comes just one day after Pompeo issued a forceful statement accusing China of committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other minority groups in its Xinjiang region, for which the U.S. sanctioned several Chinese officials in July. That was one of numerous instances of sanctions, visa bans and trade restrictions imposed on Chinese politicians and Communist Party officials in the Trump administration’s final year.

Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated considerably under the previous administration, which took an unusually confrontational approach. Pompeo and other officials referred to China as constituting America’s greatest threat, as NPR’s John Ruwitch has reported.

In fact, Bolton appeared to celebrate the sanction against him, calling it “great news” in a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon.

“I accept this prestigious recognition of my unrelenting efforts to defend American freedom,” he wrote.

It is unclear what changes Biden plans, but Ruwitch noted, “Even if the Biden team moves swiftly to put the U.S.-China relationship back on a less antagonistic track, Beijing will be wary after the dramatic changes of the past four years.”

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Expert Committee appointed to report on gold, copper and iron ore deposits



By Ifham Nizam

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweeera yesterday appointed an expert committee to conduct a scientific study on the Seruwawila gold, copper and iron ore deposits.

With iron ore prices skyrocketing worldwide and both neighbouring giant India and China having huge demands, Sri Lanka was keen on tapping natural resources, an official said.  

The committee will be coordinated by an Additional Secretary to the Ministry and will be chaired by Prof. Athula Senaratne of the University of Peradeniya and its other members are H W. Navaratne, Dr. Stalin Fernando, Dr. Bernard Perera, Dr. C.H.K.R. Siriwardena and Dr. O.K. Dissanayake.

Amaraweera, addressing the media, at his Ministry yesterday said the mineral deposit had been explored in the 1970s with the help of technology available at that time, and it had been found that there was iron, copper as well as a certain amount of gold in the Seruwawila deposit.

As today’s excavation technology was very advanced, it was possible to dig up to 250-300 metres, the Minister said.

The Minister also said that all possible steps would be taken to increase the value of the mineral resources through value addition locally to ensure higher prices.



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