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Rejuvenation of SL-US dialogue initiated by Lankan expatriates; Amb counters US resolution

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Sri Lankan expatriates in the United States in a Zoom meeting with U.S. Congresswoman Susie Lee (bottom center), attended by Ambassador Mahinda Samarasinghe (top left) on 14 December. Other participants Sanje Sedera, SL Consul-General Dr. Chandradasa, Kasini Wijegooneratne, Aruna Abeyakoon, Daya Gamage, Col. Lucky Rajasinghe and Congresswoman’s Chief of Staff Schroder.

With the active participation of the new Sri Lanka ambassador to Washington Mahinda Samasasinghe and the United States Congresswoman Susie Lee, a group of Sri Lankan expatriates in the U.S. activated a zoom meeting on December 14 which proved effective toward the rejuvenation of relations between the two nations.

The Sri Lankan expatriates who were conscious of the importance of the two nations establishing a greater understanding of issues initiated this dialogue bringing socio-economic diplomacy as the basis of the discourse among the US-based Sri Lankan diplomatic leader, American lawmakers and expatriate activists whose professionalism in recent times saw the establishment of a Chamber of Commerce on the American soil in this hour-long zoom meeting.

Ambassador Mahinda Samarasinghe cogently explained the misinformation that has gone into the text of the Sri Lankan Resolution now before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to urge US Congresswoman Susie Lee to be cautious if it comes her way for her endorsement. He reminded that despite the progress much had to be achieved, since the end of the separatist war in 2009 Sri Lanka has undertaken progressive steps toward reconciliation and to consolidate harmony among all ethnic communities. He thanked the United States for its assistance in providing 2.7 million vaccines and 17 million dollars to ease the situation created following the outbreak of the Covid pandemic. He reminded that the U.S. had always come forward to assist Sri Lanka at times of need such as in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami disaster.

Ambassador Samarasinghe noted that his task was to bring the two nations closer, and toward that he had already met with State Department officials and lawmakers in the US Congress.

Congresswoman Susie Lee was invited to join the US Congress Sri Lanka-America Caucus to which she sounded favorable. Ambassador Samarasinghe said he would have a further dialogue with Ms. Susie Lee regarding the matter.

In response, U.S. Congresswoman Susie Lee, a friend of many expatriates who attended the zoom meeting, declared the importance of strengthening the bonds between the two nations and said she was prepared to work with the Congress to assist Sri Lanka in whatever manner. She patiently listened to the contributions of the expatriates the importance of the two nations working together.

The zoom meeting was initiated by the president of the newly inaugurated Sri Lanka-America Chamber of Commerce Sanje Sedera who was joined by the Chamber’s president-elect for the Years 2023-2025 Aruna Abeyakoon. Establishing close discourses between the Sri Lankan expatriates and American lawmakers become possible due to the close rapport Mr. Sadera had developed with Members of the Senate and the House over two decades.

The principal administrative official of the California-based Sri Lanka Foundation Kashini Wijegooneratne apprised how the expatriates coordinated with medical personnel in Sri Lanka with the assistance of the American side to provide emergency medical equipment to needy districts in Sri Lanka.

One of the issues that emerged at the December 14 Zoom Meeting was the importance of Sri Lanka and the United States working together to settle the misunderstanding of issues such as human rights and national ethnicity. It was brought to the attention of the zoom meeting that there were longstanding misinterpretations of national issues that need to be corrected to have a stronger bond between the two nations. In fact, Ambassador Samarasinghe at the outset said that the Resolution on Sri Lanka before the House Foreign Affairs Committee was not a balanced one.

Since the arrival of Sri Lanka’s new diplomatic envoy Mahinda Samarassinghe to Washington two weeks ago the Sri Lankan expatriates have been exploring avenues to have a better diplomatic rapport between the two nations. The expatriates who established the Sri Lanka-America Chamber of Commerce on December 9 with the blessings of many American lawmakers – both Senate and House – were targeting the enhancement of trade, commerce and investment cooperation between the two nations. It is with these twin objectives – economic and diplomatic cooperation – that the Sri Lankan expatriates held the Zoom Meeting, one of a series of discourses among expatriates, Sri Lankan diplomats and American lawmakers and policymakers.



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Now, CEB plans to ‘rationalise’ tariff

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By Ifham Nizam

Plans are afoot to ‘rationalise’ the electricity tariff shortly, Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando said, adding that the 52-year-old system should be changed for the betterment of the electricity consumer.

CEB Chief told The Island the CEB tariffs need to be changed to better reflect the use and the income level of the consumer. Ferdinando added that he had already briefed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on it.

Ferdinanado said that right now waste and corruption on CEB’s part had also been added to the consumers’ bill.

He said the CEB had received 1500 MT of fuel yesterday and would receive another shipment soon. However, thort-term power interruptions would continue in several areas until the operations at the Kelanitissa Power Station returns to normal.

“The power interruptions are an annoyance and we are looking for solutions. We too want to provide an uninterrupted power supply to our customers. Our hydro-power generation capacity is low as water levels in reservoirs are receding,” he said.

CEB’s Systems Control Department officials said that power outages might be experienced for one and a half hours due to problems at the Kelanitissa thermal plant complex.

CEB Media Spokesman, Additional General Manager Andrew Navamani said that the national grid had lost 282 MW due to the issues at Kelanitissa thermal plant. He said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had informed the CEB that necessary stocks of fuel for Kelanitissa power plant would be provided by yesterday night.

However, it would take several hours to start the generators, he said.

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Ranil calls on MPs to think anew to find solutions to problems engulfing country

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By Saman Indrajith

Traditional politics did not have solutions to problems and the MPs should think anew to find solutions, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the adjournment debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement, the UNP leader said: We have come to the end of politics. If we go by the words of Francis Fukuyama, it is a question of the end of politics. But that does not mean the end of parliament. We in parliament must think afresh. We must have the strength of finding a new way. We must discuss on bringing about long-term policies which could provide us with a new framework to find solutions for the problems of the people. Thereafter we can go for elections and ask people to decide who or which party could do better. Japan did so. Great Britain is doing so. India and Canada do the same. Why cannot we do it here? If we have common consensus here, we can plan to go for a new era. We must understand this reality.

“The President has commenced this new session at a time when the country is faced with the biggest economic and political crisis in 34 years. In his statement he mentioned only the foreign reserve crisis. The economic crisis we are facing is far more critical than that. We created a middle class with open economic policies. With the collapse of the open economy, the middle class too will collapse. There are a handful of companies and individuals who could earn profits while the entire economy is collapsing. We must decide whether we’ll perish or unite to work out a plan to survive,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We have come to the end of traditional politics. We may shout at each other and go out to shout slogans. None of them will be able to help us find solutions. The problems at hand cannot be solved without a policy framework and strong middle-term plan. What we are facing today is the end of traditional politics,” he said.

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Chandrika says Sirisena should be thrown out of SLFP

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Former President Maithripala Sirisena should be thrown out of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) for making it a junior partner of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said on Wednesday night after appearing before the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry (SPCoI) appointed to implement the recommendations of the final report of the PCoI into alleged Political Victimisation.

Both Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had destroyed the SLFP, she alleged.

The former President said that she had urged Sirisena not to join the SLPP as that would mark the end of the SLFP.

“I repeatedly told him this and in response Sirisena removed me from the party’s Central Committee and stripped me of my organiser’s post.

Now, Sirisena is saying the same things I said about the SLPP. Even during the war, I managed to get the economy up and running. Look at it now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

Bandaranaike was also critical of the SPCoI, stating that she had not been summoned before the PCoI on Political Victimisation for her to respond to any allegations against her.

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