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‘Rural women need inclusive approach to recover from COVID-19 negative impact’

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Chairperson of the Women’s Caucus in Parliament and Primary Health Care, Epidemics and Covid Disease Control State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle says rural women need an inclusive approach to recover from COVID-19 negative impact.

Making a statement on behalf of the Parliament Women’s Caucus to mark the international day for women, the Minister said: “A day dedicated to rural women falls in October. It is appropriate to consider how best to adopt an inclusive approach to engage rural women to help them recover from the negative impact of COVID.”

“We will therefore make all efforts to prioritise our agenda and help them recover and rebuild through the new normal,” she said.

Excerpts from her statement: “Rural women work in the agriculture sector. Around 25.5% of the population in Sri Lanka engage in agriculture. More than 81 percent of Sri Lanka’s population lives in rural areas. Four fifths of the country’s poor people are dependent on the rural sector. Women comprise at least 50 per cent of this demography. The disruption of supply chains in COVID, and the impact of climate change, have led to many hardships for them – both at work and in their homes”.

“These rural women invariably take the brunt of such a financial downturn. It has a spin off effect on household income. Women are socialised and expected therefore to balance the home budget to feed and provide basic needs for their children. Family health is also placed in their hands as the care-giver. Access to markets, given the digital divide that already existed before COVID, is influencing mobility and access to information even more now. This makes it more difficult to continue their ‘businesses’ such as small-scale efforts like home gardening, and support to livelihoods that have hitherto supplemented household income. They have also felt their access to health including reproductive health service compromised in lockdown.

Rural women who live in proximity to water bodies play multiple roles in these sectors, contributing to household food security, economic development and national food security often as part of the value chain of small, medium or larger scale enterprises. Apart from all this, they also need to survive domestic violence with little referrals for help, especially given the COVID context. Hence, we need to design good social support programmes to strengthen robust development that lend to uplifting their living standards.

“Rural women have entered politics, too. This due to a 25% quota afforded via legislation which is salutary. We need such affirmative action to position them better. It is also reported that a majority of rural women with little formal education and exposure to decision making in public life, entered the local government political structure but enjoyed little voice. However, many are quick to criticise them on the basis that they have not delivered – perhaps due to the lack of experience, the bullying and violence suffered at the hands of their male counterparts, or for the lack of resources allocated for their focused areas of work. This has not helped realise their full potential in the job. These issues that compromise their performance and decision-making efforts need to be addressed in order to maintain their presence in politics. We need to give them a hand to improve their positioning and take their role as politician to a higher level of performing. It is the best way to encourage them to seek nominations, claim their rights as equal participants in the political arena and move ahead during and beyond the election cycle to being strategic decision-makers, contributing to the development and governance,” the Minister said.



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Scotland Police to stop training Lankan cops

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Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

Concerns over the human rights record in Sri Lanka has led to the halt of the police training contract between the Sri Lanka and Scottish Police, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of the Scotland Police confirmed.

He said they have written to the British High Commission in Colombo to inform the Sri Lanka government that they are no longer planning to renew the training contract with Sri Lanka’s police force due to end in March next year.

The British Foreign Office reported last week that Sri Lanka’s human rights situation deteriorated during the first half of 2021.

The report said: “Security forces increased their surveillance and intimidation of human rights activists and their use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, with a number of arbitrary arrests.

The government proposed new regulations with powers to arrest and send individuals to rehabilitation centres to be ‘de-radicalised’ with no judicial oversight or requirement for further process.”

News of Scotland’s Police not renewing the contract was welcomed by critics of Sri Lanka including Mercedes Villalba who is a Scottish Labour politician who has been a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for North East Scotland since May 2021.

British MPs and MSPs jointly sent a letter to the Scotland Police and the British High Commission in Sri Lanka a few weeks ago requesting them to stop the training programme.

Villalba was one of the signatories and after this announcement, she said “I have been pleased to support the campaigners and thank them for their tireless efforts in securing the commitment from the chief constable. I also want to thank Police Scotland for being responsive to the real concerns which were expressed about Sri Lanka’s record of human rights violations.”

Talking about the decision to stop training, Chief Constable Livingstone said that a review must be done to accurately reflect the current security and human rights issues in the region, which have changed since the initial deployment after the end of the Civil War in 2010.

“We remain of course committed to supporting the international development of policing services right across the world so that we can enhance and enable human rights and we can underline the values that we hold dear in Police Scotland of integrity, fairness and respect. Those values will always be at the heart of the work we deliver in Scotland and at the heart of everything we do internationally”, he added.

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Interfaith Week celebrated in London

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Sujeeva Nivunhella reporting from London

A Pooja to celebrate Interfaith Week was organized here last week with the advice and guidance of Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayake Thera, head of the London Buddhist Vihara and the Chief Sangha Nayake of Great Britain.

This annual event begins on Remembrance Sunday, a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of the World War I to remember armed forces personnel who died in the line of duty. This tradition was inaugurated by King George V in 1919.

Adhering to the country’s Covid guidelines, this year’s celebration was held using Zoom technology on the theme “Altruism in each religion”.

Ven. Seelawimala welcomed everyone who joined the session. Notable participants of the event were Ven. Thawalama Bandula Thera, Ven. Kalugamuwe Kassapa Thera from London Buddhist Vihara, Dr Harriet Crabtree – Director of Interfaith Network, UK, Ranjish Kashyap, General Secretary/Director Hindu Council,UK, Dr. Pujya Samaniji Pratibha Pragya, who is a Jain nun from Harrow, Rev Gyoro Nagase, Japanese monk, London Peace Pagoda, Battersea, Dr Desmond Bidulph – Chairman of Buddhist Society and Charanjith and Ajith Singh MBE, Hounslow Friends of Faith, who represented the Sikhs.

All present chanted prayers according to their own faiths to eradicate human suffering, to have peace and especially to see an end to the pandemic situation in the world.

A pre-recorded video of Devotional Songs by London Buddhist Vihara Dhamma School Children was played at the event.

Interfaith Network – UK was founded in 1987 with representatives from the Buddhist, Bahai, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Islam, Sikh and Zoroastrian communities,

National and local interfaith bodies, academic institutions and educational bodies concerned with inter-religious issues are affiliated to the organization. Then head of the London Buddhist Vihara late, Ven. Dr. Medagama Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera was actively involved in forming the Network and was a founding member.

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Frankfurt Consulate massive white elephant, alleges Lankan living there

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Foreign office looking at closing some overseas mission due to financial constraints

by Harischandra Gunaratna

Sri Lanka’s Consulate in Frankfurt has turned out to be a white elephant although the Sri Lankan government spends a whopping Rs. 200 million per year for its operations, Azad Shaukatally, a businessman and a Sri Lankan expatriate in Frankfurt told the Sunday Island.

“Over the years, this consulate has not contributed anything tangible to the country. All that has happened is successive governments appointing political loyalists to head the Mission. None of them have done anything concrete to promote business between the two countries,” he said.

According to him, the Mission could have contributed a great deal by promoting Sri Lankan exports and tourism as Frankfurt is the business hub of Germany.

“What actually happens is, the Consulate in Frankfurt simply replicates several tasks performed by the Embassy in Berlin and that’s it. But it cost the country exorbitantly without the knowledge of the authorities. This is sheer waste of national resources and it needs to be brought to an end,” Shaukatally said.

When the Sunday Island contacted the Foreign Ministry on the matter, its Acting Director General Sugeeshwara Gunaratna said: “The Foreign Ministry regularly evaluates individual performance of each Sri Lankan mission abroad, and constructively engages with them from time to time on specific issues or matters which are mutually beneficial in promotion of Sri Lanka’s bilateral and multilateral relations with the host country and various international organizations while ensuring best interests of the people of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan citizens living abroad.”

He said that any decisions related to opening of new missions or closure of particular Missions/Posts abroad including the Consulate General in Frankfurt would be taken after wider consultation with relevant stakeholders based on the relevance of each Mission/Post in promotion of Sri Lanka’s relations abroad.

“Under the current financial constraints, the Foreign Ministry is in the process of closing down some of the Sri Lankan Missions/Posts abroad after obtaining the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers. However, no final decision, has so far, been taken with regard to the Missions/Posts which would be closed down in the near future,” Gunaratna said.

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