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‘Russia and SL are cooperating closely in battling the Covid-19 pandemic’ – Ambassador Yury Materiy



Several more batches of Russian Sputnik V vaccine to be sent in the near future

The Russian-Sri Lankan relations provide a good example of sincere friendship and mutual understanding that can exist between two countries. We share similar approaches to key international issues such as fighting terrorism, ensuring central role of the UN, settlement of regional and local conflicts, and many others, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Sri Lanka, Yury Materiy said in a message to mark Russia Day.

“Russia extended its full support to the Sri Lankan Government during the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council, made every effort to oppose the anti-Sri Lankan Resolution. Russia voted against this Resolution”, he stressed.

“Our economic relations have been developing at a good pace, reaching new heights in 2020. The trade turnover recorded an increase of 24% and amounted to almost $500 million. A good opportunity to discuss prospects of bilateral cooperation, including in the sphere of economy and trade will arise during the virtual meeting of the Russia-Sri Lanka Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation is to be held in June this year”, he remarked.

Continuing, Ambassador Materiy further said: “One of major examples of our ever-growing partnership is the working visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov to Sri Lanka on January 14, 2020. The Russian Foreign Minister met with the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena. The visit of the Russian Foreign Minister is a major event that will give further impetus to the bilateral cooperation and will contribute to our time-tested friendship.

“Our inter-parliamentary dialogue is an efficient instrument of strengthening Russian-Sri Lankan ties. On April 7, the revival meeting of the Sri Lanka–Russia Parliamentary Friendship Association took place at the Sri Lankan Parliament, which has given a boost to relations between our legislative bodies.

“Russia and Sri Lanka are cooperating closely on battling the coronavirus pandemic. The first batch of Russian Sputnik V vaccine has been delivered to Sri Lanka on May 4, the second – on May 27. Several more batches are expected for delivery in the near future.

“Russia and Sri Lanka have always valued the importance of education for empowering the future generations. Every year, we expand the educational opportunities for Sri Lankans by providing scholarships. This year, the Russian Government has allocated scholarships to 40 Sri Lankan citizens.

“On April 1, 2021, Russia reopened its borders to Sri Lanka, which provides an opportunity for Russian airline companies and SriLankan Airlines to restart flights. It will contribute to the development of humanitarian relations, encouraging the tourist flow between Russia and Sri Lanka.

“I am confident that through joint efforts we will continue enhancing our cooperation in political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres for the benefit of our peoples.

“It is a great honour to address the people of Sri Lanka on our major national holiday – Russia Day which we celebrate on the 12th of June. It gives me pleasure to congratulate all the compatriots as well as our Sri Lankan friends on this solemn occasion.

“June 12 marks the establishment of the present-day Russian Federation, which stretches from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands, from the northern Arctic seas to Sevastopol and Crimea. Russia is a country with a millennia-long history, unique legacy and culture. Strong patriotic sentiments and respect for the Motherland always helped our people to endure all tribulations and respond to any challenges.

“Russia Day is a symbol of free and future-oriented Russia with such core principles of our development as freedom, rule of law, successful economic growth, consolidation of friendship of the peoples living in the country, utmost promotion of democracy, strengthening of our foreign policy. The aforesaid has laid the basis for the inviolable sovereignty of our State and established a reliable foundation for the protection of our national interests.

“Russia is pursuing an independent multifaceted policy and is consistently working towards reducing international tensions and strengthening the democratic principles of communication based on international law. The overriding trend of global development is the process of the formation of a multi-polar world, as well as new centres of economic and financial power.

“The turbulent development of international relations compels Russia to strengthen its position on the international arena. Russia does its best to maintain all aspects of global and regional security and puts much effort into the formation of flexible target-oriented alliances with Russia’s active involvement, such as G20, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and BRICS.

“Our country is open for cooperation based on principles of equality and mutual respect. It is high time for collective, collaborative efforts to find adequate solutions to common challenges, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, which became a crush test for international relations both at the level of individual countries and multilateral associations.

“The objective of Russian foreign policy is to contribute to the creation of a sustainable world system based primarily on the equality of all participants and non-interference in internal affairs, while maintaining the supremacy of international law in the world arena, declaring full support for United Nations’ decisions and avoiding their unilateral and arbitrary interpretation.

“The ‘centre of gravity’ of the global growth is rapidly moving towards Asia-Pacific region, including South Asia. These regions have become one of key priorities of Russia’s foreign policy. Russia is not only a European but also an Asian country, due to its geographical position, history, cultural and religious links with the East, thus becoming a natural bridge between the East and the West. Russian support was one of the determinant factors contributing to the victory of national liberation movements in Asia”.

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Police detain Bathiudeen’s wife, father-in-law and another suspect over domestic aide’s death



Former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s wife, father-in-law and another suspect have been detained for interrogation in connection with the death of the 16-year old domestic aide.

“They are being held for 72 hours for further questioning”, police said.

The suspects taken into custody were identified by police as that 46-year old Sheyabdeen Ayesha, her father  70-year-old Mohammed Sheyabdeen and the broker who brought the girl to work as a domestic aide in Bathiudeen’s house.

The victim, a resident of Dayagama Estate off Talawakelle, was admitted to the Colombo National Hospital on July 3 with severe burn injuries. She died on July 15.

Police have already recorded the statements of more than 20 persons in connection with the girl’s death.

Police have also questioned two women aged 22 and 32 from the Dayagama area, who earlier served as domestic workers at the former Minister’s house.

One of the women had claimed she was sexually harassed by Bathiudeen’s brother-in-law from 2015 to 2019 at the former Minister’s residence in Colombo.

Subsequently, police also arrested the 44-year old Sheyabdeen Ismadeen, brother-in-law of the former Minister.

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Contamination fears propel Lanka Sathosa to recall Chinese-made canned fish stocks



After procurement from Colombo port for Rs. 50mn

by Suresh Perera

A substantial stock of “confiscated” canned fish Lanka Sathosa procured from the Colombo port at a cost of around Rs. 50 million has been recalled from the market following public complaints that the Chinese-manufactured products were unfit for human consumption.

The five 20-foot container loads of 425g ‘Kitchen King’ Mackerel canned fish of the Scomber japonicus species, which were lying in the Colombo port as “abandoned cargo” after forfeiture by the Customs in October last year, was purchased by Lanka Sathosa recently to be sold at a concessionary price through its chain of supermarkets.

“We have now withdrawn the whole stock from our supermarket shelves as there were customer complaints that the canned fish was not fit for consumption”, says Lanka Sathosa Chairman, Rear Admiral (Retd) Ananda Peiris.

The products were injected into the market after clearance by the Food Control Unit of the Health Ministry following quality testing by the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI), he said.

“As there’s a shortage of canned fish in the marketplace, we promptly distributed the stocks to our supermarkets island-wide to be sold at Rs. 290 each. We have now asked the outlets not to sell them to customers because of the quality issue that has emerged”, the Chairman noted.

“We have no option now other than to return the consignment and seek a refund from the Ports Authority”, he said.

Onions, potatoes, lentils and other food commodities, which are either confiscated by the Customs or remain uncleared by importers, are generally procured by Lanka Sathosa to be sold at concessionary prices to customers, Peiris explained.

“In terms of a Cabinet decision, the consignments are auctioned only if we don’t procure them”.

The stock of canned fish had been forfeited as the owner had not cleared it for three months, he said.

“Lanka Sathosa appears to have opened a can of worms as the 9,200 packs of canned fish had arrived aboard a vessel, which sailed into Colombo on October 29 last year, a source knowledgeable of the operation, said.

Listing out the relevant reference and batch numbers of the consignments, the source said the Chinese products were manufactured on 09/10/2020 with a 09/10/2023 ‘expiry date’.

This means the stocks had been in the Colombo port for the past nine months, and had turned rancid despite a 2023 ‘expiry date’, the source asserted.

Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) officers had raided the Lanka Sathosa outlet at Moneragala following complaints that canned fish was being hoarded.

“We found stocks in storage, but was told by officers there that instructions were received to withhold the sale of the ‘Kitchen King’ products until they were re-labeled”, CAA’s Executive Director, Thushan Gunawardena said.

As the importer was not in favor of Lanka Sathosa marketing the products under its original brand name, a sticker was affixed to obscure it, Peiris clarified.

Under Section 10 of the Consumer Protection Act, re-labeling a product constitutes an offence, Gunawardena pointed out.

Acting on a complaint, public health inspectors have taken a sample of the canned fish from the Mawanella outlet for testing, the Lanka Sathosa chief further said.

Responding to questions raised by the CAA, the SLSI said its officers had collected samples from the five containers following requests by the Ports Authority and Lanka Sathosa.

As the original importer had not submitted any documents to the SLSI so far, the need for sample collection didn’t arise, it said.

The CAA has further queried whether the SLSI was aware of the purpose the test results were required at the time samples were received.

The SLSI has clamped down on the import of substandard canned fish with an intolerable level of arsenic, particularly from manufacturers in China.

In a news report headlined “SLSI cracks the whip on substandard Chinese canned fish imports”, The Sunday Island of March 21, 2021 quoted the institution’s Director-General, Dr. Siddhika Senaratne as saying that fish harvested for canning has a high arsenic content as the sea in China is heavily polluted and dirty due to lax environmental laws.

“It is true that there is a scarcity of canned fish in the market because supply cannot meet the demand. However, this does not mean we should allow our people to be poisoned through arsenic-laden imports”, she was quoted saying in the news report.

With the SLSI stipulating a maximum arsenic tolerance standard of 1.0 milligram per kilogram of fish, a filtering mechanism is now in place to shut out substandard imports, she assured at the time.

Asked whether the consignment of Chinese canned fish procured by Lanka Sathosa was earlier detained due to its high arsenic content, Dr. Senaratne declined comment saying she’s “not allowed to talk to the media”.

“The DG wouldn’t want to be dragged into another controversy”, an official remarked, referring to the furore over her claim of toxins in foodstuffs, which she, however, declined to identify at the time.

At a time canned fish imports from China have been off the shelves since SLSI’s rigid monitoring of tolerable arsenic levels began, industry players expressed consternation on how a stock, which had been lying in the Colombo port for months, was suddenly given the nod for procurement by Lanka Sathosa.

With the scarcity of canned fish products in the market pushing up demand, will an importer abandon his consignments unless there was something rotten somewhere?, they asked.

“It is too far-fetched to imagine that they got the documentation wrong as these importers are seasoned campaigners in the game”.

It is apparent that Lanka Sathosa had not done its homework before jumping at the idea of procuring the consignment because Chinese-made canned fish had remained virtually out of bounds for many months because of fears of contamination, they said.

Importers didn’t want to risk their investments as a high arsenic level meant the consignments were either destroyed or ordered to be re-exported, they added.

“That’s why local products now dominate the market with a brand from Thailand also no longer available”.



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United States gives Sri Lanka 500,000 coronavirus rapid tests



The United States had donated 500,000 Rapid diagnostic tests to Sri Lanka worth Rs. 300 million to help the country fight Coronavirus, the US Agency for International Development said.

“By enabling rapid detection of the virus, these tests donated by the American people will save lives and protect public health in Sri Lanka,” USAID Mission Director to Sri Lanka and Maldives, Reed Aeschliman said in a statement.

“This donation builds on previous U.S. support to the Sri Lankan government’s pandemic response and reflects our strong, long-standing partnership.”

US has also given 1.5 million moderna vaccines to Sri Lanka.

The tests are simple to use and enable fast, decentralized access to direct testing. They do not require additional equipment or specialized laboratory access, which helps achieve high testing coverage.

The United States has also given of 200 ventilators to Sri Lanka’s health system.

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