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Russian Amb reiterates commitment for stronger ties with Lanka

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Russian Ambassador Yury Materiy has reiterated their commitment to having strong Russia-Sri Lanka ties, in a message issued to mark Russia Day. Ambassador Materiy made reference to the reopening of its borders to Sri Lanka on April 1, which provides an opportunity for Russian airline companies and Srilankan Airlines to restart flights.

The following is the full text of the statement: “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.

The 12th of June 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 multipolar 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 a high time for collective, collaborative efforts to find adequate solutions to common challenges, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, which became a crucial 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.

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.

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

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 which is to be held in June, this year.

One of the 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 President

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister  Dinesh Gunawardena. The visit of the Russian ForeignMinister 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 was delivered to Sri Lanka on the 4th of May, the second – on May 27. Several more batches are expected to be delivered 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 for 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.”

 

 



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People to get fuel price shock soon

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The Cabinet sub-committee on the cost of living had decided to increase fuel prices, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila told the media yesterday (11) in Colombo. He said that the date of the price hikes  would be revealed soon.

The Minister said that if they announced the date, it would lead to long lines at filling stations and it would have disastrous consequences during the pandemic.

“We know that things are hard for everyone, that is why we didn’t increase fuel prices for 21 months. But the government can no longer bear the losses. The oil prices in the world market have been increasing. By the end of 2020, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) had accumulated a loss of RS. 331 billion. Each year we spend three billion dollars to import oil,” he said.

Gammanpila said that the main sources of income for the country had been affected due to the pandemic and foreign investments and tourism had stopped and a large number of Lankans working abroad had returned, decreasing remittances.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Office on May 20 said that a ministerial subcommittee discussed the sharp increase in crude oil prices compared to 2019 and 2020.

The PM chaired the meeting in the Committee Room 8 in Parliament. The Cabinet subcommittee discussed ways and means of addressing the problems caused by the crude price hike.

The PM’s Office said that ministers had discussed how to sustain public relief in the wake of further increase in expenditure. The subcommittee discussed the financial problems of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), among other things. The PM’s Office said that ministers had discussed how to sustain public relief in the wake of further increase in expenditure. The subcommittee discussed the financial problems of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), among other things. (RK)

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HRC asks IGP to explain how he intended to stop deaths of suspects in police custody

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Report called by June 13

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Human Rights Commission has sought an explanation from IGP C.D. Wickremaratne as regards continuing deaths in police custody.

In a letter dated June 8, 2021, HRC Chairman Dr. Jagath Balasuriya has raised the recent deaths in police custody with the focus on two incidents involving Panadura and Batticaloa police.

HRC Acting Director Research and Monitoring Nihal Chandrasiri told The Island that the June 8 dated letter was the latest missive addressed to the IGP regarding this particular issue since the formation of the new HRC following the last general election in August 2020.

Chandrasiri made available to The Island, a copy of Dr. Balasuriya’s letter addressed to IGP Wickremaratne.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in late Dec 2020 named former lawmaker Balasuriya as the Chairman of the HRC comprising· Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara, Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan and H.K. Navaratne Weraduwa.

Chandrasiri said that the HRC first took up deaths in police custody in the wake of the killing of Dinithi Melan alias Uru Juwa, who had been arrested by the Nawagamuwa police, and Dharmakeerthi Tharaka Perera Wijesekara alias Kosgoda Tharaka in the second week of May 2021.

Civil society activist attorney-at-law Senaka Perera told The Island that continuing deaths in police custody should be examined against the backdrop of a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka delivered that the extra-judicial killing of a suspect in police custody violated the right to life, in spite of the absence of an explicit right to life clause  in the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

According to Dr. Balasuriya’s letter, reportage of the deaths of Chandana Vidushan and Ali Khan in the custody of the Batticaloa police and Panadura (North) police, respectively, prompted the HRC to take up the matter with the IGP. Declaring that the HRC has initiated an inquiry in terms of Section 14 of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Act, No.21 of 1996, Dr. Balasuriya said that inquiries revealed both victims suffered cruel and inhuman treatment in the hands of the police, leading to their deaths?.

Expressing serious concern over what he called the absence of safety and security of those in police custody, Dr. Balasuriya has pointed out to the IGP relevant sections of the Constitution, in addition to Supreme Court rulings in respect of such matters and two letters dated Oct 21, 2020 and  March 17, 2021 that dealt with the issue at hand.

Asserting that continuing deaths in police custody resulted in deterioration of public confidence in law and order, such incidents underscored the threat to what he called public freedom. Having reminded the IGP that the HRC intervened in terms of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Act, No.21 of 1996, Dr. Balasuriya has requested the IGP to submit a report to him of measures he intended to introduce to prevent deaths in police custody by or before June 13.

In the wake of several killings in police custody, Romesh de Silva, PC, recently moved the Court of Appeal on behalf of convicted heroin dealer Gampola Vidanalage Samantha Kumara alias Wele Suda held at maximum security Boossa prison. President’s Counsel successfully argued against the police taking Wele Suda into their custody.  

President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President’s Counsel Saliya Pieris has appeared in the Court of Appeal on behalf of Janith Madushankar alias Podi Lassi. Having brought to the notice of justices, Sobitha Rajakaruna and Dhammika Ranepola, the most recent killings in police custody of ‘Uru Juwa’ and ‘Kosgoda Tharaka,’ Peiris sought the court’s intervention to ensure his client’s safety and security.

The lawyer has requested that the court direct the IGP to transfer his client from the custody of the CID to another unit.

 

 

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Health trade union alliance claims their strike a success

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Senior health officials including doctors benefited from the current health crisis, Health Services Trade Union Alliance (HSTUA) President Saman Rathnapriya said yesterday commenting on the trade union action resorted to by a number of health sector unions, excluding the GMOA.

Rathnapriya maintained that the strike was a success and non-health sector unions  too had supported them because what he called unfair increases in allowances received by doctors affected the entire state sector. The allowance given to doctors had been increased by 78%, from Rs. 41,220 to Rs. 78,120, however other categories had not received any increase in their allowances, he said.

“Our union action was a success, but we are not happy we had to do this. Nurses and other staffers have not received any increase in their allowances although they too are contributing greatly in the fight against COVID-19. The Health Ministry is unnecessarily creating issues by giving a colossal allowance increase to the doctors,” Rathnapriya said.

College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President Ravi Kumudesh said that the doctors held top positions in the Health Ministry and for many years they had been ignoring the salaries and allowances of other employees.

“They not only mistreat us but create new issues, testing our patience. Throughout this pandemic you can see this. They get all the perks and have even their family members vaccinated. They are taking advantage of the fact that we are exercising patience in view of the pandemic,” Kumudesh said.

Kumudesh added that the union action had not affected the anti-COVID-19 programme, cancer, maternity and paediatric hospitals, etc.

“We are not doing this to inconvenience the people. We are trying to ensure that the Health Ministry does not create additional problems,” he said

President of All Ceylon Management Service Officer’s Union, Udeni Dissanayake said that they too supported the trade union action because the actions of the GMOA would have an adverse impact on the entire state sector.

Doctors had received certain perks in recent years, and they had contributed to salary anomalies and inequality of remuneration across the board, he said.

“Doctors were treated with great respect in our culture, and this is being eroded by the actions of the GMOA. They have been receiving allowances increased and after a while those of similar standing in other sectors, too, ensure that they get hikes, but those in the lower grades do not see any increase. Although we are not a health sector union, we fully support this action for two reasons. One is that the cause is just and the other is that the impact of the allowance hike given solely  to the doctors will soon be felt by us,” Dissanayake said.

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