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SLPP Chairman finds fault with NFF for taking ‘internal issues’ before the public



…emphasises miracle created by Basil

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday questioned the rationale in National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa taking up ‘internal issues’ publicly in spite of the coalition having a specific mechanism to address any contentious matter.

Addressing the media at the Waters’ Edge, Prof. Peiris explained how SLPP constituents over a period of two weeks discussed Sri Lanka’s response to accountability accusations at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

The SLPP Chairman, who is also the Education Minister emphasized that matters of concern could have been amicably settled within the coalition without causing a public uproar.

Prof. Peiris said that the ruling coalition wanted to set the record straight as regards recent developments. The comments were his first since Weerawansa with the backing of several other lawmakers, including cabinet ministers successfully challenged the move to involve India in the East Container Terminal (ECT) before calling for the inclusion of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the SLPP’s decision-making hierarchy. Weerawansa called for a formal political role for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Referring to the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) as weak, Prof. Peiris stressed the need to avoid reckless actions which might confuse the public, especially those who voted for the party at the 2019 and 2020 presidential and parliamentary polls, respectively. That would be advantageous to the bankrupt Opposition, Prof. Peiris said, underscoring the importance of being mindful of political realities.

At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris said internal disagreements weren’t something new in coalition politics. The formation of the SLPP, too, hadn’t been an easy task against the backdrop of the 2015 defeat at the presidential election, Prof. Peiris said, urging all stakeholders to be mindful of the challenges, obstacles faced in the run-up to receiving recognition of the party in late 2016.

Prof. Peiris paid a glowing tribute to the role played by former SLFP National Organizer and ex-minister Basil Rajapaksa in the launch of the new party (re-registering under a new name) at a time a section of those in their camp asserted that there was no requirement for a new party. Prof. Peiris said that though they declared the then Joint Opposition was sufficient for their project, Basil Rajapaksa quite rightly formed the party. The SLPP founder believed that they required new space and was determined to bring the project to fruition and in less than one and half years, the SLPP convincingly won the Feb 2018 Local Government polls. Again underscoring Basil Rajapaksa’s role, Prof. Peiris said that securing 71 per cent of LG councils at that poll was nothing but a miracle for a new party.

There had been no previous instance of a ruling party losing LG poll in Sri Lanka, the SLPP Chairman said.

Prof. Peiris said there had been very difficult negotiations among the constituents in the run-up to the 2020 general election as regards the nominations. However, they were able to settle the issue amicably, Minister Peiris said, citing the 20th Amendment to the Constitution as another contentious matter successfully addressed through talks.

Referring to the recent issues, Prof. Peiris said that those involved were experienced in politics and could respond to situations, prudently.

Commenting on the collective responsibility of members of the cabinet, Prof. Peiris said that once the cabinet finalized a decision on any given matter, there couldn’t be a public debate over such issues under any circumstances. Such a scenario would be detrimental to the government and the country, the SLPP Chairman said, warning of a catastrophe if members of the cabinet violated the basic rules. Prof. Peiris warned of the disastrous impact on the government’s efforts to attract foreign investment and irreparable damage to foreign policy especially in the run up to the Geneva sessions next week.

One-time External Affairs Minister Prof. Peiris said that as Sri Lanka was on the Geneva agenda, SLPP constituents were discussing their response. The Minister said that they were in the process of reaching consensus on Geneva response. According to the Minister, both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa had been involved in those deliberations.

Responding to a media query, Minister Peiris said that the government would provide a copy of the PCoI report on the Easter Sunday attacks to Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith. The Minister emphasized that there was no need for international intervention in the matter. The Minister pointed out that the Cardinal appeared before the PCoI as he had faith in the inquiry therefore the media shouldn’t undermine the process by raising issues they didn’t do during the previous yahapalana administration.

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‘Those who fear exposure making a din over Easter Sunday carnage PCoI report – PM



Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that some of those who fear that they will be held accountable under the law for the Easter Sunday attacks are now making a big noise over the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the carnage.

“They know that they will be exposed. That’s why they are making a din in the belief they could escape being taken to task under the law”, the premier told The Sunday Island.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has declared March 7 as ‘Black Sunday’ to demand justice to the victims of the attacks by bringing before the law those responsible for the carnage.

Church leaders have their congregations to be attired in black when they attend mass on Sunday. Church bells will toll at 8.45 am, the time of the near-simultaneous attacks, and special prayers will be offered for justice for the victims.

Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that the CID will begin investigations shortly to initiate the process of filing legal action against those responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks.

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Sri Lankan High Commission in India remains headless for 14 months




Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, March 5:

The Sri Lankan High Commission in India has remained without a Head of Mission for 14 months now.

Veteran civil servant Austin Fernando, who was posted here as the High Commissioner, went back home in January last year.

Former Minister Milinda Moragoda was appointed as the new High Commissioner with a Cabinet rank late last year, and India has accepted the appointment shortly thereafter.

But Moragoda is yet to take charge. It is not clear when he is planning to arrive in India.

Being a large neighbour and in view of excellent relations between the two countries, India is important for Sri Lanka.

Besides, as many as 92 New Delhi-based Ambassadors and High Commissioners are also concurrently accredited to Sri Lanka. Only 41 countries maintain their diplomatic missions in Colombo.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, direct flights between the two countries were suspended early last year. But Air India has been running special flights at regular intervals from Colombo to New Delhi and other cities to bring back Indian nationals stranded in Sri Lanka while on a holiday or a business trip.

India has also created air bubbles to allow flights to over 20 countries, including Bangladesh. But Sri Lanka is not one of them. Negotiations are said to be in progress to make this happen in due course of time.

Sources in Colombo said Moragoda is expected to leave later this month.



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WFP and Korea to Help Supply Thriposha to Children and Mothers



COLOMBO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) are supporting the Government of Sri Lanka with funding worth USD 600,000 (LKR 117 million) to procure maize for the production of Thriposha.

The funding will be used to produce Thriposha, a maize-based fortified food product, which will be provided to 1.1 million mothers and children. The grant from Korea helps ensure continuation of the Thriposha programme, which the Government of Sri Lanka has been conducting for almost 50 years to provide nutrition to undernourished children and pregnant and lactating women.

Thriposha, which means triple nutrients, is a locally produced supplementary food product, provided free of charge to children below 5 years of age who are underweight or with a slow rate of weight gain and pregnant and lactating women with a low body mass index (BMI), through the public health system.

“The world is facing unexpected circumstances while battling with the pandemic,” says Kang Youn Hwa, KOICA Sri Lanka Office Country Director. “The contribution from KOICA for the Thriposha National Programme was extended with the objective of improving the nutritional status of vulnerable people, especially children and pregnant/lactating women who are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. KOICA stands in solidarity with the Government of Sri Lanka during this difficult time.”

This latest contribution forms part of the activities carried out by KOICA — the Official Grants Division to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea — in response to Covid-19. KOICA has been present in Sri Lanka for over two decades, with programmes that support a variety of sectors including education, health, rural development, water management and transportation. One such intervention is the “R5n” programme, a joint project conducted with WFP since 2019. “R5n” aims to improve the lives and livelihoods of rural smallholder farmers by strengthening their resilience to recurring climate shocks, especially drought. KOICA’s support for the procurement of maize to produce Thriposha complements its on-going assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka.

Covid-19 has brought about fresh challenges in the country, including an estimated rise in unemployment and reduced incomes. This affects a family’s ability to access nutritious food and threatens to have long-lasting impacts on the health and nutrition standards in the country. The Thriposha programme provides a readily accessible source of nutrition to mothers and children when they need it the most.

The Ministry of Health requested WFP’s support in ensuring a continuous supply of Thriposha. In response to this, WFP together with KOICA, arranged to provide funding to bolster the Thriposha programme and help safeguard the health and nutrition of women and children.

“WFP has been supporting the Thriposha programme for over a decade, as part of its efforts to improve nutrition standards in the country,” says Andrea Berardo, Deputy Country Director of WFP Sri Lanka, highlighting that Sri Lanka ranks among the countries with the highest rates of wasting, known as thinness, among children under 5 years of age (15 percent). “This latest contribution reflects our long-standing support to the government to not just treat, but also prevent these high rates of malnutrition and importantly, safeguard development gains made within the country.”

In 2021 and beyond, WFP will continue to work with the government to enhance the national health system as part of its efforts in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 of enhancing food security and improving nutrition in the country.

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