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Sri Lankan professional honoured by Rotary International

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Sri Lankan business personality, Dr. Rohantha Athukorala has been honored among the six members across the world as ‘People of Action: Champions of Health by Rotary International’.

The award was in recognition of their proactive behaviour demonstrated to improve the foundation of good health at home and across the globe.

The work of these members proved especially challenging due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which tested their ‘service above self’ ethos, a communique from Rotary Head Quarters in Chicago, United States, said.

They will be recognized at the 2021 Global Convention for their outstanding contribution.

Commenting on the award Athukorala said: “Rotary is undoubtedly one of the strongest service organizations in Sri Lanka for project management. This includes interactors who work at the school end and Rotaractors in the University end of the postgraduate segments of Sri Lanka. This award is a win for Rotary/Rotaract and Interactors of Sri Lanka”.

Dr. Athukorala, a marketing professional, who has had a 17-year career with top British and American multinational, was also the Chairman of Sri Lanka Export Development Board and Sri Lanka Tourism which gave him the experience to conceptualize the project ‘Stop the Spread’ that was picked as a national project for the year 2020/21 by the Governor of Rotary Sri Lanka and Maldives, Ajith Weerasinghe.

The innovative project brought together 6,200 Interactors, 7,800 Rotaractors and 2,000 Rotarians under one theme driving multiple initiatives from attitude change communication to economic development projects during the pandemic. It was a unique project in our ecosystem that helped fight the Covid-19 deadly virus, Governor Weerasinghe said.

‘Stop the Spread’ used a two step communication model driven by the Interactors using the voice of 280 South Asian, Commonwealth, Asian and Olympic Games medallions in partnership with the National Olympic Committee in the first stage of the roll out. The campaign created awareness on the new normal behaviour required like wearing a mask, keeping social distance, body temperate watch and washing one’s hands in a somewhat controlled ecosystem, which supported the government’s efforts on how to contain the Covid-19 virus.

At present, more than 100,000 people have fallen prey to the virus with 625 deaths in Sri Lanka. The advocacy model must be taken to the next level in Sri Lanka and also extended to the global stage in the partnership with the respective sports bodies of their home country, says Weerasinghe, the Director/CEO of CIC, a a blue chip company in Sri Lanka.

Concurrent to the ‘Stop the Spread’ attitude changing concept, Rotary Sri Lanka mooted the idea of a certification program for businesses to bring to the DNA the new health protocols required in an organization.

The Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI) developed the standards that led to the first-ever Certification protocols for Covid protection being launched in country. Rotary then diffused the idea and Certified almost 300 entities including schools, supermarkets, hotels, and top tea brands, global health and nutrition companies, International rubber organizations, the apparel sector and hotels which quantified the contribution of Rotary during the pandemic commented, Dr. Athukorala noted.

The award winning Sri Lankan professional has also served the United Nations (UNOPS) in his illustrious multinational career. He now heads a leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) company for the South Asian Region.

“The Covid-19 spike in Sri Lanka is very worrying given the new strand we see in countries like India. We cannot afford another lockdown like last year. We have to stop the spread by regulating our behavior”, he stressed.



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Crisis over fuel price hike: SLPP constituents crank up pressure on party General Secretary

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Eight lawmakers representing political parties affiliated to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) have urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to take action against SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, for challenging the government decision to increase fuel prices.

The group consists of National List MP Ven. Athureliye Rathana (Our Power of People Party), Wimal Weerawansa (National Freedom Front), Vasudeva Nanayakkara (Democratic Left Front), Prof. Tissa Vitharana (LSSP), A.L.M. Athaulla (National Congress), G. Weerasinghe (Communist Party), Tiran Alles (United People’s Party) and Asanka Nawaratne (Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya) in a joint letter, dated June 14, have appealed for the immediate intervention of the President and the Premier in this regard.

Prof. Tissa Vitharana and Alles are among 17 appointed to Parliament on the SLPP National List.

They warned that failure to take tangible measures against such actions would result in the deterioration of public confidence in the government. The SLPP parliamentary group comprises 145 MPs.

The group of lawmakers was responding to SLPP National List MP Kariyawasam’s controversial call for the immediate resignation of Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila over the sharp increase of fuel prices at midnight on June 11.

They issued the statement consequent to a hasty  meeting called at Minister Weerawansa’s official residence on Sunday.

Noting that the Presidential Secretariat, too, on Sunday confirmed that the decision to increase fuel prices had been taken on June 09 at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and attended by Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, the group of MPs accused the SLPP General Secretary of causing a wholly unnecessary problem. The group alleged that MP Kariyawasam’s actions had caused suspicion among the electorate whether a clique was in operation in the SLPP.

Minister Gammanpila, embroiled in simmering controversy has refrained from signing the petition though he called another press conference today (15) to explain the developments.

 The group said that in view of the financial crisis that had been caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic the government was forced to increase fuel prices in spite of it being an unpopular measure.

Political sources pointed out that in February this year MP Sagara Kariyawasam caused a media furore when he asked Minister Weerawansa to apologise for suggesting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be accommodated in the SLPP decision-making body. The group that has thrown its weight  behind Minister Gammanpila also clashed with a section of the SLPP lawmakers over the government bid to allow Indian investment at the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo port.

MP Kariyawasam did not answer his mobile phone.

In addition to MP Kariyawasam, MP Jagath Kumara (Colombo District) too strongly condemned the fuel price hike.

The SLPP MPs demanding action against Kariyawasam assured that they would soon submit a comprehensive proposal to President Rajapaksa to provide support to low income groups.

The Presidential Secretariat said that the price increase was necessitated by the financial crisis caused by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) being heavily indebted  to the Bank of Ceylon  and the People’s Bank to the tune of Rs 737 bn. Of that sum, CPC owed Rs 652 bn, the biggest single amount in any of the state sector enterprises.

The Samagi Jana Balavegagaya MP Mujibur Rahman said that Minister Gammanpila owed an explanation why he made the announcement as regards the fuel price hike as the matter came under the purview of the Finance Ministry.  Rahman pointed out that Minister Gammanpila himself subsequently admitted that only the Finance Ministry could decide on this matter. The former UNP MP said that the government’s much touted claim that the decision to increase fuel prices had been finalized on June 09 at the Cost of Living Committee was nothing but a joke. “We thought the Cost of Living Committee was meant to provide relief to the people not to increase their burden,” MP Rahman said.

The SJB spokesperson ridiculed the statement issued by a group of eight MPs. He alleged that the SLPP was staging a drama to divert the attention of the public. Their parliamentary group should take up responsibility for the current crisis having promised to transform the country overnight. Those who had voted for the 20th Amendment in October last year as well as the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill last month were engaged in a futile campaign to save the government, the SJB MP said.

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Basil R wouldn’t have allowed fuel price increase – MP

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Gampaha District SLPP MP Nimal Lanza yesterday said that if Basil Rajapaksa had been in the country, he wouldn’t have allowed the fuel price increase. He said that he strongly opposed the decision as it seriously affected the people, particularly the fishing community.

 

 

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1198 lockdown violators arrested

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By Norman Palihawadane

The Police had arrested 1,198 people countrywide for violating lockdown regulations in the 24 hours that ended yesterday morning, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

A total of 32,593 persons had been arrested on the relevant charges since Oct 30, last year,  he said.

DIG Rohana said that special police teams had been deployed to continue the operations today as well to nab lockdown violators.

During the same period 3,051 persons travelling in 1,757 vehicles were inspected at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province. Of them, 160 persons travelling in 100 vehicles were sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders for non-essential purposes, violating travel restrictions.

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