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Sri Lankans in US celebrate New Year through virtual event

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Enabling children to appreciate the rich traditions & cultural practices

The Sri Lankan community across the USA came together on Sunday (18) to celebrate Sinhala and Tamil New Year, through a Program initiated by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington DC.

Particularly intended to help children living in the US appreciate the rich traditions and cultural practices of Sri Lanka, the program was held in collaboration with the recently constituted ‘Overseas Sri Lankans Network’ (OSL) in the USA, and included music/dance items from cities in 15 States across the US.

The main program held at the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C. included the hoisting of the national flag, singing of the national anthem, lighting of the traditional oil lamp, and multi religious observances. Buddhist observances were conducted by the Chief Incumbent of the Maryland Buddhist Vihara Venerable Katugastota Uparatana Nayaka Thero, Hindu religious observances by Swami Ragubathi Kurukkal, Islam religious observances by Seyed Rizwan Mowlana and Christian religious prayers by Reverend Father Dilantha Arachchilage.

In an anushashana the Most Venerable Maharagama Dhammasiri Thero, Chief Incumbant of the Washington DC Buddhist Vihara and the Maharagama Sri Vajiragnana Dharmayathanaya emphasized the significance of the new year, and invoked blessings on the President, the Government, the people of Sri Lanka and all Sri Lankans in the US and elsewhere. 

The New Year message of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was read by the Deputy Chief Mission, Sarath Dissanayake.

Addressing the event Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US Ravinatha Aryasinha said, given the COVID restrictions, the thought of having such a New Year event as a ‘Pan US virtual celebration’, germinated from the national and State based discussions the Embassy had over the past three months through the recently established OSL network which now spans all 50 States and supports the Embassy in advancing Sri Lanka’s interests – through political advocacy, economic empowerment, and socio-cultural engagement.

He said, through this coming together with Sri Lankans across the country, the Embassy was keen to not only showcase the abundance of artistic talent possessed within the community, but also to project the considerable organizational capacity the OSL community has when it works together.

The Ambassador hoped that this would be a new beginning, which will encourage all to work even harder to make the voice of Sri Lankan Americans more relevant in the USA – in cities, states and at the federal level, and thereby to do the motherland proud, while strengthening Sri Lanka-US Relations.

In a message to mark the occasion, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dr. Mohan Pieris emphasized the uniqueness of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year as a festival celebrated mainly by the Buddhists & Tamils, adding that Christians too participate in the New Year celebrations and it has become almost a nationwide festival.

He hoped that New Year celebration would be a spring board to lasting peace with renewed hope.

Sri Lanka Consul General in Los Angeles Dr. Lalith Chandradasa, in his message elaborated on the cultural roots of the celebration by the Sinhalese and the Tamils.

He said the idea of the New Year is to move on with an open mind, asking for forgiveness from whomever with we had issues during the last year, as we march forward together so that we could bring prosperity and peace to the country.

The subsequent cultural program had over 25 colorful traditional music/dance items performed by Sri Lankan children, youth & adults from Washington DC and 15 States across the USA – California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Washington.

The celebrations concluded with a vote of thanks by Ms. Wijayanthi Edirisinghe, Minister/OSL who coordinated the celebration. This event was hosted by Ms. Koshila Peris and Ms. Vidya Sudhramaniam, with technical assistance and support by a group of Sri Lankan volunteers living in the Greater Washington DC area and the Embassy’s IT Officer

Kumara Karunarathne.



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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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