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Sri Lankans in US celebrate New Year through virtual event



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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Govt. urged to increase nursing cadre to tackle national health crisis



By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Coordinator, Training (Nursing) Pushpa Ramyani de Soysa says that against the backdrop of alarming increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases, the government needs to act swiftly and decisively to strengthen the nursing staff or face the consequences.

The top nurse insists a moment cannot be wasted as the ongoing epidemic threatens to overwhelm the entire country. The nurses’ spokesperson attached to the Accident Ward of the National Hospital, Colombo, delivered the dire warning in a live interview with Dasun Wasantha on the state-run ITN yesterday (14)

The outspoken official said that at the time Covid-19 erupted in 2020, the nursing staff consisted of approximately 38,000 representing all grades. At that time, the country experienced a staggering 50 per cent dearth of trained nursing staff, de Soysa said, urging those responsible as well as the public of the urgent need to strengthen the nursing staff.

She explained how the nursing staff worked under unbearable pressure as the entire medical staff backed by the military and the police struggled to cope up with the relentless Covid-19 onslaught.

Responding to the interviewer on live ‘Hathweni Paya’ , de Soysa said that as an immediate interim measure, those who had retired in the past few years could be brought back to lessen the pressure on the staff. When The Island sought further clarification from the National

Coordinator, the nursing veteran emphasized the Covid-19 challenge had to be tackled, in addition to the regular workload. A further deterioration of the situation could cause a catastrophe, she told The Island.

The National Coordinator told the ITN as nurses couldn’t be trained overnight the way required beds and other equipment could be supplied to hospitals, hence the urgent need to bring back the retired without further delay. She repeatedly stressed the responsibility on the part of the administration whoever in power to increase the nursing staff to meet the country’s growing requirement. Acknowledging the services rendered by the health services at an extremely difficult period, nurse de Soysa underscored the critical role played by the nursing staff in the overall effort against the epidemic.

Soysa highlighted what she called a coordinating role played by the nursing staff in the treatment of persons afflicted by Covid-19 or some other illness. In the absence of sufficient number of nurses, personnel had been re-allocated, de Soysa said, pointing out that due to Covid-19 explosion patients were being accommodated at hospitals.

Commenting on challenges faced by the nursing profession, de Soysa recalled the sacrifices made during the 30-year-war that was brought to a successful conclusion in May 2009. “Regardless of d immense difficulties, the nursing staff fulfilled their responsibilities during the conflict. We’ll do the same now,” de Soysa said, pointing out as many as 270 nurses had been tested Covid-19 positive, in addition to thousands quarantined.

The National Coordinator complained about the dearth of some critically important data relevant to the Covid-19 situation needed for evaluation purposes. Timely decisions couldn’t be taken for want of updated data at global and local level, she said.

She also discussed difficulties caused by some of those seeking treatment at hospitals not being aware of their condition, hence the need to be vigilant. However, sometimes, nursing staff served without taking into consideration the grave risks them faced. A grave looking de Soysa told the ITN interviewer they couldn’t follow health guidelines. “We cannot keep one meter distance in hospitals,” de Soysa said.

Nurse de Soysa said that she received both doses of covishields vaccine as key part of overall measures in place for the protection of the medical staff.

Without referring to any political party, de Soysa explained how the political administration over the years treated the nursing staff as slaves. Government treated nursing staff as dirt, de Soysa said, recalling with gratitude how Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda thera spearheaded a campaign that paved the way for significant improvement in the nursing service. The National Coordinator said that before the Ven. Thera’s intervention, they were assigned intolerable tasks regardless of their complains.

Responding to another ITN query, de Soysa said that successive governments hadn’t responded to their call for enhancement of the nursing service with the introduction of a system to produce qualified nurses who specializes in selected fields. Although action had been taken , the entire process was proceeding at snail pace, she alleged.

The National Instructor made reference to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 2019 presidential election manifesto that also dealt with the issue at hand. The top nurse didn’t mince her words when she pointed out that the required improvements weren’t introduced as expected, hence the need to move now.

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Coronavirus spreading fast in North



By Dinasena Ratugamage

COVID-19 is spreading across a number of areas in the Northern province at a rapid pace, according to THE provincial health officials.

Five members of the same family in Kattakadu, Kilinochchi have contracted COVID-19 and been sent to Krishnapuram Treatment centre.

One family member is a university student, who stayed in Colombo. He returned home recently and several family members started developing Covid-19 symptoms a few days later. Health officials conducted PCR tests and found that all five family members had contracted the virus. Six other neighbouring families have been placed under quarantine.

Meanwhile, 43-year-old man was arrested by Kilinochchi Police for hoarding alcohol to be sold, at a higher price, during the current lockdown. The suspect is a resident of Kalmadukulam, Dharmapuram. He is to be produced before the Kilinochchi Magistrate’s Court.

However, most towns in the North had been deserted yesterday due to the lockdown.

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Navy nets 30 illegal migrants



More than 30 persons were apprehended by the Sri Lanka Navy and Coast Guard in Samindugama on Thursday and Friday while they were preparing to migrate to a foreign country by boat illegally.

The owner of the house where the suspects had stayed was also arrested, together with15 others involved in human smuggling.

The suspects, residents of Jaffna, Batticaloa, Mullaitivu and Puttalam areas, were handed over to the Chilaw Police.

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