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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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SJB MP slams police double standards



“Why one law for Ponnambalam and another for Gamage?”

The police have failed to display the same efficiency they displayed in arresting Jaffna District MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam with regard to arresting State Minister Diana Gamage, who should have been spending her time at the Mirihana Immigration Detention Centre, Kurunegala District SJB MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha told Parliament on Friday.

“If the police had displayed the same efficacy, Diana Gamage should have been at the Mirihana Detention Centre at this time. Instead she comes to parliament and issues threats to other MPs. The courts have clearly stated that the CID could take her into custody because she had been using two passports.

“The Immigration Controller himself has reported to the courts that she had been a UK citizen since 2004 and using a UK passport since then. She has not revoked her UK citizenship. In addition she has obtained anther passport through the Secretary General of Parliament. The Speaker too should have a responsibility to prevent a foreign citizen sitting unlawfully in the House,” he said.

Jayamaha said that Gamage had no right to sit in parliament. “The case against her regarding her having forged passports is postponed again and again. The law is not implemented. My colleague Mujibur Rahuman tabled a document in this House that the Defence Secretary had been informed of the illegality of Gamage’s presence in Parliament. I tabled the same again today.

“She recently told a TV talk-show that she had applied for the revocation of her UK citizenship. We do not know whether she has two tongues,” the MP said.

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Sarath Weerasekera opposes SLT share sale on security grounds



Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), which owns a fixed and mobile telecom group, which is partly foreign owned and listed should not be privatized, the head of a parliamentary committee on national security has said.

Government MP, Retd. Admiral Sarath Weerasekara who chairs the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security told parliament Friday that divestment of the 49.5 percent stake in SLT held by the government could “expose the country’s strategic communication infrastructure and sensitive information to private companies that are motivated by profit, which could pose a threat to national security”.

Weerasekara also said that any individual or organization proscribed or otherwise that “aided terrorists or extremists” must not be allowed to purchase shares or control Sri Lanka’s national assets.

The claim comes despite satellite links and international cables connecting the country being built and managed by foreign conglomerates in which many connected countries are also shareholders. SLT is also a shareholder in some global cable companies.

Weerasekara suggested that the government retain the right to repurchase shares held by the majority shareholder of SLT.SLT’s second biggest shareholder, behind the Sri Lanka government, is Malaysia-based Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd with a 44.9 percents take in the company.

Most Sri Lanka’s mobile firms were also built and owned not just by private firm but foreign ones. SLT’s own mobile network, Mobitel was a build operate transfer project by Australia’s Telstra.

Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers in March 2023 listed Sri Lanka Telecom among several state companies to be re-structured.SLT currently enjoys market leadership in fixed-line services and is the second-largest operator in mobile. It also owns an extensive optical fibre network.The company was placed on watch for a possible rating upgrade by Fitch Ratings in March 2023 after the government announced the restructuring. (EconomyNext)

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Cardinal hits out at government demanding local elections



By Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has urged the government to hold local elections to secure the democratic rights of the people.

“Voting is a right of the people that we must all enjoy. It is a right that every person over 18 -years of age is entitled to to determine the future of the country,” he said on Thursday.

“Today justice as been turned into injustice, governance to dictatorship and law into lawlessness,” the 75-year-old cardinal told a gathering of hundreds of people at a function at St. Anthony’s College in Kochchikade.

Local polls to elect 340 councils were slated for April 25 but the election commission postponed it, citing a lack of funds.

“The government said earlier that it doesn’t have money to hold an election, now it’s saying that it has money. If the government has the money, please give an opportunity to the people to vote and let the people express their wishes. How much of what came from the IMF was used for agriculture? How much for the fishing industry? And what about education?” the cardinal queried.

Rather than improving the lives of people, “politicians import goods, and bring in what we need and what we don’t need, destroying our economic independence, leading us to depend on foreign countries,” he said.

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