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Stranded pod of whales may have lost course – Marine Biologist



By Ifham Nizam

The pod of whales, which beached at Panadura, have been identified as ‘Short-Finned Pilots’, Marine Biologist cum Ocean Educator, Dr. Asha de Vos, said.

The pod is believed to have been stranded as a result of following a desperate whale that lost its course, she noted.

Six pilot whales and one dolphin died after more than 100 mammals beached at Panadura on Tuesday.

Wildlife Department Director-General Chandana Sooriyabandara said the Navy, fisher community, wildlife activists, coastguards and police helped in the task to push back the whales deeper into the ocean.

National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) officials and other state marine life protection authorities also provided assistance.

According to the Navy, the mission was augmented by 30 naval personnel, an Inshore Patrol Craft, a group of 30 Coast Guard personnel, lifesaving boat, six naval personnel attached to the Rapid Response Relief and Rescue Unit, Kalutara with two lifesaving boats.

On the request of Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, jet skis given by a local water sports club were also used to pull the sea mammals deeper into the ocean.

Those who joined the rescue mission did everything within their power to manage the animals that were between 3-5.5m (10-18 feet), weighing 1000-3000 kilos. The animals were fatigued and stressed, they were splashing their tails around, which was risky for the people in the water, Dr. de Vos said.

“It was difficult for the men (who were also fatigued) to turn them upright against the crashing waves and to direct them into the surf and move them beyond their own height of water. If you’ve never been in this situation, please don’t be quick to judge,” she further said.

As I have explained on earlier occasions, whales breathe from their blowholes located at the top of their heads. The rescuers had to ensure the airways remained unblocked while trying to keep the animals upright, but it was hard. The waves kept tossing the animals and the people’, she noted.

A senior Department of Wildlife Conservation official said initial investigations suggested that the mammals were stranded due to sea currents or a change in their normal habits.

However, the Department also said that they had found the recent deaths on Olive Ridley Sea Turtles was due to foreign bodies entering their lungs.

“We fear that the recent oil spill may be one of the major reasons and there may be also some connections when it comes to pilot whales adopting an unusual routine,” an official said.

The Department had sent body samples and the report is expected in February 2021. The wildlife authorities will also conduct tests through veterinarians, the official noted.

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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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