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Tougher laws called for to halt maligning of female candidates in social media



… sexual misconduct insinuated to scare them off

Text and pix by PRIYAN DE SILVA

Former member of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka Prof. Rathnajeevan Hoole said that tight laws were needed to curb maligning of women in social media, or no woman would come forward and contest an election. He added that accusing female candidates of sexual misconduct was a terrible thing.

Hoole said such baseless allegations had been levelled against female candidates in the Eastern Province, and TNA National List candidate Ambika Sathkunanathan had also been a victim. 

The victims of libel could not resort to legal action due to the cost factor, Prof. Hoole said, suggesting that the parties they represent come forward to have the culprits brought to justice. Mangaleshwari Shankar who possibly led the popularity ratings among the females in the Batticaloa District of the Eastern Province, nominated to contest the 2020 parliamentary election, said it was not easy for women to engage in politics.

“It is terrible” she said, noting that even months after the election there were attacks on her in social media.

A lawyer by profession Mangalaeshwari, better known as Mangala Shankar, is a human rights activist, a former Legal Manager at Transparency International Sri Lanka; she also worked for the Centre for Human Rights Development (CHRD) and at present is a visiting lecturer at the Open University of Sri Lanka. She also worked extensively with women’s organisations  in the district, and this prompted her to take to politics. She made her intention known to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which did not show any interest, but a few days before nominations closed she was invited by all the main parties including the TNA to contest.

 She opted to accept the invitation of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai  Pluvial (TMVP), even though it was not the most popular party. Thereafter, a smear campaign was launched against her.

  “In early July a fake Facebook page in my name was created by someone and  initially it  duplicated the posts on my actual Facebook page but later on posts appeared  defaming other candidates.

 “Everyone thought, I was behind those attacks, and I complained to the Police, the Elections Commission, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and subsequently to Facebook itself, she said. The page was removed by Facebook in the first week of September but the damage had already been done. 

 She also said that there were hundreds of other social media accounts that posted insulting, humiliating and abusive posts in Tamil.

In Batticaloa, Mangala Shankar was not the only female candidate to be defamed in that manner. Senior Lecturer at the Eastern University Dr. Chandra Mahendran said that there had been a sinister campaign to prevent her from contesting. She had to overcome many obstacles even before she was able to sign the nomination papers.

Ambika Sathkunanathan was on the TNA National List. Baseless allegations were made against her, as well.

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GL sounds far-reaching educational reforms  



Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (21) acknowledged that for want of tangible measures on the part of successive governments, there was a critical mismatch between the education provided and the availability of job opportunities.

The academic, in quarantine as a result being identified as potential Covid-19 contact, emphasised the need for far reaching changes to address the issue as part of their efforts to restructure the entire system.

Prof. Peiris said so in his short remarks at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the University of Colombo.

The one-time External Affairs Minister said: “It is a great pleasure for me to felicitate the University of Colombo, my alma mater on this happy occasion. It is a significant milestone because we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the faculty of arts, faculty of science and the library of the University of Colombo. As we look back on that span of a full century, the characteristics of the University which comes to mind is its resilience. During that period the University has had to face and indeed overcome many challenges. The society of our country has undergone a fundamental transformation during that period.

The University had the strength to cope with rapidly changing circumstances. I would identify that as a principal accomplishment of the University of Colombo.

The University proved its capacity for development, change and refinement and adaptation in order to keep pace with dramatically changing circumstances. The University proud as its history is I am sure will have an even more magnificent future. It has an important role to play in the far reaching changes we are contemplating in the educational system of our country. It is our intention in the course of this year 2021 to restructure the entire system in order to address the fundamental problem of a rather critical mismatch between the education we provide in our Universities and other educational institutions on the one hand and the availability of employment, livelihoods on the other. There is regrettably gap in this regard and it should be our collective endeavor to address this problem. We are also revisiting the curricular. The substance of our curricular  the methods of teaching in such a way  as to serve better the public in a  better way   In all these efforts I have no doubt the expertise of the University of Colombo by any standards  will be of enormous assistance to us in achieving goals we have set ourselves (SF)

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China slaps sanctions on 28 Trump administration officials, including Pompeo



China has imposed sanctions on 28 former Trump administration officials, including outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agency reports said yesterday.

In a statement released just minutes after President Biden took office, China’s foreign ministry said it had decided to sanction those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues.”

The list of names features former Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar; former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro; former national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Matthew Pottinger, who recently resigned as deputy national security adviser. Former national security adviser John Bolton and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were also included.

The sanctions prohibit those individuals and their immediate family members from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. They are also restricted from doing business with China, as are any companies or institutions associated with them.

“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” the ministry said.

The move comes just one day after Pompeo issued a forceful statement accusing China of committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other minority groups in its Xinjiang region, for which the U.S. sanctioned several Chinese officials in July. That was one of numerous instances of sanctions, visa bans and trade restrictions imposed on Chinese politicians and Communist Party officials in the Trump administration’s final year.

Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated considerably under the previous administration, which took an unusually confrontational approach. Pompeo and other officials referred to China as constituting America’s greatest threat, as NPR’s John Ruwitch has reported.

In fact, Bolton appeared to celebrate the sanction against him, calling it “great news” in a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon.

“I accept this prestigious recognition of my unrelenting efforts to defend American freedom,” he wrote.

It is unclear what changes Biden plans, but Ruwitch noted, “Even if the Biden team moves swiftly to put the U.S.-China relationship back on a less antagonistic track, Beijing will be wary after the dramatic changes of the past four years.”

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Expert Committee appointed to report on gold, copper and iron ore deposits



By Ifham Nizam

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweeera yesterday appointed an expert committee to conduct a scientific study on the Seruwawila gold, copper and iron ore deposits.

With iron ore prices skyrocketing worldwide and both neighbouring giant India and China having huge demands, Sri Lanka was keen on tapping natural resources, an official said.  

The committee will be coordinated by an Additional Secretary to the Ministry and will be chaired by Prof. Athula Senaratne of the University of Peradeniya and its other members are H W. Navaratne, Dr. Stalin Fernando, Dr. Bernard Perera, Dr. C.H.K.R. Siriwardena and Dr. O.K. Dissanayake.

Amaraweera, addressing the media, at his Ministry yesterday said the mineral deposit had been explored in the 1970s with the help of technology available at that time, and it had been found that there was iron, copper as well as a certain amount of gold in the Seruwawila deposit.

As today’s excavation technology was very advanced, it was possible to dig up to 250-300 metres, the Minister said.

The Minister also said that all possible steps would be taken to increase the value of the mineral resources through value addition locally to ensure higher prices.



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