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Udayanga accompanies Ukrainian tour group to Polonnaruwa

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Former Sri Lankan ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga and 45 Ukrainian tourists visited a number of Buddhist sites in Polonnaruwa yesterday.

The group was greeted by officers of the Central Cultural Fund, and were taken on a guided tour of the place.

The Army and the police had been deployed to provide security to the Ukrainians. After completing the Polonnaruwa tour, they left for Matale.

The Army, police and CCF officials were in protective gear in view of the pandemic.

Our attempts to contact Sri Lanka Tourism officials to learn whether Weeratunga had informed them of the tour in advance failed.

Hundreds of Ukrainian tourists have arrived in Sri Lanka since late December as part of a pilot project to reopen the country to tourists. Around 10 of them have so far tested positive for COVID-19. They have also visited a number of sites without informing the Tourism officials.

In late December, 2020, the Chairperson of Sri Lanka Tourism, Kimarli Fernando, wrote to the Tourism Minister, stating that it was through the media that she heard that the Ukrainians had visited Yala and had gone whale-watching, in Mirissa.

She said: “The agreement at the Task Force Meeting was for the tour organisers to provide the SLTDA detailed itineraries in advance, including details of the drivers and guides who would be involved in these excursions to be relayed to the regional health authorities for screening and quarantine purposes. The Director General of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority has tried to obtain the necessary information in this regard from the travel agents to no avail.” (RK)



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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?

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… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.

 

 

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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others

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The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.

 

 

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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area

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Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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