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Ukrainian tourists visiting SL under pilot project to help revive tottering tourism industry – State Minister Nimal Lanza



Claiming that the Opposition was misleading the public about the initiative to attract Ukrainian visitors to Sri Lanka to help boost the tottering tourism industry, State Minister for Rural Roads and Other Infrastructure, Nimal Lanza, said the pilot project was launched as a test run to overcome existing shortcomings before reopening the airport and streamlining operations for commercial flights.

Insisting that the Ukrainian tourists follow existing health safety guidelines, he said there is a considerable number of foreigners eager to visit Sri Lanka.

“They are waiting to come to our country”, the State Minister told a news conference in Colombo last week.

In addition to the foreign tourist traffic, there are about 70,000 expatriate Sri Lankans expected to return to their motherland after the logistics have been worked out and the airport is back in operation, Lanza noted.

Tourists brought down to Sri Lanka under the pilot project visit Yala, Pinnawala or other designated destinations in air bubbles as a safety precaution. They don’t come into direct contact with public. Two PCRs are conducted to ensure they are not Covid infected. Therefore, the people of the country need not fear or entertain any doubts about the visitors, the State Minister further said.

Sadly, people like Dr. Harsha de Silva, who are knowledgeable in economic affairs, are criticizing the move to give a new impetus to the tourism industry. He has proposed to quarantine tourists for 14 days. This suggestion is misplaced as after placing tourists in an air bubble, conducting two PCRs and adhering to health safety measures, confining them to a hotel room for 14 days will a disincentive, he noted.

Under such circumstances, not a single tourist will come here as they generally visit Sri Lanka for a maximum of 10-15 days. They will not want to be held up in a hotel room for 14 days. It should be appreciated that they have opted to visit our country in a global pandemic situation, he remarked.

The collapse of the world economy due to Covid-19 has impacted negatively on Sri Lanka as well, where three million people in the tourism industry alone have been denied a source of income for the past nine months, State Minister Lansa said.

Apart from the Rs. 5,000 relief granted by the government, they have no money to pay the lease installments on their vehicles or repay loans as they are struggling struggling to make a living. Therefore, the government took a decision to revive the tourism industry through the implementation of a pilot project, he said.

People dependent on the tourism industry will be able to earn an income only if the industry is revived while ensuring that all necessary preventive measures are adopted. The Opposition is trying to fish in troubled waters and ride to power on the economic woes of the people, Lanza added.

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



… 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



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



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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