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UL flight attendants give rare dressing down to SL Tourism Chairperson

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The Flight Attendants Union of SriLankan Airlines yesterday expressed their dismay at the request made by the Chairperson of Sri Lanka Tourism Kimarli Fernando to do away with the requirement that fully vaccinated flight crew wear PPEs.

Union President, Sidath Dedigama has in a letter to Fernando, said that they are perturbed and disheartened by the “extremely irresponsible” request she made to the Director General of Health Services by way of the letter ref: SLTDA/CHA/391.

“At the onset we wish to state in no uncertain terms that the FAU as a responsible Union will take all measures, lawfully available, to protect the crew, the general public and specifically the passengers and the children under the age of 12 who are not vaccinated that you are callously attempting to place in grave danger,” Dedigama said.

Sri Lanka is currently under lockdown due to the spread of the Delta variant and everyone has to act responsibly, he has said. It was through that all coronavirus variants entered Sri Lanka, he said.

“Vaccinated or not, Crew can get infected, carry the virus, and infect others. We also wish to state that the FAU wholeheartedly supports responsible tourism, wherein primarily the citizens of our nation are protected and the tourist who travel to Sri Lanka are truly protected. Tourists need to understand that they are travelling to a destination that has taken precautions to protect them from COVID-19, instead of letting our guard down and placing them in grave danger,” he said.

Sri Lanka needs to protect its citizens to show the world that Sri Lanka is a safe destination. Tourism officials must show the world that Sri Lanka is a responsible tourist destination and not one of ignorance and or greed, Dedigama said.

“Your insinuation that frontline staff have to let our guard down, in order for you to promote our destination is a direct insinuation that the very tourists you are trying to bring down to Sri Lanka are gullible. The picture you are attempting to paint to the tourist, is false and misleading, especially at a time a highly infectious variant of the virus is prevalent in our Country,” he said.

The Flight Attendants Union President told Fernando that Sri Lanka must not be reckless in its attempts to woo tourists. He said that wearing PPE for long hours in an aeroplane is not an easy task but attendants wear it because it is a lifesaving necessity during a pandemic.

“We don such PPE, not by choice but by genuine necessity. We will be the first to doff the PPE when it is opportune and safe not only for us but also the passenger. Since the advent of the new potent variant of the virus to Sri Lanka, the FAU worked diligently with the SriLankan airlines Management in enhancing the health and safety protocols, thus ensuring that the Crew and passengers are duly protected from the virus,” he said.

SriLankan management and staff assessed the situation for days and came up with best processes to minimise risk for everyone on a plane, Dedigama said. They have adhered to WHO, IATA and ICAO standards and made Sri Lankan one of the safest airlines in the world for passengers to travel, he said.

“Whilst our jobs depend on the very tourists you are trying to woo by deception, it is our position that we have a greater duty of care to the passengers we carry in our aircraft. As such, as a responsible Union we reiterate that responsible tourism should be what is promoted for Sri Lanka by way of genuinely being responsible for their safety and wellbeing” Dedigama said.

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Flight Attendants Union of SriLankan Airlines yesterday expressed their dismay at the request made by Chairperson of Sri Lanka Tourism Kimarli Fernando to remove the requirement where fully vaccinated flight crew had to wear PPEs.

Union President, Sidath Dedigama writing to Fernando said that they are perturbed and disheartened at the “extremely irresponsible” request she made to the Director General of Health Services by way of your letter ref: SLTDA/CHA/391.

“At the onset we wish to state in no uncertain terms that the FAU as a responsible Union will take all measures, lawfully available, to protect the crew, the general public and specifically the passengers and the children under the age of 12 who are not vaccinated that you are callously attempting to place in grave danger,” Dedigama said.

Sri Lanka is currently under lockdown due to the spread of the Delta variant and everyone has to act responsibly, he said. It was through that all coronavirus variants entered Sri Lanka, he said.

“Vaccinated or not, Crew can get infected, carry the virus, and infect others. We also wish to state that the FAU wholeheartedly supports responsible tourism, wherein primarily the citizens of our nation are protected and the tourist who travel to Sri Lanka are truly protected. Tourists need to understand that they are travelling to a destination that has taken precautions to protect them from COVID-19, instead of letting our guard down and placing them in grave danger,” he said.

Sri Lanka needs to protect its citizens to show the world that Sri Lanka is a safe destination. Tourism officials must show the world that Sri Lanka is a responsible tourist destination and not one of ignorance and or greed, Dedigama said.

“Your insinuation that frontline staff have to let our guard down, in order for you to promote our destination is a direct insinuation that the very tourists you are trying to bring down to Sri Lanka are gullible. The picture you are attempting to paint to the tourist, is false and misleading, especially at a time a highly infectious variant of the virus is prevalent in our Country,” he said.

The Flight Attendants Union President told Fernando that Sri Lanka must not be reckless in its attempts to woo tourists. He said that wearing PPE for long hours in an aeroplane is not an easy task but attendants wear it because it is a lifesaving necessity during a pandemic.

“We don such PPE, not by choice but by genuine necessity. We will be the first to doff the PPE when it is opportune and safe not only for us but also the passenger. Since the advent of the new potent variant of the virus to Sri Lanka, the FAU worked diligently with the SriLankan airlines Management in enhancing the health and safety protocols, thus ensuring that the Crew and passengers are duly protected from the virus,” he said.

SriLankan management and staff assessed the situation for days and came up with best processes to minimise risk for everyone on a plane, Dedigama said. They have adhered to WHO, IATA and ICAO standards and made Sri Lankan one of the safest airlines in the world for passengers to travel, he said.

“Whilst our jobs depend on the very tourists you are trying to woo by deception, it is our position that we have a greater duty of care to the passengers we carry in our aircraft. As such, as a responsible Union we reiterate that responsible tourism should be what is promoted for Sri Lanka by way of genuinely being responsible for their safety and wellbeing” Dedigama said.



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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE

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Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm

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By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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