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UNFPA , Japan support Lanka to strengthen access to sexual and reproductive health services amidst COVID-19



Colombo, Sri Lanka, 29 March 2021:

The United Nations Population Fund (formerly UN Family Planning Association) in Sri Lanka and the Government of Japan recently handed over a consignment of goods to support the Ministry of Health to strengthen access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. Additionally, the infrastructure provided will further strengthen the service provision capacity at Women and Youth-Friendly health centres.

This support was made possible through ‘PROMISES’ – a USD 1.5 million UNFPA project supported by the Government of Japan designed to improve access to information and services on sexual and reproductive health and gender based violence, aimed at women and young people.

The three-year project primarily focuses on improving women’s access to family planning services in Sri Lanka, enhancing the capacity of Women and Youth-friendly health centres and strengthening services for victims and survivors of gender-based violence.

As such, UNFPA Sri Lanka handed over essential medical and ICT equipment worth over USD 150,000 to the Ministry of Health on 29 March 2021, at the Family Health Bureau in the presence of State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Akira Sugiyama, UNFPA Representative Ritsu Nacken and other officials.

Acknowledging this support, Dr. Fernandopulle stated: ‘’Sri Lanka has made significant progress in the health sector. Yet there continues to be areas where we can do better – particularly in terms of enhancing our delivery of sexual and reproductive health services for women and young people. On behalf of the Ministry of Health, I want to thank UNFPA Sri Lanka and the Government of Japan for the tremendous support and assistance in this area.”

Speaking at the ceremony, Ambassador Sugiyama, said: “As a long-time development partner, Japan has been supporting the peace and development of Sri Lanka in response to the genuine needs of the Sri Lankan people, including in the areas of gender and women’s empowerment. Sri Lanka and Japan are partner countries under the G7 Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Initiative, for which Japan has so far extended approximately USD 6 million to Sri Lanka.

“We hope that the equipment and furniture handed over today will help the health centers better serve women and young people in need, who are key contributors to peace and sustainable development in this country.”

Representative of UNFPA Sri Lanka Ritsu Nacken stated, “Strengthening the access to and delivery of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services is imperative so that women and girls are not left behind as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Even pre-COVID access to SRH information and services was tough for many, especially for young people. UNFPA together with the Government of Japan is pleased to support the Ministry of Health in ensuring everyone has access to essential life-saving services.”

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Overtime gravy train for public sector back



Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy

By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.

The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.

Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.

Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.

Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.

Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.

One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.

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Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee



Prof G L Peris

Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.

Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.

Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.

Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.

The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)

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Cabinet nod for fuel distribution by three foreign companies



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera announced yesterday that the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for allowing China’s Sinopec, Australia’s United Petroleum and RM Parks of the USA, in collaboration with multinational Oil and Gas Company – Shell plc, to enter the fuel retail market in Sri Lanka.

The minister said that each of the three companies would be given 150 dealer operated fuel stations, which are currently operated by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). A further 50 fuel stations at new locations will be established by each selected company, he said.

They will be granted licences to operate for 20 years to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka, the minister tweeted.

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