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US-based Overseas Sri Lankan Academic and Research Collaboration Network launched

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Ambassador Aryasinha addressing the gathering

The Inaugural Meeting of the ‘US-Sri Lanka Academic and Research Collaboration Network’(USLARCN) was held virtually on 15 August 2021. The Network was launched by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C with a view to connecting with the academic community within the US, and leveraging their support towards Sri Lanka in academic collaboration, co-mentoring and facilitating access to US learning resources for Sri Lankan university students. This further expands the reach of the Pan US Overseas Sri Lankans (OSL)Network launched by the Embassy on 31 January 2021, with the broader aim of supporting OSL activities and leveraging their support towards Embassy efforts at realizing the interests of Sri Lanka in the US in political advocacy, economic empowerment, socio-cultural engagement, as well as in bringing unity within the SL community and reaching out to ‘Friends of Sri Lanka’.

Following the response received to a notice which was placed on the Embassy website and circulated among the OSL Network nearly two months ago, over 130 OSLs who expressed interest were clustered into 12 groups in the areas of Cultural Studies and Media; Business and Finance; Early Childhood Education; Team Science and Talent Development; Environmental Studies; Nutrition and Food Science; Chemistry, Physics; Engineering;, Computer Science and IT; Medical Sciences;, Social Sciences and Sri Lankan Studies.

Delivering the opening remarks, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Washington D.C. Ravinatha Aryasinha commended the significant achievements of Sri Lankan academics in the US and the pride they bring to Sri Lanka. He emphasised the importance of bringing the US-based Sri Lanka origin academic community together, to both support the education system and students living in Sri Lanka, as well as to ensure that those involved at the academic and policy levels in the US had a more nuanced understanding of Sri Lanka, and of Sri Lankans in the US. Noting that up to the end of the Cold War, institutions such as the East-West Center in Hawaii and a few other US Universities had catered to this need, he said that today such a full understanding was imperative so that we respond not only to ‘events’ in each other’s countries but to the related dynamic ‘processes’ as a whole. Ambassador Aryasinha said that he had, during a visit to Hawaii in May 2021, discussed this aspect with both the East-West Center and Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) so that a better appreciation of the full spectrum of multifaceted relations between Sri Lanka and the US can be better reflected in future collaboration. He hoped that the USLARCN will also take up the challenge to revive this tradition through their individual and collective endeavours.

Delivering the keynote address on the occasion, Emeritus Professor Wimal Dissanayake of the University of Hawaii and Leader of the Cultural Studies and Media Group, commended Ambassador Aryasinha for the new initiative under the Pan OSL Network, and recalled the different phases of US-SL Education Collaboration since the 1950s. He said that in the past there had been a steady stream of students, journalists, academics, policymakers and service personnel, who have attended long term degree programmes as well as seminars, and had benefitted from and contributed to the considerable cross fertilisation of views that took place, significantly around the East-West Center. However, he noted that “what you have today is a pale shadow of what it was 20 or 30 years ago, but still thanks to the efforts of the Ambassador, I think we are trying to revive it”. Noting that at present Sri Lankan scholars in this network are approximately 80% from the Natural Sciences, 15% from the Social Sciences and 5% from the Humanities, Professor Dissanayake recommended three conceptual criteria that could help future efforts; that it be inter-disciplinary in nature, that it focuses on knowledge exchange and knowledge utilization, and functions as a ‘Network’ with a structure but also flexibility.



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Inter-provincial travel ban to be lifted on Oct. 31

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Flagrant violations largely ignored during restrictions

ECONOMYNEXT – The ongoing inter-provincial travel ban will be lifted on October 31, the national COVID-19 prevention task force said, despite social media accounts – and sometimes pictures – of people openly flouting the ban.

The restriction was imposed in conjunction with an island-wide lockdown, officially known as a quarantine curfew, that the government declared on August 20 amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Despite the lockdown being relaxed on October 01 as cases began to drop, the inter-province travel restriction has remained, at least on paper.

Critics, however, claim that people have been traveling – some even going on trips – around the country blatantly ignoring the ban, despite President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordering the authorities to strictly enforce it from October 21.

“After a discussion among the task force on Friday (23), with the permission of the president, it was decided to lift the travel ban from 4am October 31,” Army Commander Gen Shavendra Silva told reporters on Friday.

Silva, who heads the national COVID-19 task force, said all public transportation services will also restart on October 25 and will operate according to health guidelines.

Health officials have joined the chorus of voices lamenting the apparent lax nature of the inter-provincial travel ban. The public does not seem to follow health guidelines increasing the risk of another wave of the epidemic, they have said.

“The behaviour of the public is not satisfactory,” Health Promotion Bureau Director Dr Ranjith Batuwanthudawa told the privately owned Derana network in an interview.

“The public did not follow the guidelines in the first long weekend after restrictions were relaxed. It can again increase the number of patients to a level the health sector cannot cope with,” he warned.

Meanwhile, Gen Silva said the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be administered as a booster dose for frontline workers in the health, military, police and tourism sectors starting November 01.

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North, East see highest attendance of students, teachers: Dinesh

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ECONOMYNEXT – Northern and Eastern provinces saw the highest attendance of students, teachers, and principals when schools were reopened for the first time in six months, Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told parliament on Friday (22).

Classes from grades 1 to 5 recommenced at 5,059 schools with fewer than 200 students on Thursday (21) amid an ongoing strike by teachers’ trade unions which is set to finally end next Monday (25).

Minister Gunawardena said the government was able to open around 98 percent of the targeted schools.

“Sixteen percent of students attended schools across the country, while 26 percent of teachers who signed their attendance,” Minister Gunawardena told parliament.

Principals showed up to work at 69 percent of schools with fewer than 200 students, in the island’s north, while 52 percent of teachers and 21 percent of students were present on Thursday, he said.

In the Eastern province, 67 percent of principals, 45 percent of teachers, and 39 percent of students went back to school on Thursday, he added.

In contrast, schools in the Southern and Western provinces saw lower levels of attendance from principals, teachers, and students, the minister said.

“We believe everyone will support the reopening of schools without any party or colour difference,” Minister Gunawardena said.

Trade unions are not fully onboard the government’s proposed solution to their long-standing grievance of salary anomalies.

The three-month-long strike, one of the longest trade union campaigns in Sri Lanka’s history, has deprived students of their only mode of distance learning in pandemic times: online education.

It is still uncertain if all principals will report to duty on Monday as some principals’ trade unions have said some of their demands including car permits and a mobile phone allowance have not been addressed yet.

School teachers and principals in Sri Lanka were on strike for the 99th day running on October 15 when they said they would start work from October 25.

The government proposed to increase their salaries in a four-year strategy, but upon the rejection of that proposal, the government later proposed to give the increments in two installments. The unions rejected this, too, and continued the strike, demanding that their salaries be increased in one go.

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Foreign Minister to launch Lanka-UK chamber of commerce in London

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by Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

Foreign Minister Prof G. L. Peiris is scheduled to be in London this week starting from tomorrow (25) for a series of events including the launching the Sri Lanka-UK Chamber of Commerce, diplomatic sources said

During his stay in London from Monday to Thursday (28), Prof Peiris is to meet his UK counterpart Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and Minister for Women and Equalities, Elizabeth Truss and Members of the Houses of Parliament and Lord Naseby.

Sources said that it would be Prof Peiris’ first visit to London after assuming the duties as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The launch of the Sri Lanka – United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce is scheduled to be presided over by HSBC bank. Lord Davies of Abersoch, the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Sri Lanka and a host of invitees including the representatives of the London Stock Exchange and De La Rue. The new Chamber is to be registered with both British Chamber of Commerce and the UK Companies House.

Prof Peiris is expected to complete his London visit on Thursday (28) and then to proceed to Glasgow to attend the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) which is scheduled to begin next Sunday (31).

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