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US Stakeholders urged not to be misled efforts to vilify Sri Lanka, its leadership



Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US Ravinatha Aryasinha has called on stakeholders in the US not to be misled by efforts of certain groups to vilify Sri Lanka and its leadership, and to pay heed to the facts and recognize the difficult tasks the Government has embarked upon in a short time notwithstanding grappling with a global pandemic that has crippled most of the world.

Ambassador Aryasinha made this observations when he addressed the 73rd Anniversary of Independence of Sri Lanka celebrated on 4 February at the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C., with the participation of religious dignitaries, Mr. Dean Thompson, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs of the US Department of State, with the Sri Lankan community and friends of Sri Lanka across the US joining virtually in view of the prevailing pandemic related restrictions.

The Ambassador, who detailed the Sri Lanka government’s priorities at present, and several dimensions of the Sri Lanka–US partnership, recalled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s recent congratulatory message to US President Joe Biden, where he assured that “Sri Lanka, under my leadership, based on the mandate received from my people, is committed to further strengthen and consolidate this multifaceted partnership with the United States, grounded in mutual respect, shared values and common interests”.

Noting that Sri Lanka-US ties today are multifaceted, he said the visit to Sri Lanka of US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in October 2020, is testimony to the importance placed by the US Government on Sri Lanka. This visit provided a platform to discuss a number of areas of bilateral and regional importance to both countries at the highest level.  It also gave an opportunity to brief the Secretary of State of the initiatives undertaken by the new government to address Sri Lanka’s economic and national security challenges, to strengthen reconciliation, and to promote and protect human rights through domestic mechanisms – the details of, including that of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) pertaining to human rights, has subsequently been placed before the country and the world.

Ambassador Aryasinha who noted that on 31 January the Embassy took an ambitious step in launching the ‘Pan-US Overseas Sri Lankans (OSL) Network’, aimed at supporting OSL activities and to leverage their support towards realizing the interests of Sri Lanka in the US, said the core areas of focus of this Network would be – advocacy of Sri Lanka, economic advancement and socio-cultural engagement. Observing that he was encouraged to see the participation of OSLs from 27 States across the US and their commitment towards this new initiative, he said, the Embassy was in the process of expanding the ‘network’ to cover all States in the US. It would also be developing ‘nodal clusters’ across each State, in order to bring together OSLs to work collectively on the areas of focus identified. This network would also have overarching ‘interest clusters’ – including to engage with OSL entrepreneurs, youth, and academics, as well as to reach out to non-Sri Lankan ‘Friends of Sri Lanka’ throughout the USA. He was hopeful that this network would be a powerful vehicle in serving the interests of the OSLs in the US, keeping them connected with their motherland, and in ensuring that they become ‘catalysts’ in taking the US-Sri Lanka relationship to greater heights. Ambassador Aryasinha urged the support of the State Department, to engage the totality of the US based OSLs, so that they become a strength to both their host country, as well as to their home country.

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Geneva HR vote:



UK, Canada seek to influence member states against Lanka

The Sri Lanka Core group members, Canada and the UK, are campaigning hard to muster support for their resolution against Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka Core group consists of Canada, Germany, the UK, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Malawi.

Canada High Commissioner David McKinnon met the Bangladesh High Commissioner Tareq Ariful Islam, at the Canada House, Colombo 07.

Sources said that meetings between diplomats of those countries were rare. Bangladesh is a member o the f UNHRC. The meeting at the Canada House took place close on the heels of the UK HC Sarah Hulton meeting South Korean Ambassador Woonjin Jeong. South Korea is also a member of the UNHRC.

The 47-member UNHRC is divided into five groups on regional basis. The Asia-Pacific Group consists of Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Uzbekistan; Western Europe and Other States consists of Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and UK; Eastern European States consists of Armenia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia and Ukraine; Latin American and Caribbean States group consists of Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela and African States group consists of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Namibia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Togo. (SF)

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CEB Chairman: Country would have been facing daily power cuts if not for MR’s initiative



by Ifham Nizam

The country would have been facing a daily power cut of eight hours if not for the initiative taken by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he was the President, to commence the first coal fired power plant complex at Norochcholai, said Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Chairman Engineer Vijitha Herath at yesterday’s inauguration of the first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) power plant in Sri Lanka.

PM Rajapaksa was the Chief Guest at the event. The CEB head stressed that if not for the Norochchoali plant the country would have lost more than Rs. 100 billion annually.

Power Minister Dullas Alahaperuma said that since the construction of the Norochcholai power plant in 2013, no large scale power plant had been built.

“Today, we are paying for this. Only small hydro power plants and solar power plants have been added to the national grid,” Alahaperuma said.

The power minister said that the LNG plant was coming up at an important time and would bring great relief to the economy which was heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

“Let there be a power sector that is not dependent on fossil fuels. The new power plant has been constructed at Kerawalapitiya, Wattala. This has been designed in accordance with international standards with minimal environmental damage. This power plant will have the highest efficiency F class gas turbine installed. The Kerawalapitiya Power Plant is a dual cycle power plant and will be completed in two phases. The installation of the first phase, or gas turbine, will generate 220 MW, which will be completed within 21 months and added to the national grid.”

Alhaperuma said that the second phase would add another 130 megawatts to the national grid via a steam turbine, which was expected to be completed in 12 months. With a total capacity of 300 MW over the next three years, the plant was expected to meet the country’s growing electricity demand, he said.

Speaking at the event Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed that the government wanted to provide electricity at affordable prices using the most advanced technology. There had been many delays in building power plants under the Yahapalana regime; but the current government would fast-track power projects, he added.

Minister Alahapperuma also said: “The LNG power plant will be a great relief to the economy. Renewable energy is the future. It was clearly mentioned in the President’s vision of prosperity as well as in the Mahinda Chinthana. Our goal is an economy fully armed with renewable energy.”

State Ministers Duminda Dissanayake, Susil Premajayantha, Nimal Lansa, Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy Wasantha Perera, LTL CEO of Lakdanavi Affiliates U.D. Jayawardena, and a large number of people’s representatives and government officials were present.

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US Secretary of State names Lankan for International Women of Courage (IWOC) award



Lankan Human Rights Activist and Attorney-At-Law Ranitha Gnanarajah is among the recipients of this year’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) award presented by the United States Secretary of State.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will host the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards virtual ceremony to honour a group of extraordinary women from around the world on Monday, March 8, at 10:00 am, the U.S. State Department announced.

The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden will deliver remarks to recognize the courageous accomplishments of these women.

Now in its 15th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes women from around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment – often at great personal risk and sacrifice, the US State Department says.

According to the biographies of the finalists for the 2012 IWOC Awards, Sri Lanka’s Ranitha Gnanarajah, a lawyer, and Head of the Legal Department of the Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) Sri Lanka continues to fight for and defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country, despite threats and challenges by the state.

“Ranitha has dedicated her career to accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances and prisoners detained often for years without charge under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act by providing free legal aid and related services. As an individual personally affected by the conflict and based on her extensive experience working with victims and their families, Ranitha has demonstrated tremendous passion and dedication to justice and accountability, especially for Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable populations.”

From the inception of this award in March 2007, the Department of State has recognized more than 155 awardees from over 75 countries.

U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries, and finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials.

Following the virtual IWOC ceremony, the awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) virtual exchange and connect with their American counterparts.

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