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Veteran civil society activist nominated as Lanka’s HC in Canada; Viyathmaga academic to Russia

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Moragoda likely to take over Delhi mission in Aug

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Prominent civil society activist Harsha Kumara Navaratne has been nominated as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Canada. After the change of government in Nov 2019, Navaratne received appointment as a member of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. The Parliamentary High Posts Committee has been informed of the government decision.

Sources said that Navaratne had been proposed by the government following Canada’s refusal to accept retired Air Force Commander Air Marshal Sumangala Dias as the Sri Lankan envoy. Subsequently, that post was offered to the then Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, days before his retirement. He declined it.

Soon after the change of government, almost all heads of missions were asked to return home.

Ottawa is an important station against the backdrop of Canada, in its capacity as Sri Lanka Core Group member pushing war winning country on the human rights front.

Canada threw its full weight behind a new accountability resolution adopted at the Geneva based United Nations Human Rights Council, sources pointed out, adding that Navaratne’s appointment could be a move in that direction.

The previous government appointed another prominent civil society activist J.C. Weliamuna, PC, as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Australia in Sept 2019. One-time Chief of Transparency International, Sri Lanka Chapter, Weliamuna succeeded respected company executive Somasundaran Skandakumar, who, too, received the appointment in August 2015 courtesy yahapalana administration.

Meanwhile, Senior Prof.(Mrs.) Janitha Abeywickrema Liyanage has been proposed Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Moscow accredited to Armenia, Belarus, Moldova and Uzbekistan. The academic and Viyathmaga activist will succeed Prof. M. D. Lamawansa, one-time President of the College of Surgeons of Sri Lanka and the current President of SAARC Surgical Care Society (2020/2021).

Prof. Lamawansa, too, had been actively engaged in Viyathmaga movement that spearheaded wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s entry into the political scene, sources said.

Prof. Lamawansa succeeded Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke , who headed the Moscow mission from late 2018.

The former Vice Chairperson of UGC, assumed duties as the 1st Vice-Chancellor of the 16th National University, Gampaha Wickramarachchi Indigenous Medical University in March this year. She is married to Senior Professor Sudantha Liyanage, a leading Viyathmaga activist.

Harsha Kumara Navaratne, head of Seva Lanka had been one of those civil society activists involved in the Oslo-led peace process in the run-up to the Eelam War IV in August 2006. Along with Dr. Jehan Perera’s National Peace Council (NPC) and Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne’s Sarvodaya, Seva Lanka had been among civil society groups backed by a section of the international community, according to a report prepared by Christian Michelsen Institute (CMI) in Bergen and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London on behalf of Norway.

The Foreign Minister, too, serves on the parliamentary High Post Committee. The 18-member Committee is responsible for appointment of all Secretaries to Cabinet Ministries, all persons proposed to be appointed as Heads of Sri Lanka Missions abroad and Chairmen of Boards, Corporations and other State Institutions. The Committee consists of Chamal Rajapaksa, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Dinesh Gunawardena, Johnston Fernando, Douglas Devananda, Bandula Gunawardane, Keheliya Rambukwella, Udaya Gammanpila, Ramesh Pathirana, Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Vidura Wikramanayaka, John Seneviratne, Anura Priyadharshana, YapaVijitha Herath, Rishad Bathiudeen, Thalatha Athukorala, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka. Only four lawmakers represent the Opposition.

Retired Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrema, who played an active role in Viyathmaga received appointment as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Pakistan.

Former minister Milinda Moragoda is expected to take over New Delhi mission in the first half of August. In spite of the finalisation of his appointment a couple of months ago, he has delayed taking over the mission due to the pandemic situation in India.



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At least 17 killed after explosion in Peshawar mosque

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(picture from twitter)

BBC reported that at least 17 people have been killed in an explosion at a mosque in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

The blast happened when the mosque was packed with worshippers and more than 90 people were injured.

A section of the building was destroyed, and officials say people are buried under the rubble. Several others are being taken to local hospitals.

The cause of the explosion is unclear.

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More heavy rain ahead for New Zealand’s largest city

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Auckland experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall on Friday (picture BBC)

BBC reported that residents in flood-hit northern New Zealand are bracing for more heavy rains as officials issued severe weather alerts.

At least four people have died and a state of emergency was declared in Auckland, which on Friday experienced its worst downpour on record.

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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled

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by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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