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



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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President requests the opposition to support the implementation of the IMF agreement




President Ranil Wickremesinghe urged the Opposition to unite and disregard political differences to assist in carrying out the IMF agreement, which would aid in the development of Sri Lanka’s economy.

The President emphasized that his duty is not to condemn previous administrations but to concentrate on the development of the country. He also declared his dedication to constructing a better future by creating laws and frameworks that prevent the recurrence of past errors.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe delivered this message in a special address to Parliament this morning (22) regarding the receipt of the Extended Credit Facility from the International Monetary Fund.

He stated that despite allegations being leveled against him that his objective was not to rescue the country from an economic crisis but to safeguard the Rajapaksa family, the international community had acknowledged his efforts to carry the country across the economic vine bridge.

The President further said that he had faith in rebuilding the beloved country where he was born, brought up and educated, and said that many past experiences were the reasons for confirming that faith.

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SJB, JVP move SC against Finance Secy. for contempt of court



The main Opposition, Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday (21) moved Supreme Court against Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana over his failure to provide funds required by the Election Commission to conduct the Local Government polls, ignoring an interim order issued by the apex court, on 03 March.

Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, is the petitioner for the SJB and Vijitha Herath, MP, moved court on behalf of the JVP, the leading party in the Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB).

Two Opposition parties declared action against Siriwardana the day after the Freedom People’s Alliance (FPA) issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Finance Secretary to release the funds.

EC Chairman Nimal Punchihewa is on record as having said that in spite of SC directive he didn’t receive fresh funding.

The petitioners sought the issuance of summons on Siriwardana for contempt of court over failure to carry out its interim orders, given on 03 March.

The petitioners want the Finance Secretary punished in terms of Article 105 (3) of the Constitution.

The SJB stated that Siriwardana had refrained from carrying out the March directives, on the basis of a Cabinet decision, taken on 13 Feb., 2023. The SJB also pointed out that the offensive conduct of the Treasury Secretary, inter alia, causes grave prejudice to the esteemed authority of the Supreme Court and in turn disturb the public confidence in the authority of the highest Court in the country. (SF)

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Minister indicates reduction in fuel prices in April



Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara told Parliament yesterday that fuel prices would be reduced considerably according to the fuel price formula at the next fuel price revision, due in April.

The Minister said that the government would be able to procure fuel shipments, at lower prices, during competitive bidding, with the receipt of the IMF bailout.

There had been practical issues, and problems, in opening Letters of Credit, and obtaining credit facilities, in the recent past, as Sri Lanka could not give a guarantee to fuel suppliers, Minister Wijesekara said.

“We could not open LCs and obtain credit facilities when procuring fuel. After the IMF bailout, we will be able to procure fuel at lower prices during competitive biddings. We will be able to obtain a long-term credit facility as well. Fuel prices in the global market seem to have declined and the rupee has also gained strength against the US Dollar. Having considered all these factors, fuel prices will be reduced by a considerable margin which could be felt by the people,” he said.

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