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Wijeyadasa wary of Chinese designs, urges govt to pay attention to developing scenario

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Ruling party lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, says Sri Lanka should be wary of overall Chinese strategy as the ongoing battle between China and the US-led alliance has entered into what the former Justice Minister called an intense phase.

“Sri Lanka shouldn’t be caught up in the situation,” Colombo District MP Rajapakse told The Island yesterday.

Asked whether the Foreign Ministry or the Chinese Embassy in Colombo contacted him following his criticism of the Chinese actions in a letter dated January 3 addressed to the Chinese President, MP Rajapakse said that he was not contacted.

The former President of the Bar Association said that he perused Chinese Ambassador in Colombo Qi Zhenhong’s response to The Island query as regards his letter to the Chinese leader as well as the reportage of the contentious issue of Sri Lanka being compelled to pay a Chinese company to the tune of USD 6.7 mn in the wake of Sri Lanka rejecting a consignment of contaminated carbonic fertilizer. The MP was referring to the media briefing given by Ambassador Qi Zhenhong immediately after Chinese Foreign Minister Wangi Yi left Colombo following high level meetings.

MP Rajapakse emphasized that whether Sri Lanka political leadership liked it or not the country’s relations with ‘Quad’ grouping comprising the US, India, Japan and Australia as well as South Korea would be largely depend on the current dispensation’s relationship with China.

Appreciating the Chinese backing for Sri Lanka’s war against terrorism at a time the West conveniently turned a blind eye as they didn’t want to interfere with the Indian destabilization project, lawmaker Rajapakse asserted China largely changed its approach with the launch of the Belt and the Road initiative in 2013.

Asked whether he endorsed the controversial US and Indian investments on the energy sector, the outspoken politician said that interventions made by ‘Quad’ countries should be studied against the backdrop of Chinese actions.

The former minister denied pursuing a high profile anti-China agenda now, thereby being part of the Western project. MP Rajapakse said that he had to pay a heavy price for opposing the Hambantota port deal and finally the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration finalized it in 2017.

MP Rajapakse said that he expected the government to pay attention to the issues raised by him in his letter to the Chinese President. The Opposition, too, has a responsibility to protect the national interests though they didn’t have the strength to take on the government both in and outside Parliament. Noting the presence of former Premier and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the launch of Sri Lanka-China Friendship Sailing Cup at the Port City last Sunday, the former UNPer pointed out how successive governments pursued policies at the expense of national security, political stability and overall well-being of the nation.

The former minister questioned the 99-year-leasing of the Hambantota port to the Chinese as well as agreements on Yugadanavi Power Plant with the Americans and the deal on the Trincomalee oil tank farm that ended up with the LIOC receiving control of a section of the tanks for a period of 50 years. Both Yugadanavi and Trinco deals have been challenged in the Supreme Court.

Making reference to Sri Lanka Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA) that had been signed in January 2018 as well as Access and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) signed with the US in August 2017, MP Rajapakse said that it was crying shame political parties hadn’t been able to at least reach a basic consensus on foreign policy. The former justice minister said that successive governments allowed foreign powers to influence parliamentarians, officials, clergy, civil society and the media as well.

MR Rajapakse said that his call to take back the Hambantota port didn’t receive the expected backing for obvious reasons.



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Booster shots: Poor public response makes GMOA contemplate legal remedy

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Lack of enthusiasm among the public to receive the booster dose was disconcerting, given that Sri Lanka had a long-established and highly functional immunisation programme, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

By 20 January 2022, 64.56% of Sri Lankans had been fully vaccinated, but only 22.47% had received the booster dose, the GMOA said.

“At the early stages of vaccination against Covid-19 the public response was favourable. However, the current waning of interest might be driven by the myths and rumours regarding the vaccines. It is important to take measures to counter such misinformation by raising public awareness of the ongoing vaccination programme.”

“Legal action against those responsible for the spread of communicable diseases can be taken under the Penal Code”, GMOA Secretary Dr. Senal Fernando said. “Provisions of the Quarantine Ordinance can be used against persons who do not comply with directions given by the proper authorities under the Quarantine Ordinance,” he said.

The GMOA said that several countries had made it mandatory to have proof of vaccination for entry into public places. The same thing could be done in Sri Lanka to ensure that more people got vaccinated.

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Govt., SJB haggle over procedure to rescue country

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB on Sunday said that it was wrong for the President and the government to seek the assistance of the Opposition to steer the country out of the present crises without creating a proper forum to obtain such assistance.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivering the latter’s third Policy Speech in Parliament last week had sought the assistance of the Opposition. “His speech is full of excuses. He sought our assistance but there is no forum to offer our assistance. The government too has asked for the same several times. If the government needs the Opposition’s assistance, what it should do is to declare a state of national disaster situation so that the Opposition could make use of Parliament as the forum for our contributions. That has not been done so far. The President and the government could make use of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act No 53 of 2005 to form a disaster management committee comprising the government and opposition MPs.

The President is the ex-officio Chairman of the committee, the Prime minister and the Opposition leader are there with 24 government ministers and five opposition MPs. In addition to that there are provisions to the involvement of the Chief Ministers of Provinces in the committee. If the government genuinely needs our support it should have started forming that committee. There are laws enabling the formulation of mechanisms to help people the government does not make use of them. We have been repeatedly asking the government to appoint that committee.

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Lord Ahamad plants kumbuk tree sapling during visit to Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary

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By Ifham Nizam

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia, the United Nations and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK, planted a Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna) sapling at the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary last week.

The Department of Wildlife said Lord Ahmad had been joined by the British High Commissioner in Colombo Sarah Hulton, Hasanthi Urugodwatte Dissanayake, Acting Additional Secretary of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change at the Foreign Ministry, Saman Liyanagama, Wildlife Ranger of the Colombo Wildlife Range, Department of Wildlife Conservation and Professor Sevvandi Jayakoddy, Senior Lecturer of the Wayamba University.

The planting activity was followed by a brief visit to the wetland and Prof. Jayakoddy, and Liyanagama explained the importance of wetland ecosystems as well as challenges in conservation and maintenance, while Dissanayake briefed him on the Sri Lanka’s pioneering work related to mangrove restoration and conservation, both at policy level as well as at the ground level.

Hasini Sarathchandra, Publicity Officer, Department of Wildlife Conservation said British High Commission in Colombo with the International Water Management Institute Headquartered in Sri Lanka, had already launched a project under the Darwin Initiative at the Baddegana Wetlands.  Similar collaborations are envisaged involving the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary.

Wetlands play an important role in our natural environment. They mitigate the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else. Colombo is a city built on and around wetlands. Despite progressive loss and degradation, wetlands still cover some 200 km2 of the Colombo metropolitan area and suburbs.

The wetlands are fundamental to the well-being of the people of Colombo and its suburbs. The wetlands can reduce extreme air temperatures and make the city more live able due to evaporative cooling. The wetlands provide a critical land-mass which helps to maintain the richness of Colombo’s biodiversity.

The Bellanwila-Attidiya wetlands was declared as a bird sanctuary on 25 July 1990, due to biodiversity of the area and its contribution to controlling floods. The wetlands, which span over 930 acres, host endemic species and is a paradise for migratory birds. 44 species of fish including 06 which are endemic to the country have been identified in the Bolgoda River which flows through the wetlands. The wetlands are also home to 21 reptilian species, 17 species of mammals and 10 butterfly species. Bellanwia-Attidiya sanctuary falls within the upper catchment of the Bolgoda river basin. The Department of Wildlife Conservation manages the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary.

Selection of the location was also due to the close collaboration that Sri Lanka has with the Government of the UK on conservation of mangroves and wetlands.

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