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Wildlife and Nature Protection Society and Canadian partners on environmental webinars

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The Wildlife and Nature Protection Society and the High Commission of Canada to Sri Lanka and Maldives last week announced their collaboration on upcoming environmental webinars.

“These joint virtual discussions will feature Canadian, Sri Lankan and Maldivian environmental experts and activists and will facilitate exchanges of best practices between the Sri Lankan, Canadian and Maldivian environmental conservation communities,” a press release issued in this connection said.

On February 22, WNPS and the High Commission of Canada will be presenting a joint edition of WNPS’ “Marine Chat” dedicated to marine plastic pollution and featuring panellists from Sri Lanka, Canada and Maldives. The “Marine Chats” are monthly discussions presented by WNPS showcasing some of Sri Lanka’s best marine scientists.

“WNPS and the High Commission of Canada also share the perspective that young people are key to protecting the planet and that we must support them and provide them with the tools and knowledge they need to advance environmental issues. It is with great pleasure that we announce the participation of world-renowned Canadian artist and activist Benjamin Von Wong in WNPS’ Youth Workshop on March 3, 2021, which will focus on the intersection between art and environmental activism,” the release said.

“Further, we are pleased to share that experts from Ocean Wise – a globally recognized Canadian ocean conservation organization – will be featured in WNPS’ monthly lecture series on March 18. Held every third Thursday of the month, the “Monthly Lectures” are among WNPS’ most popular activities, which give prominent environmental experts centre stage to share their knowledge on a range of issues with the Sri Lankan public.”

Speaking about the partnership, WNPS President Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne said “The WNPS is thankful to the High Commissioner and the broader Canadian Community for their support towards improving the conservation efforts in Sri Lanka. Our country is presently under siege and has seen more destruction in a year than possibly in a decade. Bringing back a balance requires a lot of education and appreciation for Nature and Conservation. Exposing global best practices and success stories and collaborating is the best way forward, and these initiatives will certainly help.” 

The Canadian High Commissioner David McKinnon highlighted that “protecting the environment is critical for our people, our planet, and our economies. We all face the challenge of building a more resilient future for the next generation, where they do not have to choose between clean air or clean water and good jobs. Through our partnership with WNPS, we are pleased to facilitate an international exchange of knowledge and best practices to enrich Sri Lankan, Maldivian and Canadian thinking on environmental conservation and contribute to the discussion on sustainable economic development.”



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Lord Naseby asks why Adele not prosecuted in UK for child recruitment

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Lord Naseby President of the UK all party British-Sri Lanka Parliamentary group has questioned the failure on the part of the UK to prosecute senior LTTE leader Adela Balasingham, wife of the outfit’s late theoretician Anton Balasingham. Lord Naseby said that Adele, who had been involved with the LTTE for several decades, was responsible for recruitment and deployment of child soldiers.

The following is the text of the statement issued by Lord Naseby in response to the UK statement at the Human Rights Council by Lord Tariq Ahmad on Feb 25:

“I am astounded how the UK or any other Member of the Core Group can possibly welcome the High Commissioner’s so called ‘detailed and most comprehensive report on Sri Lanka’ when it is riddled with totally unsubstantiated allegations and statements completely ignoring the huge effort to restore infrastructure and rehouse displaced Tamils and Muslims, who lost their homes due to the Tamil Tigers.

“Furthermore, I question how the UK Government knowingly and apparently consciously withheld vital evidence from the despatches of the UK military attaché Col. Gash. Evidence I obtained from a Freedom of Information request, resisted by the Foreign Office at every stage for over 2 years. These dispatches from an experienced and dedicated senior British officer in the field makes it clear that the Sri Lankan armed forces at every level acted and behaved appropriately, trying hard not to harm any Tamil civilians who were held by the Tamil Tigers as hostages in a human shield.

“This conscious decision totally undermines the UK‘s standing as an objective Leader of the Core Group; made even worse by the impunity for not prosecuting the LTTE leader living in the UK, largely responsible for recruiting, training and deploying over 5,000 Child Soldiers – a real War Crime. It is time that the UK Government acknowledges and respects the recommendations of the Paranagama Commission, which involved several international expert advisers, including from the UK – Sir Desmond de Silva QC, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Rodney Dixon QC and Major General John Holmes. Sri Lanka and the UK should be honouring the recommendations of the Paranagama Commission, which provides real evidence over all the years of the conflict, rather than just focussing on uncorroborated claims during a few months in 2009, only when the war concluded.

“Furthermore, the criticism of the way Covid has been handled with no burials for anyone based entirely on scientific advice at a time when there was no advice from WHO shows no understanding. Following the scientific advice from WHO and Sri Lanka’s scientists, burials are now permitted. The UN ignores the fact that only about 400 people on a population of 22m have sadly died in Sri Lanka, whereas no less than 120,000+ have died in the UK with a population of 66 million. By any yardstick Sri Lanka has been more successful at saving lives than any member of the Core Group.

“It seems to me that the Core Group needs to have more faith in the reconciliation structures already on the ground such as the Office of Missing Persons and the Office of Reparations. If the UN Core Group really wants to help, then why cannot the UK, Canada and Germany release to Sri Lanka the names of all asylum seekers since the war so that they can be checked against the list of Missing Persons and be removed from the master list?

“During the period of the Sirisena/Wickremesinghe government, draft legislation for a Truth & Reconciliation Commission was prepared and the current government should be given the time and space, whilst also handling the pandemic, to introduce its own TRC mechanism. Britain should stand in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka as a unique TRC is developed and is implemented. Reconciliation cannot be externally forced on to the people of Sri Lanka. It must come from within and I would also urge the diaspora communities living in the Core Group countries to also trust, engage with and contribute towards Sri Lanka’s reconciliation processes.

It is for Sri Lanka to decide how much help they seek from outside but for me I doubt the need or the efficacy of the UNHRC being able to help in an enhanced monitoring role as proposed.”

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SJB finds fault with recommendations of political victimisation PCoI

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB yesterday found fault with the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that investigated incidents of political victimization for arrogating to itself the powers of the judiciary.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s office, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella said: “The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the incidents of political victimisation has usurped the powers of courts.

MP Kiriella said that PCoI or any one including the Executive should not encroach on the powers of the judiciary. The MPs had a right to stand against it. “We have a constitutional right to prevent this. As per the provisions of the Article 4 of the Constitution people have given their sovereign powers of exercising judicial power to Parliament. It is by parliament through the courts or any other tribunal accepted by the law the judicial powers are exercised. A presidential commission of inquiry has not been given powers of courts. The PCoI headed by retired Justice Upali Abeyratne arrogated to itself the powers of courts as per the recommendations the commission made in its report,” Kiriella said.

He said that the PCoI had recommended that cases pending before in the Magistrate and High Courts be stopped. “Victims have been turned into complainants and complainants into offenders. The PCoI has made recommendations to acquit those implicated in numerous offences. The commission has recommended that some of those who violated the laws be acquitted and compensated. A PCoI has no such powers. We have expressed our opposition to this. We actually have submitted a petition to the Chief Justice on Tuesday against the PCoI hijacking the powers of the court.”

The MP said that PCoI’s usurping of court powers was a serious matter that should be rectified immediately. “We have utmost faith in the judiciary of this country. Courts have maintained their independence very bravely in the face of many challenges. You may recall that when there was a constitutional coup in 2018 October, the court did not succumb to political pressure

and declared the ouster of our government unconstitutional. If the PCoIs are allowed to usurp the powers of judiciary then the public would lose their faith in courts.”

SJB MPs J.C. Alawathuwala and Harin Fernando also addressed the press.

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NMRA approves emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine here

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Laboratory technologists welcome the move

By Rathindra Kuruwita

State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana yesterday announced that the National Medical Regulatory Authority of Sri Lanka had approved the Emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier this month leading British medical publication, The Lancet, stated that the interim results from a phase 3 trial of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine had shown a consistent strong protective effect across all participant age groups.

Lancet said: “The vaccine uses a heterologous recombinant adenovirus approach using adenovirus 26 (Ad26) and adenovirus 5 (Ad5) as vectors for the expression of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein. The use of two varying serotypes, which are given 21 days apart, is intended to overcome any pre-existing adenovirus immunity in the population. Among the major COVID vaccines in development to date, only Gam-COVID-Vac uses this approach; others, such as the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine, use the same material for both doses. The earlier vaccine for Ebola virus also developed at Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology (Moscow, Russia), was similar, with Ad5 and vesicular stomatitis virus as the carrier viruses, and the general principle of prime boost with two different vectors has been widely used experimentally.”

President of the College of Medical Laboratory Science, Ravi Kumudesh yesterday said that they were happy about the decision as the country needed an mRNA vaccine.

“Sputnik-V is an mRNA vaccine and we have so far ignored mRNA vaccines. Covidshield vaccine is a more traditional vaccine and it will not be effective against coronavirus variants. This is what reports from France and South Africa suggests. That’s why we have insisted on an mRNA vaccine from the start. Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines need to be stored in extremely cold temperatures and thus not feasible here. But Sputnik-V doesn’t have that problem. I am not saying bring Sputnik-V and start injecting people from next week. But our dependence on covidshield is more dangerous.”

Kumudesh said that the SPC had said it was willing to work with Russians to produce Sputnik-V here and that it was a commendable decision. Sri Lanka had the expertise to produce vaccines and that if such an initiative came about it would also be an opportunity to take in talented scientists into the Ministry of Health.

 

 

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