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Women leaders present solutions



From left : Soundarie David-Rodrigo, Anoka Abeyratne, Roel Raymond, Sanjini Munaweera, Pulani Ranasinghe, Kumudu Priyanka, Shiromal Cooray, Dr. Pabasari Ginige

Jetwing official praises Ukranian President Zelenskyy

Eight highly accomplished women from diverse industries came together on one stage sharing their leadership perspective for Sri Lanka at the second chapter of iLead – the International Women’s Day event jointly organised by NextGenSL and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Sri Lanka.

They spoke under the theme, “What will I do differently if I ever get the opportunity to lead the country” and shared their insights on what needs to be done to resuscitate Sri Lanka from the current state of peril.

The speakers included Dr. Pabasari Ginige, Consultant Psychiatrist and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya, Sanjini Munaweera, Country Director – Sri Lanka ADA, Soundarie David Rodrigo, Music Director, Pianist and Lawyer, Roel Raymond, Editor-in-Chief, Roar Media, Kumudu Priyanka, Sri Lankan Paralympian, Shiromal Cooray, Chairperson, Jetwing Travels, Anoka Abeyratne, Conservationist and Environmentalist, and Pulani Ranasinghe, Technopreneur and Founder – Loons Lab.

Dr. Ginige, an adult psychiatrist with a special interest in child abuse, Intellectual Disability, Autism and LGBTIQ mental health issues, and women’s mental health, made a moving speech on Sri Lanka’s current situation and her potential solutions.

“Vistas of Prosperity”

“In my lifetime, I have witnessed Presidents stripping my country of its dignity and sovereignty. I have witnessed Presidents ripping off the trust of the majority voter whose political literacy is pitiful whether they are illiterates or scholars- viyathun. I have witnessed pathetic oppositions promising people an unrealistic utopia promoting a beggar culture with ‘sahana malu’ or free takaran. I have also witnessed oppositions, the self-professed political puritans who pleasure themselves in their comfort zones preaching to their own followers, Sermons on the Mount. Today I am standing in a country where the saubhgayaye dakma vistas of prosperity and splendour- has become yet another joke like yahapalanaya!

Meritocracy will be a guiding principle of my government. I will champion the introduction of Minimum qualifications to enter politics. If I am president NO BODY with a record of child or women abuse or corruption will be given nominations. The people will have a choice of candidates with integrity and basic human decency.

“I will modernise school and university education to suit the job markets locally and globally. If I am President, within 24 hours of being appointed I will outlaw all forms of ragging in the HEIs. I will invite the students to review their conduct and see whether that is any different from the state oppression they complain about.” she said.

Collective responsibility

Sanjini Munaweera, who has nearly three decades of experience across multiple industries, bringing great success to the FMCG, Telco, Technology, BFSI, Travel, as well as Retail and Manufacturing industries, locally and globally, said as President of the country she would encourage more women to break the barriers and take a ‘leap of faith’ to challenge the existing stereotypes.

“Sometimes you just need to be courageous enough to take that leap of faith,” she said in her speech.

“If I am given the leadership of the country, I will create a culture of collective responsibility — something that is sadly lacking in Sri Lanka. There is no growth for a country without a culture of collective responsibility. This will drive a narrative of inclusivity and bring people together towards a common purpose,” Munaweera added.

Bending the rules

“What is it that makes women — even high achievers like the ones on this panel right now — decline to get involved? It is the very thing that keeps some very capable men away from national politics. The knowledge that their expertise and achievements wouldn’t make an iota of a difference if they were to actually enter the fray,” Roel Raymond, Editor-in-Chief at Roar Media and a senior journalist with experience in both the private and state sectors and has worked with print, radio, television, and online formats, said.

“So what do you need to be successful in politics in Sri Lanka today?” she asked.

“You need to know how to bend the rules. You need to believe that there is no right and wrong. You need to be able to lie; to your constituents, to your family, to your friends, and most damningly and damagingly, to yourself. You need to believe your lies.”

“I would abolish the Executive Presidency which gives the President – any President – more power than he or she needs, repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act which is so ambiguous that it allows for the abuse of a law that should protect, and in fact, ensure that laws that are meant to protect, are not used to stifle dissent, remove the 20th Amendment to the Constitution which, among other things, enhances the powers of the Executive Presidency, reintroduce the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which introduces independent commissions.


Soundarie David-Rodrigo, the Founder and Music Director of Sri Lanka’s premiere female ensemble ‘Soul Sounds,’ the first choir in Sri Lanka to perform and win awards, internationally, was also featured as one of the speakers at iLead Chapter 02. Over the last10 years, Soul Sounds has given highly acclaimed performances in many countries

“Despite the challenges we face, we must not forget that Sri Lanka is a beautiful country to live in and we have every potential to do well. But, in order to get there, we, as a country, must embrace our differences and act in harmony,” Soundarie said stressing that she, as the leader of the country, would bring about education reforms and safeguard freedom of expression.

“It is true that we educate our children on religion during school days. But, there is no room for inter-faith dialogue. We do not give them opportunities to discuss similarities between religions and learn from each other,” she said.

She added that her education reforms would focus more on arts, culture, sports and creating harmony. “Even during the time I spent at the Law Faculty as an English medium student, I did not have many opportunities to mingle with Sinhala medium students. The youth should be given opportunities to work in harmony.”

Sri Lankan Paralympian Kumudu Priyanka, in a brief yet moving speech, said she would use all her experience as a Paralympian and as a person with disabilities to ensure the wellbeing of the people going through the same challenges in life. “I will encourage them to get involved in sports and use sports as an avenue to empower them.” Priyanka is the current world record holder in the women’s 200m T45 category.

Two Worlds

Chairperson of Jetwing Travels Shiromal Cooray said Sri Lanka seemed to have torn between two worlds. “One world says there is nothing wrong in our country and everything is going well and some mischief-makers are causing fears. The other world is grappling with a number of insurmountable problems, such as fuel shortages, gas shortages and power-cuts. The industry I represent deals with severe problems on a daily basis and is suffering immensely due to the current situation in the country.

“As President, I would appoint a diverse group of economic experts to advise me on the current situation. I would not appoint my relatives and friends to advise me but I would rely on people who tell me the truth. I would communicate with the public and keep them informed on a regular basis. Look at what President Zelenskyy is doing in Ukraine amidst severe difficulties and when his own life is under threat!

“I would not treat my citizens as idiots. I personally hate when someone tries to take me for a ride. So, I would not do that to my citizens. If you tell the truth to the country and start leading it with a vision and a purpose, people will do their part. “

Can animals vote?

Anoka Abeyratne, an activist on sustainable development issues who served as the Asia-Pacific representative to UNHabitat YAB, shared her leadership perspectives on sustainability and Sri Lanka’s future. She is the elected Environment Lead of the Royal Commonwealth Society. In 2019, Abeyratne appeared in a list of ‘Iconic Sri Lankan Women Who Have Shaped History.’

“I remember a discussion we once had with a Sri Lankan lawmaker on the Animal Welfare Act. At one point, he said, “well, you know, animals can’t vote!” How can we progress in this regard when they have such a mindset,” she said.

“When you look at Sri Lanka, it’s all about understanding the root cause and bringing forward sustainable solutions,” she stated, stressing the importance of ‘sustainability’ in every aspect of the country’s decision-making process. “

Digital nation

Pulani Ranasinghe, who leads a fast-growing innovation-friendly, software start-up company in Sri Lanka that delivers a wide range of services in the latest technologies to a diverse portfolio of local and global clients, said her reforms, as the President of Sri Lanka, would focus on education, innovation, entrepreneurship and digitalisation.

“As the first thing on my list, I will work to formulate a national growth strategy for the next 20 years. We see amazing concepts in bits and pieces in election manifestos but they don’t progress. I will build consensus across the political spectrum to formulate this 20-year national growth strategy,” she said.

“Then I will make an action plan on the implementation of the growth strategy. I will introduce major reforms to promote education, IT, digitalisation, and media. I, as President, will open up more avenues for students in the tertiary education sector and the professional education sector,” she said.

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CB Governor: Lanka now in a position to pay for essentials



‘Inflation will not be as high as initially expected’

Inflation will not be as high as initially expected and there are signs of economy stabilising, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says.Dr. Weerasinghe said that during the past few months a number of initiatives had been made to improve the economy and they were yielding the desired results.

“During the last review, we thought the inflation would reach 70%. However, now we believe that the inflation will not be that high even with the electricity tariff hike,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe said that the severity of the shortage of foreign currency had lessened. The country was now in a position to import fuel, gas and medicines.

“This has become possible because of the decisions we took. Imports have decreased. Export revenue has somewhat increased. Even without short-term loans we have been able to meet our basic needs. This is a positive development,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.The CB Governor said that inflation driven by demand had lessened because the expansion of loans had been curtailed.The supply side inflation too would drop with price and foreign exchange stabilisation.

“Still the inflation is about 60% and that’s why we need to maintain the current high policy rates. Once the government adjusts the fiscal policy, tax, and presents the new budget, things will improve. I think you can also see this. We are seeing positives,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe also urged exporters to bring back the foreign exchange earnings, and that the Central Bank had taken steps to ensure that exporters abided by the CB regulations.

“The irregularities due to open accounts, hawala and undial are being controlled and the black market premium is dropping. The foreign exchange liquidity in the banking sector has increased,” he said.

The Governor added that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had made good progress. An IMF delegation was expected to visit Sri Lanka by the end of August to reach a staff-level agreement.After Sri Lanka reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF, it had to start engaging with its creditors on debt restructuring.

“Once we reach an agreement with the IMF the situation will improve further,” he added. (RK)

(See related stories in the business section)

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CID arrests Mervyn 15 years after he forcibly entered Rupavahini



By Norman Palihawadana

Former Minister Mervyn Silva was yesterday arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for forcibly entering the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and attacking some employees there in 2007.On 27 Dec. 2007, Silva and his associates entered the SLRC premises and assaulted its news director for not airing a speech he had made in Matara.

SLRC employees held Silva incommunicado for hours, and the police intervened to secure his release. A few weeks later, some of the workers involved in the incident came under goon attacks.Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President at the time.

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Aeroflot affair: flights yet to resume; MP questions status of probe into detention of SU 289



ByShamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka hadn’t been able yet to convince Russia to resume Aeroflot flights and tourists from there to Sri Lanka suspended in the wake of the detention of SU 289 at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on the afternoon of June 02, authoritative sources said.

Sri Lanka grappling with an unprecedented foreign exchange shortage desperately needs tourists from an important destination like Russia, which earlier accounted for a sizeable share of the incoming traffic. Responding to The Island queries, sources said that relevant authorities were in the process of looking into the issue at hand.Having summoned Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Moscow Janitha Abeywickrema Liyanage soon after the incident at the BIA, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning over the incident.

In the wake of the Russian warning, the then government took measures to lift restrictions imposed on the aircraft that was to be detained till June 16. The detained SU 289 was allowed to leave on June 06.Former Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera yesterday (18) told The Island that no holds barred investigation was required to ascertain the truth.

Lawmaker Weerasekera said that the government should inform the Parliament of the progress of the investigation and what steps it intended to take as well as measures already taken to mend relations with Russia.

The retired Navy Chief of Staff said that those in authority should investigate whether a court ruling issued in respect of a case filed by Ireland-based Celestial Aviation Trading Company Ltd., against Aeroflot had been manipulated by interested parties.

It transpired that no sooner High Court Judge, S. M. H. S.P. Sethunge, in the Commercial High Court of the Western Province, Attorney-at-Law Aruna de Silva accompanied a fiscal officer of the same Court to the BIA at lightning speed to deliver the ruling.

Lawyer de Silva appeared for the plaintiff with Avindra Rodrigo, PC, (litigation) of FJ & Saram, leading law firm from the colonial times. The law firm has previously declined to comment on this matter.High Court judge Sethunga is on record as having said that he didn’t order the BIA not to permit Aeroflot SU 289 to take off on the afternoon of June 02.

Attorney-at-Law Dasun Nagasena, Coordinating Secretary to Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC yesterday (18) said that the Justice Ministry recommended action against the Attorney-at-Law to the Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC. Nagasena said that the fiscal officer who served the Justice Ministry had been interdicted, pending further investigations. As regards the lawyer, it would be handled on the advice of the CJ, the official said. Responding to another query, the official said that the Justice Ministry hadn’t been informed yet of the progress of the investigations.

Ports, Shipping and Aviation Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra yesterday said that ministry officials on Wednesday (17) discussed ways and means of resuming Aeroflot flights with relevant authorities, including the Russian embassy. Ruwanchandra said they were hopeful reaching a consensus on this matter soon. The official said so in response to The Island queries.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President Saliya Pieris, PC, yesterday said that they could initiate an inquiry only on the basis of a formal complaint. He said so when The Island asked him whether the BASL initiated an inquiry into the lawyer’s conduct in this regard. The President’s Counsel said that normally the BASL wouldn’t launch an investigation into a matter inquired into by the CJ.

At the time of the BIA incident, Prof. G.L. Peiris had been the minister in charge of foreign affairs. Since the change of government, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has sworn in Ali Sabry, PC, as the new minister of foreign affairs.

Russia has pointed out that action was taken against SU 289 in spite of an assurance given by Sri Lanka in respect of regular flights to Colombo.Sri Lankan Airlines in late March suspended flights to Moscow in the wake of imposition of what the airline called operational restrictions in the wake of war between Russia and Ukraine.

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