Rajapaksa’s dysfunctional regime in Sri Lanka and its impact on South Asia – ORF

Basic human rights and liberal democracy are dismissed by the autocratic leadership in Sri Lanka. Such circumstances suppress the public from exercising their democratic rights on a daily basis. The predominantly active political class of Sinhalese Buddhists, who campaigned for and elected a Rajapaksa regime and once supported autocratic sentiments now seem to be questioning the regime’s behaviour. During the Presidential election in 2019, which came in the immediate aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks, national security was the top concern. However, at present, individual security is threatened more than ever before, owing to an economic crisis overshadowed by a pandemic. To survive within Sri Lanka’s autocratic family rule is to remain in greater fealty to the ultra-nationalistic ethos projected in no uncertain terms by the Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime. Under this repressive environment, there will be a no freedom of choice due to a deep fear that has crept into every household in the country.

Shortage of essential food items at the height of the pandemic with the highest number of deaths recorded on the island happening simultaneously, the public is battling a two-way crisis. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared emergency regulations by enforcing directives, and appointing former Major General MDSP Niwunhella to take over as Sri Lanka’s Commissioner of Essential Services amidst an economic emergency. It is another military appointment which pushes the quasi democracy towards a complete autocracy, expanding the regime’s militarisation programme. This was a concern also raised by the UNHRC. With the present dysfunctionality, hopefully, Sri Lanka will not see another youth insurrection from its majoritarian Sinhalese Buddhists as seen in the past in 1971 and 1989, triggered by economic failure and political injustice where thousands of innocent lives were lost. The economic emergency allows authorities to control and seize stocks of staple foods; naturally, the current food shortage reminds the Sri Lankan public of the 1970s regime of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike ending in 1977.

The predominantly active political class of Sinhalese Buddhists, who campaigned for and elected a Rajapaksa regime and once supported autocratic sentiments now seem to be questioning the regime’s behaviour.

There is a steep devaluation of currency due to a foreign exchange crisis. The Sri Lankan rupee crossed a historical high at Rs.231 to the US dollar, while 127 billion rupees were injected. The Sri Lankan rupee has fallen 7.5 percent against the US dollar this year and its month-on-month inflation rose to 6 percent in August, with significant borrowing where 80 percent of the revenue is for debt servicing, especially with continued borrowings from China. It has also reached out to many other nations including Bangladesh, which will provide US $200 million currency swap to assist the fast-depleting foreign reserves in Sri Lanka. Assessing the economic crisis, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, WA Wijewardena, says the economic situation has ‘graduated from a crisis to a total catastrophe now’, a free fall of the economy. The Central Bank acts as an advisory institution under such circumstances. Therefore, a new governor of the Central Bank was appointed, former State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal, a close confidant of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to help limit the situation.

Dysfunctionality and the China tilt

A few weeks before the economic emergency, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made a surprising cabinet reshuffle of a few key ministries, including Health and Foreign Affairs. The Health Ministry was in a disastrous state with multiple interventions aimed at health professionals by the regime. Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi was shuffled to bring in Keheliya Rambukwella, a vociferous defender of the regime.

Foreign Affairs Ministry was the other crucial ministry that was reset. During the time of the former Foreign Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena, Sri Lankan foreign policy lost its balance and neutral posture tilting toward China. There is no positive sign even with the experienced new foreign Minister GL Peiris to change this direction and recalibrate its China bandwagoning foreign policy. The China tilt policy was reiterated at the recent 48th UNHRC session where Sri Lanka defended China’s human rights accusations, commenting ‘external forces should not seek to interfere in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, which are integral parts of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’.

Weeks before, the strong bilateral economic cooperation was cemented at the diplomatic meeting between a high-profile delegation of the Parliament of the PRC and Sri Lanka, which took place in August 2021. The meeting was led by Basil Rajapaksa, the new Rajapaksa brother who joined the government taking over the position of the Finance Minister; this meeting also included many other strong political weights from within the government such as the new Foreign Affairs Minister.

The China tilt policy was reiterated at the recent 48th UNHRC session where Sri Lanka defended China’s human rights accusations, commenting ‘external forces should not seek to interfere in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, which are integral parts of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’.

The Chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee Li Zhanshu said that the “Chinese government will do its utmost to help overcome the economic challenge as well as the COVID challenge in Sri Lanka”. Foreign Minister G.L Peiris requested Chinese assistance at the international arena by saying, “China has always stood by Sri Lanka as a close friend in the international arena and that he looks forward to the continued support in the future as well.”. The Foreign Minister’s request to protect the regime at the international forum will be taken up as a priority by the Chinese leadership.

The defence of Chinese human rights violations in a global forum is another ancillary ingredient apart from China’s ‘debt trap’ and vaccine dependency towards realising the Chinese ‘strategic trap’. While the Chinese embassy projects kudos by saying, “Well done! Sri Lanka the fastest vaccination speed in the world for the past week”, China also works on the economic recovery and enlarging the Chinese debt and ‘strategic trap’ in Sri Lanka. Deborah Brautigam, a Professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and Meg Rithmire, an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School assess that ‘After the construction of the port in Hambantota, for example, Chinese firms and banks learned that strongmen fall and that they’d better have strategies for dealing with political risk’. Perhaps, China’s risk assessment and learning have improved over time but it is not short of the ‘strategic trap’ in Sri Lanka.

Dysfunctional states and extremist threat

The dysfunctionality and frustrations lent by the country’s mismanagement has left a fertile ground for multiple security threats to mushroom, including extremist terror. This threat is beyond borders. A month after the New Zealand Christ Church attack, Sri Lanka’s largest extremist terror attack took place. At that time, Sri Lanka’s State Minister of Defence was quick to call the Easter Sunday attack a retaliation for the Christ Church attack. Sri Lankan Easter Sunday attack is unearthing multiple new evidence. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, revealed at a recent press conference that a ‘Sri Lankan military intelligence officer, through a local agent and an unspecified person in Indonesia, had forced the terrorist group ISIS to claim responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks’. These are serious findings, opening new dimensions about the attacks.

With the US exit from Afghanistan and the re-Talibanisation of the country, the regional security balance is under threat. It poses a stage for the return of extremist terrorism.

Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen, the Sri Lankan who committed the heinous act of stabbing innocent civilians in New Zealand in September 2021, perhaps, had an indirect connection to terror cells in his own home town Kattankudy in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka where Mohammed Zahran, the mastermind of the Easter attack preached an increasingly extremist version of Islam. In order to subvert such a movement from taking root, the current regime in Sri Lanka set the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, which allows arrests and surveillance in place. It employed strong bans including a ban on madrassas, ban on burqa, and forced cremations for a limited time. The consequences of these acts will predictably be the spread of islamophobia and the grooming of more extremists rather than the reverse of it.

With the US exit from Afghanistan and the re-Talibanisation of the country, the regional security balance is under threat. It poses a stage for the return of extremist terrorism. The absence of US counterterror operations will not be filled by China or Russia. For China, with its close Taliban/Pakistan relations, it will be a test on Chinese leadership for maintaining balance. India faces serious security threats from all directions—from its western borders from Pakistan, northern from China, eastern from Bangladesh and the South from Sri Lanka and Maldives. According to Shivshankar Menon, former Indian National security Advisor, “Afghanistan is not a threat to us. It has to come through Pakistan”. The dysfunctional nature of many other South Asian states presents a gap in robust counterterrorism mechanisms with a multijurisdictional approach and the absence of security architecture. This gap could make way for South Asia to become a hub for the extremist terrorist threats. In the case of Sri Lanka, the absence of social security for minorities is the root cause that should be addressed. If counterterrorism mechanisms are used for arbitrary detention as explained by UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michele Bachelet from her recent update on Sri Lanka and how the strict surveillance continues to be used, it will invite dangerous security concerns to the society and the region. With the absence of a holistic mechanism, Sri Lankan prisons will become breeding grounds for extremist terrorists.

The knee jerk decisions from the important cabinet reshuffle and appointment of a new governor of the central bank to increasing military appointments and arbitrary detention are definitely not moves in the right direction. The Rajapaksa’s repressive policies overshadow everything else, including the new appointments for course correction. The crass act of the regime’s own minister of prison was a clear evidence of moral values and dysfunctionality within the government. While liberal democracy is suppressed by Rajapaksa regime, the present dysfunctionality in Sri Lanka’s political-economic environment and its pro-Chinese foreign policy will have severe security impact on the entire South Asian region.

Tamil Diaspora Organization’s Declaration of Common Principles of Tamils – EINPresswire.com

Six Tamil Diaspora organizations jointly issued Declaration of Common Principles of Tamils:

1) An internationally conducted and monitored Referendum that allows people living in the north-eastern region of the island of Sri Lanka (Northern and Eastern province) prior to 1948 and their descendants to find a democratic, peaceful, permanent, and political solution that meets Tamils’ aspirations.

2) An interim International Protection Mechanism in the north-eastern region of the island.

3) The Repeal of the Sixth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution

4) The referral of the situation in Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court with respect to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and legal action against Sri Lanka before the International Court of Justice under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Convention against Torture.

Seetharam Sivam, President, United States Tamil Action Group(USTAG)

Meena Ilancheyan, President Tamil Americans United PAC

Viswanathan Rudrakumaran, Prime Minister Trans National Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE)

Rajendra Nadaraja, President Ilankai Thamil Sangam

Ravi Subramaniam, President World Tamil Organization (WTO)

Shanthini Jeyarajah, President North Carolinians for Peace

BELOW, PLEASE FIND THE FULL DECLARATION:

DECLARATION OF COMMON PRINCIPLES OF TAMILS

We, the undersigned representatives of Tamil Diaspora organizations from the Island of Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka,

Affirming that sovereignty lies with the individual.

Reaffirming that the will of the people shall be the foundation of democracy.

Recognizing that direct democracy is more authentic than representative democracy with respect to the resolution of national conflicts, as demonstrated by the international community in the Referendum clause of the Good Friday Agreement, the Referendum clause in the Serbia-Montenegro Agreement, the Referendum clause in the Bougainville Agreement, the Referendum clause in the Machakos Protocol (South Sudan), Kosovo’s referendum, Scotland’s referendum, etc.

Recalling that there were separate Sinhala kingdoms and a Tamil kingdom in the island of Ceylon before the arrival of colonial powers in the 15th century.

Recalling that the colonial powers — the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British — administered the Sinhala kingdoms and the Tamil kingdom separately during the initial period of 300 years of their rule.

Recalling the amalgamation of the Sinhala kingdoms and the Tamil kingdom by the British for the purpose of administrative convenience on the recommendation of the Colebrooke Commission in 1833.

Recalling that the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK – Federal Party) was formed in December 1949, and in April 1951 the ITAK articulated its claim that the Tamil People in Ceylon were a Nation distinct from that of the Sinhalese and demanded a federal arrangement in the North and the East, where the Tamil-Speaking Peoples are a predominant majority.

Noting that when independence was granted to Ceylon in 1948 through the Soulbury Constitution that the British included section 29(2), which was perceived as “unalterable” since it “entrenched religious and racial matters” by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1964. but was unilaterally abolished by the Sri Lankan Government in 1971.

Recalling the citizenship act of 1948 which disenfranchised more than 700,000 Upcountry Tamils who constituted eleven percent of the population.

Cognizant of the subsequent expulsion of Upcountry Tamils pursuant to the 1964 Sirimavo-Shastri Pact between India and Sri Lanka was comparable to the expulsion of Asians by Idi Amin from Uganda.

Recalling the speech made by Mr. S.J.V. Chelvanayagam in Sri Lanka’s Parliament on December 5, 1976, “We have completely abandoned the Federal concept; We have decided to separate. If we don’t separate, we can never win back our lost rights. We will try in every way to set up a separate state. This is certain. As the voice of my people, I tell this to Sri Lanka and the world from this house. We know this is not an easy task. We know it is a difficult path. But either we must get out of the rule of the Singhalese or perish. This is our ideal”.

Noting that the Vaddukoddai Resolution was adopted on 14 May 1976 by the Tamil United Liberation Front seeking to work for the creation of an independent State of Tamil Eelam, which received an overwhelming mandate at the subsequent 1977 Parliamentary Elections.

Emphasizing that the Tamil People did not grant their consent to the enactment of the 1972 (Republican Constitution) and 1978 Constitutions of Sri Lanka that were enacted on the basis of the unitary character of the State without the participation of and with opposition from the elected Tamil representatives of the major Tamil political parties.

Bearing in mind that the Eelam Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka, who have a distinct language and distinct culture and who have a historic relationship to the North-Eastern part of the island of Sri Lanka, a relationship which is recognized in various pacts including the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord constitute Tamils a “People” under international law, thus entitled to realize their inherent right to self-determination.

Recognizing that given the aforesaid reality and emphasizing that any political solution to the Tamil National Question should recognize the Tamils as a distinct Nation.

Being aware that between 1956 and 2008, Tamils have been subject to 157 racial massacres on the island of Sri Lanka, including the 1958, 1977 and 1983 racial pogroms.

Taking note of the occupation of the de facto state of Tamil Eelam which is the result of destruction due to the genocidal war.

Mindful that the war between the state of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ended in May 2009 with unspeakable mass atrocities committed against the Tamil people.

Noting that, according to the 2011 Report of the Panel of Experts established by the then United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, there is credible evidence that crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed during and after the war.

Noting that the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka also stated that “[a] number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths.”

Noting that according to the 2012 UN internal review report headed by Charles Petrie, there are credible reports that “over 70,000 civilians are unaccounted for” during the final stages of the war.

Mindful of the Report of the late Reverend Dr Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar, which said that during the final stages of the war 146,679 Tamils remain unaccounted for based on the Sri Lankan government’s own figures of number of residents in the area at the early stage of hostilities and the number who emerged to government internment camps at the end of the conflict.

Bearing in mind the transitional justice process initiated by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2015.

Affirming that the institutions of Sri Lanka are permeated with entrenched and pervasive racism and that Tamils do not have space for justice in the island of Sri Lanka.

Emphasizing that the transitional justice process should be victim-centred and that victims should be allowed to contribute significantly in the formulation of the transitional justice mechanism for accountability, as well as be allowed to fashion the model for a future political arrangement to ensure the nonrecurrence of mass atrocities, an important component of transitional justice.

Observing the United Nations Report of the Panel of Experts statement that “on- going exclusionary policies, which are particularly deleterious as political, social and economic exclusion based on ethnicity, perceived or real, have been at the heart of the conflict.”

Mindful of the observation by Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her Report issued on 9th February 2021, of the “resurfacing of a dangerous, exclusionary and majoritarian discourse.”

Noting the elements of the crime of genocide in the United Nations Report of the Panel of Experts and in the 2015 Office of the High Commissioner’s Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) Report.

Noting the Resolution passed by the Northern Provincial Council in Sri Lanka in 2015, calling for the UN to investigate the genocide of Tamils by the State of Sri Lanka.

Noting the Resolution passed by the Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu in India on March 27, 2013 calling for a United Nations Security Council-backed Referendum and for an impartial, international and independent probe for the alleged war crimes and genocide in Sri Lanka.

Bearing in mind the Resolution passed in the Canadian Parliament unanimously on June 19, 2019 “calling upon the United Nations to establish an international independent investigation into allegations of genocide against Tamils committed in Sri Lanka.”

Recognizing the recent awareness campaign by the Pothuvil to Polikandy (P2P) rally conducted by vast sections of Tamil civil society, noting the participation of Muslims and their joint demands, and cognizant of the P2P declaration calling for international accountability measures, genocide recognition, and a political solution inclusive of a Referendum to determine the political wishes of the population.

Cognizant of the fact that the victims of mass atrocities are entitled to remedial justice.

Taking note of the Report of the International Truth and Justice Project in February 2017detailing Sri Lankan security force-run “rape camps” during and after the war, where Tamil women are held as “sex slaves,” some of whom became pregnant and had children from these abuses.

Taking note of the March 2021 Report of The Oakland Institute entitled, “Endless War: The Destroyed Land, Life, and Identity of the Tamils in Sri Lanka”.

Taking note of the observation in the above-mentioned Report that “12 years after the brutal end of the civil war, the island nation is increasingly an ethnocratic state – intensifying the colonization and Sinhalisation of Tamil Lands”; “Military occupation of the traditional Tamil land is extreme – with a ratio of one soldier for every six civilians in the Northern Province & one soldier for two civilians in the Mullaithivu District.”

Observing the State of Sri Lanka’s aggressive efforts to destroy the distinct characteristics of the Tamil nation and the land grabbing in areas of Tamils’ historic habitation.

Affirming that the Muslims in the NorthEastern part of Sri Lanka constitute a distinct community.

Conscious of the common denominators, particularly of Tamil language and literature, among Tamils and the Muslims.

Taking note of the Sri Lankan Government’s actions in violation of the religious practice of the Muslims, the stigmatization of Muslims as carriers of COVID-19 and the increased persecution of Muslims by Buddhist fundamentalists aided and abetted by the Sri Lankan Security Forces.

Recognizing that the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, in effect since August 1983 and which criminalizes peaceful advocacy of an independent state, is a violation of fundamental human rights, namely Freedom of Association and Freedom of Speech guaranteed in Article 17 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Bearing in mind that the Sixth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution was passed directly on the heels of the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom and impedes the political space in the island of Sri Lanka for Tamils to articulate their political aspirations and will.

Emphasizing that the Northern Provincial Council unanimously adopted on September 11, 2018 the Referendum Resolution that called the member countries of the UN to conduct a UN-monitored referendum in the North-East region of the Island towards finding a permanent political solution to the National Question.

WHEREFORE, the Parties to this Declaration call for:

1) An internationally conducted and monitored Referendum that allows people living in the north-eastern region of the island of Sri Lanka (Northern and Eastern province) prior to 1948 and their descendants to find a democratic, peaceful, permanent, and political solution that meets Tamils’ aspirations.

2) An interim International Protection Mechanism in the north-eastern region of the island.

3) The Repeal of the Sixth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution

4) The referral of the situation in Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court with respect to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and legal action against Sri Lanka before the International Court of Justice under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Convention against Torture.

Seetharam Sivam, President, United States Tamil Action Group(USTAG)

Meena Ilancheyan, President Tamil Americans United PAC

Viswanathan Rudrakumaran, Prime Minister Trans National Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE)

Rajendra Nadaraja, President Ilankai Thamil Sangam

Ravi Subramaniam, President World Tamil Organization (WTO)

Shanthini Jeyarajah, President North Carolinians for Peace
Tamil Diaspora Organizations
TDO

There’ll be a “new normal” when Sri Lanka re-opens on October 1 after lockdown

The Special Committee on COVID-19 Control decided on Friday to chalk out a set of regulations that will define the “new normal” when the country-wide lockdown is lifted at 4 am on October 1.

These regulations will ensure safeguards against the COVID-19 virus even as the economy is opened to set the wheels of industry and commerce moving again after a gap of a year and a half.

The plan will be prepared by 3 relevant authorities covering three areas. Under the guidance of the Health Ministry and health specialists committees, the Ministry of Public Administration will issue recommendations on how to maintain services in the public sector. The Ministry of Transport will issue recommendations with regard to public transport and the Ministry of Labor will issue recommendations on how to maintain services in the private sector.

Dire Economic Situation

The chairman of the meeting, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa said that economic growth rate, which was 12.3% in the second quarter of 2021 fell to 1% in the third quarter due to the island-wide lockdown.

He explained the need to work towards a 3% rate of growth in the 4th quarter. That would help maintain the country’s overall annual economic growth rate at 5% this year.

The opening of schools was also discussed at length and the relevant recommendations of health specialists committee were forwarded to the Ministry of Education. Basil Rajapaksa instructed concerned officials to refer the recommendations directly to the Governors and the Provincial Directors of Health.

International organizations, including UNICEF, as well as paediatricians in the country, have pointed out that it is not necessary to wait until the vaccination program ends to open schools. Specialists pointed out that schools and pre-schools should be reopened as soon as possible to ensure the uninterrupted education of children, and that proper health recommendations should be followed in this regard.

It was also decided to get the direct assistance of local government bodies and Regional Development Committees in cleaning and disinfection schools.

The importance of Ayurvedic post-COVID-19 treatment centers was emphasized. The establishment of new Ayurvedic post-COVID-19 treatment centers in tourist zones aimed at promoting the tourism was discussed. There is a huge international demand for Lankan indigenous medicines in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Attention was also drawn to the formulation of a plan to remove existing barriers to exporting medicinal products.

State Minister Sisira Jayakody stated that the Ministry of Indigenous Medicine has made all arrangements to provide indigenous immune-strengthening medicines to all families in the country free of charge. He further said that LKR 6,000 million has been allocated for this purpose.

Minister Prasanna Ranatunga pointed out that there was no truth in the rumors that there was a delay in the PCR tests on locals and foreign tourists entering the country at the Colombo airport. A newly established test center will start functioning from Saturday. Foreign tourists will be directed to hotels of their choice without any detention after being subjected to the PCR test and Sri Lankans will be sent to their homes.

PCR test results will be issued in approximately 02-03 hours. If the result confirms that a person is infected with COVID, the relevant Public Health Inspector will issue guidelines.

Vaccination of children with congenital diseases, who are between the ages of 12 and 19, commenced on Friday at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children, Colombo, and also the Anuradhapura and Kurunegala General Hospitals, said Specialist Dr. Prasanna Gunasena.

He pointed out that there is a renewed interest in vaccination among the public which is a positive development. Young people in the age group of 20-29 years have also volunteered for vaccination.

Sri Lanka reports 82 Covid-19 deaths on Friday, toll rises to 12,530

Sri Lanka Friday reported 82 deaths due to COVID-19 after the figures were confirmed by the Director General of Health Services on Thursday, September 23.

Among the deaths reported today, 51 are of males and 31 of females. The majority of deaths – 61- are of elderly people in the 60 years and above age group.

According to the data reported by the Government Information Department, the total deaths due to Covid-19 since the pandemic began last year has now risen to 12,530.

Sri Lanka to soon reopen schools with 200 students or fewer for grades 1 to 5

Sri Lankan students of grades 1 to 5 in schools with a student population of 200 or fewer may soon be able to go back to school, according to Education Ministry Secretary Kapila Perera.

Sri Lanka has 5,131 schools of fewer than 200 students, said Perera. Of the total 10,155 schools in the island, he said, 3,884 only have grades 1 to 5.

“Governors of all provinces have conveyed to the education minister that all of these schools can be reopened,” he told reporters on Friday (24).

“Starting today, inspection will take place physically to ascertain whether students can be safely accommodated in the school premises,” he said.

In 2021, schools in Sri Lanka were initially closed from March 12 to April 20. Authorities were forced to shut down schools again on April 27 with the emergence of the Delta-variant led third wave of the epidemic. Schools have remained shut since.

Additional Secretary L M D Dharmasena a paediatrician has been named for every local area on the request of the education ministry secretary. The paediatrician will oversee matters of public health concerning students in his or her respective area.

“We ask academic staff to revamp the school sick rooms, and bring students back to school under health protocols,” said Dharmasena.

However, school teachers and principals in Sri Lanka have been on strike since July 12 demanding a solution to longstanding salary anomalies and other issues pertaining to online education.

Though several rounds of discussions have taken place, it is unclear when teachers can be expected to return to school, even if schools reopen in the near future.

Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena declared school teachers’ and principals’ services as a “closed service” on August 31.

Both teachers’ and principals’ services are under the public service. But declaring them a closed service will allow the government to treat teachers and principals separately from the rest of the public service when resolving their demands of salary anomalies, wages, transfers, and other benefits.

“The implementation of the national decision to close down the teachers’ service will be implemented in the next few months,” Gunawardena said at the time, adding that the cabinet had decided to issue a gazette before November 20 declaring the services a closed service.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Sri Lanka started vaccinating children over 12 years of age with congenital health isues in Colombo, Kurunegala and Anuradhapura districts.

Clear essential foods held in ports, PM tells Customs

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed Sri Lanka Customs to immediately clear all essential food items currently in the port, the Prime Minister’s Media Division stated.

This directive was issued during the Cost of Living (CoL) Committee meeting held today (24).

Accordingly, the Controller General of Imports and Exports and the Director-General of Customs have been informed on the same.

The Premier advised to release and distribute the essentials to the general public through the importers of essential goods and Sathosa outlets.

Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port signs MOU with China’s bus manufacturer

Sri Lanka’s Hambantota International Port (HIP) has entered into a memorandum of understanding with bus manufacturer Xiamen King Long United Automotive Industry Co., Ltd. in China’s Fujian Province, HIP said in a statement here on Thursday.

The MOU was signed at the King Long Motor Group offices in Fujian last week and was attended by representatives from the Hambantota International Ports Group (HIPG) and Ambassador of Sri Lanka to China Palitha Kohona.

Ambassador Kohona said “Sri Lanka welcomes Chinese high-end manufacturing facilities setting up in Sri Lanka and commends King Long for choosing the Hambantota International Port Group’s Industrial Park to expand its regional footprint.”

HIPG CEO Johnson Liu said “We believe there is a great synergy to be achieved between China and Sri Lanka trade. The Hambantota Industrial Park is being promoted globally and it is our goal to have a vibrant international investor community operating within the zone.”

King Long Motor Group Vice President Zhang Bin said “With the Hambantota Port being so strategically located, we would be able to reach newer markets in South East Asia.”

Go back Gota: Protest against Sri Lankan President, war criminal Gotabaya Rajapaksa outside UN

Huge crowds, including women and children, gathered outside United Nations in New York, to protest against Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa speaking at the UN General Assembly. This Protest was organized by Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE).

In a press statement issued by TGTE, “It is reported that Gotabaya avoided using the main entrance and used the back door to enter the building. Due to this protest there was large number of police stationed in the protest area.

Several victims of Gotabaya were also present in the rally, giving interview to the international press.

Rally Highlighted Sri Lankan President Gothabaya’s Leadership Role in Committing Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity against Tamil people. Gothabaya was the Defense Secretary when According to UN Tens of Thousands of Tamils were Killed and Tamil Women were Raped by the Sri Lankan Security forces.

Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) also sent information to the UN member States about Gotabaya’s Leadership Role in Committing Atrocity Crimes.”

Sri Lanka reports 72 Covid-19 deaths on Thursday, toll rises to 12,448

Sri Lanka Thursday reported 72 deaths due to COVID-19 after the figures were confirmed by the Director General of Health Services on Wednesday, September 22.

Among the deaths reported today, 42 are of males and 30 of females. The majority of deaths – 60- are of elderly people in the 60 years and above age group.

According to the data reported by the Government Information Department, the total deaths due to Covid-19 since the pandemic began last year has now risen to 12,448.

Money Printing at Rs 1.6074T establishes new record

Government of Sri Lanka’s (GoSL’s) non-demand-pull inflationary face value money printing (FVMP) debt increased by 0.29 per cent (Rs 4,572 million) to a new record high of Rs 1,607,398.46 million (Rs 1.6074 trillion) yesterday. GoSL’s highest to the seventeenth highest FVMP debt has been registered in the 17 consecutive market days to yesterday, though not necessarily in a particular order.

The highest, Rs 1.6074 trillion was recorded yesterday, second highest Rs 1.6071 trillion was recorded on Friday 17 September, the third highest figure of Rs 1.6028 trillion was recorded on Tuesday 21 September, the fourth highest 1.5776 trillion was on Thursday 16 September, the fifth highest Rs 1.5560 trillion on Tuesday 14 September, the sixth highest Rs 1.5498 trillion on Wednesday 15 September, the seventh highest Rs 1.5429 trillion on Monday 13 September, eighth highest FVMP debt of Rs 1.5409 trillion on 10 September, ninth highest figure of Rs 1.5324 trillion on 8 September, tenth highest figure of Rs 1.5307 trillion on 7 September, eleventh highest figure of Rs 1.5306 trillion on 9 September, twelfth highest figure of Rs 1.5285 trillion on 3 September, thirteenth highest figure of Rs 1.5279 trillion on 6 September, fourteenth highest figure of Rs 1.5118 trillion on 2 September, fifteenth highest figure of Rs 1.4991 trillion on 1 September, sixteenth highest figure of Rs 1.3658 trillion on 31 August and the seventeenth highest figure of Rs 1.3177 trillion on 30 August respectively.

GoSL’s FVMP debt has been over Rs 1 trillion for a record 44 consecutive market days to yesterday (Wednesday 22 September) due to a lack of revenue. MP is equivalent to the face value holdings of Treasury (T) Bills and T Bonds by Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL). CBSL is the only mandated authority to print money in the country.