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Ashu Marasinghe resigns from post of Assistant Chief Government Whip

Following the defeat of the expenditure heads of two ministries of government on Thursday, the Assistant Chief Government Whip, MP Prof. Ashu Marasinghe of the ruling United National Party has resigned from his post.
 
Marasinghe said the decision to resign was taken at the committee stage budget vote held yesterday.
 
The expenditure heads of the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development Ministry headed by Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka and of Minister Vajira Abeywardena's Internal and Home Affairs and Provincial Councils and Local Government were defeated yesterday in an unexpected move during the committee stage of the Budget 2019 when the opposition unexpectedly called for a division while most of the government members were absent.
 
Prof. Marasinghe, speaking to media today, said he was disappointed that he could not fulfill his role as the Assistant Chief Whip of the government and accordingly decided to resign from the post. He said the Prime Minister and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has accepted his resignation.
 
Marasinghe stressed that he will be committed to providing a strong contribution to the party and the government in the future. (Colombo Page)

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Karannagoda is involved in the disappearance of 11 youth: Sarath Fonseka

Parliamentarian Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka claims there is ample evidence to prove that Former Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda was involved in the disappearance of 11 youth by a Navy abduction gang. 

He also said it is not fair that various groups are intervening when the CID is attempting to file charges against him. The MP made these comments when questioned by media at an event held recently.

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Sri Lanka made an official request to extradite Mahendran on May 28: PMD

Dismissing an alleged statement made by a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore that the Government of Sri Lanka has not provided any documents requesting for the deportation of a person from that country, the President's Media Division (PMD) in a statement said today that Sri Lanka had made an official request on May 28, 2018 through the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence at diplomatic level to extradite Arjun Mahendran to Sri Lanka. 

" Subsequently, the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed the relevant Sri Lankan authorities, including the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, that the attention of the Attorney-General of Singapore has already been drawn regarding the request made by Sri Lanka," the statement said.

The extradition law applicable to Singapore is the Extradition Act enforced in that country. Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigation, by its submission 8266/2018-B, to the Fort Magistrate states that the former Governor of the Central Bank has committed an offence that falls within offence No.18 in Section 2 of the Extradition Act of Singapore.

"Based on that report, the INTERPOL has issued a Red Notice on April 19, 2018, and the said Red Notice has also been attached to the extradition request made from the Singaporean government", the statement said.  

During the recent official visit made by President Maithripala Sirisena to Singapore, the President made a request to extradite Mahendran to Sri Lanka based on that foundation. 

Accordingly, the Sri Lankan government has provided the core information necessary for the Singaporean government to extradite Mahendran, and it has also been requested, on that basis, a warrant to be issued against him through the officials of the government of Singapore, the PMD said.

It was also revealed that the Attorney-General of Singapore has informed the Sri Lankan counterpart through the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry to further explain the accusations leveled against Arjun Mahendran and, at present, the Sri Lankan Attorney-General is preparing a detailed report to be submitted to Singapore according to the recent letter received from them.

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Sri Lankan social activist never lost her resolve for fighting child abuse 

Marini de Livera was at the grand opening of a rural community’s first schoolhouse library when she got word she had been replaced.

Then the chairperson of Sri Lanka’s National Child Protection Authority, de Livera had made enemies by aggressively investigating child abuse — even when her work led her to the doorsteps of influential politicians. And when public ridicule, death threats and roadblocks from her own government failed to stop de Livera’s investigations, she was simply removed from her position.

Luckily for the children of Sri Lanka, that didn’t stop her either.

De Livera was one for 10 women from around the globe who were honored by the U.S. Department of State during the 2019 International Women of Courage Awards. The program — which recognizes women who put their own lives and personal safety at risk to help others — brings the award winners to the U.S. to share their experiences and to learn from the experiences of their American peers.

As part of her trip, de Livera spent a week in Pensacola discussing her work at Sisters at Law, a child protection organization she founded after being ousted from the National Child Protection Authority. Through Sisters at Law, de Livera serves as a pro bono lawyer for women and child crime victims, as well as promotes alternative care for children trapped in orphanages.

During a tour of Pensacola sponsored by the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council and the federal International Visitor Leadership Program, de Livera met officials from local child protection organizations such as the State Attorney’s Office, the Gulf Coast Kid’s House and Guardian Ad Litem.

De Livera came away energized with new ideas to take home, and thankful that her efforts were being acknowledged.

“I’ve never been appreciated,” she said with a wry laugh. “On the contrary, there’s been so much negativity from everyone around me. The work that I do is a losing battle.”

Sri Lanka is an island nation of about 21 million people off the south-eastern coast of India. De Livera estimated that the population includes about 20,000 children who are trapped in orphanages, and that many of those kids wind up as victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

Explaining the number of orphans, de Livera said, “The poorer people in Sri Lanka think the children will be sent to school and well looked after. They have this notion that because they are in the slums and they don’t have the conditions to bring up a child, that the orphanages are better.”

The children often end up in conditions worse than the ones they left, according to de Livera.

De Livera was appointed as the NCPA chairperson in April 2017, and she used her position to advocate for children in poverty, as well as for women who leave home seeking economic opportunity and end up victims of violence and trafficking. 

“I would very proactively bring investigations of child abuse,” she said. “I got so many threats from politicians and people who are affected by my investigations, but I continued with my work.”

That was until April 7, 2018, when de Livera’s subordinates learned via text message that a new chairperson had been appointed to replace her. De Livera said she was upset for about two or three hours, then she resolved to continue her work.

“I decided to set up my own organization which is a hybrid between a law firm and a charity known as Sisters at Law,” de Livera said.

De Livera provides free legal services to indigent children and families, as well as helps give parents skills training, assistance finding housing and other services that may help them keep their families intact. She also works to inform families in rural communities of their rights.

After a young girl was raped and murdered in Sri Lanka, de Livera wrote and illustrated a children’s book giving steps on how children can recognize signs they are in danger, ways to get out of dangerous situations and how to report them to adults.

De Livera adapted the book into a traveling street theater performance that she and her team have performed in towns and villages across the country. De Livera said her funding and manpower are limited, and that she would welcome any attorneys or performers who would be willing to volunteer their services in Sri Lanka on a temporary basis.

“Legal aid goes hand in hand with legal literacy,” she said. “If people are not aware of the laws, if people are not aware of the fundamental rights that are enshrined in the constitution, they will not go to an attorney and they will not seek help ... . As long as the people are ignorant of their rights, the perpetrators and all the powers that be will be very happy because they can do their own thing.”

More information about De Livera, Sisters at Law and her visit to Pensacola are available at her Facebook page. 

The U.S. Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Awards are now in their 13th year, and since their inception, the State Department has honored more than 120 women from more than 65 different countries.

The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that partners with the U.S. Department of State to bring up-and-coming foreign visitors participating in the International Visitor Leadership Program to Northwest Florida. The organization’s mission is to create and encourage collaboration between like-minded resident who value sharing our region with the rest of the world.

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Kerala family gets Lankan woman's body instead of son's coffin

The body of Rafeeq Abdul Razak, who died of a heart attack in Saudi Arabia on February 27, had finally arrived at the Cochin International Airport on Thursday, or at least, that is what his family thought when they received his coffin. However, a few hours later, they were in for the shock of their lives when they opened the coffin on their way to Rafeeq’s native place in Kummannoor, Pathanamthitta district. It was not Rafeeq’s body; it was the body of a woman in the coffin.

The deceased woman has been identified as a Sri Lankan national. Now, while the woman’s body is in Kerala, Rafeeq’s body is in Colombo in Sri Lanka. “It was a mistake from the part of the Saudi Arabia Airlines at the Jeddah airport,” an official of the airlines in Kochi said.

The identification tags for both the coffins somehow got exchanged at Abha International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Both the bodies were sent to their respective destinations on  Saudi Arabia Airlines, the national carrier of the Kingdom.

“The number for Rafeeq’s coffin was 35, but instead, the number tag of 32 was attached to his coffin,” said Bency Mohan of Navayugam, an organisation in Saudi Arabia that facilitates the repatriation of Indian bodies to their native states.

“When Rafeeq, who was working as a driver in Saudi Arabia, did not turn up for work, his sponsor went to his room and found him dead there,” Bency told TNM. 

His sponsor and the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia helped Rafeeq’s family expedite the paperwork and made sure his body is transported to Kerala.

Now, with both the bodies in different countries, the officials of Saudi Arabian Airlines, also known as Saudia, are working towards exchanging the bodies.

“However, since both the coffins and the shrouds have been opened, the bodies will have to be embalmed again. We will embalm the Sri Lankan woman’s body here. Similarly, Rafeeq’s body will be embalmed in Colombo. So it will take one more day. The Saudia airlines’ offices in Cochin and Colombo are coordinating to exchange the bodies,” the airlines official said.

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Gotabaya’s candidacy confirmed : Chamal

Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa says the candidacy of his brother, the Former Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the presidential candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) has been confirmed. 

He made these comments at an event while responding to questions posed by media. He also said there has been no proposal to field him or his brother Basil Rajapaksa as the candidate.

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SLPP caused the biggest damage to SLFP: Dayasiri

Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera said that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) was responsible for destroying the SLFP.

Speaking at a public rally yesterday (21), he stated that the activities of the SLPP during the past year and a half has caused severe damage to the SLFP.

However, he also said that the SLFP and the SLPP have agreed to another round of talks between the two parties scheduled to take place on April 10th.

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Colour coding for packaged food: Rajitha 

Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said on Monday health authorities would introduce a colour coding scheme for packaged food, indicating levels of sugar, fat and salt, in an effort to curb non-communicable diseases.

Senaratne said the high use of sugar, salt and fat was causing many non-communicable diseases, including cancer. The Health Ministry has been gathering data and holding discussions with manufacturers for a year to introduce the colour coding scheme.

"There are a large number of biscuit and sweets manufacturers in Sri Lanka. They sell over 80,000 tonnes products in the country. We need to reduce the use of sugar in these products," Senaratne said.

"Since a number of biscuit manufacturers export their products to around 55 countries, they agreed to introduce a colour coding scheme, which is internationally accepted."

In 2016, the Ministry had introduced a Traffic Light Labelling System on soft drinks and after that soft drink companies had reduced the use of sugar by 10 percent in their products, he said.

"We think we can replicate that success here as well," Senaratne said.

According to the 2016 regulations, drinks that contained more than 11 grams of sugar per 100 milliliters was indicated with a red mark and if the sugar content was less than two grams it had a green mark.

Sugar content between these two amounts was indicated in amber.

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Concessional loan of US$ 989 million from the China's EXIM Bank for Central Expressway Project

The Export- Import Bank of China (EXIM Bank) has agreed to provide a concessional loan amounting to US$ 989 million covering 85% of the contract price, for the Central Expressway Project - Section 1 from Kadawatha to Meerigama.  

The total estimated cost of the project is US$ 1,164 million. Furthermore, this loan is the single largest loan approved by the EXIM Bank for Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement.    

Since, the implementation of the Section 2 of the Central Expressway has already been commenced with the financial assistance of local commercial banks, this loan facility from China EXIM Bank will facilitate the speedy implementation of Kadawatha –Meerigama section ensuring the connectivity of the expressway network up to Kurunagala.
 
Accordingly, the loan agreement was signed today (22) by Dr. R H S Samarathunga, Secretary, Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka and Cheng Xueyuan, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Embassy of China in Sri Lanka on behalf of the Export – Import (EXIM) Bank of China at the Ministry of Finance.

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Royal Australian Navy Task Group Arrives in Sri Lanka for Indo-Pacific Endeavor 2019 Exercises

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has started a major deployment under the Indo-Pacific Endeavor 2019 banner. Four vessels — HMAS Canberra, HMAS Success, HMAS Newcastle, and HMAS Parramata — arrived in Sri Lanka to begin the first set of activities there. The deployment began on March 11.

“The Australian Defence Force (ADF) enjoys a long-standing relationship with security forces throughout South and Southeast Asia,” Australian Minister for Defense Industry Linda Reynolds said last week. “These relationships are strengthened by annual exercises and engagements, such as the Indo-Pacific Endeavor series.”

In Sri Lanka, the RAN will provide training on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations as well as deepen its interactions with the Sri Lankan Navy.

“This initiative is designed to promote security and stability in Australia’s near region through bilateral and multilateral engagement, training and capacity building and Australia is committed to developing strong and positive defence relations with regional nations through dialogue and practical activities,” said Capt. Sean Unwin, the Australian High Commission in Colombo’s defense advisor, according to local media reports.

Australia’s 2016 defense white paper identified Sri Lanka as an important strategic node in the Indian Ocean region, a major area of interest for the RAN. “Sri Lanka’s location on a vital maritime corridor in the Indian Ocean has seen Australia gradually increase defence cooperation,” the White Paper noted. “The focus of our engagement will be on maritime security, maritime policy, emergency management and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”

Following its activities in Sri Lanka, the RAN task group will join the Indian Navy for exercises and interactions as well. “Engagement with India, one of Australia’s key strategic partners in the Indian Ocean  region, will be the cornerstone for [Indo-Pacific Endeavor 2019] with a number of high-level activities to be conducted to showcase the breadth and depth of our bilateral relationship,” an Australian Department of Defense release noted in December 2018.

India and Australia, along with Japan and the United States, have been consulting since November 2017 as part of a quadrilateral consultative group. The talks have been talking place at the working-level and all four countries have identified a common interest in a rules-based order in the region.

The RAN has yet to be invited to participate in the trilateral U.S.-India-Japan MALABAR naval exercise. As part of this year’s Indo-Pacific Endeavor, Australia and India will hold the latest biennial iteration of their bilateral AUSINDEX naval exercises.

The RAN task group for Indo-Pacific Endeavor 2019 is lead by the flagship HMAS Canberra, the lead ship of the Canberra-class landing helicopter dock vessel. HMAS Canberra is the largest vessel in the RAN’s inventory. where as the

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Swarnavahini sacks 15 employees for forming a Union

Swarnavahini management has sacked 15 of its employees today. The sacking comes after a majority of its employees formed the first trade union in a private television channel this week. Writing to the staff members whose contracts were terminated the management had claimed the group had used the company parking space without permission along with the property of the company to hold a meeting. The employees have now been barred from entering the premises.

However, as a result, the morning programs of the station were not aired today as the staff stayed away from work in protest of the management and its decision to let go of 15 staff members. The union meeting held yesterday was attended by the majority of the staff sources said.

Letter of termination

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Women's empowerment a top priority: Mangala

Empowering women is one of the main priorities of the government, Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera said yesterday at an event held in Matara.

Samaraweera made this remark while distributing certificates and industrial equipment sets to women who had successfully completed technical training under the  "Empowering Women through Technical Training" programme that was initiated in Matara and Moneragala districts. 

The Minister stated that even though Sri Lanka has the honour of electing the first female prime minister of the world, more often than not, women here had been confined to the kitchen and pointed out the idea that women cannot do mechanical work is an outdated opinion and the government has taken measures to assist the women who would like to receive training in such male-dominated sectors.

"We still treat women as second class citizens. There is this perception that women are incapable of doing what men can do. In the past thirty years, I have been to this very auditorium to distribute sewing machines and household appliances. We are just propagating the stereotype that they belong in the kitchen. But we know that there are women police commissioners in certain countries. Hence, it is abundantly clear that we can no longer limit certain professions to women", he added. 

The technical training programme done in collaboration with the Women's Affairs Ministry, National Authority on Road Safety and David Pieris Motor Company (Pvt) Limited saw 64 women pass out as trained technicians in repair of three wheelers. 

Samaraweera introduced many proposals to involve women further in the economy through budget 2019, including the government funded maternity expenses in the private sector and further concessions for women led businesses via the Enterprise Sri Lanka credit schemes.

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