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Sri Lanka’s Covid-19 death toll climbs to 211

Jan 2 (AD) The Director General of Health Services has confirmed three more coronavirus related deaths increasing the tally of fatalities in the country due to the virus to 211. One of the victims is a 93-year-old woman from Colombo 13 who had passed away at her home on Dec 30. The cause of death is cited as multiple complications caused by Covid-19 infection. Govt Information Dept reports that the second deceased is a male between the ages 70 – 80 and that his identify cannot be confirmed. more..

Slashed by 10% Compared to 2019/20

Jan 2 (CT) Agriculture Dept slashed their Maha 2020/2021 overall forecast by 10% to 2.27 million tonnes (mts) compared with a normal season's production based on the sown extent reported up to the end of Nov 2020 being 11% and 4%, lower when compared with the sown extent up to the end of Nov 2018 and the end of Nov 2019, respectively. Consequently, Maha 2019/2020 yielded 3.05 million mts of paddy, 34.36% (0.78 million mts) more than the current 2020/2021 Maha forecast. more..

Aluthgamage blames excessive use of chemical fertiliser

Jan 2 (CT) Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage attributed the birth of children with the blue babies syndrome and over 30 children being born every month with vision and eye problems, to the excessive use of chemical fertiliser. He said this during a special discussion with his Ministry Secretary and officials handling foreign loans and aid projects. He further said the fertiliser mafia is covering up all such information while more..

Programme to uplift rural poor from micro finance debt trap

Jan 2 (DN) An island wide programme to uplift financial literacy and rescue the rural poor from the micro finance debt trap will be launched in Anuradhapura today. This programme is implemented by the Dept of Samurdhi Development under the auspices of the Ministry of Samurdhi, Home Economics, Micro Finance, Self Employment and Business Development under the guidance of State Minister Shehan Semasinghe. In addition, the empowerment of 200,000 Samurdhi more..

Video: Police seek public assistance to locate escaped coronavirus-infected inmates

Jan 2 (AD) Police is seeking public assistance to locate the Covid-19 infected prison inmates who escaped from the Gallela Treatment Centre in Polonnaruwa. Five inmates of the Negombo Prison who were under medical care for coronavirus infection had escaped from the treatment centre in the early hours of Dec 31. One of the escapees was found from Dematapitiya area in Chilaw on the same day. He was identified as Kavidu Madushan (27) who was residing at 191/M, Suduwella Road, more..

Expert committee says burial of Covid 19 dead can take place with precautions

Jan 2 (EN) The expert committee advising the govt on the disposal of the remains of those who die of the Covid 19 virus is revising its stand and recommending that burial be permitted under strict conditions. Health Ministry which received the report whose primary author is Senior Professor Jennifer Perera is studying the new recommendations, informed sources said. The four-page report gives strict guidelines for more..

Vaccines: Points to ponder

Jan 3 (SO) The New Year has begun in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic. The world still has a long way to go before Covid-19 can be totally eradicated, if that is possible at all. But there is hope on the horizon in the form of vaccines and even some advanced, though expensive, treatments for those already infected by the virus. Sri Lanka too has not been spared by the virus. Granted, our infection and death rate is nowhere near those of many developed states, yet the damage caused to economy more..

Media and governance

Jan 3 (TM) It’s official. 2020 has officially been declared as one of the six most miserable years in history according to a CNN report. We here in SL have had our fair share of problems, and what differentiates us from the rest is that many of these were manufactured by our own actions, primarily due to putting wrong people in the wrong places. The beginning of a new year is often the time for new resolutions and new beginnings. What SL needs to do urgently is to fix its broken and more..

'Islam is under threat'

Jan 3 (SO) One of the globally burning issues today is the activities of extremist groups spawned by the radicalisation of the Muslim faith. The Sunday Observer asked well-known terrorism expert, Prof. Rohan Gunaratna for his views on this issue of great concern. Q: Since the Easter attack in 2019, has the global situation improved or worsened? A: In 2019, 63 countries suffered from terrorism resulting in 13,826 deaths. more..

Make or break year for provincial councils

Jan 3 (TM) The dawn of 2021 officially ended an annus horribilis with hopes of new beginnings for all sectors in the country. It is now a year that would most likely see the successful control of the global Covid-19 pandemic and in the local political scenario, 2021 would be a decisive one for the provincial council system as well as reconciling differences between the governing coalition of the SLPP and SLFP. SLPP-SLFP alliance has been on a rather rocky road during the past month more..

It will take a lot to bury 2020, but let’s give thanks for being alive

Jan 3 (Island) The year 2020 was eminently forgettable and that has very little to do with politics. The obvious need not be stated. As for the political, we had parliamentary elections and the passage of the 20th Amendment. SLPP effectively consolidated its hold on power, securing close to a 2/3rds majority. The UNP (official) was routed and the UNP (in new garb, i.e. the SJB) was a distant second. The new parliamentary configuration resulted in the 20th Amendment being passed. more..

'Muslim outcry over cremation of Covid-19 dead: Politically motivated'

Jan 3 (SO) Minister Johnston Fernando said that it is very obvious the protest against cremation of Covid-19 victims by a certain section of the Muslim community is a politically motivated move. It is only the SJB and those who campaigned for them look at this issue from a racist perspective. He said if the Muslim religious leaders say the cremation of Muslims who have died due to Covid-19 is wrong then the Catholics can raise more..

SLFPers complain of step-motherly treatment

Jan 3 (SO) Party leaders who met on Monday (28) decided to postpone the Provincial Council elections after considering the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic situation in the country and the request by the members of the Maha Sangha. On Tuesday (29), Minister Mahinda Amaraweera told the media that as the MPs representing the SLFP, they have pointed out that it is not appropriate to hold PC elections at this time due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic problems in the country. more..

Lest you forget!

Jan 3 (ST) My dear Cheerio Sirisena, I am not sure whether writing to you is the best thing to do first in the New Year, but I am doing so not only to wish you a very happy 2021 but also because you had made some interesting comments a few days ago, saying you want to go it alone with the Blue party if you are not given your due place. You were referring to the ill-treatment you and the Blue party you lead suffer at the hands of Gota maama and the pohottuwa chaps. more..

Sri Lanka Tourism Reopens!

Custodial deaths and extra-judicial executions

Jan 3 (Island) Asked by a journalist about a death in a govt hospital many decades ago, the then Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Health laconically replied: “People die, it can’t be helped.” We were reminded of this last week when General Kamal Gunaratne, the Defence Secretary visited the Dalada Maligawa on being promoted to his new rank a few days ago. As is common on these occasions, several microphones were thrust at his face when he emerged after the religious observances and more..

South Africa eye elusive series win against injury-hit Sri Lanka

Jan 3 (CI) For two days, SL were competitive at Centurion. But with half their resources sapped through injury, and even several batsmen struggling, it would have taken a cricketing miracle on par with Kusal Perera's Kingsmead 153 for the visitors to even remain in contention. Now, no fewer than 7 members of their 21-strong squad are under injury clouds. Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, Dhananjaya de Silva, Oshada Fernando and Dinesh Chandimal have all been ruled out of the match, more..

Nothing comes free, even if it’s dollars from US COVID-19 aid bill

Jan 3 (ST) The recently passed USD 900 billion COVID -19 aid bill at US Congress showed how geopolitics works when it comes to Sri Lanka, located strategically in the Indian ocean making it an unavoidable player in the Indo-Pacfic policy of the US govt. There were no sugarcoating diplomatic words if Sri Lanka is to be eligible for any US assistance. It was very clear what was expected from us. more..

President Rajapaksa and his 13A dilemmas

Jan 3 (Island) It was said of PM SWRD Bandaranaike that “it was a grim irony that he should be called upon, at the moment of his greatest political triumph, to articulate the strong opposition of the Sinhalese to any attempt to establish a federal constitution.” Sixty-five years later, it could be said in reverse that it is a grimmer irony for Prez Rajapaksa to be unfairlyput on the spot by his most ardent supporters and their insistent calls for abolishing the Provincial Council system, more..

2021: Be positive, stay negative

Jan 3 (ST) And so, a dreadful year in the Gregorian calendar has just passed and 2021 has dawned. Every New Year heralds new hope; this new year there’s greater anticipation but perhaps somewhat sober expectations and for good reason. This generation worldwide has little patience and the stomach for a protracted war with an unseen virus, of curfews and food lines and restricted travel. Unless under an authoritarian regime, they are unwilling to submit to the rules & regulations more..

Depleted bowling line up an opportunity for new names, says Karunaratne

Jan 3 (CI) Dimuth Karunaratne's seam attack has been decimated by injury. But he's confident (or at least he's hoping) that despite his bowlers' inexperience, their hunger to earn a more stable place in the team will translate to good results for Sri Lanka at The Wanderers. There was a slim chance Suranga Lakmal would be cleared to play this game, but as he failed a fitness test on Friday, that seems unlikely. more..

Confident South Africa won't let up against wounded Sri Lanka: Dean Elgar

Jan 3 (CI) No-one wants to say it outright but the second Test between South Africa and Sri Lanka is shaping up to be a mismatch even before the first ball is bowled. The spate of injuries to the Sri Lankan squad could see them go into the match without at least four players from the first Test, including senior batsman Dinesh Chandimal, and sans their most experienced bowler Suranga Lakmal, who has not recovered sufficiently from a hamstring injury to play any part in this series. more..

Non-essential import restrictions for 6 more months

Jan 3 (ST) State-imposed temporary import restrictions, to save on foreign exchange, are to be extended for another six months commencing from Jan 2, informed official sources said. The earlier 6-month period ends on Jan 2. The relevant gazette notification will be issued by the Finance Ministry sometime this week on the directions of the Prez’s Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera who has already announced only some big-ticket items such as motor vehicles are prohibited from being imported more..

Avishka, Ramesh get call for England Test series

Jan 3 (ST) Avishka Fernando and Ramesh Mendis have got their maiden call-up to the Test side as national selectors added six more players to the squad as injury replacements for the England series. Former skipper Angelo Mathews who pulled out of the South African series, due to a hamstring injury he sustained during the LPL, has also been called up along with Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep and Roshen Silva. more..

Who tried to sabotage LPL?

Jan 3 (SO) Sri Lanka Cricket vice president and tournament director of the concluded Lanka Premier League (LPL) Ravin Wickremaratne dropped a bombshell last week which largely went unnoticed by many. Talking to Roshan Abeysinghe the host of a television talk show titled Straight Drive, the LPL director Wickremaratne said: “An official who sat with us holding a high post tried to sabotage the LPL but he did not succeed and the successful conclusion of LPL was a fitting reply to him. more..

Sri Lanka’s Lord’s of golf

Jan 3 (SO) Victoria Golf and Country Resort (VGCR) in Digana, Kandy is considered one of the most picturesque courses in Asia and participating on this course means both competition and fun to a very satisfying level. Now with the venue being taken over by one of SL’s largest establishments, John Keells Holdings, the course will be upgraded within two years according to officials. The man behind the scene is none other than the amiable Ana Punchihewa who has taken over as more..

Stop Lokuge’s sand train: Railway trade unions request Prez

Jan 3 (TM) Railway trade unions have sought the intervention of Prez Rajapaksa to cancel the decision taken by Transport Minister Gamini Lokuge to launch a special train to transport sand from Eravur to Maradana, causing millions of rupees in losses to the Department of Railways. In a letter written to the Prez, Railway Trade Unions Alliance (RTUA) has highlighted that Minister Lokuge has changed the Railway Ordinance on behalf more..

Cremation of Muslims in Sri Lanka due to Covid unacceptable: British Muslim leader

Jan 3 (UNI) A prominent leader of British Muslim community has termed cremation of Muslims who died of Covid-19 in SL as unacceptable and politically motivated. The founding secretary-general of the UK’s biggest Muslim umbrella group, Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Sir Iqbal Sacraine described cremation of Muslims in SL as a measure implemented to specifically target the Muslim community, he described it as "a political measure where a collective punishment is given to more..

England's Root says COVID cases would not derail Sri Lanka tour

Jan 3 (Reuters) England captain Joe Root is confident any positive COVID-19 tests in the squad would not force the cancellation of their two-test tour of Sri Lanka this month, but said his side would have to keep a close watch on their physical and mental wellbeing. Part of the World Test Championship, the series was scheduled to take place in March last year but was postponed following the COVID-19 pandemic. It will now begin on Jan. 14. England’s one-day international series in South Africa more..

Covid-19 Situation Report

Can the Blueprint unfold before it is too late?

Jan 3 (ST) National Sports Council (NSC) Chairman, the inimitable Mahela Jayawardene has repeatedly referred to a Blueprint or Masterplan for sports which most sports experts know is a long felt need, if we are to make a lasting impression in the coming years. The youthful Minister of Sports that Namal Rajapaksa is, has crisscrossed the country, identifying pockets of resource development as well as the expertise required to exploit the inherent talent one finds in the rural mass. more..

Oman, SL to cooperate in academic field

Jan 3 (TOO) The ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Sultanate of Oman, Ameer Ajwad, met with the new Vice Chancellor of the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) HH Dr Fahad Al Julanda Al Said on Dec 29, 2020 on the university premises in Muscat. Assistant Vice Chancellor for International Cooperation of the SQU Her Highness Dr Mona Fahad Al Said was also present during the meeting. The envoy briefed the Vice Chancellor on areas of cooperation between the SQU and the national Universities in SL. more..

Ukrainians’ bubble holidays in Sri Lanka

Jan 3 (ST) Amidst intense opposition from tourism authorities and no one to take responsibility for lapses, the first of the tourists since SL closed the airport for int'l traffic arrived this week as a pilot project under a travel bubble concept. SL Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairperson Kimarli Fernando had stated in her letter dated Dec 26 that due to a number of issues “we should not proceed with this pilot project more..

SL’s offshore crew transit hub gains traction

Jan 3 (Splash) A public-private partnership that has been approved by the SL govt to carry out crew changes through an offshore crew transit hub (OCTH) positioned off the Port of Galle. Sri Lanka is one of the few countries that has already appointed a National Focal Point on Crew Changes and Repatriation of Seafarers as invited by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in its Resolution MSC.473(ES.2). SL lies at the centre of Indian Ocean straddling one of the busiest more..

PM asks govt MPs to visit their electorates without staying at home

Jan 3 (Island) PM has asked govt MPs not to be confined to their homes, but to reach out to the people by visiting their respective electorates and resolving the grievances faced by the masses at a time SL is facing a grave pandemic situation. “I have asked Ministers and govt MPs to visit their electorates to find out and resolve the problems confronting the people in this hour of need without hanging around in their houses by falling back on Covid-19 as a reason not to venture out more..

Udayanga’s Ukrainian tourists bend the rules, star hotels arm-twisted to slash rates

Jan 3 (ST) Organisers of the Ukrainian tour groups promoted by Udayanga Weeratunga, former SL Ambassador to Russia, ignored safety protocols agreed upon with SL Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) when taking the visitors to pre-approved attractions yesterday. The first group of Ukrainian tourists who arrived aboard a charter flight at the MIA on Dec 28 started their excursions after negative PCR tests and more..

Govt in talks to round up Lankan drug lords living overseas: Defence Secretary

Jan 3 (Island) The govt has held several rounds of discussions with countries where big-time Sri Lankan narcotics ringleaders live, and also issued 18 red notices through Interpol to arrest the drug lords evading justice, Defence Secretary Gen. (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne said. “We will ensure that there is no longer room for them to run drug operations from overseas”, he stressed. “We are optimistic of having these fugitives rounded up this year”, he told the media last week. more..

Video: Four arrested for stealing explosives from quarry in Mawanella

Jan 3 (AD) Explosives that went missing from a rock quarry at Hingula area in Mawanella have been recovered from the area of Thalwatte in Peradeniya, says DIG Ajith Rohana. The CID has arrested four suspects for allegedly stealing the explosives. One of the suspects, who was identified as a worker of the rock quarry and a resident of Peradeniya, is currently in remand custody. Investigations have revealed that the suspect has direct links to the alleged theft, DIG Rohana said further. more..

Vaccine decision tomorrow: Committee to consider vaccination plan

Jan 3 (TM) A decision on the type of Covid-19 vaccine that would be utilised by SL and when it would be brought down would be taken tomorrow after considering the national vaccination plan to be submitted by the Health Ministry. Covid-19 Vaccine Committee Chairman and Senior Advisor to the Prez Lalith Weeratunga said that the National Vaccination Plan formulated by the Health Ministry would be submitted to Committee tomorrow more..

Army begins printing National Driving Licenses

Jan 3 (MoD) In a project mooted to save state funds, Sri Lanka Army (SLA) commenced the printing of National Driving Licences following a special MOU signed between Commissioner General of Motor Traffic Department (MTD) Sumith Alahakoon and Acting Chief of Defence Staff and Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva, at Werahera, MTD premises, yesterday (1). For last 15 years, the Driving Licences Printing was conducted by a private firm, in collaboration with an overseas company, more..