Aerobatics by Indian and Lankan Air Forces thrill spectators in Colombo – NewsIn.Asia


Colombo, March 4 (Ceylon Today): The Air Show marking the 70th Anniversary of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) commenced yesterday (3), under the patronage of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the skies above the Galle Face Green in Colombo.

Indian Air Force Acrobatics. Photo: Ajith Perera, Xinhua

A contingent of the Indian Air Force (IAF) participated in the event with aerobatic displays by the Sarang Helicopter Air Display Team, Surya Kiran Aerobatics Demonstration Team and Tejas Multirole Light Fighter Aircraft. 

Indian Air Force aerobatics. Photo: Tang Lu /Xinhua

Sri Lanka Air Force also displayed their air capabilities at the show. The show will be repeated on 4 and 5 March from 5.00 pm to 6.00 pm at the Galle Face Green.

Air Force aerobatics. Photo: Ajith Perera/Xinhua

Fourteen Indian aircraft took to the skies to showcase its air prowess. A further 24 aircraft such as the Cessna-150, Y12, B-200, MA-60 and F7 Fighter Jets of the Sri Lanka Air Force took to the skies above the Galle Face Green in an aerobatic display of air power.

Air Force acrobatics. Flying over Colombo Por City. Photo: Ajith Perera/Xinhua

Governor of the Western Province, Marshal of the Air Force Roshan Goonetileke, State Minister Lohan Ratwatte, Senior Advisor to President Lalith Weeratunga, Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay, Tri-Forces Commanders, Defence Secretary, Inspector General of Police, Heads of the Indian and Bangladesh Air Forces and several other guests witnessed the air display.  




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Modi talks of Sri Lankan Tamils ahead of TN polls


The Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu may be only a couple of months away but Mr Modi refused to be drawn into any election-related issues

Chennai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over the indigenously built Arjun Main Battle Tank Mk-1A to the Indian Army here Sunday and launched a slew of projects and laid the foundation stone for many others. This was a prime ministerial visit on which he made no mention of the Opposition or any other political subjects.

Arriving by helicopter on the Navy helipad near Marina Beach, the PM drove to the Nehru Indoor Stadium where he first took the salute from an “Arjun” tank before proceeding to the meeting venue, where he spoke in English. Describing various projects he was waving the green flag to as symbols of innovation, he quoted freely from great Tamil poets Avvaiyar and Subramania Bharathi to touch a chord in the mostly Tamil audience.

 

Touching upon an issue sensitive in Tamil Nadu, the PM assured people that not a single fisherman was in Sri Lankan custody at the moment and that while 313 boats seized by the Sri Lankan Navy had been got back, efforts were on to get back several others. He dwelt at length on what India had done for Sri Lankan Tamils in the Jaffna Peninsula, where 15,000 houses had been built for displaced Tamils as well as a hospital and an ambulance service.

Espousing the Tamil Nadu fishermen’s cause further, he said: “Special importance has been given in Budget to develop the coastal area. Extra credit mechanism has been given in the Budget for fishermen, stressing on seaweed farming to improve the conditions of the fishermen’s community,” he said, and announced that a “Seaweed Park” will come up in Chennai soon.

 

The Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu may be only a couple of months away but Mr Modi refused to be drawn into any election-related issues. Before departing the venue for Kochi in Kerala, Mr Modi linked hands with both chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami and deputy CM O. Panneerselvam, and the trio raised their hands in a gesture loaded with a message. Just over a week ago, BJP president J.P. Nadda had cleared the decks for the alliance in Tamil Nadu between the AIADMK and the BJP and other allies.

While Mr Modi kept politics and elections totally out of the event where he flagged off various projects and schemes, he was closeted with Mr Palaniswami for at least five minutes after the function was over. It is believed he got the message from the CM that the AIADMK-BJP front along with other allies was intact, and that the DMDK and PMK were willing partners.

 

BJP sources say the remainder of the month will be quite busy in Tamil Nadu as the Mr Modi is expected to come to Chennai again to inaugurate more schemes ahead of the summer polls, and Mr Nadda and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman are also expected to be in the state on frequent visits. If the alliance is sewed up by then, seat-sharing talks could figure in the meetings with Mr Nadda.

Both the PMK and DMDK, thought to be parties that are ready with alternatives or even prepared to go it alone in the polls if the AIADMK is not more forthcoming about continuing ties, were well represented in the PM’s function, where Mr Modi was seen waving to them in particular from the dais at the Nehru Indoor Stadium on Sunday.

 

In view of past troubles with a cold reception for Mr Modi in the city, the police were extra cautious and refused to allow all those wearing black masks entry to the event.

Flagging off the 9.01-km northern stretch of Chennai Metro Rail Phase I to Wimco Nagar costing Rs 3,770 crores, the PM said that the project had been completed on schedule despite the Covid-19 pandemic and by Indian engineers, using only Indian rolling stock. “In this year’s Budget, Rs 63,000 crores has been set aside for Phase II of the project. This is the largest amount earmarked for a project in any city in one go. This will help the people of Chennai,” he added.

 

Among the other major projects that he flagged off were the Discovery Campus of IIT Madras in Thaiyur at a cost of around Rs 1,000 crores in the first phase, with a built-up area of 200,000 sq. m. and modernisation of the Grand Anicut Canal System that plays a major role in the irrigation of the rice bowl in the Delta districts of Tamil Nadu. Other projects included electrification of the Villupuram-Thanjavur-Thiruvarur railway line and the Chennai Beach-Athipattu fourth line to connect Chennai and Kamaraj ports and facilitate freight movement.

The PM also paid tribute to the martyrs who had laid down their lives on February 14, 2019 when a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber rammed a car filled with explosives into a CPRF convoy moving from Jammu to Srinagar, near Pulwama. “No Indian can forget this day,” Mr Modi said.

 

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Lankan Ministry of Epidemics denies appointing panel on disposal of COVID dead – NewsIn.Asia


Colombo, January 4: The Sri Lankan State Ministry of Primary Healthcare, Epidemics, and Primary Disease Control has refuted media reports claiming that a committee has been appointed to make recommendations on the issues surrounding the cremation of the remains of Covid victims in Sri Lanka.

Issuing a statement, the Ministry said there is no truth to recent reports published on various media that State Minister Sudharshini Fernandopulle had appointed a committee to deliberate if the remains of Covid victims should be cremated or buried.

State Minister Fernandopulle has pointed out that as Covid-19 is a new disease, initial recommendations made by the World Health Organization are subject to change with new emerging evidence.

She has further insisted that Covid-19 disease control should always be based on science, while religion, race, politics, social and mythical beliefs should not be considered when taking decisions on disease control.

Stating that eminent virologists and other medical and scientific experts have been advised to make periodic recommendations on the disease, the statement said no request has been made to deliberate the issue over the cremation of remains of Covid-19 victims.

(The picture at the top shows the Sri Lankan Minister of Epidemics, Dr.Sudarshani Fernandopulle)

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Sri Lankan communist leader lauds China’s peaceful rise to power and influence – NewsIn.Asia


By Shiran Illanperuma/Xinhua

Colombo, January 1 : The Communist Party of China (CPC) is offering benefits to all mankind with its success in building socialism, said

Over the past 100 years since its founding in Shanghai in 1921, the CPC has made miraculous achievements and further developed Marxism-Leninism, the party leader told Xinhua in a recent interview.

“Capitalism took centuries to develop through exploitative methods and wars, but socialist China has been able to achieve economic development peacefully within a matter of a few decades,” Weerasinghe stressed.

Noting that China under the leadership of the CPC has achieved the objective of eradicating poverty by 2020 and is now on the path of achieving socialist modernization, Weerasinghe said he has no doubt that the CPC is capable of making China a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020 and a modern socialist country by 2049.

The coming years would be crucial for the development of socialism in China and would require the strong, centralized leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core, he said.

“The international communist movement will be strengthened with the success of building socialism in China. All mankind will benefit,” Weerasinghe said.

Touching upon the COVID-19 pandemic, Weerasinghe said as the first country to identify and largely defeat COVID-19, China has been providing technical assistance to other countries and actively supporting the World Health Organization’s COVAX program, which aims to ensure equal access to COVID-19 vaccines for all participating countries, delivering on the expectations of other developing countries.

The achievements in combating the COVID-19 pandemic has proved the capabilities of socialism with Chinese characteristics, Weerasinghe noted.

“The CPC’s genuine commitment and dedication to a community with a shared future for mankind is proven beyond doubt by the way it is facing the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

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Lankan President calls for rehabilitation programs for 12,000 prisoners who are drug addicts


Colombo, December 10 (PMD): Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday instructed relevant authorities to look humanely at grievances of the prisoners and address them immediately by providing necessary assistance to them.

More than 12,000 people are incarcerated due to drug addiction. President emphasized the need to pay special attention to them and formulate a rehabilitation programme.

President made these remarks at a discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat this morning (10) to look into shortcomings and issues in prisons and to recommend solutions.

President Rajapaksa instructed officials to explore the possibility of constructing pre-fabricated prisons in the so far identified locations in order to eliminate overcrowding in prisons. 

The need to study the models of modern foreign prisons and take immediate measures to provide facilities was stressed by the President.

A large number of people are kept remand due to delays of the Analyst, Attorney General and Police Departments.

President also pointed out that the relevant agencies including Customs, Police, Prisons and Rehabilitation should establish a Presidential Task Force and take steps to resolve existing problems.

Minister of Justice M. U. M. Ali Sabry, State Minister of Prison Rehabilitation Lohan Ratwatte, Secretary to the President P. B. Jayasundera, Secretaries to relevant Ministries and Security heads were present during the discussion.



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Tamil Nadu minister, others condemn Sri Lankan navy attack on fishermen


Chennai: Fisheries minister D. Jayakumar and other political leaders condemned the mid-sea attack by Sri Lankan Navy personnel on a group of fishermen from Rameswaram that left two persons injured and led to a heavy loss of fishing equipment worth several lakhs.

Jayakumar told the media that the state government would take up the matter with the Centre for action.

 

Condemning the incident, PMK founder S. Ramadoss said that about 3,600 fishermen in 600 boats were fishing in the Bay of Bengal near Katchatheevu when they were attacked with stones and glass bottles.

The nets that they had laid out on the sea were also damaged by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel, who had intruded into the Indian water to launch the attack, Ramadoss said, adding that this had been the second such attack in the last 10 days after a similar incident near Katchatheevu on October 18.

Urging the Centre to make efforts to retrieve Katchatheevu, MDMK general secretary Vaiko blamed the attacks on the Indian government giving away the 285 acre uninhabited island to Sri Lanka in 1976. He said such attacks had been going on for the past 40 years. 

 

DMK Treasurer T.R. Baalu said the BJP should not be in cahoots with the Sri Lankan government in taking away the traditional fishing rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen.

In a statement, he urged the External Affairs Minister to issue a warning to the Sri Lankan government through their High Commission.



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Muralitharan on 800 row: Is it my mistake that I was born a Sri Lankan Tamil?


October 18 (The Indian Express) – Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan on Friday issued a statement amid growing opposition against Vijay Sethupathi playing him in upcoming movie 800.

Muralitharan stated that he was no stranger to controversies and that he would like to share his thoughts on the latest controversy sparked by the announcement of his biopic 800. “I was hesitant at first when the producers approached to make a movie on my life. But, later, I thought the movie would be the right opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of my parents, teachers, coaches and co-players in my success,” he said.

Vijay Sethupathi agreeing to play the Sri Lankan spin legend has caused a political uproar in Tamil Nadu. It is because Muttiah Muralitharan is largely seen as a supporter of then Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was at the helm during nearly 30 years of civil war that rocked the island nation.

Muttiah Muralitharan claimed that when the civil war first broke out, it was Malayaga Tamils, with Indian-lineage, who were the first ones to be affected. “I know by experience the horrors and the pains that are caused by the war. We lived amid a war in Sri Lanka for more than 30 years. And how I managed to join the cricket team and tasted success despite these circumstances is what 800 is all about,” he added.

Muralitharan alleged that his statements have been twisted to portray him in a bad light. “For example, in 2019, I had said that the year 2009 was the happiest year in my entire life. But, when people write, they claim that the year Tamilians were slaughtered was the happiest year in my life,” he said.

The civil war came to an end with the defeat of Tamil Tigers in May 2009. “Think from a point of view of a common man. I grew up during wartime. And you never know what happens next. My playmate at school won’t be alive to play with me again the next day. And the war came to an end under such a situation. As a common citizen, I thought about security. And in the last 10 years, there was no loss of life on both sides. And that’s why I opined that the year 2009 was the happiest year of my life. I had never endorsed the killings of innocent people, and I would never do such a thing in the future too,” he said.

Muttiah Muralitharan also rubbished the claims that he doesn’t know Tamil. “I felt inferior due to my minority status in the country. That’s a fact and it’s natural, given that my parents also shared the same mentality. And it was through my hard work that I became an indispensable part of the cricket team,” he said.

However, the cricketer said that he sees no difference among Sri Lankans, Malayaga Tamils and Eelam Tamils. He also mentioned the services he provided towards the Eelam Tamil community through the charity Foundation of Goodness.

“I am perceived wrongly just because I was part of Sri Lankan cricket team. If I had born in India, I would have tried to be part of the Indian cricket team. Is it my mistake that I was born a Sri Lankan Tamil? And people who don’t know my life, some in ignorance and some for political reasons, paint me as a person against the Tamil community. And it causes me pain. Even as my reasons won’t pacify my detractors, and on the other side, there is only false news about me that is being shared. I give this explanation to people who are neutral and common people,” he concluded.





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Shane Cochrane jailed for killing Sri Lankan Monash University student Nisali Perera


A killer driver has wept as he was sentenced to a decade behind bars over the death of a Sri Lankan student, who told her parents she would be safe in Australia.

Shane Cochrane, 38, wiped away tears as he learned he would have to serve at least eight years in jail after hitting Nisali Perera with his car in August last year.

WARNING: This article contains details some readers will find distressing.

Ms Perera, 20, was on her way home and in the final semester of her degree at Monash University when she was struck as she crossed Wellington Road, near the university’s Clayton campus.

Before she left Sri Lanka, she had told her parents that Australia was a “very safe country” and that “she could walk on the road at any time of the day”.

But Victoria’s County Court heard that Ms Perera could not be shielded from Cochrane, who fled in the moments after her death.

Judge Liz Gaynor said Cochrane had “irrevocably shattered” Ms Perera’s family.

“This is the third time you have fled the scene … this time leaving behind the body of a young woman you had killed,” she said.

Nisali Perera was walking home from Monash University’s Clayton campus when she was struck.(Facebook)

Court documents reveal that the lights on Wellington Road had been red for 12 seconds and Ms Perera, who was using the pedestrian crossing, was just 2 metres from safety when she was struck.

The force of the crash flung her almost 60 metres, killing her instantly.

Cochrane fled the scene and then abandoned the car, which was later found near an abandoned church.

In her victim impact statement Ms Perera’s mother, Kamal, told the court that she felt guilty for her daughter’s death.

“When she gained entrance to the university of Monash, in Australia, we were in two minds [on] whether to let her go from our care and protection,” she said.

“[The] irony of the situation is that Nisali had a strong belief that Australia was a very safe country and she could walk on the road at any time of the day.”

“She had to end her life in the same country of which she had immense faith.”

A composite image combining a police image of a man with short hair and an image from CCTV of the same man.
Cochrane had a history of driving and drug offences, the court heard.(Supplied: Victoria Police)

The court heard Cochrane, a father-of-one, started using drugs when he was 16 and had appeared in court on 30 occasions for charges like careless driving, unlicensed driving, speeding, dangerous driving and drug use.

In 2013, Cochrane left the scene of a crash while driving an unregistered car.

In 2018, and under the influence of the drug GHB, he stopped in the middle of a highway.

Also in the same year, and having already lost his license, he led police on a chase, reaching an estimated 200 kilometres per hour.

A small dark blue car which has been badly damaged in a crash and has a cracked windscreen.
After hitting Ms Perera, Cochrane fled the scene and dumped the car near an abandoned church.(Supplied: Victoria Police)

Cochrane has already spent 355 days behind bars, meaning he could be eligible for parole in about seven years.

He has been disqualified from getting a licence for five years.



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Referendum on the 20 th. Lankan Constitutional Amendment bill is a must, says M.A.Sumanthiran


By P.K.Balachandran/Daily Express

Colombo, September 8: There are legal grounds to seek a referendum on the proposed 20 th. Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution, says M.A.Sumanthiran, spokesman of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and a leading Supreme Court lawyer.

According to Sumanthiran, the 20A seeks to change the basic principles embedded in the constitution. It gives all powers to the Executive President without any checks and balances. This is tantamount to changing the basic structure of the constitution. And if the basic features are to be changed, the amendment bill will have to be submitted to a referendum, Sumanthiran said.

Concept of Basic Structure

Explaining the concept of the “basic structure” of the constitution, Sumanthiran said that the constitution has to be necessarily democratic and cannot overly pile power on the office of Executive President. Although the 1978 constitution gave the directly elected Executive President all powers, there has been a strong and consistent movement in Sri Lanka against a powerful Executive Presidency since the time of President Chandrika Kumaratunga in the mid- 1990s. The most recent phase of the movement was in 2014-2015 when Maithripala Sirisena was elected on an explicitly abolitionist platform.

The constitution is not a lifeless document or an edict etched in stone and unalterable. It is a living, pulsating and growing organism, Sumanthiran said and added that over the years the concept of its ‘basic structure” has changed. Democracy sans concentration of power or power with checks and balance is the basic creed embedded in the spirit of the constitution, Sumanthiran averred. And when this is sought to be changed drastically, a referendum is a must, he said.

By repealing the 19 th.Amendment, the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government will be depriving the country of the checks and balances which were embedded in the 19A. Under 20A, the Independent Commissions, appointed directly by the President, will be blindly carrying out the President’s wishes. The Parliamentary Council, which will replace the Constitutional Council, will not only be deprived of inputs from non-MPs and distinguished persons drawn from outside parliament, but will also lose its teeth because the President only needs to seek its “observations” and not its “consent”. On the other hand, the 19A makes it mandatory for him to go by the views of the Constitutional Council.

The 20A would give the President the right to recruit and sack anybody. He can join the cabinet, determine who others will be members of the Council of Ministers, what portfolios they will hold, and for how long. As the author of the 1978 Presidential constitution J.R.Jayewardene famously said about his Presidency, the President will have all powers except the power to change a man into a woman and a woman into a man.

Counter-argument

A counter argument put out by some leading pro-government lawyers is that the 20A is only restoring features of the Lankan constitution which were there for long from 1978 onwards. The 20A will only restore the situation that existed till the 19A was passed in 2015. It is not something totally new. It is only a restoration. Besides, it is only meant to strengthen the Executive Presidential system, which, undeniably, is one of the basic features of the constitution. Since the 20A does not change the basic features of the constitution it does not need a referendum, they aver.

Simplistic Objections

But this line is rejected Sumanthiran who described it as “simplistic”. He said that one should keep in mind three things while discussing the basic structure of the constitutuon:

Firstly, the constitution is not a static thing but a living and growing organism to meet the changing aspirations of the people. Change is thus intrinsic to constitutions in democratic countries.

Secondly, change has to be in the direction of democracy and not a regression to autocracy. The former would be in the spirit of the constitution and the latter a violation of it. In light of these two principles, 19A could be deemed to be in accordance with the basic structure of the constitution and the 20A against it as it leads to the concentration of power not to its distribution to accord with the principle of checks and balances.

Thirdly, there has been a long-standing and consistent (albeit no fully unsuccessful) democratic movement in Sri Lanka to dilute or abolish the Executive Presidency and hand over power to parliament. Although a powerful Executive Presidency was created in 1978 and remained in place for long, in the mid 1990s, the people of Sri Lanka had got tired of the concentration of power in the hands of a President, and had begun to crave for dilution of power.

Chandrika Kumaratunga came to the Presidency to divest herself of much of her constitutional power and give them to parliament. Since then, getting rid of the Executive Presidency has been on the agenda of every major party and leading Presidential candidate. The last man to come to power with abolition as his platform was Maithripala Sirisena as recently as 2015.

Sumanthiran said and it was because of such a movement that the 17 th.Amendment was enacted in 2001 to establish Independent Commissions. This was done by a United National Party (UNP) regime with the cooperation of President Kumaratunga, who represented the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

However, when it came to the crunch, Kumaratunga did not want to shed power. During and after Eelam War IV, the need for a strong government was acutely felt by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The 18 th.Amendment which he pushed through in 2010, gave him all the powers he needed and much more.

But by 2014, absolute power had corrupted his regime absolutely and he lost the Presidency to Maithripala Sirisena who answered the peoples’ yearning for a regime without power being concentrated in one man or one post. The 19A was enacted in 2015 to reduce the powers of the President and re-establish the Independent Commissions.

But regrettably, the confusing system that came into being under 19A could not reconcile the innate interests of a directly elected Executive President (Sirisena) and the system that the 19A created. The flaws in the 19A were partly responsible for the poor performance of the “Yahapalanaya” government.

This Yahapalanaya’s failure led to a feeling among the majority Sinhalas that Sri Lanka cannot do without a strong government, which explains the record-breaking victory of arch centralists Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2019 and 2020 Presidential and parliamentary elections.

With the political moment being in favour of centralization, President Gotabaya introduced a draft 20 th Amendment bill to almost completely replace the 19A. Some of the structures of the 19A like the Independent Commissions will remain under his scheme, but only as shells.

The main opposition party, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has announced that it will go to the Supreme Court against the 20A. Sumanthiran said that the basic plea would necessarily be that a referendum should be made compulsory to pass 20A.

Sumathiran acknowledged that the 19A has flaws which stymie the work of the Executive President. But he added that these flaws could be discussed and ways found to make corrections in the system without throwing the baby with the bathwater.

END





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Indian High Commissioner calls on Lankan Ministers of Shipping, Ports and Trade


Colombo, September 4 (Indian High Commission): The High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, Gopal Baglay called on the Minister of Ports and Shipping, P. Rohitha Abeygunawardhana on September 4. They exchanged views on various matters of mutual interest and agreed on the importance of investment for enhanced connectivity between the two nations for prosperity and mutual benefit.

High Commissioner of India also called on the Minister of Trade of Sri Lanka, Hon. Bandula Gunawardhana on September 3. During the discussion, both sides exchanged views on ways to further develop the strong and mutually beneficial trade and investment ties between India and Sri Lanka. High Commissioner outlined India’s commitment to strengthen its economic partnership with Sri Lanka, including through trade and investment. He also spoke about the need to ensure greater use of digital means to sustain the interaction between businesses and governments on both sides in the current situation. In this context, they agreed to explore the possibility of organizing more sector-specific interaction involving business representatives of both countries.





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