Colombage in Taliban pow-wow; Colombo in the dark

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Colombage seen in a picture posted by the Taliban

On July 14, Hafiz Zia Ahmed, Afghanistan’s Taliban administration’s Deputy Spokesman and Assistant Public Relations Director in its Foreign Affairs Ministry tweeted about meetings held between visiting Afghan delegates and Bangladeshi, Singaporean and Sri Lankan diplomats at Jakarta in Indonesia.

Accompanying the tweet were photographs, and one of them showed Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Jakarta, Vice Admiral (Retd) Jayanath Colombage, posing with two Taliban officials. Vice Admiral Colombage is the former Navy Commander and was Foreign Ministry Secretary during the Gotabaya Rajapaksa Administration. The image was captured at Sri Lanka’s Embassy in Jakarta. Admiral Colombage stood with his country’s flag behind him.

Unlike at other times, when statements regarding such meetings were issued dime a dozen by Sri Lanka’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, there was total silence from Colombo.

In fact, there was one about the Admiral cum learned Professor presenting his letter of credence to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)’s Secretary General, where he was said to be highlighting Sri Lanka’s own ‘Look East’ policy and Sri Lanka’s interest in being a Sectoral Dialogue Partner in the South East Asian regional group.

And no wonder there was total silence. The Sri Lanka Government does not recognise the Taliban administration in Afghanistan, and Admiral Colombage had not sought or secured clearance from Colombo to meet with the Afghan delegation.

In a response to a query by the Sunday Times in Sri Lanka, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said: “The Foreign Affairs Ministry wishes to clarify that Sri Lanka has not received any official delegations from Afghanistan during the past two years. Sri Lanka has not been in contact with the current Taliban Administration. Following the takeover of power by the Taliban on August 15, 2021, the Sri Lanka Government temporarily closed down its mission in Kabul, with effect from October 1, 2021. The Afghan Ambassador left Sri Lanka on May 27, 2002.”

The Admiral should look West also while following the ‘Look East’ policy and at least be in touch with his Ministry without being at sea with government policy.


Canadian Tamil diaspora celebrate Gary Anandasangaree’s appointment during remembrance month for ’83 riots

Canadian Tamil diaspora circles were quite busy this week celebrating the appointment of Sri Lankan-born Gary Anandasangaree as a Cabinet Minister in the Canadian government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

He was the first Tamil MP to be appointed to the Canadian government following a major reshuffle of the Cabinet, and was given the portfolio of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister. He has the responsibilities of repairing and reconciling with Canadian indigenous communities.

The portfolio is no strange matter to the MP who is the son of former MP and leader of Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) Veerasingham Anandasangaree, who was a former Sama Samajist (LSSP) and was later sidelined by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leadership. Days earlier, he facilitated a meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1983 Black July riots in Sri Lanka, and to meet victims who migrated to Canada.

The new Canadian Minister who is critical of Sri Lanka’s efforts for reconciliation and called for an international investigation into wartime accountability revealed that Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry recently refused to grant him a visit visa to his homeland.

In a strong statement earlier in the week, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minstry slammed the Canadian Prime Minister for his references to a ‘Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day’ on July 23.

“Canada’s continued false, distorted narrative of the past conflict in Sri Lanka is aimed solely at achieving local vote-bank electoral gains,” the Ministry said.

How many times has Sri Lanka committed “genocide” against the Tamils, according to the Canadian government, remains a question. Earlier it was committed in 2009 when the LTTE was defeated. Now they have gone back to 1983. A Foreign Ministry wag said they may go back to the Elara-Dutugemunu era–a period that goes beyond Canada’s genocide of its own indigenous people


Lankan female parliamentarians meet Helen Clark and Jacinda Ardern

MPs from the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus are currently on a study tour of New Zealand. Their programme in New Zealand includes meetings with politicians from a range of parties.

The visit is sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Sri Lanka and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

On Thursday, the MPs met two of New Zealand’s former female Prime Ministers–Helen Clark and Jacinda Ardern.


President Wickremesinghe corrects MP Weerawansa with two-fingers

During the All-Party Conference held at the Presidential Secretariat on Monday, representatives of political parties made their stands on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment with Police powers.

Most parties, including the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and Tamil National Alliance (TNA), called for Provincial council elections without any further delay–a few days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the topic.

When Wimal Weerawansa was making a point on the issue and the political mandate, he said President Ranil Wickremesinghe is the first Acting President to be appointed to the Executive President’s office after it became vacant.

However, it was former President D.B. Wijetunga who became the first Acting President, following the assassination of President R. Premadasa.

President Wickremesinghe was quick to rectify this factual error, by using his body language. He showed two fingers to indicate that he was the second to occupy the office.

While Parliamentarian Weerawansa corrected himself, some of his colleagues were taken aback by the President’s gesture and shared a light conversation amid heated political talks. One of them was heard saying to his colleague that he was wondering whether the gesture was a coincidence of the controversial “two passports” case in which Mr Weerawansa was in a bit of a pickle. The colleague reacted saying “at least he was not shown one middle finger.”


No health experts named to attend health workshop in Washington D.C.

The Presidential Secretariat has denied permission for a group of officials from the Finance Ministry to attend a workshop on health sector investment and development in Washington D.C.

The names of eight officials attached to various departments of the Finance Ministry have been nominated to attend the workshop due to be held next month.

The Ministry noted that the workshop had been designed to support its officials working on health sector planning and projects.

In rejecting permission for the visit, the President’s office pointed out that given the workshop deals with the health sector, the absence of any officials from the Health Ministry in the delegation was glaring.

An official said the World Bank funded training would have to be paid back as well.

“It is a loan all Sri Lankans will have to pay back. Given this situation, the failure to include a single health sector professional in the delegation is inexcusable,”they said.


CB Governor says he may sit for CFA exams once his term is over

It is often said there is no age barrier to learning, even before the final call, as Greek philosophers wrote millennia ago.

This statement was evident during the keynote speech last Friday at the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Society of Sri Lanka Chief Executive Officers’ Forum where the Central Bank Governor Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe said, he was looking forward to sitting for the CFA Institute’s examinations to become a certified investment banker, following his retirement.

Pointing out that he was inspired to do so after a lunch meeting with a US medical professional who, following his retirement at 70, cleared the CFA examinations.

After moving to Australia during his retirement, the Governor said he had purchased study materials and other resources to prepare for the exams, but was then called to assume duties as the head of the Central Bank, an institution which he served for three decades.

“I was about to apply for stage one exams when I got the call. Age is not a barrier to enhancing your skills, that is what I have learned. Hopefully, after this time, I will try again,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.


 

OT payments for radiologists at Maharagama Apeksha Hospital

The Health Ministry has taken measures to clear a backlog of more than 500 patients waiting for radiation treatment at the Apeksha Hospital in Maharagama. The backlog had been created due to a go-slow campaign by radiological technicians over a dispute on overtime payments.

The Ministry has taken the measures following a directive by President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake, instructing it to resolve the issue immediately.

An assessment into the problem had revealed that while about eight to ten patients were usually subjected to radiation treatment each hour, the number had reduced to four each hour due to radiological technicians adopting a go-slow campaign.

Medical specialists had warned that the problem, unless resolved immediately, puts the lives of many cancer patients at risk since they required urgent treatment.

When contacted, Health Ministry Secretary Janaka Sri Chandraguptha said the Ministry had taken measures to resolve the overtime payment dispute of radiological technicians, after instructions were received from the President’s Office.

Accordingly, overtime payments have been authorised for the technicians, enabling them to work late into the night until the backlog was cleared. The Health Secretary said he expected the backlog of patients waiting to undergo treatment to be cleared by early next week.

 

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