Victor Melder

SRI LANKA NEWS (AUGUST 2020) – Compiled by Victor Melder

INTRODUCTION As of 2010, there were 45,159 Sri Lankans living in the US. Substantial immigration began in the 1990s when many fled the violence of the Sri Lankan Civil War. The majority of Sri Lankan-Americans live in the vicinity of either New York City (where there’s a Little Sri Lanka on Staten Island), central New Jersey, or Los Angeles.

Victor Meldor

A study on the abnormalities and polymorphisms of amphibians found within and outside the Horton Plains National Park has identified a distinct frog species that does not belong to its generic “hourglass frog” classification. The study was conducted by graduate research assistant Praneeth Silva of Sri Jayewardenepura University’s Department of Zoology under the supervision of Prof. W. A. D. Mahaulpatha, senior lecturer and head, Department of Zoology. “Our study on amphibian abnormalities and causes found that Taruga eques species is faced with bigger threats in both localities in comparison to other amphibian species”, Silva said. Within and outside regions of the Sri Lankan Plains, habitat modifications due to human activities were the main threat on Taruga eques. The study revealed a novel pattern polymorphism of Taruga eques in that a variety of the species without the hourglass was identified within and outside the Plains, indicating that the common name Taruga eques cannot be broadly classified as an “hour-glass frog”. At the end of the study, new six dorsal colour variations and five dorsal pigment patterns of Taruga eques could be newly introduced to the science. Silva said that a total of 694 amphibians belonging to four families and 11 species were recorded in five lentic water bodies which were studied. Five hundred and eleven (511) individuals were examined inside the Plains and 183 outside the region. Of the 511 individuals, only 4.5 percent of the amphibians had abnormalities. Of the 183 individuals examined outside the Plains, 80.87 percent had abnormalities. Of the 511 inspected amphibians within the Plains, 0.59 percent suffered from ectromelia and four percent had cysts. Of the 183 amphibians examined outside the Plains, 80.33 percent had cysts and 0.55 percent had femoral projections. Cysts accounted for most of the abnormalities in both environments. Most of the infections (60 percent) recorded in the amphibians inside the Plains were mild. In contrast 77.55 percent of the infections recorded in the amphibians outside the Plains were moderate. “They are called hourglass tree frogs as they have a colour pattern like an hour glass mark on their dorsum (back). They are highland species, and are very sensitive to temperature and humidity so in addition to habitat loss and forest fragmentation, there will be a future threat to them due to climate change”, he warned. (Sunday Island, 2.8.2020)

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SRI LANKA CRICKET NEWS (JULY 2020) – Compiled by Victor Melder

Victor Meldor

Former Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has come in for criticism from all corners after the International Cricket Council denied claims that he had lodged a complaint with the game’s governing body in 2011 that the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 was fixed. The ICC issued a statement hours after the Police department announced that they are dropping an ongoing investigations due to lack of evidence. Aluthgamage, who has a history of shooting from the hip, had claimed that he had evidence to prove that the closely contested 2011 final between India and Sri Lanka was fixed. Despite interrogating key members of the national cricket team and officials, the Police dropped the investigations as they did not suspect any foul play. The ICC meanwhile turned up the heat saying that they had nothing to feel suspect about the 2011 final won by India. “There is no record of any letter regarding this matter sent by the then Sri Lanka Sports Minister (Aluthgamage) to the ICC and senior ICC staff at the time have confirmed they have no recollection of receiving any such letter which would have led to an investigation. We have no reason to doubt the integrity of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final 2011,” the ICC said. Aluthgamage was Sports Minister for four more years after the World Cup final but did not initiate an inquiry and his claims nine years after one of cricket’s most successful tournament raised many eyebrows. Former captain Aravinda de Silva was questioned for seven hours while Kumar Sangakkara spent nine hours with the Police earlier this week during investigations. The former was the Chairman of Selectors in 2011 while the latter was captain. Another former captain Upul Tharanga, who opened batting in the 2011 campaign was also questioned. Mahela Jayawardene was slotted in to provide evidence today but by then Police had decided to abandon the investigations. The players were initially surprised by the allegations but supported the investigations and it all came back to square one Thursday night following Sangakkara’s explanations. Aluthgamgae had claimed that the changes made for the final after injury to Angelo Mathews and Muttiah Muralitharan were not approved by him. However, SLC had sought all approvals from the Minister of Sports before going ahead with changes. There was outrage after players were hauled up before Police with both government and opposition politicians condemning the move. (Daily Island, 4.7.2020)

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                                                          SRI LANKA NEWS (JULY 2020) – Compiled by Victor Melder       

Victor Meldor - eLanka        

The Civil Security Department (CSD) has launched a project to mitigate the human-elephant conflict; it has distributed over 100,000 citrus saplings among the staff members living in Handapanagala to be planted along elephant corridors. The project was initiated under the directives of the CSD Director General Rear Admiral (Retd) Ananda Peiris. “The CSD is now nurturing citrus nurseries as a long term solution for the long existing issue and the planting process would commence on a large scale with the onset of the rainy season,” said Rear Admiral Peiris. Rear Admiral Peiris, launching the pilot project said, citrus trees prevented elephants from entering villages as they consciously avoid citrus bushes full of sharp thorns. Lt. Col. Kumara Jagoda, CSD Commanding Officer of Moneragala who is steering the project in Handapanagala, one of the most vulnerable human habitations for elephant raids in the region, said, “We are launching this project as a permanent solution to all the threatened areas in the near future.” According to the Elephant Conservation Unit (ECU) of the Wildlife Conservation Department, between 250 and 300 elephant deaths and 100 to 125 human deaths are reported annually in the country due to the on-going conflict between man and the majestic creature. ECU sources have identified Polonnaruwa, Moneragala and Wellawaya as being the most threatened areas by the wild elephants. (Daily Island, 11,7.2020)

As the number of COVID-19 cases rises rapidly, political parties and the education sector have adopted precautionary measures. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) has cancelled its main political rallies attended by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. General Secretary of the SLPP, Sagara Kariyawasam said that the party leadership had also asked its candidates to follow the health guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health when smaller meetings were held Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education said that all government schools and Pirivenas would be closed till next Friday (17). It said that the ministry was monitoring the situation. “The priority of the Ministry is to ensure the safety of all. An information centre has been established at the Ministry, as per the instructions of the Minister of Education Dullas Alahapperuma,” the media unit of the Ministry said. Meanwhile, 90 new COVID-19 patients had been detected by 3 pm yesterday bringing the active cases to 614. The total number of confirmed cases is 2,605. 76 new cases were reported from Senapura Rehabilitation camp while 14 new cases were reported from Kandakadu Rehabilitation Centre. (Daily Island, 13.7.2020)

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                                       SRI LANKA NEWS
                                                          (JUNE  2020)
                                              Compiled by Victor Melder

Victor Meldor

INTRODUCTION As of 2010, there were 45,159 Sri Lankans living in the US. Substantial immigration began in the 1990s when many fled the violence of the Sri Lankan Civil War. The majority of Sri Lankan-Americans live in the vicinity of either New York City (where there’s a Little Sri Lanka on Staten Island), central New Jersey, or Los Angeles.

Two endangered leopards — including a rare black one — have been killed by snares in Sri Lanka in less than a week, sparking calls for authorities to crack down harder on the cruel traps.
A third was found alive in a snare and released back to the wild after being tranquilised.
In the latest case, the bloated carcass of a leopard was discovered Tuesday strangled by a wire snare on a cashew plantation on the edge of a forest reserve in Neluwa, some 145 kilometres (90 miles) southeast of the capital Colombo. “It is possible that the trap was set for a sambar deer, but the leopard got caught instead,” a wildlife official from the area told AFP. A week earlier, a rare black leopard — also known as melanistic because the colour is a pigment condition rather than the mark of a separate species — was found trapped alive in the Nallathanni highlands but died two days later. The third leopard was found Friday at Yatiyantota, another highland nature area, before being released back into the wild. Although setting snares in national parks and reserves is against the law, they are not illegal elsewhere and farmers often use them to protect crops or catch wild boar. Sri Lankan conservationist Jayantha Jayewardene said the spate of leopard snaring might be villagers driven to desperation because the coronavirus lockdown had deprived them of income.
There are believed to be less than 1,000 leopards in the wild in Sri Lanka, and harming the big cat is punishable by up to five years› jail.. (Daily Financial Times, 4.5.2020)

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SRI LANKA NEWS (MAY  2020) – Compiled by Victor Melder

INTRODUCTION As of 2010, there were 45,159 Sri Lankans living in the US. Substantial immigration began in the 1990s when many fled the violence of the Sri Lankan Civil War. The majority of Sri Lankan-Americans live in the vicinity of either New York City (where there’s a Little Sri Lanka on Staten Island), central New Jersey, or Los Angeles.

Victor Meldor

Sri Lanka’s merchandize export earnings fell by 41.9 percent, in March 2020, as the spread of COVID-19, in the country, disrupted the production of merchandise, the Export Development Board said. According to the monthly exports statistics, the year-on-year export earnings fell to US$ 646 million from US$ 1.112 billion, recorded in March 2019. The apparel sector, being the largest contributor, has shown a 41 percent decline during the month of March 2020, compared to the same month, in the previous year. Some of the other sectors that have recorded a significant decline, during the same period, include Tea (-22%), Rubber Products (-15.7%), Coconut products (-14.2%), Spices (-36.5%), fruits and vegetable products (-17.4%), fish and fisheries products (-29%), etc. However, analysis at disaggregate level on Coconut Milk Powder, Defatted Coconut, certain Coconut Kernel Products, Coconut Shell Charcoal, Essential Oils, Oleoresins, Ginger, Lemon, Melon and Papaya, Onions, Sweet Potatoes, Processed Food, Rice, Green Gram, Lentils, Organic Chemicals, Electrical Transformers, Boat Building, Petroleum Products etc. show a positive growth, during March 2020, compared to March 2019. Export Development Board (EDB) Chairman, Prabhash Subasinghe, notes that even though there is a decline in exports, during the month of March 2020, such a decline is expected due to the global economic and trading environment. With the release of March 2020 data, the country’s foreign exchange earnings show an overall decline of 19 percent, during January-March 2020, in comparison to the same period, in 2019, reaching US$ 3.382 billion from US$ 4.176 billion respectively, recording a 32 percent achievement, against the annual revised target of US$ 10.750 billion for the year 2020. Merchandise export earnings have recorded US$ 2.577 billion during Jan- March 2020, compared to 3.116 billion last year. Estimates in the services exports of ICT/ BPM, Construction, Financial services, Logistics and Wellness Tourism sectors show overall revenue of US$ 805 million during the period compared to US$ 1.060 billion last year. When looking at the disaggregate level of products, even though some of the major sectors show a decline in earnings, certain other sectors show a positive growth during the period under consideration. The following graph shows some sectors with negative growth, the EDB said. (Daily Island, 1.5.2020)

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SRI LANKA NEWS (APRIL 2020) by Victor Melder

INTRODUCTION As of 2010, there were 45,159 Sri Lankans living in the US. Substantial immigration began in the 1990s when many fled the violence of the Sri Lankan Civil War. The majority of Sri Lankan-Americans live in the vicinity of either New York City (where there’s a Little Sri Lanka on Staten Island), central New Jersey, or Los Angeles.

Victor Meldor

Between March 17 to April 4, 2020, 2,961 prison inmates have been released, on bail, on the recommendations of the special committee, appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as part of efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19. A government communiqué said: The committee was appointed to make recommendations on the possibility of providing legal redress for the prisoners, following a request made by the inmates, during an inspection tour of the Prison premises, by the President, on an earlier occasion. Inmates who are unable to pay fines, or pay for bail money, or to produce personal bail, imprisoned for minor offences and those who had completed the better part of their prison term, or inmates suffering from illnesses and those who have not been granted bail, have been considered under this relief scheme, Director General, Legal Affairs of the Presidential Secretariat, Attorney-at-Law Harigupta Rohanadheera, said. At present, there are more than 26,000 inmates in the country’s prisons, while their total capacity does not exceed 10,000 persons. The health situation in the country had also been taken into consideration. Those who had been released are expected not to violate the terms of relief, granted by the Courts. (Daily Island, 6.4.2020)

A senior spokesperson for the Catholic Church, yesterday (06), told The Island that in line with measures taken by the government to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19, prayers wouldn’t be conducted at churches, countrywide, on Maundy Thursday (09), Good Friday (10) and Easter Sunday (12). Responding to a query, the spokesman, based at the Bishop’s House, Borella, emphasized that immediately after the outbreak of coronavirus the Church cancelled Sunday mass on March 15. The spokesperson pointed out that Palm Sunday services, on April 05, too, were not conducted with the participation of congregations. Instead, Palm Sunday services, conducted by the Archbishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, were telecast live by Sirasa and Catholic TV Verbum. The Church pointed out that special prayers, during Holy Week, in the run-up to Good Friday, too couldn’t be conducted. Asked when resumption of prayers would be possible, the Church official said that it was too early to discuss the matter. The Church spokesperson said that the situation was so grave, at the moment, that health considerations should override religious dictates and sentiments. “We cannot be swayed by factors that may jeopardize the health of the nation,” the spokesperson said. The Archbishop of Colombo, at Palm Sunday services, conducted solo on Sunday, April 05, declared that time was not opportune for parliamentary election. In view of cancellation of prayers, the Church wouldn’t be able to conduct special services in memory of those who perished in the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks. Near simultaneous attacks on six targets, including three Churches at Kockckikade in Kotahena, Batticaloa and Katuwapitiya in Katana, on April 21, 2019, claimed the lives of 270. The blasts wounded approximately 400. Earlier, the Church was to conduct special prayers for the Easter Sunday victims. (Daily Island, 7.4.2020)

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OBITUARIES (E & O.E.) (APRIL  2020) – By Victor Melder

Victor Meldor

ARMITAGE – PETER HAROLD,  husband of Jennifer, father, grandfather and Brother of Andrew (Andy), Anthony (Tony), Melanie Huysmans and Janis Thiedeman. Son-in-law of Roy Hermon (dec), in Brisbane on February 13, 2020, aged 79 years. (Contributed)

CRAMER – FLORENCE, wife of Roy (dec), mother and mother-in-law of Leilanie & Nihal, Spencer & Eileen, Cassandra & Bill de Kretser. Grandmother of Sean, Darren, Ian and Tamara, in Brisbane, on April 3, 2020, aged 97 years. (Contributed)

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LEST WE FORGET – by Victor Melder


On Saturday, April 25, 2020, we commemorate ‘Anzac Day’, when we recall and commemorate

the heroic acts of the military servicemen and women, who gave ‘their yesterday’s, that we may have our


Due to the Corona Virus Pandemic and the ‘Social Distancing’ enforced to halt it’s spread, there will by

no ‘Dawn Service’ or Anzac Marches, Australia wide. Instead, the few surviving service personnel, their

family and friends will gather at dawn silently with a lighted candle in their drive ways.

We are now also remembering the heroic act of four Victorian Police officers, who were senselessly and

tragically mowed down by a speeding truck, whilst in the line of duty, on the evening of Wednesday, April 22.

The officers had intercepted a motor vehicle for traffic offences on the Chandler Highway and investigations

were continuing in the emergency lane.

At this time a truck travelling at an estimated 100kph, veered into the emergency lane, where the police

officers were, killing and injuring them. The motor vehicle offender, pulled up earlier, took photos of the

carnage and fled the scene.

The four police officer, all succumbed to their injuries. This was the worst police tragedy to hit the Victorian

Police force in its history..

As the parent of a serving member of the Victorian Police force, the tragedy reinforces the inherent danger

they are called to face in carrying out their day-to-day duties, in helping keep the community safe.

It takes a special breed of person to want to join the police force and serve the community at large. Chief

Commissioner Ashton said “Committing one’s life to serving and protecting others is a truly unique attribute.

They do it to protect. They do it to make a difference”.

I recall the words of an elderly person who once said, “If you don’t like the Police, next time you are in trouble,

call a Hippy” !!

The senior officer killed, had a 31-year career with the force and was looking forward to retirement, another had

six years of service, the third, a year’s service, whilst the most junior officer had passed out of the Police Academy

in December last year.

We grieve and silently suffer with the family members of the four officers who gave their lives. Their lives

will never ever be the same again. The pain will linger on for the rest of their lives.

We remember and pray for the four officers, as we too grieve for them:

Leading Senior Constable LYNETTE TAYLOR

Senior Constable KEVIN KING





Victor Meldor - eLanka

Victor Melder

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SRI LANKA NEWS (MARCH 2020) – Compiled by Victor Melder.

Victor Meldor



Sri Lanka’s national carrier SriLankan Airlines is expected to lose 130 million US dollars (about 26 billion rupees) in the year to March 2020, officials said, taking total losses under full state ownership and management to 232 billion rupees. The airline would also need a 300 million dollar capital injection to reduce a spiral of debt, officials said. “We estimate that by this March we will lose about 130 million US dollars,” newly appointed SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage told the parliament’s Committee on Public Enterprises. The Easter Sunday bombings had hurt the airline and it the ongoing Coronavirus epidemic was also negative with flight to China being cut. However in 2021, the Airline was expecting to cut losses to about 30 million dollars, he said. The Airlines started to lose money under state management, from 2008. Losses would total of 232 billion rupees by March 2020, including 115 million dollars paid to cancel a controversial Airbus deal. Sri Lankan needs a 300 million US dollar (about 54.6 billion rupees) capital injection to reduce gearing, Pathirage said. The airline is undercapitalized due to past losses. Earlier capital injections from the tax-payer had been burned in losses. As of March 2019, SriLankan had a 168 billion rupee gap in its balance sheet. SriLankan Airlines was making losses when it was managed by Emirates, who owned 40 percent of the stock. SriLankan is looking at acquiring 4-5 year old Airbus A330 aircraft and resuming flights to Frankfurt, Pathirage said. It is also looking to start flights to Sydney in Australia. Chief Executive Vipula Gunatilleke said leasing second hand aircraft was much cheaper than getting brand new aircraft. Sri Lankan Airlines is paying above market lease installments for seven Airbus A330 CEOs it had acquired as part of a controversial deal in which is subject to a corruption probe. SriLankan is one of several state enterprises that has pushed up national debt, and has worsened the country’s debt profile. Losses at SriLankan were also hurting other state enterprises, a phenomenon known as circular debt. (Sunday Island, 1.3.2020)

By end of 2020, Sri Lanka’s central government debt was about 83 percent of gross domestic product, publicly guaranteed debt was about 5.2 percent and state enterprise debt was 14.6 percent, taking the total up to 99.4 percent of debt. SriLankan Airlines debt obligations by end 2018 was 250 billion rupees or about 1.7 percent of gross domestic product and a part of its debt was also directly guarantee by the Treasury about to 32 billion rupees or 0.2 percent of GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund estimate. SriLankan is also contributing to losses and debt at state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, which had debt of 612 billion rupees or 4.2 percent of GDP and was indirectly financing SriLankan. In 2018, the CPC lost 80 billion rupees by borrowing unhedged dollars, despite having a price formula that brought in cash. Pathirage said SriLankan bought about 14 million US dollars of fuel a month from CPC, and it was only settling about6 million US dollars. But it has now been increase to 8 million dollars. He said his intention was to eventually settle all current purchases from CPC on time, though accumulated arrears will have to be settled separately. (Sunday Island, 1.3.2020)

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                               SRI LANKA NEWS
                                         (FEBRUARY  2020)
                                    Compiled by Victor Melder.

Victor Meldor - eLanka

A proposal to provide increased pension benefits for those who retired after 2017 has been abandoned as the plan would cost the government a staggering Rs 130 billion annually. A senior Treasury official said that instead of increasing the pensions, the Government would come up with a revised scheme where the pensions of those who retired after December 31, 2017 would be calculated on the salary scales as at the end of 2017. Under a proposal of the former Government, the pensions were to be calculated on the basis that they had served until 2020. Accordingly, those retiring were to receive a minimum of Rs 3,000 additional pension, with higher grades due to receive more than Rs 10,000 a month. The previous UNF Government’s pension plan was to apply to some 100,000 employees who retired after 2017. The official explained that the implementation of the former government’s proposal would lead to the  creation of a major salary anomaly among 600,000 pensioners, who retired before 2017. At present, the Government spends Rs 240 billion annually for the payment of pensions and if the proposal was implemented the annual pension bill would have shot up to Rs 370 billion, he said. “The increased amount will be a severe burden on the Treasury and, therefore, implementation of the proposal will not be possible.” He said under the new formula to be worked out within the next six to seven months, all pensioners would be treated equally.  (Sunday Times, 2.2.2020)

Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals dropped 7.4 percent from a year earlier to 226,094 and in January 2020, and visitors from China dropped 15 percent to 22,363, Chairperson of Sri Lanka’s Tourist Development Authority Kimarli Fernando said. Arrivals from China had dropped to 22,263 in January 2020 from 26,414 visitors last year. There has been a small drop in arrivals from other destinations, she said. Sri Lanka is expecting a sharper slowdown in tourists in February after the island stopped giving on-arrival visas Chinese visitors. Sri Lanka is now pre-approving visas to visitors only from Chinese cities where there no large concentrations of coronavirus infections. China has also stopped outgoing group tours from the country. “Tour operators have cancelled but individuals and families are still arriving,” she said. Sri Lanka has put in place procedures to handle visitors for China, with separate lines for immigration, thermal screening, doctors examination at the airport. They also have to fill a form giving their itinerary. Health officials said tourist from China and tour guides and drivers have been asked to wear masks and wash their hands frequently. (Economynext, 3.2.2020)

Sri Lanka’s inflation, as measured by the change in the Colombo Consumers’ Price Index (CCPI), increased to 5.4% in January 2020 from 4.8 in December 2019, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka reported. This was driven by monthly increase of prices of items in both food and non-food categories. Food inflation (Y-o-Y) increased substantially to a 25-month high of 11.7% in January 2020 from 6.35 in December 2019, while Nonfood inflation (Y-o-Y) stood at 2.9 per cent. The change in the CCPI measured on an annual average basis increased marginally to 4.4 per cent in January 2020 from 4.3 per cent in December 2019. Monthly change of CCPI recorded at 1.4 per cent in January 2020 and it was due to the price increases observed in the items of both Food and Non-food categories. Within the Food category, prices of vegetables increased significantly due to supply shortages caused by adverse weather conditions prevailed during the previous month. (Daily Mirror, 4.2.2020)

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Wednesday, asked Parliament to approve an increase in the debt ceiling from Rs. 721 billion to Rs. 1.078 trillion. He made this request during a speech on the country’s current economic situation. The Prime Minister also urged the House to approve a supplementary estimate which proposes to increase the allocation for recurrent expenditure by Rs. 101 billion and Rs. 55 billion for capital expenditure. The government urged the House to approve Rs. 211 billion for projects carried out with foreign loans. The previous government had obtained loans at a high interest for projects and there had been huge cost overruns, the PM said. “The government could not get loans because the debt ceiling has been exceeded. The money allocated by Parliament to pay back loans taken by previous government was insufficient.” PM Rajapaksa also said that the previous government had promised to reduce the budget deficit to 4%. However, it now stood at 7%. “When I handed the government in 2015, the budget deficit was 5%. The debt as a percentage of National revenue was 70%. Now it’s 80%. The previous government increased taxes and extended low interest loans in a bid to generate income,” he said. The economy was growing at 3%, the lowest in the region. By 2020, the budget deficit would be reduced to 4%, PM Rajapaksa said. “The previous government expected an income of Rs. 2,400 billion for 2019. By November 2019, only Rs. 1,600 was raised. Rs. 1,800 was collected by December. There is a shortfall of Rs. 600 billion. This shows that increasing taxes and complicating the tax regime had not led to an increase in income.” (Daily Island, 7.2.2020)

About 64 new cancer patients are detected daily in the country and of them around 38 are terminally ill, says Dr. Suraj Perera, Consultant Community Physician, National Cancer Control Program. Dr. Perera said that as per the latest statistics around 23,530 new cancer cases are reported annually from Sri Lanka. Of those cases around 14,013 die of the disease. Dr. Perera said: “Of the male patients the majority have oral cancer, while the majority of female patients have breast cancer. One third of cancer related deaths are caused by obesity, lack of consumption of vegetables and fruits, lack of physical exercise, high consumption of alcohol and tobacco.” Consultant Community Physician Dr. Nayana de Alwis said that controlling sugar, salt and food items containing trans-fat would help reduce the excessive amount of body fat leading to reduction in the number of obesity cases. She said that there was an increase in burning of polythene polluting air with carcinogenic particles. The increase in burning polythene was witnessed despite the ban. “Increasing air pollution, too, could be identified as a cause of increasing number of cancer patients. In many houses we still use firewood to prepare food. The World Health Organisation has advocated against using firewood as a fuel because inhaling the smoke coming from burning firewood could result in cancer. We request people to shift from firewood to another alternative fuel source and until they do so to burn firewood after opening all windows and doors in their kitchens. That would help reduce the inhaling the smoke.” She pointed out that consuming a healthy meal, avoiding consumption of alcohol and tobacco and maintaining a correct body mass index would help reduce the risk of cancer. Consultant Community Physician Dr. Udaya Usgodarachchi said that action should be taken to discourage the use of alcohol and tobacco to reduce the number of cancer cases. The government should ban the use of areca nut and sweetened betel such as babul, Dr. Usgodarachchi added. (Daily Island, 11.2.2020)

Sri Lanka reported 103 fatalities due to electrocution in the year 2019 up from 89 fatalities reported in 2018, the electrocution report 2019 released by the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), the electricity sector regulator, revealed. The southern province of Sri Lanka reported the highest fatalities due to electrocution in 2019 while western province reported the lowest. The southern province reported 30 fatalities due to electrocution in the year 2019. The southern province reported 97 fatalities due to electrocution in the period of 2015-19 which stood as the highest in the country compared to the electrocutions reported in other provinces in the same period.  Drawing power lines to illegally to protect cultivation or to kill wild animals has been identified as the main reasons for the highest fatalities due to electrocution in the country while small scale electric repair work at home/ workplace and Activities near power lines also have contributed to the electrocutions in 2019. The latest statistics show, males are more exposed to electrocutions as 86 per cent from total fatalities due to electrocution reported in 2019 were males which stood at 83 per cent in 2018. People who are at the age range of 40 to 50 stood as the most vulnerable age group exposed to electrocution in 2019. According to the international benchmark, the possibility of occurring electrocution, is only one (01) electrocution for one million people, per year. In 2019, the Sri Lankan electrocution index stood at five times higher than the global benchmark. The PUCSL has introduced number of safety regulations to uplift the electricity safety of the country and is in the process of building a national network of safety ambassadors representing all the villages in Sri Lanka to strengthen people with knowledge of safe use of electricity. (Times Online, 12.2.2020)

Cabinet has rejected a request by the Department of Immigration and Emigration to not extend the “free visa” facility to tourists from 48 countries.  A proposal to extend the free visa facility to visitors from these countries for a further three months from February 1 to April 30 was approved by Cabinet. The Immigration and Emigration Department though, had opposed the move to extend the facility, noting that it had resulted the department losing about Rs 1 billion a month, with total losses of approximately Rs 5.5 biillion up to date, sources told Times Online.  The previous Government had given the free visa facility to tourists from 48 countries for a six month period effective from August 1, 2019.  In deciding to extend the visa facility by a further six months, the new Government has stated that the move to provide free visas has resulted in a rise in tourists to Sri Lanka from these countries. (Times online, 13.2.2020)

Indian Navy’s Sandhayak-class ship INS Jamuna, which has arrived in Sri Lanka, will carry out detailed hydrographic surveys and several shore-based survey activities over the two-month deployment period. The ship has been deployed to Sri Lanka based on a mutual agreement to carry out a joint hydrographic survey off the south-west coast of Sri Lanka, the Indian Navy said in a statement. “Over the two months deployment period, the ship will carry out detailed hydrographic surveys and several shore-based survey activities,” the statement said. Sri Lanka Navy personnel will embark the ship during the conduct of the joint survey. Additionally, they will also be provided “hands-on survey training during every operational turn around in port,” it added. (Daily Island, 15.2.2020)

Sri Lanka currently ranks 104 out of 162 countries for Economic Freedom (Economic Freedom of the World Index, 2019). This is a 7 step drop from last year’s ranking, 97. The President, in his Independence Day address to the nation promised “I not only respect your freedom, but I will work towards improving it and guarantee the political and economic freedom in a truly democratic country”. Advocata commended this  line of thinking and believes his vision can be achieved through the recommendations listed below. Economic Freedom is the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic freedom. The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to enter markets and compete, and security of the person and privately owned property. Sri Lanka’s rank in the indicator “Freedom to trade internationally” is alarmingly poor, ranking 113 out of 162 countries. When governments impose restrictions that reduce the ability of their residents to engage in voluntary exchange with people in other countries, economic freedom is diminished. Not only does Sri Lanka enforce exorbitant taxes on imports, trade facilitation in the country is poor. Recommendations: Replace Sri Lanka’s complex tariff system with a low and uniform tariff rate. Implementation and improvement of the National Single Window for trade, which will allow all parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents at a single-entry point to fulfil all import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements.  Reforming the Customs Ordinance. The National Export Strategy mentions that a new Customs Act, which is in line with international standards for trade facilitation, has been drafted but this hasn’t progressed beyond this stage. (Sunday Island, 16.2.2020)

United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina B. Teplitz has been summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Relations tomorrow (16) to inform the Sri Lankan government’s objection to the imposition of travel restrictions on Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva and his immediate family members. On Friday, the United States said it would refuse entry to Sri Lanka’s Army chief over what it said “credible” evidence of human rights violations in the 2009 finale to the civil war in Sri Lanka.
However, issuing a statement, the Sri Lankan government said it takes strong objection to the imposition of travel restrictions on Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva and his immediate family members by the United States government, based on independently unverified information. (Daily Mirror, 16.2.2020)

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