8:49 AM

AL centres in Vanni shifted

Some G.C.E. Advanced Level centres have been shifted due to fighting on the Kilinochchi front. Of the 10 centres in the Kilinochchi administrative district, three in the Pooneryn area were shifted to Kilinochchi Central College on August 11. The examination began on August 6.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), which represents INGOs active in Sri Lanka said the centres had to be shifted due to shelling at Vanneikkulam in Pooneryn.

The Examination Department said that altogether 108 centres had been established in the Districts of Mannar (12), Jaffna (76), Mullaitivu (10) and Kilinochchi (10). An official said that the fighting hadn’t seriously affected the examination. He was confident that the examination could be held as scheduled.

The examination will end on September 3. The Examination Department said that there would be a three-day break beginning August 22 due to PC elections in the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces on August 23.

The IASC in its latest bulletin released on Monday (18) quoted the Kilinochchi NGO consortium as having said that 4,372 newly displaced had been accommodated at 12 schools in the Kilinochchi district. The Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights said that the Government Agents in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu had brought this to the notice of the Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA).

According to the UNICEF, 7,500 children in Madhu education zone and about 4,500 in Vavuniya (north) zone havebeen displaced by the fighting. The agency said that education material, too, had been lost due to multiple displacements and the quantity of materials were insufficient for the upcoming term.

8:44 AM

First South Asia Economic Summit

While the 15th SAARC Summit successfully completed in Colombo, the first ever South Asia Economic Summit (SAES) picks up at the BMICH from 28th to 30th August and it will be held parallel to the SAARC Trade Fair 2008 which will also be held at the BMICH.

The need for regional economic cooperation is paramount with traditional trade partners of South Asian Countries at a time there is global economic turmoil and at a time countries struggling in the wake of financial market crises coupled with soaring costs of energy and food.

Sri Lanka, holding the Chair, has an opportunity and responsibility to provide leadership in setting the agenda to take SAARC through this challenging time to emerge a stronger regional group. A key input for this process would be the contribution of academia, the private sector and civil society of South Asia.

SAES will focus on leading economic integration issues including the status and challenges facing the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), and regional integration in services and investment. Key regional infrastructure issues such as transport, ICT and trade facilitation measures are also addressed in separate sessions.

Summit will provide a forum for discussion of regional solutions to critical global challenges. A surge in global energy costs has provided a platform for regional cooperation in energy, particularly given the fact that some members have surpluses in energy whilst others face serious energy deficits.

The global food crisis will also be discussed from a South Asian perspective, debating regional options and solutions. Climate change is another critical challenge – interlinked with a whole gamut of development related issues. Given the difficulties in achieving a global consensus for action on this matter, the onus is on South Asian countries to tailor solutions to regional threats within the constraint of regional capabilities.

SAES will also comprise of a series of parallel sessions addressing a variety of specific interests including Sri Lanka’s bilateral trade arrangements with India and Pakistan and sectoral issues such as cooperation in tourism, labour migration, and issues facing weaker economies.

SAES objectives are: to take stock of the new economic-related issues emerging from the 15th SAARC Summit; to follow up on the major theme of the 14th SAARC Summit in 2007, i.e., improving “connectivity” in the region (transport, energy, and trade facilitation); to look at deepening and broadening economic integration by fast tracking goods liberalization under SAFTA and incorporating services and investment for liberalization in the region, respectively; to examine measures to strengthen the SAARC process by empowering the SAARC institutions and the Secretariat; to look at integrating sub-regional economic cooperation to a broader South Asian framework; to analyze ways and means of encouraging more people-to-people contact by promoting tourism and other means; and to assess emerging new issues in South Asian economic cooperation. These issues will be discussed in the context of achieving the SAARC Development Goals (SDGs).

SAES will be jointly organized by the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) and the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Sri Lanka (FCCISL) in collaboration with a number of institutes in the region: Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), India; South Asia Centre for Policy Studies (SACEPS), Nepal; and South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics & Environment (SAWTEE), Nepal. The SAES will also have collaboration and technical inputs from the World Bank, Commonwealth Secretariat, UNDP Regional Centre Colombo, and the Asian Development Bank.

7:53 AM

Woman attacked in paddy field

A married woman of Tanamalgodawatta in Deiyyandara who had been toiling in a paddy field with her husband had been attacked and badly cut with a sharp knife by a group of people who had come there with guns. The victim had been admitted toe the Mavarala hospital with serious injuries.

7:47 AM

Red Cross to spend SLR 400 Million to Polonnaruwa General Hospital

The Canadian Red Cross Society will spend 400 million Rupees to upgrade Polonnaruwa General Hospital to a three story hospital with the most modern facilities, A Red Cross website has announced.

The Relief web of the Red Cross said, “The Canadian Red Cross (CRC) Society will spend 366 million rupees for the construction of new building and Rs. 50 million to provide the required medical equipment. There will be an outpatient department, X-ray room, clinics dispensaries, an auditorium and administration area in this new building.”

The Red Cross further said, that the new three story building complex will be constructed at Polonnaura general hospital that will bring improvements to the level of healthcare provided to the people of Polonnaruwa district and neighboring areas. The relief web also said that Polonnaruwa is one of the districts in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka where the majority of the population depends on agriculture and this General Hospital is the main health facility available for the people in the district who come from far distant rural areas.

This building constrution project was initiated by the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society under the post Tsunami recovery program. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) will provide technical assistance for the project.

The ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone for the new complex on 14th of August, 2008 was attended by Minister of Healthcare and Nutrition Nimal Siripala De Silva, Minister of Agriculture Development and Agrarian Services Maitreepala Sirisena, Minister of Agrarian Services Siripala Gamlath Deputy Minister of Land and Land Development Chandrasiri Sooriyarachchi, President of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society Jagath Abeysinghe, National Secretary S.H. Nimal Kumar, Head of Delegation IFRC Paul Emese, construction delegate of Canadian Red Cross Niloo Szand and Chairman of the Pollonnaruwa SLRCS branch H P Wijayasena. During the occation the Liquid Oxygen storage system constructed with CRC funding was also handed over to hospital authorities.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the web said, has made a long term commitment towards rebuilding Sri Lanka's health sector. The Red Cross and Red Crescent's post tsunami health infrastructure development programme which is constructing and renovating a total of 77 health facilities across 16 districts of Sri Lanka under a MoU agreed with the Ministry of Health, it further reported. The 77 projects include the construction, renovation or refurbishment of wide range of health care facilities including district and base level hospitals as well as clinics and dispensaries. Construction of nurse training centres and providing 6 oxygen storage facilities at different hospitals also include the programme. The Red Cross will be equipping most of these facilities with medical equipment which ranges from hospital beds to sophisticated X-ray and ultrasound machines.

Already more than 25 hospitals and clinics have been completed and handed over, the Releif Web said.

This programme will run until 2010 and majority of projects are expected to be completed by 2009, the website promised.

7:45 AM

Government assist civilians fleeing fighting in the Wanni

The Government is committed to assisting civilians who may be displaced by the ongoing counter LTTE military operations in the North and reiterates its firm commitment to continue providing humanitarian assistance to the people in the Wanni.

Urgent measures have been taken to provide adequate food and shelter to the displaced people and additional facilities are being constructed in Government controlled areas. Sri Lanka is a unique case of a government maintaining its offices and funding the administration in territories unlawfully occupied by a terrorist group.

The Government Agents of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu have confirmed that internally displaced persons (IDPs) are being temporarily accommodated in schools, which are now closed due to holidays. Plans are underway to settle them in shelters located in safe areas prior to the commencement of the new school term. There is absolutely no truth in the reports of IDPs living under trees.

While the Government has strongly encouraged civilians to move from the conflict zone to safe areas under its control, it is reported that the LTTE has hindered thousands of families from moving to safer places by imposing a strict pass system and in some instances, forcing some family members to stay behind to ensure the return of the rest of the family. These measures seem designed to use civilians as a buffer against the government forces which is a serious violation of international humanitarian norms.

In these circumstances, it is incumbent on the international community to exert pressure on the LTTE to allow civilians to leave areas controlled by them. The safety and well-being of civilians can be effectively ensured in Government controlled facilities.