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Those engaged in strike responsible for death of youth – Minister

Sri Lanka’s Transport Minister Bandula Gunawardena along with senior Railway officials expressed condolences over the death of a youth forced to travel on the roof of an overcrowded train due to a railway strike today.

Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena and the senior Railway officials expressed their condolences prior to commencing the Weekly Cabinet Press Briefing held in Colombo.

Addressing the Cabinet Press Briefing today, the Minister said that 84 railway employees engaged in the strike must take responsibility for the youth’s death.

The 20-year-old youth who had travelled on the roof of a train plying from Kandy to Colombo had died after falling over due to knocking onto the ceiling of the Horape Railway Station this morning.

At least 20 train services were cancelled due to a strike launched by the Sri Lanka Locomotive Operating Engineers Union resulting in overcrowding of operating trains.

Commenting on the strike, Transport Minister Bandula Gunawardena further said that he will request the President within the day to declare the Railway Services as an essential service from midnight today.

The minister added that a Gazette notification in this regard will also be issued accordingly.

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President says Sri Lanka needs to excel in healthcare to attract medical tourists

President Ranil Wickremesinghe says it is imperative for Sri Lanka to excel in healthcare in order to boost medical tourism.

Addressing an event on Friday (Sept. 09), the Head of State also emphasized the necessity of restructuring healthcare policies and increasing the number of medical colleges to address the shortage of doctors, according to the President’s Media Division (PMD).

President Wickremesinghe attended the centenary commemoration of Joseph Fraser Ninewells Hospitals and paid tribute to the legacy of Joseph Fraser, a Scottish planter who played a pivotal role in Sri Lanka’s tea industry during its formative years.

He emphasized the necessity of restructuring healthcare policies and increasing the number of medical colleges to address the shortage of doctors.

The President further acknowledged the challenges posed by the shortage of doctors and stressed the importance of developing an effective solution.

He also announced plans to establish the first non-government medical faculty in Sri Lanka, a significant step towards expanding medical education opportunities.

Furthermore, President Wickremesinghe highlighted the allocation of the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) to the University of Moratuwa, aiming to create more medical education institutions. He expressed hope that the government would support the establishment of additional medical colleges and universities, ensuring that Sri Lanka can produce more doctors.

The President recognized that while some doctors may choose to practice abroad, increasing the overall number of medical professionals in the country is essential. He affirmed that expanding medical education is a critical strategy to meet this challenge. In an inspiring declaration, President Wickremesinghe underscored Sri Lanka’s transition from an aid-receiving country to a donor nation, showcasing the country’s progress and commitment to addressing its healthcare needs independently.

“Indeed, I have resolved that Sri Lanka shall not merely remain a beneficiary of aid; instead, we aspire to evolve into a nation that contributes aid to others. We have extended our support by sending our doctors to the United Kingdom, where these dedicated expertise plays an indispensable role in sustaining their healthcare system. Collaboratively, with Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, we exert significant influence over the healthcare infrastructure in the UK, a testament to the high calibre of our professionals.

I find myself in a situation similar to that of a doctor in recent times. I am tasked with the responsibility of tending to a patient who is teetering on the brink of critical condition, and I am steadfastly committed to nursing them back to health. If circumstances permitted, I would readily entrust this patient to the care of Joseph Fraser. Regrettably, circumstances necessitate that I retain oversight of the patient’s care within the treasury”.

Furthermore, we have diligently devised a novel approach that fosters synergy between the private and public sectors, ensuring that they can effectively collaborate for the greater good.

The President’s remarks underscore the government’s determination to address the healthcare workforce shortage in Sri Lanka, thereby ensuring the nation’s healthcare system remains robust and accessible.

The President also shared insights into efforts to create a hybrid healthcare system that combines public and private healthcare services while exploring the potential of health insurance.

President Wickremesinghe concluded by highlighting the importance of Sri Lanka’s private sector in propelling the country’s growth and development. He invoked Joseph Fraser’s legacy as an example of an individual who, through perseverance and dedication, made a significant contribution to Sri Lanka’s progress.

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MP Sarathi Dushmantha appointed as stand-in for SLFP general secretary

MP Sarathi Dushmantha has been appointed as a stand-in for the general secretary of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), following the removal of MP Dayasiri Jayasekara.

The decision was taken when the SLFP’s central committee met last evening (Sept. 11).

During the meeting, the central committee was officially informed of the removal of MP Jayasekara from his position as the party’s general secretary and the revocation of his party membership.

Speaking to the media afterward, MP Duminda Dissanayake said MP Jayasekara stands a chance to be appointed as the party’s chairman in the future if it is deemed that he is fit for the position.

On September 05, MP Dayasekara was ousted from the SLFP with immediate effect and he was stripped of his position as the party’s general secretary.

The SLFP chairman, former President Maithripala Sirisena communicated this to MP Jayasekara in a letter, adding that a disciplinary inquiry would also be initiated against the parliamentarian pursuant to the provisions of the party’s constitution.

However, addressing concerns pertaining to MP Jayasekara’s removal, former President Sirisena had stated that the party membership was only temporarily suspended.

He further asserted that the SLFP was ready to accept the MP as a party member, or any other title he may wish to hold within the part, except that of the SLFP General Secretary.

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Asoka Jayatunga is media attaché at Sri Lankan embassy in US

Asoka Jayatunga, an experienced journalist, has been appointed media attaché at the Sri Lankan embassy in Washington DC, USA.

President Ranil Wickremesinge has made the appointment on a recommendation by ambassador Mahinda Samarasinghe.

His new duties involve him with Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Nations as well.

A past pupil of Mahinda Vidyalaya, Galle, Jayatunga is a founding member of ‘Lankadeepa’ newspaper.

For several decades, he wrote columns such as ‘Sanduda Hamuwa’, ‘Raja Veediya’, ‘Thiren Pitupasa’ and interviewed many political leaders.

He also presented the first live political talkshow ‘Janamandali’ on Sri Lanka Rupavahini in the 1990s, and went onto host ‘One-to-one’ on ITN later.

Recently, he wrote ‘Janapathi e kolama’ on social media.

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Youth travelling on roof of overcrowded train falls to death

An individual who was travelling on the roof of an overcrowded train has died in an accident near the Horape Railway Station this morning (Sep 12).

According to media reports, the youth had travelled on the roof of the train plying from Kandy to Colombo and had knocked on the roof of the Horape Railway Station.

The 20-year-old youth had then fallen off the train and sustained serious injuries after which he had succumbed to injuries on the spot.

It is reported that the youth had travelled on the roof of the train due to several trains being cancelled due to a strike action.

At least 20 scheduled train services were cancelled today due to a strike launched by the Sri Lanka Locomotive Operating Engineers Union.

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Channel 4 accountable for any unforeseen repercussions stemming from their unfounded claims - MoD

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has vehemently denounced the accusations levelled by Channel 4 documentary on the Easter Sunday bombings.

Issuing a statement, the MoD emphatically asserted that Channel 4 will be held unequivocally accountable for any unforeseen actions or repercussions stemming from their unfounded, malevolent, and poorly substantiated claims made in the video documentary. "On behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Defence categorically refutes these false allegations and reiterates the government's unwavering commitment to the truth, justice and the well-being of the nation," it added.

Full text of the statement by MoD is reproduced below.

"In the face of a heinous and merciless assault that shook the world - the Easter Sunday Attack of 2019 - which claimed the lives of nearly 270 innocent souls, including children and foreigners, Sri Lanka and the International Community watched in horror.

In the wake of this catastrophe, the Sri Lankan Government, its Law Enforcement Agencies, Security Forces and international investigation agencies launched exhaustive investigations. Over the years, these investigations, both local and international, have consistently pointed to ISIS-affiliated group members led by Zahran Hashim as the architects of this horrifying tragedy.

However, it is with unwavering resolution and an unyielding commitment to the truth that the Ministry of Defence wishes to respond to the recent documentary produced by British Channel 4 television corporation on 5th September 2023. This documentary audaciously shifts the blame of the Easter Sunday Attack onto Military Intelligence and Major General Suresh Sallay, the present Director General of the State Intelligence Service of Sri Lanka.

The Ministry of Defence vehemently denounces the accusation of orchestrating the attack and assisting the bombers against a dedicated senior military officer who has served the nation for 36 years. Major General Suresh Sallay served at the Sri Lanka High Commission in Malaysia as Minister-Counsellor from December 2016 until December 2018. He left for India on 3rd January 2019 and returned to Sri Lanka on 30th November 2019 after completing the National Defence College Course in Delhi. This officer was never in Sri Lanka during the period mentioned in the Channel 4 video documentary.

Furthermore, during the said period (December 2016 to November 2019), this officer was not employed in the Intelligence and Security Apparatus of the country, nor did he hold any official responsibilities in those fields. The Ministry of Defence also reiterates that no terrorists involved in the Easter Sunday attack have ever been on the government payroll. Therefore, the Ministry of Defence categorically refutes these outrageous allegations and expresses profound dismay at Channel 4 for promulgating such a malicious and unsubstantiated narrative.

In the wake of the Easter Sunday Attack, successive Sri Lankan governments have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to uncovering the truth. They have done so by facilitating transparent investigations conducted by both local and international professional agencies.

These investigations, including the meticulous work of the Criminal Investigation Department, Counter Terrorist Investigation Division and the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI), have consistently corroborated the responsibility of the radical extremist group for the attack. Additionally, the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security has played a pivotal role in proposing measures to bolster national security.

Moreover, it is imperative to underline that the comprehensive investigation conducted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States, along with the subsequent verdict rendered by the US Department of Justice, have reaffirmed the findings of local investigations. This resounding endorsement from an international investigative agency further substantiates the accuracy and integrity of the investigation.

Despite unwavering and magnanimous endeavours, Channel 4's myopic and malevolent conduct not only imperils the very fabric of Sri Lankan society by sowing seeds of discord but also shamelessly jeopardizes the reputation and safety of those who have resolutely upheld their integrity and responsibility.

While the Ministry of Defence respects the freedom of expression and upholds the significance of investigative journalism, the Ministry of Defence emphatically asserts that Channel 4 will be held unequivocally accountable for any unforeseen actions or repercussions stemming from their unfounded, malevolent, and poorly substantiated claims made in the video documentary.

On behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Defence hereby categorically refutes these false allegations and reiterates the government's unwavering commitment to the truth, justice and the well-being of the nation."

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Hotline introduced to make complaints about misdeeds of govt. officials

The State Ministry of Home Affairs said a direct telephone number - 1905 - has been introduced for the public to make complaints about the misdeeds of government officials.

Accordingly, complaints can be made about malpractices in district and divisional secretariats and other institutions that are under the ministry.

A team headed by an additional secretary will investigate the complaints.

State minister Ashoka Priyantha has instructed the investigating officers to act promptly and take remedial action.

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Change attitudes before system change – Kanaka Herath

It is important to change attitudes before going for a change in the system, said state minister Kanaka Herath yesterday (07).

He was speaking during the House debate on the no-faith motion against health minister Keheliya Rambukwella.

Herath said despite various criticisms, Sri Lanka has the best health service in South Asia, in the form of a free universal healthcare system.

He also said that he felt that although many want a system change, any system implementation does not move forward.

Human resources, administration, procurement and everything else should be centralized.

Removing the health minister for a system change is useless because he is just one figure in the entire system.

He expressed belief that the proper use of technology would solve most of the outstanding issues.

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Massive ransomware attack on state email domain - ICRA

The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka has officially confirmed a severe data loss incident affecting all government offices using the "gov.lk" email domain, including the Cabinet Office, due to a large-scale ransomware attack between May 17 and August 26, 2023.

The Cabinet Office is one of the entities within the Lanka Government Network (LGN), utilizing the "This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." email domain.

Crucial government information are exchanged via these email domains.

However, ICTA told News 1st that only some data under the purview of the of the President's Office, Cabinet Office, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Health were affected by the ransomware attack.

What is a ransomware attack?

Ransomware is a malware designed to deny a user or organization access to files on their computer.

Ransomware is often spread through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments or through drive-by downloading.

Ransomware attacks can cause costly disruptions to operations and the loss of critical information and data.

What happened?

ICTA Communications disclosed that the ransomware could have impacted approximately 5,000 email addresses.

Director of Strategic Communications at ICTA Sampath de Silva told News 1st that there was no offline backup for a critical two-and-a-half-month data period.

The online backup system was also compromised, resulting in the loss of emails during this time frame.

How has the ICTA responded to the incident?

Director of Strategic Communications at ICTA Sampath de Silva that in response to this incident, ICTA is implementing the following measures:

Daily Offline Backup: ICTA is instituting daily offline backup processes to prevent future data losses.

Application Upgrade: The relevant application will upgrade to the latest version with enhanced defences against virus attacks.

Can the lost data be recovered?

In collaboration with ICTA, the Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT) is actively engaged in efforts to recover the lost data.

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NCM against Health Minister defeated in Parliament

The No Confidence Motion against Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella has been defeated after being taken up for a vote in Parliament today (Sep 08).

The motion was presented by the Opposition over the shortage of medicines and medical supplies in Sri Lanka, and several deaths reported at state hospitals in the recent past due to the administration of substandard medication.

The Motion of No Confidence was taken up for debate in Parliament for a period of three days this week with a vote being held today.

During the vote, the No Confidence Motion was defeated with 113 MPs voting against it and 73 MPs voting in favour.

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Easter Sunday attack : Cardinal Ranjith is prepared to forgive

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said he was prepared to forgive those who are in the wrong in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks on condition that they admitted their mistakes.

He made the remark during mass at St. Anthony’s Church at Kochchikade yesterday (08).

Earlier in the week, the head of Sri Lanka's catholic church expressed his gratitude to Britain’s Channel 4 television for the interest and trouble it took to focus attention worldwide on an alleged plot behind the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.

Calling for a probe into the individuals who were accused in Channel 4 exposé of being complicit in the supposed plot hatched to create insecurity in the country, Cardinal Ranjith said ‘their role in this mass murder’ should be examined extensively.

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Prof. Jayantha Balawardane appointed Chancellor of Uva Wellassa University

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed Professor Jayantha Balawardane as the Chancellor of the Uva Wellassa University, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

The appointment will be in effect from 09 October, 2023, according to the PMD.

Professor Balawardena is a senior academic and a Consultant Oncologist. Professor Balawardena is a highly respected academic with over 30 years of experience in the field of medicine.

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