Central Bank cancels NatWealth’s primary dealership licence

 

The Central Bank has cancelled the licence given to NatWealth Securities Ltd to operate as a primary dealer (in the money markets) with effect from Monday November 30.
The banking regulator said it withdraw the appointment of NatWealth as a primary dealer at the request of the company. No other reason was given for the request.
 

Defense Secretary directs IGP to probe Mahara prison riots

Defence Secretary, Maj. Gen. (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne has instructed the Inspector General of Police (IGP), C.D. Wickramaratne to probe into the tense situation escalated at the Mahara Prison yesterday, Ministry said.

The Defence Secretary has directed the IGP to conduct a special investigation following the tense situation reported at the Mahara Prison, after several inmates were reportedly struggling to escape the prison premises demonstrating unruly behaviour.

Initially, the Prison officers got involved in easing off the situation. However, when it was noticed that the incident escalated to an intense riot, they summoned Police and Special Task Force to the premises. Subsequently, the Police arrived at the scene and strengthened the security of the outer perimeter of the Prison.

The agitated inmates set fire at the Prison Health Office and Stores areas and it had raged until today (30) morning. The Department of Prisons confirmed that the fire has been completely doused and the routine Prison operations were resumed. 

 

Significant damage at Mahara Prisons due to fire

Due to the fire that erupted during the prison unrest at Mahara prisons last night, key parts of the prison complex suffered significant damage, police said. 

The administrative area of the prison was partly damaged along with prison cells and a food store. 

At least eight prison inmates were killed and 50 injured in a commotion last night inside Mahara Prison at Ragama in the Gampaha district.  Two prison guards held by the prisoners also sustained injuries.

Police Special Task Force (STF) had to be deployed around the prisons and it took nearly 10 hours to control the situation which started around 7 pm last night (29). There were some incidents of arson also reported inside the prisons. 

 

In pictures: Families of prisoners stage protest infront of Mahara prison demanding access

Families of prisoners who are detained at the Mahara prison staged a protest today demanding information with regard to those prisoners who were killed and injured last night. The relatives of the inmates who were injured also demanded authorities to provide information on the health condition and access to them

At least eight prison inmates were killed and 50 injured in a commotion last night inside Mahara Prison at Ragama in the Gampaha district.  Two prison guards held by the prisoners also sustained injuries.

Police Special Task Force (STF) had to be deployed around the prisons and it took nearly 10 hours to control the situation which started around 7 pm last night (29). There were some incidents of arson also reported inside the prisons. Pix by Deepa Addikari

Pandemic Blues

By Himashi Jayasundera:

There is an internal question that is answered throughout the course of one’s lifetime. There will always be an instance where this question will come up and each one of us will have to answer it. When will things get better? However, answering this question is further complicated because we are afraid of being judged as selfish if we prioritise our mental and physical health and perhaps depressed if we do not.

The status quo says that succumbing to one’s emotions and spending time with one’s self is unconventional. The reasons as to why self-contemplation, self-care, and self-prioritising are discouraged is because we have this looming perspective that “self-anything” is bordering on the lines of being selfish. That is not necessarily true. In order for us to serve a greater purpose and impact the community, we must, ourselves, be stable and healthy. Taking care of yourself in all aspects of life is the key component in caring for those around you. Think of it this way, if you are not healthy and stable, how can you possibly provide the same to another person.

This understanding is especially prominent during our present situation. Covid-19 has forever altered so many of our lifestyles. People we used to see face to face on a daily basis have now become lagging FaceTime or Zoom calls. Family members that we used to visit every weekend have to be restricted to socially-distanced conversations on the driveway or air hugs through a screen door. So many things that used to contribute to a slice of happiness after a busy week have been stolen from us.

It is only natural that people are affected to some degree because of these compromises and sacrifices that have to be made for the greater good. I have talked to people from different generations regarding the impact of Covid-19 on their lives. Even though the answers and people’s outlooks on the adaptations they have assumed varied, one answer was shared by each and every person. It was the undeniable fear of both their immediate and long-term future coupled with the overwhelming presence of sadness. Individuals featured in this article are a part of the most impressionable age groups. The professional and personal decisions they make now will have a profound effect on their futures.

I would like to introduce a young individual, who for personal reasons has chosen to remain anonymous. She is a 16+ year student in Sri Lanka who will be sitting for her Advanced Level exams in the early summer of 2021. Like many students her age, she is harboring an ample amount of academic and personal stress. In a normal scenario, students would attend tutoring, school, or even host study groups with their friends. When asked the nature of her greatest sacrifice, she answered,

“I come from a family that is very strict in cultural and academic ways of life. My mindset on education and life is the complete opposite from what my parents believe. So, to distract myself, I relied on being able to go to school and see my friends. I never realised until now how much I would miss such a small activity as my lunch break at school or even P.T. (physical training) class. Both of those segments of my days involved hanging out with my friends. I just miss having that small yet effective moment during my day to forget about grades, sports, university, and parents and just be happy. I don’t know, I just miss it and I know it’s something small compared to what many other people have given up, but it was my safe space. I no longer have that, and I’m scared to face what's ahead without some normalcy in my life.” (Anonymous).

Another hopeful adventure she is looking forward to is, “going off to university locally or internationally.” Unfortunately, that stage in life might be compromised because of Covid-19 as well. Having that milestone taken away from her for the foreseeable future instills a powerful mindset of defeat or lack of purpose. The one thing that she has been preparing for during the entirety of her early education is now in the hands of a future that is determined by this pandemic. A more clinical and fearful way of describing such a mindset is depression. Even more so than before, currently we find vulnerable and impressionable adolescents, who have yet to see the world, sink into various stages and forms of depression.

Young adolescents in this stage of life need to know that they are not alone in any of the emotional and physical tidal waves they may experience during this pandemic. Unfortunately, society tends to stigmatise depression. Depression, sadness, lack of motivation, emotional spikes, etc. is not a weakness or a flaw. It is a normal human reaction when attempting to adapt to an unforeseen situation with no time to prepare.

            For those of us who recently graduated university with hopes of pursuing further studies or jobs, the pandemic blues have determined otherwise. My best friend and I graduated university this past June of 2020. I am so grateful that he was fortunate enough to have a job lined up post graduation. However, there are some of us who did not share the same luck. There is the added pressure of a struggling economy and limited job opportunities. In-person work is close to nonexistent. Companies who offer remote work are not actively hiring because of budget constraints. Simply stated, we have graduated into a recession. That being said, having a job or an internship lined up does not mean that you are completely out of the woods. As my best friend mentioned,

“Even though I did have a job lined up, I was still nervous because the job was not high enough in pay which meant that I was not going to be financially stable to live on my own. As a result, I moved back in with my parents. Yes, quarantining by myself was definitely worse, however, adjusting to my old life back at home in the beginning was an undesirable challenge. I certainly had my fair share of arguments, especially with my dad; but time and patience took precedence. Eventually my mother, father, and I adapted to living together again and having to compromise aspects of our past lives.”

            It is important to acknowledge the shared hate towards the outcomes of the pandemic. A very dear friend of mine, Jeff Sadecki, has shared with me his own challenges which he is successfully overcoming since the start of this crisis. Prior to the dangerous state of this outbreak Jeff had been planning to switch his careers within his field. After graduating university two years ago, he landed a project accounting job with a Chicago based IT company. Until March of 2020, Jeff’s luck with gaining job experience and broadening his capabilities had been inevitable. There were always opportunities for professional growth and comfortable financial stability. However, his progressing career path had come to a stop this past May of 2020.

“I found myself blowing through my checking account and my savings account. Rent, student loans, car loans, groceries, etc. they all started piling up and it all seemed to be never ending. I was at a state where I literally had close to pocket change to my name. It immeasurably compromised my mental and physical health. I lost motivation to keep up with my daily schedule. I didn’t want to workout, I didn’t have an appetite, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Eventually I had enough. I knew that if I didn’t do something about the way I was feeling, I would entirely lose control of my life. My motivation came from really wanting financial stability. I started using my deprivations in my personal and professional life to motivate myself to do better and to maintain my mental health for the sake of those of whom I love and who genuinely care for me. I applied for 200+ jobs and just hearing back from even two jobs shared motivation and demotivation equally; I knew I had to stop lamenting and regressing and keep pushing forward. I didn’t have the luxury to do otherwise. The one realisation I want to share with people is that when you think you’ve reached rock bottom, don’t let up, there will always be further to fall as there is to rise. Someone has to get you to where you want to be and that person is you. Find comfort in the avenues available to you.”

            An interesting aspect to keep in mind is that though this pandemic is an uneven balance of bitter and sweet, so many of us, if not all, have been given the gift of time. Everyone always wants more time whether we are aware of it or not. Yes, we are in the midst of a life-threatening crisis however, we have also been given an unconventional opportunity to gain some perspective on our lives. With that in mind, we should take a moment to properly use this time as a blessing in disguise to weigh all our options. We should commit a majority of our headspace to much needed self-care and personal betterment in every respect. Now that we suddenly have more time, let us learn how to use it to our best advantage, to regain control of our lives. We can take a step back, strategise our next moves, whether personal or professional. Doing so can restore the very control we were stripped of when the pandemic started.

 

Dambulla Economic Centre in chaos

Farmers and traders who visited Special Economic Centre in Dambulla this morning (30) faced difficulty and uncertainty as  the  hand washing facilities provided at the entrance to the Centre had been removed, especially in the backdrop of finding three COVID-infected persons from the premises yesterday (29).

Traders said the hand washing facilities have been removed due to the maintenance work of a drain being carried out at the entrance to the centre and complained that the management had not taken any steps to rectify the situation.

Several traders were seen operating without wearing face masks and following other health guidelines.

All efforts to contact centre manager Christy Wijeratne since yesterday has turned out futile.

(Story and pix by Kanchana Kumara Ariyadasa, Dambulla)

 

UNDP: Towards empowered Sri Lankan households

 


 

2020 has been a profoundly challenging year for Sri Lanka and the world at large with the COVID-19 pandemic causing an unprecedented crisis, so much so that for the very first time since UNDP established the concept of the Human Development Index in 1990, global human development is on track to decline this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted education, disrupted livelihoods and has caused instability in socio-economic conditions of populations at large, proving to have unleashed far-reaching and both short- and long-term impacts on all sectors of our societies and economies. Rising levels of poverty and widening inequalities are amongst concerns for Sri Lanka as well. As the country recovers from this crisis while looking ahead to achieving the SDGs, a holistic and multidimensional approach, beyond the traditional monetary measurement of poverty, will help to better understand the drivers and actions necessary to address poverty in all its forms, UNDP said in a media release.

 

According to the 2020 global report on the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) entitled ‘Charting pathways out of multidimensional poverty: Achieving the SDG’s’, 4.1% of the population in Sri Lanka live below the National poverty line, with 14.3% vulnerable to multidimensional poverty.

 

Multidimensional poverty, assessed in the global report jointly produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), examines poverty beyond income deprivations and identifies multiple deprivations at the household and individual level in health, education and standard of living.

 

To generate a conversation around the MPI tool, as the designated technical lead within the UN system on socio-economic recovery, UNDP with the OPHI, launched the global MPI report in Sri Lanka recently, in collaboration with the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

 

Ceremoniously receiving the first copy at the virtual launch in Sri Lanka, Shehan Semasinghe, State Minister of Samurdhi, Household Economy, Micro Finance, Self-Employment, Business Development and Underutilized State Resources Development stated, “Our policies and interventions can be underpinned using data and evidence presented in the 2020 global report on the Multidimensional Poverty Index. This is key to ensuring that Sri Lanka addresses the COVID-19 socio-economic impacts in a way that leaps forward towards the aspirations of our national policy framework and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

 

 

The report states that across 107 development countries, 1.3 billion are multidimensionally poor, and this number could increase given COVID-19 repercussions. With just 10 years left to achieve the vision of the Sustainable development agenda, the MPI can be a powerful tool to formulate data driven policies that could help the recovery of countries, the UNDP release said.

 

Speaking at the event, Robert Juhkam, Resident Representative of UNDP Sri Lanka stated, “There is no better time than now to introduce a multidimensional approach to poverty in Sri Lanka. It provides a much more nuanced picture of poverty, how it manifests itself in people’s lives and how intensely it is experienced, going beyond income measures. Together we can design a future that looks beyond recovery, towards 2030”.

 

Director General of the Department of Census and Statistics, Dr. Indu Bandara further stated, “The global MPI compliments the traditional measures of poverty and goes beyond income deprivations to identify multiple deprivations at the household and individual level – an important tool to eliminate poverty in all forms".

 

The launch was followed by a panel discussion as a part of UNDP’s Colombo Development Dialogues series, and was moderated by Raashid Riza, Policy and Engagement Analyst, UNDP in Sri Lanka on ‘Understanding vulnerabilities: addressing poverty, towards empowered Sri Lankan households’. The panel comprised Dr. Indu Bandara, Director General of the Department of Census and Statistics; Dr. Sabina Alkire, Director of Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative; Ms. Louise Moreira Daniels, Chief of Social Policy at UNICEF; and Kulasabanathan Romeshun, Senior Research Professional, Centre for Poverty Analysis.

Handing over the report.

 

Sampath Bank offers attractive loan facilities for commercial and residential solar power projects

 


Sampath Bank PLC recently announced the introduction of a solar loan facility, especially tailor-made for projects to set up solar power units on the rooftops of domestic households and industrial establishments.

Under the new loan scheme, owners of residential or commercial buildings can apply for a loan to install solar power generating units up to a maximum of 50 KWh. Multiple loans can also be obtained if required, subject to the 50 KWh maximum capacity. These loans will be offered at an interest rate of 8% while a maximum loan repayment period of up to 10 years will be granted. 

Factories and offices too can obtain loans at attractive interest rates, with a minimum of Rs. 50 million required to be taken. These commercial scale establishments will also receive a maximum loan repayment period of up to 15 years, with a 6-months grace period obtainable if required, the bank said in a media release.

Speaking about the rationale behind the launch of this loan scheme, Nanda Fernando, the Managing Director of Sampath Bank PLC said, “The identification and utilisation of sustainable energy resources for electricity generation is one of the leading environmental concerns facing the world today and solar power has been identified as a key natural energy source that is both sustainable and practical for this purpose. The government has embarked on a project to increase solar power use across the island and we are honoured to support this environmentally conscious project by helping with the financing requirements.”

Prior to applying for the loan facility, applicants should ensure that their preferred solar system supplier is registered with the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA). Furthermore, a minimum 20-year warranty for panels and a minimum 10-year warranty for the inverter should be provided by the manufacturer and a minimum 3-year system warranty should be provided by the solar system supplier.

RPC’s mark World Children’s Day with investment to enhance Early Childhood Development 

The Planters’ Association of Ceylon (PA) is marking World Children’s Day 2020 with a pledge to establish 35 Child Development Centres (CDC’s) on estates belonging to their membership of 21 Regional Plantation Companies (RPC). 
This will add the total number of CDC’s on RPC estates to 258. The setting up of these centres will be carried out by the Plantation Human Development Trust (PHDT), a tripartite organisation of RPC’s, plantation trade unions and Government of Sri Lanka, the PA said in a media release. 
Although early childhood development care started in the plantations only in 2015, as of now 223 such centres have over 30,000 children, being taken care of by qualified teachers, all of whom are diploma holders in early childhood development. 
“Our vision is to make sure that no child is left behind and any investments we have made towards early development of children on our estates is so that they may thrive and have the mind-set for  opportunities, which their parents did not have,” said Chairman Planters’ Association, Bhathiya Bulumulla.
“The work being carried out at our advanced Child Development Centres through the outstanding efforts of our dedicated officers represents a major advancement from the early custodial structures that used to exist. It is testament to how far child development and protection has come in our estates, supported by generous investments from RPCs. We will continue to promote the growth of our youth – investing in our future means investing in our children,” Mr. Bulumulla emphasized. 
 

One of the new centres.

Berendina provides purified drinking water facility in Mullaitivu

Berendina successfully constructed and handed over a Reverse Osmosis (RO) Plant for the people of Ampalavan Pokkanai GN Division of Maritimpattu DS Division in the Mullativu District. 

The handing over ceremony was held on October 26. K. Kanageswaran, Additional District Secretary, Mullaitivu was the Chief Gust of the event who officially declared open the RO Plant. Vanni Parliamentarian Subramanyam Noharathalingam, graced the event as the Guest of Honour while K. Thavaraja, Chairman of Pradesiya Saba, Maritimampattu, Rev. Fr. Mariyathas, and other government officials along with Berendina officials were also present, Beredina said in a media release.
Several people living in North Central Province, Eastern Province and Northern Province in Sri Lanka die every year due to kidney failure (Chronic Kidney Disease – CKD) and one of the contributors to this trend is consuming contaminated ground water. The disease has a direct impact on patients’ daily life including livelihood activities, consumption patterns and their participation in social activities at community level.
Such a situation was prevailing at Ampalavan Pokkanai GN Division which consists of 5 villages with 352 families who live closer to the sea. The main income source of the village community is fishing. These villages were severely affected during the separatist war in 2009. Due to the geological setting of these villages which are closer to the sea and lagoon, 80% of the wells in the villages have salty and murky water with a mix of mineral contents. The villagers have to depend on few wells that provide limited good drinking water or have to walk 6 km to fetch drinking water from a water plant. Due to the consumption of contaminated water, already 11 persons in these villages have been affected by CKD.
After the initial discussion held at the district development committee, the Divisional Secretariat made a request to Berendina to provide a feasible solution to address the grave issue faced by the village community. Subsequently, Berendina agreed to set up a Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant with the contribution of the community which in return immensely benefit the village people. The overall objectives of the project are to provide safe drinking water to the village community, to utilize net profits generated from the social enterprise to be used to health and educational related assistance to families affected by CKD.
The Divisional Secretariat provided the land to build the plant and the ground water is pumped from a dug well located closely. Berendina contributed Rs. 1.4 million for the project, providing the much needed machinery of purification unit and distribution unit of the plant. The building was constructed by the contribution of village community amounting to Rs. 400,000.
The plant has the capacity of providing 10,000 litres per day. It was decided to sell the purified water at a maximum price of Rs. 1.50 per litre which is lesser than purchasing from commercial vendors in the past. It is projected that the average consumption of water per day would be 1,500 litres. The Ambalawanpokkanai Woman Rural Development Society is assigned to manage and maintain the plant. This will enable the Women’s Society to give rural women an opportunity to run an enterprise in a profitable manner, so that they can contribute towards greater services for their community.
Some of the expected benefits from successfully running the RO plant are provide quality and safe drinking water for at least 600 families in Mullaitivu district at an affordable price, increasing the quality of life by easy access to water, less time spent on traveling for water, etc, improve the health conditions of village community by minimizing the spreading of kidney disease due to contaminated water consumption, create a sustainable income generation activity local community based organization, and support CKD affected families with their medical needs and their children with scholarships to continue education through the profits generated from the venture, the release said.
 

Opening of the new water plant