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Thursday August 18th, 2022

Is Kurunegala losing its multicultural heritage?

The Kurunegala district is one place in Sri Lanka where the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa can expect a good chunk of votes and a clear majority.

After all, his elder brother, Opposition Leader Mahinda is the local Member of Parliament.

There is also another demographic factor that applies to this region.

Women’s activist Sumika Perera points out that a large percentage of the population have connections to the Security Forces and Police. Kurunegala “has a large number of war widows, disabled security forces personnel and current members of the armed forces,” Perera told RepublicNext in an interview.

Women’s activist Sumika Perera says Kurunegala is fertile ground for Nationalist politics/RepublicNext.com

The war victory cry, therefore, resonates here.

The Elections Commission reported last week that the largest number of postal votes was cast in this election in the Kurunegala district, another indication that many of its voting-age citizens were already mustered for deployment on Election Day for special duties.

“Because of this demographic factor, Kurunegala has been a fertile ground for various Nationalist movements, such as Rise-Up Wayamba,” she says.

In the 2018 Local Government elections the newly formed SLPP won the Kurunegala Municipality narrowly, beating the second-placed United National Party by less than one percentage point 38.95% to 38.36%. But overall in the district the SLPP swamped rest of the field taking a 15% lead.

This is also a place where there has been a significant rise in ethnic tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the smaller but significant minority the Muslims.

The Kurunegala Municipality has closed down Beef shops in recent months and a huge outcry was raised when a Muslim Surgeon Dr. Shafi Siyabdeen working at the Kurunegala Hospital was accused of rendering hundreds of Sinhala Buddhist women infertile.

President’s Counsel Mohamed Ali Sabri, an SLPP supporter said in a Twitter conversation that it was a group connected to the party that was responsible for the outcry.

A picture of the tweet sent by President’s Counsel Mohamed Ali Sabry with regard to the Dr Shafi controversy

A Police investigation into the allegation has found no evidence of guilt on Shafi’s part.

In contrast, the region has a long history of amity between the various racial groups.

Take the phenomenon of the worship of the local deity Galebandara, the son of King Buvenekabahu the First who reigned in the latter part of the 13th century from Kurunegala and his Muslim Queen Fatima.

Galebandara is worshipped at two places, a regular Kovil which attracts people of all faiths as well as at a Muslim shrine, where again people of faiths come for blessings.

Upali Ratnayake Hereditary Custodian of the Galebandara Kovil find people of all races and religions seeking blessings here/RepublicNext.com

Upali Ratnayake the Hereditary Custodian of the Kovil says there is a connection between the Sinhalese and the Muslims from the time of the ancient kings because of this. Galebandara is worshipped despite the fact that he as Prince Wathhimi was killed by Sinhalese because he executed local Shamans.

The remains of Queen Fatima also lies in a shrine where many pilgrims come. Here she is known as Sithy Umma and locals believe she was a Persian woman who the King saw when he was riding and was struck by her beauty and married her.

The Shrine is looked after by the fifth Hereditary Woman custodian Meherun. She says she “communicates with the Queen” when she prays.

Weerapokune Sumangala Thero blames politicians for racial tensions/RepublicNext.com

The acting Chief Incumbent of the Eth Kanda Buddhist temple, Weerapokune Sumangala Thero asserts that although there are Muslims, Tamils and other minorities in Sri Lanka it remains a Sinhala Buddhist country and people live together in peace. “When there is tensions or issues between the races it is usually created by politicians for their ends,” he added.

Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala Keerthisiri Fernando says, politicians create fear of the “other”/RepublicNext.com

The Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala Rev Keerthisiri Fernando, who is a scholar and writer on race relations agrees. “Politicians want to show that they are better than their opponents. So they create a fear of another community and say if you stay with us, we can look after you so that they can get more votes.”

Activist Perera says usually people of different ethnicities do not mix or inter-marry much “but lived within their own communities in peace.

She also does not expect any racial clashes to be generated during the current Presidential election campaign. “These parties know that they need the Muslim votes to win the election, so I predict that until the election is over there will be ethnic peace.”

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Japan grants medical equipment worth 500-mn yen to Sri Lanka govt hospital

ECONOMYNEXT –  The  Japanese government has granted medical equipment worth 500 million Japanese yen to the Sri Jayawardenepura government hospital to improve the hospital’s treatment facilities under Japan’s Non-Project Grant Aid Programme.

A statement by the Department of External Resources said the grant was given in response to a request by Sri Lanka’s government.

Under the 500 million Japanese yen (approximately 1,265 million rupees) grant assistance, angio-CT machine, other radiology equipment, ophthalmic instruments, surgical instrument sets (stainless steel with satin finish), 15 dental units with accessories, liver transplant instrument sets, and a cardiac catheterization laboratory will be provided, a statement said on Thursday August 18.

Sri Lanka due to its worst economic crisis in its post-independence history is currently facing shortages of essential medicine, non-essential and lifesaving medicines pressuring the health sector to only attend to emergency cases to preserve available limited medicine stocks.

On Thursday at the policy rate announcement media briefing by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said, with the strict measures taken in the recent past, Sri Lanka is currently managing the limited forex income coming into the country to purchase essential goods such as fuel and medicine.

Sri Lanka has received various grants from several countries including China and India which gave a 200 million US dollar credit line to purchase medicine from India.

In June, Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella said there is no shortage of vital medicines in the country and all medicines will be restocked by August 2022. However, shortages of medicine aer still being reported in various hospitals islandwide.

“This improvement at the hospital will facilitate the enhancement of the quality of the care provided especially to the patients with non-communicable diseases while enabling high quality medical professional training to medical undergraduates and postgraduates from the National School of Nursing at the aculty of Medical Sciences of the University of Sri Jayawardenepura,” the External Resources Department statement said.

“This project will eventually assist the development of human resources of the health sector in Sri Lanka,” it said. (Colombo/Aug18/2022)

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Sri Lanka immigration on the hunt for Scotswoman who documented protests

Kayleigh Fraser via @kayzfraser Instagram

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Immigration and Emigration Department is attempting to track down Kayleigh Fraser, the Scotswoman who documented the country’s anti government protests.

Fraser was ordered to leave the island on or before Monday August 15 after officials cancelled her visa. She and her lawyer had filed a writ petition against her deportation with the Supreme Court, which was dismissed on the grounds that she was not being deported deported, only had her visa cancelled.

“The learned State Council submits that the impugned document ‘X4’ is not a deportation order as claimed by the petitioner and she confirmed that no deportation order has been made up to date by the authorities against the petitioner,” a court document shared by Fraser said.

Immigration officials stated that the police and SSD were on the lookout for Fraser.

“Her visa was cancelled on August 15, so we are looking to put her in a detention camp until she can get a ticket to leave the country,” the official told EconomyNext, confirming that Fraser was not getting deported but that her visa was cancelled.

“Legally we cannot give her a grace period, but on a humanitarian basis, we can give her the time to get a ticket,” the official said.

Fraser had used her social media to share pictures and videos of the anti-government protests in front of the Presidential Secretariat, and has been vocal against state sanctioned violence against protestors.

“Given what I have witnessed here in Colombo – the chemical weapons attacks on protestors, the government instructing the military to beat and torture protestors, the arbitrary arrests and blackmailing of prominent faces from the protests, intimidation tactics and threats etc – I should not be surprised at what has happened today,” she said, speaking to the Daily Record, a Scottish tabloid.

There were no reports of chemical weapons being used against any protestors in Sri Lanka, and it is unclear whether Fraser was erroneously referring to tear gas which was used to disperse crowds.

Fraser also called out media channels who she claimed had attempted to misrepresent peaceful protests as violent.

“It became very clear to me early on that this was not being reported. There was no international coverage on what was happening, and the media here were very much trying to say that it was violent, but that is the absolute opposite of what I saw,” she said over social media.

“What I saw was a beautiful union [of people] coming together in absolute unity. It was a beautiful movement and I’ve never seen anything like that in my life and that kept me coming back.”

However, Sri Lanka’s authorities maintain that the arrests so far have been legal and that violence did occur on the part of some protestors, though activists and some civil society groups disagree. On May 09, after supporters of then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa launched an unprovoked attack on peaceful protestors in Colombo, a wave of retaliatory mob-violence erupted across the country which saw the residences of some parliamentarians torched to the ground. One government MP was killed.

Authorities say many of the arrests so far have been of protestors who had violated court orders or had illegally occupied government buildings.

Fraser continues to post on her social media. (Colombo/Aug18/2022)

 

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Selling price in Sri Lanka’s apartments increase by over 47 pct: property tracker

ECONOMYNEXT – Overall selling prices of apartments in Sri Lanka increased by 45.17 percent when compared to June 2021, according LankaPropertyWeb’s housing price index.

Devaluation of the Sri Lankan rupee against the US dollar which has resulted in shortages of raw materials for construction which has in turn led to skyrocketing costs of construction and rising interest for housing loans, a report said, has prevented the construction of new houses leading to an increase in the purchase of houses and apartments.

The overall asking prices of houses in Sri Lanka had increased by 21.85 percent and prices of apartments for sale in Colombo had increased by 32.9 percent when compared to June 2021.

The Construction Industry Development Authority showed that the average price of a 50Kg cement bag sold by public and private dealers has increased by 187 percent from June 2021 to June 2022.

LankaPropertyWeb’s Development Consultancy and Research Team data showed that the top five searches for apartments for sale were from Colombo 2, Colombo 3, Colombo 5, Colombo 6 and Rajagiriya.

A resident from an apartment in Colombo 06 said, “We moved to this area due to the convenience, we spend less on transport and can go by bus, train or even walk to destinations. This was a massive save for us during the peak of the fuel crisis.”

Sri Lanka’s overall residential land price has dropped by 62.90 percent, a seasoned constructor told EconomyNext. This is because people are no longer interested in investing in lands and are less motivated to build houses because of the high rates of interest for housing and loans and there is value for money, he said.

Geethal Perera, an apartment builder in Colombo said: “Locals are not investing in assets or real estate because of the tumor in the economic conditions. However many overseas are investing because the international value for money on the rupee is favorable.”

The website also recorded a surge in search traffic from countries such as the UK, Australia, the US, Canada, and the UAE, said Tharindu Jayarathne, Head of Research at LankaPropertyWeb. (Colombo/Aug18/2022)

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