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The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has expressed strong displeasure over revelations that at the Peradeniya University, nine academic and non-academic staff members, have gone on foreign training programmes in Germany and Italy at a cost of Rs. 6,690,000 in taxpayer funds, despite clear instructions not to do so.  

COPE noted that the staff members disregarded multiple circulars issued since last year, instructing university academic and non-academic staff not to go on such foreign trips and training programmes at State expense given the prevailing economic crisis.

Despite these instructions, nine of the university’s academic and non-academic staff members had gone overseas for foreign training programmes in January this year.

Accordingly, COPE had expressed its strong displeasure to university officials who were summoned before the Committee on March 22. The Committee had also pointed out the administrative and financial issues that may arise if similar decisions were taken by other State universities and government institutions.



Hiran Abeysekera

Lankan-born Hiran in the Broadway spotlight

The New York Times Arts Section on Friday published a review on the new Broadway play “Life of Pi”–about a 17-year-old youth floating in the high seas on a boat with a tiger on board. This was also the subject of a movie in 2012.

The lead role of Pi Patel is played by Hiran Abeysekera, a Sri Lankan-born, former Nalanda College student. Though he was involved in English drama at school, he cut his teeth in drama in Sinhala theatre under the wings of Somalatha Subasinghe, Kaushalya Fernando and Chandana Aluthge.

His big break came when he played the role of Equus, in Peter Shaffer’s complex, disturbing, psychological drama about a 17-year-old youth who blinded six horses. The British Council then discovered him after his role in Romeo and Juliet and he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, where he read for his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Acting.

In an interview with the Sunday Times Plus section, he said the Royal Academy was a “scary” place as one had three minutes to impress three of the greats in the acting field.  

The New York Times drama critic’s verdict comes in the final two sentences of the review: “That roaring you will hear at the show’s end? It’s the sound of a standing ovation.”

It is playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, formerly the Plymouth Theatre, a Broadway theatre in midtown Manhattan in New York City.

Hiran is an active member of the Lanka Children’s and Youth Theatre Foundation and seems to be going from strength to strength in his acting career–now in New York’s famed Broadway.




Controversy over Eastern Governor’s plan to change Punnaikuda Road to Elvis Walgama Road

Eastern Province Governor Anuradha Yahampath has been involved in several controversies in recent months.

The latest was in the Eravur town, when she tried to rename a street which had been in existence since the colonial days. The existing name of the road is Punnaikuda Road and it is to be changed to Elvis Walgama Road.

Several protests were lodged over the plan, on the grounds that it would disturb ethnic harmony. A meeting by opposing factions was held this week in Batticaloa, but the Governor had not changed her position. In one of the other recent controversies, the Governor had made an attempt to release lands used for cattle grazing for farming activities.


Back benchers  want publicity

A group of Government backbencher Parliamentarians have voiced concern that failing to give broad publicity for relief and development work carried out by the Government is a grave mistake.

They have pointed out to the President
and other Government leaders that they should give publicity to the development work
carried out by them, even without conducting grand celebrations.

The back benchers have pointed out that the government is currently carrying out relief programmes for people at ground level, but as publicity is not given for the work, other political parties are becoming more prominent. For examples they pointed out that the Government had provided fertiliser free of charge, while providing other relief during the economic crisis.


Chaos at Pillayan’s meeting: MPs denied entry

Chaos reigned at this week’s Batticaloa District Development Committee meeting after two Parliamentarians were locked out of the meeting venue for several hours.

State Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, alias Pilliyan, was presiding over the sessions, while Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarians Shanakiyan Rasamanickam and N. Viyalendran were knocking at the gates and trying to enter the premises. This is despite Mr Viyalendran supporting the Government. Police officers too were blocking the main gate preventing the MPs from entering the premises. An hour later, the two MPs managed to storm into the hall. They raised a range of issues including illegal sand mining, unauthorised land distribution, the allocation of paddy lands to a foreign company for solar power projects and encroaching of State land by outsiders. They asked why they were prevented from entering the premises.

State Minister Chandrakanthan hit back to say the MPs were in it as a cheap publicity gimmick to be displayed in front of journalists.  The meeting ended amid chaos, wasting the time of more than 100 public officials who had come from various parts of the Batticaloa district.

Punctuality is a waste of time

A German tourism promoter was one of those addressing a media conference at the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority on Friday.

He praised the hospitality of Sri Lankan people and arrangements made within the country. However he said he noticed one shortcoming.

“What we propose in Sri Lanka is to be punctual. You have a time-bending culture here. In Germany we are sharp on time,” he said.

He said Sri Lankan culture was
well respected in Germany, but Sri Lankan people needed to improve on their punctuality.

Children should be educated from early age on sexual and reproductive health, expert says

Rohini Kumari Wijerathna, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Caucus for Children, has informed Education Ministry officials to appoint a special committee in coordination with the Education Ministry to prepare textbooks on sexual and reproductive health for school students.

Education Ministry officials told the Caucus for Children that textbooks have already been prepared to educate school students over the age of sixteen about sexual and reproductive health.

However, the Committee emphasised that since there is a need to educate children about sexual and reproductive health from an early age, the preparation of textbooks for them should start immediately, the Parliament’s Communications Department said.

It was also emphasised that the Committee should organise programmes to educate religious leaders, parents and media personnel about the need to educate students about sexual and reproductive health to protect them from sexual abuse.

These developments are indeed encouraging. However, it was not so long ago that various religious leaders, politicians and sections of the media led a campaign against the Grade 7 text book on reproductive health titled “Hathe Ape Potha.”

Hearings into the book conducted before Parliament committees back then, erupted into fiery exchanges at times. If past experiences are anything to go by, this new Committee is likely to have its hands full.


The lotus bud appeared and disappeared from the Colombo Port City entrance board this week

Lotus bud appears and disappears from Colombo Port City sign board

In the Colombo Port City, the sign above the entrance underwent a bizarre change this week, before mysteriously reverting to its original form.

Earlier in the week, a new addition was made to the large white sign that has the words “Port City Colombo.” This addition was a red and blue symbol that was clearly a lotus bud; perhaps a nod to the other famous landmark in Colombo built with Chinese investments–the Lotus Tower.

It did not take long however, for the lotus bud to mysteriously disappear and for Port City to revert to its earlier
sign board.

It has now come to light that the lotus bud or pohottuwa symbol has been removed following several complaints from the people, who have made their feelings clear in some colourful language.

BIA digital sign boards now in Hindi and Chinese also

With the increase of tourist arrivals from India and China, the airport authorities have come up with a solution to provide directions to tourists by introducing Hindi and Chinese on the digital sign boards.

Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) officials said the initiative frees them from the trouble of directing passengers. The digital sign boards, which were earlier in Sinhala, Tamil and English, would now have Hindi and
simplified Chinese characters.