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Sri Lankan Hindus and their brethren across the globe since ancient times pay obeisance to Lord Shiva on this Mahashivarathri, with utmost reverence and expectation of dispelling darkness of ignorance and acquiring wisdom.

Hindus believe that the blessings of the Lord Shiva, who they consider as the most powerful deity of the universe, will help to achieve social and economic prosperity and good health, as well as to nurture spiritual development of the devotees.

The Mahashivarathri is the day Hindu devotees all over the world undertake a fast and offer prayers through the day and night and indulge in various cultural activities to pay homage to Lord Shiva and seek his blessings for salvation. Hindu devotees believe that by meditating and venerating Lord Shiva with a tranquil mind they could embark on the path to attain spiritual enlightenment.

Since ancient times thiscolourful and vibrant cultural celebration by Hindu devotees has enriched our society. These religious rituals have also paved way for multiple literary creations and numerousdancing traditions.

In the previous year, the Hindu devotees were compelled to observe and celebrate the Mahashivarathri day adhering to the health guidelines due to COVID-19 pandemic. Eventhough, there is some relaxation of certain restrictions, I believe that they will celebrate the Mahashivarathri day this time too adhering to the health guidelines as they did last year.

Finally, I wish as the spirit of light illuminate your life, the blessings of Lord Shiva bestow upon us to achieve our objectives of establishing peace, reconciliation and happiness in the society.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has emphasized that his government has no intention of hiding the report of the Presidential Commission on the Easter Sunday attack. The President says that there are no negotiations in this matter with any person or party and he does not expect to appease anyone either.

The Easter Sunday attack is a national issue. It should not be made a political theme. The victims of this attack are entitled to a proper and accurate investigation into the cause of their tragedy. Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s agony and his genuine concern regarding this matter is justifiable.The President points out that it is sad and hilarious that the politicians of the former government who were silent at the time of the attack are raising black flags now.

The Easter attack took place in 2019 when the previous government was in power. Disillusioned with the wrong policies of the then government, the people demonstrated their anger to the then government in the cooperative elections as well as in the local government elections in February 2018. The President notes that he didn’t come to power exploiting the Sunday Easter attacks.

For the government in power before 2015, national security was a top priority. Those who came to power in 2015 ignored national security. No matter what human rights allegations are made, the defence policy that was in effect before 2015 is back in operation.

The President emphasized that the government is responsible for the national security of the country. President Rajapaksa says that there is no room for separatist terrorism or Islamic extremism and strongly rejects all baseless allegations.

The President expressed these views during the 13th ‘Discussion with the Village’ programme held at the Maduragama grounds in the Weragala Grama Niladhari Division, Giribawa Divisional Secretariat in the Kurunegala District on Saturday (6).

The ‘Discussion with the Village’ programme commenced on September 25, 2020 from the Badulla district. Thereafter programmes were organized covering the Matale, Ratnapura, Anuradhapura, Ampara, Polonnaruwa, Kalutara, Moneragala, Kegalle, Kandy, Puttalam and Trincomalee districts. The idea behind this programme is for the President to talk to the rural communities living in remote and difficult areas, without intermediaries, about their long-standing unresolved problems and to present them directly to the officials in order to find solutions.

Problems that can be solved on the spot are instantly addressed. The rest which takes time to deal with are noted down to find solutions later. The objective of the programme is to reach out to the people of the village, understand their problems and find solutions giving considerations to their own suggestions.

The Giribawa Divisional Secretariat is located 27 km away from Galgamuwa town, bordering the Anuradhapura district in the north and the Puttalam district in the West. The distance from the centre of the Giribawa town to Weragala village is three kilometres. Weragala has been identified as the poorest and the most difficult Grama Niladhari Division out of the 35 Grama Niladhari Divisions in the Giribawa Divisional Secretariat.

The villages of Weragala and Maduragama fall under the Weragala Grama Niladhari Division. According to folklore it is the village where Prince Saliya accompanied Asoka Mala and hid, and it came to be known as Hangogama and later Maduragama. The history of Weragala Raja Maha Vihara dates back to King Walagamba’s era. The two villages of Weragala and Maduragama comprising 149 families have a total population of 449. Cultivation of paddy, sesame, maize, cowpea, mung and undu are the main livelihoods of the people.

On the way to the Maduragama ground from the Giribawa public ground to attend the ‘Discussion with the Village’ programme, the President spoke with the people gathered on both sides of the road and inquired into issues and difficulties they face in the area.

The ‘Deyata Eliya’ programme to supply electricity to all rural households without electricity envisioned in the national policy framework ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ was launched under the patronage of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in parallel to the ‘Discussion with the Village’ programme at Weragala, Giribawa, on Saturday.

The ‘Deyata Eliya’ programme will provide electricity to all Samurdhi beneficiaries and the low-income families in the Samurdhi waiting list. The Ceylon Electricity Board will provide the connection free of charge and for the wiring of the houses, the Samurdhi Bank plans to facilitate concessionary loans. The government expects to provide electricity to all the identified houses before the end of this year.

Divyanjali Elwaladeniya, a Grade 7 student of U.B. Wanninayake Vidyalaya, Galgamuwa presented her book Kiriatthage Sihinaya to the President.

Another objective of President Rajapaksa is to improve school library facilities in all areas where the ‘Discussion with the Village’ programme is held. The President presented sets of books to schools under the theme ‘A generation empowered with knowledge’. Each school receives 500 books covering a number of disciplines to assist students in their further education.

 

Restoration of the Pahala Giribawa Wewa commenced under the instructions of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa today (08).

The villagers requested the President to renovate the tank during the “Discussion with the Village” program held in the Weragala Grama Niladhari Division, Giribawa Divisional Secretariat in the Kurunegala District last Saturday (06).

Following the directives of the President to expedite the reconstruction of the Sri Lanka Land Development Corporation commenced the renovation of the tank immediately.

The Giribawa Wewa covers an area of 64 hectares. It supplies water for cultivation purposes of the lands belonging to 250 families. Due to the dilapidated state of the tank farmers could only cultivate two seasons. The reconstruction of the tank is expected to be completed soon and provide water for the cultivation purposes of all three seasons

Families who had been in possession of government lands without clear ownership started receiving grants under the patronage of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa today (08) at the Presidential Secretariat.

The government’s objective is to ensure that every family owns a land with undisputed ownership as envisioned in the National Policy Framework “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”. Under the provisions of the Land Development Ordinance and the State Land Ordinance, grants will be awarded to 20,000 persons based on legal criteria covering the entire island during the first phase of the program.

Program prioritizes low-income families whose livelihood is cultivation. The government intends to empower and encourage them by providing with ownership rights to their lands in order to increase their level of income.

The recipients of these lands can use them to build a house, for agricultural purposes, for other crops and business activities. It is expected to strengthen the national economy with the contribution made by the recipients of these lands via effective and full utilization of them.

The grant, awarded by the President, is considered a deed, indicating undisputed ownership of the specific land. The beneficiaries of this grant can obtain a bank loan placing them as collateral. The President stated that he expects to issue 100,000 ownership grants before the end of this year.

President Rajapaksa presented grants to 19 persons representing all provinces to symbolize the launch of the program today.

The program is jointly carried out by the Presidential Secretariat, the Ministry of Lands and the Ministry of Mahaweli.

Minister S.M. Chandrasena, State Ministers Siripala Gamalath, and Anuradha Jayaratne, Secretary to the President PB Jayasundera, Principal Adviser to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Secretaries and officials of line ministries were also present at the occasion.

 
 

It is the duty of the Govt. to make lives a success, irrespective of examination failures

          Says Prime Minister  

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa today (02) inaugurated the ‘Skills Sri Lanka’ programme designed under the theme ‘A Generation with Competencies’ at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) in Colombo.

The State Ministry of Skills Development, Vocational Education, Research & Innovation implements this programme with the objective of creating a skilled workforce to cater to the needs of an increasingly globalized and interdependent world economy.

Overall, 70% of the total unemployed population is in the “unskilled” category.  In this context, it is essential to make them a demand-driven workforce that meets present day requirements in the job market. The ‘Skills Sri Lanka’ programme plans to establish an island-wide broad network of social infrastructure for school dropouts and for the unskilled sections among both the unemployed and employed categories.  Skills development will be carried out under 08 categories through long and short term courses.

The President unveiled the official logo of ‘Skills Sri Lanka’.

The President also inaugurated the programme to provide a monthly stipend of Rs. 4,000 / – for all students who purse courses in the fields they choose.

Five buses designed as mobile vocational training units will be operated island wide from today in parallel to the implementation of the programme.

President Rajapaksa officially handed over the buses to the Chairman of the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority.

State Minister Sita Arambepola presented the first copy of the ‘Skills Sri Lanka’ newspaper to the President.

The Prime Minister presented protective clothing to students who are selected to pursue vocational training.

Addressing the gathering, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stated that it is the responsibility of the government to clear the path for future generations to enrich their lives, regardless of failures in examinations. The Prime Minister further said that the government will fulfill its responsibilities with utmost commitment to equip the youth of this country with professional skills that needed to match with the advanced society in the modern world.

Private firms Piza Hut and Orange handed over their letters of intent to Minister of State Sita Arambepola acknowledging their contribution to the ‘Skills Sri Lanka’ programme.

The event was attended by the Maha Sangha, other religious leaders, Ministers, Secretaries to Ministries and government officials.

The cheque to the value of Rs. 50 million, donated by the Buddhist TV channel to the “Deeghawapiya Aruna” fund was handed over to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by the Board of Directors of the Buddhist Media Network at the Presidential Secretariat today (March 02).

The restoration of the Deeghawapiya stupa is the first and foremost conservation project decided by the Presidential Task Force on Archaeological Heritage Management in the Eastern Province.

The fund “Deegawapiya Aruna” was launched on February 12th under the patronage of the President and the Prime Minister. The construction of the rest house which is to be carried out simultaneously with the “Deegawapiya Aruna” restoration program is estimated to cost a total of Rs. 75 million. Mr. Sudath Tennakoon donated Rs. 25 million for the construction of the rest house.

The Buddhist channel has donated the remaining Rs. 50 million.

Former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, former Navy Commander Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Archaeological Heritage Management in the Eastern Province, Secretary of Defence General (Retired) Kamal Gunaratne, Secretary of the Brigade Jeewanthie Senanayake, Dilith Jayaweera, Suranimala Senaratne, Harsha Alles, Sudath Tennakoon and several others were present at this occasion.

A copy of the final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) to investigate and inquire into the Easter Sunday attacks has been handed over to Most Venerable Thibbatuwawe Sri Sumangala Thero, Mahanayaka of the Malwatta Chapter and Most Venerable Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thero, Mahanayaka of the Asgiriya Chapter.

The report was handed over by the Director General, Legal Affairs of the Presidential Secretariat Hariguptha Rohanadheera at the Malwathu Maha Viharaya and Asgiri Maha Viharaya respectively, today (01).

Meanwhile, a copy of the final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) to investigate and inquire into the Easter Sunday attacks was also handed over to His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo by the Director General, Legal Affairs of the Presidential Secretariat Hariguptha Rohanadheera .

The event took place at the Archbishop’s House in Colombo.

The final report was presented to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 1st February at the Presidential Secretariat.

 
 

  • Special focus on agriculture, trade, technology and tourism sectors

The formal meeting between the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan who is on a two-day official visit to Sri Lanka and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took place at the Presidential Secretariat this morning (24).

Upon his arrival at the venue, the Pakistani Premier was received by the Secretary to the President P. B. Jayasundera and Foreign Secretary Admiral Professor Jayanath Colombage.

President and the Pakistan Prime Minister engaged in a lengthy discussion on improving bilateral relations. The visiting leader was of the view that the dialogue was very fruitful.

Two leaders exchanged views on sharing technical knowhow in order to promote agriculture in both the countries.

The two leaders stated that it is their objective to develop agricultural economy while ensuring higher revenue for the farmer and fair price for the consumer. The agricultural economy in Pakistan is quite similar to that of Sri Lanka, the Pakistan Prime Minister observed.

Pakistan is a main player in the export sector of Sri Lanka. President and the Pakistani Prime Minister paid attention to the steps that need to be taken to promote trade and expansion of investment opportunities between the two countries.

Inviting Pakistani people to visit Sri Lanka with the COVID pandemic subsiding, President shared his views on the measures to be taken to develop tourism sectors in both the countries.

Two leaders also focused on several areas of mutual interest including sharing technical knowledge.

Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Adviser to Prime Minister for Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood, Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis, Zulfiqar Hussain Bukhari, Foreign Secretary of Pakistan Sohail Mahmood, High Commissioner of Pakistan to Sri Lanka Maj. Gen. (Retd) Muhammad Saad Khattak, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister in Attendance Ali Sabri, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage participated in the bilateral discussion.

 
 

In the face of prevailing COVID – 19 pandemic the Government has taken every possible measure to provide all required facilities notwithstanding the health related restrictions imposed to ensure safety of the public. As the tourism sector is a vital component of the national economy of this country, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa called on the entrepreneurs of the field to get ready to embark on a new journey by overcoming challenges.

President made these remarks during a discussion with the representatives of the tourism sector held at the Presidential Secretariat today (17). Heads of line institutes in the tourist industry and leading entrepreneurs were present.

Attention was paid to give priority to the personnel such as hotel employees, tour guides and drivers under the ongoing COVID vaccination programme.  It was stated that there is no requirement to quarantine service providers when the tourists are not tested positive.

A decision was taken to shuttle the infected tourists to the hospital in Koggala managed by Lanka Hospital (Pvt) Limited and Sri Lanka Army. President instructed officials to pay due attention to direct the tourists as per the approved tourism plan.

The President advised the relevant officials to make necessary measures to improve facilities for tourists and to take into account the comments made by them when they depart to their respective countries.

The entrepreneurs stated that they will take all steps possible to achieve future goals under proper strategies as the government has already provided necessary reliefs.

During the discussion it was revealed that according to the figures, the percentage of COVID-19 infected tourists, who arrived in the country during the outbreak, is less than 1%.

Head of the Presidential Task Force for Economic Revival and Poverty Alleviation, Basil Rajapaksa, stated that the advantage of Sri Lanka ranking at the 10th place in the COVID-19 Performance Index for its successful handling of the coronavirus pandemic can be utilized for the promotion of tourism industry. He further stressed that the individuals, who are engaged in tourism should take necessary measures to uplift the industry by adhering to the health guidelines, during this challenging period.

Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga, the Acting Health Minister Prof. Channa Jayasumana, State Ministers Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle, D.V. Chanaka, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera and Ministry Secretaries, Heads of State Institutions related to the tourism industry, members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Prevention and other officials participated in the discussion.

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