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Thursday, 14 March 2013

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Green Card lottery winners in dilemma

The US Embassy in Sri Lanka invited applications for the Diversity Immigration Visa (DV) Programme in 2011. At that time the required educational qualification was the successful completion of 12 years elelmentary and secondary education (which is qualifying the GCE O/L in six subjects) or two years work experience. The US Embassy in Sri Lanka conducted several promotional campaigns all over the country inducing applicants for this DV lottery programme. The Embassy has now informed the lucky winners to call over on given dates for interviews to issue visas.

Although thousands of Sri Lankans applied only 801 were selected. The selectees used the embassy websites to prepare the required reports such as medical, police, educational etc. to be submitted at the visa interviews. For this purpose, they had to incur much cost. At no stage was there any requirement of the GCE (A/L) stipulated in the embassy website. Prior notice for the visa interviews were also not provided. However, a sudden decision made by the US Embassy officials in Colombo requesting for three passes at the GCE (A /L) at the time of visa interviews has caused applicants to lose their opportunities and expectations for emigration.

According to the programme, the winners are entitled to take along their family members. Some family members who are well educated stand to lose their opportunities, due to this unexpected and unfair decision.

Applications were called for the lottery programme in 2001 based on a 12 year successful completion of education equivalent to GCE (O/L) and the sudden change in decision is unfair to the selectees. It would be justifiable if the GCE (A/L) requirement was announced at the time of calling applications in 2011. Those selected therefore request the Embassy to grant visas to those with GCE (O/L) qualifications as advertised in 2011 in this lottery in this instance. The selectees expect a favourable solution to this issue from the US Embassy of Sri Lanka as they have become victims of this sudden decision.

Selectees who lost chances


Northern seas Poaching

Since the end of the war in 2009 when restrictions on fishing in the Northern seas were lifted by the Sri Lankan government, clashes between Sri Lankan fishermen in the North and their Tamil Nadu counterparts operating in the Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar has been frequently reported in the media. Newspapers occasionally have carried reports of fishermen from either side being arrested in each others territorial waters and jailed for weeks, months and in some cases even for over a year until their release following state intervention.

It is common knowledge that fishing in the Bay of Bengal is shared by five countries namely, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Maldives, Pakistan and Burma.

Each country has limitations or maritime boundaries called Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). When the boundaries or zones are positioned close to land, it paves the way for clashes between fishermen. Sri Lanka and India are experiencing such a situation, especially in the North and the North West.

According to recent media reports, on a rough estimate 600 Indian vessels illegally fish in Sri Lanka's maritime boundaries at any given time, although the need to respect the international maritime boundaries has been stressed by Sri Lankan authorities.

It is said that the Indians have more than 5,000 trawlers and use sophisticated hi-tech fishing gear compared to the small fleet of mostly day-fishing boats used by Sri Lankan fishermen from Jaffna and Mannar. The use of hi-tech gear also leads to over exploitation of fisheries resources in the Bay of Bengal maritime eco-system. It need not be said that the degradation of the eco-system could deplete the catch of fishermen from all the five countries which share the area.

To overcome this problem, the Ministry of Fisheries should initiate action to stop poaching, with a programme integrating a vessel monitoring system. Since technology has developed in Sri Lanka this could be easily done at a low cost, adopting the expertise knowledge of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation of Moratuwa. A satellite based system could be implemented to monitor, control and also for the surveillance of all fishing vessels in the Northern seas. There should also be a fisheries management protection programme for the betterment of the fishing industry.

Harshi Nadie Perera - Piliyandala


Hats off to the religious leaders

The controversy over the issue of Halal Certificate issued by ACJU, which many would have thought was vexed, met with an amicable solution, after the deliberations with all the stakeholders including the leading members of the Budhdhist clergy and the Ulemas.

It was no doubt a win-win situation for all concerned. Hats off to Ven Bellanwila Wimalarathna Thera, Ven Welamitiyawe Kusaladhamma Thera, Ven Brahmanawatte Sivali Thera, Ven Kotugoda Dhammawasa Thera, Ven Iththapane Dhammalankara Thera and ACJU President M I M Rizvi and all other priests for their untiring efforts for finding a way out of the crisis situation.

This letter is to suggest that this should be the way forward if any ethnic crisis does arise in the future. Protest marches and/or any other forms of vilification campaigns need not be resorted to in the future. Then Sri Lanka will be a role model to be followed by other countries in ethnic crisis management.

Mohamed Zahran Colombo 3.


Office trains are ‘classless’

For about five decades, office trains have been running 'classless' on the orders of the then Transport Minister Anil Moonesinghe made on the request of the GCSU, a powerful trade union at that time. I joined the Railway Department in 1951 and travelled from Ambalangoda from 1959 until I retired in 1986. During that time, our office train to Maradana was provided with two Second Class compartments as we were entitled to second class travel.

During the mid sixties a change took place on the instructions of the then Transport Minister. Since then, this practice continued till of late when new Power Coach sets were imported from India and China, where some bogies were provided for second class passengers.

I saw a TV news item in which the Samudra Devi office train had been provided with a new Power Coach set where some bogies provided were Second Class. This train had replaced the former Samudra Devi which operated as a 'Classless Train' during the lsst few years. Since the daily travellers by Samudra Devi were used to travel in any compartment, as it was classified as a 'classless train' the Railway Protection Force Officers had found fault with the travellers who were in the new second class bogie in the Samudra Devi, for no fault of theirs.

The Railway management should be held responsible for scheduling this new Power Set for an office train. For all these years, this train ran without any Second Class bogie attached to the former set. The Railway Security Officers may not have been aware that all office trains which operate in the mornings and evenings for about five decades now, are treated as 'Classless Trains'. I hope the GMR and the Operating Superintendents will look into this matter early and do the needful

L.L.Leanage Ambalangoda


Lack of public transport service in Mattakkuliya area

One has to walk quite a long distance to reach George Pieris Mawatha, Colombo 15, off Fergusons Road, or any other location in the vicinity whether when one approaches it either from Rasamunakande or from Nagalam Street in Thotalanga, as there are no buses plying on this road causing lot of inconvenience not only to those residing in this area but also to those who come to visit residents.

This is to request the Minister of Transport, to provide a regular bus service which according to long time residents from this area was available some time back. I would like to draw the attention of the Minister to the following places of worship and other institutions located on this road.

Kelani Nadee Viharaya, a mosque cum seminary, Keells housing complex, Gethsamane Bible Church, 12 Bn.

the Gemunu Watch Army Camp, Mattakkuliya Baptist Church, Christian Door of Relief Prayer Centre and in close proximity are the Ceylon Pentecostal Mission and HNDE Institution, to name a few.

Either a few buses could run a short distance along this Fergusons-Nagalam Street Road and if it is not cost effective or not feasible, the other option, I could think of is to let the existing buses on Route Numbers 155 (Mattakkuliya-Ratmalana), 178 (Mattakkuliya-Narahenpita), 145 (Matakkuliya-Fort) to cover this stretch of road at least to some extent to ease the hardship faced by the residents in their daily travel.

I hope that the transport authorities will make arrangements to provide this much needed transport facility.

Mohamed Zahran

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