Lanka urges Saudi to raise minimum wage

Sri Lanka has requested Saudi Arabia to increase the minimum wage of SR900 set for its domestic workers because of the rising cost of living in the island, Arab News reported.Thalatha Atukorale, Minister of Foreign Employment, made this request when she met the First Secretary of the Saudi Embassy Misary Al-Thiyabi at her office in Colombo. She has conveyed to the Saudi envoy, the desire of the government to begin talks with the relevant authorities in the Kingdom on the above issue.According to Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment sources, the First Secretary has responded positively to the minister’s request and has said he would take steps to facilitate such talks. During the discussion with the Saudi official, she pointed out that with the cost of living rising globally, including the Kingdom, the need for a minimum wage has become important to keep up with daily expenses. The minister said there are discrepancies in salaries paid to Lankan expatriate workers by various sponsors while adding that these anomalies could be rectified by introducing a minimum wage. Saudi Arabia currently employs the highest contingent of Lankan expatriate workers numbering over 500,000. This is close to one third of the country’s total migrant worker population.According to an official from the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) , the minimum age limit for housemaids traveling to the Kingdom is 25.He said that housemaids who come for foreign employment are given a 21-day residential training course before being posted to overseas stations. read more

Best time to develop country says President

President Maithripala Sirisena says this is the best time to develop the country when all the countries in the world and international organizations do not have any animosity against Sri Lanka.The President expressed these views at the inauguration ceremony of the National Program for Local Food Production, held in Iranamadu today. The program which was inaugurated in Kilinochchi district yesterday, will be implemented around the country in the future and the aim of the program is to grow agricultural products that can be grown in our county. The President said it is a shame to import food from foreign countries for consumption when there is an ability to produce every food within the country.President Sirisena said every state owned lands which have not been cultivated will be used for food production in the future. He said he would take explanations from the responsible officials about the lands which will not be cultivated. “When this happens the farmers can never get rid of the debt burden”, he said. The President symbolically distributed title deeds of 613 acres of land in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts, used by the military, to their original owners and to the relevant institutions.Marking the inaugural ceremony of the National Food Production program the President went to the paddy field and switched on the paddy planting machine. In parallel to this program the inauguration of the growing of agricultural products including corn, fruit and coconut was commenced today. In addition to that goats, dairy cows and coconut sapling were also distributed among the people and organic fertilizers were introduced for farming. President Sirisena also declared open the Aquaculture Development Centre at Iranamadu.President Sirisena also made an observation tour of the Vocational Training Centre being built in the Iranamadu area under the financial assistance from Germany. (Colombo Gazette) The President pointed out that over 80 per cent of the requirement of chilies, soya, cowpea and green gram is imported. He recalled over Rs.6 billions spent on the importation of food in 2014. “The empty lands which have not been utilized for food production and owned by private sector will also be taken on temporary basis for food production. Every inch which can be cultivated should be cultivated”, the President stated.He said the home garden cultivation is a key feature of this national program which is carried out not only by the Department of Agriculture and Presidential Secretariat but also by every institute of state and private sector. He pointed out that the people can cultivate vegetables and fruits at their plots of land in the house yard for their day to day consumption.President Maithripala Sirisena requested the people, who enjoy the freedom and democracy under this new government, to unite irrespective of race, religion and caste differences to eliminate poverty in our country. read more

PM says no decision to put Fonseka in charge of military

Cabinet spokesman Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said last week that Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka is to take on a new role on a request made by President Maithripala Sirisena.He said the new role includes working with the military in the event of a strike by employees of essential services. The Prime Minister said that cabinet had last week discussed the matter of addressing the garbage issue and not about Fonseka. However the Prime Minister said there was no such decision taken by the cabinet. (Colombo Gazette) Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe informed Parliament today that cabinet has not taken a decision on making Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka head of the military.He was responding to a question raised in Parliament by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) member Vijitha Herath. Wickremesinghe said there is no need to have a special military unit in the country. read more

Former Navy spokesman arrested over missing youth

In 2015 the CID had questioned Dassanayake over allegations that some officers in the Navy were involved in the disappearance of several youth.Last year, former Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda also appeared before the CID to make a statement over the disappearance of the youth. (Colombo Gazette) Former Navy spokesman DKP Dassanayake was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) today over the disappearance of 11 youth.The youth had been reported missing between 2008 and 2009. read more

Gold bars smuggled from Sri Lanka seized in Tamil Nadu

Gold bars weighing around 18 kg, smuggled into India from Sri Lanka, were seized in Pudukottai district in Tamil Nadu and three people were arrested, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence said.On a tip-off, DRI sleuths intercepted a car proceeding to Chennai Thursday and recovered the 17.83 kg of gold bars from it and arrested two persons, a release from DRI said, the Press Trust of India reported. During interrogation, the accused confessed that the gold was being smuggled from Sri Lanka and they were transporting it to a recipient in Chennai “for a monetary consideration”. The DRI officials also apprehended the recipient here and are probing his role in the entire gamut of smuggling, it added. read more

President tells Secretaries to fulfill their respective duties

President Maithripala Sirisena has instructed Secretaries to the Ministries to fulfill their respective duties after the Court of Appeal yesterday issued an interim injunction temporarily restraining the functions of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers.A special discussion was held with all the Secretaries to Ministries under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat, today. At the meeting, the President instructed all the Secretaries of the Ministries to fulfill their respective duties and responsibilities according to the laws of the country continuously without any disruption. ‘’The Court of Appeal on December 03, 2018 issued an interim injunction temporarily restraining the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers, who were appointed by the President in accordance with the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, from functioning in their respective portfolios, and accordingly the President has given instructions to all the Secretaries of the Ministries to fulfill their respective duties and responsibilities according to the laws of the country continuously without any disruption,” the President’s media division said. Further, the President has already given the necessary orders to all state services, Tri-forces and the police to fulfill their duties and responsibilities with commitment towards the general public of the country and for national security, the President’s media division added. (Colombo Gazette) read more

No more state events in luxury private hotels

A circular has been issued instructing Government Ministries, departments and boards not to use private hotels for state events.The President’s office said the decision was taken in order to cut the expenditure of state institutions. Officials have been instructed to hold state events and meetings at auditoriums and institutions owned by the government .

Islandwide curfew lifted except in North Western Province

The Police, who initially declared a curfew in the North Western Province and Gampaha yesterday, later declared an island-wide curfew to be in effect till this morning.Violence broke out in parts of Chilaw on Sunday, mainly instigated by a post on Facebook and then spread to parts of Kurunegala. As the situation continued to spread to other places the Government decided to declare an overnight curfew around the island. The island-wide curfew declared last night as violence targeting Muslims spread, has been lifted.However, the Police said that the curfew in the North Western Province will remain. read more

KIRK AND LINNEY The value of outdoor education

Brock Experiential Education Co-ordinator, Outdoor Recreation Liz Kirk, who also currently serves as president of the Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario (COEO), recently co-wrote a piece published in the Toronto Star about the substantial and lasting benefits of the many outdoor experiential education programs available to Ontario students.The article was co-written with retired outdoor educator and past president of COEO Grant Linney.Kirk and Linney write:While severe budget constraints are a current reality, we are saddened by recent cutbacks to outdoor education programs across Ontario. These include the termination of multi-credit high school integrated programs in Halton, Bluewater, Trillium Lakelands and Simcoe District School Boards, the closure of four of 10 outdoor education centres run by the Toronto District School Board, and the real potential for further reductions.Outdoor experiential education (OEE) remains a powerful learning methodology for today’s students. It embraces a wide spectrum of safe, teacher-led outdoor experiences.These include regular neighbourhood walks, field trips to day and residential centres, and the aforementioned high school integrated programs, which can include co-operative education and specialist high skills majors (SHSMs).Continue reading the full article here. read more

Vaccines 101

Queen’s University has launched an investigation into one of its instructors after students accused her of suggesting a connection between vaccines and autism during a lecture. This link was disproven years ago, but misinformation like it is still around.The World Health Organization has credited the measles vaccine with saving over 15 million lives since the year 2000. Measles isn’t treatable- and in one in 1000 cases causes potentially deadly swelling in the brain.For years it was virtually eliminated in developed countries, but according to infectious disease specialist, Dr. David Goldfarb, it’s been creeping back recently .“We’re starting to see cases including cases in people who haven’t traveled which means there’s been locally circulating measles virus.”“The woman diagnosed in Niagara wasn’t vaccinated. The number of people refusing vaccination began to rise after a small study connected the measles vaccine to autism. But that study was proven to be a fraud.”“The lead author on that publication has subsequently lost his license because of unethical practices.”The measles vaccine has been studied for decades and proven safe. Severe allergies to it are so rare- less than one in a million- that’s it’s impossible to pinpoint the vaccine as the cause of symptoms.It’s composed of a weakened form of the virus that triggers your body to build up immunity.“It causes your immune system to mount a response so that when it sees a real wild strain of the viruses, you’ll be able to protect yourself against it.”This protection is even more important as outbreaks begin in North America, and parents who grew up in a measles-free society face the reality that they and their children could be exposed. read more

Changes to fair elections act announced

(Update)The federal Conservatives have announced they’re making changes to a bill that critics say would rig the next election by disenfranchising voters. Friday, the minister of democratic reform announced amendments to some of the most contentious aspects of the “Fair Elections Act.”Minister Pierre Poilievre says his government is prepared to remove the requirement for all voters to show residency ID in the next election. This, after some experts and the opposition said eliminating vouching would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. But it’s not just the content of bill C-23 that has sparked outrage among critics.Bill C-23 would have eliminated the practice of vouching — and forbid the use of voter information cards Elections Canada sends out as proof of residency.A Canada-wide online petition called it an outrageous move that would silence hundreds of thousands of voters. Local activists say its especially concerning for those without a permanent home.Tom Cooper is with the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction: “There are four-thousand people who are homeless on any given night in Hamilton and certainly the changes to the fair elections act may mean they won’t be able to vote.”It’s this type of concern. As well as early pushback from the senate, that has caused the Conservatives to back down on some of the most controversial aspects of the act:Minister for Democratic reform Pierre Poilievre announced Friday afternoon that citizens will now be able to sign an oath attesting to their local residence, but must still provide at least some proof of personal identification. But it’s not just the content that has sparked outrage among the opposition. “We think it’s completely reasonable that people present identification when they cast their ballots.”NDP MP David Christopherson: “They dropped the bill in the House of Commons and within a couple of days one of the first things they did was move a closure motion to shut down debate.”Hamilton NDP MP’s were among dozens of local residents at Hamilton city hall Friday morning, voicing their concern about the lack of public consultation on the act.McMaster University’s Peter Graefe: “The main problem with the bill is that it’s fundamental to our ability to vote and our rights as citizens and yet as citizens we haven’t had a chance to debate it.”But St. Catherines MP Rick Dykstra says the Conservatives did consult the public: “It’s had two iterations previous. It’s had thousands of minutes in the House of Commons debating it.”Other changes to the bill include:Allowing the Chief Electoral Officer to speak freely to the Canadian public about elections issues — something that was originally limited under the bill.It will also allow Elections Canada to continue to fund voter outreach programs — but only to people too young to vote.The changes will close a proposed loophole that would allow parties to spend an unlimited amount of money contacting former donors during an election campaign.And voter contact services will have to keep robocall recordings for three years instead of one. read more

Niagara police make two arrests after rash of break ins

Niagara police have made two arrests in a rash of break and enters in Niagara Falls.Police launched an investigation in December 2018 into a series of break ins at commercial storage units in the city. Members of the Niagara Falls Street Crime Unit gathered evidence that lead to the execution of a search warrant which recovered stolen property from the break and enters.Ashley Powell, 33, and Raymond Orcutt, 38, have been arrested and charged. Powell faces a count each of break and enter commit theft and possession of property obtained by crime. Orcutt is facing five counts of break and enter commit theft. Anyone with additional information that could help investigators is asked to contact Niagara police. read more

RCMP investigating banned pork imported with fake Canadian export certificate

The RCMP are investigating the origins of a pork with banned additives that arrived in China with a fake Canadian export certificate. Frigo Royal, the Quebec-based company named by Chinese officials, handles shipping and does not produce the pork. International trade minister Jim Carr suggests the pork may have been originated outside of Canada. Carr says he thinks someone is trying to use the Canadian brand to move product into the Chinese market. Ottawa and Beijing have been in daily contact to quietly address the matter however, China went public with it. There is a current ban that affects all Canadian meat exports to China. Canada exported $611M worth of pork and beef to China last year. read more

Complaint filed with the integrity commissioner after councillor Sam Merulla attacked

Last week, after a story aired on CHCH News, Hamilton city councillor Sam Merulla attacked our reporter Diana Weeks on social media and in response, CHCH News is filing a complaint with the integrity commissioner.Meanwhile, Merulla says he stands by his statements.In response to a post by Diana Weeks Merulla tweeted “thanks to your incompetence and incomplete reporting, my daughter, wife, and assistant were threatened. You are a poor excuse for a reporter. Next time provide my comments rather than cut and paste “expletive”.The story aired last week and discussed the heated debate during the council meeting Wednesday about the violence at Pride and yellow vest protests.Joey Coleman, an independent journalist at City Hall shared that online comment and condemned Merulla’s response. Merulla fired back saying “I haven’t targeted you because you’re so irrelevant!” Joey then said “you shouldn’t be targeting anyone”Merulla added, “for the record, if you target or anyone targets my family and employee, I will be targeting you.”Councillor Merulla wasn’t available to speak on camera today but he did respond to some of our questions through an email saying it was after the CHCH story that he began receiving threats referencing the report. He told us that police are now providing security outside his house in response.When it comes to the attack online, Mike Katrycz, the vice president of news at CHCH, is in the process of filing a formal complaint with the city’s integrity commissioner.“He chose to publicly berate and bully one of our reporters which is completely unacceptable to us and also to the code of conduct that city councillors are supposed to abide by and apparently even Twitter.”Some people online have shared this photo saying Twitter banned one of Merulla’s accounts due to “abusive behavior.”The councillor told us that he voluntarily deactivated his accounts due to chronic harassment.While some on social media responded to Merulla saying “you and your family should not be threatened.” Others jumped to the defense of Diana calling this “a disgusting attack by a sitting councillor”. And that any concerns should have been taken up with CHCH.“We’re here to do a job. Our reporter was doing a job. If Sam Merulla had a problem with it he could have easily contacted me or anybody else at the station and we could have dealt with it then.” said Katrycz.When asked why Merulla turned to social media he said “the damage she did was public and not private. Hence, I acted accordingly to ensure the safety of my family.” read more

Albertas economy is improving but recovery not heroic TD Bank says

CALGARY — TD Bank says Alberta’s battered economy is headed in the right direction, but warns there are still a number of hurdles that could hinder recovery.A report released Thursday by deputy chief economist Derek Burleton is predicting economic growth between two and 2 1/2 per cent for Alberta in the next year which follows an increase of nearly 4.9 per cent in 2017.“It was a nice bounce back last year, but growth is settling down this year and we’re of the mind that you’re gonna get a continued moderate growth run over the next couple of years as the economy kinds of settles down,” Burleton said in an interview.“I don’t think many were anticipating a heroic recovery despite the fact that the recession was quite deep. Oil production should grow despite some of the challenges in terms of pipelines. That’ll get us two per cent which is not heroic.”America invests almost double what Canada invests in businesses — and that’s a problemWho says the oilsands is history? New mine the size of Cleveland could be blueprint for survivalIs Fort Hills the last major oilsands project to be built? Suncor says it will ‘definitely’ build moreBurleton said Alberta’s economy is within a year of returning “home” — a term used to characterize full recovery from a recession. However, it could be another two years before the job market fully recovers.“Employment is back to where it was pre-recession, but a lot of the jobs are self-employment, more of a freelance type,” he said.“Employers are kind of slow to bring back hiring and part of that does reflect the lacklustre investment outlook over the next couple of years.”The report also notes that government hiring, primarily in the health and education sectors, rose by nearly 10 per cent. Private sector jobs fell by five per cent during the recession.Burleton said the lack of investment in Alberta, particularly in the oil and gas sector, remains a concern.“I think that’s the Achilles heel for recovery so far. It is basically the missing element,” he said.“Investment is not going to be catching fire soon. We’re not anticipating a lot of growth over the next few years and clearly there are some hurdles there.”Burleton said Alberta could reassert itself as a leader in growth, but only if it deals with inadequate pipeline capacity, regulatory hurdles, and eliminating the government’s budget deficit.“We still are of the mind that the economy will reassert itself,” he said. “It may be a bit at odds given the timing of this report just after the Trans Mountain decision and some of the concerns around the oil and gas sector.”Late last month the Federal Court of Appeal quashed cabinet approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project.The forecast says there is reason for optimism, including the resiliency of global oil demand and limited supply outside of Alberta, and decreasing production costs. read more

EthiopiaEritrea Annan reports progress but says serious difficulties remain

“The establishment of the Temporary Security Zone is an encouraging development, which, despite the disagreements between the parties, marks a milestone in the implementation of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities,” Mr. Annan writes in a report released today at UN Headquarters. “However, it is imperative that the parties resolve the outstanding issues, in particular those pertaining to the Temporary Security Zone, so as to ensure that it is clearly defined and effectively demilitarized.” The Secretary-General says he made that point in separate letters dated 1 June to Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Specifically, he called President Isaias’ attention to the deployment by Eritrea of “an excessive number of militia and police” in the Zone, and noted that the status-of-forces agreement for UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) had not been signed. At the same time, Mr. Annan expressed concern to Prime Minister Meles over “the continued presence of Ethiopian troops in parts of the eastern sector” of the Zone. The Secretary-General also mentioned “the continuing restrictions imposed on UNMEE’s freedom of movement.” Stressing the importance of the work of the Boundary Commission, mandated to delimit and demarcate the border between the two countries and resolve the dispute that originated the war, Mr. Annan calls on both Governments to cooperate with the Commission and meet their obligation to bear the related costs.Mr. Annan cites among major concerns the humanitarian situation and the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance — two problems calling for a response from donor countries.The Secretary-General also voices regret that “despite some softening of the hostile rhetoric in the media, neither Government has yet displayed publicly much openness to a normalization of relations.” Political developments in both countries, he says, “should not distract them from their commitments to a peaceful settlement of their differences.” read more

After talks in Washington on Afghanistan Brahimi meets Islamic delegates at UN

As the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Mr. Brahimi met on Monday with the ambassadors of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a UN spokesman said today.On Saturday, speaking at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, Mr. Brahimi said that his talks with American officials focussed on the UN’s role in Afghanistan and that various options were discussed. “We agreed with them, as we have with a lot of other people, that whatever arrangements are going to be made, [they] need to be owned by the people of Afghanistan,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s not going to work.”The envoy noted that the UN had been asked by Member States to do a number of things in connection with the situation in Afghanistan, among them to provide humanitarian relief to the people of Afghanistan and to try to help the Afghans come together and solve their political problems and unrelenting conflicts. “The third area in which we are going to be working, slightly at a later stage, but we are going to start preparing for it now, is the rehabilitation, reconstruction and, ultimately, the economic and social development of Afghanistan, post conflict,” he said.Mr. Brahimi stressed that although it was too early to say what kind of government Afghanistan would have, a new regime would need to be acceptable to a broad spectrum of Afghan society.”We very much hope that it will be an Afghanistan where all the Afghans, all the communities in Afghanistan will be comfortable, where the culture, the tradition of Afghanistan will be fully respected,” he said. “I’m sure that this culture and this tradition is not incompatible with the necessity of respecting the rights of both individuals and communities, and that form of government needs to be acceptable to all Afghans.” read more