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South Asia’s largest maternity hospital inaugurated (Pics)

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that the future of the country hinges on modernizing the education and health sectors to align with forthcoming challenges and opportunities.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed the imperative of modernizing the education and health sectors to ensure the country’s future prosperity and development.

The President highlighted a significant shortfall in capital expenditure for education and health over the past three and a half decades. It is now planned to increase capital expenditure in these sectors starting from this year.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made this remark while attending the inauguration of the “German-Sri Lanka Friendship New Women’s Hospital” in Karapitiya Galle, hailed as the largest maternity hospital in South Asia, earlier today (27).

The six-story hospital claims 640 beds, 6 operating theatres, emergency treatment units, intensive care units, laboratories, infant intensive care units, special paediatric units, and state-of-the-art medical facilities. Additionally, it features a water purification and recycling unit.

The German government has contributed Euro 25 million (LKR 3570 million) in this project, in addition to providing medical equipment.

Initially, eight hundred perches were allocated for the hospital’s construction, but later, two additional plots of land were acquired, increasing the total area of the hospital to nearly one thousand perches.

Former Chancellor of Germany, Helmut Kohl, made this significant donation towards the construction of a new maternity hospital in Sri Lanka. This gesture came after witnessing the devastation caused by the tsunami to Mahamodara Hospital Galle, the largest maternity hospital in the southern province, during his vacation in December 2004 at a tourist hotel in Talpe, Habaraduwa. 

Following the inauguration of the new hospital, plans are underway to relocate the Mahamodara Maternity Hospital from its current location. 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe also visited the newly opened maternity hospital to inspect its facilities, including the state-of-the-art surgery rooms.

President Wickremesinghe expressed gratitude by presenting a memento to the German Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Dr. Felix Neumann, in appreciation of the generous donation received from the German government.

During his address at the ceremony, President Ranil Wickremesinghe highlighted the shift in healthcare challenges over time. 

“Previously, our medical professionals battled against diseases like malaria. However, with the rise in the elderly population and the emergence of various health issues, the complexities in the healthcare sector have escalated. Hence, it is imperative to adapt and transform our healthcare services to meet these evolving challenges effectively.

Furthermore, the education system in our nation necessitates a significant overhaul. Historically, the allocation of capital funds for education and healthcare has been limited. During that period, these sectors did not receive sufficient financial support, primarily due to the substantial allocation of funds towards wartime efforts. Additionally, a considerable portion of our budget has been directed towards servicing hefty loans and paying off interest.

During my tenure as the Minister of Education from 1980 to 1989, efforts were made to increase funding for education. However, various circumstances hindered our ability to allocate more resources to this sector subsequently. Moving forward, it is imperative that we prioritize increased investment in education for the betterment of our nation.

Due to extensive borrowing last season, a staggering 50% of our income is now allocated towards debt and interest payments. Although over 7 trillion was earmarked for this year’s budget, a significant portion, totalling 3.9 trillion, must be directed towards debt repayment. Of this amount, one-third is dedicated to loan settlement, while the remaining two-thirds are allocated for interest payments. Additionally, approximately 1.2 trillion is allocated for salaries. After accounting for recurring expenses, there is very little remaining for essential activities such as irrigation.

As a nation, we cannot sustain this current situation. Recognizing this urgency, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have advised us to initiate immediate restructuring measures. Our first step towards achieving economic stability involves generating the necessary funds for this year’s expenditure domestically. Printing money or seeking funds from state banks are not viable options at this time. Therefore, we must focus on earning the required income internally to progress forward.

Implementing tax hikes was the sole viable option, despite facing widespread criticism. However, this measure eliminated the need to print money for the budget for the first time. We acknowledge the hardships endured by all, yet the tax increase spared us from budgetary loans. The impact is evident nationwide today. The rupee, once valued at 370 against the dollar, has now strengthened to 300. This trend is anticipated to continue, further bolstering the rupee’s value in the future.

The decrease in inflation has facilitated a reduction in interest rates, which in turn is expected to stimulate business growth. As the business sector flourishes, so does the nation’s development. Despite the challenges faced, today the country reaps the benefits of the implemented measures. Additionally, efforts were made to augment salaries in the public sector and furthermore, we endeavoured to triple the number of ‘Aswesuma’ beneficiaries and expand the scope of coverage. Corresponding initiatives were also undertaken to boost salaries in the private sector. By adhering to this program, the loan repayment burden is anticipated to diminish gradually over the next two years, freeing up resources for national development endeavours.

The future holds no promise without innovation in education and healthcare. Our strides in the 1930s and 80s were fuelled by advancements in these sectors. Presently, the robustness of our healthcare system, both locally and even in the United Kingdom is a testament to our medical services. Hence, I affirm that by securing adequate funding for healthcare and education, we will foster rapid progress in these domains. 

Health and Industry Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirana:
“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl for his contribution towards establishing a state-of-the-art maternity hospital. As I embarked on my parliamentary journey in 2010, I carried two profound dreams with me.

These dreams encompassed the reconstruction of the Galle bus station, ravaged by the tsunami and the revival of the German-Sri Lanka Friendship Women’s Hospital, which had ceased operations. While the Galle bus station was rebuilt in 2010, the construction of the Women’s Hospital, which had only 26 foundation pillars at the time, received support from the incumbent government. Today, I am proud to announce the successful completion of this hospital, now open to serve the people.

The 2024 budget has earmarked LKR 2000 million for the Karapitiya Hospital, allocated from the Ministry of Health. Of this, LKR 1000 million designated for enhancing facilities such as the surgical unit, dental unit, professor unit, and Stroke unit, while the remaining LKR 1000 million will be utilized for acquiring medical equipment. Karapitiya Hospital, renowned for its advanced technology and size, ranks second only to the Colombo National Hospital. The inauguration of the maternity hospital today marks a significant expansion of Karapitiya Hospital’s services”.

Minister of External Affairs, Ali Sabry PC 
“Comparing the state of the country two years ago when President Ranil Wickremesinghe assumed office to the present day, a significant transformation is evident. His adept management of foreign relations has played a pivotal role in revitalizing Sri Lanka’s economy. A notable example of this is our commitment to repaying our debt to Iran, which commenced last August and has since been successfully settled. Through such initiatives, we have endeavoured to elevate Sri Lanka’s standing on the global stage”

Secretary of the Ministry of Health Dr. Palitha Mahipala:

“The recipients of free health services in Sri Lanka have been granted significant privileges. This has contributed to a notable increase in the life expectancy of our population, with women now averaging 80 years and men 76 years. Our healthcare system has successfully combated numerous diseases, a fact affirmed by the United Nations World Health Organization. Additionally, our healthcare professionals possess the expertise to perform exceptional surgeries, underscoring the quality of healthcare services available in our country. It is evident that these initiatives will continue to enhance the overall health and well-being of the Sri Lankan population.”

German Ambassador Dr. Felix Neumann:
The hospital has been formally transferred to the Ministry of Health, placing the responsibility of its operation squarely on the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure maximum benefit for the residents of Galle and the Southern Province.

The German government is especially pleased to have President Ranil Wickramasinghe present at the inauguration of this hospital. I extend my best wishes to the Minister of Health and all other officials involved in this endeavour. May this hospital be a resounding success, and I offer my congratulations to all the staff involved. Germany has long been a friend of Sri Lanka, and our friendship remains steadfast.

Southern Province Governor Willie Gamage, State Ministers Mohan Priyadarshana de Silva and Geetha Kumarasinghe, Members of Parliament Wajira Abeywardena and Sampath Athukorala, former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Acting Chairman of the Helmut Kohl Galle Maternity Hospital Foundation Jurgen Weerth, and other dignitaries graced the occasion with their presence.

(President’s Media Division)

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Seminar on India – Sri Lanka Defence Cooperation held (Pics)

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The High Commission of India in Colombo organised a Seminar on Defence Cooperation with the theme “Identifying New Opportunities and Forging New Bonds” to promote Indian Made Defence equipment and explore avenues for collaboration in defence production today (April 10) in Colombo.

State Minister of Defence – Premitha Bandara Tennakoon was the Chief Guest. High Commissioner of India – Santosh Jha participated in the event with the Indian delegation led by Shri Anurag Bajpai, Additional Secretary (Defence Production), Ministry of Defence, Government of India. 

The delegation comprised representatives from Indian Defence companies including Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bharat Electronics Limited, Zen Technologies, SSS Defence, Bharat Forge, Big Bang Boom Solutions, AWEL, AVNL, Mahindra Defence, Sager Defence and TATA Advances System Ltd. 

From the Sri Lankan side, Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of Sri Lanka Navy, Commander of Sri Lanka Air Force and other senior officers from Sri Lankan Armed Forces, Police and Special Task Force graced the event, as also representatives of leading Sri Lankan business conglomerates.
High Commissioner Jha underlined the increasing diversification of India-Sri Lanka bilateral cooperation across domains, including in security and defence matters. He emphasised that because of geography, the security of India and Sri Lanka is interlinked and intertwined. India’s defence exports today stand at nearly 2.6 billion US Dollars, a ten-fold increase over the past five years. The High Commissioner stated that the seminar was another platform to explore ways of extending India’s increasing capabilities in the defence sector to Sri Lanka.

The State Minister of Defence lauded the growth of the Indian defence industry, and said that the seminar would facilitate collaboration between two countries contributing to a stable Indian Ocean Region. The Minister stated that the procurement of cost effective and tailor made products from India in the last decade had helped protect Sri Lanka’s sovereignty & territorial integrity. He emphasized that collaboration and joint R&D with Indian defence industries would also lead to the country’s economic revival. The Minister also thanked the Government of India for standing by Sri Lanka in the times of crisis.

Addressing the gathering Additional Secretary (DP), Shri Anurag Bajpai described Sri Lanka as India’s priority partner and reassured that India stands committed towards ensuring capacity & capability building of Sri Lanka Armed Forces as part of PM Modi’s vision of SAGAR (Security & And Growth for All in the Region). He highlighted the common security challenges faced in the Indian Ocean Region and called for enhanced collaboration to create a safer environment. He shared Atma Nirbhar Bharat’s, self-reliant India’s upward trajectory in establishing robust R&D and indigenous manufacturing ecosystems, while fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.

It may be recalled that a similar Defence Seminar cum Exhibition was previously conducted on 07 June 2023 at Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Armed forces have been successfully operating a range of Indian defence equipment like L-70 guns, Indra Radar, Offshore Patrol Vessels and Army training simulators. More recently the GoI has committed supply of Floating Dock, Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and Dornier aircraft which would ensure capacity building of Sri Lanka Armed Forces. The Seminar was yet another reaffirmation of India’s commitment to building capacities for Sri Lanka, in line with the Neighbourhood First Policy.

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‘Nekath Seettuwa’ presented to the President (Pics)

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Following customs and traditions, the ‘Nekath Seettuwa’, the table of auspicious times for this year’s Sinhala and Tamil New Year, was presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat today (10).

The table of auspicious times, duly prepared by the State Astrologers’ Committee of the Department of Cultural Affairs, was then presented to the President.

Minister of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs Vidura Wickremanayake presented the ‘Nekath Seettuwa’ to the President in accordance with traditional customs. 
Auspicious periods comprise of various timings such as the New Year’s Eve, Punya Kaalaya or inauspicious time, timings for cooking, working, eating, anointing, setting off for work and more.

Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Mr. Sagala Ratnayake, Secretary to the President Mr. Saman Ekanayake, Secretary to the Ministry of Buddha Shasana Religious and Cultural Affairs Mr. Somaratne Vidanapathirana and several others attended this event.

(President’s Media Division)

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Slave island flyover inaugurated (Pics)

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe has inaugurated the flyover spanning the railway line linking Slave Island with Justice Akbar Mawatha and Uttarankanda Mawatha earlier today (April 08)

The rest of the construction work of this project is planned to be completed by the month of September, and the estimated amount for the entire project is Rs. 5,278,081,272.43.

It has been observed that nearly 3 hours of time is wasted daily due to the railway crossing located in Kompanna Veediya area, which is a very busy commercial city with various institutions including government offices, hospitals, religious places, restaurants and movie theatres.

In order to avoid the delay, the construction work of this project, which is implemented by the Road Development Authority, is being carried out by Maga Engineering Company.

Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardana, United National Party (UNP) Chairman, MP Wajira Abeywardena, Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayake, Transport and Highways Ministry Secretary R.W.R. Pemasiri, Road Development Authority Chairman C.P. Athuluwage, Road Development Authority Director General Priyantha Suriyabandara and number of officials attended the event.

(President’s Media Division)

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