A British based NGO has teamed up with a group of students and the local community to clean up Tangalle beach,
Jo Kaminska Foundation Founder-Director, Ms Joanna Ruda, told Education Times that her Foundation which deals with plastic pollution through educational programmes and beach-cleaning initiatives, had organised a programme to clean Tangalle beach.
The initiative was launched by cleaning Tangalle beach last week, with the help of students and staff from the Ocean University in Tangalle.
Cleaning of the beach was scheduled to take place from 9 am-11 am, starting from Parawella beach, near the Navy Camp. “Students were directly responsible for the contact with the local community. They also worked on posters, which, together with leaflets, were distributed in the city. It’s a big, beautiful and extremely important initiative for Sri Lanka and the world, to join Science with Society,” she said.
A clerk attached to the Sri Lanka High Commission in London has been made Third Secretary in an unprecedented elevation of a low-level employee to the rank of diplomatic officer without an entrance exam, authoritative sources said.
The same officer, Mohammed S. Hanifa, is cited in the Board of Inquiry report on SriLankan Airlines for attempting to send to Colombo an unaccompanied bag containing vehicle spare parts for Rohitha Rajapaksa, son of the then President.
He had demanded that the package containing these “dangerous goods” be dispatched on board UL504, despite the risk of detection by British security. The airline’s Country Manager blocked the move, and was consequently transferred on a Presidential directive. The package had then been handed over to the UK-based wife of a leading businessman in the telecom field in Sri Lanka, to be brought to Colombo.
Mr. Hanifa is one of three irregular appointments in the Foreign service to be made under the Sirisena regime. The others are Cyril Gunapala as Minister Counsellor to Canberra and Sonali Samarasinghe, as Minister Counsellor to Sri Lanka’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, these sources say.
“This is precisely what the Government promised it will not do,” a senior diplomatic officer said on condition of anonymity. “It is a blatant violation of due process. If they appoint these three, what is the guarantee that there won’t be more?”
Mr Hanifa handled protocol at the London mission. The position was equivalent to a clerical level employee. He has overstayed his three-year term, having served in London continuously for around five years.
“He should be back by now,” the officer reflected. “Instead, he has received a promotion. We don’t know whom he has got round.” Third Secretary is a junior Foreign Service position.
It is learnt that Mr Hanifa is close to many politicians, including former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. He arranged vehicles and other facilities for them, often without the knowledge of his seniors. The charges connected to his name in the SriLankan Airlines report are of a “very serious nature”, the diplomatic officer said.
The report says that, on or about April 27, 2012, British authorities were to conduct a random check on baggage/bags at Heathrow Airport. Country Manager, Ms Desiree Premachandra, was informed by the station staff that “there has been a regular unaccompanied baggage from the Sri Lankan High Commission Protocol (London) addressed to the Presidential Secretariat containing certain vehicle spare parts for the son of the President (Rohitha Rajapaksa), and that this may be detected by the UK security”.
“The Country Manager then inquired whether there was a practice where the Protocol Officer of the Sri Lankan High Commission in London brings similar bag (approximately 25-35 kg) in the past,” the report says. “She found that the High Commission sends unaccompanied cabin bags with a ‘Rush Tag’ in UL flights to be collected by ‘authorities’.”
Rush tags are identification tags for re-dispatched baggage that have been lost, unclaimed or mishandled. “Strangely, High Commission officials have chosen to send this unaccompanied bag not as a diplomatic bag,” the report states. “There were no airway bills or claimants on board, but SriLankan flights were carrying these bags in the cabin to be handed over ‘to the authorities in Colombo’. It appears that this practice was known to a few identified officials only.”
Ms Premachandra told the Protocol Officer, the parcel which was brought to Heathrow, cannot be sent. She said it was illegal to send unaccompanied baggage; that it was not a diplomatic bag; that if the parcel was detected, it would be a serious security violation; and that, such an incident could get widely publicized, thereby affecting the image of SriLankan Airlines.
“Despite her explanations, the Protocol Officer was insisting that the parcel must go,” the report says. She telephoned Nishantha Wickremesinghe, the former Chairman, and it was decided to withhold the package. She was summoned to SriLankan Airlines head office the next month and transferred.
“This is one instance which demonstrates the extent to which external interference has engulfed SriLankan Airlines and the Foreign service of this country,” the report says. “There is prima facie evidence that the Protocol Officer, together with certain high officials of SriLankan Airlines, was, as a practice, engaged in a serious breach of security procedures in the airline industry to send spare parts (dangerous goods) in cabin unaccompanied without following procedure.”
The report recommends that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs be asked to inquire into the conduct of the officials attached to the High Commission in London—“particularly the officer who visited Heathrow Airport to send the parcel/baggage on UL504…”
“The investigation should focus on the practice and those who were responsible for the unlawful practice and the beneficiaries,” it concluded.
There was no word from the Ministry if they were to adhere to the findings of the government appointed report on SriLankan Airlines.