WHO certifies Sri Lanka malaria-free

In a remarkable public health achievement, Sri Lanka has been certified as malaria-free island country by World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday.

“Sri Lanka’s achievement is truly remarkable. In the mid-20th century it was among the most malaria-affected countries, but now it is malaria-free. This is testament to the courage and vision of its leaders, and signifies the great leaps that can be made when targeted action is taken. It also demonstrates the importance of grass-roots community engagement and a whole-of-society approach when it comes to making dramatic public health gains,” WHO Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said here.

Sri Lanka’s road to eliminating the mosquitoes was tough, and demanded well-calibrated, responsive policies.

After malaria cases soared in the 1970s and 80s, the country’s anti-malaria campaign in the 1990s adjusted its strategy to intensively target the parasite in addition to targeting the mosquito.

The change in strategy was unorthodox, but highly effective.

Mobile malaria clinics in high transmission areas meant that prompt and effective treatment could reduce the parasite reservoir and the possibility of further transmission. Effective surveillance, community engagement and health education, meanwhile, enhanced the ability of authorities to respond, and mobilised popular support for the campaign.

The adaptation and flexibility of strategies and support from key partners such as WHO and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria fast-tracked success.

By 2006, the country recorded less than 1 000 cases of malaria per year, and since October 2012, the indigenous cases were down to zero. For the past three-and-a-half years, no locally transmitted cases have been recorded.

To maintain elimination and ensure the parasite is not reintroduced to the country, the anti-malaria campaign is working closely with local authorities and international partners to maintain surveillance and response capacity and to screen high-risk populations entering the country.

Sri Lanka is the second country in the WHO South-East Asia Region to eliminate malaria after Maldives. The announcement of Sri Lanka’s victory over malaria was made at the WHO South-East Asia Region’s annual Regional Committee meeting in the presence of health ministers and senior health officials from all 11 Member States.

The Regional Director said WHO will continue to support the efforts of Sri Lanka’s health authorities as they relate to malaria, as well as the country’s wider public health mission. This outstanding achievement should be a springboard to further public health gains in the country and the South-East Asia Region as a whole.


President Maithripala opens Facets 2016 Gem and Jewellery Exhibition

Sept 01, Colombo: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena today inaugurated the International Gem and Jewellery Exhibition “Facets Sri Lanka 2016”, organized by the Sri Lanka Gem & Jewellery Association (SLGJA) for the 26th successive time.

Leading institutions in the field of gem and jewelry in the country are taking part in the exhibition, which will be held till 4th September at the BMICH Exhibition and Convention Centre in Colombo.


The President also visited the stalls and held cordial discussions with the staff.
Held annually in Colombo since 1991 with state and private sector patronage, FACETS 2016 will have hundreds of local and foreign exhibitors showcasing their gem and Jewellery products and a large number of influential trade visitors from around the world.

Minister A. H. M. Fowzie and the Chairman of the Gem and Jewellery Association also participated at this event.


Tourist arrivals up by 19 percent in July 2016 Sri Lanka Tourism Board

Aug 05, Colombo: Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals increased by 19.1 percent in July this year compared to the same period last year exceeding one million tourists arrivals so far this year.

The data released today by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) showed the month recording 209,351 tourist arrivals to the country compared to the 175,804 arrived in July 2015.


In the first seven months of this year 1,173,618 tourists visited the island compared to the 1,005,855 visited in the corresponding period of 2015, recording an increase of 16.7 percent.
Tourist arrivals from North America increased by 25.6 percent to 10,249 in July while 77,862 people visited from Western Europe registering a 20 percent increase in arrivals during the month. Most of the tourists came from UK (23,948), Germany (10,971) and France (10,949).

Reversing the 10 percent decline observed last month, arrivals from Eastern Europe increased by 1.3 percent with the arrival of 7,472 tourists in July 2015. However, tourist arrivals from Russia and Ukraine continued to decline with the arrivals from Russia down by 9.7 percent and from Ukraine by 25 percent. Arrivals from Czech Republic increased by 17.5 percent.

Tourist arrivals from Middle East rose by 15.8 percent with the arrival of 18,591 visitors.

Tourist arrivals from East Asia increased 20.6 percent as 42,890 visited the country while arrivals from China increased 21.9 percent with 30,631 tourists arriving in the country in July 2016.

Arrivals from South Asia in the month increased by 17.1 percent with 42,568 tourists visiting the island. Of those arrived from South Asia, 27,665 were from India corresponding to an increase of 12.1 percent.

Nearly 1.8 million tourists arrived in Sri Lanka last year contributing US$ 2.98 billion of earnings to the government revenues in 2015 compared to US$ 2.43 billion recorded during 2014.

Cumulative earnings from tourism increased to US$ 1.402 billion during the first five months of 2016 compared to US$ 1.184 billion recorded during the same period in 2015.


Thai Travel agent announces trips to undiscovered Jaffna in Northern Sri Lanka

With the area now peaceful and returning to normal, Khiri Travel says the time is right to start sharing the historical, cultural and culinary attractions of the area with guests who will travel by train, bicycle, jeep and catamaran.

BANGKOK – Khiri Travel has launched pioneering 4-day/3-night trips to Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka. The groundbreaking travel experiences are now available in an area still healing its wounds after a civil war that lasted until 2009.

With the area now peaceful and returning to normal, Khiri Travel says the time is right to start sharing the historical, cultural and culinary attractions of the area with guests who will travel by train, bicycle, jeep and catamaran.

Visitors can now easily combine Jaffna peninsula with existing mainstream tourism sites in Sri Lanka, as the Queen of Jaffna train departs from Anuradhapura in the country’s ‘Cultural Triangle,’ which is well known to tourists.

“Our aim is to share the wonderful seafood, curry, architecture, beaches and friendliness of the Jaffna people with guests who share a passion for discovery,” says Khiri Travel Sri Lanka General Manager Gonzalo Gil Lavedra, who inspected the area and created the trip.

“We are providing an itinerary that is not only groundbreaking in terms of the destination and experience, but has been designed with the people of Jaffna in mind,” he says.

On the first day, guests travel three hours by train from Anuradhapura to Jaffna, passing the dry landscape of the Vavuniya dotted with the occasional village. Much of the conflict took place here. In Jaffna town centre, guests stay in a new four-star hotel. After a delicious Tamil lunch, visitors ride bicycles to see a fort, churches, parks, temples, statue of the last king of Jaffna, the last king’s minister’s house, and more.

On the 2nd day guests wear a shalve or veddi to enter the Nallur Hindu temple where they receive a cultural history orientation and can try some Hatha Yoga moves. The guide will elaborate on Jaffna’s culture, the scars of war, similarities and differences with South Indian culture, and the considerable effects of migration and exile on the Jaffna region. After a lavish prawn curry lunch served on a banana leaf, guests visit temples and local attractions, with plenty of time to relax on Casuarina Beach.

The 3rd day includes a 24-hour round trip by catamaran to Delft Island, an hour offshore from Jaffna. The island features exquisite beaches, wild horses, a huge baobab tree, a Dutch fort, pigeon cage, coral structures and more. A special seafood lunch will be prepared by a local family. Guests overnight in a private cabin on the catamaran.

“If there is a place in Sri Lanka that has remained hidden, it is Delft island,” says Gil Lavedra. “With its unique people, coral walls, fort, feral horses, food, temples and lovely beaches, I could go on and on. But the best way is for the clients to see it for themselves.”

On day 4, guests enjoy breakfast on board the catamaran and take a last dip in the sea at Delft before sailing back to Jaffna. Guests arrive in Jaffna around midday for lunch. In the afternoon they continue their onward Sri Lankan itinerary, which can include, for example, the newly accessible attractions of Trincomalee in northeast Sri Lanka, famed for its beaches and surf.

No special visas or permissions are needed to visit the Jaffna peninsula. “The area is perfectly safe,” says Gil Lavedra. “The time is right for tour operators to add Jaffna to their Sri Lanka itineraries.”


Sacred Buddhist Relics from Taxila Pakistan exhibited in Ampara

June 13, Colombo: The Most Sacred Relics of Lord Buddha from Pakistan will be exhibited in Mangalagiri Rajamaha Viharaya, Ampara, for two days from June 14-15, 2016, Pakistan High Commission in Colombo said in a statement.

The sacred relics include two holy bone relics of the Buddha, a golden casket containing the relics and a stone reliquary in stupa shape. These holy relics are part of collection from Taxila Museum of Pakistan, which is located at one of the most important archaeological sites in Asia.


The land of Gandhara where the celebrated faith evolved is more or less a triangle about 100 kilometers across east to west and 70 kilometers from north to south, on the west of the Indus River in Pakistan. It is surrounded on three sides by mountains and covers the vast areas of today’s Peshawar valley, the hilly tracts of Swat (Udyana), Buner and the Taxila valley.

The name ‘Gandhara’ is found for the first time in the Rig-Veda, the sacred ancient hymns of the Hindus. The name also appears in some Persian inscriptions, particularly in the Behistun inscription (528-486 B.C) and in the inscription discovered from the ruins of the Susa Palace in Persia (An archeological site belonging to 6th century B.C).

The Ghandara trail, having its capital and cultural hub at the present day Taxilla, was part of the silk route and many Buddhist pilgrims from different countries used to visit these sites on this historical route.

The Sri Lankan public is invited to come and pay their respects and homage to the most holy relics.


Aitken Spense calls for visitor quotas at wildlife parks

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings has called for better government regulations and enforcement to protect the island’s wildlife parks, which are a top tourist attraction.

Sri Lanka’s key competitive advantage lies in its unique diversity of the natural environment and its multiple attractions of nature, history and culture within a small land mass, said Harry Jayawardena, chairman of Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings.

“However, our natural resources are now in danger due to lack of policies and controls, and the possibility of the proverbial ‘killing of the goose that lays the golden egg’ instead of a long-term and sustainable approach.”

Overcrowding at national parks has not only become an eyesore, but also resulted in threats to its inhabitants, he told shareholders in the company’s annual report.

“It is our fervent hope that authorities would introduce and implement strict regulations and a visitor quota to facilitate long-term sustainability of our natural resources as well as the tourism industry.”

It is also vital that policies and regulations are aimed at the long term and remain consistent across regimes, to ensure sustainability of resources as well as investor confidence, Jayawardena said.


Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau focused to promote Buddhist tourism in Thailand

travel-around-worldJune 11, Colombo: Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) has organized a familiarization tour of Sri Lanka for two journalists from Thailand to increase destination awareness and promote Sri Lanka as one of the key destinations for Thai tourists.

Travel around the World-Magazine journalists have arrived to Sri Lanka on 08 June 2016.

“Travel around the world” also known as Thew Rhob Lok is a monthly publication with a wide circulation around 50,000 among Thai nationals.

Tourist arrivals from Thailand has dropped by 11.9 percent in the first five months of this year with 3,839 tourists arriving in the island.


Buddhist sacred bone relics from Pakistan to arrive in Sri Lanka on Vesak festival

May 18, Colombo: In order to be part of the most important annual Vesak Buddhist Festival falling on 21st May 2016, the government of Pakistan is providing the most sacred bone relics of Lord Buddha to Sri Lanka for exposition throughout Sri Lanka, the High Commission of Pakistan said in a release today.

The exposition of bone relics is being organized on the request of the Sri Lankan government under the bilateral cooperation agreement in the field of Culture.

The relics will be arriving in Sri Lanka for an extended period on the Vesak Day on 21st May 2016 and will be exhibited until Full Moon Poson Poya Day in the following month.

The Sri Lankan Minister for Sustainable Development and Wildlife Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, Secretary Ministry of Buddha Sasana Wasantha Ekanayake, and Chief Incumbent of Nalandramaya, Nugegoda Venerable Thiniyawala Palitha Thero, along with other high level officials left for Pakistan today to bring the sacred relics.

The sacred relics will be handed over by the Pakistani authorities to the Sri Lankan side in a special ceremony to be held at Taxilla on 19th of May 2016.

The exhibition in Sri Lanka will be displaying the collection of the Taxila Museum of Pakistan and will comprise of four sacred artifacts/relics. These exhibits include two sacred bone relics of Lord Buddha, stone reliquary in stupa shape and a golden Casket.

The relics are invaluable part of the archeological heritage of Pakistan and depicts the rich Buddhist history of Pakistan. According to historians Pakistan is considered as the Mecca for Buddhist world.

The request for exposition of the relics was made by the leadership of Sri Lanka to the Prime Minister of Pakistan during the latter’s official visit to Sri Lanka in January 2016.

The request was reiterated during the visit of a 40 member high-powered delegation of senior most Sri Lankan Buddhist monks and eminent scholars headed by the Speaker of Sri Lankan Parliament, Karu Jayasuriya and Minister of Justice, Labor Relations and Buddha Sasana Dr. Wijayadasa Rajapakshe. The delegation visited Pakistan for a week in April 2016.

Buddhism left a monumental and rich legacy of art and architecture in Pakistan. Despite the vagaries of centuries, the Gandhara region preserved a lot of the heritage in craft and art. Much of this legacy is visible even today in Pakistan.

The exhibition will further strengthen the already existing deep rooted cultural relations between the two friendly nations, the High Commission said.


Indian Minister says an agreement to build India-Sri Lanka Bridge would be finalized soon

Apr 12, New Delhi: An Indian central government minister has said that India and Sri Lanka could soon finalize an agreement for building a bridge connecting the two countries.

The Union Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari has said on Monday that the project is under consideration, according to an IANS report.

“The project is under consideration, it is under discussion. But nothing has been finalized,” Mr Gadkari was quoted as telling journalists at the Foreign Correspondents Club in New Delhi on Monday.

He said discussions have been held on the issue with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The issue had been discussed in Sri Lankan parliament as well.

Sri Lanka is also “interested” in the project, he said, adding that even the Asian Development Bank has made a recommendation to that effect.

A proposal for providing road and rail link bridging the divide across Palk Strait has already been submitted to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), for a pre-feasibility study and subsequent financing, the Indian minister said last year. “The Asian Development Bank is ready to fully finance a bridge building project connecting Rameshwaram to Sri Lanka. The project was also discussed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his counterpart during the latter’s recent visit,” Gadkari said last year.

However, Sri Lankan Prime Minister last month said that no formal talks between India and Sri Lanka have started yet on the project.


UL 891 returns to base in Bangkok

Colombo, April 08 2016 : SriLankan Airlines flight UL 891 of April 7, 2016 from Bangkok to Colombo returned to base at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, after a malfunction in the air conditioning system which resulted in smoke accumulation in the cabin.

The aircraft landed safely. None of the 263 passengers or the crew were injured.

Flight UL 891 departed Bangkok at 2209 hours (Bangkok time). The smoke was detected after 19 minutes in the air. The operating crew immediately took steps to shut down the air conditioning system and requested urgency to land at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Upon landing safely, to avoid prolonged exposure to smoke in the cabin, the pilot took the decision to disembark all passengers at a remote bay on to the tarmac using passenger disembarking steps which is an industry standard safety practice.

Later aircraft engineers at Suvarnabhumi Airport rectified the fault and the aircraft was cleared to fly after a thorough inspection. Flight UL891 finally departed Bangkok at 0337 hours on Friday with 235 passengers and landed at Bandaranaike International Airport at 0525 hours. Another 30 passengers were rerouted to the next available flight UL403 which arrived in Colombo today at 1100 hours.

The airline commends the crew of UL891 who were led by a captain with over 25 years flying experience, for handling the situation.

SriLankan wishes to reiterate that the Airline always maintains the highest safety standards the industry requires, and considers the well-being of the passengers its foremost priority which under no circumstance will be compromised.