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With the arrival this evening (30 April) of UL 1188 carrying 125 Sri Lankan students from Kolkata, the operation to bring home 1065 Sri Lankan students based in the South Asian region, over 10 days, reached a successful conclusion.
Commencing on 21 April 2020, a total of nine (9) Sri Lankan Airlines special flights were used to destinations in India (Punjab, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Bangalore, New Delhi and Kolkata) Pakistan (Karachi and Lahore), Nepal (Kathmandu) and Bangladesh (Dhaka), to repatriate the Sri Lankan students who had expressed their desire to return to Sri Lanka in the wake of the COVID 19 Pandemic. Those repatriated also included public and military officials who had completed study and training programmes in the respective countries and had to return to take up official duties back in Sri Lanka. Currently all returnees are undergoing mandatory quarantine at facilities afforded by the Sri Lanka Government.
Following the analysis of data on the most vulnerable Overseas Sri Lankans wishing to return and the recommendation of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, on 14 April, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa instructed that students in South Asia be the first category to be repatriated following the closure of the airport for arrivals to Sri Lanka from abroad. The Ministry in close collaboration with the Sri Lanka Missions in South Asia, the Presidential Secretariat, the Coviod 19 Task Force and the Sri Lankan Airlines, and with strong assistance of the respective foreign governments ensured the safe return of the students stationed across many cities in the region, amidst numerous challenges posed by the complexities arising out of the global Pandemic.
Dr. Iswara appointed as NYPD’s Honorary Police Surgeon
Dr. Kadirawel Iswara, a Sri Lankan physician, who served as a Lt Colonel in the US Army Reserves during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf, has now been commissioned as an Honorary Police Surgeon with the New York Police Department (NYPD) which currently faces one of its biggest crises battling the deadly coronavirus.
Operation Desert Storm was the codename of the combat phase of the Gulf War in which the United States-led coalition comprising 35 nations launched a war against Iraq over the invasion of Kuwait.
Dr Iswara was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Currently, he is an Attending Gastroenterologist at the Maimonides Medical Center, Division of Gastroenterology, in Brooklyn, New York.
Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha has said, so far repatriations have been carried out by the GOSL identifying the most vulnerable categories of Overseas Sri Lankans (OSLs), in the face of the limited availability of quarantine facilities in the country, as Sri Lanka continues to seek to gain control over the spread of COVID 19 in Sri Lanka.
In comments on Friday -24 April, (to Sirasa Radio and the “Dawasa” TV programme), the Secretary said through the ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ web portal and other means, to-date, over 27,000 OSLs have expressed their wish to return. This number includes over 17,000 migrant workers and dependents, 6,000 students and about 3,000 short term visa holders and tourists.