The inaugural ceremony was originally scheduled for December 7, but it got postponed following the demise of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.Rameswaram fishermen, who claimed traditional rights over St. Antony’s Church, protested after the Jaffna Diocese announced the inaugural function without extending an invitation to them.After they threatened to force their participation if the government did not facilitate their pilgrimage, the External Affairs Ministry allowed a 20-member delegation but the fishermen insisted that the Centre should allow at least 100. After Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam took up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Ministry conceded the fishermen’s demand. In all, 82 Indian pilgrims — 75 fishermen, four priests and three sisters — set sail to the islet at 6. 50 a.m. from the fishing jetty here in three mechanised boats and returned at 3. 45 p.m. Collector S. Natarajan and Superintendent of Police N. Manivannan supervised the arrangements for the pilgrimage. “They received us very well and we were extremely happy,” said Rev. Fr. Sagayaraj. He delivered the thanksgiving address after the holy mass. The Rameswaram fishermen were happy after Bishop Justin Gnanapragasam declared that “this is a ‘church of reconciliation’ and said that the Indian fishermen were free to make their contributions for the development of the church.” The Jaffna Diocese proposed to make the annual festival a three-day event and wanted Indian pilgrims to spend more time in the islet, he said, quoting the Bishop. Striking a chord of camaraderie with their Sri Lankan counterparts, Rameswaram fishermen, led by Verkodu parish priest Rev. Fr. L. Sagayaraj, participated in the inaugural ceremony of newly built St. Antony’s Church at Katchatheevu, organised by the Jaffna Diocese with its parish in Delft island on Friday, The Hindu reported.After Commander of Sri Lankan Navy Vice-Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne handed over the church, Bishop of Jaffna Diocese Rev. Justin Bernard Gnanapragasam declared it open by unveiling a plaque followed by a mass. The pilgrims were escorted up to the International Maritime Border Line and back by the Indian Coast Guard and the Marine Police of the Coastal Security Group, led by its Superintendent of Police R. Sakthivel.“All those who turned up for the trip were cleared and the exercise was smooth,” Mr. Manivannan told The Hindu . Though 100 persons were registered for the trip, 16 fishermen and two sisters did not turn up, he said. After the Bishop expressed interest in building a new church in the place of an old structure, the naval chief took personal interest and built it with the help of dedicated naval staff.
Judges and lawyers in the Maldives are not sufficiently independent from external pressures and interferences, a United Nations independent expert warned today wrapping up a visit to the Indian Ocean archipelago. “The concept of independence of the judiciary has been misconstrued and misinterpreted in the Maldives, including among judicial actors,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, told journalists in Malé. Ms. Knaul noted that a power struggle which ensued from a “lack of understanding in the delimitation of the respective competences” of the Parliament, the Government and the judiciary had “serious implications on the effective realization of the rule of law.” She added that the separation of powers is “the bedrock upon which the requirements of judicial independence and impartiality are founded” and represents an essential requirement of the proper administration of justice. Presenting her preliminary findings on the functioning of the justice system in Maldives, Ms. Knaul said there was insufficient dialogue, respect for the new Constitution created in 2008, transparency and access to information, and accountability to allow the judiciary to function property. She also noted a relatively low number of sitting female judges, lack of education and training possibilities for persons in the judicial sector, and the lack of trust the general public has in the country’s judiciary. Multi-party presidential elections were held in the Maldives for the first time in 2008, ending 30 years of one-party rule. Preparations are now underway for the next presidential elections, scheduled for 7 September. Ms. Knaul said the challenges she highlighted should be addressed as a matter of great urgency in line with the Constitution and international human rights standards. “In the longer-term, the Maldivian people should consider reforms to the Constitution, with the view to improving the tools and measures at the disposal of the State,” she added, to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the delivery of fair and impartial justice. During the visit which began on 17 February, Ms. Knaul met with President Mohamed Waheed and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdul Samad Abdullah, as well as other representatives of the Government, Parliament and the courts. She also spoke with members of national and international non-governmental organizations based in Malé and Addu atoll. She will present her written report at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this summer. Independent experts, or special rapporteurs like Ms. Knaul, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. Unrelated, Ms. Knaul’s visit comes as former President Mohamed Nasheed has taken refuge from a court summons inside the Indian High Commission in Malé.
A new Brock University program will give high school students the opportunity to spend two weeks at Brock tuition free.The summer has arrived, but school is about to begin for a select group of Niagara high school students.Brock’s University Preparation Program (UPP) is a two-week, tuition-free summer experience for students who may not typically be interested in pursuing post-secondary education. It’s more than just a summer camp, though. The UPP participants will have access to support and services from Brock University through the rest of their high school careers.Research has shown that certain segments of the population are less likely to continue their education beyond secondary school. Among other factors, these under-represented groups include youths who: have parents with no post-secondary education; come from a lower income family; live in a rural area; identify as Aboriginal; or have a disability.Students participating in the two-week Brock UPP sessions were identified by their schools or social service agencies as having the potential to succeed at university, but who may not see post-secondary as a viable option because of some of the perceived barriers mentioned above.The students come from Fort Erie, Welland, St Catharines, Lincoln and Niagara Falls and range in age from those entering Grades 10 to 12 in the fall.“The UPP program intervenes during the critical high school years when young people are having to make important choices that will impact their future,” said Youth University Director Kate Cassidy. “This experience will provide participants with the opportunity to build relationships with university student mentors, become comfortable with the culture and ways of post-secondary, and get a sense of what their future might look like at university”.The first of four UPP sessions begins Monday, July 6 with programs involving career and post-secondary preparation workshops, recreation, leadership training and volunteer work.After the program is finished, all of the UPP participants will receive access to support and services from Brock University throughout their remaining high school careers. During their two weeks at Brock, the students will:– Developing transferable skills, learn about leadership styles, work on communication and presentation skills, build conflict management strategies, explore interests, and begin to build a professional portfolio– Experience hands-on activities in manufacturing, life sciences, green and digital technology to talk about career options– Take part in in recreational activities such as our Olympic-sized pool and high ropes challenge course– Participate in an on-campus community service project – Meet with Brock’s Student Development Centre, Student Awards and Financial Aid Office, Student Life and Community Experience, Recreation Services, the Student Union, Career Services, the Department of Residences, and Brock’s Off Campus Living Office– Visit the Goodman School of Business’ BioLinc, the Centre for Lifespan Development Research, and the Centre for Digital Humanities– Learn about the emerging sectors from guest speakers such as David Evans of Phantom Compass, a Brock graduate who has used his passion and transferable skills to become an entrepreneur in the field of digital media and video game design, and Becky Oehler from Walker Industries to learn how university prepared her for a career in Green Technologies