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Accused of cronyism, Kirielle dares govt. members to reveal information about their bank accounts

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy and District MP Lakshman Kiriella, speaking in Parliament, on Tuesday (8), challenged the government MPs and Ministers to reveal details of their bank accounts.

Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella said: “Can any of the MPs and Ministers in the government ranks tell this House how much money he or she has in his or her bank account? Is there at least a single MP who can do that? At the time of our government during a budget debate I revealed how much money I have in my bank account.

“I did that and even got faulted by my wife for doing so. She asked me why I had revealed it to the House because it consisted of what had been earned from practising law for over 20 years and inherited.”

Kiriella said so after SLPP Gampaha District MP Milan Jayatilaka, participating in the budget debate on the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Highways, accused the former of having allocated funds for the Ministry of Higher Education at the expense of the Highways Ministry. “MP Kirirella was the Minister of Higher Education and highways under the yahapalana government. While allocating Rs. 134 billion for highways, only Rs 77 billion was allocated for higher education. He gave road construction to a company by the name of Olympus, which did nothing but took away the money. There is a company called Kandy Construction. Its directors are his relatives, who controlled all construction contracts, the MP said.

Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella said: If you have any suspicion you can complain to the COPE. He mentioned a company called Kandy Constructions. I do not know of a company by that name and request that member to submit the names of the directors to Parliament so that we could see whether I have my relatives there. These are lies. Usually, when a backbencher speaks, others feed him with information. We too had the same experience. I sympathise with you. In 2017, the JVP brought a motion against me, making various allegations. In response to them, I revealed the figures of all money I have in bank accounts. Can you do the same?”

Opposition MPs shouted that they could.

Kiriella: So get up and tell the House how much you have in your account.

Transport Services State Minister Dilum Amunugama: There are many issues and problems before the COPE as regards the Highways Ministry. I do not know whether you are responsible for them, but there are issues.

Kiriella: So we can have a debate on the COPE report.

Hambantota District SLPP MP Dr Upul Galappaththi: We are ready to reveal the details of our bank accounts. Can you ask the former ministers who are now in the Opposition as MPs to do the same?

Badulla District SLPP MP Chamara Sampath Dassanayake: We have given declarations of assets when we became MPs.

Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella: I am challenging you to get up here and tell the House.

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando: I respect our chief opposition whip, but what he is asking for is meaningless. Can anyone expect those who steal money to keep it in bank accounts?

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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