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Association of Medical Specialists calls for district level lockdowns

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The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) has urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to impose ‘lockdowns’ at district level with immediate effect to bring the raging Covid-19 pandemic under control.

The AMS has also sought an urgent meeting with President Rajapaksa to explain ways and means of meeting the health challenge. The AMS has stressed the need to revisit what the professional body calls Covid-19 management strategy without further delay.

The AMS has questioned the rationale behind claims that vaccination is a panacea.

The following is the text of a letter titled, ‘Battle against Covid-19: Are we at a tipping point” written jointly by Dr Lakkumar Fernando and Dr. R. Gnanasekeram, President and General Secretary of the AMS, respectively: “As medical specialists serving in the frontline of the fight against Covid-19, we strongly believe that Sri Lanka is at a critical stage. Number of new cases keep rising continuously. During last week, the daily number of ‘declared’ new infections have consistently been over 1,800, and went above 2,500 during the last 24 hours. The number of Covid-related deaths too have been increasing steadily, with daily counts of approximately 20, even after a questionable exclusion of those with co-morbidities. We should appreciate at least three times the reported number of new cases do exist in the community.

“We also know that healthcare resources are fast reaching its threshold. Health sector beds and available facilities are almost saturated. Requirement for oxygen is increasing exponentially as we have started seeing more symptomatic patients. ICU beds are almost fully occupied. Healthcare professionals are exhausted and apprehensive with many getting infected with Covid-19 themselves.

“Preliminary predictive disease modelling done by WHO, Geneva, recently with the assumption that current disease trend will continue without any public health interventions, Sri Lanka would most likely be reporting 10,000 cases daily within the next three weeks. If that happens, we can expect the number of deaths to exceed 100 per day. If the country reaches this ‘tipping point’ with the disease spiraling out of control, it would be extremely difficult to recover from that point.

“Some are of the opinion that vaccination is the panacea to all our problems. There are two challenges to that narrative. One is the problems associated with quick access to safe and effective vaccines to cover at least 65-70% of the population with two doses. The time taken for vaccines to provide protection has been widely accepted to be at least three weeks weeks after the second dose. Pending protection from the vaccines which is the key pillar supporting the fight against Covid-19, public health interventions to restrict people’s movements should be the most important tool to avert a disastrous outcome during this critical period.

“Therefore, we urge Your Excellency to impose effective lockdowns at least at district level to restrict people’s movement with immediate effect. The current practice of isolating communities at GN division level is neither preserving economic activity nor controlling transmission of the disease. Whilst assuring the President of our unstinted support to overcome the present challenges and save Sri Lanka from an unprecedented public health catastrophe, we hope the recommendations made by us will be implemented urgently. We also believe that the time has come to revisit Sri Lanka’s management strategy of Covid-19 before it rages out of control.

 “We hope and pray that Your Excellency would consider our request and suggestions in the right spirit and in a constructive manner.

We are aware that your Excellency has an extremely busy schedule at present due to a variety of reasons. However, we would be very grateful if you could give us an opportunity to meet you with a group of relevant professionals to explain further why we think some drastic measures are immediately needed.”

 

 



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DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL

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by PRIYAN DE SILVA

The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.

The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).

The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.

Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969

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The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.

Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.

“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.

Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.

“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.

The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.

“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.

The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.

“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.

Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.

“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.

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JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?

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By Rathindra Kuruwita 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.

“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.

Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.

 “They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.

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