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Big boost for ‘1990 Suwaseriya ambulance service’



Prez, Sudarshini receive SJB MP’s appreciation

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian Dr. Harsha de Silva has praised Epidemics and Covid Disease Control State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle for proposing to strengthen the ‘1990 Suwasariya ambulance service’, gifted by India, during Ranil Wickremesinghe tenure as the Prime Minister.

Dr. de Silva, who spearheaded the Suwaseriya project, said that Dr. Fernandopulle couldn’t have made her move at a better time as the country battled the increased threat posed by the raging Covid-19 pandemic.

The former UNP non-Cabinet Minister appreciated President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for high level support the incumbent government extended to the Suwaseriya project.

The Colombo District lawmaker was responding to an announcement made by Dr. Fernandopulle’s Ministry as regards President Gotabaya Rajapaksa approving her proposal to procure an additional 112 ambulances to strengthen the service.

Declaring that decisions should be taken for the betterment of the country, regardless of political differences, MP de Silva said. The lawmaker, blamed the pathetic situation today on those who gained power and allegedly did away with projects launched by the previous administration, regardless of the consequences. The changing of policies, following national level elections, was the bane of the country, the top SJB spokesperson said.

Recalling fierce attacks on the Suwaseriya project, MP de Silva said that the then Joint Opposition slammed the Indian gift as it was launched. Some alleged that the Suwaseriya ambulance service even posed a security threat and people with vested interests could operate in any part of the country, MP de Silva said.

Some alleged that Suwaseriya would suffer a natural death once the ambulances supplied by India became unusable. However, Suwaseriya would shortly receive a big boost with the acquisition of 112 new ambulances.

The SJB MP also appreciated the role played by the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe and Indian leader Narendra Modi for making such a valuable donation.

Dr. de Silva emphasized the pivotal importance in the government and the Opposition reaching consensus on vital matters or, in other words, pursuing a national agenda instead of politics of destruction.

Epidemics and Covid Disease Control State Minister Dr. Fernandopulle also holds the primary healthcare portfolio.

The State Minister’s Media Secretary Thusitha Jayewardena said that the Ministry submitted two proposals, including the one on  Suwaseriya expansion for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s approval. The Ministry also asked for Rs 5,727.36 mn for the payment of ‘Senior Citizens Allowances’ to 238,640 persons awaiting inclusion into the beneficiary list maintained by the National Secretariat for Elders.

The ‘1990 Suwaseriya ambulance service’ and the National Secretariat for Elders come under the purview of Dr. Fernandopulle.

Against the sharp surge in Covid-19 cases, the ‘1990 Suwasariya ambulance service’ received as many as 5,300 calls a day and moved about 1,000 persons on a daily basis, the Media Secretary said.

The ‘1990 Suwasariya ambulance service’ comprises 1,393 workers and 297 ambulances, deployed in all parts of the country.

The Media Secretary said that the Suwaseriya established during the previous administration with USD 22 mn Indian grant today provided services free of charge, courtesy the government of Sri Lanka.

The Ministry would soon submit the proposal to acquire 112 new ambulances to the Cabinet of ministers.

The acquisition of new ambulances would facilitate and augment the services provided in the provinces, the aide said.

Lawmaker de Silva said that he was overwhelmed by the success achieved by the Suwaseriya project, launched by him, in spite of heavy opposition as well as personal attacks. “The project couldn’t have become what it is today if not for the support extended by Suwaseriya Chairman Duminda Ratnayake, Ms. Sandya Salgado, Director and CEO Sohan de Silva”. Responding to another query, MP de Silva insisted that they weren’t paid or provided facilities as all of them worked on a 100 per cent voluntary basis.

MP de Silva said that he was able to allocate money required to establish sub stations in support of the Suwaseriya project during the previous administration. The former non-Cabinet Minister said that a project to set up the first sub-station was launched during the previous administration. The work was brought to a successful conclusion during the ongoing pandemic.

The Indian grant greatly strengthened Sri Lanka’s capacity to meet an emergency, Dr de Silva said, recalling the deployment of Suwaseriya ambulances in the immediate aftermath of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks

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Lift restrictions on 21 June, and be prepared for dire consequences – Medical Specialists



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) President Dr. Lakkumar Fernando yesterday urged the government to reconsider its decision to lift the travel restrictions on 21 June on account of the detection of the Indian or Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country.

Speaking to The Island yesterday, Dr. Fernando said: “The Ex-Co and COVID committee of the AMS met on Thursday before it was announced that the Indian variant had been found in the community, and we decided to ask the government to continue the travel restrictions until 28 June.”

The AMS President added that the detection of the Indian variant from Dematagoda was an alarming development as the Indian variant was more transmissible than the UK variant.

“Reopening the country even after this detection is a very bad idea. We detected the UK variant on 08 April 2021 but we allowed people to celebrate the New Year. I feel that the government is repeating the same mistake,” he said.

Dr. Fernando urged the government to have discussions with a broad section of experts in the coming two days and take a more informed decision as we are likely lose more valuable lives if we are not careful enough in our decision making. “I don’t think the government has sought advice from experts,” he said.

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SLPP will not let disputes with Gammanpila undermine govt.



…will vote against SJB’s no-faith motion

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (18) said that whatever the differences the party had with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, it would not undermine President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government. A senior SLPP spokesperson said so when The Island sought their response to Samagi Jana Balavegaya planning to move a no-faith motion against attorney-at-law Gammanpila over the recent increase in prices of fuel.

The SJB early this week declared its intention to hand over a no-faith motion against Gammanpila to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. Already, the JVP and the UNP have questioned the SJB’s exercise.

The SLPP stood solidly with the stand taken by its General Secretary attorney-at-law Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, in respect of Minister Gammanpila, the official said. According to him, SJB’s certain defeat at the forthcoming vote should not be considered an endorsement of the energy minister.

However, the SJB would not be allowed to exploit the dispute between the party and Minister Gammanpila, under any circumstances, party sources said. The SLPP has been in touch with SLPP strategist Basil Rajapaksa, currently in the US, throughout the conflict, sources said.

The SJB’s no-faith motion would be easily defeated, sources said, pointing out that the SLPP group in the government parliamentary group accounted for 115 excluding the Speaker. The SJB parliamentary group comprised 54 members, including seven National List appointees. One of the NL members, Diana Gamage has switched her allegiance to the SLPP.

Sources revealed that on behalf of the SLPP group, the General Secretary of the party, lawmaker Kariyawasam discussed the developments with SLPP leader Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The SLPP group is expected to meet coming Monday (21) to reach consensus on a settlement. Sources said that a no holds barred discussion was with MP Kariyawasam getting an opportunity to explain his stand.

Referring to a statement dated June 12 issued by MP Kariyawasam demanding Minister Gammanpila’s resignation, SLPP underscored the need to set the record straight.

The SLPP General Secretary did not challenge the fuel increase announced by Minister Gammanpila as the party realized the government had no other option, sources said. However, there was no change in the SLPP’s stand in respect of Minister Gammanpila as he did nothing to improve the energy sector coming under his purview, sources said. The SLPP alleged that Minister Gammanpila had done nothing except taking advantage of gullible media.

Responding to another query, sources questioned the rationale in a recent statement issued by eight political parties, affiliated to the SLPP, in support of Minister Gammanpila. Except one political party therein, other parties comprised just one lawmaker each. There were two National List members, too among that eight-member group, sources said, adding that PHU, was represented in parliament by just one MP (Gammanpila.)

Sources said that the SLPP felt that there should be a consensus among the main party and its constituents on major policy decisions. Sources questioned the National Freedom Front (NFF) and the PHU pursuing an agenda inimical to the government. How could they take a different stand on some contentious issues publicly having been members of the cabinet of ministers, sources asked, accusing them of sabotaging key policy decisions.

The SLPP emphasized that the ruling coalition would have to reach a consensus on a common agenda or face catastrophic consequences.

Sources alleged that Weerawansa-Gammanpila led group sabotaged an agreement the incumbent administration worked out with India on the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Harbour.

Asked to explain, sources said that the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe had finalized agreements in respect of Mattala airport, ECT, remaining tanks at the Trincomnalee oil tank farm and LNG plant at Sampur with India. Following the last presidential election, the incumbent government decided to go ahead with only the ECT project in the Colombo South Harbour.

The SLPP said that the agreement on ECT was certainly not a popular one though it could have helped efforts to revive the national economy. But, Weerawansa-Gammanpila group as usual played politics with the issue at hand and took credit for stopping the project.

Sources said that the country would have faced eternal blackouts if the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave into pressure meant to stop Norochcholai coal-fired power plant.


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1,390 more lockdown violators arrested



The police had arrested 1,390 persons who violated lockdown regulations on Thursday (17), Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said. The bulk of the arrests numbering 172 were made by the Kuliyapitiya Police, 133 by Matale Police and 121 by Kandy Police.

The police have arrested 38,311 people so far for violating quarantine regulations since 30 October 2020.

About 6,797 people were questioned at checkpoints set up at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province on Thursday and 108 of them were warned and sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders in violation of the current travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, the Police are planning to carry out a special operation during this weekend to arrest those who violate health regulations by increasing mobile patrols, roadblocks and motorcycle patrols, DIG Rohana added.

Drone operations too will be conducted in Colombo and suburban areas to identify individuals who violate lockdown rules and regulations.



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