BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, December 11: China on Thursday said “the responsibility totally lies with the Indian side” for the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This was in response to Indian External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s statement that China had violated border agreements by deploying a large number of soldiers along the border.
Speaking at a virtual session with the Sydney-based Lowy Institute on Wednesday,
Jaishankar had said that China had given India “five differing explanations” for its unprecedented deployment of forces on the LAC this summer,
“We are today probably at the most difficult phase of our relationship with China, certainly in the last 30 to 40 years or you could argue even more,” he had said. He added that “the relationship this year has been very significantly damaged” by China violating border agreements under which both sides would not deploy large number of forces along the LAC.
“Now for some reason, for which the Chinese have to date have given us five differing explanations, the Chinese have violated it,” he said. “The Chinese have literally brought tens of thousands of soldiers in full military preparation mode right to the LAC in Ladakh. Naturally the relationship would be profoundly disturbed by this.”
China has stationed 50,000 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops along the Sino-Indian border in Ladakh, forcing India to do the same on its side of the border.
Responding to a question about Jaishankar’s statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said in Beijing: “The merits of the situation are very clear”.
“China and India are neighbours and the world’s two biggest emerging markets and keeping good relations serves the fundamental interests of both countries and its people but it requires common efforts from both sides,” Ms Hua said.
“The merits of the situation at the border area are very clear and the responsibility totally lies with the Indian side. China has been strictly observing the agreements signed between the two sides and committed to resolving the border issue through dialogue and we are committed to safeguarding regional peace and tranquillity at border areas…
“But like all sovereign states, we are determined in safeguarding our territorial integrity. So on the Indian side, I think this is a serious question on what it should reflect upon.”
Jaishankar had also made clear that it was impossible for the relationship to continue as normal given the situation on the LAC.
“We are very clear that maintaining peace and tranquillity along the LAC is the basis for the rest of the relationship to progress,” he said. “You can’t have the kind of situation you have on the border and say let’s carry on with life in all other sectors of activity. It’s just unrealistic.”
The Chinese side, however, has in recent statements sought to de-link the border situation from other aspects of the relationship such as economic ties, and called for India to put the boundary dispute in a “proper” position. India has said this is untenable as peace on the border is a prerequisite for the relationship.
China also so far has not signalled any willingness to return to the status quo prior to May’s multiple transgressions by the PLA. Both sides have held eight rounds of talks at the Corps Commander level, the last of which was held on November 6, but are yet to agree on a plan to disengage.
Ms Hua repeated that view on putting the border tensions in a “proper” position on Thursday. She said: “We hope India can work with us and contribute to solidarity, cooperation and common development.”
“There are challenges in bilateral relations but China’s position and policy on India hasn’t changed,” she said. “As two major countries and emerging markets, keeping good relations serves the fundamental interests of both and we will stay committed to safeguarding the peace and tranquillity in the border area.
“On the historical issues, China believes that we should find fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solutions based on equal-footed consultation and put it on the proper position in our bilateral relations. We hope we can reach a consensus, properly manage differences, enhance practical cooperation and bring our bilateral relations back on the right track.”
COVID-19: Jaffna faces serious risk
Top medical man in North threatens lockdown
Five villages isolated in Ganewatta DS area
20% of IDH patients need oxygen
By Dinasena Ratugamage and Rathindra Kuruwita
Tough restrictions would have to be imposed in Jaffna if religious leaders did not help health authorities, Northern Province Director General of Health Services, Dr. A. Kethiswaran said yesterday. Jaffna was facing a serious risk of COVID-19, he said.
Dr. Kethiswaran said so during a meeting with religious leaders at his office. He said that a large number of devotees were seen at various places of religious worship during the festive period.
“None of these people follow health guidelines. It is impossible to control the virus because of this. At this rate we will have to impose travel restrictions in the Jaffna District. We need everyone’s support, if we are to avoid this fate.”
He then urged religious leaders to inform devotees of the dangers of the virus and not to gather at places of worship in large numbers.
Dr. Kethiswaran also said that a large number of policemen in Jaffna had contracted COVID-19. About 258 PCR tests had been carried out on Wednesday after it was found that 13 policemen attached to the Jaffna Police station were infected. Altogether 788 PCR tests were done in the Jaffna District on Wednesday, Dr. Kethiswaran said.
One hundred and forty eight new COVID-19 cases had been detected in several villages in the Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area, Divisional Secretary Niranjala Karunaratne said yesterday.
On Wednesday alone 733 PCR tests had been done there, she said, adding that about 175 individuals had tested positive for COVID-19 there.
Given these developments, Tittawelgala, Hunupola, Siradunna, Aluthgama and Hettigama Grama Niladari divisions at Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area have been isolated.
Travel restrictions were imposed on Kuliyapitiya Town, Thunmodara, Dhandagamuwa – West, Kanadulla and Pahala Weerambuwa as COVID-19 cases were increasing there.
PHI in charge of Divulapitiya said that 84 new COVID-19 cases had been reported from the area during the last 48 hours. However, no decision had been taken to impose travel restrictions in the area, PHI, S.A.U.T Kularatne said.
“Twenty-eight of these patients were among people who attended a sports event organised for the New Year in Aswennawatta Grama Niladari area. Forty-four people who went on a trip at Mellawagedara have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. If people are not careful, things might rapidly deteriorate,” he warned.
Deputy Director of IDH said that over 130 COVID-19 patients were undergoing treatment there although the hospital could accommodate only 120 patients.
All eight ICU beds at the IDH are occupied and 20% of the patients there need oxygen. The number of people admitted to hospital had increased after the Sinhala and Hindu New year, health ministry sources said.
Director General of Health Services – Western Province Dr. Dhammika Jayalath urged people to refrain from travelling to Colombo unless it was very urgent.
Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardane said that the coming three weeks would crucial.
Covid figures: Govt. accused of misleading the country
By Rathindra Kuruwita
The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) yesterday claimed that State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals, Prof. Channa Jayasumana was making statements on new strains of SARS-CoV-2 without any scientific proof.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Prof. Jayasumana said that there had been an increase in the spread of Covid virus in the country, especially among the young people and that was due to a new strain of the virus.
President of the CMLS, Ravi Kumudesh said: “The Minister claimed they were doing a research on this. As far as we know, neither the Ministry nor the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has done any research to identify this new strain. The Ministry of Health stopped identifying new variants a long time ago.”
The Ministry of Health could neither plan for new variants of COVID-19 nor determine what vaccine was effective as it simply didn’t have the equipment to identify new strains, Kumudesh said, adding that identifying COVID-19 variants across the country had been outsourced to the University of Sri Jayawardenepura.
“I have repeatedly said that the Health Ministry officials can’t make science and evidence-based decisions or statements on new strains. Institutions under the Health Ministry do not have the ability to identify new strains of the coronavirus; only the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has a gene sequencing machine. We said this was having a disastrous impact on the country’s pandemic response and here we are,.”
Kumudesh said that identifying various strains of COVID-19 was essential to respond to the pandemic as everything from PCR testing to selecting a vaccine, depended on that.
“There are a number of strains of the virus in the world now and we now know that the new variant that led to a lockdown in the UK is here. We have to be ready to identify what strains are coming.”
Kumudesh said that since the country had opened its airports people from various countries would arrive, carrying new strains. He added that there might also be a new strain that originated here without “our knowledge because we don’t do adequate gene sequencing.
“To identify new variants, we must sequence the genes of viruses detected through PCR testing. We need many gene sequencing machines because one cannot identify new strains through a PCR test. However, the Ministry of Health has not provided a single gene sequencing machine to labs under its purview.”
CEA accused of turning blind eye to cardamom cultivators raping Knuckles Forest
By Rathindra Kuruwita
A government decision to allow cardamom plantations inside the Knuckles Forest Reserve, which came under the Forest Conservation Department,it was already having a negative impact on the ecosystem, Sajeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR) said.
Chamikara said that Knuckles Forest Reserve was not only a unique ecosystem but also an important catchment area for rivers such as Mahaweli and Kalu.
“Illegal Cardamom planters had been operating in the forest area for many decades and there had been many attempts to get rid of them,” Chamikara said
About six years ago, there was an attempt to remove illegal Cardamom planters from the Knuckles Forest Reserve. When the Forest Conservation Department tried to remove these encroachers, based on a court order, several politicians and officials intervened on their behalf, the environmentalist said. Due to those interventions, illegal Cardamom planters could not be removed from the Knuckles Forest Reserve, he added.
“In many areas of the Dumbara mountain range, forest undergrowth has been cleared to make way for cardamom plantations. This has drastically increased soil erosion and the soil that is swept away by rains have been deposited in many reservoirs after being taken downstream to the Mahaweli Ganga. Moreover, many trees have been cut to use as firewood to dry cardamom. There are many structures used to dry the cardamom dotting the Knuckles mountain range and these activities cause significant damages to the ecosystem.”
Chamikara said it was illegal to cut trees, cultivate and clear land in a Conservation Forest. The offences carried jail terms or fines or both. Moreover, the court could estimate the damage done to the forest and make the guilty pay that amount. Under the law, even people who encouraged such violations could be prosecuted.
“The CEA has the power to act against those who carry out such illegal activities. According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without obtaining approval, the CEA can present such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both. Unfortunately the authorities concerned are turning a blind eye.”
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