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COVID-19: JVP tells govt. magic cannot help tackle pandemic

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By Saman Indrajith

Written history of pandemics dating back to around 2,500 years indicates that only scientific methods could cure the patients, and therefore the government should stop promoting concoctions prepared by people without any scientific background, says the JVP.

Addressing the media at the JVP headquarters in Pelawatte, former MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa said that the government should promote scientific methods and build people’s confidence in those methods in fighting the pandemic instead of wasting time and money on concoctions and other methods which have not yet been recognised by science.

“This is a pandemic and increasing awareness among people on scientific findings and methods to fight the disease are the only way to set about the task of tackling the disease. The government and its ministers are engaged in various methods that have no scientific basis. Throwing pots into rivers and drinking syrups that had nothing to do with science are the government ministers’ response in the face of the pandemic that has killed over 200 persons. Their actions have demoralised the doctors and other experts who rely on scientific methods and procedures.”

Dr. Jayatissa said that the government had lost its grip on the pandemic. “As of Saturday night the number of deaths reached 211 and the number of infections 44,000. Around 500-700 COVID-19 infected persons are found daily. At this rate within a week we may pass the 50,000 mark. This is a dangerous situation that does not permit dilly-dallying with potions by shamans putting the lives of infected people in danger. We must do everything possible to prevent the new variant of COVID-19 virus entering the country.

“The government’s performance in controlling the first wave of the pandemic is praiseworthy. It was successful because people followed the health guidelines and many government agencies including the security forces and intelligence agencies with the help of health authorities did their level best to control the disease. However, the people have lost their trust in the government following the second wave of the pandemic because the government still could not trace the origin of the second wave even after deploying eight CID experts for the purpose. People think that either the government cannot find it or it is hiding it from the people. Thereafter, the government started to promote locally made syrups and other unscientific methods. The Health Minister and several ministers started throwing pots into rivers. Thereafter starting from the Minister of Health, the Speaker of Parliament and Cabinet ministers ingested the syrup in public.

“Magic cannot cure pandemics. People should be advised to maintain one-metre distance, wash their hands frequently and to wear masks. The government even prepared quarantine laws and regulations during the first wave. But later in the second wave its own ministers violated those regulations in public. Those actions too contributed to people losing faith in the health and scientific methods.”



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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