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Covid threat: Sabry backs mandatory vaccination, Keheliya ready to consult AG



Rohini says manipulation of data disastrous

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Justice Minister Ali Sabry PC, yesterday (20) said that the vaccine should be made mandatory unless there were compelling medical reasons to decline the only available ‘safeguard’ so far.

Declaring he had taken the vaccine, the SLPP National List MP emphasised that the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) repeatedly urged the Muslim community to take the vaccine.

Responding to The Island queries. Lawmaker Sabry said that his elderly mother, too, received the vaccine.

Newly appointed Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that he intended to take up the issue with the Attorney General’s Department.

Acknowledging the possibility of various interested parties launching a legal challenge against the move, the former media minister asserted that the government could ignore the continuing risk posed by those who declined the vaccination.

The call for making vaccination mandatory has gathered momentum in the wake of the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) urging the government to consider a third dose for frontline health workers as well as the entire population as the raging epidemic posed quite a threat. Dr. GMOA Secretary Senal Fernando early this week emphasized the urgent need to consider a third dose due to some recipients of both doses being tested Covid-19 positive.

Minister Sabry explained vaccination was the primary safeguard all over the world as repeatedly pointed out by medical experts. The minister dismissed assertions that the Muslim community opposed the vaccination drive.

Both Mujibur Rahman (SJB/Colombo) and Mohammed Muzammil (SLPP/National List) said that they received the vaccine as obviously there was no other cure.

State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle told The Island that a substantial number of those who had succumbed to Covid-19 didn’t receive at least a single dose of vaccine. Dr. Fernandopulle said that among the recent victims were a doctor and other professionals.

“Refusal to take vaccination is quite a problem, a serious issue that can be addressed by making it mandatory through legal means,” the State Minister said, underscoring the importance of taking tangible short-term and long term measures. Vaccination should be made mandatory to influence and compel the public to take the vaccine for their protection.

Former Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission and SJB MP Rohini Kaviratne (Matale district) are among those who recently backed the call to make vaccination mandatory.

Lawmaker Kaviratne said that the government should stop manipulating Covid-19 data in a bid to deceive the country. Referring to the sharp discrepancy in figures released by the Epidemiology Unit and the senior officer in charge of the Matale district, MP Kaviratne accused the government of suppressing data.

She alleged that those responsible had even altered the number of families quarantined in the Matale district. Responding to another query, the former UNPer said that manipulation of Covid-19 data had been quite widespread and certainly not restricted to the Matale district.

The SJB MP asked the rationale in suppressing accurate data. Lawmaker Kaviratne pointed out that SLPP constituent, the National Freedom Front (NFF) publicly accused two senior officials of the Epidemiology Unit and a senior military official of manipulating Covid-19 figures pertaining to the Gampaha District. The MP asked the NFF whether the government responded to its accusation or just turned a blind eye.

Lawmaker Kaviratne pointed out that a recent letter that requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to declare a three-week long ‘lockdown’ in the face of deteriorating Covid-19 situation, written by smaller parties which contested the last general election on the SLPP ticket revealed serious differences among the constituents. She pointed out the SLPP with over 100 members elected refrained from making that request for obvious reasons.

The MP urged the government to stop playing politics with the issue. Such strategies would be detrimental to public health, she said.

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JVP, too, moves court against deal with US company



By Chitra Weerarathne and A.J.A. Abeynayake

The JVP yesterday (26) filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal requesting it to declare null and void a Cabinet decision to transfer 40 percent of the Yugadanavi Power Plant to US Company, New Fortress Energy Inc.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ceylon Electricity Board, West Coast Power (Pvt) Ltd, Lakdanavi Limited, the Monetary Board of the Central Bank, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation have been named as respondents among 43 others.

The JVP’s petition has come in the way of Colombo’s Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and Ven Elle Gunawansa, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya and the Federation of National Organisations (FNO) moving the court against the controversial deal with US energy company,The application has also sought a writ of mandamus on the respondents preventing them from taking any action with regard to the matter until the application is taken up and its examination is concluded.

Former JVP MPs Sunil Handunnetti and Wasantha Samarasinghe are the petitioners.

The petitioners state that the Cabinet decisions undermine the rule of law, the Constitution and democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution and several other statutes, and conventions of democratic governance and Cabinet of Ministers exercising executive powers.

The petitioners state that LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., is the largest power sector engineering company in the country. It was first incorporated in the 1980s as a joint venture of the Ceylon Electricity Board and a multinational group – ABB of Norway.

The Petitioners state that Lakdanavi (Pvt) Ltd., is a fully owned subsidiary of LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., and is a company specialised in engineering, procurement and construction and operations and maintenance in the energy and power generation sector.

They assert that the government has not properly explained particulars of the deal even to the Cabinet of Ministers when transferring the shares of the power plant to the American company.

They have also alleged that the government has not obtained the approval of Parliament for the agreement in question and that the relevant share transfer process has not been carried out in accordance with a formal tender procedure.

They have sought the Appeals Court to issue an order rescinding the decision taken to transfer the shares to the American company and the agreement signed by the government.

In addition, the General Secretary of the SJB MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara filed a Fundamental Rights application in the Supreme Court on 21 Oct., challenging the government decision to transfer 40 per cent of the Kerawalapitiya Power Plant to the US firm.

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Ex-Indian HC in Colombo during turbulent 1989-90 will be featured in next Pathfinder “In Conversation” webinar



Ambassador Lakhan Mehrotra, former High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, will be featured in the next Pathfinder “In Conversation” webinar scheduled at 2.30 p.m. IST/SLST on Thursday 28th October.

Mehrotra will be interviewed by Bernard Goonetilleke, Chairman, Pathfinder Foundation. They will discuss the guest speaker’s publication ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’, which features his experience during the period 1989-1990, when he served as High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, during a politically turbulent era coupled with the separatist war in the north-east and an insurrection in the south.

His book, ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’ touches on the beginnings of the conflict, briefly follows on its evolution until it reached its peak in the early 1990s, and then takes the reader in detail through the author’s own experience in the country, nearly two years after the 1987 Indo-Lanka Agreement was signed and the Indian Peace Keeping Force had been inducted at the invitation of President J. R. Jayewardene, while President Premadasa, who succeeded President Jayewardene considered the presence of an Indian military contingent on his nation’s soil as an affront to its sovereignty. Soon after his election, the President issued an ultimatum for the IPKF to leave its shores by 29th July 1989 and threatened military action against it if it failed to do so, which brought the two nations to the brink of a military confrontation.

The High Commissioner’s intensive consultations and tireless interaction with the political leaders of Sri Lanka, the warring factions in the country’s north-east, and the governments in New Delhi and Colombo helped signing of the joint communique on 28th July 1989 on arrangements for phased withdrawal of the IPKF in March 1990 with due recognition of its contribution and sacrifices made to preserve the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the country. ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’ provides information that has never been divulged before. The “In Conversation” webinar will delve into these experiences of the High Commissioner; whose rather brief assignment was from April 1989 to June 1990.

Following his assignment that covered the most turbulent period of Sri Lanka in modern times, Ambassador Mehrotra served as Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs and as Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Africa before his retirement in 1992. Later, he served as UN Secretary General’s Personal Representative in Cambodia from 1997 to 2000 and as Head of the UN Diplomatic Mission in Jakarta for Peace Talks between Indonesia and East Timor.

Those who are interested in retracing the history of Sri Lanka should register in advance for this webinar through the link below:

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Cardinal lashes out at Minister known as Ten Percent



His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith visits Sarakkuwa in the Pamunugama area where clearing of X-Press Pearl debris continuinues.Pic by Nishan S .Priyantha

By Norman Palihawadane and Nishan S. Priyantha

Monies taken in the form of commissions by forfeiting people’s welfare will never do any good to those who take them, says His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

“The biggest malady our society is afflicted with is the commissions earned by politicians through various deals. They take commissions from companies by depriving the people of their dues. Such money has blood on them and they would not do any good to those who take them,” the Cardinal said yesterday.

Speaking to journalists at the Sarakkuwa beach in Pamunugama during an inspection tour to witness the progress of cleaning work of the MV X-Press Pearl wreck the Cardinal said: “We have a Cabinet minister who is notoriously known as Mr. Ten Percent. Imagine the shame on this nation when there is such a minister taking ten percent of commission from every project he passes. The monies collected in that way would never bring out any good.”

The Cardinal said that the President, the Prime Minister and government institutions including the Ministry of Fisheries, coast conservation department, marine environment protection authority and urban development authority were duty bound to remove the wreck, clean the beach and the ocean. “In doing so, the government should be concerned about the interests of people, and not about the shipping company, its local agents or agents of the insurance companies. We demand that the government take this case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague and get full compensation for the people. We have information that the agents of companies have come down and are staying in Colombo exerting influence on various political leaders and officials. Their objective is getting out of this by paying a paltry sum. If the politicians and officials permit that we will take to the streets with people.”

The Cardinal said that there was information that Urban Development Authority officials were making plans to give away Muthurajawela to foreign companies. “Muthurajawela is a national asset and belongs to the people. The politicians have no right to sell them off to Korean or Chinese companies. We would not let that happen,” he said.

Associated with the Cardinal were Ven. Pahiyangala Ananada Thera, Chairperson of Marine Environment Protection Chairperson, bishops and other religious leaders.

The Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl caught fire off the coast of Colombo in May and sank while transporting 1,486 chemical containers from the Middle East with stops in India and Sri Lanka during its voyage to Singapore.

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