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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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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE



Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY



President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm



By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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