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Dinesh says Yahapalana betrayal of country in Geneva resulted in US blacklisting SL Army Chief

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By Saman Indrajith

The United States blacklisting and imposing a travel ban on Army chief, Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva, was one of the fallouts of the yahapalana government’s 2015 decision to co-sponsor the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution No: 30/1 against Sri Lanka, Parliament was told yesterday.

 “It was due to that betrayal of our war heroes that the US imposed sanctions on them,” Leader of the House Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told Parliament.

He said so when Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa had asked whether the government would ask US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to lift the ban when the latter visits Sri Lanka in the coming days.

 “There are media reports that US Secretary of State Pompeo is to visit Sri Lanka. During his stay here, he will meet Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena. I request from the President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to ask Pompeo to lift the travel ban on our army commander. That should be done for the sake of all war heroes.”

 Minister Gunawardena: We have already made that request to relevant authorities. We made the request within 24 hours of imposition of the ban. We have informed the US State Department of our position and asked for the lifting of the ban. It was thanks to the great betrayal the previous government did by co-sponsoring a resolution at the UNCHRC against this country that these sanctions came.

Opposition Leader Premadasa: There is no need to write letters. You get an opportunity to meet Pompeo face to face, that request could be made there.

 Minister Gunawardena: You should have told that to your government’s foreign minister before he was leading the co-sponsoring. Your government committed a grave offence. These are the consequences of that betrayal.

 Opposition Leader Premadasa: You can ask former President Maithripla Sirisena he would confirm that it was I who pushed his name for the post of army commander. General Shavendra Silva too knows it. You, too, can ask him.

Minister Gunawardena said that the government had already commenced a campaign under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to withdraw the co-sponsorship to rectify the betrayal committed by the previous government and to standby the war heroes’ interests in the international front.  

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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