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Dinesh urges Opp. to stand together to face int’l threats to atone for past betrayals 

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By Saman Indrajith

Leader of the House Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told Parliament on Wednesday (25) that no agreement had been signed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon on probing alleged war crimes. 

Participating in the third reading stage debate on budget 2021, Minister Gunawardena said Moon had visited Sri Lanka after the end of the war. They had issued a joint statement which was now being dubbed as an agreement, the Minister said.

“The Opposition is doing that purposefully to cover its own wrongs. The yahapalana Foreign Minister sponsored a UN resolution against this country betraying our valiant forces. Those wrongs can never be rectified and people will never forgive them. So, the Opposition is distorting the truth.  We may have political differences, but we must be united in facing international threats. This is something you should learn from other countries.”

Minister Gunawardena said that there were some Opposition politicians who advocated a federal solution and demanded that the government should take India for an example. India became a federal country because at the time of independence, there were principalities in India, the minister said. 

“They had to adopt a federal solution to become a union. It’s the same with the US. When a group of independent states have to come together, the best option for them is a federal structure. That does not suit a country that has been unitary since ancient times. India’s principalities existed for many years, sometimes two decades, after Independence. It was during the times of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1970s the powers of some Maha Rajas were taken over by the Central Government.” 

Minister Gunawardena said that the vision of the government was to achieve a fourfold outcome – a productive citizenry, a contented family, a disciplined and just society and a prosperous nation.  “We are committed to safeguarding sovereignty, independence, national security, territorial integrity, human rights and democracy while ushering in prosperity. It was on this basis that as the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka I spoke before the UN at Geneva February this year and withdrew from a UNHRC resolution against this country.”

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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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