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Disciplinary probe over voting for 20 A: Diana warns SJB of dire consequences

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CID inquiry into MP’s citizenship takes a new turn, court informed

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Election Commission yesterday (4) said that a political party once re-registered couldn’t be forcibly taken back under any circumstances by those who gave up its possession.

Authoritative sources emphasized that such a move wasn’t realistic. The EC said so when The Island sought a clarification as regards Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) National List MP Diana Gamage’s recent declaration that tangible measures would be taken to bring the re-registered party under its original leader, her husband Dr. Senaka de Silva and the decision making Working Committee of the Ape Jathika Peramuna (AJP).

Lawmaker Gamage issued the warning to SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, in a letter dated March 25, 2021 after the National List MP was asked to show cause as to why she voted for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution last October contrary to a decision taken by the party. However, several others representing the SLMC and ACMC who contested the general election, too, voted for the new law.

In a hard-hitting three-page letter, MP Gamage demanded that proposed disciplinary measures in respect of her decision to vote for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution should be terminated forthwith or face the consequences. The new entrant to the parliament cautioned SJB chief Premadasa that he might lose the Opposition Leader’s Office as their party’s position was challenged as the main opposition.

The SJB secured 54 seats, including seven National List slots at the last general election in August 2020. The SJB accommodated Gamage, the former General Secretary of the AJP on its National List. She also received the post of the Assistant Secretary of the SJB in accordance with the understanding between the top SJB leadership and Dr. Senaka de Silva, formerly of the Sri Lanka Army and one-time aide to General Sarath Fonseka at the time he contested the 2010 presidential election under the swan symbol.

Re-registration of AJP as SJB took place in early 2020 under the guidance of the then EC Mahinda Deshapriya between the last presidential and general elections in Nov 2019 and Aug 2020, respectively. At that time the EC comprised Deshapriya, Nalin Abeysekera, PC and Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole. However, in terms of the 20th Amendment enacted in Oct 2020; the EC has been expanded with attorney-at-law Nimal G. Punchihewa as Chairman. The other current EC members are M. M. Mohamed, S.B. Diwaratne, K. P. P. Pathirana and Jeevan Thyagarajah.

MP Gamage, in her letter, a copy of which is available with The Island, stressed that the AJP originally registered by her husband was offered to the then UNP faction led by Deputy Leader of the party without any financial compensation. However, some of those who hadn’t been involved in the process of re-registration of the party and formulation of new party constitution were now trying to take control, Gamage said.

She challenged the SJB to prove what section/s of the constitution she violated by voting for the 20th Amendment.

Lawmaker Gamage reiterated she backed the 20th Amendment as she strongly believed in giving President Gotabaya Rajapaksa unilateral political authority at the expense of her party. The MP emphasized that only those who followed petty political agenda considered her action as a violation of party discipline.

Last month MP Gamage joined SLPP lawmakers at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat.

SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara yesterday told The Island that the party would proceed with the planned disciplinary measures against the MP. The veteran politician dismissed what he called lawmaker Gamage’s empty rhetoric.

Lawmaker Gamage flayed those SJB members who called her a prostitute despite knowing the role played by her in building up the new outfit.

Meanwhile, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) inquiring into a complaint lodged by defeated UNP Colombo District candidate Oshala Herath over lawmaker Gamage not being a Sri Lankan citizen at the time she contested the last general election in August 2020 has informed the Colombo Chief Magistrate court that Gamage obtained Sri Lankan passports by furnishing false information to Controller, Immigration and Emigration. The police had filed a ‘B’ report in the court.

Herath has lodged the complaint on Nov 2, 2020 regarding Gamage securing two passports, including an official passport.

Investigations have revealed the official passport has been issued following interventions made by the then Additional Secretary (administration), Media Ramani Gunawardena and Finance and Media Ministry Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga. Among those who had been questioned in this regard were Deputy Controller, Immigration and Emigration Dinushan Ramawickrama, Jinani Kusumawel Athukorale, also of the same institution, Chalani Weerakoon of Registrar of Persons Department, former Finance and Media Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga, Ramani Gunawardena, retired Additional Secretary (administration), Media, Jeewani Karunaratne, additional district registrar, Divisional Secretariat, Thimbirigasyaya, Mangalika Fernando of Divisional Secretary’s Office, Dehiwela and Padmini Sriyalatha Yapa, grama sevaka.

The police have informed the Magistrate of their move to seek clarification from the British High Commission in this regard.

In terms of the Constitution foreign passport holders cannot enter parliament. Geetha Kumarasinghe a couple of years ago lost her Galle district seat for being a dual citizen at the time she contested on the then UPFA ticket. However, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution has paved the way for dual citizens to enter parliament.



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Facilities for infected pregnant women inadequate – SLCOG

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The distribution and availability of high-flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant women were not adequate, President of the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (SLCOG,) Dr. Pradeep de Silva said yesterday.

Dr. de Silva said that while they had not yet faced any lack of oxygen in treating Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers, things could change rapidly given the limited availability of equipment. “Having an adequate supply of oxygen alone is not enough. You need high flow oxygen machines, and 50 litres of oxygen per minute is needed to operate a high flow oxygen machine. I do not know how many machines we have in this country but where I work, Castle Street Maternity Hospital has about four. We need to estimate the number of these machines we require and how much oxygen we want. From my understanding, the distribution and availability of high flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers is not adequate.”

Dr de Silva said that Sri Lanka needed about 50–200 high-dependency unit (HDU) beds per district, based on the population, 10–50 high flow oxygen machines per district, four for ten ICU beds and two dedicated Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machines.

“If we get this, we will be able to deal with pregnant women who develop complications from COVID-19 for the next four to five years,” he said.

Dr de Silva said that currently one pregnant woman who has been infected with COVID-19 is receiving ECMO treatment. There is also a shortage of beds at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, which has the largest ward dedicated to COVID-19 infected pregnant women. On Thursday, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Dr Mayuramana Dewolage, who heads the ward that treats COVID-19 infected pregnant women at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, said that they only had 37 beds were dedicated to pregnant women with COVID-19. They didn’t have any HDU or ICU beds dedicated for their use, he said.

“We share HDU and ICU beds with other patients at Mulleriyawa Base Hospital,” Dr Dewolage said.

The President of the SLCOG also urged all hospitals to find a separate space for pregnant women who were receiving treatment at their institutions. When COVID-19 pandemic started, the Health Ministry instructed all hospitals to do so but it was now obvious that those instructions had not been followed, he said.

“When the second wave started people got ready but later, they just stopped getting ready and now we are unprepared to meet the challenges of the third wave. We need to find a way to manage this. If the Ministry of Health has not prepared a plan, we are ready to help formulate one,” the President of the SLCOG said.

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Those who had AstraZeneca first jab, should take Sputnik V with adenovirus 26 – Specialist

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

If those who have taken the first dose of AstraZeneca are to receive a second jab of Sputnik V, they should take the first Sputnik V vaccine with adenovirus 26 (Ad26), Consultant Immunologist and head of the department of Immunology-MRI, Dr Nihan Rajiva de Silva says.

Dr. de Silva said that the first dose of Sputnik had Ad 26 and the second had adenovirus-5. “Adenovirus-5 is common. We may have been exposed to that and we may have developed antibodies. Adenovirus-26 is rarer and we will better respond to that. That is why the vaccine-maker has used adenovirus-26 in the first vaccine. So, if you had a first jab of AstraZeneca and you are to get the second dose from Sputnik-V remember to get the first jab,” Dr. de Silva said.

He added that any vaccine has the chance of reducing the severity of the virus and that the general public should get vaccinated when the opportunity is available.

Dr. de Silva said that there was a shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines because the Serum Institute of India could not deliver shipments as promised.

“However, we are now getting Sputnik V vaccines and we are looking at mixing them. There is a study in Russia about the efficiency of mixing Sputnik V with AstraZeneca and the results should be out soon. I can say that theoretically mixing the two vaccines should work,” he said.

Dr. de Silva added that the AstraZeneca vaccine should work against the new variant spreading in the country.

Consultant Cardiologist at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Dr. Gotabaya Ranasinghe said that those with heart issues, non-communicable diseases and were obese must get vaccinated to minimise the complications of Covid-19.

Dr. Ranasinghe said that those in the above-mentioned categories were at risk of contracting, getting complications and dying of COVID-19 and research had proven that vaccination would reduce the chance of such eventualities.

“If you worry about getting vaccinated, talk to your doctor. Don’t seek advice from friends and family,” he said.

Dr. Ranasinghe added that they had limited the number of heart surgeries they do due to COVID-19. ICU beds used for heart patients too were being now allocated for COVID-19 patients. “We only do the most pressing cases. But this means that the waiting list keeps on growing. Now, the waiting list is over eight months. If we limit the surgeries more and keep taking away ICU beds available for those who have had heart surgeries, the waiting list will grow further,” he said.

The Consultant Cardiologist also advised the public to eat healthy food and engage in moderate exercises, at least five days a week. This will reduce the mental stress as well as boost the immune system. ‘We recommend moderate exercises like jogging and brisk walking, for 30 minutes, five days a week. Being healthy is as important as wearing masks or adhering to physical distancing,” he said.

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STF raids narcotics distribution centre close to Bloemendhal police station

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Acting on information received from the Organised Crime Fighting Unit of the elite Special Task Force (STF), police commandos, on Thursday (6), arrested a person running a narcotic distributing network, 1.5 km away from the Bloemendhal police station.

The STF identified the suspect as Thawasidevan Pradeep Kumar, 21, a key associate of one Suresh with links to a criminal outfit run by Kimbulaele Guna, now absconding in India.

DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that the raiding party had recovered 2 kg, 22 g and 88mg of ‘ICE,’ with a street value of Rs 25 mn in addition to 4kg, 2 g and 527 mg of substance known as ‘hash,’ as well as Rs 400,000 in cash and a mobile phone.

Kimbulaele Guna is believed to have sought refuge following an LTTE attempt to assassinate President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at the final PA presidential election rally at the Town Hall in December 1999.

DIG Rohana said that Guna’s brother Suresh was a major heroin distributor in Colombo. The STF later handed over the suspect, along with contraband and locally made ‘hash,’ and his phone to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB). The raid on the heroin distribution centre situated in Aluth Mawatha, Colombo 15, followed specific information received as regards the ‘operation’ conducted with impunity (SF)

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