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Discrepancy in compensation for terror victims highlighted

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Easter Sunday probe:

By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was no uniform policy on compensating those killed or injured in terror attacks or riots and political influence had help those affected by riots in Digana and Beruwala receive higher compensation than the victims of Easter Sunday attacks, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday attacks was informed yesterday.

Acting Director of the Office of Reparations S. M. Bathiudeen told the PCoI that one million rupees each had been paid for the persons killed during the Easter Sunday attacks.  However, two million rupees each had been paid for those killed during the anti-Muslim riots in Digana and Beruwala, he said.

“We have received 220 applications from families of those killed during the Easter Sunday attacks. Rs. 220 million was paid to these individuals. The Cabinet also decided to pay a maximum of Rs. 500,000 to those who were injured. Rs. 86 million was paid to 506 applicants. There was also a cap of Rs. 5 million for properties that were damaged.”

The families of those who died during the Digana and Beruwala riots were paid Rs. 2 million each and there was no cap as regards damages caused to properties.

Bathiudeen said: “There was a meeting at the Kandy Kachcheri after the Digana riots. The then PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, Ministers Rauff Hakeem and Lakshman Kiriella and Kandy MPs were present. They decided on the amounts to be paid. Those who were injured at Digana were also compensated without medical reports.”

Bathiudeen said that people frequently asked him why they had been paid less than others who had been in a similar situation. The amount to be paid was not decided by the Office of Reparations, but by politicians. It was unfair that only Rs. 100,000 each was paid for those killed in the North.

“We don’t decide on the figures. We are not even asked. We are sent Cabinet papers and we implement them,” Bathiudeen said.

Bathiudeen was then cross-examined by Shamil Perera, PC, who represents the Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

Shamil Perera: “How much was an injured person to be paid?”

Bathiudeen: “The Cabinet decided to put a cap of Rs. 500,000 as regards the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks. But people were paid less based on medical reports. We judged the effect of these injuries would have on his or her earning capacity.”

Perera PC: “You said that 280 injured persons of the blast at Katuwapitiya Church were compensated. However only 32 victims have received Rs. 500,000. Meanwhile 147 people, the overwhelming majority, received only Rs. 50,000 each. At Kochchikade 102 were injured. Only 13 victims received Rs. 500,000 each. Meanwhile 40 people received only Rs. 50,000 each. Did you know that these people had serious injuries”

Bathiudeen: “Yes.”

Perera PC: “Many people had to undergo surgeries. Is Rs. 500,000 enough for a surgery?’

Bathiudeen: “It’s true. The Cabinet took this decision”.

Perera PC: “Do you know that the Catholic Church paid for the surgeries?”

Bathiudeen: “No.”

Perera PC: “You said that those who died at Digana and Beruwala received higher amounts due to political influence.”

Bathiudeen: “As I said the numbers were agreed upon during the meeting at the Kandy Kachcheri. The then Minister of Rehabilitation D. M. Swaminathan prepared the first draft. The Finance Ministry headed by then PM Ranil Wickremesinghe then amended the Cabinet paper.”

A Commissioner: “Politicians didn’t try to increase compensation for Easter Sunday attack victims?”

Bathiudeen: “Politicians on different occasions decide on various numbers.”

Perera, PC: “Do you agree that the compensation paid to Easter Sunday attack victims is not enough?”

Bathiudeen: “The amount is less than what was paid to the victims in Digana and Beruwala.”

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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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