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Don’t endanger entire nation for benefit of a few– Karu

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The country was facing the danger of being hit by the third wave COVID-19, as some individuals in high position were concerned about furthering their own interest Chairman of the National Movement for a Social Justice (NMSJ) Karu Jayasuriya, told the media in Colombo yesterday.

Jayasuriya said that the NMSJ had no intention of disrupting or criticising the government’s activities during the pandemic situation. However, as a country that respected democracy, Sri Lanka today had abandoned the exemplary measures once adopted to improve the welfare of the people, he said, noting that the government was now focused on fulfilling the aspirations of a few powerful figures.

“Certain activities that are taking place today under the guise of promoting the tourism industry have placed the entire country before serious health risks.

“Ukraine is one of our most respected allies. But at the same time, we must not forget that the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in many other countries, including Ukraine, and especially throughout Europe. Many countries have focused their efforts on mitigating the impact of the rapid spread of a new strain of the coronavirus.

“Sri Lanka needs to address a number of issues prior to attracting tourist. Although Sri Lanka must make the best of its natural and cultural attractions, the government must first and foremost be concerned about the health and safety of our people.

“But what is happening in the country today? According to media reports, even the official tourism authority of the country isn’t aware of the tourists who have been invited from Ukraine.

“The government has taken steps to bring in tourists at a time when many Sri Lankans are stranded abroad having lost their jobs. Many Sri Lankans now wonder why migrant workers, the largest foreign exchange earner, are forced to follow a strict quarantine process, while the Ukrainian tourists are given special treatment.

“Some Sri Lankan women have reportedly resorted to prostitution to earn money they need to return home. What a miserable situation they are faced with. What a painful message for us as Sri Lankans?”

The former speaker also criticised the government for appointing army officers as district coordinators of COVID-19 control initiatives. “The military has objectives and traditions which are different from the public service. Attempts to amalgamate these two result in dictatorships. As a former Army officer, I have a good understanding of the commitment, skills and discipline of the military establishment. The private sector has been able to achieve great results with the help of retired military personnel. But active military service and civil service are two distinct domains. We need to understand that.”

Jayasuriya also said that by repealing the 19th Amendment to the Constitution the government had politicised the public sector again and that it would only hasten the decline of the state sector.

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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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