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Dr. Abeykoon wins South-East Asia Region WHO World No Tobacco Day 2021 award



In recognition of his extraordinary contribution to combating harmful tobacco use, Dr Palitha Abeykoon, former Chairman of National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol in Sri Lanka (NATA), International Public Health Expert, and WHO Director-General Special Envoy for COVID-19 Preparedness and Resonse for SEAR, was named one of the South-East Asia Region WHO World No Tobacco Day 2021 awardees.

Sri Lanka was one of the first countries in the world to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Contro (FCTC). Sri Lanka was also one of the first countries in the region to adopt a tobacco control law in line with the Articles of the FCTC, the National Tobacco and Alcohol Act of 2006, which led to the establishment of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA).

This law also banned all forms of tobacco advertising and sponsorships, prohibited sales to those under 21 and sales through vending machines, and declared most public places smoke-free.

When Dr. Abeykoon was appointed the Chairperson of NATA in 2014, he formed crucial partnerships with the government public health network and enforcement agencies such as the Sri Lanka Police, Customs and the Department of Excise to strengthen enforcement of tobacco control laws. He also formed a close relationship with Civil Society and Non-Government Organizations to boost advocacy and conduct community-level programs and interventions related to tobacco reduction.

Dr. Abeykoon’s contribution to reducing the harmful use of tobacco and alcohol in Sri Lanka is immeasurable; however, some of the outcomes of his work through NATA are as follows:

• Tobacco-Free Zones. Scaled up initiatives in communities where traders voluntarily stopped cigarette sales, resulting in 120 towns in Sri Lanka where cigarettes are not sold.

• Taxation. Advocated to increase the tobacco tax in 2016 following a modeling study that showed cigarettes are more affordable than 30 years ago.

• FCTC Project. Sri Lanka was one of 15 countries selected for the WHO FCTC Project, leading to several significant activities and policy changes.

• Ban on Smokeless Tobacco. NATA issued a Gazette notification banning the import, distribution, and sale of all forms of smokeless tobacco in Sri Lanka in 2016, including

Through these achievements and countless others, Dr. Abeykoon’s efforts significantly contributed to the drop in cigarette sales in Sri Lanka by approximately 15% during his tenure at NATA.

He was instrumental in obtaining support from the WHO to establish the Centre for Combating Tobacco, the WHO-affiliated tobacco industry observatory in the University of Colombo,

Dr. Abeykoo also successfully advocated for pictorial health warnings in 2015, resulting in Sri Lanka’s recognition as the first country in the WHO South-East Asia Region to agree to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.

The WHO Sri Lanka Country Office said it looks forward to continuing work with Dr. Abeykoon on crucial public health issues.

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Death threats won’t deter us – EC Chairman




Nimal Punchihewa (Chairman ECSL) picture by PRIYAN DE SILVA
Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka Nimal Punchihewa told The Island that members of  the election commission won’t be deterred by death threats.
He said that members of the commission  M M Mohamed,  K P P Pathirana and S B Diwarathne have been repeatedly threatened and the police have not been able to apprehend the perpetrators.
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Three people dead after torrential rain in New Zealand




At least three people have died due to flash flodding in Auckland (picture BBC)

BBC reported that at least three people have died and one is missing after New Zealand’s largest city experienced its “wettest day on record” on Friday.

Auckland is said to have received 75% of its usual summer rainfall in just 15 hours.

A local state of emergency was declared as authorities managed evacuations and widespread flooding.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins thanked emergency services for their swift response to the disaster.The new prime minister travelled to Auckland, where he also expressed his condolences to the loved ones of those who died in the floods.

“The loss of life underscores the sheer scale of this weather event and how quickly it turned tragic”, he said in a news conference on Saturday afternoon.

The downpour flooded the airport, shifted houses and resulted in power cuts to homes for hours.

New Zealand’s defence forces were mobilised to assist with evacuations and emergency shelters were set up across the city.

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Parliament prorogued on Friday night



President says cabinet agreeable to fully implementing 13 A until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment

Parliament was prorogued from midnight Friday (27) by President Ranil Wickremesinghe under powers vested in him by Article 70 of the Constitution, parliamentary sources said on Friday.

The Department of Government Printing was due to issue the relevant notification on Friday night but it was not out as this edition went to print.However the President’ Media Division (PMD) confirmed the prorogation on Friday evening saying that President Wickremesinghe “is expected” to make a policy statement based on the decisions taken after the 75th Independence anniversary when parliament recommences on Feb.8.

A separate bulletin said that the president had informed the party leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the cabinet was agreeable to “fully implementing (the) 13th Amendment until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment.”

Parliamentary sources explained that a prorogation which is a temporary recess of parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning parliament may be advanced by another presidential proclamation provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

Political observers believe that the prorogation is related to the president’s effort to secure as wide a consensus as possible on the National Question. They dismissed speculation that it is related to the scheduled local elections. This issue was clarified by the PMD bulletin.

When parliament is prorogued, the proclamation should notify the date of the commencement of the new session of parliament under Article 70 of the Constitution.During the prorogation the speaker continues to function and MPs retain their membership of the legislature even though they do not attend meetings of the House.

The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current business before the House and all proceedings pending at the time are quashed except impeachments.A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent session after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before parliament, have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation, may be proceeded with during the next session,” states the paragraph (4) of article 70 of the constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not result in an end to pending business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new session.

At the beginning of a new session all items of business which were in the order paper need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.At the end of a prorogation a new session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the president.

He is empowered under the constitution to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each session of parliament and to preside at ceremonial sittings of parliament in terms of the provisions of paragraph (2) of article 33 of the constitution.The president is empowered to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each new session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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