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Dr. Jasinghe accommodated in Covid-19 consultative process as infections spike

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Amidst an overwhelmed health system

by SURESH PERERA

In the backdrop of the alarming spike in the dreaded Covid-19 contagion across the country, the move by the government to bring back to the fold Consultant Surgeon, Dr. Anil Jasinghe, was termed a “step in the right direction” by medical officials, as an overwhelmed health system struggles to tackle the raging pandemic.

Even at this late stage, it was a wise decision to seek the expertise of Dr. Jasinghe, widely credited for spearheading the thrust to control the transmission of the life-threatening virus when it first erupted in Sri Lanka in March this year, health officials said.

The move to accommodate the senior medical administrator in the government’s coronavirus preventive process was announced by Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi in Parliament on Wednesday.

The exit of Dr. Jasinghe as Director-General of Health Services (DGHS), ostensibly on a “promotion” as Secretary to the Environment Ministry, drew heavy flak, with questions being raised over the irrelevancy of his medical knowledge and expertise in an alien institution, particularly at a time the country was facing the worst health emergency in its history.

With the outbreak of the Covid-19 cluster in Minuwangoda, it was simple logic that the virus – described as a new virulent strain with a bigger viral load – could spread to the Peliyagoda fish market situated within the same (Gampaha) district, health officials said.

With hundreds of consumers, wholesalers and retailers from Colombo and its suburbs thronging the complex, in addition to scores of lorries transporting loads of fish from many parts of the country calling over there on a daily basis, the Peliyagoda fish market was a virtual ticking time bomb waiting to explode, they asserted.

 

It was a sitting duck, they opined, but those in the health sector could not foresee the potential threat and warn the government that the highly contagious virus could have literally “come walking to the crowded Peliyagoda fish market” resulting in a country-wide spread with disastrous consequences.

“The country is now paying a heavy price for lack of foresight or rather common sense to adopt basic precautionary measures in a bid to avert a full-blown crisis leading to a devastating fallout”, they remarked.

Right people in the right places is the answer to serious efforts to stem the potent Covid-19 tide, the officials suggested, adding that tail-waggers should be kept at bay at least until the country overcomes the critical threat, which has disrupted lives and ruined the national economy.

Welcoming Dr. Jasinghe’s return to the Covid-19 control mechanism, they said the folly of edging out medical experts with proven track records has left the country tottering under the grave threat of a pandemic which has swept across many districts in the country.

The Gampaha district, where the second wave of the virus erupted with the Minuwangoda cluster, saw a relative dip in the number of infections over the past week, but the discovery of 111 asymptomatic patients on Wednesday has caused fresh concern over a possible resurgence, medical sources said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Rosy Senanayake called for more PCR testing of people living in areas still under lockdown within Colombo municipal limits.

There’s no purpose in keeping these people confined if there are no tests done as the whole idea is to ensure they are not carriers of the virus, she told The Sunday Island.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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