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Eminent Group of Lankans fire a battery of tough vaccination questions to DG, Health



A distinguished group of academics and good governance activists have written an open letter to the DG Health Services (Dr. Asela Gunawardene) about what one signatory called a highly politicized ad mismanaged “public health crisis in which the country is now trapped.”

The letter has been signed in the personal capacities of the signatories, a spokesperson for the group said. Its full text is as follows:

“We are writing to you to express our grave concern in regard to the ad hoc and discriminatory manner in which some aspects of the Covid vaccination programme have been carried out. We also seek clarification and explanation from you, either in a public statement or media briefing, on the specific matters that we raise as issues of public concern.

“The first phase of the Covid vaccination programme of the Ministry of Health commenced in February 2021. Ad hoc decisions of the Ministry on vaccine distribution at the initial phase, created chaos and confusion in service delivery in administering the first AstraZeneca vaccine in the Colombo area identified for vaccine distribution.

“Subsequently the programme was extended to the suburbs of Colombo but many people who could have obtained the vaccine in these areas, did not in fact have access to it. Some people obtained the vaccine from specific areas identified by the Ministry.

“Frequent media briefings by the Army Commander as Head of the Covid Task Force, your deputies, and various politicians including the three Ministers responsible, assured the public that the Sinopharm and Sputnik vaccines are now available, and are being distributed in a systematic manner, according to a plan with identified priorities.

“Both the first and second jabs, are being given to citizens who want these vaccines, from the authorised areas in the country.  The President stated yesterday that he appreciated that this NEW vaccination programme is proceeding well, and  that he is satisfied with it. He instructed officials present to improve the NEW programme and ensure that it proceeds  smoothly.

“Not even a passing comment is made by the President, the Army Commander, Head of the Task Force, or you as Director General,   in regard to the situation of those  who got the first AstraZeneca vaccine, and cannot get the second jab, because “the government has no AstraZeneca vaccines to distribute.”

 “Some from the municipalities of Colombo and its close suburbs received the first AstraZeneca vaccine. They did not seek the vaccine as a privilege. It was understood that the Ministry of Health was acting according to the accepted norms on public health followed so far by the Ministry, on vaccine distribution, and offered the vaccine in an initial phase of the Government’s Covid vaccination programme. They were assured that the second vaccine would be administered within the medically recommended time frame. Some vaccination cards carried a date stamp on the date for the second jab.

“Medical authorities have advised that the immunity obtained by the first AstraZeneca vaccine diminishes according to delays in obtaining the second jab. This, in a context where there has been an exponential increase in the number of daily infections and deaths in the community, due to Covid.

“Information sought from the Medical Officers of Health, in these Municipalities at every level, as well as  media briefings, carry the same response: “The government has no more AstraZeneca vaccines and we are not administering any vaccines. We are awaiting Ministry decisions. Please wait till you receive an intimation on this matter.”

“When asked ‘who can we as citizens  contact in the Ministry of Health’, we are told that ‘it is the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health that is responsible for the distribution, and will facilitate the administration of the vaccine.’

“All citizens, we think, are entitled to receive answers from YOU as the Director General of Health, on how over three lakhs of persons have already received the second AstraZeneca vaccine, if as  your senior staff and politicians say,  there are no more AstraZeneca vaccines for distribution.

 “We demand that you as Director General of the Ministry clarify for us the following matters: 

1. Dr Hemantha Herath, one of your senior officials made a statement on TV that the Ministry had NOT authorized the GMOA to have the second AstraZeneca vaccine administered to their members, and up to five people in their families, at the Government Lady Ridgeway Hospital. About this time or later, the spokesman for the GMOA, participating in  panel discussion on TV 1, stated that the GMOA had “negotiated” with the Ministry in March 2021, and obtained Ministry permission to obtain the  number of vaccines they wanted. The implication was that other unions could have done this, and it was their responsibility for not doing so. Thirteen thousand vaccines are said to have been given to the GMOA, by the Epidemiology Unit of your Ministry.


We call upon you to explain to the public HOW the GMOA was able to get these vaccines from your Epidemiology Unit and have it administered at a government hospital.


2. Please also clarify the following:


(a) The University Grants Commission authorised Universities to join in the NEW programme of distribution of the Sinopharm vaccine. The University of Colombo has obtained the AstraZeneca vaccine from your Ministry and ensured that it was administered to all their staff who received the first vaccine. These staff (except from the Medical Faculty, who may be front line workers) work from home. Were they considered “front line workers” entitled to priority, and how were vaccines in such short supply made available to them?

(b) Lawyers who are members of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka have received the second AstraZeneca jab. How did they get the vaccine from your Ministry and the Epidemiology Unit, and at what locations were these vaccines administered to these lawyers?

(c) There are members of large and influential private  corporations whose directors and senior staff have been administered the vaccine at State hospitals. On what basis did they obtain a vaccine in short supply?  Did your Epidemiology Unit distribute vaccines to them, as on a high priority list, and or as “front line workers”?

(d) It is alleged on social media that identified Ministers of the government were given large amounts of the AstraZeneca vaccine to distribute to their friends relatives and supporters as a second jab. Did the Epidemiology Unit distribute these vaccines to Ministers for distribution to this wide range of people in their personal and political circles? Please clarify in a public statement whether this report is true or false, since the information on this matter must be available in your Epidemiology Unit.

(e) Some organizations representing the private sector have requested that they be given priority in the vaccination programme, arguing that their staff are an important human resource for the economy. They have also asked that assistance should be sought from the agents of the vaccine manufacturers in helping with the procurement of the Covid vaccines. This is a country which in recent years has permitted the private sector to engage in the areas of education and health. Please clarify the policy of the Health Ministry in regard to vaccine management and the private sector.

 “As you are aware, citizens have a right to information in regard to the administration of public institutions, both under the Constitution and the Right to Information Act. We must know, therefore, how the Covid vaccination programme in your Ministry is planned, managed and administered in the public interest.

“The public has a right to be concerned with the manner in which the administrative units in your Ministry function in regard to Covid response planning and management. There are several Deputy Directors of Health who function as heads of administrative units. The Epidemiology Unit is just ONE of them. We expect that you coordinate their work, in a team. We have a right to think that  as the head of the team, you  know and are informed on how the vaccine distribution is managed.

“The Epidemiology Unit’s management must surely be monitored by all of you as a team, in  this critically important area of Covid  vaccine distribution and public health. 

“In conclusion we reiterate our request for a public clarification on all these matters by you in regard to the vaccination programme undertaken by your Ministry. We ask that this be done in an open and transparent manner so that the public can know whether the Ministry has formulated a policy plan, including a system of vaccine registration with clear priorities in the administration of the vaccine. This is essential to ensure that this country keeps to the practices of the past that have always ensured that citizens have equitable access to vaccination programmes.

“Today, over 600,000 persons, who have received the first AstraZeneca vaccine have no assurance that they will receive the second. Please inform the public without further delay whether the AstraZeneca vaccine has been ordered and will be administered to those who received the first vaccine.  

*Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Emeritus Professor of Law and Former Vice Chancellor, University of Colombo

* Dr. G. Usvatte-aratchi, Retired from UN/DESA, New York

* Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict


* Prof. Arjuna Aluvihare, Emeritus Professor of Surgery and former Vice Chancellor, University of Peradeniya, former Chairman, University Grants Commission

* Bishop Duleep de Chickera, retired Anglican Bishop of Colombo.

*Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka, former Executive Director of the United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission

*Ms. Mano Alles, Retired Senior Deputy General Manager, Bank of Ceylon

*Mr. Chandra Jayaratne, former Chairman, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce

* Prof. Deepika Udagama, Professor of Law, University of Peradeniya, former Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka

* Prof. Camena Guneratne, Professor, Open University of Sri Lanka

*Dr A. C. Visvalingam – Past President, Society of Structural Engineers, Sri Lanka

* Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris, former General Secretary of the National Christian Council, former Principal of the Theological College of Sri Lanka

*Dr. Ranjini Obeyesekere, Retired Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, Princeton University, USA.

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SL dedicated to driving digitalisation initiative: NImal



Minister Nimal Siripala Silva addressing International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum (14th IIICF) in Macao SAR, China.

Representing Sri Lanka at the 14th International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum (14th IIICF) Friday (02), Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation – Nimal Siripala de Silva said that under the leadership of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the government was dedicated to driving the digitalization initiative forward under name ‘DIGIECON 2030’, signifying a pivotal step towards transforming Sri Lanka into an inclusive Digital Economy. The two-day Forum started on June 11 in Macao SAR, China.

“In our pursuit of a digitalised Sri Lanka, I am proud to reaffirm that our government places tremendous importance on the digital economy. This visionary initiative, conceived by our Government, aims to foster a regulatory policy framework and a master plan that will propel our nation forward in the digital realm. We are dedicated to creating conducive business environment, attracting investments, and nurturing a digital ecosystem that benefits all stakeholders. Therefore, Sri Lanka considers this Forum a very important event as it encompasses introducing policy framework for scientific and technological innovations to be adopted in the crucial development sectors,” the Minister said.

Minister Silva said that Sri Lanka had made significant strides in developing its ports and maritime infrastructure in the maritime sector and with its advantageous position in the Indian Ocean, the country aimed to become a prominent regional maritime hub.

“To achieve this, the government has implemented policies to attract foreign investments, particularly in port development and logistics,” he said.

The Minister said that in line with commitment, the Government of Sri Lanka would establish a committee of Cabinet Ministers, entrusted with the responsibility of accelerating the digitization process across the Government sector and such coordinated effort would ensure rapid progress in implementing digital solutions and policies that drive the nation’s transformation.

As a world-renowned event in the international infrastructure industry, the IIICF attracts annually more than 2000 delegates from over 70 countries and regions including around 50 ministerial officials, serving as an important platform for industry elites from Government authorities, financial institutions, engineering companies, survey & design firms, consultancy and equipment manufacturers to exchange strategic thinking and insights on cutting-edge topics, explore opportunities and seek cooperation.

“One notable advancement in Infrastructure Digitalization is the introduction of new technology in the port sector. Sri Lanka’s maritime ports require significant infrastructure upgrades to meet the demands of a digitalized era. This includes modernizing port terminals, improving navigational systems, upgrading traffic control systems, and enhancing connectivity infrastructure. Without adequate infrastructure, the full potential of digital solutions cannot be realized

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has collaborated with the National Trade Facilitation Committee to expedite the implementation of the National Single Window and Trade Information Portal. These initiatives aim to streamline trade, enhance efficiency and transparency, and promote economic growth. The National Single Window system enables standardized information and document transmission through a single-entry point, involving all parties engaged in the trading process, such as customs, banks, ports, insurers, public agencies, and private participants.

In alignment with the government’s tourism development plans, SLPA has initiated a project to transform Galle’s Port into a comprehensive tourist port and leisure hub for South Asia. The project, undertaken as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), involves an investment ranging from $175 to $200 million. It encompasses the construction of two offshore breakwaters to ensure calm waters in the Galle bay and harbour, as well as the development of a state-of-the-art cruise terminal to accommodate large cruise ships. The objective is to convert Galle into a regional commercial port with a significant emphasis on tourism, supported by new investments from the private sector.

Expanding the capacity of the Port of Colombo (POC) poses a primary challenge. SLPA has undertaken measures to attract new investments and develop the necessary infrastructure for capacity enhancement. Within the next two to three years, two deep-water terminals will be added. We will introduce the Automation and semi automation terminals to the Port of Colombo which will be a huge technological step in the ports in south Asia. Sri Lanka has recently sealed a ground-breaking investment deal worth $650 million with joint project promoters, including India’s Adani, local conglomerate John Keells Holdings (JKH), and the state-owned SLPA. This Build, Own and Transfer (BOT) agreement establishes the Colombo West International Terminal (CWIT) as the largest-ever investment in the port sector. In addition the SLPA will be constructing the ECT through its own funds.

Speaking on Bandaranaike International Airport’s Terminal 2 development the Minister said that the airport was undergoing a major expansion to provide improved passenger experience and increase handling capacity.

“The project will address issues such as congestion and passenger discomfort at the airport. The new terminal is expected to handle nine million passengers a year, taking the airport’s passenger handling capacity to 15 million passengers annually. We aim to provide seamless and efficient passenger experience, with innovative use of digital technologies, such as e-gate empowered by state-of-the-art biometric systems for streamlined immigration processes, utilized self-check-in kiosks and baggage drop systems to expedite passenger flow, and incorporated advanced data analytics to optimize flight scheduling and resource allocation with cutting-edge agile network solutions.

“We must foster strong partnerships to share knowledge, exchange best practices, and jointly address challenges. Collaboration will enable us to leverage collective expertise and resources, driving the digitalization agenda forward. The Government of Sri Lanka has established the Digital Economy Steer Committee, Chaired by H.E. the President himself, Cabinet Ministers such as Ministry of Technologies, Finance, and my ministry, and industry organizations, under collaboration with the World Bank. We are happy to have global technologies companies such as Huawei, to share with us the worldwide industrial digitization experiences and practices. Together, let us embrace the limitless potential of digitalization in revolutionizing our maritime and aviation sectors, driving economic growth in the digitalized era, the Minister said.

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Change in electronic interlocking system led to Odisha crash, rescue work over – Railway Minister




(pic PTI)

The root cause of the three-train crash in Odisha’s Balasore district and the people responsible for it have been identified, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Sunday as rescue work at the site of the accident ended with the Railways aiming to restore normal services on the affected tracks in the next few days.

As the tragedy triggered a debate over the Kavach anti-collision system, the Congress demanded the resignation of the railway minister and asked when will the Modi government implement the much-hyped system nationwide, after testing.

Vaishnaw maintained that the train crash had nothing to do with the Kavach system.


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Assessment on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism will commence soon




Addressing the National Law Conference yesterday (03), President Ranil Wickremesinghe revealed that Sri Lanka’s next country assessment on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism will commence soon. The assessment holds immense significance as it directly impacts the country’s ease of doing business rating and its ability to attract foreign investments.



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