by Shamindra Ferdinando
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) National List nominee Mohommed Muzammil yesterday (11) said that JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake and General Secretary Tilvin Silva, too, should quit in the wake of the latest electoral debacle.
Pointing out UNP Chief Ranil Wickremesinghe, at last quit the party leadership having accepted responsibility for the worst ever defeat suffered under his leadership, Muzammil urged the JVPers to follow Wickremesinghe’s example.
Muzammil who represents the breakaway JVP faction, the National Freedom Front (NFF) has been accommodated on the SLPP National List in terms of the agreement between the two parties.
Addressing the media at the Pita Kotte party office, Muzammil said that the JVP leader and its General Secretary should be ashamed to continue in their positions after the party was reduced to three lawmakers, including one National List member after virtually co-habiting with the previous UNP led regime.
The JVP group in the last parliament comprised six members, including two National List MPs.
The JVP leader and its General Secretary owed an explanation to those who genuinely loved and respected the party.
Muzammil said that he was among the 39 member strong JVP group in parliament (2004-2010). Having contested on the UPFA ticket, 39 JVPers were elected to parliament; Muzammil recalled adding that in terms of JVP-UPFA agreement, the party received five National List slots. “We gave up two slots willingly as the UPFA faced difficulty in accommodating some of those who had been left out of the original list,” Muzammil said. The incumbent JVP leader and its General Secretary had weakened the party so much it ended up with just three members in parliament.
The JVP contested under Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB).
Muzammil pointed out that the SLPP was able to submit its National List nominees to the Election Commission soon after the issuance of preferential votes. Of the 29 National List slots available, the SLPP received 17 slots. Muzammil said that both the JVP and the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) were yet to decide on their National List nominees at the time the media briefing was held.
He said that the parliament was going to meet on August 20 without Ranil Wickremesinghe who had been there since 1977. The former JVPer pointed out that the UNP had finally realized funding sources and international backing were immaterial if the voting public deserted a political party.
Declaring that the UNP had been politically dead, Muzammil pointed out that Sajith Premadasa’s SJB, too, should be seriously concerned as of those 5.5 mn who had voted for Premadasa at the presidential election only 2.8 exercised their franchise at the parliamentary poll.
The NFF fielded 12 contestants on the SLPP ticket. Of them, five were elected (Wimal Weerawansa/Colombo, Jayantha Sanaraweera/Kalutara, Nimal Piyatissa/Nuwara Eliya, Gamini Waleboda/Ratnapura and Uddika Premaratne/Anuradhapura). In addition to them, NFF secured one National List slot (Mohommed Muzammil).
In the last parliament, the NFF group comprised five members. Of them, Weerakumara Dissanayake a few years ago switched his allegiance to then President Maithripala Sirisena.
Dissanayake failed in his bid to retain his seat on the SLPP ticket.
Muzammil said that in spite of challenges, the NFF certainly did better than at the last general election.
Pointing out that the NFF was deprived of a National List slot at the 2015 general election; the deft debater in Sinhala said that those who had been engaged in trickery learnt an unforgettable lesson in 2020. Serious setback suffered by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in the Northern and Eastern regions also proved beyond doubt that the vast majority of people were not interested in communal politics. The political environment was rapidly changing and it would be only a matter of time, destructive elements were eradicated, politically.
COVID-19: Jaffna faces serious risk
Top medical man in North threatens lockdown
Five villages isolated in Ganewatta DS area
20% of IDH patients need oxygen
By Dinasena Ratugamage and Rathindra Kuruwita
Tough restrictions would have to be imposed in Jaffna if religious leaders did not help health authorities, Northern Province Director General of Health Services, Dr. A. Kethiswaran said yesterday. Jaffna was facing a serious risk of COVID-19, he said.
Dr. Kethiswaran said so during a meeting with religious leaders at his office. He said that a large number of devotees were seen at various places of religious worship during the festive period.
“None of these people follow health guidelines. It is impossible to control the virus because of this. At this rate we will have to impose travel restrictions in the Jaffna District. We need everyone’s support, if we are to avoid this fate.”
He then urged religious leaders to inform devotees of the dangers of the virus and not to gather at places of worship in large numbers.
Dr. Kethiswaran also said that a large number of policemen in Jaffna had contracted COVID-19. About 258 PCR tests had been carried out on Wednesday after it was found that 13 policemen attached to the Jaffna Police station were infected. Altogether 788 PCR tests were done in the Jaffna District on Wednesday, Dr. Kethiswaran said.
One hundred and forty eight new COVID-19 cases had been detected in several villages in the Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area, Divisional Secretary Niranjala Karunaratne said yesterday.
On Wednesday alone 733 PCR tests had been done there, she said, adding that about 175 individuals had tested positive for COVID-19 there.
Given these developments, Tittawelgala, Hunupola, Siradunna, Aluthgama and Hettigama Grama Niladari divisions at Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area have been isolated.
Travel restrictions were imposed on Kuliyapitiya Town, Thunmodara, Dhandagamuwa – West, Kanadulla and Pahala Weerambuwa as COVID-19 cases were increasing there.
PHI in charge of Divulapitiya said that 84 new COVID-19 cases had been reported from the area during the last 48 hours. However, no decision had been taken to impose travel restrictions in the area, PHI, S.A.U.T Kularatne said.
“Twenty-eight of these patients were among people who attended a sports event organised for the New Year in Aswennawatta Grama Niladari area. Forty-four people who went on a trip at Mellawagedara have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. If people are not careful, things might rapidly deteriorate,” he warned.
Deputy Director of IDH said that over 130 COVID-19 patients were undergoing treatment there although the hospital could accommodate only 120 patients.
All eight ICU beds at the IDH are occupied and 20% of the patients there need oxygen. The number of people admitted to hospital had increased after the Sinhala and Hindu New year, health ministry sources said.
Director General of Health Services – Western Province Dr. Dhammika Jayalath urged people to refrain from travelling to Colombo unless it was very urgent.
Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardane said that the coming three weeks would crucial.
Covid figures: Govt. accused of misleading the country
By Rathindra Kuruwita
The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) yesterday claimed that State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals, Prof. Channa Jayasumana was making statements on new strains of SARS-CoV-2 without any scientific proof.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Prof. Jayasumana said that there had been an increase in the spread of Covid virus in the country, especially among the young people and that was due to a new strain of the virus.
President of the CMLS, Ravi Kumudesh said: “The Minister claimed they were doing a research on this. As far as we know, neither the Ministry nor the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has done any research to identify this new strain. The Ministry of Health stopped identifying new variants a long time ago.”
The Ministry of Health could neither plan for new variants of COVID-19 nor determine what vaccine was effective as it simply didn’t have the equipment to identify new strains, Kumudesh said, adding that identifying COVID-19 variants across the country had been outsourced to the University of Sri Jayawardenepura.
“I have repeatedly said that the Health Ministry officials can’t make science and evidence-based decisions or statements on new strains. Institutions under the Health Ministry do not have the ability to identify new strains of the coronavirus; only the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has a gene sequencing machine. We said this was having a disastrous impact on the country’s pandemic response and here we are,.”
Kumudesh said that identifying various strains of COVID-19 was essential to respond to the pandemic as everything from PCR testing to selecting a vaccine, depended on that.
“There are a number of strains of the virus in the world now and we now know that the new variant that led to a lockdown in the UK is here. We have to be ready to identify what strains are coming.”
Kumudesh said that since the country had opened its airports people from various countries would arrive, carrying new strains. He added that there might also be a new strain that originated here without “our knowledge because we don’t do adequate gene sequencing.
“To identify new variants, we must sequence the genes of viruses detected through PCR testing. We need many gene sequencing machines because one cannot identify new strains through a PCR test. However, the Ministry of Health has not provided a single gene sequencing machine to labs under its purview.”
CEA accused of turning blind eye to cardamom cultivators raping Knuckles Forest
By Rathindra Kuruwita
A government decision to allow cardamom plantations inside the Knuckles Forest Reserve, which came under the Forest Conservation Department,it was already having a negative impact on the ecosystem, Sajeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR) said.
Chamikara said that Knuckles Forest Reserve was not only a unique ecosystem but also an important catchment area for rivers such as Mahaweli and Kalu.
“Illegal Cardamom planters had been operating in the forest area for many decades and there had been many attempts to get rid of them,” Chamikara said
About six years ago, there was an attempt to remove illegal Cardamom planters from the Knuckles Forest Reserve. When the Forest Conservation Department tried to remove these encroachers, based on a court order, several politicians and officials intervened on their behalf, the environmentalist said. Due to those interventions, illegal Cardamom planters could not be removed from the Knuckles Forest Reserve, he added.
“In many areas of the Dumbara mountain range, forest undergrowth has been cleared to make way for cardamom plantations. This has drastically increased soil erosion and the soil that is swept away by rains have been deposited in many reservoirs after being taken downstream to the Mahaweli Ganga. Moreover, many trees have been cut to use as firewood to dry cardamom. There are many structures used to dry the cardamom dotting the Knuckles mountain range and these activities cause significant damages to the ecosystem.”
Chamikara said it was illegal to cut trees, cultivate and clear land in a Conservation Forest. The offences carried jail terms or fines or both. Moreover, the court could estimate the damage done to the forest and make the guilty pay that amount. Under the law, even people who encouraged such violations could be prosecuted.
“The CEA has the power to act against those who carry out such illegal activities. According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without obtaining approval, the CEA can present such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both. Unfortunately the authorities concerned are turning a blind eye.”
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