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Eyebrows raised over axing Covid Prevention State Ministry Secretary

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‘High achievers cannot co-exist amidst tail waggers and tale-carriers’ – PSUNU leader

By Suresh Perera

The unceremonious exit of Sri Lanka’s most senior medical administrator just three months after his appointment as Secretary to the State Ministry of Primary Health Services, Pandemics and COVID Prevention, has raised more questions than answers, especially at a time the country is in the throes of a raging deadly virus.

The sudden removal of Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva, a medical specialist with a highly acclaimed academic background, has triggered speculation that the marching orders came after, what was described as “preferential treatment” accorded to a former national cricket captain to receive the Covid-19 jab.

The assertion seems to have gained currency, going by social media reports doing the rounds, but if true, it’s a “from the sublime to the ridiculous”

scenario as VIP lists to administer the vaccine on a priority is an open secret, health officials said.

Colombo’s Mayor Rosy Senanayake was also accused of forwarding a list of 700 plus names for preferential treatment for the jab. The well tabulated list became the talking point after it was posted on social media platforms. However, the Mayor vehemently denied prioritizing any VIPs for the vaccine, saying it’s a “bid to vilify her”.

While many VIPs and their relatives received the jab without much hassle, health officials said that it was to the credit of Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara that his wife Wasanthi stood in the queue for almost two hours at an inoculation centre in Colombo.

She politely declined a request to be given the vaccine on a priority basis and stood in the queue for her turn”, they said.

“Eminent medical professionals who have proved their mettle are being tossed around and posted to institutions, which are totally irrelevant to their knowledge and expertise”, says Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, president of the Public Service United Nurses Union (PSUNU).

What’s happening in the government health sector is beyond sense and logic. Everything has gone haywire, he complained.

Can anybody justify moving out an accomplished medical specialist cum the country’s senior most medical administrator to an institution where they make poonac”, the prelate asked, referring to Dr. de Silva’s transfer as Secretary to State Ministry of Backward Rural Areas Development & Promotion of Animal Husbandry and Minor Economic Crop Cultivation.

The crux of the matter here is not so much about administering a vaccine to a cricketer, but the incompetence of the health secretary on whose watch the whole health sector has plunged to a new low, he asserted.

“It is a clear cut case of incapable officials feeling uneasy and uncomfortable when there are highly accomplished and competent people in their midst”, he remarked.

The initial faux pas was the transfer of eminent Consultant Surgeon, Dr. Anil Jasinghe, who spearheaded the first Covid-19 wave as Director-General of Health Services, the PSUNU leader recalled.

“Dr. Jasinghe earned plaudits for effectively tackling the initial Corona outbreak and instead of being honored for a job well done, he ended up in the Environment Ministry, an alien, non-medical institution”, he noted.

Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva, who coordinated the concerted effort against Covid-19 as Secretary of the State Ministry in charge of the specific subject, was paid with the same coin. He has now been moved out to supervise animal husbandry, the prelate continued.

Health officials said that Dr. de Silva played a pivotal role in coordinating the import of Covid-19 vaccines to Sri Lanka and put together the inoculation drive.

As a top medical professional, he knew what he was doing unlike some officials in the hierarchy who are groping in the dark, they said. “It appears that high achievers cannot co-exist amidst tail waggers and tale-carriers”.

Dr. de Silva served as the Deputy Director-General (Medical Services) prior to his appointment as Secretary to the State Ministry in charge of Covid prevention. (Also see GMOF statement on Page 3)

 

 



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Govt. MP Wijeyadasa strikes discordant note on Port City Bill

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… alleges bid to turn Port City into Chinese territory

Over 12 petitioners move SC against proposed law

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, yesterday (15) alleged that the proposed Bill, titled ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission,’ would transform the reclaimed land, adjacent to the Galle Face Green into a Chinese territory.

Addressing the media at the Abhayarama temple, under the auspices of Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Rajapakshe, warned of dire consequences if the government went ahead with what he termed the despicable project.

Sixteen parties had filed action against the Bill. Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda thera was among the petitioners.

The ruling party had placed the Bill on the Order Paper on April 8, just 15 calendar days after the publication of the Bill in the Gazette. In terms of the Constitution a citizen intending to challenge the constitutionality of a Bill had to do so within one week from the Bill being placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse said.

Among those who moved the SC were the General-Secretary of the UNP and the Chairman of the UNP. The Attorney-General has been named a respondent in the petition. The BASL, too, moved SC against the Attorney General. Three civil society activists, Oshala Herath, Dr. Ajantha Perera and Jeran Jegatheesan also filed action.

Lawmaker Rajapakse explained how the proposed Bill, if enacted, could allow independent status to USD 1.4 bn Colombo Port City. Former Justice Minister alleged that the Colombo Port City project was far worse than the selling of the strategic Hambantota port to the Chinese by the previous administration.

The Colombo District MP said the Parliament wouldn’t have financial control over the Colombo Port City Project whereas its independent status would legally empower those managing the project to finalise agreements with external parties

Referring to the previous administration, the former UNPer alleged that China had bribed members of Parliament. MP Rajapakse questioned the rationale behind China providing computers to all members of Parliament and officials as well as jaunts to China.

Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t give in to Chinese strategies aimed at bringing Sri Lanka under its control. The former minister explained the threat posed by the growing Chinese presence including the Colombo Port City, a terminal in the Colombo harbour and at the Hambantota port.

 

 

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Sooka pushing UK for punitive action against Army Commander

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An outfit, led by Yasmin Sooka, a member of the UNSG Panel of Experts’ (PoE), has urged the UK to take punitive measures against the Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

The Army headquarters told The Island that the matter had been brought to the notice of the relevant authorities. It said that it was all part of the ongoing well-funded campaign against the Sri Lankan military.

Issuing a statement from Johannesburg, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said it had compiled a 50-page dossier which it has submitted to the Sanctions Department of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on General Shavendra Silva. The Submission argues why Silva, who is Sri Lanka’s current Army Commander, should be designated under the United Kingdom’s Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions Regime established on 6 July 2020.

“We have an extensive archive of evidence on the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, meticulously collected by international prosecutors and lawyers. The testimony of victims and witnesses – many now in the UK – was vital in informing this Submission, and making the linkages to Shavendra Silva and those under his command,” said the organisation’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka.

The ITJP Submission details Shavendra Silva’s role in the perpetration of alleged gross human rights violations including of the right to life when he was 58 Division Commander during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 in the north of Sri Lanka. It draws on searing eyewitness testimony from Tamils who survived the government shelling and bombing of hospitals and food queues in the so called No Fire Zones, many of whom now reside in the UK as refugees. The Submission also looks at Silva’s alleged involvement in torture and sexual violence, including rape, which is a priority area of the UK Government’s foreign policy.

“The US State Department designated Shavendra Silva in 2020 for his alleged role in the violations at the end of the war but the remit of the UK sanctions regime works is broader and includes his role in the shelling of hospitals and other protected civilian sites during the military offensive. This is important in terms of recognising the full extent of the violations, as well as supporting the US action,” commented Ms. Sooka. “UK designation would be another significant step forward in terms of accountability and would be in line with the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in Geneva for which Britain was the penholder,” she added.

Political will in applying the UK’s new sanctions regime to Sri Lanka was apparent in a recent parliamentary debate which saw 11 British parliamentarians ask why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures, including Shavendra Silva, who was named six times in this context.”

 

 

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Ten lives snuffed out in road accidents during festive period

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Road accidents had snuffed out 10 lives during the Sinhala and Tamil New year, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday, adding that 121 accidents had been reported on April 14 alone.

Twelve of the accidents took place on the Southern Expressway.

DIG Rohana also said that 758 drunk drivers had been arrested on April 14. He added that such drivers would not be released on police bail.

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