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Eyebrows raised over axing Covid Prevention State Ministry Secretary



‘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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Guardian report harshly critical of working conditions on tea estates



More than 300,000 people work in Sri Lanka’s tea plantations

Tetley says it has suspended work on some central estates

The respected British newspaper, Guardian last week ran a story strongly critical of Sri Lanka’s once British-owned tea industry focusing on its poorly paid labour force and the harsh living conditions they are forced to tolerate.The report was headlined: “We give our blood so they live comfortably’: Sri Lanka’s tea pickers say they go hungry and live in squalor.” It reported that Some of the world’s leading tea manufacturers, including Tetley and Lipton, are examining working conditions on the plantations of its Sri Lankan suppliers, following a Guardian investigation.

The report quoted Tetley saying it had suspended work with some central Sri Lankan estates while it conducted its own inquiries. Ekaterra, which owns Lipton and PG Tips, said it was in contact with the Rainforest Alliance over the findings. Yorkshire Tea, another company that sources tea from the estates the Guardian visited, said it was speaking to the plantations concerned.

Two global trade-certification schemes, Fairtrade and the Rainforest Alliance, are also conducting inquiries after it was revealed that some workers on 10 certified estates could not afford to eat and were living in squalid conditions, Guardian said.

Some of the pickers said they had so little money that they were having to skip meals and felt forced to send their children to work, the Guardian report said.

More than 300,000 people work in Sri Lanka’s tea plantations, which are mainly in the mountainous Central Highlands. In 2022, the industry generated £1.079bn in exports.

Some of the pickers said they had so little money that they were having to skip meals and felt forced to send their children to work, the report said.It was replete with quotations from workers complaining of harsh working conditions and poor remuneration. A sample:

Workers claimed some estate supervisors have tried to underpay workers. Lakshman Devanayagie, 33, said: “Even if we pick good tea leaves, they will say it’s not good enough, and they will tip it out, or that they are going to cut our pay.

“If we give them five kilos of tea leaves, they will only pay us for two or three. When we ask them, they say, ‘we’re doing as we’re told, so why don’t you do as you’re told?’,” she said, adding that she felt suicidal at times.

Rangasamy Puwaneshkanthy lives with her husband and three children in the hills above one tea estate. She said has had to take out loans to pay for food and regularly missed meals, adding that she often chose to forgo buying sanitary towels so she could buy food for her children.

“If there’s no food at home, then I don’t take any to work. I tell them [supervisors] I’m going home for a bit and then come back, because I can’t watch other people eating,” Puwaneshkanthy said.

She said pressure to pick quickly meant that she did not have time to watch out for leeches, which are common in the damp climate. Last year, her leg became infected from one and she had to walk for an hour to see a doctor because she could not afford a rickshaw ride.

“If we stop to pick the leech off, then we’ll be one kilo down – that’s how we’re thinking when we work,” said Puwaneshkanthy.

“We don’t know what to do. We’re working on the estate, but we have no salary. What are we meant to do?”

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Annual Poson Aloka Pooja at Sithulpauwwa



The Annual Poson illuminations of the historic Sithulpauwwa Raja Maha Viharaya, situated inside the Yala National Park, will be held on 02, 03 and 04 June 2023.These events are held under the guidance and the patronage of Chief Priest Venerable Agga Maha Pandita Mataramba Hemarathana Thera.

On the Poson Full Moon Day there will be an all-night pirith chanting to invoke the blessings of the Triple Gem on the country.

Upali Group of Companies will sponsor the illumination of Sithulpauwwa Temple for the 36th year. Vice President of the Sithulpauwwa Dayaka Sabha Dhammika Attygalle, along with Managing Director/CEO of Upali Group Nimal Welgama, will switch on the lights on the Poson Poya day.

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J’pura Uni’s Accounting Dept felicitates its alumnus



President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka Sanjaya Bandara arriving at the felicitation ceremony

The Department of Accounting of the Faculty of Management Studies and Commerce, University of Sri Jayewardenepura recently felicitated Sanjaya Bandara, the 26th President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka) for the term 2022/2023.

The event took place on March 24, at the University’s Senate Board Room in the presence of a distinguished audience comprising Past Presidents and Council Members of CA Sri Lanka, top government officials, business leaders, senior academics and administrative staff of the Sri Jayewardenepura university and other universities as well as members of AAA and present students of the Department of Accounting. Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunge (Chairman, University Grants Commission, Sri Lanka), and Manil Jayasinghe, (Immediate Past President, CA Sri Lanka and Managing Partner, Ernst and Young, Sri Lanka) graced the occasion as Chief Guest and Guest of Honour respectively.

The citation on the services rendered by Sanjaya Bandara was read by Emeritus Professor M W Wickramarachchi.

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