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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)




Veteran singer and musician Professor Sanath Nandasiri passed away at the age of 81




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Overtime gravy train for public sector back



Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy

By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.

The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.

Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.

Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.

Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.

Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.

One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.

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Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee



Prof G L Peris

Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.

Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.

Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.

Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.

The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)

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