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GMOA complains of military interference in vaccination drive: Army refutes allegation

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) yesterday informed the Health Ministry that security forces continued to interfere with the anti COVID-19 activities carried out by the health officials. Security forces carried out vaccination programmes across the country in an ad hoc manner and that would lead to confusion, the GMOA added.

GMOA Secretary Dr. Senel Fernando told The Island that their representatives from the East had informed that security forces were meddling with the vaccination programme as well.

“They interfere with the work of our colleagues in numerous ways. We are concerned about two things. One is the unacceptable involvement of the security forces in the COVID 19 vaccination programme in the Eastern Province and the other is some military officers’ unauthorised entry into vital Health Care Institution such as Medical Officers of Health (MOH) Offices.”

 

The GMOA Secretary added that Epidemiology Unit, on the directions of higher authorities, was still issuing vaccine to the armed forces, which were conducting vaccination programmes all over the country.

Dr. Fernando added that the Army had conducted a vaccination programme targeting garment factories in Dehiattakandiya recently without seeking the assistance of health officers in the area for the supervision of the programme.

“Around 10% of those who received the jab there reported vaccine-related adverse effects. This is an unreasonably high number for COVID-19 vaccination,” Dr. Fernando said.

The GMOA Secretary said that Sri Lanka only had a limited amount of vaccines and what the security forces were doing could disrupt the scheduled vaccination programmes.

“We asked Dr Sanjeewa Munasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Health to take up the issue with relevant authorities and rectify the current situation. Prompt action will ensure smooth functioning of vaccinations and other healthcare services in the Eastern province.”

 

Meanwhile Army Spokesman Brigadier Nilantha Premaratne told The Island that it was the first time that anyone had complained about the Army’s involvement in the vaccination or COVID-19 prevention programmes.

Brig. Premaratne said that the Board of Investments had asked the Army to help it vaccinate garment workers across the country and that the Army had inoculated many workers in Seethawaka, Habaraduwa, Katunayake, Biyagama and Kandy.

“Moreover, we have always consulted Regional Directors of Health Services before vaccinating. So. it is not correct to say that we do not consult regional health officers. In the areas we carried out vaccination programmes in the East, no one else had been active,” he said. The Army is to issue a full statement on the matter today (02.)



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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE

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Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm

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By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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