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Govt. response to Covid-19: JVP questions Sports Minister’s high-profile role

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Minister Namal Rajapaksa briefing State Ministers of the government’s response to Covid-19 epidemic, at Temple Trees recently (pic courtesy Sports Ministry)

 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former JVP MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa says the government owes an explanation as regards the role played by Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa in the ongoing efforts to bring the rampaging Covid-19 epidemic under control.

Dr. Jayatissa, who represented the Kalutara District in Parliament during 2015-2020 period, failed to retain his seat at the last general election, conducted in August 2020.

The JVPer asked whether the government had created a special position for Minister Rajapaksa in the apparatus tasked with battling the epidemic.

Referring to a spate of press releases issued by the Sports Ministry in the past two weeks, Dr. Jayatissa questioned the rationale behind Minister Namal Rajapaksa chairing a meeting of State Ministers at Temple Trees where the focus was on the ongoing national inoculation project.

 The Media Unit of the Sports Ministry, in a statement issued on June 4 stated that Minister Rajapaksa had briefed State Ministers on the previous day how they could contribute to the vaccination programme. The Ministry said that a consensus has been reached as to how the resources could be pooled to carry out the vaccination project effectively.

 Dr. Jayatissa said that, in addition to Health Minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi, there were three State Ministers handling various aspects of the health portfolio – namely State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana, State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle and State Minister  of Indigenous Medicine Promotion, Rural and Ayurveda Hospitals Development and Community Health Sirira Jayakody.

The ex-lawmaker asked whether the government at least bothered to seek the opinion of SLPP National List MP Prof. Tissa Vitharana widely believed to be an expert on the subject.

 Responding to another query, the former MP said that no one would question Namal Rajapaksa receiving the sports portfolio. However, Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s role in Covid-19 counter-measures was questionable, Dr. Jayatissa said.

 The JVPer said that the SLPP repeatedly assured that the cabinet would be appointed on a scientific basis.

 Dr. Jayatissa said that Minister Rajapaksa following a meeting at the Temple Trees recently assured the public of the second dose for those who have received the first Sinopharm vaccine.

 The government will commence the second round today (8).

 The Sports Ministry, in another statement issued on June 4 quoted Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa as having said that five special centres would be established for those living within the Colombo city limits but so far failed to receive the vaccination. These centres would be open till 10 pm, the Minister said, assuring that all Sri Lankans would be inoculated.

 The Sports Minister recently visited Jaffna to oversee the launch of the inoculation drive there. Minister Rajapaksa on behalf of the government received a large stock of items donated by Australia in support of Covid -19 controlling efforts. Australian Air Force delivered the consignment to the Mattala airport.

 Dr. Jayatissa said that the battle against Covid-19 was at a decisive stage with the health sector struggling to cope up with the deteriorating situation.

 Appreciating the efforts made by the government, the JVPer said that the epidemic couldn’t be defeated by propaganda efforts. The disruption of the inoculation drive caused by Moratuwa Mayor Saman Lal Fernando, Transport Minister Gamini Lokuge’s interference in directives issued by the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) pertaining to Covid-19 controlling efforts in the Piliyandala area were grim reminders of the failure on the part of the government to prevent political interference, Dr. Jayatissa said.

 Dr. Jayatissa said that so far there were over 1,700 reported deaths but the actual figure could be much higher. Paying a glowing tribute to the health sector, the armed forces and the police, the former lawmaker said that the country would have been in a much better position to fight Covid-19 if the government followed proper procedures. Unfortunately, they  promoted bogus syrups and followed the advice of faith healers. “See what has happened today. There were over 205,000 positive cases and over two dozen deaths almost on a daily basis,” Dr. Jayatissa said.

 

 



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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic

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Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period
 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

 

Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.

 

 

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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle

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It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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