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Govt. urged to admit pandemic now at community transmission stage GMOA alleges Epidemiology yet to share data, cause remains a mystery

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Debate on Minuwangoda cluster today

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Academy of Health Professionals and Joint Front of non-MBBS Health Professionals have urged Health Secretary retired Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have requested the Health Secretary to take appropriate measures to deal with the situation instead of trying to prove the pandemic was yet to reach the community transmission stage. In a letter dated Oct 22 to the Health Secretary, they pointed out the continuing shortcomings in the government strategy.

Warning that proper decisions couldn’t be solely made on ‘intelligence strategies’ as done so far, the trade unions urged the government to change its approach or face the consequences. They strongly urged the government to take measures on the basis the corona pandemic was now spreading among communities here.

The warning was given a day ahead of the debate on the country’s unprecedented health crisis in parliament. The GMOA (Government Medical Officers’ Association) spokesperson Dr. Prasad Colombage, in response to The Island query, yesterday (22) said that those concerned were yet to reveal how the second eruption took place. The first corona detection in its second wave was made on Oct 2 and the curfew was declared in selected police areas on Oct 4.

The Committee on Parliamentary Business chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Wednesday (21) put off the scheduled vote on condolence to pave the way for a debate on the corona epidemic. Director, Department of Communication, Parliament Shan Wijetunga said that JVP leader Anura Kuamar Dissanayake called for a parliamentary debate on corona in the wake of SJB leader Sajith Premadasa raising the spread of the corona virus in the country.

GMOA Secretary Dr. Senal Fernando yesterday (22) said that only the Epidemiology Unit could correctly ascertain status of the corona epidemic as it held relevant data. Dr. Fernando alleged that the Epidemiology Unit hadn’t so far shared the relevant data with those who had been involved in government initiatives against the epidemic. The GMOA is among those deprived of corona data.

While urging all stakeholders not to politicize the issue, the GMOA emphasized the pivotal importance in all extending support to the ongoing efforts to combat the spread of the highly contagious virus.

Meanwhile, the situation continued to deteriorate further with indications of several smaller corona clusters in the Gampaha district under curfew since 10 pm on Wednesday. Gampaha administrative district consists of 22 police areas. In addition to them, Kuliyapitiya, Giriulla, Narampala, Dummalasuriya and Pannala are under curfew. The police have also isolated several villages in Matugama and Agalawatte areas.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said that in addition to the Gampaha district, police areas in Colombo North and Kuliyapitiya Division were under curfew. However, in view of the large number of factories situated in the Gampaha district et al, police headquarters named four officers whom the public could contact in case of emergency. According to DIG Rohana, SSP M.K.R.A. Gunaratne (071-8591605), ASP Thusitha Kumara (071-8591610), SP Palitha Amaratunga (071-8591632) and SSP Niranjan Abeywardena (071-8591574) could be contacted for issues in Kelaniya, Gampaha, Negombo and Colombo North Divisions, respectively.

DIG Rohana explained that those attached to the state and private sector engaged in essential services, including health, harbour, airport, airport and aviation services, electricity, communications and media as well could use their office identity cards as curfew passes. The DIG strongly advised the public not to abuse arrangements made by the government to ensure functioning of essential services under extremely difficult conditions.

Academy of Health Professionals, Joint Front of non-MBBS Health Professionals as well as the GMOA requested the government to act faster with the latter suggesting formulation of guidelines as regards the admission of corona patients.

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Foreign force behind Easter Sunday attacks – Sirisena

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A powerful foreign country or an agency was behind the Easter Sunday bombings and the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zaharan Hashim, former President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday told the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

“I also do not believe that Zaharan was the leader of that organisation. Because a leader would never have initiated a suicide attack and died during the first wave,” Sirisena said.

The former President also said that Islamic extremism had spread rapidly in the country due to the support extremists received from Muslim politicians.

Sirisena also said that the military and intelligence officials had been demoralised by harassment they suffered during the yahaalanaya administration. This was the reason why local institutions failed to uncover NTJ’s plans. “But this incident is a conspiracy because it appeared that Zaharan was being manipulated by some foreign hand,” the former President said.

The President further said that during the previous administration, UNPers had headed the Ministry of Law and Order for several years that they had significantly weakened the intelligence services. Although he had taken the Ministry of law and Order in the last stages of the yahapalana government, he had not been able to undo the damage the UNP had done in four years, the witness said.

Commissioner: “Did you know that during your tenure as President, Muslim MPs and ministers were forcible acquiring land in Vanni and Batticaloa and they were constructing Muslim villages and mosques there?”

Sirisena: “Some ministers used their political power to clear forests and cultivate lands. Some ministers were angry with me when I tried to stop them. I tried hard to control those actions. But it was difficult for me to deal with that situation. Fundamentalism rose due to the protection given by Muslim political leaders. Certain political parties are based on religion, race and language. This is disastrous. I tried to stop these people but my decisions were not implemented.”

 

 

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Bathiudeen granted bail

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Former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was released on bail by the Fort Magistrate’s Court yesterday. Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage released Bathiudeen on cash bail of Rs. 100,000 with two sureties of one million rupees each.

The Magistrate also imposed a travel ban on Bathiudeen and said that the guarantors should be his close relatives.

The Magistrate granted bail to the MP considering the risk of him contracting COVID-19 as two inmates in cells next to his had recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Bathiudeen was remanded in connection with alleged misappropriation of public funds during the last presidential election to transport voters.

The former minister has been accused of misusing 222 buses owned by the SLTB for transporting internally displaced persons from Puttalam to polling stations in Silavathurai, Mannar during the 2019 Presidential Election. Two others, Mohamed Yaseen Samsudeen and Alagarathnam Manoranjan face the same charges.

They have allegedly violated Article 82(1) of Presidential Elections Act, No. 15 of 1981 by misappropriating public funds amounting to Rs. 9.5 million.

Bathiudeen was arrested at an apartment complex at Ebenezer Place in Dehiwala in the early hours of October 19. He was then produced before the court and placed under remand custody. His bail application was also rejected by the magistrate’s court on several occasions

 

 

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Zahran supported Sirisena and SLMC at 2015 elections, Hizbullah tells PCoI

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and its leader Zahran Hashim supported Former President Maithripala Sirisena and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) at the 2015 elections, former Eastern Province Governor M.L.A.M Hizbullah, on Tuesday night, told the PCoI probing the Easter Sunday attacks.

Hizbullah was giving evidence before the PCoI for the second day.

“Zahran supported the SLMC at the 2015 general election. After the UNP-led coalition won the election, NTJ members fought with our supporters. Several people were injured during the clash, including Zahran’s brother. SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem visited Zahran’s brother at the hospital.”

The witness also submitted a footage of a demonstration opposite NTJ Headquarters in Kattankudy. It contained a speech by Zahran, who expressed his dismay after Sirisena appointed Hizbullah as a national list MP.

“In this video, Zahran clearly says he supported Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 presidential election. Zahran also says he sent a fax to the former President, urging him not to appoint me to Parliament.”

However, it was earlier revealed that in 2015, representatives of five recognised political parties, including the UPFA and the UNP, had signed agreements with Zahran in the run-up to the 2015 general election. Representatives of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG), too, had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for NTJ support, the Commission was told.

Hizbullah, on Monday, admitted that his party had also signed an agreement with the NTJ.

“Zahran told social media that he would support any politician who agreed to his proposals. All the parties joined him. I also went along.”

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