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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



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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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP



By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms



Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations



… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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