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Harin claims govt using fight against coronavirus to suppress political opponents, break laws to help cronies

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harin Fenanrdo told Parliament yesterday that other countries were acting with single-minded pursuit of the goal of beating coronavirus, the Sri Lankan government was advancing a hidden agenda as for its anti-COVID-19 campaign.

Fernando, participating in a debate at the time of the adjournment of the House, said that all other governments in the world were focussed on how to tackle the pandemic and save lives. “In Sri Lanka, the COVID-19 campaign is used to suppress the government’s political enemies and help its cronies. The people in the Maligawatte flats were demanding food. People are dying on streets not in Wuhan but in Panadura, in Udugampola and in Gampaha. The government does not give two hoots about people’s plight. It is worried only about how it could help its friends make money by supplying rapid antigen test kits to the Health Ministry.

What is this antigen test issue? I table a copy of a letter by MP Dr Channa Jayasumana. This letter is addressed to Chairman National Medicines Regulatory Authority Prof Asitha de Silva. It is dated as Oct 20, 2020. I will read some sections of the letter. It says: ‘The nature of the complaints mostly received are in the delay of the following process. Prices of drugs, license to sell therapeutic goods retail and wholesale.’

Now, the MP himself says something untoward is happening in the NMRA. He says, “I would like to remind you at our meeting one week after assuming duties as State Minister NMRA provided timelines to complete the regulatory process pertaining to local manufacturing and importing pharmaceuticals.”

State Minister Jayasumana raising a point of order:

My name is mentioned. I want to say that I had received many complaints of an undue delay in NMRA from various parties. So I sent a letter to the head of the NMRA to get the matter clarified. There is no connection between the letter and the antigen tests.

 MP Harin Fernando

: Not only antigen tests. I table a document on a massive fraud in importing sugar. A businessman with close links to the government is hoarding 50,000 metric tonnes of sugar. I will reveal the name in the coming days.

“Within a month the number of COVID-19 cases increased by 11,000.

MP Fernando reminded the House of the story of the Emperor’s new clothes. “The same is happening here now too. Today, people are dying on the streets but the leaders are duped into thinking that the situation is rosy.”

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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