President’s Uhana speech:
Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) National List MP Harin Fernando has drawn IGP C.D. Wickramaratne’s attention to what he claims is a threat to him. Referring to a speech President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made at Uhana, Ampara on Saturday (9), the former UNP MP has, in a letter to the IGP, asserted that it is for the first time he ever received a death threat. The MP has alleged that President Rajapaksa issued a veiled threat.
Fernando said he would copy his letter to the Speaker of Parliament, the Attorney General, heads of foreign missions in Colombo and the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, and on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.
Excerpts of MP Fernando’s lettter: “Yesterday, I saw video footage of President Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivering remarks at an event in Uhuna, Ampara. In his remarks, the President refers to me by name and speeches made by me in Parliament in which I referred to his first name, Nandasena. The President stated that he had a peaceful side and a dark side, and that he was capable of returning to his dark roots from his tenure as Secretary of Defence.
“As you can see from the annexed video clip and transcript, the President fails to differentiate between a seditious, genocidal terrorist tyrant and a legislator exercising his fundamental right to freedom of speech in Parliament. He must be reminded that I have never engaged with terrorists. I have never bribed terrorists to prevent the Tamil people from voting. I have not embraced Karuna Amman, who has butchered more police officers than any man who ever lived. Above all, I am, and have always been, a citizen of Sri Lanka and no other country.
“The President clearly insinuates that he is capable of having me “killed like a dog” if I continue saying things that displease him. So long as he continues to fail in his duties, I must do my own duty by continuing to say things that displease him, whatever the risk to my life. Therefore, I must bring this matter to your urgent attention. Given the serious nature of the threat made by President Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the security forces and Minister of Defence, I have no reason to doubt him when he implies that he is capable of doing me harm.
“But I am stunned that the President is so agitated simply because I mentioned his first name. Presidents have long been called by their names or initials. No one has been threatened with death for using the names “JRJ”, “Premadasa”, “DB”, “Chandrika”, “Mahinda” or “Sirisena”. Unless the President proves otherwise, I find it difficult to believe that members of the Buddhist clergy have truly advised him to resort to violence. My understanding as a Catholic is that Buddhism shuns violence and espouses peace.
“I ask that you kindly arrange without delay to provide me with adequate security against this grave threat to my life and to my duty to speak freely on behalf of the 2.8 million voters who supported the Samagi Jana Balawegaya. It is my fundamental right to say what I wish without fear of being summarily executed like a terrorist.
“Mr. Wickremaratne, I must remind you that you are the Inspector-General of Police for the Republic of Sri Lanka, not the personal servant of Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Protecting the life and liberty of Members of Parliament discharging their duties is not a personal favour I am asking of you, but an exercise of your solemn duty to defend the Constitution of the Republic, which you are sworn to do. As a career police officer, I trust that you do not want to be remembered as the IGP who oversaw the first assassination of a Sri Lankan Parliamentarian since the end of the civil war.
“For the record, this is the first time I have ever received a credible death threat. I am used to democratic politics, where politicians engage each other and debate their ideas and opinions. This is my first experience of a political opponent trying to terrorise me into silence using fear and the threat of violence.”
Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’
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.
Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre
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.
All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments
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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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