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Have we got our economic and Covid-19 priorities right?

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Sri Lanka has over 50% living below the poverty line, and the malnutrition rate is estimated to be 18%. It is obvious that first priority should be given to relief of hunger. Then to fighting the COVID 19 epidemic, a health care problem. It is after relieving these that money should be devoted to infrastructure like highways. But in Sri Lanka it appears to be the other way round.

Health care is a priority, but even on this aspect, are we acting sensibly? In the Daily News of 15.07.21, the Director of the Health Promotion Bureau is quoted as saying that the number of COVID 19 cases has dropped to 6.2% on the basis of random PCR tests, from an earlier figure of 10%.

The Epidemiology Unit has carried out about 7,000 random PCR tests daily covering all MOH divisions in the country. The best public health measure is the observance of the three health rules – wearing masks, observing social distancing and washing the hands with soap and water after touching anything touched by others. This has been going on from the outset and is being successful at little or no cost.

As nearly 80% of COVID-19 infections are asymptomatic or extremely mild, they develop immunity and do not need any vaccination. Vaccination is only indicated to the vulnerable group – elderly (over 60 years), those with serious underlying diseases e.g. respiratory, cardiac, diabetes mellitus, cancers etc. This group of about 20% of the population should be vaccinated, commencing with the oldest age group, as they are prone to develop and some of them can die. The occasional occurrence of a case in a child fits into the pattern associated with several virus diseases called Kawasaki syndrome. As such, there is no need to immunize children, taken as a group.

An intensive program is now underway to vaccinate all those above 30 years in every district in Sri Lanka. 36% of this target population has received the first dose already and 21% both doses. A large mass of expensive vaccines from different countries are being rushed into the country as if we are faced with a life or death struggle.

By the end of June, Sri Lanka had only 277,519 cases with 3,574 deaths (1.4%). A social scientist visited Kanatte cemetery a few days ago and inquired whether there had been an increase in deaths since the COVID outbreak began and she was able to confirm that no such spike had occurred. Why then this great hurry to vaccinate? Even in the USA, no doctors and other health care workers have died of COVID- 19.

The vaccine industry which is in decline has seen a golden opportunity to expand and profit. An intensive campaign was carried out in the USA to frighten the people and to compel them to take the vaccine, which had already been mass produced. It also provided a good opportunity to test new varieties of vaccines e.g. the mRNA vaccines (like the Pfizer and Moderna COVID 19 vaccines from the USA), which are really the introduction of genetic material to get our body cells to produce the spike protein alone of the virus, not the whole virus.

As we all know, the introduction of foreign genetic material is considered to be unsafe and future outcomes are uncertain. That is why the European Union refused to import genetically modified (GM) foods from South America. There were campaigns in the USA questioning the safety and efficacy of the COVID vaccines. Sales in the USA and West have not been great, as questions have been raised by scientists.

In North America and Europe, it was because of the big spike of cases, specially approaching winter that the COVID-19 phobia gained ground, and “emergency use” was resorted to. There is no such emergency situation in Sri Lanka. Further, Asian and African countries that have used BCG as a protection against TB have been shown to have benefited from it and have little COVID 19.

The vaccine is also expensive and many people in the USA refused to buy it, specially the poor blacks and browns. The vaccine industry had to find a market for this massive unsold surplus. What better than to look abroad for markets among those already mentally conditioned to accept the vaccine as a necessity? It is not difficult to buy over officials and decision- makers and get the local private sector to come in with suitable inducements. This is what we are seeing in many countries world-wide, and here in Sri Lanka too.

Governments tend to fall in line in the face of such intensive campaigning.. The COVID phobia is there among the people to be exploited and the environment and the partners are also in place, so why not exploit it?

The vaccine producers themselves admit that the optimal time for boosters is still being worked out to get full protection. The side effects are also being looked for and are not fully known. This particularly applies to the long term effects. The protection will be short term and in all probability annual boosters will be required. This is going to be a considerable cost.

On the political side, the lockdown policy practiced in Sri Lanka has no real benefit from a medical point of view, and is only increasing poverty and disrupting the economy, leading to job losses. We need more informed debate on this whole issue and then come out with what really needs to be done. Protests against vaccination should be allowed, as much as for vaccination.

Prof. Tissa Vitarana

 



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Wimal asks for PSC probe into top officials’ complicity in violence

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Colombo HC lawyers concerned over shocking developments

By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, MP, says a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) should be appointed to investigate the role played by IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Public Security Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. (retd.) Jagath Alwis in the recent SLPP hothead attack on those demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, including Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Weerawansa yesterday (18) told The Island that Parliament should inquire into the unprovoked attack that triggered an extremely violent response by the public as well as those awaiting an opportunity to unleash violence on selected group of lawmakers on 09 May.

The former Industries Minister said he was confident that Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, would look into the issues at hand.

Responding to another query, Weerawansa said that Senior DIG Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon’s claim that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary had interfered with his (Tennakoon’s) plan to disperse the SLPP mobs couldn’t be easily dismissed.

MP Weerawansa declared, in Parliament on Tuesday (17), that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry dissuaded the Senior DIG from performing his duties although he had received specific instructions from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to stop the march on Galle Face. The former JVPer questioned whether those conspirators wanted to show the world the failure on the part of the police and the armed forces to maintain law and order.

Asked whether police headquarters and the Public Security Ministry had responded to his accusations, Weerawansa said he hadn’t been contacted by them so far.

Pointing out that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), inquiring into 09 May turmoil had recorded Senior DIG’s statement, Weerawansa said that the outfit could issue an interim statement on the matter.

The Colombo High Court Lawyers’ Association said that the shocking revelation, made in Parliament, should be expeditiously inquired into.

The Association’s President Attorney-at-Law Lakshman Perera said that the ongoing investigations had taken an unexpected turn in the wake of high profile specific allegations pertaining to the conduct of the IGP, as well as the Public Security Ministry Secretary. Pointing out that the HRCSL and the CID had already recorded DIG Tennakoon’s statement, pertaining to the incidents, and the officer was among a group of 22 persons slapped with a travel ban by the Fort Magistrate, lawyer Perera said that the CID couldn’t turn a blind eye to accusations directed at the head of the department as well as Secretary to the relevant ministry.

Lawyer Perera said that investigations couldn’t be completed without verifying accusations made in Parliament.

Lawmaker Weerawansa said that the question was on whose behalf the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary intervened at a time the country was under emergency and after the Senior DIG in charge of Colombo received specific instructions from the President himself.

Although the SLPP goons did not shed any blood or cause any serious injuries, unlike the well-organized mobs that caused havoc across the country thereafter, MP Weerawansa said that he couldn’t comprehend why the police and the armed forces allowed the situation to develop to an extremely dangerous level.

The HRCSL in its initial reaction to the unprovoked attacks on those who had been demanding the resignation of the government condemned the violence caused by a group of people who made it very clear that violence was their intention.

HRCSL Chairperson retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe said: “The failure of the police to prepare for this eventuality and prevent and manage the violence and destruction is a gross failure of public order. There must be an immediate inquiry into this matter. The inaction of the police to prevent the clash is condemned.”

The Island brought the latest developments to the notice of the HRCSL yesterday as MP Weerawansa said that those who conspired and planned the project that involved those at the helm of Temple Trees then and the SLPP should be arrested. The conspirators shouldn’t be allowed to escape justice while the CID arrested those who carried out the actual attacks.

Police spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the department couldn’t respond to what transpired in Parliament. Acknowledging that he was aware of the allegations made in Parliament, Attorney-at-Law Thalduwa said in case their response was sought through proper channels, whatever the queries would be answered.

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Dr. Pathirana says IGP, Public Security Ministry Secy. allowed goon attacks

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Galle District parliamentarian Dr. Ramesh Pathirana has reiterated that IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Secretary to the Public Security Ministry, Maj. General (retd) Jagath Alwis had facilitated the 09 May unprovoked attack on anti-government protesters.

The former Minister Pathirana declared in Parliament yesterday (18) that National Freedom Front (NFF) leader MP Wimal Weerawansa’s allegation, pertaining to the origins of the violence, was true.

Dr. Pathirana said that he was among those who had brought supporters to attend a meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The vast majority of those who attended the Temple Trees meet on May 09 wanted to thank the war-winning President as he gave up active politics, the MP said. However, some unscrupulous members had instigated the participants there.

Dr. Pathirana said he had been at Temple Trees at that time and as he feared violence could erupt due inflammatory speeches, contact was made with Senior DIG in charge of Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon. Dr. Pathirana said that the senior police officer had assured him that the police were ready to face the situation and confident of preventing those who attended the Temple Trees function from reaching Galle Face.

“Thereafter, I left Temple Trees for a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. There were several other members. When trouble erupted, President Rajapaksa immediately got in touch with Senior DIG Tennakoon, who revealed he had been asked not to use force by the IGP himself.”

Dr. Pathirana said the President had asked the senior law enforcement officer why he didn’t carry out instructions issued by him (the President).

The Galle District MP emphasised that the IGP and the Secretary to the Public Security Ministry were responsible for the violence at Kollupitiya and Fort police areas which triggered violence in many parts of the country. (SF)

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New Deputy Speaker not from Rajapaksa political dynasty

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Newly-elected Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa said that he was not a member of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s clan.

The Hambantota District Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmaker said so when The Island asked him whether he, too, was a member of the Rajapaksa family now under fire over the continuing political-economic-social turmoil.

Rajapaksa polled 109 votes at a secret vote held in Parliament on Tuesday (17) to secure the Deputy Speaker’s post. MP Rajapaksa defeated Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Kaviratne, who polled 78 votes.

The SLPP rebel group members refrained from voting for Rajapaksa after the top SLPP leadership ignored their appeal to fill the vacancy through consultations with the SJB.

Rajapaksa succeeded SLFP’s Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, who quit the post twice, the second occasion after beating SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar at a secret vote.

Deputy Speaker Rajapaksha said that he had served as the Chairman of the Ambalanthota Pradeshiya Sabha in 1997. Subsequently, he became a member of the Southern Provincial Council.

Asked whether he was a resident of the Rajapaksas’ home base, Deputy Speaker said that he was from Pallerotta, Ambalantota. (SF)

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