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‘Hunger needs to be overcome before highways and high life’

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The global economic crisis has affected all countries, but small economies like Sri Lanka are the worst hit. A recent nutritional study in Sri Lanka shows that the level of malnutrition has gone up to 18%, while the poverty level has reached 60%.

While the rural and plantation sectors are worst affected, the urban sector has also been hit. On International Women’s Day, it was sad to see continuing discrimination and the sad plight of women in our country, a cause for concern.

Besides the many women who bear the burden of doing a job while running the home and caring for the family, the war widows and elderly are suffering in silence with no support from society. The economic downturn has been aggravated by the Covid 19 pandemic. The media makes little or no mention of this grave situation, and the Government carries on as usual, with more attention to highways and high life, and only little attention to the problems of hunger and poverty.

The Lanka Sama Samaja Party, that was formed in 1935, is having its Conference on March 20 and 21, and is giving priority to this issue. Developed countries like the USA and UK have daily soup kitchens organized by social welfare organizations. We lack these, and the government must intervene in a more organized manner. The occasional basket of dry rations helps, but a more systematic and organized campaign is required to ensure that no one goes to bed at night hungry.

The Cooperative Movement that was strong and well established in the 1970s should be restored, ensuring that everyone gets. food and essentials, and exploitation by middlemen is minimized. Till then every Grama Sevaka must visit each house and make a list of those in need. Adequate dry rations must reach them. Cooked meals should be supplied to the old and disabled. Religious and other welfare organizations must be mobilized.

The economic downturn is continuing and though the Covid-19 vaccine is being given to high risk groups, it will take some time to reach the over 70-80% coverage required to control transmission in the community. Under these conditions the economic situation will be bad. There is also a financial downturn, as well as a foreign debt crisis.

The country and the people will have to tighten belts and reduce spending. The Government should act with restraint, minimizing expenditure. Ensuring that everybody is fed is the first priority. Highways and other development activities can wait. The better off must take as much of the burden as possible. This means that the level of direct personal tax, which is as low as 14% should be raised to over 45% and the company tax from 18% to at least 50%.

Our foreign debt should be reduced. The government should tighten its restriction on unnecessary imports and construction activities and take the country into its confidence, explain the situation, and give the lead by an austerity budget. The burden must not be put on to the poor through indirect tax increases, but on those who can afford.

Those who have lost jobs should be compensated through local development activities, specially by stimulating the agricultural sector and local value added industry. Some persons will have to undergo skills training. In the meantime some type of dole or financial support by the state will be necessary. Local industry too needs to be supported. The government decision to achieve self-sufficiency is good and achievable.

The LSSP has been advocating adoption of the new solidarity concept. This is gaining ground in Europe and Latin America, and has proved a success. State ventures are run on cooperative lines with ownership being vested in the employees. The latter, in addition to their wages, also get an equal share in the profits of the enterprise. The outcome has been a large increase in the income of both the employees and the enterprise, increased efficiency and curbing of stealing and corruption.

While improving on the devolution of power to the provinces, the development of the province must be an integral part of the total national plan to develop the country as a whole. The allocation of funds should be done accordingly. This will ensure planned development of all parts of the country as one unit. Sri Lanka will become one strong united nation.

 

Prof. Tissa Vitarana



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Govt. urged to increase nursing cadre to tackle national health crisis

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Coordinator, Training (Nursing) Pushpa Ramyani de Soysa says that against the backdrop of alarming increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases, the government needs to act swiftly and decisively to strengthen the nursing staff or face the consequences.

The top nurse insists a moment cannot be wasted as the ongoing epidemic threatens to overwhelm the entire country. The nurses’ spokesperson attached to the Accident Ward of the National Hospital, Colombo, delivered the dire warning in a live interview with Dasun Wasantha on the state-run ITN yesterday (14)

The outspoken official said that at the time Covid-19 erupted in 2020, the nursing staff consisted of approximately 38,000 representing all grades. At that time, the country experienced a staggering 50 per cent dearth of trained nursing staff, de Soysa said, urging those responsible as well as the public of the urgent need to strengthen the nursing staff.

She explained how the nursing staff worked under unbearable pressure as the entire medical staff backed by the military and the police struggled to cope up with the relentless Covid-19 onslaught.

Responding to the interviewer on live ‘Hathweni Paya’ , de Soysa said that as an immediate interim measure, those who had retired in the past few years could be brought back to lessen the pressure on the staff. When The Island sought further clarification from the National

Coordinator, the nursing veteran emphasized the Covid-19 challenge had to be tackled, in addition to the regular workload. A further deterioration of the situation could cause a catastrophe, she told The Island.

The National Coordinator told the ITN as nurses couldn’t be trained overnight the way required beds and other equipment could be supplied to hospitals, hence the urgent need to bring back the retired without further delay. She repeatedly stressed the responsibility on the part of the administration whoever in power to increase the nursing staff to meet the country’s growing requirement. Acknowledging the services rendered by the health services at an extremely difficult period, nurse de Soysa underscored the critical role played by the nursing staff in the overall effort against the epidemic.

Soysa highlighted what she called a coordinating role played by the nursing staff in the treatment of persons afflicted by Covid-19 or some other illness. In the absence of sufficient number of nurses, personnel had been re-allocated, de Soysa said, pointing out that due to Covid-19 explosion patients were being accommodated at hospitals.

Commenting on challenges faced by the nursing profession, de Soysa recalled the sacrifices made during the 30-year-war that was brought to a successful conclusion in May 2009. “Regardless of d immense difficulties, the nursing staff fulfilled their responsibilities during the conflict. We’ll do the same now,” de Soysa said, pointing out as many as 270 nurses had been tested Covid-19 positive, in addition to thousands quarantined.

The National Coordinator complained about the dearth of some critically important data relevant to the Covid-19 situation needed for evaluation purposes. Timely decisions couldn’t be taken for want of updated data at global and local level, she said.

She also discussed difficulties caused by some of those seeking treatment at hospitals not being aware of their condition, hence the need to be vigilant. However, sometimes, nursing staff served without taking into consideration the grave risks them faced. A grave looking de Soysa told the ITN interviewer they couldn’t follow health guidelines. “We cannot keep one meter distance in hospitals,” de Soysa said.

Nurse de Soysa said that she received both doses of covishields vaccine as key part of overall measures in place for the protection of the medical staff.

Without referring to any political party, de Soysa explained how the political administration over the years treated the nursing staff as slaves. Government treated nursing staff as dirt, de Soysa said, recalling with gratitude how Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda thera spearheaded a campaign that paved the way for significant improvement in the nursing service. The National Coordinator said that before the Ven. Thera’s intervention, they were assigned intolerable tasks regardless of their complains.

Responding to another ITN query, de Soysa said that successive governments hadn’t responded to their call for enhancement of the nursing service with the introduction of a system to produce qualified nurses who specializes in selected fields. Although action had been taken , the entire process was proceeding at snail pace, she alleged.

The National Instructor made reference to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 2019 presidential election manifesto that also dealt with the issue at hand. The top nurse didn’t mince her words when she pointed out that the required improvements weren’t introduced as expected, hence the need to move now.

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Coronavirus spreading fast in North

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

COVID-19 is spreading across a number of areas in the Northern province at a rapid pace, according to THE provincial health officials.

Five members of the same family in Kattakadu, Kilinochchi have contracted COVID-19 and been sent to Krishnapuram Treatment centre.

One family member is a university student, who stayed in Colombo. He returned home recently and several family members started developing Covid-19 symptoms a few days later. Health officials conducted PCR tests and found that all five family members had contracted the virus. Six other neighbouring families have been placed under quarantine.

Meanwhile, 43-year-old man was arrested by Kilinochchi Police for hoarding alcohol to be sold, at a higher price, during the current lockdown. The suspect is a resident of Kalmadukulam, Dharmapuram. He is to be produced before the Kilinochchi Magistrate’s Court.

However, most towns in the North had been deserted yesterday due to the lockdown.

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Navy nets 30 illegal migrants

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More than 30 persons were apprehended by the Sri Lanka Navy and Coast Guard in Samindugama on Thursday and Friday while they were preparing to migrate to a foreign country by boat illegally.

The owner of the house where the suspects had stayed was also arrested, together with15 others involved in human smuggling.

The suspects, residents of Jaffna, Batticaloa, Mullaitivu and Puttalam areas, were handed over to the Chilaw Police.

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