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Inclement weather snuffs out 15 lives

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By Ifham Nizam

Fifteen deaths were reported due to inclement weather in 15 districts on Monday and Tuesday. More than 28,263 people belonging to 7,529 families have been badly affected by floods and earth slips.

According to the Disaster Management Centre’s latest count, 802 houses have been damaged and 12 houses destroyed. More than 113 families are sheltered at welfare centres, and 357 families are staying with their relatives.

Five deaths were caused by drowning. Fiver persons were killed by earth slips. Two victims were electrocuted. The DMC has said that unlike on previous occasions, earth slips are reported from many parts of the country.

The Meteorology Department says a low-pressure area has formed in the south-east Bay of Bengal and is likely to intensify into a depression during next 36 hours and move West-Northwestwards towards North Tamil Nadu, closer to the North coast of Sri Lanka.

Torrential rains also disrupted electricity network countrywide affecting 240,000 families. Kurunegala and Puttalam were badly affected. Engineers at the first coal fired power plant complex at Norochcholai said that functioning with greatest of difficulties while one of its three plants were stopped for routine maintenance.

DMC’s Deputy Director Pradeep Kodippili yesterday said that 78 divisional secretariat divisions in 16 districts had been affected by the inclement weather.

The Meteorology Department warned that heavy rains above 150 mm could be expected in parts of Northern, North-western, Western and Sabaragamuwa provinces and in Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Nuwara-Eliya and Kandy districts today.

Meanwhile, the Irrigation Department issued a ‘Red’ alert for major floods in the low-lying areas of Maha Oya River Basin as the water levels had gone up extensively.

Irrigation Department (Hydrology) Director Eng. S.P.C. Sugeeshwara said the water level at Giriulla River Gauging Station has reached 8.94 metres.

Thus, people living in low-lying areas of Maha Oya Valley located in Alawwa, Divulapitiya, Mirigama, Pannala, Wennappuwa, Negombo, Katana, Narammala and Dankotuwa Divisional Secretariat Divisions were urged to be vigilant of a major flood situation.

A mother (35) and two daughters, aged 08 and 14, were reported dead. The father was admitted to Rambukkana Hospital and was later transferred to Kegalle Hospital for further treatment.

In another development, a young female died after a house was damaged in an earth slip in the area of Wennoruwa, Narammala Monday night. However, her mother and her brother escaped unharmed.

The deceased was identified as a 23-year-old nurse who was employed at a private hospital in Colombo. She was rushed to the Narammala Hospital, but she succumbed to injuries on admission to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Navy relief teams rescued 71 individuals trapped in floods following heavy downpour at Palaviya in Kalpitiya in the Puttalam district on Monday night

Navy has also deployed 10 relief teams at Paragoda in Kalutara, New Town, Ratnapura, Udamalaththa in Galle, Palaviya, Wanathawilluwa, Karambe in Puttalam, Giriulla in Kurunegala and Rajanganaya in Anuradhapura, covering the Western, Southern, North Central Northwestern and Sabaragamuwa provinces to provide relief to the people hit by adverse weather.

The Navy has kept 60 more flood relief teams ready in the Western, Southern, Northwestern, and North Central Naval Areas for deployment at short notice.

There can be very heavy showers or thundershowers, strong winds up to 60-70 kmph associated with rough seas around the Island.

Naval and fishing communities are advised not to venture the South-west Bay of Bengal sea area and deep and shallow sea areas around the Island (mentioned in the map below) until further notice.

Those who are in aforementioned sea regions are advised to return to coasts or move to safer areas as soon as possible, the Met. Department warned.



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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine

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Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today

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by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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