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India receives GTF appreciation for skipping UNHRC vote on Sri Lanka

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The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) on Tuesday (23) said that by making a public statement before the vote on an accountability resolution on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC and then skipping the vote, India had clearly shown its displeasure at the lack of progress on addressing the alleged violations of human rights and international laws and the non-implementation of Sri Lanka’s numerous public commitments of the past in addressing the grievances of the Tamil people. The GTF said that Tamils were grateful to the Tamil Nadu political parties, particularly the DMK president M.K. Stalin for the recent statement calling on the Government of India not to support the Government of Sri Lanka by voting against the resolution.

The following is the text of statement issued by GTF spokesman Suren Surendiran: The Government of Sri Lanka rejected this resolution, however even all the neighbouring countries did not support that position.

It is significant that the majority of the Latin American countries and all of the European countries voted in favour of the resolution. Majority of the African countries, the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the Asian countries did not support the position taken by the Government of Sri Lanka.

It is particularly pleasing that the countries voted in favour cover all regions across the globe and several countries who would have traditionally voted against such a resolution recognised the criticality of the situation in Sri Lanka and decided to abstain. It is indeed encouraging for victims of human rights abuses across the world that UNHRC continues to offer hope, even if the process of seeking justice is painstaking and arduous.

The current process towards this important outcome commenced with the report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, which powerfully articulated that ‘Sri Lanka is on an alarming path towards recurrence of human rights violations’ and called for urgent action from the international community. The High Commissioner’s call was ably converted into resolution 46/1 by the core group of countries under the leadership of the UK, which in fact is a pragmatic outcome balancing the highly concerning developments in Sri Lanka with challenging geopolitical reality. Strengthening OHCHR’s capacity to collect, consolidate, analyse, and preserve information and evidence, and to develop possible strategies for future accountability processes, with sufficient budgetary and manpower support is a critical and welcoming new dimension in this resolution.

Tamils are grateful to the US Administration that initiated the original process of promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka in 2012.

GTF would like to express its appreciation and gratitude to all progressive forces that made this current outcome possible – the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, the core group of countries, all countries who voted for and/or co-sponsored the resolution, the countries that abstained without voting against the resolution, eminent persons and dedicated human rights organisations who championed the cause, and more importantly the victims of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka who despite the time elapsed and the risks involved, continue to provide inspiration by bravely fighting for human rights and accountability.

Tamils are grateful to the Government of India for supporting an escalation of the Tamil demand for equality, justice (accountability), dignity and peace at a multilateral international forum like the UNHRC. By specifying India’s support to the international community calling on the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its commitments to devolve political power to the Tamils and to allow those devolved powers to be operationalised effectively according to the 13th amendment of the constitution is very significant.

Unlike in the previous years when the outcome at the UNHRC was eagerly sought by the Tamil community, the interests and expectations this year were much more widespread. The Muslim community, which was openly victimised through forced cremations and expected burqa ban; the Christian community which is highly disappointed with the dishonest approach towards Easter bombing investigations, and indeed the majority community which is increasingly becoming unsettled with the authoritarian and militarised trajectory the country is adopting.

GTF believes this convergence of concerns, fears and apprehensions offer hope for all the people of Sri Lanka to come together as equal citizens and communities. Such progress is possible only when all communities stop living a lie based on denial but come to terms with the truth based on evidence. The UNHRC resolution just passed provides a useful framework to work towards such an outcome. We call upon people from all communities, important stakeholders of the country including the leaders of the government and opposition, to stop using the UNHRC initiative for short term political gains, but rather listen to the coherent and powerful voice of the international community, and adopt the parameters of this resolution willingly for the betterment of the country and its people. The Government of Sri Lanka, by rejecting this resolution, is undoubtedly isolating itself from the international community.”



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Covishield recipients in dilemma over second jab

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) yesterday (11) said that the ‘health administration’ hadn’t been able to reach a consensus on the second jab for those who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccine first dose.

The government, both in and out of Parliament has acknowledged a shortfall of over 600,000 Covishield doses.

Top GMOA spokesperson Dr Naveen de Zoysa told The Island contrary to various statements made over the past several days in that regard, health authorities hadn’t been able to take a decision, in case ongoing efforts at government level to procure a sufficient stock, failed. Responding to another query, the outspoken GMOA official said that they were in a quandary.

When The Island pointed out that the success of the vaccination programme, depended on the availability of the second dose within 12 to 16 weeks after the first, Dr. Zoysa said that some expressed the view it would be better to have the same in spite of a slight delay. Then others talked of a ‘vaccine mix’ or vaccine cocktail’ to meet the requirement, Dr. Zoysa said. However, at the moment, the issue at hand hadn’t been addressed, the GMOA spokesperson said.

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemic & Covid Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday afternoon assured that the government was trying hard to obtain the required number of Oxford-AstraZeneca doses for the second jab.

The government launched the second round on April 28. The first round launched on January 29 was brought to an end on April 6.

GMOF (Government Medical Officers’ Forum) President Dr. Rukshan Bellana emphasized that the government owed an explanation to the public how it intended to solve  the issue at hand. Responding to The Island queries, Dr. Bellana said that the very purpose of the vaccination programme would be jeopardized if over 600,000 people couldn’t receive the second jab.

Dr. Bellana urged the government to reveal its response to the crisis without further delay. “We know, Sri Lanka received approximately 1,264,000 covishield doses from India in three separate consignments. Of them, half a million were a donation. Having used 927,000 for the first dose, the country had about 330,000 at the time the government launched the second round. We are now faced with over 600,000 shortfall. That is the undeniable truth,” Dr. Bellana said.

Appreciating the introduction of Chinese and Russian vaccines and efforts to procure US vaccine, too, Dr. Bellana said that those who had received covishield were really anxious whether the second dose could be received within the stipulated time.

The GMOF Chief said that the deepening health emergency in India shouldn’t be an excuse for those who turned a blind eye to the developing situation here. If the government made timely intervention, the situation wouldn’t have deteriorated so rapidly, Dr. Bellana said adding that the country was now paying a huge price for the government not taking tangible measures ahead of Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera didn’t answer his hand phone.

Dr. Bellana alleged that influential persons had jumped the queue to secure the second covishield jab. The GMOF urged the government to look into that matter and ensure transparency in the process.

The Island also sought an explanation from Chief of Vaccination Plan Lalith Weeratunga, who is also President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s principal advisor regarding how the government intended to ensure the second jab. Weeratunga said that the government was in touch with three countries in that regard. “We are quite confident the required stock could be secured to meet the shortfall,” Weeratunga said, adding that in addition to 600,000 Sinopharm vaccines received from China free of charge, the country could get as much as 3 mn doses from Beijing. Referring to consensus with Russia to procure 13 mn doses, Weeratunga emphasized that Chinese and Russian vaccines were going to be Sri Lanka’s mainstay against the backdrop of the situation in India.

Weeratunga said that in spite of on and off setbacks, the government pursued a proper vaccination strategy. He said that the government was quite confident that by August-Sept a substantial percentage of people could be vaccinated.

 

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Johnston: Country will become a metropolis with efficient interconnected expressways

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Chairman of the RDA Chaminda Athaluwage handing over the contracts to the construction companies to develop the Pasyala to Kadugannawa section of the Colombo – Kandy road (A001), as per the instructions of Minister Johnston Fernando.

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando says that with a highly networked system of expressways covering important cities of the country making transport and travelling efficient Sri Lanka could be like one big metropolis in the  foreseeable future.

 Speaking to the media after a meeting with his Ministry officials to review the tender awarding process to private companies for the widening of the Kadugannawa to Pasyala section of the Colombo-Kandy road on Monday, Minister Fernando said plans had been completed to develop the particular stretch of 55.7 km in four phases with funds from the Asian Development Bank.

 The first phase of the project from Pasyala to Ambepussa covering 14.9 km is planned to be developed at a cost of Rs 1,603 million. The estimated cost for the second section from Ambepussa to Kegalle covering 12.9 km is Rs 1,507 million. The third phase from Kegalle to Mawanella covering 13.9 km is planned to be developed at a cost of Rs 1,345 million while the cost of developing 14 kilometers in the fourth phase from Mawanella to Kadugannawa is estimated at Rs 1,630 million.

 Minister Fernando said that he had instructed the Secretary to the Ministry R.W.R. Pemasiri, and the Chairman of the Road Development Authority Chaminda Athaluwage to get the construction companies to complete the entire project within 18 months. A stretch covering 44.3 km from Colombo to Pasyala on the A001 Road has been widened and carpeted as of now.

 Minister Fernando said that infrastructure including the road development was continuing at an unprecedented speed as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour programme to provide people with better roads and boost the country’s economic development. “There is no economic development without infrastructure development and in that regard a highly developed road network is a must,” the Minister said.

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Illegal withdrawal of Rs 43 mn, using forged cheques:

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Another suspect arrested, CID looking for three more persons

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Another person wanted in connection with an ongoing inquiry into the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 43 mn from the account of a leading steel manufacturer at the Sampath Bank has been arrested.

With the latest arrest, altogether five persons have been taken into custody. Police spokesman DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that among the arrested was a bank employee, who masterminded the ‘operation.’

Asked whether the money had been recovered, DIG Rohana said that investigators recovered a part of it. “We are looking for three more persons who withdrew money, using forged cheques,” DIG Rohana said.

The Police Spokesman said the three remaining persons too had been identified. According to the DIG, five persons had withdrawn money from six branches of the same bank at the behest of  the bank employee, and the person who printed counterfeit cheques, to withdraw money amounting to Rs 43 mn belonging to steel manufacturer Melwa. The police identified the counterfeit cheque printer as a resident of Hanwella.

DIG Rohana said that those who had been sent to the different branches of the same bank wore clothes identifying them as Melwa employees.

Though the large sum was withdrawn fraudulently on April 12, the day before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the company remained unaware of the heist until the re-opening of  its main office after the April holidays, he said.

 The Police Spokesman said that a wider investigation was required to ascertain printing of counterfeit cheques and the role played by the bank employee. DIG Rohana said that against the backdrop of the counterfeit cheque case, both state and private sector banks would have to take tangible measures to prevent similar frauds.

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