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Inoculation drive: Armed forces’ contribution immeasurable; Belittling tremendous achievements regretable – CDS



Of 2.7mn fully vaccinated, 23 who had comorbidity succumb to Covid-19

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Army Commander, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff General Shavendra Silva, says the overall contribution made by the armed forces in Sri Lanka’s battle against Covid-19 is immeasurable.

In a brief interview with The Island, General Silva explained their contribution to the ongoing countrywide vaccination drive as Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena declared that the survival of the public depended on full vaccination.

Appearing on Derana ‘360’ Monday night, Dr. Gunawardena warned of dire consequences unless the people received both jabs.

Responding to interviewer Sanka Amarjith, Dr. Gunawardena said that of 4,132 Covid-19 deaths, only 23 died after having both vaccines. Of 14 mn who had received vaccines, 2.7 were so far given the second jab, Dr. Gunawardena said, adding that 177 succumbed having received one jab.

State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana told The Island that almost all of them had been over 60 and simultaneously affected by two or more medical conditions.

The CDS said that in addition to Narahenpita Military Hospital where selected groups, including teachers had been inoculated the Army managed countrywide makeshift vaccination facilities in support of health authorities. Gen. Silva regretted that the armed forces role in fighting the epidemic as well as formation of the Covid Task Force had become political issues both in and outside Parliament.

The former Commanding Officer of the much celebrated frontline fighting formation Task Force I /58 Division said that the deployment of the armed forces helped achieve vaccination targets. Gen. Silva emphasized that joint civil-military effort made it possible to inoculate over 14 mn people with 2.7 mn of them receiving both jabs.

Pointing out that vaccine roll-out began on January 29, within 24 hours after Sri Lanka received half a million Covishield (AstraZeneca) doses courtesy India, Gen. Silva said that the military was engaged in the inoculation process from the very beginning. Gen. Silva said that as the country continuously received stocks of AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Pfizer, Sputnik, Moderna vaccines from different sources, the military gradually stepped up their efforts.

The government brought in the SLAF and the SLN in May and July respectively as the military expanded its role in the vaccination drive. The CDS said that the deployment of the armed forces streamlined the entire inoculation process. SLAF spokesman Wing Commander Dushan Wijesinghe and SLN spokesman Capt. Indika de Silva explained the initial deployment in support of the overall efforts before they undertook inoculation on their own.

Responding to another query, Gen. Silva pointed out that the military lessened the heavy burden on the civilian apparatus tasked with inoculation drive.

Responding to UNP leader and National List MP Ranil Wickremesinghe criticism of the Covid Task Force as well as the accusation that Parliament had been denied control over the operation undertaken by them, Gen. Silva said that the former Prime Minister received the first jab at Narahenpita Military Hospital in Feb. At the time the UNP leader had received first and the second jabs he hadn’t re-entered Parliament. Wickremesinghe re-entered parliament in late July.

Gen. Silva said that at the task undertaken by the armed forces stretched them to the maximum though officers and men met the challenging task. “Running vaccination centres 24 hours a day certainly not an easy task,” Gen. Silva said, pointing out that the public really appreciated their role.

Gen. Silva said that the military remained committed to take the ongoing vaccination drive to a successful conclusion. Referring to a statement made by Chairman of State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) Dr. Prasanna Gunasena on Monday, Gen. Silva said that the country could be proud of that 96 percent of those above 30 had been inoculated. However, only 25 percent had been fully vaccinated, Dr. Gunasena told the media at the Information Department urging the public to be patient as they would receive the required protection two weeks after the second jab. Dr. Gunasena said that they intended to give the second jab to the remaining group this month.

Gen. Silva said that the government had announced the vaccination of those under 30 once the ongoing drive was brought to a successful conclusion.

The Army Commander said that some had conveniently forgotten how the eradication of terrorism allowed the government to fully concentrate on battling Covid-19.

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JVP, too, moves court against deal with US company



By Chitra Weerarathne and A.J.A. Abeynayake

The JVP yesterday (26) filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal requesting it to declare null and void a Cabinet decision to transfer 40 percent of the Yugadanavi Power Plant to US Company, New Fortress Energy Inc.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ceylon Electricity Board, West Coast Power (Pvt) Ltd, Lakdanavi Limited, the Monetary Board of the Central Bank, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation have been named as respondents among 43 others.

The JVP’s petition has come in the way of Colombo’s Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and Ven Elle Gunawansa, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya and the Federation of National Organisations (FNO) moving the court against the controversial deal with US energy company,The application has also sought a writ of mandamus on the respondents preventing them from taking any action with regard to the matter until the application is taken up and its examination is concluded.

Former JVP MPs Sunil Handunnetti and Wasantha Samarasinghe are the petitioners.

The petitioners state that the Cabinet decisions undermine the rule of law, the Constitution and democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution and several other statutes, and conventions of democratic governance and Cabinet of Ministers exercising executive powers.

The petitioners state that LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., is the largest power sector engineering company in the country. It was first incorporated in the 1980s as a joint venture of the Ceylon Electricity Board and a multinational group – ABB of Norway.

The Petitioners state that Lakdanavi (Pvt) Ltd., is a fully owned subsidiary of LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., and is a company specialised in engineering, procurement and construction and operations and maintenance in the energy and power generation sector.

They assert that the government has not properly explained particulars of the deal even to the Cabinet of Ministers when transferring the shares of the power plant to the American company.

They have also alleged that the government has not obtained the approval of Parliament for the agreement in question and that the relevant share transfer process has not been carried out in accordance with a formal tender procedure.

They have sought the Appeals Court to issue an order rescinding the decision taken to transfer the shares to the American company and the agreement signed by the government.

In addition, the General Secretary of the SJB MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara filed a Fundamental Rights application in the Supreme Court on 21 Oct., challenging the government decision to transfer 40 per cent of the Kerawalapitiya Power Plant to the US firm.

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Ex-Indian HC in Colombo during turbulent 1989-90 will be featured in next Pathfinder “In Conversation” webinar



Ambassador Lakhan Mehrotra, former High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, will be featured in the next Pathfinder “In Conversation” webinar scheduled at 2.30 p.m. IST/SLST on Thursday 28th October.

Mehrotra will be interviewed by Bernard Goonetilleke, Chairman, Pathfinder Foundation. They will discuss the guest speaker’s publication ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’, which features his experience during the period 1989-1990, when he served as High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, during a politically turbulent era coupled with the separatist war in the north-east and an insurrection in the south.

His book, ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’ touches on the beginnings of the conflict, briefly follows on its evolution until it reached its peak in the early 1990s, and then takes the reader in detail through the author’s own experience in the country, nearly two years after the 1987 Indo-Lanka Agreement was signed and the Indian Peace Keeping Force had been inducted at the invitation of President J. R. Jayewardene, while President Premadasa, who succeeded President Jayewardene considered the presence of an Indian military contingent on his nation’s soil as an affront to its sovereignty. Soon after his election, the President issued an ultimatum for the IPKF to leave its shores by 29th July 1989 and threatened military action against it if it failed to do so, which brought the two nations to the brink of a military confrontation.

The High Commissioner’s intensive consultations and tireless interaction with the political leaders of Sri Lanka, the warring factions in the country’s north-east, and the governments in New Delhi and Colombo helped signing of the joint communique on 28th July 1989 on arrangements for phased withdrawal of the IPKF in March 1990 with due recognition of its contribution and sacrifices made to preserve the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the country. ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’ provides information that has never been divulged before. The “In Conversation” webinar will delve into these experiences of the High Commissioner; whose rather brief assignment was from April 1989 to June 1990.

Following his assignment that covered the most turbulent period of Sri Lanka in modern times, Ambassador Mehrotra served as Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs and as Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Africa before his retirement in 1992. Later, he served as UN Secretary General’s Personal Representative in Cambodia from 1997 to 2000 and as Head of the UN Diplomatic Mission in Jakarta for Peace Talks between Indonesia and East Timor.

Those who are interested in retracing the history of Sri Lanka should register in advance for this webinar through the link below:

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Cardinal lashes out at Minister known as Ten Percent



His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith visits Sarakkuwa in the Pamunugama area where clearing of X-Press Pearl debris continuinues.Pic by Nishan S .Priyantha

By Norman Palihawadane and Nishan S. Priyantha

Monies taken in the form of commissions by forfeiting people’s welfare will never do any good to those who take them, says His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

“The biggest malady our society is afflicted with is the commissions earned by politicians through various deals. They take commissions from companies by depriving the people of their dues. Such money has blood on them and they would not do any good to those who take them,” the Cardinal said yesterday.

Speaking to journalists at the Sarakkuwa beach in Pamunugama during an inspection tour to witness the progress of cleaning work of the MV X-Press Pearl wreck the Cardinal said: “We have a Cabinet minister who is notoriously known as Mr. Ten Percent. Imagine the shame on this nation when there is such a minister taking ten percent of commission from every project he passes. The monies collected in that way would never bring out any good.”

The Cardinal said that the President, the Prime Minister and government institutions including the Ministry of Fisheries, coast conservation department, marine environment protection authority and urban development authority were duty bound to remove the wreck, clean the beach and the ocean. “In doing so, the government should be concerned about the interests of people, and not about the shipping company, its local agents or agents of the insurance companies. We demand that the government take this case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague and get full compensation for the people. We have information that the agents of companies have come down and are staying in Colombo exerting influence on various political leaders and officials. Their objective is getting out of this by paying a paltry sum. If the politicians and officials permit that we will take to the streets with people.”

The Cardinal said that there was information that Urban Development Authority officials were making plans to give away Muthurajawela to foreign companies. “Muthurajawela is a national asset and belongs to the people. The politicians have no right to sell them off to Korean or Chinese companies. We would not let that happen,” he said.

Associated with the Cardinal were Ven. Pahiyangala Ananada Thera, Chairperson of Marine Environment Protection Chairperson, bishops and other religious leaders.

The Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl caught fire off the coast of Colombo in May and sank while transporting 1,486 chemical containers from the Middle East with stops in India and Sri Lanka during its voyage to Singapore.

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