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Inoculation of 12-19 group: ‘Health workers can manage without military involvement’



By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) says the civilian health administration is capable of handling the inoculation of those between 12 and 19 years of age.

Its General Secretary Dr. Nalinda Herath on Monday (13) briefed the media on their stand regarding the vaccination of that particular age grouping. Asked by The Island whether the GMOA believed the civilian health administration could handle the vaccination of the student community and those coming within the 12-19 age group, Dr. Herath explained the system in place to meet the challenging task. “Inoculation can be carried out at hospitals countrywide. We have the wherewithal to do so,” Dr. Herath said.

Dr. Herath added that the vaccination of adults and children shouldn’t be compared. The military played a significant role in inoculation of those 30 and above, Dr. Herath said. However, the children should be inoculated under the supervision of medical experts, the top GMOA official said.

According to him, the final decision on the vaccination of those between 12 and 19 as well as re-opening of schools would be taken up at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday (17) at the Presidential Secretariat. Dr. Herath said that two committees that looked into the vaccination of children and re-opening of schools, headed by Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena would submit their reports to the President on Friday.

Dr. Herath said that the GMOA made representations to the relevant committee regarding prioritising vaccination. “We believe those chronic illnesses and students sitting for OL and AL should be vaccinated before the rest covering 12 to 19 years of age,” Dr. Herath said.

Dr. Herath emphasized that it would be the responsibility of the government to address contentious issues. As the country struggled to cope up with the daunting task of overcoming the raging Covid-19 epidemic, the public shouldn’t be affected by uncertainty, Dr. Herath said.

Asked whether Narahenpita Military Hospital, too, could be used for inoculation of students, Dr. Herath said that relevant authorities could inquire into it.

Responding to questions, Dr. Herath said that the sudden creation of a new category to cover those 20-30 and the inoculation of those coming within that group in the Hambantota district caused a dicey situation. Unwarranted interventions undermined the overall vaccination drive and in some instances caused serious issues, Dr. Herath said. The GMOA official said that there had been instances the decision makers overriding the health administration much to the disappointment of those involved in the Covid fight back.

The GMOA official appreciated the progress made so far with more than half of the population given two doses.

Commenting on the proposed inoculation of those less than 15 years of age, Dr. Herath pointed out that the UK was yet to do so. However, the US initiated the inoculation drive, Dr. Herath said, underscoring the importance of the relevant stakeholders reaching a consensus as quickly as possible on such matters of importance.

He said that the GMOA discussed the vaccination of the student community and the re-opening of schools with health minister Keheliya Rambukwella. The GMOA spokesperson said that they reached consensus on allocating 4mn Pfizer doses for the 12-19 group and this could be finalized once the group chaired by the President met on Friday.

Dr. Herath stressed the importance of school supporting staff and other workers being inoculated soon to facilitate the re-opening.

Defence Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne recently told a media briefing at the Defence Ministry why President Gotabaya Rajapaksa brought in the military in wake of despicable attempts to sabotage the inoculation drive.

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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE



Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY



President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm



By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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