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Jasinghe’s sudden exit as DGHS raises eyebrows: No word on successor yet

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BY SURESH PERERA

The out-of-the-blue exit of Dr. Anil Jasinghe as the Director-General of Health Services (DGHS) has left Sri Lanka’s top-most medical administrative position vacant at a critical time concerted Covid-19 preventive measures are in place to thwart a possible second wave of the dreaded disease, officials said.

The unexpected move to foist Jasinghe, a seasoned medical administrator, as Secretary to the Environment Ministry, has raised eyebrows particularly in the backdrop of the full-blown campaign he spearheaded to keep the nation safe during the dark days of the near two-month lockdown.

“Jasinghe has been kicked upstairs”, health officials chuckled.

“What can a top-notch Specialist Consultant cum medical administrator, who has proven his mettle as the power behind the anti Covid-19 thrust, do in the midst of environmentalists?”, they asked.

It is true that being appointed Secretary to a Ministry translates into a promotion, but a senior medical administrator should have been considered for a job where his expertise and professionalism could have made a meaningful contribution especially at a time the country is facing a grave health crisis, they noted.

It is being whispered in the Health Ministry’s corridors that Jasinghe’s spectacular rise as the ‘man of the match’ during the height of the corona pandemic didn’t go down well amongst those who believe in finding ways of not doing what should be done, officials asserted.

Jasinghe, who served as the director of the Colombo South Teaching Hospital and the National Hospital of Sri Lanka at one time, was instrumental in establishing the Trauma Secretariat under the Ministry of Health and became its Founder Head. The formation of the Secretariat paved the way for a systematic approach in management of trauma.

The next-in-line for the top DGHS slot is Dr. Amal Harsha De Silva, a Specialist Consultant, who is the senior-most medical administrator with 35 years plus in the service.

However, as De Silva has still not been named as the successor even a week after Jasinghe’s exit, there is speculation that another aspirant is being earmarked for the top job, the officials claimed.

De Silva, who now serves as a senior Deputy Director General of Health (DDG), has the distinction of initially working in hospitals in the periphery and later serving as Provincial Director and Regional Director in the health service.

“His wide exposure as a medical administrator remains unparalleled, but the million dollar question is whether he will be given what he deserves”, the officials said.



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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder

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State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Dolawatta responds to GL

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SLPP MP Premanath C. Dolawatta said his private member’s motion wouldn’t lead to the postponement of local government polls. He said he felt the need to restore the 25% quota for youth, even before he entered Parliament, consequent to the August 2020 general election. The government and the Opposition could quickly reach a consensus on the proposals, and avoid unnecessary complications. MP Dolawatta said so when The Island sought his response to accusations made by Prof. Peiris, who said that time was rapidly running out for Local Government polls. As the nomination process needed to be commenced soon to ensure that 341 Local Government bodies could be constituted by 20 March 2023.

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