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Jayasumana: Nearly 2 mn people have received booster shots



(L-R) Dr. Hamdani, Prof Jayasumana

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Deputy Director General of Health Services (DDGHS) Dr. Hemantha Herath yesterday (20) said that those between 16 and 20 years would be given the second as well as the booster in due course.

Dr. Herath said that an announcement would be made in that regard soon. The top official said so when The Island questioned the rationale in denying the 18-20 category, that included the student community, at least two doses at a time people 20 and above were being administered the third jab.

The health ministry spokesperson Dr. Herath said that in the wake of reports and claims of complications caused to some of those who had received the second dose the government put on hold the second round of vaccination of those between 16 and 20 category. However, analysis of relevant data proved that there was no basis for concern therefore they too would be fully inoculated, Dr. Herath said.

The second round would be launched in consultation with the Education Ministry, Dr. Herath said.

Responding to another query, Dr. Herath said that the population 16 and above would be given three doses, including the booster in line with the government policy whereas the inoculation of 12-16 category would be restricted to one jab.

Medical Technical Services Director Dr. Anwar Hamdani on Sunday (19) told The Island that decisions with regard to vaccination would be taken by a technical committee headed by Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena. The official said in response to The Island query why the student community was deprived of at least two doses at a time omicron posed quite a threat.

Dr. Hamdani explained how the inoculation project was being carried out as expeditiously as possible to counter the continuing threat posed by Covid-19. The omicron variant is a matter for serious concern, Dr. Hamdani said.

State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana said that the Covid-19 situation was largely under control due to the largely successful completion of the second round of inoculation and an early launch of the third.

Acknowledging that there had been shortcomings on their part as well, Prof. Jayasumana said that so far approximately 2 mn people had received the booster. The State Minister said that the government had sufficient stocks of Pfizer in hand to continue with the third round of inoculation.

The top medical academic turned politician emphasized that they felt the urgent need to administer a booster before the end of this year as a key part of the overall strategy to thwart another massive eruption during the festive period.

Asked whether the government had been successful in convincing the public about the urgent necessity for the inoculation drive, State Minister Jayasumana emphasized that those who refused to get vaccinated were only a fraction of the population. If one compares the segments which refused the vaccination over various reasons, including religious sentiments in the West and other parts of the world, the situation here was much better, Prof. Jayasumana said.

The State Minister said that the government wouldn’t under any circumstances force people to receive vaccination. However, those who refused vaccination should realize their movements would be automatically restricted once the inoculation was made mandatory to enter public places, the Anuradhapura District MP said.

Commenting on the impact the epidemic had on the national economy, Prof. Jayasumana said that the country was already experiencing such a difficult situation another eruption would be catastrophic. “We cannot afford to have another lockdown,” Prof. Jayasumana said, urging the public to follow the basic guidelines. According to the State Minister, the losses suffered since early 2020 due to Covid-19 eruption had been incalculable and were having a negative impact on current recovery efforts.

Prof. Jayasumana remained as State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals in spite of health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi being replaced by Keheliya Rambukwella on August 16.  Rambukwella received the health ministry amidst accusations over serious flaws in the management of the epidemic.

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Weerawansa’s wife sentenced to RI



Lawyers appearing for Shashi Weerawansa, MP Wimal Weerawansa’s wife, yesterday (27) appealed against a Colombo Magistrate’s Court decision to sentence their client to two years rigorous imprisonment.Colombo Chief Magistrate, Buddhika Sri Ragala found her guilty of submitting forged documents to obtain a diplomatic passport circa 2010. The Colombo Magistrate’s Court also imposed a fine of Rs. 100,000 on Mrs. Weerawansa. If the fine is not paid she will have to serve an extra six months.

Additional Magistrate Harshana Kekunawala announced that the appeal would be called for consideration on 30 May.The case against Mrs. Weerawansa was filed by the CID after a complaint was lodged on 23 January 2015 by Chaminda Perera, a resident of Battaramulla.

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Unions predict end of energy sovereignty



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A government decision to allow all privately-owned bunker fuel operators to import and distribute diesel and fuel oil to various industries was a rollback of the nationalisation of the country’s petroleum industry and another severe blow to energy sovereignty of the country, trade union activist of the SJB Ananda Palitha said yesterday.Earlier, Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera Tweeted that ‘approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations provided in bulk’.Commenting on the decision, Palitha said that according to the existing law those companies only had the power to import, store and distribute fuel for ships. Those companies did not have the authority to distribute fuel inside the country, Palitha said.

“Only the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) can distribute fuel inside the country. There is a controversy about the licence given to the LIOC as well. If the government wants other companies to import fuel, it needs to change the laws. The Minister does not have the power to make these decisions. A few months ago the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration used to rush Bills that adversely affected the country through Parliament. Now, since they don’t have a majority in parliament, they are using the Cabinet to make decisions that are detrimental to the country’s interests.”

Palitha said that the controversial government move would further weaken the CPC, and that the ultimate aim of the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government was to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) purchase fuel from private distributors. With a weakened CPC and a CEB under the mercy of private companies, the Sri Lankan state would have little control over the country’s energy sector, he warned.

“The CEB already can’t pay the CPC, and therefore how can it pay private companies? It will have to sell its assets. This is another step in the road to fully privatise the energy sector. When this happens no government will be able to control inflation or strategically drive production through fuel and energy tariffs. The people will be at the mercy of businessmen and the government will only be a bystander,” he said.

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Modi government moves to ‘solve’ Katchatheevu issue



The Narendra Modi government is mulling restoring the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island of 285 acres, sandwiched between India and Sri Lanka in the Palk Bay, with the BJP hoping the move could lift its political fortunes in the southern state.The government will push Sri Lanka to implement “in letter and spirit” the 1974 agreement reached between Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, then prime ministers of India and Sri Lanka, on the island.This will have to be done by withdrawing the “Executive Instructions” issued in 1976 without questioning Sri Lanka’s “sovereignty” over Katchatheevu, sources aware of the internal discussions in the BJP told the Indian newspaper, Deccan Herald.

Sources added that the discussions were “ongoing” at “various levels” including reaching out to Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka. The recent visit of TN BJP chief K Annamalai to Sri Lanka is also part of the outreach. Many feel the instructions issued in 1976 “superseded the provisions of the legally valid” pact between India and Sri Lanka, thus making Katchatheevu a subject of dispute in the Palk Bay.While the 1974 agreement gave away Katchatheevu, which was part of the territory ruled by the Rajah of Ramanathapuram, to Sri Lanka, the 1976 pact drew the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka in the Gulf of Mannar and Bay of Bengal.

“We cannot disturb the agreement signed in 1974. We are now finding ways and means to implement the agreement in letter and spirit. All we plan is to ask Sri Lanka to invoke Article 6 of the Katchatheevu pact. If Sri Lanka agrees, the issue can be sorted through Exchange of Letters between foreign secretaries of both countries,” a source in the know said.Another source said the time is “ripe” to push forward on the issue. “With fast-changing geopolitical situation in the region, we believe Sri Lanka will slowly come around and accept the rights of our fishermen,” the source said.

“The opinion within the party is that time is ripe to push this cause, with Sri Lanka beginning to realise that India can always be relied upon, given PM Ranil (Wickremesinghe) is pro-India.”

Articles 5 and 6 of the 1974 agreement categorically assert the right to access of the Indian fishermen and pilgrims to Katchatheevu and state that the “vessels of Sri Lanka and India will enjoy in each other’s waters such rights as they have traditionally enjoyed therein”.

However, fishermen from India were prohibited from fishing in the Sri Lankan territorial waters around Katchatheevu in 1976 following the signing of an agreement on the maritime boundary. The battle for fish in the Palk Bay has often ended in Indian fishermen being attacked by Sri Lankan Navy for “transgressing” into their waters.The BJP, which is yet to make major inroads in Tamil Nadu, feels a “solution” to the long-standing issue will give the party the much-needed momentum ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and provide a chance to get into the Tamil psyche. Political analysts feel that it might also allow the BJP to needle the DMK and the Congress by pointing out that it has restored the rights “surrendered by them,” to Tamil fishermen

Senior journalist and Lanka expert R Bhagwan Singh said: “If BJP succeeds in its efforts, it will certainly help the saffron party in the coming elections.”

But a source said the move will “take time”. “We don’t want to rush and create an impression we are forcing Sri Lanka. We will take it slow. We will take every stakeholder into confidence and reach an amicable settlement with Sri Lanka. All we want to do is restore traditional rights of our fishermen,” the source said.CM Stalin also raised the issue at an event on Thursday, telling Modi that this is the “right time” to retrieve Katchatheevu.

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