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Jayasumana: Nearly 2 mn people have received booster shots

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(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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NGO to move SC against acquittal and discharge of first accused

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Welikada Prison killings

‘The BASL should make its position clear now’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chairman of the Committee to Protect the Rights of Prisoners, Attorney-at-Law, Senaka Perera, says his outfit will soon move the Supreme Court against the acquittal and discharging of Inspector Neomal Moses Rangajiva, the first accused in the Welikada Prison killings.

The civil society activist, in a brief interview with The Island, over the weekend, said that the relatives of those who perished in the violence in the Welikada Prison compound on Nov 09 and 10, 2012, had requested him to pursue this matter.

Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar last Wednesday (12) sentenced to death ex-Welikada Prisons Chief Lamahewage Emil Ranjan over the Welikada killings. He was the second accused in the high-profile case, whereas Rangajiva, at that time attached to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB), was acquitted and released from all charges.

Lawyer Perera said that as the verdict had been given by a Trial-at-Bar, the appeal would have to be made to the Supreme Court. The Trial-at-Bar bench comprising High Court judges Gihan Kulathunga (President), Pradeep Hettiarachchi and Manjula Thilakarathna was unanimous in its decisions.

The Trial-at-Bar said that the prosecution failed to prove its case against the PNB officer beyond reasonable doubt.

Responding to questions, Senaka Perera said that if it hadn’t been a Trial-at-Bar, his group would have moved the Court of Appeal. Senaka Perera explained: “We intend to write to Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, in this regard. We are of the view the AG should appeal against the acquittal and discharging of Rangajiva. However, if the AG refrained from doing so,  the Committee to Protect the Rights of Prisoners will accept the responsibility.”

In terms of the Trial-at-Bar proceedings, the eight prison inmates who were killed in the incident are Kankanmalage Malinda Nilendra Pelpola alias Malan, Attapattu Sangakkara Nirmala Atapattu, Mohammed Wijaya Rohana alias Gundu, Chinthamani Mohottige Thushara Chandana alias Kalu Thushara, Asarappulige Jothipala alias Ponna Kapila, Harshan Sri Manakeerthi Perera alias Manju Sri, Raigamage Susantha Perera alias Mala Susantha, Devamullage Malith Sameera Perera alias Konda Amila.

However, lawyer Senaka Perera said that altogether 27 inmates had been killed after the deployment of the Special Task Force (STF) and the Army inside the Welikada Prison. According to official records, in addition to 27 deaths, at least 43 other inmates received injuries. The then Prisons Minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera informed Parliament of the deaths of 27 inmates.

The then Police Spokesman SSP Prishantha Jayakoday said that inmates had triggered violence as the STF was looking for drugs and hand phones inside the prison.

The Attorney General filed indictments against IP Rangajeewa, Lamahewage Emil Ranjan and Indika Sampath, an officer attached to the Prisons intelligence unit under 33 counts, including committing murder, conspiring to commit murder after being members of an unlawful assembly.

The Court proceeded in spite of the third accused Indika Sampath who managed to evade the police so far.

The human rights activist recalled how Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, named a Trial-at-Bar to hear the Welikada case on a request made by Rajaratnam’s predecessor, Dappula de Livera, PC. The latter made the request in late June 2019. Rajaratnam succeeded de Livera in late May 2021.

The Prisons Department and the Justice Ministry couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for ensuring safety and security of those in their care, lawyer Senaka Perera said. Those who had been remanded and sentenced could be serious offenders and some may even deserve a death sentence but the State shouldn’t under any circumstances resort to extra judicial measures, the public litigation activist said.

Lawyer Senaka Perera said that he believed the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) should examine the Welikada case and make its position known to the public. “Perhaps, the BASL, too, should consider moving the SC against the acquittal and discharging of the first accused,” the lawyer said.

Lawyer Senaka Perera said that before the former AG made an intervention the progress in investigations had been slow. In fact, real progress was made since 2017, two years after the change of government following the 2015 presidential election, the lawyer said, alleging that the powers that be continuously hindered the investigations.

According to lawyer Perera and other sources, there had been four separate investigations at different levels beginning with the one launched by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) immediately after the Welikada killings. Subsequently the then Prisons Minister the late Chandrasiri Gajadeera named a three-member team to inquire into the Welikada killings. The committee comprising retired High Court judge Bandula Atapattu, retired DIG Gunasena Thenabadu and Prisons Ministry Legal Officer Lalith Andrahannadi produced two reports in Feb 2013 and Nov 2013. There had been two other investigations ordered by the then Prisons Chief P.W. Kodipillai and the Human Rights Commission.

Lawyer Senaka Perera said that the four investigations undertaken during the Rajapaksa administration should be examined. The lawyer emphasized the importance of appraisal of the investigations as the Trial-at-Bar declared that the progress had been made only since 2017.

In addition to those four investigations, there had been another report prepared by the three-member committee comprising retired High Court judge Wimal Nambuwasam, retired Senior DIG Asoka Wijeyatilleke and senior public servant S.K. Liyanage. Appointed on January 22, 2015, less than two weeks after the presidential election, the committee handed over its report to the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, on June 09, 2015 as the latter appointed it.

Lawyer Perera said that the former Prisons Chief claimed that the inmates after having broken into the Prisons armoury seized weapons, including machine guns.

The activist pointed out that the 2012 incidents were the worst since the 1983 massacre of Tamil terrorist suspects. The public have lost faith in law enforcement authorities and the political leadership regardless of the party that held power, the lawyer said. There couldn’t be better example than how the current dispensation handled the then State Minister for Prisons Lohan Ratwatte’s ‘raids’ on Welikada and Anuradhapura prisons in September last year.

The report prepared by retired High Court judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena into the incidents involving Ratwatte should be made public as the police were yet to at least record the State Minister’s statement, lawyer Perera said.

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China donates shipment of rice to Sri Lanka

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By Anura Balasuriya

China will soon send a shipment of rice to Sri Lanka as a donation, a Ministry of Trade spokesman said.

The donation comes in the wake of the 70 year anniversary of the Sri Lanka – China Rubber Rice pact on 1952.

Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardane had discussed the matter recently with a senior Chinese Embassy officia, the Trade Ministry Spokesman said.

“The Chinese Embassy in Colombo is already doing the needful. The Trade Ministry has informed China of the varieties of rice that Sri Lankan consumers like,” the Trade Ministry Spokesman said.

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Rating downgrades discourage investors – JVP

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JVP MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, on Friday (14) day, said investors were discouraged by the continuous downgrading of the country’s credit ratings.

Speaking at an event in Colombo, MP Amarasuriya said import costs had increased as the country was going through a forex crisis. The President’s agricultural policy had been a disaster and that in the coming months, the government would have to import large volumes of food.

Amarasuriya added that Sri Lanka’s relations with other nations had deteriorated and that too would have an adverse impact on the country.

Dr. Amarasuriya said that international rating agencies were independent and that their ratings were very important for investors to make decisions.

“Investors don’t consult Ajith Nivard Cabraal before investing. Besides, in other countries, it is economic experts, not politicians, who become Central Bank Governors,” she added.

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