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Johnston on why yahapalana govt. did not have JO members prosecuted



by Saman Indrajith

The yahapalana government had tried to prosecute the then Opposition MPs belonging to the Joint Opposition for a fracas in the Chamber of Parliament, but got cold feet on finding that CCTV footage records proved the partiality of former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday.

Making a statement, in Parliament, following the announcement by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena that a committee comprising government and Opposition MPs would be appointed to investigate the incidents of violence in Parliament on Friday and Saturday, the Chief Government Whip said: “Time was when MPs came to the Chamber armed with knives to attack us. During an incident that went out of the control of former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, MPs resorted to fisticuffs. Some MPs threw chilli powder, while some hurled chairs. Following that incident the yahapalana government and its speaker Karu Jayasuriya tried to prosecute the Opposition MPs. They lodged complaints at the Colombo Crime Division and the Rajagiriya police station. They boasted that action would be taken against us under the criminal law. Somehow the investigation was stopped. Later, when the CCTV footage was inspected it was found that the Speaker had summoned outsiders to the Chamber. Among those outsiders was a secretary of Karu Jayasuriya, who later decided to stop the investigation seeing that he would be in trouble if the probe continued,” the Chief Government Whip said.

“It is obvious that with regard to the Friday incident, the SJB MPs are trying to cover the wrong doing of their MP. Today they state that there is no security for the opposition MPs. JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake spoke in this House today. TNA MPs too do not complain of such insecurity. That proves the SJB is propagating a lie.

“MP Manusha Nanayakkara rushed to the Chair on Friday addressing the Speaker by the name of an animal. We stood up for the protection of the Speaker, who always upheld democracy in this House. The speaker allows all opposition MPs to raise points of order to hinder the speeches of government MPs. There was no need to continue the session after five in the evening if those opposition MPs had not been allowed to waste the time by raising points of order unnecessarily. Only the minister who is supposed to deliver the reply speech is entitled to ask for additional time, not the opposition MPs. MP Nanayakkara had no right to ask for additional time and thereafter tried to attack the Speaker. There are security personnel assigned to the Speaker but they cannot come to the Chamber that was why we rushed to protect the speaker.

“The opposition’s so-called boycott is a ruse. Today the debate is on the expenditure heads of the Housing Ministry. That ministry was under Sajith Premadasa during the yahapalana time. If the debate proceeded as planned all his corruptions would have come to the surface. Therefore the opposition leader made use of this issue to boycott the debate so that his wrongdoings could be kept under the carpet”.

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“Foreign bond holders more important to govt. than hard-pressed people”



SJB slams GR’s policy speech

The main opposition SJB says that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Policy Speech delivered in Parliament on Jan 18 failed to provide solutions to the crises faced by the country.

Addressing a press briefing held at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo on Thursday, SJB MP Eran Wickremaratne said that the crises with regard to economic management and governance had gone beyond the control of the government subjecting the masses to severe hardships without essential goods and services.

Wickremaratne said that  there had been no increase in the value of  GDP supporting the domestic and foreign borrowings by this government during the last two years.

He accused the government of giving priority to paying off debts of foreign cronies while  starving the people without essential foods inclusive of fuel for electricity generation.

“People who could not afford to basic necessities despite having cash in hand due to the shortage of dollars and foreign exchange now had to stay in the dark for several hours a day without electricity due to lack of fuel as the govt has not been able to maintain a supply chain properly. But the government, having crossed its wires, gives priority to repaying the loan to its cronies while mounting pressure on its citizens,” Wickremaratne said.

“President Rajapaksa’s Throne Speech did not provide answers to any of  the current problems  facing the country. Although the country faced two major problems, there was no answer to either of them in the President’s policy statement.

“First, rising commodity prices push up inflation increasing  vegetable prices. Secondly, the import of essential commodities has come to a complete standstill due to the foreign exchange deficit. There is a shortage not only for  food and fuel but also for  medicines for the people.”

He said only 25% of the country’s essential medicines are produced locally and the rest are imported. There is also a shortage of essential medicines due to lack of dollars for imports.

At a time when the people are under so much of  pressure, the government is  boasting of servicing   international sovereign bonds on time. People need to be told the secret of why foreign debtors are more important to the government than the citizens of the country, Wickremaratne said.

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COVID-19 on the rise again; 800+ new cases a second day running



(Economynext) New COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in Sri Lanka, with health authorities detecting over 800 new infections on Thursday (20) for a second consecutive day.

With the 827 new cases, total cases in the country have gone up to 599,363, official data showed.

Around 15,279 patients are currently receiving treatment in hospital or at home.

With 12 deaths reported in the last 24 hour period, the island nation’s COVID-19 death toll has reached 15,243.

Health authorities warned that the sector could face challenges managing new patients if daily cases continue to surge.

Officials are also concerned about an apparent hesitance for the booster dose of the vaccine that was largely absent in the initial rollout.

“We have provided the opportunity to get the booster countrywide. But because the fatality rate is now low people may think taking it is no longer necessary,” State Minister of Pharmaceutical Production Channa Jayasumana said speaking to journalists on Friday (21).

“Sri Lanka will go back to the previous state with people not taking the booster dose,” he warned.

The booster rate is very low compared to Sri Lanka’s otherwise impressive vaccination numbers, said Jayasumana.

“Only 4.8 million have taken the booster so far, and only 26,796 came forward yesterday to get it.

“With the increase of patients, even though the fatality rate is low, it can be overwhelming for the health sector if patient numbers in hospital wards and ICUs go up.”

Sri Lanka has so far vaccinated 16.3 with the first dose while 13.8 have received both doses.

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Prevention, cooperation, mutual assistance essential to counter connected nature of terrorists in South Asia – Army Chief



Prevention, cooperation and mutual assistance in controlled measures at international borders are essential to counter the transnational and connected nature of terrorists and criminal activists in the South Asian region, said Chief of Defence Staff and Army Commander General Shavendra Silva on Thursday, emphasising on the need of law enforcement’s institutional reforms based on common and agreed policies.”

“In the legitimate government efforts to fight terrorism or organised crimes, in this regard, a possible South Asian regional treaty could promote counter-terrorism and anti-crime measures by promoting institutional structures and decision-making processes to promote cooperation, coordination, shared expertise and common legal approaches,” said Silva while virtually addressing the “Countering use of Crypto Currencies to Finance Terrorism” event on Thursday.

“Due to the transnational and connected nature of terrorists and criminal activists in our region, prevention, cooperation and mutual assistance in controlled measures at international borders are essential,” he added.

The General also said that there are avenues for collaboration by establishing information exchange at customs, imposing immigration barriers and commonly agreeing on the regulation of transporting and stockpiling of weapons and drugs, dangerous goods or potential warlike equipment.

Emphasising that mutual assistance can be enhanced by extending measures for collecting evidence of suspects, exchange of wanted personnel and etc, Silva said that enhancing the capacities of regional countries to handle terrorism and criminals would depend extensively on the training of law enforcement agencies.

“Apart from training for military personnel, of a particular country, it is also essential to carry out joint training for various armed forces of the South Asian region. Conducting counter-terrorism operations at a regional scale would also require regional funding. It is understood that funding counter-terrorism campaigns in recent times has become quite expensive due to the sophistication of insurgence,” Silva added.

The General also said that “this is where we need cooperation as very experience armies, who have long been engaging in counter-terrorism operations, we have specialities, therefore we can share each other’s specialities to counter each other’s imitations.”

“Law enforcement’s institutional reforms based on common and agreed policies and principles in the regional countries feel enhanced the compatibility between the countries in fighting transnational crimes and terrorism,” he added. (ANI)

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