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Justice Minister urges Opposition not to malign judiciary without knowing the law

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By Saman Indrajith

Justice Minister Ali Sabry on Saturday (27) urged Opposition MPs to be fair when they spoke about the judiciary as their speeches and innuendos could lead to an erosion of public faith in the judiciary.

Participating in the third reading debate on budget 2021, the minister said:

“I have noticed that some members in the Opposition make various remarks on some recent judgments. They really do not know the danger of what they are doing. Remember when you are in trouble and lose it all and nowhere to go, judiciary is the last resort. So, your ill-conceived comments will have a boomerang effect on you someday.

“It is incumbent upon all of us to protect the independence of the judiciary not for the sake of the government or the Opposition but for the sake of the people. Remember the judges would not give verdicts or rulings to make each and everyone happy. Not that all would be happy to hear some judgments. Those judgments are given after considering the evidence before them.

“They do not give rulings that make the government happy or the Opposition happy. Recently, decisions in several cases were given. The civil appellate court had given 67 judgments while the Court of Appeal gave 30 judgments. Some of those cases had been built on trumped up charges by several politicians of the former government. You created the FCID illegally. It was an illegal division, because the IGP is not empowered to create new divisions within the police. That power is with the minister as per the Police Ordinance. Then there was an anti-corruption unit.

“These outfits were created for political witch-hunts. They also set up new courts, not for the needs of the people but to advance their political agendas. So, the cases filed in such a manner will not stand judicial scrutiny. That was what exactly happened with regard to the case involving Lalith Weeratunga and Anusha Palpita. That was a case on fabricated evidence. That was why they had been acquitted. Even in the case of MP Pillayan the same happened. He was taken in five years back on a confession report. The court decided that confession was not true and legitimate. Once it was thrown out there was not a single bit of evidence against MP Pillayan. So, what is the purpose of keeping him further if there are no charges against him? Just because you do not like the decision you cannot blame the court. I do not mind anyone arguing or making speeches after reading at least the judgment in full.

“I table the judgments of Lalith Weeratunga and Anusha Palpita case and the MP Pillayan’s case so that the Opposition MPs could read them. I have been a lawyer for 25 years and for eight years I worked as a President’s Counsel, and, therefore, I know. That is why I am asking you to be careful when you make speeches about the judiciary. It is our duty as members of the legislature to protect the independence and the dignity of the judiciary.”

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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