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Justice Minister warns of local, foreign forces attempting to thwart country’s development



By Rathindra Kuruwita

There were local and foreign forces bent on thwarting Sri Lanka’s development efforts, Minister of Justice Mohamed Ali Sabry said yesterday addressing the media on the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill.

“There are the people who want us to remain where we are,” the Minister said.

Minister Sabry said that the Sri Lankan laws would apply to the Port City. If arbitration failed and two or more parties wanted to take legal action, they would have to go to commercial courts of Sri Lanka.

“As you know the Chinese company has acquired the Port City on lease. But if the company wants to sublease the land, it has to obtain the approval of the Sri Lankan government.  So, if Sri Lankan laws apply to the Port City and if it is controlled by an entity appointed by the President, then what’s the problem?”

The Justice Minister said that the government had been transparent and followed established procedure with regards to the Bill.

“Normally, when a Bill is drafted, it is sent to the AG for observations. Then, it is presented to the Cabinet. Once the Cabinet approves it, the Bill is gazetted and interested parties can challenge it. We have followed this procedure. So, some people have gone to courts because we didn’t rush through the process. Let the Supreme Court give a verdict on this.”

Meanwhile, MP Jayantha Weerasinghe, PC, said that the Commission to administer the Port City would be under the full control of the Sri Lankan President and the government. The Commission would also be audited annually by the state, he said.

“It also clearly states that any regulation brought under this Bill will have to be presented to Parliament. If MPs don’t approve such regulations, they will be ineffective. The auditor will also audit the Commission and these audit reports too will be made available to Parliament. You won’t be able to hide anything,” he said.

MP Dilan Perera said that the Commission would be manned by eminent Sri Lankans. Foreigners would be considered if such persons were essential for developing the Port City as a service hub.

“There will be seven commissioners and it is unlikely that we will bring in foreigners. I know that a lot of people are speculating that there will be Chinese nationals as commissioners. Soon you will see that there is no truth in these speculations.”




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UNICEF reveals UK hogs mountain of surplus vaccines while poor nations are crying out for help



While Sri Lanka is stuggling to procure 600,000 AstraZeneca doses needed for the second jab, the UNICEF yesterday (12) reported that the United Kingdom had a massive surplus of vaccines.

UNICEF said that the UK should give away a fifth of its Covid vaccines to help poorer countries protect their citizens. The British media reported that the UK has ordered 517million doses though it required around 160m to vaccinate all adults and give them booster jabs in the autumn, as planned.

Analysis by the UK arm of the United Nations Children’s Fund asserted that the country could have enough leftover doses to fully vaccinate 50m people – the population of Spain or South Korea.

And if all the vaccines currently in trials are approved this would soar to 115m, it said – almost double the population of South Africa.

Campaigners warned hogging vaccines and allowing the virus to continue spreading elsewhere would raise the risk of a new variant emerging and coming back to wreak havoc in Britain.

UNICEF said Britain could share 20 per cent of its current supply and still hit its goal of offering every adult a vaccine by the end of July. It claimed the UK could reach the target by July 9 and sharing the doses would only push it back by 10 days. 

‘Unless the UK urgently starts sharing its available doses to ensure others around the world are protected from the virus, the UK will not be safe from Covid,’ said UNICEF UK’s Joanna Rea. 

Two thirds of adults in the UK have now had at least one vaccine dose and almost 18million are fully vaccinated. Real-world data suggests the jabs prevent eight to nine out of 10 severe Covid cases, almost all deaths and also slash transmission of the virus by half

UNICEF estimated that Britain could give away 20 per cent of its projected available stock and still meet its target to give all adults their first dose of vaccine by the end of July.

But it is not clear how many vaccines the UK is currently sitting on because of commercial agreements to keep the figures private. 

The only data provided is the number of doses of each jab that have been dished out — 28.5million of AstraZeneca, 19.5m of Pfizer and 100,000 of Moderna.

The charity warned that the success of the vaccination programme in the UK could be ‘reversed’ if supply is not shared.

Concerns have been raised that while the virus rages in other parts of the world there is more chance for new variants to emerge.

And experts have suggested that new variants could potentially escape the protection afforded by the vaccines.

UNICEF UK called on the Government and other G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US – to start sharing vaccines through Covax from June. 

Ms Rea said: ‘The UK has done a fantastic job in rolling out Covid vaccines to more than half of its adult population and we should all be proud of what has been achieved.

‘However, we can’t ignore that the UK and other G7 countries have purchased over a third of the world’s vaccine supply, despite making up only 13 per cent of the global population – and we risk leaving low-income countries behind.

‘Unless the UK urgently starts sharing its available doses to ensure others around the world are protected from the virus, the UK will not be safe from Covid-19.

‘Our vaccine rollout success could be reversed and the NHS could be fighting another wave of the virus due to deadly mutations.’

On Monday Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said the way to prevent or minimise the number of new variants is to ‘get on top of’ the pandemic globally.

And the World Health Organization said there was a ‘shocking disparity’ in access to Covid vaccines between rich and poor countries.

WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing: ‘The shocking global disparity in access to Covid vaccines remains one of the biggest risks to ending the pandemic.

‘High and upper-middle income countries represent 53 per cent of the world’s population, but have received 83 per cent of the world’s vaccines.

‘By contrast, low and lower-middle income countries account for 47 per cent of the world’s population, but have received just 17 per cent of the world’s vaccines.’

He added: ‘How quickly we end the Covid pandemic and how many sisters and brothers we lose along on the way, depends on how quickly and how fairly we vaccinate a significant proportion of the population and how consistently we all follow proven public health measures.’

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Opposition calls for postponement of vote on Port City Bill to discuss it properly



Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District SJB MP, Lakshman Kiriella on Tuesday, expressed opposition to what he called a government to rush through Parliament the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill without a proper debate.

Addressing the media after meeting the Malwatte Maha Viharaya Anunayake Ven Niyamgoda Vijithasiri Thera and Maha Lekhkadhikari of the Asgiriya Maha Viharaya Ven Medgama Dhammananda Thera, MP Kiriella said: “We learn that the Supreme Court decision on the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill runs to over 300 pages. It has been conveyed to the Speaker, and the House is scheduled to be informed of it on May 18; the vote on the Bill will be taken on the same day. This  is a very crucial piece of legislation when considering its impact on all Sri Lankans and the government’s plan to rush through Parliament a Bill of this nature, while the entire country is suffering from the pandemic, is deplorable. Actually, such haste is antithetical to democratic principles. We demand that the debate be postponed so that the people of this country can have a serious discussion on this issue.

 “The Malwathu Anunayake Thera, too said that the government and the Opposition should further discuss the matter with the concurrence of the Maha Nayakes of the two main chapters. We should understand the truth that the law is one thing and the regional geopolitics is quite another. The laws do not take into account geopolitical realities, and the Supreme Court may given its ruling on the Bill after considering whether it is consistent or inconsistent with the Constitution. We must realise that the endorsement of the Bill by the Court does not ensure that there will not be unexpected repercussions from the implementation of the Colombo Port City Commission Bill. As MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse pointed out, there can be the possibility of ships containing nuclear weapons coming into the Port City. What would be the reaction of India in such an eventuality.”

 Kiriella said that the Opposition’s main demand was that to make the Colombo Port City Commission an institution responsible to Parliament so that parliamentary committees, including the COPE and COPA, could oversee it to ensure that nothing untoward or detrimental to the national interest would happen there.

SJB Colombo District MP Dr Harsha de Silva was also present at the meetings.



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SJB demand for All-Party meeting on  pandemic a political comedy – JVP



By Saman Indrajith

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday dismissed the SJB’s call for an all party conference to discuss possible solutions to the prevailing pandemic situation.

Responding to media queries on his party’s position with regard to the proposal of setting up of an APRC, during a press conference held at the party headquarters in Pelawatte on Tuesday, Dissanayake said that all-party representative committee (APRC) meetings were mere political comedies. “There are around 40 parties and they have at least 80 representatives attending such meetings. Suppose the meeting starts at 10 am in the morning. Each representative would be given at least three minutes so by the time they finish their three-minute speeches it would be around noon. The meeting is adjourned thereafter so that those who attended the meeting could give voice cuts to TV cameras on their way out of the premises of the meeting. That is what APRCs are.

“Sajith Premadasa and his men have such a need to speak to TV and show their faces there so that they could show their faces on TV twice – at the APRC meeting and thereafter giving voice cuts to the media. All APRCs held in this country ended inconclusively. We have no intention of attending such a conference.  

Former Kalutara District MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa also addressed the press. 

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