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Karu J focuses on pressing national issues at NMSJ event

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(Excerpted from remarks by Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) at a media conference on Thursday)

At present our country is facing a number of serious issues. Nobody who loves the country can ignore it. That is why NMSJ stands with the people whenever disaster strikes. It is not something against any party, leadership or group. It is a representation on behalf of all the people of the country.

We hope to identify a number of such challenges facing the country here and bring them to the attention of the relevant authorities. Many events of the recent past should attract the attention of all parties in this country. These include discussions in society on the report of the Commission that probed the Easter attacks.

There were expressions of some viewpoints that we are not pleased about. We must all ensure that no attempt be made by anybody to cause divisions in this country between races or religions or politically. We say this because there have been many statements made that could lead to ethnic, religious and political divisions. Nobody should be allowed to set this country on fire or turn it into a lake of blood as has happened on many previous occasions. No one who loves the country will allow that to happen again.

The Easter attack was a vicious and malicious terrorist act. All those involved, must be brought to justice and given the maximum possible punishment. There should be no debate about that. But all that’s done towards achieving that objective should be in the national interest and not within narrow ethnic or religious boundaries. No race or religious group should be affected by what results. Justice must be done to all the victims of that barbaric attack and we as a nation must ensure national security in the most scientific and appropriate manner. Such events cannot be allowed to happen in the future. That is our clear and unanimous position.

We would also like to draw attention to the very important issue of the health of the people. There are questions of our ability to administer the second dose of the vaccine to those who have received the first. Published figures indicate that we have received about 1,264,000 doses and about 960,000 have been used leaving around 300,000 doses in the country. To give the second jab to those already vaccinated in a timely manner, we need nearly another 700,000 doses. A clear answer on government’s plan to ensure this is essential.

According to media reports, some government officials have stated that the company that manufactures the vaccine has already refused to supply it to Sri Lanka. It seems very likely that we will not receive the ordered stocks. So what do we do then? What will happen if we do not receive the needed stocks? Does the government have an understanding of that?

Experts say that a second dose of the same vaccine, and no other, must be administered for efficacy. How will the government deal with this necessity to ensure proper immunity? It is the government’s responsibility to tell the people how it will deal with this. This is a matter that requires close attention.

Today many institutions related to the state machinery appear to be inactive. All power of the country is is vested in one person. As a result, no institution is able to function independently without the directives and instructions from him. Some institutions have become inactive due to his incorrect instructions and guidance and all institutions in this country have today become mere puppets.

The whole country is in chaos and not only democracy is being destroyed as result of the 20th Amendment. in order to reactivate the state machinery in this country properly, it is necessary to re-create the necessary environment where statutory powers vested in each institution can be exercised independently without waiting for orders and recommendations from one person on each issue.

For that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution must be repealed. It seems that many people today understand that. The Chief Incumbent of the Getamabe Rajopawanaarama advised two ministers on this on two different occasions recently. It would be useful if the government and the people listen to his advice. Was the 20A really a solution to our problems or has it created problems that did not exist? Has it helped people live a better life? Did it help to control the cost of living and strengthen the economy? What are they using the immense power gained by the 20th Amendment for today?

These powers are being used to suppress political opponents, to weaken the capabilities of the democratic institutions of the country and to weaken the confidence of the people in the judiciary day by day. Its creators need to understand that if this situation continues, the curse of the people will inevitably fall on them.

We emphasize these points to prevent such a situation occurring. What is happening is affecting the scholars and intellectuals of this country. The most recent example is the removal of LakKumar Fernando, a renowned specialist doctor, from his post as the Director of the National Drug Regulatory Authority. According to a leading English language newspaper, the reason for his removal was that he had defended the people against the views of the government in a matter that could endanger the people.

What message does it give? Even a specialist doctor is today unable to defend the dignity of his profession. This is a very tragic situation. In the past, several eminent medical professionals have lost their posts or been forced to resign. People do not approve of such things. If the authorities do not understand that, it is their misfortune.

Today the people are eagerly awaiting the celebration of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, a cultural festival that is closely intertwined with the environment. Our cultural roots as well as our livelihood are linked to the environment but today our country has become a victim of rulers who destroy the environment.

We have seen His Excellency the President issuing orders on a number of occasions to protect the environment of this country. In such a situation why are even local political powers acting otherwise? How can government officials, including policemen be made to protect the environment? The President should pay attention to this and directly intervene to curb politicians who destroying the environment of this country.

As the Head of State of this country, we wish him the courage and strength to do so. We also pay our respects to all government officials and organizations who stand up for environmental protection in the face of all emerging challenges, and especially the youth of our country.

The all-time low quality of our food today is really troubling. The people can’t even prepare their New Year sweets without risk. Even the Standards Institute certifying food quality admits this. This must be immediately dealt with and food safety ensured.

Media reports confirm that the confectionery industry has collapsed due to the sudden ban on the import of palm oil. This problem would not have arisen if the parties had been consulted before making hasty decisions. Government rapidly changing its mind is disgraceful. We have focused on these matters for the good of the people and hope they will receive special attention of those concerned at least after the New Year. That is the wish of the people too.

May the Sinhala and Tamil New Year be a time of prosperity for all the people of this country! Happy New Year to you all.



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Facilities for infected pregnant women inadequate – SLCOG

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The distribution and availability of high-flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant women were not adequate, President of the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (SLCOG,) Dr. Pradeep de Silva said yesterday.

Dr. de Silva said that while they had not yet faced any lack of oxygen in treating Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers, things could change rapidly given the limited availability of equipment. “Having an adequate supply of oxygen alone is not enough. You need high flow oxygen machines, and 50 litres of oxygen per minute is needed to operate a high flow oxygen machine. I do not know how many machines we have in this country but where I work, Castle Street Maternity Hospital has about four. We need to estimate the number of these machines we require and how much oxygen we want. From my understanding, the distribution and availability of high flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers is not adequate.”

Dr de Silva said that Sri Lanka needed about 50–200 high-dependency unit (HDU) beds per district, based on the population, 10–50 high flow oxygen machines per district, four for ten ICU beds and two dedicated Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machines.

“If we get this, we will be able to deal with pregnant women who develop complications from COVID-19 for the next four to five years,” he said.

Dr de Silva said that currently one pregnant woman who has been infected with COVID-19 is receiving ECMO treatment. There is also a shortage of beds at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, which has the largest ward dedicated to COVID-19 infected pregnant women. On Thursday, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Dr Mayuramana Dewolage, who heads the ward that treats COVID-19 infected pregnant women at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, said that they only had 37 beds were dedicated to pregnant women with COVID-19. They didn’t have any HDU or ICU beds dedicated for their use, he said.

“We share HDU and ICU beds with other patients at Mulleriyawa Base Hospital,” Dr Dewolage said.

The President of the SLCOG also urged all hospitals to find a separate space for pregnant women who were receiving treatment at their institutions. When COVID-19 pandemic started, the Health Ministry instructed all hospitals to do so but it was now obvious that those instructions had not been followed, he said.

“When the second wave started people got ready but later, they just stopped getting ready and now we are unprepared to meet the challenges of the third wave. We need to find a way to manage this. If the Ministry of Health has not prepared a plan, we are ready to help formulate one,” the President of the SLCOG said.

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Those who had AstraZeneca first jab, should take Sputnik V with adenovirus 26 – Specialist

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

If those who have taken the first dose of AstraZeneca are to receive a second jab of Sputnik V, they should take the first Sputnik V vaccine with adenovirus 26 (Ad26), Consultant Immunologist and head of the department of Immunology-MRI, Dr Nihan Rajiva de Silva says.

Dr. de Silva said that the first dose of Sputnik had Ad 26 and the second had adenovirus-5. “Adenovirus-5 is common. We may have been exposed to that and we may have developed antibodies. Adenovirus-26 is rarer and we will better respond to that. That is why the vaccine-maker has used adenovirus-26 in the first vaccine. So, if you had a first jab of AstraZeneca and you are to get the second dose from Sputnik-V remember to get the first jab,” Dr. de Silva said.

He added that any vaccine has the chance of reducing the severity of the virus and that the general public should get vaccinated when the opportunity is available.

Dr. de Silva said that there was a shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines because the Serum Institute of India could not deliver shipments as promised.

“However, we are now getting Sputnik V vaccines and we are looking at mixing them. There is a study in Russia about the efficiency of mixing Sputnik V with AstraZeneca and the results should be out soon. I can say that theoretically mixing the two vaccines should work,” he said.

Dr. de Silva added that the AstraZeneca vaccine should work against the new variant spreading in the country.

Consultant Cardiologist at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Dr. Gotabaya Ranasinghe said that those with heart issues, non-communicable diseases and were obese must get vaccinated to minimise the complications of Covid-19.

Dr. Ranasinghe said that those in the above-mentioned categories were at risk of contracting, getting complications and dying of COVID-19 and research had proven that vaccination would reduce the chance of such eventualities.

“If you worry about getting vaccinated, talk to your doctor. Don’t seek advice from friends and family,” he said.

Dr. Ranasinghe added that they had limited the number of heart surgeries they do due to COVID-19. ICU beds used for heart patients too were being now allocated for COVID-19 patients. “We only do the most pressing cases. But this means that the waiting list keeps on growing. Now, the waiting list is over eight months. If we limit the surgeries more and keep taking away ICU beds available for those who have had heart surgeries, the waiting list will grow further,” he said.

The Consultant Cardiologist also advised the public to eat healthy food and engage in moderate exercises, at least five days a week. This will reduce the mental stress as well as boost the immune system. ‘We recommend moderate exercises like jogging and brisk walking, for 30 minutes, five days a week. Being healthy is as important as wearing masks or adhering to physical distancing,” he said.

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STF raids narcotics distribution centre close to Bloemendhal police station

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Acting on information received from the Organised Crime Fighting Unit of the elite Special Task Force (STF), police commandos, on Thursday (6), arrested a person running a narcotic distributing network, 1.5 km away from the Bloemendhal police station.

The STF identified the suspect as Thawasidevan Pradeep Kumar, 21, a key associate of one Suresh with links to a criminal outfit run by Kimbulaele Guna, now absconding in India.

DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that the raiding party had recovered 2 kg, 22 g and 88mg of ‘ICE,’ with a street value of Rs 25 mn in addition to 4kg, 2 g and 527 mg of substance known as ‘hash,’ as well as Rs 400,000 in cash and a mobile phone.

Kimbulaele Guna is believed to have sought refuge following an LTTE attempt to assassinate President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at the final PA presidential election rally at the Town Hall in December 1999.

DIG Rohana said that Guna’s brother Suresh was a major heroin distributor in Colombo. The STF later handed over the suspect, along with contraband and locally made ‘hash,’ and his phone to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB). The raid on the heroin distribution centre situated in Aluth Mawatha, Colombo 15, followed specific information received as regards the ‘operation’ conducted with impunity (SF)

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