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Kiriella alleges India withheld vaccines from Sri Lanka to spite govt.

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament yesterday that the excuse given by the government for its failure to get vaccines from India was a lie.

 Kiriella said that the government ministers’ excuse for failing to get vaccines from India was that there had been a fire in the vaccine manufacturing factory on Jan 21. “That is not true. After Jan 21, India supplied 7,575,000 vaccine doses to seven other countries. It showed that the reason was that the current government had antagonised India.

Kiriella said: Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka was the first to stress the need to bring vaccines. We hoped that we could get AstraZeneca vaccine from India. But what has happened. Only 500,000 free vaccines could be obtained from India.

The government said that there had been a huge fire in the facility that produced vaccines in India and as a result we could not get vaccines. Thereafter, on Jan 21 India provided vaccines to seven other nations. It gave 500,000 vaccines to Canada on March 02, five million vaccines to England on March 05, 125,000 vaccines to Iran on March 10, 300,000 vaccines to Brazil on March 18, 1.5 million vaccines to Saudi Arabia on March 28, 100,000 vaccines to the Maldives on March 29 and 50,000 vaccines to Palestine on March 29. Those seven countries got vaccines after Jan 21. We could not get it because India is not on good terms with us after this government’s Port city project.

“The government has started inoculation in the upcountry areas. There were vaccination projects in Kundasale and Mahaiyawa. Those who get the vaccine have to sign a letter that they may not need the second dose of the Sputnik V vaccine. Signature is obtained on another letter saying that the government would not be responsible for the side effects of the vaccine. Innocent people after spending hours in queues are asked to sign the letter moments before getting the jab. I have heard that this particular letter has been printed at the Kundasale Pradeshiya Sabha. What authority do they have? Do the local government officials have the same authority as doctors? There is no proper inoculation plan. I request the government to give vaccines to plantation workers because they are vulnerable. There are eight apparel factories under BOI in Kundasale. One such factory has at least 500 employees. All factory workers in the country must be given.

The government does not have money. It took a loan from the World Bank in May. This government is a total failure. It has failed in both vaccination and fertiliser projects. They laughed at us when we were planning to make Wi-Fi available to the public free of charge. They protested when we tried to give free tablet computers to schoolchildren. If that project had been completed, today the children would have been able to make use of them while the schools are closed.

The government gave tax concessions to mega companies, that caused a loss of Rs. 800 million.

The government has no vision to prevent losses. For example, look at the recent incident of a fire aboard X-Press Pearl ship. I saw an article in the London Times on this incident and about the possibilities for the cause of the fire. In future, we will know who is responsible for the fire. But the problem is that now it is exposed that our harbours did not have the capacity to extinguish such fires in the vicinity of the country’s main port. This would bring down our ratings and that would result in an increase of insurance surcharge. The government must take action to rectify this immediately.”   



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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic

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Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period
 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

 

Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.

 

 

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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle

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It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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