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Kumudesh accuses Health Ministry officials of sabotaging state-owned lab at BIA



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The government laboratory service was prevented from testing passengers arriving in Sri Lanka by a group of Health Ministry specialists who made large amounts of money from private laboratories and quarantine centres, President of the College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS), Ravi Kumudesh told The Island yesterday.

Kumudesh levelled this allegation responding to a statement made by Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath that the health sector was not equipped to test all those who arrived from overseas.

“This is a false claim. Actually, there are four options available for the government to test all tourists. All of these options are blocked by the Health Ministry. If we are given a free hand, we can use these options to test everyone who comes into and leaves Sri Lanka and issue results within two hours,” Kumudesh said.

The first option was to use the PCR lab established at the BIA in mid-2020, the CMLS President said. “At this time, even the most advanced nations have just started establishing such facilities at airports. However, there was a lot of resistance from certain officials of the Health Ministry and doctors who worked at private labs and got money from quarantine centres”, he alleged.

“However, private labs were entrusted with the task of conducting PCR tests on all tourists arriving in Sri Lanka. The state-run lab did not receive a single sample. This is unfortunate because we can test 4,500 people a day and issue reports within 90 minutes,” Kumudesh said.

The second option was to use the state of the art lab at the BIA premises built by the Airport and Aviation Authority. However, the Health Ministry had not authorised the lab to start operations, Kumudesh said.

Kumudesh added that the Health Ministry allowed private individuals to set up labs and test people for COVID with little oversight, but a lab that could be compared to the one at the Dubai Airport and run by a state institution was prevented from operating a PCR lab.

“They are finding faults with the lab. The government has taken a risk by opening up the airports, given the importance of the tourism sector. However, some state institutions are preventing the mitigation of this risk,” he said.

The third option was to expand rapid PCR tests, Kumudesh said. Sixteen 16 Sri Lankan hospitals already do rapid PCRs. They include the Embilipitiya Hospital, which is in the former Health Minister’s electoral district, he said.

The lab technologists’ union leader said that all 16 machines had been received by the country as donations and the Health Ministry officials had continuously undermined President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had instructed the Ministry to buy 30 rapid PCR machines.

The CMLS President said that the President had issued the order after they had written to him on eight separate occasions.

“However, the Health Ministry officials reduced the number by half and although the tenders were called in June, nothing came of it. We wrote to philanthropists and they responded. For example, the rapid PCR machine at the Embilipitiya Hospital was donated by Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera, the machine at Lady Ridgeway Hospital was donated by Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardane,” he said. Kumudesh said that if the Health Ministry went ahead with the tender and imported rapid PCR machines, all those who arrived in the country could be checked within 90 minutes.

The fourth option was to use the five Mobile Molecular Labs donated by an Indian company. Those labs could be taken anywhere and PCR tests could be conducted at half the cost of a regular lab test. Those labs were also not used for testing. Kumudesh said.

“The Health Ministry has four options to test people arriving in and leaving Sri Lanka. However, senior officials insist that the government doesn’t have the capacity to test these people. These senior officials also formulate guidelines that prevent government labs from testing people. They do this because they are part time practitioners in private labs and they make money by sending people to private quarantine centres. There is a clear conflict of interest here,” Kumudesh said.

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Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dies aged 100




Henry Kissinger at the State Department's 230th anniversary celebrations in 2019

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has died at the age 100.

He served as America’s top diplomat and national security adviser during the Nixon and Ford administrations.

In a statement, Kissinger Associates, a political consulting firm he founded, said the German-born former diplomat died at his home in Connecticut but did not give a cause of death.

During his decades long career, Mr Kissinger played a key, and sometimes controversial, role in US foreign and security policy.

Born in Germany in 1973, Kissinger first came to the US in 1938 when his family fled Nazi Germany. He became a US citizen in 1943 and went on to serve three years in the US Army and later in the Counter Intelligence Corps. After earning bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees, he taught international relations at Harvard.

In 1969, then-President Richard Nixon appointed him National Security Adviser, a position which gave him enormous influence over US foreign policy in two administrations.


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Rupees 1,500 million allocated for ‘Greater Kandy Urban Development Program’ – State Minister for Provincial Councils and Local Government




State Minister for Provincial Council and Local Government  Janaka Wakkambura participating in a Press Briefing held at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) on Wednesday (29) under the theme ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country’,  announced that President Ranil Wickremesinghe has allocated Rs. 1,500 million for the “Greater Kandy Urban Development Program” in this year’s budget and that part of the allocation would to be utilized to develop the approach roads to Kandy City.

He also announced that the President had allocated  Rs. 1,000 million to develop tourism by enhancing facilities through the involvement of local government bodies.

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DMT unable to print nearly one million driving licences for want of blank cards



Racketeers thrive on illegal printing of DLs

By Shiran Ranasinghe

The Department of Motor Traffic was unable to print about 900,000 driving licences due for want of blank plastic cards, Commissioner General of the Department of Motor Traffic Nishantha Weerasinghe told The Island.

He said his Department was doing its best to solve the problem, which could be sorted out in six months or so.

A senior official on condition of anonymity said the Department now printed about 200 driving licences for those who were going abroad or engaged in essential services.

However, some racketeers were printing about 700 licences illegally, he said.

Rs 5,000 each was charged for issuing illegally printed licences, the official said.

Commenting on the allegations, the Commissioner General of the Department of Motor Traffic said he will investigate the matter if he receives a complaint officially.

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