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Kumudesh offers conditional backing for making vaccination mandatory



‘Give young people opportunity to choose desired jab’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President of the College of Medical Laboratory Science Ravi Kumudesh offered conditional backing for making Covid-19 vaccine mandatory.

One of the strongest critics of the government’s response to the unprecedented health emergency, Kumudesh told The Island that such a move couldn’t be accepted unless the government ensured the public had an opportunity to receive the desired vaccine.

 Sri Lanka launched the vaccination drive on January 29th, within 24 hours after receiving 500,000 Covishield doses from India.

 The Island raised the contentious issue of mandatory vaccination in the wake of several persons, including Justice Minister Ali Sabry, Covid -19 control State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle and former Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission Dr. Deepika Udagama declaring their support for making vaccination mandatory to counter the pandemic.

The civil society activist emphasised that the government shouldn’t expect the public to accept whatever offered at the vaccination centres. “Let the people make a choice. Give them an opportunity to decide on the vaccine,” Kumudesh said, strongly opposing the moves to restrict the movements of those so far unvaccinated.

 Kumudesh was responding to a recent announcement that those 30 and above would be subjected to routine checks beginning Sept 15 to ensure they received vaccination.

Asked whether the College of Medical Laboratory Science would accept making vaccination mandatory on the basis of those having compelling medical reasons given the opportunity to shun it, Kumudesh emphasized the two issues shouldn’t be mixed. He asked whether it would be fair to deprive those seeking opportunities in the US, Europe and other parts of the world by inoculating them with Sinopharm. “Regardless of our stand on Sinopharm, some countries do not recognize Chinese vaccines. Therefore, those seeking opportunities in some selected countries are reluctant to take the Chinese jab,” Kumudesh said. They shouldn’t be penalised by the government, the trade union activist said.

Kumudesh explained that the government should make a serious effort at least now to make available sufficient Sinopharm, AstraZeneca (Covishield), Modena, Pfizer and Sputnik for the targeted groups to choose from. Declaring that Sri Lankans seeking opportunities in the US, Europe and other selected areas preferred vaccines that had received WHO endorsement, Kumudesh said that Sinopharm received only emergency approval.

Responding to another query, Kumudesh said that he received the AZ vaccine that was obtained from India.

Referring to plans to inoculate those under 30 including the student community, Kumudesh urged the government not to disappoint them. “Please give them an opportunity to receive a vaccine of their choice. Take into consideration their future,” Kumudesh said.

 He faulted the government for not taking tangible measures to procure Pfizer against the backdrop of the disruption of AZ supplies from India due to massive eruption of Covid-19 cases there.  Having claimed that Sri Lanka lacked basic facilities required to acquire Pfizer, State Minister of Production, Supply, and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana later accepted it. The government’s action proved their own argument wrong, Kumudesh said, urging the government to review the entire vaccination process.

Commenting on the inordinate delay in using Sinopharm after receiving stock of 600,000 doses from China, Kumudesh alleged that the government foolishly claimed of a conspiracy. What really happened was at the time Sri Lanka took delivery of a free consignment of Sinopharm it hadn’t received the WHO approval. China delivered the vaccine stock on March 30. Sri Lanka included Sinopharm in the vaccine rollout on May 8 after both WHO and the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) approved the emergency use of Chinese vaccine, Kumudesh said.

 The lab technologist said that the government could have handled the situation so much better if it consulted all stakeholders. Unfortunately, the government responded to the crisis, arrogantly, Kumudesh claimed, flaying the powers that be for declaring victory over the epidemic at an early phase of the struggle.

 The government couldn’t achieve the desired results by declaring lockdowns unless a cohesive action plan was put in place to contain the fast spreading of Covid-19, he said.

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SJB MP slams police double standards



“Why one law for Ponnambalam and another for Gamage?”

The police have failed to display the same efficiency they displayed in arresting Jaffna District MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam with regard to arresting State Minister Diana Gamage, who should have been spending her time at the Mirihana Immigration Detention Centre, Kurunegala District SJB MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha told Parliament on Friday.

“If the police had displayed the same efficacy, Diana Gamage should have been at the Mirihana Detention Centre at this time. Instead she comes to parliament and issues threats to other MPs. The courts have clearly stated that the CID could take her into custody because she had been using two passports.

“The Immigration Controller himself has reported to the courts that she had been a UK citizen since 2004 and using a UK passport since then. She has not revoked her UK citizenship. In addition she has obtained anther passport through the Secretary General of Parliament. The Speaker too should have a responsibility to prevent a foreign citizen sitting unlawfully in the House,” he said.

Jayamaha said that Gamage had no right to sit in parliament. “The case against her regarding her having forged passports is postponed again and again. The law is not implemented. My colleague Mujibur Rahuman tabled a document in this House that the Defence Secretary had been informed of the illegality of Gamage’s presence in Parliament. I tabled the same again today.

“She recently told a TV talk-show that she had applied for the revocation of her UK citizenship. We do not know whether she has two tongues,” the MP said.

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Sarath Weerasekera opposes SLT share sale on security grounds



Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), which owns a fixed and mobile telecom group, which is partly foreign owned and listed should not be privatized, the head of a parliamentary committee on national security has said.

Government MP, Retd. Admiral Sarath Weerasekara who chairs the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security told parliament Friday that divestment of the 49.5 percent stake in SLT held by the government could “expose the country’s strategic communication infrastructure and sensitive information to private companies that are motivated by profit, which could pose a threat to national security”.

Weerasekara also said that any individual or organization proscribed or otherwise that “aided terrorists or extremists” must not be allowed to purchase shares or control Sri Lanka’s national assets.

The claim comes despite satellite links and international cables connecting the country being built and managed by foreign conglomerates in which many connected countries are also shareholders. SLT is also a shareholder in some global cable companies.

Weerasekara suggested that the government retain the right to repurchase shares held by the majority shareholder of SLT.SLT’s second biggest shareholder, behind the Sri Lanka government, is Malaysia-based Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd with a 44.9 percents take in the company.

Most Sri Lanka’s mobile firms were also built and owned not just by private firm but foreign ones. SLT’s own mobile network, Mobitel was a build operate transfer project by Australia’s Telstra.

Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers in March 2023 listed Sri Lanka Telecom among several state companies to be re-structured.SLT currently enjoys market leadership in fixed-line services and is the second-largest operator in mobile. It also owns an extensive optical fibre network.The company was placed on watch for a possible rating upgrade by Fitch Ratings in March 2023 after the government announced the restructuring. (EconomyNext)

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Cardinal hits out at government demanding local elections



By Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has urged the government to hold local elections to secure the democratic rights of the people.

“Voting is a right of the people that we must all enjoy. It is a right that every person over 18 -years of age is entitled to to determine the future of the country,” he said on Thursday.

“Today justice as been turned into injustice, governance to dictatorship and law into lawlessness,” the 75-year-old cardinal told a gathering of hundreds of people at a function at St. Anthony’s College in Kochchikade.

Local polls to elect 340 councils were slated for April 25 but the election commission postponed it, citing a lack of funds.

“The government said earlier that it doesn’t have money to hold an election, now it’s saying that it has money. If the government has the money, please give an opportunity to the people to vote and let the people express their wishes. How much of what came from the IMF was used for agriculture? How much for the fishing industry? And what about education?” the cardinal queried.

Rather than improving the lives of people, “politicians import goods, and bring in what we need and what we don’t need, destroying our economic independence, leading us to depend on foreign countries,” he said.

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