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Lokuge accused of overriding Covid-19 counter measures

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Piliyandala removed from isolation list: DGHS helpless

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Asela Gunawardena, who is the state authority for the national campaign against the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, has acknowledged that his directive that Piliyandala police area be isolated on May Day was overridden.

Appearing on Hiru TV ‘Salakuna’ programme on Monday (3) night, Dr. Gunawardena admitted that the very basis of the mechanism in place to isolate areas threatened by the Covid-19 epidemic had been violated.

Dr. Gunawardena said so in response to ‘Salakuna’ anchor Chamuditha Samarawickrema repeatedly pressing the DGHS over the removal of the isolation directive issued effective at 6 am on May Day following Transport Minister Gamini Lokuge’s intervention. Samarawickrema sought an explanation as regards the removal of the directive at 5 pm and the subsequent isolation of five Grama Niladhari areas in the Piliyandala police area.

Samarawickrema pointed out to DGHS that politicians had been allowed to behave in a manner inimical to the entire national effort to counter the pandemic whereas the public and in some instances even the media were repeatedly criticized for not cooperating with government efforts.

Dr. Gunawardena recently issued a dire warning over the absence of sufficient hospital facilities in case the situation further deteriorated rapidly. The number of deaths reported till Monday stood at 709 with the country recording well over 1,000 new cases every day for about a week.

Responding to Samarawickrema, Dr. Gunawardena explained the mechanism in place to control the pandemic. According to the DGHS, the Medical Officer Health (MoH) responsible for a particular area brought the situation to the notice of the Provincial Authority who in turn alerted him. Once the DGHS decided to act on recommendation made by MoH and Provincial Authority, the Commander of the Army who is also the head of the Covid-19 Task Force General Shavendra Silva was informed, the DGHS explained.

Samarawickrema asked the DGHS how isolation of Piliyandala had been removed if such measures were taken in terms of scientific foundation as he mentioned.

In the wake of Samarawickrema challenging the DGHS to act on Minister Lokuge’s intervention, the latter promised to look into the matter.

Samarawickrema told The Island that he raised the issue at hand particularly against the backdrop of the government banning May Day rallies as part of the overall measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Samarawickrema said that Minister Lokuge had told the media, including Hiru that some persons on his staff, too, were tested positive. In spite of that the Minister accompanied by a group of people were on the move in the Piliyandala area, Samarawickrema said.

Responding to another query, Dr Gunawardena  said that he announced the isolation of Piliyandala on Hiru at 6.25 am on May Day. Then several hours later, another statement was received regarding the removal of the isolation directive, Samarawickrema said.

The Island didn’t receive a response to sms sent to Minister Lokuge and Dr. Gunawardena seeking clarification regarding the issue at hand.

Minister Lokuge was shown on Hiru main news bulletin Monday night assuring the Piliyandala electorate as the people’s representative he had a right to look into their grievances.



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CAA reverses decision to file legal action against Litro Gas

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For introducing controversial hybrid LPG cylinder

by Suresh Perera

The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) has backtracked on moves to file legal action against Litro Gas Lanka for launching 18-litre premium hybrid domestic LPG cylinders in contravention of consumer laws.

The Chairman was not in favor of moving court on the matter due to political pressure, a senior CAA official said.

The move to desist from legally challenging Litro’s launch of the new hybrid cylinder to the market without the regulator’s approval comes in the backdrop of State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna’s intervention to allow the controversial product to be sold to consumers at its introductory price of Rs. 1,395.

“What’s the purpose of a regulatory body if politicians can interfere with CAA’s legally mandated functions to protect the interests of consumers?”, the official asked.

The selective application of the law will boil down to seeking approval from politicians on whether legal action should be instituted when even a grocery store is raided for violating regulations, he said.

“The law is the same, and if are to take punitive action by favor, then the CAA will be a dead duck bowing down to political dictates”, he opined.

Litro Gas has come under fire for introducing new hybrid domestic cylinders for Rs. 1,395 in spite of the weight being reduced by three kilograms in comparison to the regular 12.5 kilogram cylinders priced at Rs. 1,493.

“We have already received hundreds of complaints about a shortage of 12.5kg cylinders in the market as Litro is trying to push its new hybrid cylinders”, the official said.

“This is unethical”.

A resident of Kirillawala in the Gampaha district complained that only hybrid LPG cylinders were available over the past few days.

“I was told by the Litro dealer in the area that stocks of 12.5kg regular cylinders will not be received for some time”, he said.

However, Litro Gas Chairman/CEO, Anil Koswatte assured that there was no dearth of LPG in the marketplace.

When told that technically there may be no shortage of cooking gas, but on whether regular 12.5kg regular cylinders were also available apart from the new 18-litre premium hybrid product, he said that there may be delays in deliveries due to the prevailing situation, but both domestic cylinders are freely available.

Consumers can also order online or by calling 1311 for delivery, he said.

The LPG production process is continuing uninterrupted despite many challenges posed by the pandemic. Workers adhere to health safety regulations and are regularly screened and provided accommodation to prevent contact with outsiders who may be infected, he continued.

With ballooning global LPG prices, Litro Gas Lanka incurs Rs. 300 to 400 million in losses per day as the government has turned down an appeal for a Rs. 700 price increase on domestic cylinders.

The new hybrid 18-litre domestic cylinder was introduced to the market to cut losses as LPG is now sold below procurement cost.

Asked about the claim in a YouTube video shared on social media that he draws a remuneration of Rs. 3 million per month at a time Litro is facing a financial crunch, Koswatte declined to comment on what he termed as “gossip to sling mud at him”.

The presenter of the YouTube program, Chapa Bandara, claimed that Koswatte draws a monthly salary of Rs. 2 million from Litro Gas Lanka Limited and Rs. 1 million from Litro Gas Terminal Lanka Ltd.

“I am not paid with government funds”, he noted, while pointing out that both are private companies.

“My salary is a matter for the shareholders to decide on”, he stressed, while adding that his salary should not be of concern to anybody as it’s purely a private matter.

The Chairman said that if he responds to tittle-tattle, it will create the impression that he also thrives on gossip.

Presenter Bandara also asserted that a woman who served as the General Manager at the time Koswatte was Chairman of Laksala has been appointed Director (Human Resources) of Litro Gas.

 

 

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Allied Security Services to reward officer who foiled Rs. 10.7mn robbery

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Timely action by a security officer on duty at a private bank in the Anuradhapura New Town thwarted the robbery of Rs. 10.7 million by a two-member gang on Thursday morning.

The officer risked his life to prevent the gangsters from escaping with the cash during the heist, an official said.

An officer of a different security agency had alighted from the vehicle and walked towards the ATM with a representative of the bank to reload cash into the machine when two persons lurking in the vicinity had thrown chilli powder and grappled with them in an attempt to grab the bag containing the cash, he said.

They had, however, fought back, and in the melee, the bag had slipped to the ground. The security officer, who was near the entrance to the bank, had promptly run across, picked up the bag and taken it into the premises, he noted.

Sensing they had lost the chance of robbing the money, the gangsters had escaped on a motorcycle before the police arrived, the official said.

A security officer of the company entrusted with reloading cash to the bank’s ATMs was injured when his gun went off by accident during the confusion, he said. “He was admitted to the Anuradhapura General Hospital”.

The brave security officer, whose resourcefulness prevented the money from being snatched, was identified as S. R. K. Somarathne of Allied Security Services (Pvt) Limited. He is a resident of Hidogama in Anuradhapura.

“We will be rewarding this valiant officer who foiled the robbery in spite of the grave risk to his life”, a senior official of Allied Security Services, said. (SP)

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Police round up unmasked persons in public spaces in Colombo

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With the alarming spike in Covid-19 infections across the country, Police on Friday launched an operation in Colombo to round up unmasked persons in public spaces.

Police said that 85 people taken into custody were initially taken to the Bo-tree junction in Pettah, where DIG (Colombo Division) Jagath Chandrakumara, gave them a brief lecture on the risk of not adhering to health safety guidelines.

They are not only placing their lives on the line by ignoring corona preventive guidelines such as wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance, but also jeopardizing others by spreading the virus, he said.

Police said that 85 persons taken into custody were later transported in buses to the Pettah police station, where they were granted police bail. They will have to appear in court when notified.

The operation was conducted under the supervision of DIG Jagath Chandrakumara, SSP (Colombo Central) Nishantha Chandrasekara, SSP (Colombo Central 1) Samarakoon Banda, Pettah Acting OIC Chief Inspector Abeyratne and Dam Street OIC Chief Inspector A. P. Paduruarachchi on the direction of senior DIG (Western Province) Deshabandu Tennakoon.

 

 

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