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LSSP cautions government on US State Secretary’s visit

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The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) has cautioned the government not to fall into the USA’s trap to get Sri Lanka involved in the war of attrition between the US and China.

LSSP General Secretary Prof. Tissa Vitarana said in a statement yesterday (27): “During the US State Secretary’s visit, there will also be pressure to sign the MCC and SOFA agreements that the UNP-led yahapalanaya government was prepared to sign to obtain a grant of US$ 480 million. The Gunaruwan Committee has given instances of countries like Madagascar that signed and fulfilled the conditions, but did not receive the promised amount of money. Not surprising, as the USA itself is in an economic crisis and heavily in debt.

“The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is one of the most powerful politicians in the world. He is also the USA’s Minister of State (in the USA the members of the Cabinet are called Secretaries, not Ministers). His present visit to Sri Lanka, and three other Asian countries including India, is to get some Asian support for its planned attack on China, which has not received the support of ASEAN.

“For example, the Philippines President Duterte has said that he is not ready to go to war with China, and will resolve their issues bilaterally and peacefully. Even the European Union led by Germany has recognised that China is only interested in trade, and it is refusing to support the USA’s military attack on China, the LSSP statement further noted.

“The USA is advancing its “India First” policy to rally Asian support against China. Pakistan has taken China’s side and Sri Lanka too must do the same. This is a truly Non-aligned Policy to which all countries that were colonized have always subscribed to, from the time we were liberated from Imperialist rule. Under no circumstances should Sri Lanka support USA military aggression against China, it added.

“Even staying neutral is tacit approval. We must oppose war by the USA against a fellow Third World country. What right has the USA to claim that China poses a military danger to it, when its boundaries are thousands of miles away? It is the USA that has over 400 military bases around China, while China has only one outside its boundaries”, the LSSP said.

“Signing the MCC and SOFA agreements would compel us to support USA aggression. The MCC agreement would enable the USA to exploit our economy without restriction and its companies to buy our land besides establishing rapid transport links from Colombo to Trincomalee. The SOFA agreement would allow thousands of armed troops from the USA to use the whole of Sri Lanka as a military base (now that they are losing Diego Garcia, their main Indian Ocean base).

“Thus, the LSSP appeals to the Government to take a non-aligned stance and support China. It is also vitally important that Sri Lanka does not sign the MCC and SOFA agreements.

“The Sri Lankan government should ensure that the UN Declaration on the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace be implemented immediately. This is a declaration which Sri Lanka itself initiated.”

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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