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Malaysia reiterates strong security cooperation with Sri Lanka, while not giving any room to extremists

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Malaysian High Commissioner in Colombo Tan Yang Thai meeting on Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena at the Foreign Ministry last week (11).

Malaysian High Commissioner in Colombo Tan Yang Thai has commended policies implemented by Sri Lanka to tackle the spread of the virus.

The envoy commended Sri Lanka’s strategies to fight against the pandemic when he called on Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena at the Foreign Ministry last week (11), the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

It said: Discussions between the two dignitaries focused on enhancing bilateral cooperation in trade and security between the two countries.

The High Commissioner while commenting that all countries were struggling to stay afloat amidst the raging COVID-19 virus which continued to claim heavy toll on their economies, commended policies implemented by Sri Lanka to tackle the spread of the virus. 

High Commissioner Tan Yang Thai also noted that Malaysia would continue to support the ASEAN centrality and the recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) expected to facilitate the Southeast Asian economies to return to normalcy overcoming the contagion in the post COVID-19 era. The RCEP would connect about 30% of the world’s people and generate significant gains, particularly in Southeast Asia by 2030 and improve access to Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) opening up opportunities for market access in areas of transport, energy, and communications.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena expressing his sincere wishes to the Foreign Minister of Malaysia, said that he was optimistic that Sri Lanka and Malaysia could gear up its cooperation in multifarious fields at the beginning of next year by holding bilateral political consultations. Both dignitaries agreed that there was immense potential for Sri Lanka to expand trade with Malaysia, particularly in agriculture based industries.    

Minister Gunawardena commended the cooperation extended by Malaysia in security-related fields and both endorsed closer cooperation. High Commissioner Tan underlined that Malaysia would not condone any type of terrorism or extremism in Malaysia, and would take every measure to curtail and would continue to promote peace and stability in the region. Furthermore, the Malaysian High Commissioner assured that Malaysia would continue to support Sri Lanka in the regional and International fora. Minister Gunawardena reiterated that Sri Lanka expected to build a strong bond with the ASEAN community during his tenure and highlighted that Sri Lanka expected to become a Sectoral Dialogue Partner of ASEAN. 

The trade between Sri Lanka and Malaysia has been increasing over the last few years with the emergence of Malaysia as one of Sri Lanka’s major trading partners. At present, Malaysia is the 4th supplier to Sri Lanka in 2019 supplying 4.6% of Sri Lanka’s total imports. Malaysia was the 39th export destination of Sri Lanka in 2019. Malaysia was also the 6th investing partner of Sri Lanka in the year of 2019. 

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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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