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Manipulation of Covid figures: SLPP ally provides ammunition to SJB



Gen. Silva responds to allegations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) says the SLPP government owed an explanation regarding manipulation of Covid-19 figures, especially against the backdrop of one of its constituents alleging daily alteration of figures.

The National Freedom Front (NFF) spokesperson Mohammad Muzammil, MP, has accused a senior Army officer, holding the rank of Maj. Gen. and two specialists attached to the Epidemiology Unit, of revising figures.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office on Saturday (14) SJB MP Mujibur Rahman demanded the government to take the public into confidence. Pointing out the SJB had questioned the figures released by the government before the NFF, lawmaker Rahman accused the government of following a deadly policy.

Subsequent to the media briefing, MP Rahman told The Island that the whole process was questionable. Referring to the sharp discrepancy in respect of the Gampaha district Covid-19 cases as reported by some sections of the media, the former UNP MP said that those who manipulated the records obviously for political purposes should be punished, regardless of their standing in the society.

MP Rahman asked whether the military and top doctors assigned to the Epidemiology unit manipulated figures at the behest of the government.

However, the NFF spokesperson alleged that those who had manipulated the figures did so deliberately to cripple the government response. The former JVP MP pointed out how the entire government could collapse due to taking decisions on wrong figures.  According to MP Muzammil, by lowering the number of detections, the daily death rate received much public attention with the Opposition  proclaiming that it was the highest percentage of deaths in the world.

MP Rahman alleged that though the government announced that PCR tests would be done at local private hospitals at Rs 6,500 hereafter, the charges at hospitals in India and Bangladesh were much lower. The lawmaker asked whether the government wanted its friends and associates managing private hospitals to benefit at the expense of the hapless public struggling to make ends meet.

Rahman alleged that the government allowed private hospitals to fleece hapless for many months and finally regulated prices very much higher than those prevailing in other countries.

The Island yesterday raised the manipulation of Covid-19 figures with Army Commander General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as well as head of the Covid Task Force. General Silva explained that the alleged discrepancy was due to deficiency in the process of the issuance of Covid-19 figures. Strongly denying accusations regarding alteration of figures, the Army Chief said that the Epidemiology Unit released data to the public through him twice every day-around 6 pm and again around 8.30-9 pm. However, figures pertaining to tests conducted during the remaining hours on a particular day up to midnight had not been released through the normal system though they were available to the decision makers, Gen Silva said.

Gen Silva emphasized that there was absolutely no intention to suppress figures. The Army Chief said that the Covid Task Force represented by all stakeholders managed the Covid response under extremely difficult conditions.  Gen Silva urged the public to zealously follow health guidelines or face the consequences.  Responding to another query, the CDS said that regardless of various ongoing controversies the public couldn’t be unaware of the situation on the ground.

Gen. Silva said that the recent declaration that those unable to produce vaccine certification wouldn’t be allowed to visit public places with effect from Sept 15 should prompt the unvaccinated to rush to the nearest makeshift vaccination centre or hospital. The Army Chief said that various interested parties were trying to derail their Covid response.


President requests the opposition to support the implementation of the IMF agreement




President Ranil Wickremesinghe urged the Opposition to unite and disregard political differences to assist in carrying out the IMF agreement, which would aid in the development of Sri Lanka’s economy.

The President emphasized that his duty is not to condemn previous administrations but to concentrate on the development of the country. He also declared his dedication to constructing a better future by creating laws and frameworks that prevent the recurrence of past errors.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe delivered this message in a special address to Parliament this morning (22) regarding the receipt of the Extended Credit Facility from the International Monetary Fund.

He stated that despite allegations being leveled against him that his objective was not to rescue the country from an economic crisis but to safeguard the Rajapaksa family, the international community had acknowledged his efforts to carry the country across the economic vine bridge.

The President further said that he had faith in rebuilding the beloved country where he was born, brought up and educated, and said that many past experiences were the reasons for confirming that faith.

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SJB, JVP move SC against Finance Secy. for contempt of court



The main Opposition, Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday (21) moved Supreme Court against Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana over his failure to provide funds required by the Election Commission to conduct the Local Government polls, ignoring an interim order issued by the apex court, on 03 March.

Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, is the petitioner for the SJB and Vijitha Herath, MP, moved court on behalf of the JVP, the leading party in the Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB).

Two Opposition parties declared action against Siriwardana the day after the Freedom People’s Alliance (FPA) issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Finance Secretary to release the funds.

EC Chairman Nimal Punchihewa is on record as having said that in spite of SC directive he didn’t receive fresh funding.

The petitioners sought the issuance of summons on Siriwardana for contempt of court over failure to carry out its interim orders, given on 03 March.

The petitioners want the Finance Secretary punished in terms of Article 105 (3) of the Constitution.

The SJB stated that Siriwardana had refrained from carrying out the March directives, on the basis of a Cabinet decision, taken on 13 Feb., 2023. The SJB also pointed out that the offensive conduct of the Treasury Secretary, inter alia, causes grave prejudice to the esteemed authority of the Supreme Court and in turn disturb the public confidence in the authority of the highest Court in the country. (SF)

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Minister indicates reduction in fuel prices in April



Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara told Parliament yesterday that fuel prices would be reduced considerably according to the fuel price formula at the next fuel price revision, due in April.

The Minister said that the government would be able to procure fuel shipments, at lower prices, during competitive bidding, with the receipt of the IMF bailout.

There had been practical issues, and problems, in opening Letters of Credit, and obtaining credit facilities, in the recent past, as Sri Lanka could not give a guarantee to fuel suppliers, Minister Wijesekara said.

“We could not open LCs and obtain credit facilities when procuring fuel. After the IMF bailout, we will be able to procure fuel at lower prices during competitive biddings. We will be able to obtain a long-term credit facility as well. Fuel prices in the global market seem to have declined and the rupee has also gained strength against the US Dollar. Having considered all these factors, fuel prices will be reduced by a considerable margin which could be felt by the people,” he said.

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