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Manipulation of Covid figures: SLPP ally provides ammunition to SJB

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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.



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Bandula undertakes to take over SLIIT

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Bandula Gunawardane has, in his capacity, as the trade minister, assured the SLPP Parliamentary group that action would be taken to take over the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) divested through fraudulent means.

Political sources said that the assurance had been given at this week’s meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the President’s House. Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, was present. Minister Gunawardane said so when lawmakers Premanath C. Dolawatta and Weerasumana Weerasinghe raised the issue.

Chairman of COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) Prof. Charitha Herath, who called for taking over of SLIIT, too, was present at the meeting. Communist Party MP Weerasinghe said that they were really happy to receive such an assurance from Minister Gunawardane. Appreciating the manner in which the COPE under Prof. Herath’s leadership had handled the inquiry into the SLIIT acquisition, Matara District lawmaker Weerasinghe said the onus was on the government to take remedial measures immediately.

MP Weerasinghe said that denial of SLIIT ownership to the government was certainly not an isolated case. The way some officials and governments cooperated in daylight robbery of state property couldn’t have happened without the tacit understanding at the highest levels, lawmaker Weerasinghe said. (SF)

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SJB too demands prosecution of ex-President Sirisena and others over Easter carnage

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB yesterday demanded that the government allow the Attorney General to prosecute all those against whom the Presidential Commission of inquiry on Easter Sunday carnage wanted criminal proceedings instituted.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said that the Attorney General could not be forced by the government to spare certain individuals. “The report of the Presidential Commission recommends that legal action be taken against the former head of State Intelligence Service, senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena and the former President Maithripala Sirisena. But the government does not implement those recommendations.

“The Cardinal says that before the election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised to prosecute all those responsible for the carnage. After release of the PCoI report the Cardinal has been told by the President that he could not implement some recommendations therein because he would lose his popularity. That is wrong. He cannot do so, it is the job of the Attorney General. It is not the President who implements the law of this country but the Attorney General. The President has no powers to that. “Upon the receipt of the PCoI report the government appointed a cabinet subcommittee under Minister Chamal Rajapaksa to study the report. Now, the government implements the recommendations of that sub-committee which has recommended to select whom should be prosecuted and who should be left out from the original list of persons identified by the PCoI as responsible for the terror attacks.

“The PCoI recommendations are not being properly implemented. We demand that the government should implement all recommendations of the PCoI. Victims demand the same. The Church and the Cardinal demand the same. The AG should prosecute all identified by the PCoI and let the judiciary decide who is guilty and who is not. The President cannot interfere in selecting the list to be prosecuted. That amounts to the Executive interfering in the matters of the judiciary.”

MP Kiriella said that consequences of the October 2018 constitutional crisis and 52-day government had paved the way for the Easter Sunday terror attacks. “That crisis started on 26 Oct., 2018. Thereafter, the then President Sirisena sidelined the UNP, which was the main party in the Yahapalana government. The National Security Council met without anyone representing the UNF government. The NSC was even attended by some SLFP MPs. President Sirisena took over the Ministry of Law and Order under him in addition to the Defence Ministry. The first move against the Yahapalana government was the 52-day government; the second was the Easter Sunday attack. Nilantha Jayawardena received all information and intelligence from India with exact dates, places and even the names of the attackers. He says that he did not pass that intelligence on to President Sirisena, who was the Minister of Defence. That was an offence. When the PCoI asked Jayawardena to surrender his mobile phone, he did so after deleting all its records. That too is an offence. Former President Sirisena says that he did not know anything about the matter because he had not been informed of it. Yet, the PCoI determined that he was responsible. The government should let the Attorney General implement the recommendations of the PCoI by prosecuting all who have been identified as persons responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage.”

SJB Kurunegala District MP JC Alawathuwala also addressed the press.

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BIA rapid testing PCR lab back in action

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The rapid testing PCR lab at the Bandaranaike International Airport, which was non-operational for several weeks, resumed accepting samples yesterday (27.)

Earlier, the Director General of Health Services authorised the PCR lab, SASL Hospinorm, to operate.

The lab can provide a PCR test report within three hours.

Those who test positive for COVID will be sent to quarantine centres.

Since passengers can get PCR report in three hours, they need to arrive at the airport six hours before departure. Passengers are provided with all facilities until the reports are issued.

The first passengers to benefit from the lab were those who arrived in QR 668 of Qatar Airways. The flight landed at 2.15 am yesterday (27).

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