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Mano signs petition seeking pardon for Duminda to highlight Tamil prisoners’ plight



… laments absence of consensus among Tamil parties regarding ex-LTTE cadres in custody

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Democratic People’s Front (DPF) leader Mano Ganesan, MP, has strongly defended signing a petition initiated by SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) seeking a presidential pardon for former UPFA Colombo District lawmaker Duminda Silva currently serving a life sentence for 2011 killing of ex-MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Ganesan, who is also the leader of the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) explained how he sought to draw public attention to approximately 100 Tamil political prisoners languishing in jail by backing the move to secure presidential pardon for Silva.

MP Ganesan claimed he felt quite confident that the media coverage generated by the petition signed by nearly 150 lawmakers could help his longstanding cause to have the detained Tamils released.

Alleging that Tamil political prisoners issue hadn’t received sufficient public attention, Ganesan said that he believed the high profile initiative could help them as well.

At the successful conclusion of the war in May 2009, the government held over 12,000 LTTE cadres, the vast majority taken prisoner on the Vanni east front. In addition to them, there had been several hundred arrested during the conflict, some of them convicts. Of the total, approximately 100 remain in custody over a decade after the conflict.

Ganesan revealed that having signed the petition, he proposed to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to submit a separate petition seeking the release of Tamil political prisoners to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The DPF leader alleged that the TNA refrained from providing the required backing for his initiative.

The Lawmaker quoted Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran, PC as having told him that the time was not opportune for such an initiative. Vanni District MP Selvam Addaikalanathan had said that the matter would be considered later, Genesan told the media, while acknowledging the right of colleagues to take a different stand.

 Both Sumanthiran and Addaikalanathan didn’t respond to telephone calls.

The Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando’s Office circulated the petition in Parliament on behalf of Duminda Silva. Minister Fernando, too, didn’t respond to telephone calls.

Genesan said that those who had ignored his genuine intentions flayed him over social media and other forums. The former National Co-existence, Dialogue and Official Languages Minister said that some sections of the Tamil community found fault with him for linking Tamil political prisoners issue with that of the former UPFA lawmaker. Ganesan pointed out though they called those in prison political prisoners, the majority community still considered them terrorists. The Tamil community should realize ground realities, the former Minister said.

 Pointing out that those the Tamil community described as fighters were criminals for the global community, MP Ganesan said that difficulties experienced by both Tamils and Muslims could be resolved by bringing their plight to the notice of the Sinhalese.

 TPA contested the August 2020 parliamentary election on Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) ticket.

MP Ganeshan said that his political career couldn’t be derailed by those exploiting the signing of the petition by him in support of former MP Silva’s release.

He wouldn’t give up efforts to secure Tamil prisoners’ release through legitimate measures and he would withdraw his signature from Silva’s petition to prevent interested parties from exploiting the situation, the former minister said.

At the onset of the briefing MP Ganeshan said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa granted presidential pardon for Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake found guilty of Dec 2000 Mirusuvil massacre. Ratnayake was sentenced to death in 2015 for the killing of eight persons. Ganesan further pointed out that former President Maithripala Sirisena pardoned Jude Jayamaha sentenced to death for killing teenager Yvonne Jonsson, a dual national whose mother was Sri Lankan. She was beaten to death after an earlier argument with Jayamaha, in the stairwell of posh Royal Park apartment complex, where her family was living in 2005.

Jayamaha was initially given 12 years in prison. His subsequent appeal against his jail term was rejected and he was sentenced to death instead, a sentence upheld by the Supreme Court in 2014.

MP Ganesan said that President Sirisena hastily released Jayamaha shortly before he left office.

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COVID-19: Jaffna faces serious risk



Top medical man in North threatens lockdown

Five villages isolated in Ganewatta DS area

20% of IDH patients need oxygen

By Dinasena Ratugamage and Rathindra Kuruwita

Tough restrictions would have to be imposed in Jaffna if religious leaders did not help health authorities, Northern Province Director General of Health Services, Dr. A. Kethiswaran said yesterday. Jaffna was facing a serious risk of COVID-19, he said.

Dr. Kethiswaran said so during a meeting with religious leaders at his office. He said that a large number of devotees were seen at various places of religious worship during the festive period.

“None of these people follow health guidelines. It is impossible to control the virus because of this. At this rate we will have to impose travel restrictions in the Jaffna District. We need everyone’s support, if we are to avoid this fate.”

He then urged religious leaders to inform devotees of the dangers of the virus and not to gather at places of worship in large numbers.


Dr. Kethiswaran also said that a large number of policemen in Jaffna had contracted COVID-19. About 258 PCR tests had been carried out on Wednesday after it was found that 13 policemen attached to the Jaffna Police station were infected. Altogether 788 PCR tests were done in the Jaffna District on Wednesday, Dr. Kethiswaran said.

One hundred and forty eight new COVID-19 cases had been detected in several villages in the Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area, Divisional Secretary Niranjala Karunaratne said yesterday.

On Wednesday alone 733 PCR tests had been done there, she said, adding that about 175 individuals had tested positive for COVID-19 there.

Given these developments, Tittawelgala, Hunupola, Siradunna, Aluthgama and Hettigama Grama Niladari divisions at Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area have been isolated.

Travel restrictions were imposed on Kuliyapitiya Town, Thunmodara, Dhandagamuwa – West, Kanadulla and Pahala Weerambuwa as COVID-19 cases were increasing there.

PHI in charge of Divulapitiya said that 84 new COVID-19 cases had been reported from the area during the last 48 hours. However, no decision had been taken to impose travel restrictions in the area, PHI, S.A.U.T Kularatne said.

“Twenty-eight of these patients were among people who attended a sports event organised for the New Year in Aswennawatta Grama Niladari area. Forty-four people who went on a trip at Mellawagedara have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. If people are not careful, things might rapidly deteriorate,” he warned.

Deputy Director of IDH said that over 130 COVID-19 patients were undergoing treatment there although the hospital could accommodate only 120 patients.

All eight ICU beds at the IDH are occupied and 20% of the patients there need oxygen. The number of people admitted to hospital had increased after the Sinhala and Hindu New year, health ministry sources said.

Director General of Health Services – Western Province Dr. Dhammika Jayalath urged people to refrain from travelling to Colombo unless it was very urgent.

Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardane said that the coming three weeks would crucial.

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Covid figures: Govt. accused of misleading the country



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) yesterday claimed that State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals, Prof. Channa Jayasumana was making statements on new strains of SARS-CoV-2 without any scientific proof.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Prof. Jayasumana said that there had been an increase in the spread of Covid virus in the country, especially among the young people and that was due to a new strain of the virus.

President of the CMLS, Ravi Kumudesh said: “The Minister claimed they were doing a research on this. As far as we know, neither the Ministry nor the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has done any research to identify this new strain. The Ministry of Health stopped identifying new variants a long time ago.”

The Ministry of Health could neither plan for new variants of COVID-19 nor determine what vaccine was effective as it simply didn’t have the equipment to identify new strains, Kumudesh said, adding that identifying COVID-19 variants across the country had been outsourced to the University of Sri Jayawardenepura.

“I have repeatedly said that the Health Ministry officials can’t make science and evidence-based decisions or statements on new strains. Institutions under the Health Ministry do not have the ability to identify new strains of the coronavirus; only the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has a gene sequencing machine. We said this was having a disastrous impact on the country’s pandemic response and here we are,.”

Kumudesh said that identifying various strains of COVID-19 was essential to respond to the pandemic as everything from PCR testing to selecting a vaccine, depended on that.

“There are a number of strains of the virus in the world now and we now know that the new variant that led to a lockdown in the UK is here. We have to be ready to identify what strains are coming.”

Kumudesh said that since the country had opened its airports people from various countries would arrive, carrying new strains. He added that there might also be a new strain that originated here without “our knowledge because we don’t do adequate gene sequencing.

“To identify new variants, we must sequence the genes of viruses detected through PCR testing. We need many gene sequencing machines because one cannot identify new strains through a PCR test. However, the Ministry of Health has not provided a single gene sequencing machine to labs under its purview.”

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CEA accused of turning blind eye to cardamom cultivators raping Knuckles Forest



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A government decision to allow cardamom plantations inside the Knuckles Forest Reserve, which came under the Forest Conservation Department,it was already having a negative impact on the ecosystem, Sajeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR) said.

Chamikara said that Knuckles Forest Reserve was not only a unique ecosystem but also an important catchment area for rivers such as Mahaweli and Kalu.

“Illegal Cardamom planters had been operating in the forest area for many decades and there had been many attempts to get rid of them,” Chamikara said

About six years ago, there was an attempt to remove illegal Cardamom planters from the Knuckles Forest Reserve. When the Forest Conservation Department tried to remove these encroachers, based on a court order, several politicians and officials intervened on their behalf, the environmentalist said. Due to those interventions, illegal Cardamom planters could not be removed from the Knuckles Forest Reserve, he added.

“In many areas of the Dumbara mountain range, forest undergrowth has been cleared to make way for cardamom plantations. This has drastically increased soil erosion and the soil that is swept away by rains have been deposited in many reservoirs after being taken downstream to the Mahaweli Ganga. Moreover, many trees have been cut to use as firewood to dry cardamom. There are many structures used to dry the cardamom dotting the Knuckles mountain range and these activities cause significant damages to the ecosystem.”

Chamikara said it was illegal to cut trees, cultivate and clear land in a Conservation Forest. The offences carried jail terms or fines or both. Moreover, the court could estimate the damage done to the forest and make the guilty pay that amount. Under the law, even people who encouraged such violations could be prosecuted.

“The CEA has the power to act against those who carry out such illegal activities. According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without obtaining approval, the CEA can present such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both. Unfortunately the authorities concerned are turning a blind eye.”



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