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Media Minister under fire for holding tree planting ceremony in school affected by COVID-19



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella had endangered the health of a large number of students by holding a tree planting ceremony at Kengalla Maha Vidyalaya, Kandy, where a number of students and teachers had tested positive for the coronavirus, General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) Joseph Stalin said.

Stalin said that despite the detection of COVID-19 patients, the Minister had organised the ceremony and that 150 guests had attended it. The school band was used at the event where physical distancing was non-existent, he said.

“There is a circular issued by the Ministry of Health advising principals not to hold ceremonies at schools due to the pandemic. We lodged a complaint with the Education Director of the Central Province Thilak Ekanayake on Thursday (11), but the event went ahead as planned on Friday. This shows how servile regional education officials are.”

Ekanayake on Thursday said the ceremony was not an educational one and that he had little knowledge of what would transpire. Stalin said that while the ceremony might not be educational technically, the Minister was using a school band, students and the school premises.

“When we asked the relevant Zonal Education Director, she said that the event had been organised by a group called Mahanuwara Api and that neither the school nor the Zonal Education is responsible for the organization of the event. If so, allowing an outside party to use a school premises and students for a ceremony was an even more serious issue.”

Stalin said that the pandemic had created a serious crisis in education and that a large number of students and teachers were contracting the virus. It was the responsibility of the government and education administrators to do their best to protect the children, he added.

“Some time ago, MP Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan also held a similar event in the East and when we objected the government said it would not happen again. But this time around, a Minister has done the same. This is an indication of how much they care about the safety of children.”

Repeated attempts to contact Minister Rambukwella were unsuccessful.

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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?



… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.



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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others



The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.



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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area



Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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