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MP Pathirana exposes yahapalana ministers and Excise Dept. crooks



By Saman Indrajith

SJB Matara District MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday said that two Cabinet ministers of the yahapalana government and a group ofMinistry of Finance and Excise Department officials were behind a deal to hand over a tender to an Indian company to introduce a sticker to be affixed to liquor and beer bottles.

Addressing the media after lodging a complaint with the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption in Colombo, the MP said: “The tender was awarded to Madras Security Printers company of India without following due procedure. The officials concerned lined their pockets. This deal, started during the yahapalana government has been finalised under the incumbent government. We hope that the matter would be investigated by the government, and the wrongdoers including the politicians and the officials will be exposed.”

MP Pathirana said that in addition to the complaint to the CIABPOC, he had handed over documentary proof and a copy of the complaint to the Committee on Public Accounts in

Parliament for a separate probe besides submitting a copy of the same to the Auditor General’s Department.

MP Pathirana said that following his expose of the deal in introducing fool-proof stickers to liquor and beer bottles, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had contacted him over the phone and made inquiries about it. “I met the President this morning and explained everything about this fraud that would pump people’s money to an Indian company. I pointed out to him all the irregularities of the tender process and how the officials turned down the bid of the government printer with a lower quotation to help the Indian company with a higher bid. If the sticker is printed here by the government press, the money will remain in our country. The Indian company MSP is a blacklisted venture. The President promised that he would instruct officials to look into this.”

Pathirana said that the sticker with a code is accessorised with a software to check its authenticity. “The tender for the creation of that software too has been handed over to an Indian company without following proper tender procedures. That has been done during the yahapalana government’s time.

MP Pathirana said that around 40 million bottles of hard liquor and beer were produced annually in Sri Lanka. It was to prevent counterfeits being produced the label had been introduced.

“Two ministers of the former government and some officials got together and made deals with MSP to pocket commissions from the project. The day after I exposed this in parliament, the Excise Department issued a statement, which only proved it was intent on protecting the culprits. The Excise Department officials are also disturbed by my exposures of their links to artificial toddy makers. My initial intention was to highlight the need to devise a mechanism to prevent the use of artificial toddy to produce vinegar because people including children who do not consume that rotgut toddy are exposed to carcinogenic elements via vinegar. A few days ago, the STF commandos of Gonahena camp raided an artificial toddy distillery in Kochchikade and recovered vast quantities of the contraband along with chemicals used to prepare artificial toddy. This country’s daily production of toddy is around 160,000 litres. The truth is that the capacity to produce coconut toddy even after tapping all licensed trees is around 45,000 litres a day. Producing illicit toddy is an offence under Excise Ordinance and Food and Drugs Act. I call for urgent attention to amend the Excise Act immediately to prevent the loss of tax revenue.”


Govt. urged to increase nursing cadre to tackle national health crisis



By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Coordinator, Training (Nursing) Pushpa Ramyani de Soysa says that against the backdrop of alarming increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases, the government needs to act swiftly and decisively to strengthen the nursing staff or face the consequences.

The top nurse insists a moment cannot be wasted as the ongoing epidemic threatens to overwhelm the entire country. The nurses’ spokesperson attached to the Accident Ward of the National Hospital, Colombo, delivered the dire warning in a live interview with Dasun Wasantha on the state-run ITN yesterday (14)

The outspoken official said that at the time Covid-19 erupted in 2020, the nursing staff consisted of approximately 38,000 representing all grades. At that time, the country experienced a staggering 50 per cent dearth of trained nursing staff, de Soysa said, urging those responsible as well as the public of the urgent need to strengthen the nursing staff.

She explained how the nursing staff worked under unbearable pressure as the entire medical staff backed by the military and the police struggled to cope up with the relentless Covid-19 onslaught.

Responding to the interviewer on live ‘Hathweni Paya’ , de Soysa said that as an immediate interim measure, those who had retired in the past few years could be brought back to lessen the pressure on the staff. When The Island sought further clarification from the National

Coordinator, the nursing veteran emphasized the Covid-19 challenge had to be tackled, in addition to the regular workload. A further deterioration of the situation could cause a catastrophe, she told The Island.

The National Coordinator told the ITN as nurses couldn’t be trained overnight the way required beds and other equipment could be supplied to hospitals, hence the urgent need to bring back the retired without further delay. She repeatedly stressed the responsibility on the part of the administration whoever in power to increase the nursing staff to meet the country’s growing requirement. Acknowledging the services rendered by the health services at an extremely difficult period, nurse de Soysa underscored the critical role played by the nursing staff in the overall effort against the epidemic.

Soysa highlighted what she called a coordinating role played by the nursing staff in the treatment of persons afflicted by Covid-19 or some other illness. In the absence of sufficient number of nurses, personnel had been re-allocated, de Soysa said, pointing out that due to Covid-19 explosion patients were being accommodated at hospitals.

Commenting on challenges faced by the nursing profession, de Soysa recalled the sacrifices made during the 30-year-war that was brought to a successful conclusion in May 2009. “Regardless of d immense difficulties, the nursing staff fulfilled their responsibilities during the conflict. We’ll do the same now,” de Soysa said, pointing out as many as 270 nurses had been tested Covid-19 positive, in addition to thousands quarantined.

The National Coordinator complained about the dearth of some critically important data relevant to the Covid-19 situation needed for evaluation purposes. Timely decisions couldn’t be taken for want of updated data at global and local level, she said.

She also discussed difficulties caused by some of those seeking treatment at hospitals not being aware of their condition, hence the need to be vigilant. However, sometimes, nursing staff served without taking into consideration the grave risks them faced. A grave looking de Soysa told the ITN interviewer they couldn’t follow health guidelines. “We cannot keep one meter distance in hospitals,” de Soysa said.

Nurse de Soysa said that she received both doses of covishields vaccine as key part of overall measures in place for the protection of the medical staff.

Without referring to any political party, de Soysa explained how the political administration over the years treated the nursing staff as slaves. Government treated nursing staff as dirt, de Soysa said, recalling with gratitude how Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda thera spearheaded a campaign that paved the way for significant improvement in the nursing service. The National Coordinator said that before the Ven. Thera’s intervention, they were assigned intolerable tasks regardless of their complains.

Responding to another ITN query, de Soysa said that successive governments hadn’t responded to their call for enhancement of the nursing service with the introduction of a system to produce qualified nurses who specializes in selected fields. Although action had been taken , the entire process was proceeding at snail pace, she alleged.

The National Instructor made reference to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 2019 presidential election manifesto that also dealt with the issue at hand. The top nurse didn’t mince her words when she pointed out that the required improvements weren’t introduced as expected, hence the need to move now.

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Coronavirus spreading fast in North



By Dinasena Ratugamage

COVID-19 is spreading across a number of areas in the Northern province at a rapid pace, according to THE provincial health officials.

Five members of the same family in Kattakadu, Kilinochchi have contracted COVID-19 and been sent to Krishnapuram Treatment centre.

One family member is a university student, who stayed in Colombo. He returned home recently and several family members started developing Covid-19 symptoms a few days later. Health officials conducted PCR tests and found that all five family members had contracted the virus. Six other neighbouring families have been placed under quarantine.

Meanwhile, 43-year-old man was arrested by Kilinochchi Police for hoarding alcohol to be sold, at a higher price, during the current lockdown. The suspect is a resident of Kalmadukulam, Dharmapuram. He is to be produced before the Kilinochchi Magistrate’s Court.

However, most towns in the North had been deserted yesterday due to the lockdown.

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Navy nets 30 illegal migrants



More than 30 persons were apprehended by the Sri Lanka Navy and Coast Guard in Samindugama on Thursday and Friday while they were preparing to migrate to a foreign country by boat illegally.

The owner of the house where the suspects had stayed was also arrested, together with15 others involved in human smuggling.

The suspects, residents of Jaffna, Batticaloa, Mullaitivu and Puttalam areas, were handed over to the Chilaw Police.

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