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MP Rahman ridicules SLN patrols, having allowed foreigners entry via BIA



Spike in Covid-19 cases: SJB blames SLPP for giving false sense of security

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) yesterday (3) said that the government owed an explanation regarding the Covid-19 explosion now threatening the entire country after repeatedly assuring that the epidemic was under control.

SJB Colombo District lawmaker Mujibur Rahman alleged that the government strategy gave a false sense of security to the public thereby resulting in automatic lowering of the guard. MP Rahman said that those who spoke on behalf of the government played politics with the pandemic.

They created an environment conducive for the people to go on pilgrimages to Kataragama and on holiday to Nuwara

Eliya during Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the MP pointed out.  The live television coverage of various events organized with the participation of artistes, models et al and avurudu beauty pageants deceived the people, the MP said.

The shocking revelation that the government allowed visitors from India in spite of the pandemic there being out of control proved those in power here threw caution to the wind, the former UNP lawmaker said.

Responding to another query, lawmaker Rahman questioned the rationale in the SLN stepping up surveillance at the Indo-Lanka Maritime boundary to prevent illegal immigrants while Indians were allowed in through the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). MP Rahman emphasized that he didn’t have an issue with Indians or people of any other nationality. But, the country was in such a precarious situation, the government couldn’t take things lightly, MP Rahman said.

In the run-up to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the government conveniently reported a far lower number of Covid-19 cases, MP Rahman said, adding that according to statements attributed to officials the situation continued to improve. Against the backdrop of threat posed by a new variant of Covid-19, the government on Feb 14 ruled out a lockdown, MP Rahman said. One-time Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara succumbed to Covid-19 at the IDH on the same day, the SJB spokesman said, adding that the total number of Covid-19 cases was placed at 801 on Feb 14. Lokubandara’s death was among 7 reported on that day, the MP said. Within the next few weeks the situation remained the same though closer to Sinhala and Tamil New Year reported cases dropped as a result of reducing the number of  tests conducted, MP Rahman said.

Rahman said that the government reported 197 Covid-19 cases on April 1, 183 on April 2, 135 on April 3, 122 on April 4, 137 on April 5, 158 on April 6, 190 on April 7, 309 on April 8, 183 on April 9, 268 on April 10, 225 on April 11, 225 on April 12, 185 on April 13, 99 on April 14, 167 on April 15 and 159 on April 16.

The MP said that the government allowed more foreigners in though Chief Epidemiologist Sudath Samaraweera on April17 said that due to an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 cases among those coming from abroad restrictions were necessary. The SJB spokesman asked whether the government heeded Dr. Samaraweera’s warning. On the day, the Chief Epidemiologist issued the warning, the government reported 204 fresh Covid-19 cases.

The government was so reckless in its Covid-19 strategy, declaration was made about the re-opening of schools in the Western Province as well as the Universities, the MP. However, at the same time the government exploited the deteriorating situation to cancel May Day rallies primarily because the SLPP led coalition was sharply divided over a range of contentious matters, MP Rahman said.

MP Rahman alleged that SLPP members largely depend on rhetoric to skip ongoing debate on deterioration of Covid-19 situation. Referring to a recent media briefing given by the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) and statement issued by Dr. Naveen Zoysa on behalf of the GMOA, MP Rahman said that the country faced an immense challenge. 

Who allowed interested parties to offer quarantine facilities to foreigners when Sri Lankans were arrested for not wearing face masks? MP Rahman asked.

 Rahman urged the government to reveal the outcome of second Covid-19 outbreak in late last year. No less a person than Attorney General Dappula de Livera PC, called for a probe on what he called ‘Brandix Cluster,’ the MP recalled. “Let there be an explanation soon on the part of the government,” Rahman said, urging the SLPP to take tangible measures to tackle the situation. MP Rahman said that the second Covid-19 eruption was also discussed in parliament. At one point, an attempt was made to fault Ukrainians over the epidemic eruption, the MP said.



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CAA reverses decision to file legal action against Litro Gas



For introducing controversial hybrid LPG cylinder

by Suresh Perera

The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) has backtracked on moves to file legal action against Litro Gas Lanka for launching 18-litre premium hybrid domestic LPG cylinders in contravention of consumer laws.

The Chairman was not in favor of moving court on the matter due to political pressure, a senior CAA official said.

The move to desist from legally challenging Litro’s launch of the new hybrid cylinder to the market without the regulator’s approval comes in the backdrop of State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna’s intervention to allow the controversial product to be sold to consumers at its introductory price of Rs. 1,395.

“What’s the purpose of a regulatory body if politicians can interfere with CAA’s legally mandated functions to protect the interests of consumers?”, the official asked.

The selective application of the law will boil down to seeking approval from politicians on whether legal action should be instituted when even a grocery store is raided for violating regulations, he said.

“The law is the same, and if are to take punitive action by favor, then the CAA will be a dead duck bowing down to political dictates”, he opined.

Litro Gas has come under fire for introducing new hybrid domestic cylinders for Rs. 1,395 in spite of the weight being reduced by three kilograms in comparison to the regular 12.5 kilogram cylinders priced at Rs. 1,493.

“We have already received hundreds of complaints about a shortage of 12.5kg cylinders in the market as Litro is trying to push its new hybrid cylinders”, the official said.

“This is unethical”.

A resident of Kirillawala in the Gampaha district complained that only hybrid LPG cylinders were available over the past few days.

“I was told by the Litro dealer in the area that stocks of 12.5kg regular cylinders will not be received for some time”, he said.

However, Litro Gas Chairman/CEO, Anil Koswatte assured that there was no dearth of LPG in the marketplace.

When told that technically there may be no shortage of cooking gas, but on whether regular 12.5kg regular cylinders were also available apart from the new 18-litre premium hybrid product, he said that there may be delays in deliveries due to the prevailing situation, but both domestic cylinders are freely available.

Consumers can also order online or by calling 1311 for delivery, he said.

The LPG production process is continuing uninterrupted despite many challenges posed by the pandemic. Workers adhere to health safety regulations and are regularly screened and provided accommodation to prevent contact with outsiders who may be infected, he continued.

With ballooning global LPG prices, Litro Gas Lanka incurs Rs. 300 to 400 million in losses per day as the government has turned down an appeal for a Rs. 700 price increase on domestic cylinders.

The new hybrid 18-litre domestic cylinder was introduced to the market to cut losses as LPG is now sold below procurement cost.

Asked about the claim in a YouTube video shared on social media that he draws a remuneration of Rs. 3 million per month at a time Litro is facing a financial crunch, Koswatte declined to comment on what he termed as “gossip to sling mud at him”.

The presenter of the YouTube program, Chapa Bandara, claimed that Koswatte draws a monthly salary of Rs. 2 million from Litro Gas Lanka Limited and Rs. 1 million from Litro Gas Terminal Lanka Ltd.

“I am not paid with government funds”, he noted, while pointing out that both are private companies.

“My salary is a matter for the shareholders to decide on”, he stressed, while adding that his salary should not be of concern to anybody as it’s purely a private matter.

The Chairman said that if he responds to tittle-tattle, it will create the impression that he also thrives on gossip.

Presenter Bandara also asserted that a woman who served as the General Manager at the time Koswatte was Chairman of Laksala has been appointed Director (Human Resources) of Litro Gas.



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Allied Security Services to reward officer who foiled Rs. 10.7mn robbery



Timely action by a security officer on duty at a private bank in the Anuradhapura New Town thwarted the robbery of Rs. 10.7 million by a two-member gang on Thursday morning.

The officer risked his life to prevent the gangsters from escaping with the cash during the heist, an official said.

An officer of a different security agency had alighted from the vehicle and walked towards the ATM with a representative of the bank to reload cash into the machine when two persons lurking in the vicinity had thrown chilli powder and grappled with them in an attempt to grab the bag containing the cash, he said.

They had, however, fought back, and in the melee, the bag had slipped to the ground. The security officer, who was near the entrance to the bank, had promptly run across, picked up the bag and taken it into the premises, he noted.

Sensing they had lost the chance of robbing the money, the gangsters had escaped on a motorcycle before the police arrived, the official said.

A security officer of the company entrusted with reloading cash to the bank’s ATMs was injured when his gun went off by accident during the confusion, he said. “He was admitted to the Anuradhapura General Hospital”.

The brave security officer, whose resourcefulness prevented the money from being snatched, was identified as S. R. K. Somarathne of Allied Security Services (Pvt) Limited. He is a resident of Hidogama in Anuradhapura.

“We will be rewarding this valiant officer who foiled the robbery in spite of the grave risk to his life”, a senior official of Allied Security Services, said. (SP)

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Police round up unmasked persons in public spaces in Colombo



With the alarming spike in Covid-19 infections across the country, Police on Friday launched an operation in Colombo to round up unmasked persons in public spaces.

Police said that 85 people taken into custody were initially taken to the Bo-tree junction in Pettah, where DIG (Colombo Division) Jagath Chandrakumara, gave them a brief lecture on the risk of not adhering to health safety guidelines.

They are not only placing their lives on the line by ignoring corona preventive guidelines such as wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance, but also jeopardizing others by spreading the virus, he said.

Police said that 85 persons taken into custody were later transported in buses to the Pettah police station, where they were granted police bail. They will have to appear in court when notified.

The operation was conducted under the supervision of DIG Jagath Chandrakumara, SSP (Colombo Central) Nishantha Chandrasekara, SSP (Colombo Central 1) Samarakoon Banda, Pettah Acting OIC Chief Inspector Abeyratne and Dam Street OIC Chief Inspector A. P. Paduruarachchi on the direction of senior DIG (Western Province) Deshabandu Tennakoon.



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