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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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Self-Employed Traders petition SC over govt. favouring liquor dealers



By A.J.A Abeynayake

The Supreme Court has decided take up, on 04 Oct. for hearing a petition filed by the Association of Self-Employed Traders against the opening of liquor stores during the current lockdown.

 The traders have requested the apex court to order the government to allow members of their union to engage in business activities since the liquor stores had been allowed to reopen during the lockdown.

The petition was taken up before a three-judge bench comprising justices L. T. B. Dehideniya, Shiran Gooneratne and Janak de Silva, yesterday.

 The State Counsel appearing for the respondents said he had received the relevant documents pertaining to the case only last Friday evening. Therefore, the State Counsel requested the court to give him time to seek advice from the respondents who were many.

Attorney-at-Law Eraj de Silva, appearing for the petitioner at the time, said about 7,000 members of his client union had lost their livelihoods due to the decision by the respondents.

Therefore, Attorney-at-Law Eraj de Silva requested the court to give an early date for considering the petition.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court decided to take up the petition for consideration on 04 Oct and directed the lawyers of the petitioners to take steps to send notice to the respondents before that date.

The petition was filed by the President of the United National Self-Employed Trade Association G.I. Charles, its Vice President P.G.B. Nissanka, and Secretary Krishan Marambage.

The petition names 47 respondents, including the Director General of Health Services, the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of Excise.

The petitioners allege that under the quarantine law, the Director General of Health Services, who is the competent authority, issued a notice on Aug 20 prohibiting the opening of liquor stores.

The petitioners point out that steps were taken to open liquor stores countrywide contrary to the regulations of the Health Authority.

The Director General of Health Services, the Commissioner General of Excise and the Inspector General of Police have stated that they have not allowed the reopening of liquor stores.

The petitioners have also requested the Supreme Court to issue an order to the respondents to allow the members of their association to engage in business activities as the liquor stores are allowed to remain open.

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Lankan born newly elected Norwegian MP Gunaratnam calls for investments here



Newly elected Norwegian Labour Party MP, Lankan born Kamzy Gunaratnam says she will ask the new Norwegian government to continue engagement with the country of her birth.

 Speaking at a virtual media conference on Sunday night, Gunaratnam said that she does not believe that boycotting Sri Lanka is the way forward.

“I don’t believe in boycott. There needs to be investments. Only that will ensure employment,” she said.

Gunaratnam said that she is also prepared to meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, if invited, for talks.

She said that Norway must continue to assist Sri Lanka through trade, education and in other ways.

Gunaratnam said that she will also discuss with her party and the new Norwegian Foreign Minister, as well as the Norwegian Ambassador in Sri Lanka and see how best Norway can assist the country.

Gunaratnam said that Sri Lankans must also decide the best solution for Sri Lanka and not any foreign country. She said that Sri Lanka must not wait for foreign pressure to work on a solution.

The newly elected Norwegian MP also said that minority rights in Sri Lanka must be protected.

As a Norwegian MP she said that her main focus in the Norwegian Parliament will be to push for equality in Norway.

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Going to IMF best solution, says Ranil



UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe insists that a programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is necessary to mitigate impact of the growing debt repayment crisis; homegrown solutions are not effective.

“Unlike in the past, Sri Lanka’s debt problem has increased at a time when there is a global debt problem. This makes the situation more challenging and complex. Sri Lanka is a highly import-dependent economy,” Wickremesinghe said during a panel discussion, organised by the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka on Saturday.

The UNP leader said that the government shouldn’t sell state assets to ease off the shortage of foreign exchange to have breakfast but reinvest those proceeds back in the economy. “Going to the IMF is the best solution,” Wickremesinghe said.

With reference to homegrown solutions, he referred to the mess caused by the government in promoting Dhammika peniya as one of the failed measures earlier on to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The former Prime Minister said that Sri Lanka should use the current situation to forge ahead with structural and public sector reforms which were postponed due to political considerations in the past.

The former PM suggested that the re-opening of the country be delayed till mid-October.

In responding to the issue of debt management in Sri Lanka, the UNP leader said that the most pressing concern is addressing the dwindling foreign exchange reserves of the country.

He explained that the regional foreign exchange reserves were projected to increase over the course of the year, however, Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves were on a downward trend.

He also said that economic recovery based on a resurgence of the tourism industry would be uncertain, and until airline ticket prices were reduced it was unlikely that tourist arrivals would increase significantly.

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