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MPs cannot be compelled to get vaccine – Sgt-at-Arms



MP: ‘Refusal to take jab can be quite deadly’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Members of Parliament couldn’t be under any circumstances compelled to receive vaccine in spite of the growing danger posed by the raging Covid-19 epidemic, Sergeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando told The Island yesterday (11).

Fernando said that perhaps about a dozen MPs out of 225 hadn’t taken the vaccine. Responding to another query, the top official emphasised that as inoculation was not mandatory, the MPs and the Parliament staff could decline the offer. Fernando said that as much as 98 percent of parliament staff had been vaccinated. Journalists assigned to cover parliamentary proceedings, too, had been vaccinated with the intervention of the Parliament, Fernando said.

Asked whether he had been inoculated, Fernando said that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and Secretary General Dhammika Dasanayaka too received the vaccination. In addition to AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Pfizer, Sputnik and Modena were available for the population.

When The Island pointed out that the Health Ministry had been repeatedly stressing the need for all to be vaccinated, Fernando said that people couldn’t be forced to receive vaccinations unless new laws were introduced.

According to the Sergeant-at-Arms, nearly 150 members of parliament had received the vaccination at the Military Hospital at Narahenpita and several dozen at other places. The majority are believed to have received Covishield (AstraZeneca) from the Indian grant of 500,000 doses on January 28. Inoculation commenced on the following day. Fernando said that some members received Sputnik.

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) leader Sajith Premadasa, who was hospitalised along with his wife, Jalani after being tested positive for Covid-19 told The Island that he had received Pfizer at the Military Hospital.

Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena and SPC Chairman Dr. Prasanna Gunasena this week underscored the need for all to get vaccinated. Last week, the police repeatedly urged those who missed getting vaccinated so far to go to the nearest vaccination centre or face the consequences.

The Island

sought the views of the Sergeant-at-Arms on the advice of a spokesperson for the Speaker’s Office. Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake was not immediately available for comment.

SLPP National List MP Mohammed Muzammil said that in spite of certain interested parties propagating lies the vast majority of people enthusiastically obtained vaccines. The National Freedom Front (NFF) member hailing from Matale said that his family had been vaccinated whereas he received his at the Military Hospital at Narahenpita. The former JVP MP urged people to have faith in the vaccination drive. Responding to queries, lawmaker Muzammil alleged that those who propagated extremist views discouraged people. The MP insisted that he was not referring to any particular community but the country’s overall response to the unprecedented Covid-19 challenge.

MP Muzammil said that recent data made available by health authorities here as well as internationally proved the scientific basis for the vaccination to be the primary safeguard against the epidemic.

The MP noted that a very small percentage of those who had taken both doses and one dose succumbed to Covid-19. Appreciating the efforts made by the government to procure required stocks and the vaccination drive carried out jointly by the health staff and the military, lawmaker Muzammil said he earnestly hoped those below 30 years of age, too, would get the jab soon.

Lawmaker Muzammil said that the rising death toll should be a warning to all those opposed to the vaccination drive on unsubstantiated grounds. Acknowledging that vaccination was not mandatory, the MP emphasized that it shouldn’t be an excuse for people to shun it.

The vast majority of those who had succumbed to the epidemic were not vaccinated at all, the MP said.

The death toll has neared 5,400 with daily infections over 2,000 over the past ten days.


President requests the opposition to support the implementation of the IMF agreement




President Ranil Wickremesinghe urged the Opposition to unite and disregard political differences to assist in carrying out the IMF agreement, which would aid in the development of Sri Lanka’s economy.

The President emphasized that his duty is not to condemn previous administrations but to concentrate on the development of the country. He also declared his dedication to constructing a better future by creating laws and frameworks that prevent the recurrence of past errors.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe delivered this message in a special address to Parliament this morning (22) regarding the receipt of the Extended Credit Facility from the International Monetary Fund.

He stated that despite allegations being leveled against him that his objective was not to rescue the country from an economic crisis but to safeguard the Rajapaksa family, the international community had acknowledged his efforts to carry the country across the economic vine bridge.

The President further said that he had faith in rebuilding the beloved country where he was born, brought up and educated, and said that many past experiences were the reasons for confirming that faith.

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SJB, JVP move SC against Finance Secy. for contempt of court



The main Opposition, Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday (21) moved Supreme Court against Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana over his failure to provide funds required by the Election Commission to conduct the Local Government polls, ignoring an interim order issued by the apex court, on 03 March.

Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, is the petitioner for the SJB and Vijitha Herath, MP, moved court on behalf of the JVP, the leading party in the Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB).

Two Opposition parties declared action against Siriwardana the day after the Freedom People’s Alliance (FPA) issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Finance Secretary to release the funds.

EC Chairman Nimal Punchihewa is on record as having said that in spite of SC directive he didn’t receive fresh funding.

The petitioners sought the issuance of summons on Siriwardana for contempt of court over failure to carry out its interim orders, given on 03 March.

The petitioners want the Finance Secretary punished in terms of Article 105 (3) of the Constitution.

The SJB stated that Siriwardana had refrained from carrying out the March directives, on the basis of a Cabinet decision, taken on 13 Feb., 2023. The SJB also pointed out that the offensive conduct of the Treasury Secretary, inter alia, causes grave prejudice to the esteemed authority of the Supreme Court and in turn disturb the public confidence in the authority of the highest Court in the country. (SF)

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Minister indicates reduction in fuel prices in April



Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara told Parliament yesterday that fuel prices would be reduced considerably according to the fuel price formula at the next fuel price revision, due in April.

The Minister said that the government would be able to procure fuel shipments, at lower prices, during competitive bidding, with the receipt of the IMF bailout.

There had been practical issues, and problems, in opening Letters of Credit, and obtaining credit facilities, in the recent past, as Sri Lanka could not give a guarantee to fuel suppliers, Minister Wijesekara said.

“We could not open LCs and obtain credit facilities when procuring fuel. After the IMF bailout, we will be able to procure fuel at lower prices during competitive biddings. We will be able to obtain a long-term credit facility as well. Fuel prices in the global market seem to have declined and the rupee has also gained strength against the US Dollar. Having considered all these factors, fuel prices will be reduced by a considerable margin which could be felt by the people,” he said.

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