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Opposition cries foul as cops in civvies arrest Sri Lanka student union leader

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ECONOMYNEXT – A university student union leader in Sri Lanka was arrested by policemen in civvies in the early hours of Friday (06), the latest in a series of similar arrests that opposition MPs claim are emblematic of an alleged “law of the jungle” the government is trying to perpetuate.

Footage aired on the privately owned NewsFirst network showed Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) Convenor Wasantha Mudalige being handcuffed and arrested by police officers dressed in civilian clothing around 3am Friday after the threewheeler he had been in was stopped by traffic police.

When Mudalige demanded to know what he had done, a uniformed officer that arrived at the scene minutes later was heard telling him that he had damaged state property.

The union leader was then seen being driven off in a police jeep.

University of Sri Jayawardenapura University Students’ Federation Chairman Amila Sandeepa was also arrested Thursday night for allegedly injuring a police officer on duty.

Police spokesman Senior Deputy Inspector General (SDIG) Ajith Rohana said Friday that the students had been behind a protest near the parliament complex on Wednesday (04) where a tense situation had arisen between protestors and police.

The Maharagama Police Officer in Charge (OIC) who was at the demonstration had been injured in the incident.

“The OIC lost two of his fingers forever. There are also reports of public property being damaged,” Rohana said in a media statement explaining the arrests.

School teachers and principals in Sri Lanka have been taking to the streets since early June, as part of trade union action over an unresolved salary anomaly and in opposition to a controversial defence university bill. Daily protests in different parts of the island organised by teachers’ unions attracting large crowds of teachers have led to fears of new outbreaks of COVID-19.

In solidarity with the teachers, other parties, unions, university students and lecturers have either joined or have organied their own protests, with a repeal of the controversial Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) bill chief among their demands.

This week saw 53 protestors arrested, 44 of whom have been released on bail so far.

According to the police spokesman, the IUSF convenor is among five new arrests made on Thursday.

“And three others who had violated quarantine regulations and transported protestors to the demonstration in vans,” he said.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa visited the two student leaders Friday morning.

“We see that the government is on a suppressive path of destroying democracy. This is a tragic situation. Our wish is to democratically solve these death blows to our democracy,” Premadasa told reporters outside the Thalangama police station.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led National People’s Power (NPP) leader and MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake raised the matter in parliament Friday morning.

“I want to know how people are being arrested [by police] without uniform, in t-shirts, on the bus. Yesterday there was an attempt to arrest USJ lecturer Aminda Lakmal. No uniforms, no mention of a station, just a t-shirt,” he said.

“What if tomorrow an underworld gang clad in t-shirts start abducing people You are not acting as an official government but as a jungle police. Put an end to this,” he added.

Premadasa, who also spoke in parliament, echoed Dissanayake.

“It’s not the supremacy of the law we see in this country, but the supremacy of the law of the jungle,” he said.

Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekara responding to the allegations sadi: “We don’t try to influence the police, but I have asked the Inspector General of Police about these particular arrests and he will submit a report.”



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Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries

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The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.

The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.

Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.

Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.

Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.

Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.

Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.

The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.

(SF)

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So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.

He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.

“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.

Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.

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Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter

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The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.

The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.

• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893

• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals

• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252

• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance

• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987

The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.

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