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Opposition Leader lists govt. shortcomings in fighting coronavirus

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By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the country’s anti-COVID-19 campaign would have been stronger if the government had not got its priorities mixed up during the recent past.

Participating in the debate on two new regulations under the Medical Ordinance, the Opposition Leader said: “The government has not imported ventilators since January. They spent the time to get the 20th Amendment passed. They did not have time to import quality PCR testing machines and were busy pruning down the powers of the prime minister. The government could have made use of that time to increase the number of beds in hospitals in view of the pandemic but it did not have time because that time was spent worrying about dual citizenship. While other countries worried about the immunity of their people, our government’s worry was to ensure immunity of the executive presidency.”

 Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi: He is misleading the House. We brought down 200 ventilators during the past eight months. At the beginning we had the capacity to conduct only 250 PCR tests, today we are conducting 10,000 tests. We do what a government should be doing.

 Opposition Leader Premadasa: Those ventilators were given by the US as grants. I am telling you that the government did not order a single one. The government did not make purchases. There were many grants from international organisations. What did you do with those monies? You were seen engaging in mystic ritual acts of throwing pots to the rivers to get rid of the pandemic. You should have obtained the blessings of the snake king that manifested inside a bottle at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara during the last two days of the presidential elections campaign in support of your candidate. You cheated people then and are doing so now. You continued to reject what we said. That was what happened whenever we spoke of the danger from the pandemic. When we said the need to wear masks, you rejected us. When we spoke of the need for PCR tests, we were ridiculed. When I spoke the need to maintain quarantine guidelines in parliament, she said that was not relevant.

Health Minister Wanniarachchi:

He is misleading the House. The Opposition leader does not know how to read a gazette properly. There is a definition of the common places, and Parliament does not come under that definition. Those definitions contain descriptions of open and closed places.

Opposition Leader Premadasa:

Parliament is a common place. The minister got her facts mixed up. All those stories were told to keep Parliament open to get the 20th amendment passed. One policeman attached to the Parliament division got infected. Two media personnel got infected. You should conduct PCR tests on all members of parliament staff. Since January we have been insulted whenever we spoke of the need to take precautions. 

 

 



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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