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Parliament in turmoil over unseating of Ramanayake



By Saman Indrajith

Parliament sittings were suspended for several minutes yesterday following an uproar over the unseating of SJB’s Ranjan Ramanayake, who is currently servig a jail term. The SJB MPs staged the protest after Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced that Ramanayake had lost his parliamentary seat owing to his conviction by the Supreme Court and incarceration.

The Speaker said: “I wish to bring to the notice of the House the correct position in respect of the letter that was sent by the Secretary General of Parliament informing the Chairman of the Election Commission that a vacancy has occurred in the membership of the Ninth Parliament due to the fact that Ranjan Ramanayake Member of Parliament for the Electoral District of Gampaha has ceased to be a Member of Parliament in terms of Article 66(d) of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

Ranjan Ramanayake was convicted by the Supreme Court on 12th January 2021 for the offence of contempt of court punishable under Article 105 (3) of the Constitution and was sentenced to a term of 4 years rigorous imprisonment. The conviction by the Supreme Court attracted the provisions of the Article 66 (d) of the Constitution which reads that “The seat of a Member shall become vacant if he becomes subject to any disqualification specified in Article 89 or 91. The Article 89 (d) of the Constitution goes on to say that ” No person shall be qualified to be an elector at an election of the President, or of the Members of Parliament or to vote at any Referendum if he is subject to any of the following disqualifications, namely, if he is serving or has during the period of seven years immediately preceding completed serving of a sentence of imprisonment (by whatever name called ) for a term not less than six months imposed after conviction by any court for an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term not less than two years or is under sentence of death or is serving or has during the period of seven years immediately preceding completed the serving of a sentence of imprisonment for a term not less than six months awarded in lieu of execution of such sentence ; Provided that if any person disqualified under this paragraph is granted a free pardon such disqualification shall cease from the date on which the pardon is granted.

Accordingly, by operation of the law Ranjan Ramanayake would cease to be a Member of Parliament from the date the conviction was entered upon by the Supreme Court. However, Ranjan Ramanayake through his lawyers, petitioned the Court of Appeal by way of a writ application that by virtue of the conviction he would not lose his seat and requesting the court to grant a prohibition or a restraining order preventing the Secretary General of Parliament from informing the Chairman of the Election Commission that a vacancy has arisen in the ninth Parliament consequent to Ranjan Ramanayake vacating his seat. The Court of Appeal has not accepted this position and has dismissed the case without issuing any formal notice to the Respondents. With the dismissal of the writ application before the Court of Appeal the temporary restraining order issued by the Court of Appeal preventing the Secretary General of Parliament from informing the Chairman of the Election Commission regarding the vacancy has also ceased to exist.

In the circumstances, once all the above requirements are fulfilled under Article 89 (d) of the Constitution to quote the very Order of the Court of Appeal in the writ matter in connection with this case it is stated as follows; “I do agree with the submission of the learned Senior Additional Solicitor General that the act of sending a communication to the Election Commission under Section 64 (1) of the Parliamentary Elections Act would tantamount to a physical act by the 1 st Respondent short of an exercise of power. In other words, with a vacancy staring in his face the Secretary General has no option but he is required by law to inform the Election Commission of such vacancy. In doing so he is carrying out a purely ministerial act. I have already referred to the fact that the exercise of a purely ministerial act is not subject to be quashed by a writ of certiorari nor is such an exercise subject to any restriction by a writ of prohibition. If the Secretary General fails to act at that stage, a writ of mandamus would lie to compel him to perform his legal duty.”

The reason for me to make this announcement is that yesterday in the House, the Leader of the Opposition made a statement that the Secretary General of Parliament has taken steps to inform the Chairman of the Election Commission that Ranjan Ramanayake has vacated his seat due to non-attendance of Parliament for a period of 3 months and the non-acceptance of his leave motion also contributed to this situation. As indicated above, I would like to inform the Leader of the Opposition that this position is not correct and the vacation of seat by a Member of Parliament for non-attendance for 3 months is envisaged in the Constitution in Article 66 (f) whereas the letter sent by the Secretary General is under Article 66 (d) the content of which has been explained above.

I wish to bring this matter to the notice of the House to provide greater clarity on this issue.”

SJB MPs wore black armbands to voice their objection to the decision taken by the Speaker to remove MP Ramanayake’s Parliamentary seat.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa accused Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena of being part of a conspiracy to remove Ramanayake from Parliament.

Following their protest, the sittings were suspended and after several minutes the House resumed its sittings.


Facilities for infected pregnant women inadequate – SLCOG



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The distribution and availability of high-flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant women were not adequate, President of the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (SLCOG,) Dr. Pradeep de Silva said yesterday.

Dr. de Silva said that while they had not yet faced any lack of oxygen in treating Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers, things could change rapidly given the limited availability of equipment. “Having an adequate supply of oxygen alone is not enough. You need high flow oxygen machines, and 50 litres of oxygen per minute is needed to operate a high flow oxygen machine. I do not know how many machines we have in this country but where I work, Castle Street Maternity Hospital has about four. We need to estimate the number of these machines we require and how much oxygen we want. From my understanding, the distribution and availability of high flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers is not adequate.”

Dr de Silva said that Sri Lanka needed about 50–200 high-dependency unit (HDU) beds per district, based on the population, 10–50 high flow oxygen machines per district, four for ten ICU beds and two dedicated Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machines.

“If we get this, we will be able to deal with pregnant women who develop complications from COVID-19 for the next four to five years,” he said.

Dr de Silva said that currently one pregnant woman who has been infected with COVID-19 is receiving ECMO treatment. There is also a shortage of beds at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, which has the largest ward dedicated to COVID-19 infected pregnant women. On Thursday, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Dr Mayuramana Dewolage, who heads the ward that treats COVID-19 infected pregnant women at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, said that they only had 37 beds were dedicated to pregnant women with COVID-19. They didn’t have any HDU or ICU beds dedicated for their use, he said.

“We share HDU and ICU beds with other patients at Mulleriyawa Base Hospital,” Dr Dewolage said.

The President of the SLCOG also urged all hospitals to find a separate space for pregnant women who were receiving treatment at their institutions. When COVID-19 pandemic started, the Health Ministry instructed all hospitals to do so but it was now obvious that those instructions had not been followed, he said.

“When the second wave started people got ready but later, they just stopped getting ready and now we are unprepared to meet the challenges of the third wave. We need to find a way to manage this. If the Ministry of Health has not prepared a plan, we are ready to help formulate one,” the President of the SLCOG said.

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Those who had AstraZeneca first jab, should take Sputnik V with adenovirus 26 – Specialist



By Rathindra Kuruwita

If those who have taken the first dose of AstraZeneca are to receive a second jab of Sputnik V, they should take the first Sputnik V vaccine with adenovirus 26 (Ad26), Consultant Immunologist and head of the department of Immunology-MRI, Dr Nihan Rajiva de Silva says.

Dr. de Silva said that the first dose of Sputnik had Ad 26 and the second had adenovirus-5. “Adenovirus-5 is common. We may have been exposed to that and we may have developed antibodies. Adenovirus-26 is rarer and we will better respond to that. That is why the vaccine-maker has used adenovirus-26 in the first vaccine. So, if you had a first jab of AstraZeneca and you are to get the second dose from Sputnik-V remember to get the first jab,” Dr. de Silva said.

He added that any vaccine has the chance of reducing the severity of the virus and that the general public should get vaccinated when the opportunity is available.

Dr. de Silva said that there was a shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines because the Serum Institute of India could not deliver shipments as promised.

“However, we are now getting Sputnik V vaccines and we are looking at mixing them. There is a study in Russia about the efficiency of mixing Sputnik V with AstraZeneca and the results should be out soon. I can say that theoretically mixing the two vaccines should work,” he said.

Dr. de Silva added that the AstraZeneca vaccine should work against the new variant spreading in the country.

Consultant Cardiologist at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Dr. Gotabaya Ranasinghe said that those with heart issues, non-communicable diseases and were obese must get vaccinated to minimise the complications of Covid-19.

Dr. Ranasinghe said that those in the above-mentioned categories were at risk of contracting, getting complications and dying of COVID-19 and research had proven that vaccination would reduce the chance of such eventualities.

“If you worry about getting vaccinated, talk to your doctor. Don’t seek advice from friends and family,” he said.

Dr. Ranasinghe added that they had limited the number of heart surgeries they do due to COVID-19. ICU beds used for heart patients too were being now allocated for COVID-19 patients. “We only do the most pressing cases. But this means that the waiting list keeps on growing. Now, the waiting list is over eight months. If we limit the surgeries more and keep taking away ICU beds available for those who have had heart surgeries, the waiting list will grow further,” he said.

The Consultant Cardiologist also advised the public to eat healthy food and engage in moderate exercises, at least five days a week. This will reduce the mental stress as well as boost the immune system. ‘We recommend moderate exercises like jogging and brisk walking, for 30 minutes, five days a week. Being healthy is as important as wearing masks or adhering to physical distancing,” he said.

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STF raids narcotics distribution centre close to Bloemendhal police station



Acting on information received from the Organised Crime Fighting Unit of the elite Special Task Force (STF), police commandos, on Thursday (6), arrested a person running a narcotic distributing network, 1.5 km away from the Bloemendhal police station.

The STF identified the suspect as Thawasidevan Pradeep Kumar, 21, a key associate of one Suresh with links to a criminal outfit run by Kimbulaele Guna, now absconding in India.

DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that the raiding party had recovered 2 kg, 22 g and 88mg of ‘ICE,’ with a street value of Rs 25 mn in addition to 4kg, 2 g and 527 mg of substance known as ‘hash,’ as well as Rs 400,000 in cash and a mobile phone.

Kimbulaele Guna is believed to have sought refuge following an LTTE attempt to assassinate President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at the final PA presidential election rally at the Town Hall in December 1999.

DIG Rohana said that Guna’s brother Suresh was a major heroin distributor in Colombo. The STF later handed over the suspect, along with contraband and locally made ‘hash,’ and his phone to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB). The raid on the heroin distribution centre situated in Aluth Mawatha, Colombo 15, followed specific information received as regards the ‘operation’ conducted with impunity (SF)

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