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Pavitra says extraordinary measures adopted to keep country safe, offers to be sacrificed to the sea

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by Saman Indrajith

Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi told Parliament on Tuesday (3) that Sri Lanka followed guidelines and imposed some precautions to ensure that the nation would be safe from the COVID-19 pandemic even if such precautionary measures had not been taken in other countries.

The Minister said that nowhere in the world a person without symptoms was directed to undergo self-quarantine after 12 days of monitoring period, but it was done in Sri Lanka to contain the pandemic.

SJB Kurunegala District MP Ashok Abeysinghe:

Is it true that even if a person shows COVID-19 symptoms, he or she would be asked to undergo self-quarantine at home?

 Minister Wanniarachchi:

If a person shows COVID-19 symptoms he will be taken to hospital by an ambulance. We follow health guidelines formulated by world renowned virologists including Dr Malik Peiris. Their advice is to monitor a person suspected to have contracted the virus for 12 days. We are told that if the person does not show any symptom within 12 days, that person is neither infected nor possesses a threat to spread the disease to others. We will refer such persons for 14 more days of self-quarantine. Such precautions are not taken anywhere in the world. But we ensure that our nation is safe from the virus.

MP Abeysinghe:

Then how come there are people in Anamaduwa who have been infected twice and thrice?

Minister Wanniarachchi:

This is a new virus.

 Ratnapura District SJB MP Hesha Withange:

Over a private TV channel, a doctor said that if one got COVID-19 symptoms, he or she should go to hospital. Basil Rajapaksa says those who have symptoms should not go out but stay wherever they are to undergo quarantine. What should people follow?

 Minister Wanniarachchi:

Both said that they should not spread the virus and an ambulance would come to the house of the infected and take that person to hospital.

 MP Abeysinghe: Now we hear of the 23rd death. The 21st, 22nd and 23rd deaths were reported from their homes. It was only after their deaths, it was found that they were infected.

 Minister Wanniarachchi: They were in a quarantine process under observation. We identified them as second and first level contacts of the infected and prescribed them quarantine.

MP Abeysinghe:

I just checked now. One person died in a hospital in a normal ward among other patients. If that person is infected he should have been in a separate special ward isn’t it?

Minister Wanniarachchi:

I do not know of the deaths that occurred while I am here in this House. I did not have time to ask from the Director General of Health. I will ask him and let you know. 

Earlier in the day, the minister assured Parliament that she was even ready to be sacrificed to the sea if that act would ensure the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Starting the debate on two Regulations of the Medical Ordinance, she said that many people sling mud at her using images of her engaging in a religious activity to get blessings to curb the pandemic.

“The Opposition slings mud at me and puts up Facebook posts stating that the country would be safe if I would sacrifice myself to the sea. According to the legends deities watch over this country. I do my best these days to prevent this pandemic as the responsible minister.  Apart from that, I have received many invitations to participate in religious activities to bless the country in this difficult situation. I am even ready to sacrifice myself to the sea if that will help protect the country from COVID-19.”



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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