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PCoI report on Easter Sunday carnage: AG won’t be given ‘sensitive’ volumes

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GL admits flaws , appreciates recommendations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Presidential Secretariat has declined to release 22 volumes (each containing about 600 pages) of proceedings to Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, on the advice of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that probed the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage.

Authoritative sources told The Island that of the 87 volumes, the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (2) had sent only 65 to the AG. The Attorney General has been informed that the PCoI is of the opinion that 22 volumes shouldn’t be disclosed due to the sensitive nature of the information therein relating to national security.

The Attorney General received the final volume of the report from the PCoI last week.

There were shortcomings in the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) report on the Easter Sunday carnage in 2019, but it couldn’t be discarded, Education Minister and SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris told the media on Monday (1).

 Fielding questions at the weekly media briefing at Battaramulla, Prof. Peiris acknowledged the flaws while emphasising the need to go ahead with the judicial proceedings.

 Prof. Peiris said that the PCoI made far reaching recommendations that had to be dealt by the Office of the President (executive), legislature and the judiciary. In addition to them, there were specific recommendations to the Attorney General’s Department and the CIABOC (Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption).

 The minister stressed that deficiencies in the P CoI report certainly made a valuable contribution towards helping the government to ascertain the gruesome truth.

Pressed by the media for an explanation regarding the appointment of a six-member ministerial committee to deal with the P CoI report, Prof. Peiris said that the government needed to be guided by some guidelines. “The P CoI report didn’t in any way reflect the government stand. It is an independent body. Therefore, the government needs to agree on a formula in this regard. The ministerial committee will make recommendations and advice the government how to proceed.”

 Prof. Peiris made reference to some ‘clouded’ recommendations among some far reaching ones.

 Prof. Peiris dismissed the notion that the P CoI had recommended specific actions against various persons and organizations named in the report. The P CoI lacked such power; Prof. Peiris explained that the Attorney General would move court on behalf of the government. The findings made by the P CoI would be used in the process, Prof. Peiris said. The minister assured the public the government wouldn’t interfere in the investigations.

  The SLPP Chairman rejected accusations that the government exploited the P CoI report to undermine coalition partner SLFP. Such criticism was unfair as the government had nothing to do with the setting up of the P CoI in the run-up to the Nov 2019 presidential election.

 The then President and SLFP leader Maithripla Sirisena formed the P CoI close on the heels of Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that probed the Easter Sunday carnage handing over its report in the third week of Oct 2019.

 Prof. Peiris appreciated the recommendations made in respect of the education sector. The Minister said that the failure to ensure strict controls on madrasas could cause a catastrophe.

 One-time External Affairs Minister said that the government wanted to ensure no holds barred investigation into the worst atrocity since the conclusion of the war in May 2009. The ministerial committee would facilitate the government initiative, the minister said, urging the Opposition not to politicize the issue at hand.

 Responding to another query, Prof. Peiris said that the SLPP would make its position clear on the P CoI report after having studied it. The Minister criticized efforts made by some persons with vested interests to condemn the report. Those who had been affected by P CoI’s findings and recommendations were likely to attack it, the minister said. The public wouldn’t be deceived by such criticism, the minister said, underscoring the fact that Easter Sunday carnage could have been thwarted if the previous government responded sensibly to specific intelligence received from India. Unfortunately, they played ‘pandu’ with national security at the expense of the public.

 Nearly 270 persons perished in near simultaneous attacks. Approximately 500 others received injuries and quite a number of  them maimed for life.

 

 



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Facilities for infected pregnant women inadequate – SLCOG

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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

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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

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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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