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PCoI to file contempt case against five SJB MPs in Court of Appeal

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

Chairman of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on political victimisation, retired Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne yesterday told MPs Harin Fernando, Nalin Bandara, J. C.Alawathuwela, Mayantha Dissanayake and Sujith Sanjaya that the commission had decided to file a contempt case against them in the Court of Appeal.

The PCoI Chairman announced the commission decision when the MPs appeared before the commission yesterday. The SJB MPs had been summoned based on information that they had allegedly made disparaging remarks about the PCoI while speaking to the media after making a complaint to the Bribery Commission recently.

Retired Supreme Court Judge Abeyratne said the Commission decision had been referred to the Appeal Court under the provisions of Article 10 of the Commissions Act, and Clause 105 (3) of the Constitution, naming the five MPs as respondents.

The Chairman asked the five MPs to be present before the Appeal Court once notice is served on them.

The Chairman said according to the opinion of the commission the MPs had committed an offence and their submissions could be referred to the Court of Appeal.

Additional Solicitor General Rohantha Abeysuriya, appearing for the Attorney General, said the matter should be referred to the Court of Appeal. The MPs had made defamatory statements challenging the authority of the commission and in a manner derogatory of the commission while addressing the media near the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, Colombo 7.

Also present were SJB General Secretary MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MPs Dr Rajitha Senaratne, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Dr Harsha de Silva, and Thalatha Atukorale to witness yesterday’s session.

A spokesman for the commission said that following the hearing of evidence, a case was expected to be filed before the Court of Appeal at a later date on charges of contempt of the presidential commission.

Speaking to the media after the MPs appeared before the Commission, SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said that a group of MPs including the five summoned by the commission yesterday had submitted a complaint to the Bribery Commission on behalf of the people as per their democratic right.

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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