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Public Security Minister stands his ground on those violating ban on protests and rallies

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By Saman Indrajith

Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd) Sarath Weerasekera told Parliament yesterday (09) that anyone who violated health guidelines to hold demonstrations and rallies would be arrested and produced before courts.

The Minister said so following various remarks made by government and Opposition MPs on police arresting protestors, including the General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, for agitating near the Parliament roundabout on Thursday against the Kotelawala National Defence University Bill.

Minister Weerasekera: We will enforce law against any law breakers without considering their position or status. The Director General of Health Services has issued orders to the IGP not to allow any demonstrations, rallies and protests.

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe: People have a right to stage protests. It is wrong to arrest them. Those taken into custody including Joseph Stalin have been taken to Mullaithivu. There are no provisions for that in the Quarantine Act. The quarantine laws cannot take precedence over human rights. Such laws have to be prepared in line with protection of human rights. They have not been tested for coronavirus.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa: These laws can be enforced only by a Competent Authority. In this issue the competent authority is the Director General of Health Services. There are guidelines on how to behave in public places. Police have no role here. Suppose there is a violation of quarantine law, then the police cannot nab the people; only health officials can deal with them. This is a clear violation of human rights. Police have also violated health regulations by arrogating the duties of the health officers to themselves. We demand to know on what basis those including Joseph Stalin were sent for quarantine without testing them. What prevails today is the law of the jungle.

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake: After Basil Rajapaksa took oaths, many gathered at public places to celebrate his appointment. We saw there were many public gatherings. Nobody was arrested.

Minister Weerasekera: We will arrest anyone who breaks the law. It is the health officers who prescribed banning of protests and rallies. They have been taken to Mullaithivu on the orders of health officials. I have not transported dresses for any women. When I heard a complaint that a group of people being taken to quarantine could not take their personal belongings, I referred the matter to the IGP. If I did the same in this case, you would accuse me of taking clothes to Stalin. We would not stop the quarantine process because there are statements. We will not stop arresting anyone staging protests breaking health regulations.

The Leader of the Opposition: There wasn’t a single health official in or outside the court. That is the bitter truth. Do not those health regulations apply to the parties that were held after swearing in of Basil Rajapaksa? Everybody saw how people got together to light firecrackers.

State Minister of Rural Roads and Other Infrastructure Nimal Lanza: I want to know whether we are following the items of today’s order paper. The Opposition tries to disrupt House proceedings by raising various irrelevant issues. They have turned the House business into a mockery. We demand that attention should be paid to the items mentioned in the order paper and they be implemented.

(Opposition MPs shout at State Minister Lanza. Some SJB MPs raise points of order)

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena: What is the point of order? Do not disturb the parliament process. This is ugly. Your leaders have agreed to conduct the business of the House in an orderly manner.

(SJB MPs shout slogans)

JVP Leader Dissanayake: Laws have been written down. Laws are not what is being created inside the head of the minister.

The Speaker: Time is for presenting public petitions. Present the petition.

JVP leader Dissanayake: This is the petition of the entire nation. We hope to go before the law against this act.

Kuruengala District SJB MP Nalin Bandara: Minister Weerasekera sent Stalin to Mullaitivu and Piyumi Hansamali to Bandarawela.

 



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Hemas collect discarded carbon pens, toothbrushes from schools

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By ifham Nizam

Hemas Holdings PLC and the Environment Ministry yesterday came together to provide schools with containers to collect used plastic items such as ballpoint pens and toothbrushes. Hemas Holdings PLC, will supply the containers until April 2022.

The agreement was signed by Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and Hemas Holdings PLC CEO Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson, Executive Director Shiromi Masakorala, Senior Manager Ishani Ranasinghe and Manager Mindika Tillekeratne were also present on the occasion.

Minister Amaraweera said it took 400-500 years for used ballpoint pens and tooth brushes to decompose. Amaraweera instructed officials not to spend any government money on the scheme.

The government school system alone discarded between 80-100 kilograms of used ballpoint pens a day. As with other public and private institutions, there was no accurate information on the ballpoint pens used and discarded by individuals, the Minister added. The Minister said that it had been estimated that at least one million toothbrushes were discarded daily.

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AZ vaccine delay baffles over 500,000 awaiting second shot 

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DGHS to be summoned by HRCSL  

 

By Shamindra Ferdinando 

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has decided to summon the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena for failure to address HRCSL’s concerns pertaining to the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination programme. 

Dr. Jagath Balasuriya, Chairman, HRCSL, on May 28, in writing, requested Dr. Gunawardena to submit a comprehensive report on the vaccination programme by, or before, June 15. 

A senior spokesperson for the HRCSL yesterday (27) told The Island that Dr. Gunawardena would be summoned as the request made in terms of Human Rights Act of Sri Lanka Act No 21 of 1996 was not adhered to. 

The HRCSL consists of Dr. Jagath Balasuriya, Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara, Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan and H.K. Navaratne Weraduwa. 

DGHS is the senior officer in charge of Covid-19 inoculation drive. 

In HRCSL letter dated May 28 addressed to Dr. Gunawardena, one-time lawmaker Dr. Balasuriya said that clarification was sought after receiving representations as regarding the inoculation drive. 

Dr. Gunawardena didn’t answer his phone for us to clarify the issue at hand. 

Meanwhile, controversy surrounds the decision to suspend giving Pfizer as the second jab to those who had received Covishield (AstraZeneca). According to the health ministry, 2,171 Covishield recipients were given Pfizer on July 7 and further inoculation was suspended abruptly on July 8 claiming that sufficient stock of AstraZeneca would be available in the third week of July. The announcement was made by Deputy Director General Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath who declared the immediate suspension of Pfizer vaccines for recipients, who had got Covishield as their first dose. 

The Island yesterday sought an explanation from Dr. Herath as regards the inordinate delay in inoculation of those awaiting the second AstraZeneca jab. Dr. Herath said that administration of Pfizer was stopped on July 8 after the Health Ministry received an assurance from the WHO that 1.4 mn AztraZeneca stock would be available in the third week. Dr. Herath emphasized that if not for that assurance, the government wouldn’t have stopped using Pfizer. “Now, we are hopefully awaiting the delivery of the promised stock under Covax facility.” 

Dr. Herath said that the Health Ministry was in touch with the WHO in that regard. The Health Ministry spokesperson was responding to The Island query whether the issue at hand was taken up with the Japanese embassy.

The Japanese embassy in Colombo on July 13 announced that Japan would provide approximately 1.45 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured in Japan to Sri Lanka through the COVAX facility to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. The embassy said that the vaccines were expected to be delivered during the coming weeks.  

Dr. Herath acknowledged that the sudden stopping of the well planned programme to vaccinate those who had received Covishield with Pfizer as the second dose somewhat derailed the operation. 

Responding to another query, Dr. Herath said that so far Sri Lanka had received 264,000 doses under the Covax project though the initial estimates indicated 4.5 mn doses in a quarter once the operation got underway.  

Dr. Herath emphasized that on the part of the health ministry and the government there was absolutely no effort to deceive those who received Covishield as first doze. Over 500,000 of those who had got Covishield first jab remained to be inoculated with the second AstraZeneca jab, Dr. Herath said, asserting that Sri Lanka was blessed with a functioning system to carry out the challenging task. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the required supply of doses of Covishield as pledged by the WHO Dr. Herath said, assuring they would do whatever possible to inoculate those who had been deprived of Covishield second dose. 

Dr. Herath explained that disruption of the Covishield supply chain caused a major crisis here. The health ministry spokesman asserted that the unexplained long delay caused uncertainty and in a way undermined public confidence in the health sector.

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North and East to benefit from 1.6 mn Sinopharm doses donated by China

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with Chinese Ambassador in Colombo Qi Zhenhong (pic courtesy PMD)

China has donated another consignment of 1.6 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to Sri Lanka to fight the pandemic. Two SriLankan flights, UL869 and UL865, carrying the vaccine arrived at the Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport at 5.30 a.m., yesterday (27).

Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong officially handed over the vaccines to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat, yesterday (27).

In addition to these vaccines, a stock of syringes has also been donated. The vaccines were handed over to the Ministry of Health to be given to people over the age of 30 years in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. 72% of the vaccines used in the vaccination process in Sri Lanka is Sinopharm.

President Rajapaksa said that he highly appreciated the support provided by the Chinese Government for the control of COVID – 19 by donating 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines on March 31, 500,000 on May 26 and 1.6 million doses yesterday.

The President pointed out that by the end of August, all those over the age of 30 would be vaccinated and the tourism industry would be able to commence from September. “Therefore, the Chinese people are invited to visit Sri Lanka again”, the President said.

Ministers Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Douglas Devananda, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, Senior Advisor to President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage, and the Political Officer of the Chinese Embassy Luo Chong was also present on the occasion.

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