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Rajitha tells Govt. ‘we told you so’

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB Kalutara District MP Dr Rajitha Senaratne told Parliament yesterday that if the government had heeded the calls from the Opposition to take timely action against the COVID-19 outbreak, the country would have been safe.

 Participating in the debate on the pandemic at the time of the adjournment of the House, Dr Senaratne said that COVID-19 was not just a local problem but one of the

greatest crises that had befallen on the entire human civilisation.

“Yesterday, alone 2,297 suspected cases were traced and out of them 167 tested positive. Sixty had left the hospital after recovery and 2404 remained hospitalized. “There are 27 centres treating and there are 2,077 beds in hospitals to treat them. There are 186 beds remaining to treat them. This includes the beds in the Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital, of which 400 beds are used today. When the hospital was taken over under my purview, I was blamed.

The Government Medical Officers’ Association criticised me for taking it over. If that hospital is not there what would have been the result?

“At the outbreak of the pandemic we asked the government to close down the airports. We asked the government to go for a lockdown on March 20. Our calls were not heeded.

“Thereafter, they had to do as we told them. But it was late then. Although it has been stated that we are better than most other countries, as per the international reports we are not on the list of top 40 safe countries. There are variations of COVID-19. The ‘A’ version has been found in Sri Lanka, Australia and the US etc. China had the B version while the C version was found in Europe.

“The advantage that we have is that we are a tropical country where the humidity and temperature work against the virus.  That should be capitalised on to fight against the virus,” former Health Minister said. 



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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving

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Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest

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By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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