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Ramanathan denies Devananda’s accusations, warns infighting within govt. may be exploited by enemies

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Jaffna District Development Council co-chairperson Angajan Ramanathan yesterday (10) denied accusations regarding his coordinating officers threatening the Jaffna-based public servants. Northern Province Governor Sarojini Manmatharajah Charles is the other co-chairperson of the Jaffna DDC.

SLFP MP Ramanathan, who is also the Deputy Chairman of Committees, emphasised that he had never resorted to threats.

SLFP MP Ramanathan said so when The Island sought an explanation regarding fellow Jaffna District lawmaker and Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda accusations directed at his coordinating officers.

Nelson Edirisinghe, Media Secretary to Minister Devananda in a statement issued on Tuesday (9) quoted EPDP leader Devananda as having said that public servants should properly discharge their responsibilities. Public servants shouldn’t give into dictates of politicians’ associates, Minister Devananda said, adding that public servants appreciated the stand taken by him.

Alleging that Jaffna District Development Council co-chairperson’s coordinating officers had threatened public servants on several occasions, Minister Devananda said that such conduct wouldn’t be tolerated. Demanding an immediate end to such practices, Minister Devananda assured those who took correct decisions would be protected.

The Fisheries Ministry statement also claimed that several Tamil lawmakers representing the Northern Province, including M.A. Sumanthiran, called for Devananda’s participation in Jaffna DDC proceedings.

Minister Devananda is the co-chairperson of the Kilinochchi DDC with Charles being the other, in her capacity as the Northern Province Governor.

Pointing out that EPDP leader Devananda had accused him of routinely bullying public servants; The Island asked lawmaker Ramanathan whether he accepted responsibility for the conduct of his coordinating officers. The Deputy Chairman of Committees said that the issue at hand was political. “Both of us represent the government though we entered Parliament from two different parties. We represent the Jaffna electoral district in spite of being co-chairpersons of Jaffna and Kilinochchi DDCs because the Jaffna electoral district consists of two administrative districts,” MP Ramanathan said.

Ramanathan first entered Parliament in 2015 when the UPFA accommodated him on its National List. Ramanathan successfully contested the Jaffna district on the SLFP ticket at the last general election in August 2020. He is the only SLFP MP in Parliament whereas the SLFP contested on the SLPP ticket and won 13 other seats.

The EPDP won two seats at the last general election.

Responding to another query, MP Ramanathan said that recently Minister Devananda wanted to organize an event for Samurdhi recipients in the Jaffna district. As Minister Devananda represented Kilinochchi DDC, he sought Jaffna DDC approval to conduct a programme in the Jaffna district, MP Ramanathan said.

Subsequently, Minister Devananda held his event at Nallur, the SLFPer said, alleging when he sought Kilinochchi DDC’s permission to conduct a similar event there he wasn’t permitted to do so.

Lawmaker Ramanathan said that a dispute between government members would be exploited by rival political parties. The last general election changed the political environment in the northern and eastern provinces, MP Ramanathan said, underscoring the pivotal importance in the government taking advantage of the ground situation to improve living standards of the people. “Unfortunately, various interested parties are causing unnecessary issues,” MP Ramanathan said.

The SLFP MP said that the country would have to do away with destructive communal politics. The significant national level victories achieved by the SLPP at the 2019 and 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections, respectively, should be strong platform for the government to go ahead with a countrywide development drive. Although the second Covid-19 eruption caused quite a disruption, the government could achieve a lot if petty party politics were discarded.

If those who had secured power at the 2013 Northern Provincial Council polls pursued a result-oriented strategy instead of playing politics, the Northern Province could have gained a lot, MP Ramanathan said. They squandered an opportunity to develop the Northern and Eastern Provinces in the wake of the end of the war in 2009, the MP said, urging all political parties to review their strategies.



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Govt. urged to increase nursing cadre to tackle national health crisis

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Coordinator, Training (Nursing) Pushpa Ramyani de Soysa says that against the backdrop of alarming increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases, the government needs to act swiftly and decisively to strengthen the nursing staff or face the consequences.

The top nurse insists a moment cannot be wasted as the ongoing epidemic threatens to overwhelm the entire country. The nurses’ spokesperson attached to the Accident Ward of the National Hospital, Colombo, delivered the dire warning in a live interview with Dasun Wasantha on the state-run ITN yesterday (14)

The outspoken official said that at the time Covid-19 erupted in 2020, the nursing staff consisted of approximately 38,000 representing all grades. At that time, the country experienced a staggering 50 per cent dearth of trained nursing staff, de Soysa said, urging those responsible as well as the public of the urgent need to strengthen the nursing staff.

She explained how the nursing staff worked under unbearable pressure as the entire medical staff backed by the military and the police struggled to cope up with the relentless Covid-19 onslaught.

Responding to the interviewer on live ‘Hathweni Paya’ , de Soysa said that as an immediate interim measure, those who had retired in the past few years could be brought back to lessen the pressure on the staff. When The Island sought further clarification from the National

Coordinator, the nursing veteran emphasized the Covid-19 challenge had to be tackled, in addition to the regular workload. A further deterioration of the situation could cause a catastrophe, she told The Island.

The National Coordinator told the ITN as nurses couldn’t be trained overnight the way required beds and other equipment could be supplied to hospitals, hence the urgent need to bring back the retired without further delay. She repeatedly stressed the responsibility on the part of the administration whoever in power to increase the nursing staff to meet the country’s growing requirement. Acknowledging the services rendered by the health services at an extremely difficult period, nurse de Soysa underscored the critical role played by the nursing staff in the overall effort against the epidemic.

Soysa highlighted what she called a coordinating role played by the nursing staff in the treatment of persons afflicted by Covid-19 or some other illness. In the absence of sufficient number of nurses, personnel had been re-allocated, de Soysa said, pointing out that due to Covid-19 explosion patients were being accommodated at hospitals.

Commenting on challenges faced by the nursing profession, de Soysa recalled the sacrifices made during the 30-year-war that was brought to a successful conclusion in May 2009. “Regardless of d immense difficulties, the nursing staff fulfilled their responsibilities during the conflict. We’ll do the same now,” de Soysa said, pointing out as many as 270 nurses had been tested Covid-19 positive, in addition to thousands quarantined.

The National Coordinator complained about the dearth of some critically important data relevant to the Covid-19 situation needed for evaluation purposes. Timely decisions couldn’t be taken for want of updated data at global and local level, she said.

She also discussed difficulties caused by some of those seeking treatment at hospitals not being aware of their condition, hence the need to be vigilant. However, sometimes, nursing staff served without taking into consideration the grave risks them faced. A grave looking de Soysa told the ITN interviewer they couldn’t follow health guidelines. “We cannot keep one meter distance in hospitals,” de Soysa said.

Nurse de Soysa said that she received both doses of covishields vaccine as key part of overall measures in place for the protection of the medical staff.

Without referring to any political party, de Soysa explained how the political administration over the years treated the nursing staff as slaves. Government treated nursing staff as dirt, de Soysa said, recalling with gratitude how Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda thera spearheaded a campaign that paved the way for significant improvement in the nursing service. The National Coordinator said that before the Ven. Thera’s intervention, they were assigned intolerable tasks regardless of their complains.

Responding to another ITN query, de Soysa said that successive governments hadn’t responded to their call for enhancement of the nursing service with the introduction of a system to produce qualified nurses who specializes in selected fields. Although action had been taken , the entire process was proceeding at snail pace, she alleged.

The National Instructor made reference to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 2019 presidential election manifesto that also dealt with the issue at hand. The top nurse didn’t mince her words when she pointed out that the required improvements weren’t introduced as expected, hence the need to move now.

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Coronavirus spreading fast in North

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

COVID-19 is spreading across a number of areas in the Northern province at a rapid pace, according to THE provincial health officials.

Five members of the same family in Kattakadu, Kilinochchi have contracted COVID-19 and been sent to Krishnapuram Treatment centre.

One family member is a university student, who stayed in Colombo. He returned home recently and several family members started developing Covid-19 symptoms a few days later. Health officials conducted PCR tests and found that all five family members had contracted the virus. Six other neighbouring families have been placed under quarantine.

Meanwhile, 43-year-old man was arrested by Kilinochchi Police for hoarding alcohol to be sold, at a higher price, during the current lockdown. The suspect is a resident of Kalmadukulam, Dharmapuram. He is to be produced before the Kilinochchi Magistrate’s Court.

However, most towns in the North had been deserted yesterday due to the lockdown.

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Navy nets 30 illegal migrants

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More than 30 persons were apprehended by the Sri Lanka Navy and Coast Guard in Samindugama on Thursday and Friday while they were preparing to migrate to a foreign country by boat illegally.

The owner of the house where the suspects had stayed was also arrested, together with15 others involved in human smuggling.

The suspects, residents of Jaffna, Batticaloa, Mullaitivu and Puttalam areas, were handed over to the Chilaw Police.

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