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Ranawaka wants country’s defence strategy focused on Navy

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By Samna Indrajith

SJB Colombo District MP Patali Champika Ranawaka said, on Thursday, that Sri Lanka’s defence strategy should have its focus on developing the Navy.

Participating in the third reading debate on Budget 2021 under the expenditure heads of ministries of Defence and Public Security, MP Ranawaka said that countries with a bigger landmass prepared their defence strategies focussed on ground forces, while smaller countries such as Britain and the Netherlands concentrated more on their naval power. “Sri Lanka with a sea area 23 times larger than its landmass too should think on the same lines. The United Nations is going to announce the exclusive sea zone belonging to Sri Lanka in the future. Therefore, I propose that our defence strategy, too, should be prepared giving more weight to the Navy.

“We must not forget how the LTTE could make use of our foreign policy that was changed under the JR Jayewardene government to become a pro-American country during the times when Russia and the US were in a power struggle. Again a similar situation is cropping up. We recently saw the QUAD security arrangement. A new strategic alliance by the name of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue was formed by the United States,  Japan,  Australia  and India. This is against the Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean. It has been dubbed the Asian NATO. If we are going to take sides in this struggle of a new cold war our security and economy will be in danger. We should therefore maintain a non-aligned policy. I think that all our governments should follow Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike government’s policy of keeping Indian Ocean a peace zone.

At the time of the end of the war, our Navy gained international attention by maintaining a reliable sea supply route. It maintained those supplies amidst Sea Tiger attacks. The Navy could convert that fame into a successful revenue earning venture but it was handed over to a private businessman in 2012. He pocketed over Rs. 12,000 million. When we came to power we got it transferred to the navy. We hope that the fame the Navy won by dedicative service would not be allowed to be exploited by businessmen again. Today, the Somalia pirate problem is not that strong but our naval force still could become the strongest Navy in providing security services in this region.

“Today, technology plays a pivotal role in defence affairs the world over. Recently, the leading nuclear expert of Iran was assassinated. Prior to that Qasem Soleimani, leader of Iranian Quds Force was assassinated. Both assassinations were not carried out by persons but automatic electronic devices. The defence forces must get ready to be aware of digital technology and latest innovations of cyber warfare. But in our country if our authorities get hold of such technology it would be used to hunt opposition politicians and to listen to their telephone conversations,.”

Ranawaka said that the head of State and Chief Executive holding the defence portfolio was better for the national interest and it was a positive sign that confusion caused by the President not holding those portfolios had been put to an end.

 

 

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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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