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Recommendation to deprive sitting and former MPs of civic rights: Gevindu strikes discordant note

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… receives backing of Sabry, Wimal

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga has strongly opposed an alleged move to deprive lawmakers of civic rights on the basis of recommendation made by a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into political victimization.

Political sources said that lawmaker Cumaratunga emphasised the government shouldn’t resort to such a course of action at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees early this week.  Sources said that the leader of the civil society group Yuthukama Cumaratunga pointed out that parliamentary power shouldn’t be used to deprive Opposition members of civic rights.

The MP recalled how the UNP admitted that deprival of SLFP leader Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of her civic rights was wrong.

The Chairman of the Committee, retired Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne presented the report to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat on Dec 8, 2020. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a three-member Presidential Commission of Inquiry on January 20, 2020 to determine whether politicians and public servants implicated by the Abeyratne Commission should lose their civic rights.

Cumaratunga has explained that the denial of civic rights of Opposition members was detrimental to the government. Sources said that when Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa inquired from President’s Counsel Justice Minister Ali Sabry’s views on the matter, he, too, said that members shouldn’t be denied civic rights on the basis of the committee report.

Sources said that the National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, too, opposed the move. Sources said that MP Cumaratunga requested the government parliamentary group to assure the parliament on Thursday (22) that members wouldn’t be denied their civic rights regardless of the recommendation.

However, MP Cumaratunga’s stand hadn’t received the backing of the vast majority of the SLPP grouping, sources said, adding that MP Cumaratunga was left sort of isolated with the party pursuing the matter.

Having received Abeyratne’s report, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on January 31, appointed a Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry to determine whether politicians and public servants implicated by his Political Victimization Commission should lose their civic rights. The commission consists of Supreme Court Justice Dhammika Samarakoon, SC Justice Kumuduni Wickremasinghe and Court of Appeal Judge Ratnapriya Gurusinghe.

The Justice Abeyratne Commission has recommended that the following be deprived of civic rights: Rajitha Senaratne, Patali Champika Ranawaka, R. Sampanthan, M.A. Sumanthiran, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Mangala Samaraweera, Ravi Karunanayake, Ajith P Perera, Arjuna Ranatunga, Ranjan Ramanayake, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sarath Fonseka, Rauff Hakeem and Malik Samarawickrema. Some of them are no longer in parliament.

In addition to them, the Abeyratne Commission recommended the following too be denied civic rights: J.C. Weliamuna – PC, ex-MP Jayampathi Wickremaratne, PC, Wasantha Navaratne Bandara, PC, Thusith Mudalige – Additional Solicitor General, AG’s Department, Upul Jayasuriya, PC, Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe – PC, former Solicitor General, Janaka Bandara – Senior State Counsel AG’s Department, Shani Abeysekera – SSP, Former CID Director, B.S. Tissera – ASP, Former CID, Ravi Waidyalankara – SDIG FCID, Nishantha Silva – IP, Former CID OIC, Ravi Seneviratne – SDIG, formerly of CID, Ravindra Wijeguneratne – Admiral, Former Navy Commander, J.J. Ranasinghe – Rear Admiral SLN, Prasad Kariyawasam, Ravinatha Aryasinha, Saman Ekanayake, S.A. Khan – Former Ambassador to the UAE and C.A.H.M. Wijeratne – Former Director General Legal, MFA and Ambassador for Sri Lanka to Poland.

Some of them, including Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka in early March moved court against the recommendations of the commission appointed to probe the alleged incidents of political victimisation.

SJB lawmaker Mujibur Rahman told The Island that the government struggling to cope up with growing political crisis and dissent within its parliamentary group seemed to be bent on silencing the Opposition. Pointing out that in spite of having an overwhelming majority in parliament, the SLPP was in the back foot, MP Rahman opined that the Commission on political victimisation was nothing but a fiasco that certainly eroded the confidence the public had in the SLPP as was shown in 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary elections, both of which it won overwhelmingly.



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Facilities for infected pregnant women inadequate – SLCOG

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The distribution and availability of high-flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant women were not adequate, President of the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (SLCOG,) Dr. Pradeep de Silva said yesterday.

Dr. de Silva said that while they had not yet faced any lack of oxygen in treating Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers, things could change rapidly given the limited availability of equipment. “Having an adequate supply of oxygen alone is not enough. You need high flow oxygen machines, and 50 litres of oxygen per minute is needed to operate a high flow oxygen machine. I do not know how many machines we have in this country but where I work, Castle Street Maternity Hospital has about four. We need to estimate the number of these machines we require and how much oxygen we want. From my understanding, the distribution and availability of high flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers is not adequate.”

Dr de Silva said that Sri Lanka needed about 50–200 high-dependency unit (HDU) beds per district, based on the population, 10–50 high flow oxygen machines per district, four for ten ICU beds and two dedicated Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machines.

“If we get this, we will be able to deal with pregnant women who develop complications from COVID-19 for the next four to five years,” he said.

Dr de Silva said that currently one pregnant woman who has been infected with COVID-19 is receiving ECMO treatment. There is also a shortage of beds at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, which has the largest ward dedicated to COVID-19 infected pregnant women. On Thursday, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Dr Mayuramana Dewolage, who heads the ward that treats COVID-19 infected pregnant women at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, said that they only had 37 beds were dedicated to pregnant women with COVID-19. They didn’t have any HDU or ICU beds dedicated for their use, he said.

“We share HDU and ICU beds with other patients at Mulleriyawa Base Hospital,” Dr Dewolage said.

The President of the SLCOG also urged all hospitals to find a separate space for pregnant women who were receiving treatment at their institutions. When COVID-19 pandemic started, the Health Ministry instructed all hospitals to do so but it was now obvious that those instructions had not been followed, he said.

“When the second wave started people got ready but later, they just stopped getting ready and now we are unprepared to meet the challenges of the third wave. We need to find a way to manage this. If the Ministry of Health has not prepared a plan, we are ready to help formulate one,” the President of the SLCOG said.

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Those who had AstraZeneca first jab, should take Sputnik V with adenovirus 26 – Specialist

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

If those who have taken the first dose of AstraZeneca are to receive a second jab of Sputnik V, they should take the first Sputnik V vaccine with adenovirus 26 (Ad26), Consultant Immunologist and head of the department of Immunology-MRI, Dr Nihan Rajiva de Silva says.

Dr. de Silva said that the first dose of Sputnik had Ad 26 and the second had adenovirus-5. “Adenovirus-5 is common. We may have been exposed to that and we may have developed antibodies. Adenovirus-26 is rarer and we will better respond to that. That is why the vaccine-maker has used adenovirus-26 in the first vaccine. So, if you had a first jab of AstraZeneca and you are to get the second dose from Sputnik-V remember to get the first jab,” Dr. de Silva said.

He added that any vaccine has the chance of reducing the severity of the virus and that the general public should get vaccinated when the opportunity is available.

Dr. de Silva said that there was a shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines because the Serum Institute of India could not deliver shipments as promised.

“However, we are now getting Sputnik V vaccines and we are looking at mixing them. There is a study in Russia about the efficiency of mixing Sputnik V with AstraZeneca and the results should be out soon. I can say that theoretically mixing the two vaccines should work,” he said.

Dr. de Silva added that the AstraZeneca vaccine should work against the new variant spreading in the country.

Consultant Cardiologist at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Dr. Gotabaya Ranasinghe said that those with heart issues, non-communicable diseases and were obese must get vaccinated to minimise the complications of Covid-19.

Dr. Ranasinghe said that those in the above-mentioned categories were at risk of contracting, getting complications and dying of COVID-19 and research had proven that vaccination would reduce the chance of such eventualities.

“If you worry about getting vaccinated, talk to your doctor. Don’t seek advice from friends and family,” he said.

Dr. Ranasinghe added that they had limited the number of heart surgeries they do due to COVID-19. ICU beds used for heart patients too were being now allocated for COVID-19 patients. “We only do the most pressing cases. But this means that the waiting list keeps on growing. Now, the waiting list is over eight months. If we limit the surgeries more and keep taking away ICU beds available for those who have had heart surgeries, the waiting list will grow further,” he said.

The Consultant Cardiologist also advised the public to eat healthy food and engage in moderate exercises, at least five days a week. This will reduce the mental stress as well as boost the immune system. ‘We recommend moderate exercises like jogging and brisk walking, for 30 minutes, five days a week. Being healthy is as important as wearing masks or adhering to physical distancing,” he said.

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STF raids narcotics distribution centre close to Bloemendhal police station

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Acting on information received from the Organised Crime Fighting Unit of the elite Special Task Force (STF), police commandos, on Thursday (6), arrested a person running a narcotic distributing network, 1.5 km away from the Bloemendhal police station.

The STF identified the suspect as Thawasidevan Pradeep Kumar, 21, a key associate of one Suresh with links to a criminal outfit run by Kimbulaele Guna, now absconding in India.

DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that the raiding party had recovered 2 kg, 22 g and 88mg of ‘ICE,’ with a street value of Rs 25 mn in addition to 4kg, 2 g and 527 mg of substance known as ‘hash,’ as well as Rs 400,000 in cash and a mobile phone.

Kimbulaele Guna is believed to have sought refuge following an LTTE attempt to assassinate President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at the final PA presidential election rally at the Town Hall in December 1999.

DIG Rohana said that Guna’s brother Suresh was a major heroin distributor in Colombo. The STF later handed over the suspect, along with contraband and locally made ‘hash,’ and his phone to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB). The raid on the heroin distribution centre situated in Aluth Mawatha, Colombo 15, followed specific information received as regards the ‘operation’ conducted with impunity (SF)

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