by Zacki Jabbar
The UNP was a national party with sound policies and through the historic 19th Amendment to the Constitution strengthened democracy in the country, but was defeated in last week’s General Election, mainly because it had shun propogating racism as a means of capturing power, says senior UNPer and former Minister John Amaratunga.
Asked to analyse the UNP’s shocking electoral performance, Amaratunga said that the UNP did not deserve to be defeated in such a manner, considering the extent of work it had done whilst in government between 2015 and March this year, despite droughts, floods and the negative impact on the economy resulting from the April 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bomb explosions by the National Thowheed Jamaat, which had publicly enunciated its policies since 2005.
“Those who defected from the United National Party (UNP) to contest on the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) ticket, benefitted from the work, we as a UNP government led by Ranil Wickremesinghe did between 2015 and 2019, but the current UNP leadership was left with unfairly taking the blame for not preventing the Easter explosions, when the person who had the power to stop it, slept on the intelligence warnings received well in advance “, he noted, pointing out that the people had been provided substantial relief and public servants given a Rs.10,000 salary increase, despite having to repay the massive high interest commercial dollar loans that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had obtained between 2010 and 2014 – the majority of which were pumped into ego boosting projects that had turned out to be white elephants.
Amaratunga said that the UNP was a party that represented all races in the country and was identified with the birth of an Independent Sri Lanka. Such a grouping he stressed “cannot and will not unashamedly resort to racism to capture power”.
Asked about reports that among the 744,373 spoilt ballots at the General Election, was a sizeable number of UNP votes, due to UNPers being disappointed with the split in the party and not wanting to support either faction as a mark of protest, the seasoned politician said “Yes, that’s possible.”
Asked if the UNP would now opt for a new leader, Amaratunga said that Ranil Wickremesinghe was not keen on hanging on, but to desert the party at the present juncture would also not be advisable. “The future lies with the youth. So, the process of grooming them has to begin now. For that, the seniors have to remain at least in the short term “, he explained stressing that the UNP and the ” Elephant”, which rose majestically after the 1970 debacle to capture a five-sixth majority, would once again re-emerge as a strong force – as certain as the rising Sun in this transient world of politics.
Ameratunga hoped that the UNP and SJB would leave their insignificant differences aside and unite because their policies were similar and most importantly neither propagated racism as a means of capturing power.
Analysing the SJB’s electoral performance, he said it was cock-a-hoop, but in reality had helped the Podujana Peramuna obtain a two-thirds majority, which could have been prevented, if the SJB headed by Sajith Premadasa, had contested as a UNP-led alliance.
The veteran UNPer pointed out that the party winning the Presidential Election, had always gone on to win the Parliamentary polls that followed. “Sajith knew he cannot become the Prime Minister this time. So the next best thing he should have done was to ensure that the Rajapaksas did not get a majority that would enable them to reverse all the democratic gains achieved through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The SJB was meant to be a UNP – led alliance with Sajith as its Prime Ministerial candidate, but he made it his alliance and in the process divided the UNP.”
It was evident at the general election that political parties based on policies were overtaken by political movements, Amaratunga noted, warning that it could lead to an unstable political situation in the years to come.
COVID-19: Jaffna faces serious risk
Top medical man in North threatens lockdown
Five villages isolated in Ganewatta DS area
20% of IDH patients need oxygen
By Dinasena Ratugamage and Rathindra Kuruwita
Tough restrictions would have to be imposed in Jaffna if religious leaders did not help health authorities, Northern Province Director General of Health Services, Dr. A. Kethiswaran said yesterday. Jaffna was facing a serious risk of COVID-19, he said.
Dr. Kethiswaran said so during a meeting with religious leaders at his office. He said that a large number of devotees were seen at various places of religious worship during the festive period.
“None of these people follow health guidelines. It is impossible to control the virus because of this. At this rate we will have to impose travel restrictions in the Jaffna District. We need everyone’s support, if we are to avoid this fate.”
He then urged religious leaders to inform devotees of the dangers of the virus and not to gather at places of worship in large numbers.
Dr. Kethiswaran also said that a large number of policemen in Jaffna had contracted COVID-19. About 258 PCR tests had been carried out on Wednesday after it was found that 13 policemen attached to the Jaffna Police station were infected. Altogether 788 PCR tests were done in the Jaffna District on Wednesday, Dr. Kethiswaran said.
One hundred and forty eight new COVID-19 cases had been detected in several villages in the Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area, Divisional Secretary Niranjala Karunaratne said yesterday.
On Wednesday alone 733 PCR tests had been done there, she said, adding that about 175 individuals had tested positive for COVID-19 there.
Given these developments, Tittawelgala, Hunupola, Siradunna, Aluthgama and Hettigama Grama Niladari divisions at Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area have been isolated.
Travel restrictions were imposed on Kuliyapitiya Town, Thunmodara, Dhandagamuwa – West, Kanadulla and Pahala Weerambuwa as COVID-19 cases were increasing there.
PHI in charge of Divulapitiya said that 84 new COVID-19 cases had been reported from the area during the last 48 hours. However, no decision had been taken to impose travel restrictions in the area, PHI, S.A.U.T Kularatne said.
“Twenty-eight of these patients were among people who attended a sports event organised for the New Year in Aswennawatta Grama Niladari area. Forty-four people who went on a trip at Mellawagedara have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. If people are not careful, things might rapidly deteriorate,” he warned.
Deputy Director of IDH said that over 130 COVID-19 patients were undergoing treatment there although the hospital could accommodate only 120 patients.
All eight ICU beds at the IDH are occupied and 20% of the patients there need oxygen. The number of people admitted to hospital had increased after the Sinhala and Hindu New year, health ministry sources said.
Director General of Health Services – Western Province Dr. Dhammika Jayalath urged people to refrain from travelling to Colombo unless it was very urgent.
Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardane said that the coming three weeks would crucial.
Covid figures: Govt. accused of misleading the country
By Rathindra Kuruwita
The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) yesterday claimed that State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals, Prof. Channa Jayasumana was making statements on new strains of SARS-CoV-2 without any scientific proof.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Prof. Jayasumana said that there had been an increase in the spread of Covid virus in the country, especially among the young people and that was due to a new strain of the virus.
President of the CMLS, Ravi Kumudesh said: “The Minister claimed they were doing a research on this. As far as we know, neither the Ministry nor the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has done any research to identify this new strain. The Ministry of Health stopped identifying new variants a long time ago.”
The Ministry of Health could neither plan for new variants of COVID-19 nor determine what vaccine was effective as it simply didn’t have the equipment to identify new strains, Kumudesh said, adding that identifying COVID-19 variants across the country had been outsourced to the University of Sri Jayawardenepura.
“I have repeatedly said that the Health Ministry officials can’t make science and evidence-based decisions or statements on new strains. Institutions under the Health Ministry do not have the ability to identify new strains of the coronavirus; only the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has a gene sequencing machine. We said this was having a disastrous impact on the country’s pandemic response and here we are,.”
Kumudesh said that identifying various strains of COVID-19 was essential to respond to the pandemic as everything from PCR testing to selecting a vaccine, depended on that.
“There are a number of strains of the virus in the world now and we now know that the new variant that led to a lockdown in the UK is here. We have to be ready to identify what strains are coming.”
Kumudesh said that since the country had opened its airports people from various countries would arrive, carrying new strains. He added that there might also be a new strain that originated here without “our knowledge because we don’t do adequate gene sequencing.
“To identify new variants, we must sequence the genes of viruses detected through PCR testing. We need many gene sequencing machines because one cannot identify new strains through a PCR test. However, the Ministry of Health has not provided a single gene sequencing machine to labs under its purview.”
CEA accused of turning blind eye to cardamom cultivators raping Knuckles Forest
By Rathindra Kuruwita
A government decision to allow cardamom plantations inside the Knuckles Forest Reserve, which came under the Forest Conservation Department,it was already having a negative impact on the ecosystem, Sajeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR) said.
Chamikara said that Knuckles Forest Reserve was not only a unique ecosystem but also an important catchment area for rivers such as Mahaweli and Kalu.
“Illegal Cardamom planters had been operating in the forest area for many decades and there had been many attempts to get rid of them,” Chamikara said
About six years ago, there was an attempt to remove illegal Cardamom planters from the Knuckles Forest Reserve. When the Forest Conservation Department tried to remove these encroachers, based on a court order, several politicians and officials intervened on their behalf, the environmentalist said. Due to those interventions, illegal Cardamom planters could not be removed from the Knuckles Forest Reserve, he added.
“In many areas of the Dumbara mountain range, forest undergrowth has been cleared to make way for cardamom plantations. This has drastically increased soil erosion and the soil that is swept away by rains have been deposited in many reservoirs after being taken downstream to the Mahaweli Ganga. Moreover, many trees have been cut to use as firewood to dry cardamom. There are many structures used to dry the cardamom dotting the Knuckles mountain range and these activities cause significant damages to the ecosystem.”
Chamikara said it was illegal to cut trees, cultivate and clear land in a Conservation Forest. The offences carried jail terms or fines or both. Moreover, the court could estimate the damage done to the forest and make the guilty pay that amount. Under the law, even people who encouraged such violations could be prosecuted.
“The CEA has the power to act against those who carry out such illegal activities. According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without obtaining approval, the CEA can present such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both. Unfortunately the authorities concerned are turning a blind eye.”
COVID-19: Jaffna faces serious risk
An air of discontent prevails
7-billion-rupee diamond heist; Madush splls the beans before being shot
Unfit, unprofessional, fat Sri Lankans
The Burghers of Ceylon/Sri Lanka- Reminiscences and Anecdotes
Features6 days ago
Port City Bill Requires Referendum
news6 days ago
Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR
news3 days ago
Kanag-Isvaran PC fires opening salvo against Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill before SC
Features5 days ago
Dangerous and meticulous work copying Sigiriya frescoes in Bell era (1896)
Features5 days ago
Dudley Senanayake: some personal anecdotes
Life style5 days ago
Confessions of a global gypsy
Features4 days ago
Colombo port city economic commission bill 2021
Sports5 days ago
Sri Lanka back pace for Bangladesh Tests