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Sittings suspended for 10 minutes over uproar between govt. and Opposition



By Saman Indrajith

Parliament sittings were suspended on Thursday (08) for 10 minutes following an uproar over an argument between the government and the Opposition members over the debate on the Annual Report of the Central Bank, scheduled for yesterday.

The JVP and SJB MPs protested against what they called a government attempt to act in breach of an agreement reached at the party leaders’ meeting.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that it was he who had to move the House for a debate on the Annual Report of the Central Bank and charged that the government was now trying to open the debate in contravention of the agreement made by the party leaders. “I ask for a debate on behalf of the Opposition. I do not want someone else to open the debate. That was the agreement we reached at the party leaders’ meeting.”

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa:

I endorse MP Dissanayake’s position. At the party leaders’ meeting we agreed that he should open the debate. How come the govenrment is acting in contravention of that agreement? What is the purpose of holding party leaders’ meetings if the government acts on its own and works contrary to the agreements we made at those meetings. Is this democracy? I confirm what Dissanayake said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena:

We will take a decision in this regard at the next party leaders’ meeting.

However, Opposition Leader Premadasa rejected the suggestion stating that the debate was scheduled for Friday. Premadasa insisted that Anura Kumara Dissanayake should open the debate and demanded that agreements reached at the party leaders’ meeting be honoured.

“Do not undermine the party leaders’ meeting. It is not good for you as the Speaker either. If you act in contravention of the party leaders’ meeting agreements, then there is a ground to think that you are being controlled by an outside force. The Speaker should not be a puppet,” the Opposition Leader said.

Leader of the House Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that during the party leaders’ meeting Anura Kumara Dissanayake had asked for a debate on the Central Bank report and the government had agreed to allocate a date this month. The report was debated every year and that this year’s debate should follow the same format.

Opposition Leader Premadasa, however, claimed that Gunawardena was lying.

At this point, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga alleged that the Opposition Leader had become a puppet of the JVP leader and he had no right to call the Speaker a puppet.

Both the Opposition and government members started shouting and levelling accusations against each other.

Opposition Leader Premadasa:

There may have been Opposition leaders who were puppets. But I am not ready to be a puppet of anyone. Minister Prasanna Ranatunga is speaking of himself when he talks about puppets.

The Speaker:

There is a mistake here.

Jaffna District TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran:

Anura Kumara Dissanayake asked for this debate. Therefore, he should be given the chance to open the debate. That was the agreement reached at the party leaders’ meeting.

Anura Kumara Dissanayake:

The Speaker should act according to his conscience. The tradition is that the government tables the annual report of the Central Bank and the Opposition asks for the debate. That is the tradition.

Speaker Abeywardena:

There is some confusion here. We can hold a party leaders’ meeting at lunch time and discuss the matter there.

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando:

We are ready for the debate. We have no problem with who opens the debate.

(Government MPs shout at Opposition MPs)

The Speaker suspended the sittings for 10 minutes for a party leaders’ meeting.

At the party leaders’ meeting held with the Speaker presiding it was decided not to hold the Adjournment Debate on the Annual Report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka for the year 2020 yesterday (9).

It had been decided to hold the debate in the first week of August, said Parliament Secretary General Dhammika Dasanayake.

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Hemas collect discarded carbon pens, toothbrushes from schools



By ifham Nizam

Hemas Holdings PLC and the Environment Ministry yesterday came together to provide schools with containers to collect used plastic items such as ballpoint pens and toothbrushes. Hemas Holdings PLC, will supply the containers until April 2022.

The agreement was signed by Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and Hemas Holdings PLC CEO Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson, Executive Director Shiromi Masakorala, Senior Manager Ishani Ranasinghe and Manager Mindika Tillekeratne were also present on the occasion.

Minister Amaraweera said it took 400-500 years for used ballpoint pens and tooth brushes to decompose. Amaraweera instructed officials not to spend any government money on the scheme.

The government school system alone discarded between 80-100 kilograms of used ballpoint pens a day. As with other public and private institutions, there was no accurate information on the ballpoint pens used and discarded by individuals, the Minister added. The Minister said that it had been estimated that at least one million toothbrushes were discarded daily.

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AZ vaccine delay baffles over 500,000 awaiting second shot 



DGHS to be summoned by HRCSL  


By Shamindra Ferdinando 

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has decided to summon the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena for failure to address HRCSL’s concerns pertaining to the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination programme. 

Dr. Jagath Balasuriya, Chairman, HRCSL, on May 28, in writing, requested Dr. Gunawardena to submit a comprehensive report on the vaccination programme by, or before, June 15. 

A senior spokesperson for the HRCSL yesterday (27) told The Island that Dr. Gunawardena would be summoned as the request made in terms of Human Rights Act of Sri Lanka Act No 21 of 1996 was not adhered to. 

The HRCSL consists of Dr. Jagath Balasuriya, Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara, Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan and H.K. Navaratne Weraduwa. 

DGHS is the senior officer in charge of Covid-19 inoculation drive. 

In HRCSL letter dated May 28 addressed to Dr. Gunawardena, one-time lawmaker Dr. Balasuriya said that clarification was sought after receiving representations as regarding the inoculation drive. 

Dr. Gunawardena didn’t answer his phone for us to clarify the issue at hand. 

Meanwhile, controversy surrounds the decision to suspend giving Pfizer as the second jab to those who had received Covishield (AstraZeneca). According to the health ministry, 2,171 Covishield recipients were given Pfizer on July 7 and further inoculation was suspended abruptly on July 8 claiming that sufficient stock of AstraZeneca would be available in the third week of July. The announcement was made by Deputy Director General Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath who declared the immediate suspension of Pfizer vaccines for recipients, who had got Covishield as their first dose. 

The Island yesterday sought an explanation from Dr. Herath as regards the inordinate delay in inoculation of those awaiting the second AstraZeneca jab. Dr. Herath said that administration of Pfizer was stopped on July 8 after the Health Ministry received an assurance from the WHO that 1.4 mn AztraZeneca stock would be available in the third week. Dr. Herath emphasized that if not for that assurance, the government wouldn’t have stopped using Pfizer. “Now, we are hopefully awaiting the delivery of the promised stock under Covax facility.” 

Dr. Herath said that the Health Ministry was in touch with the WHO in that regard. The Health Ministry spokesperson was responding to The Island query whether the issue at hand was taken up with the Japanese embassy.

The Japanese embassy in Colombo on July 13 announced that Japan would provide approximately 1.45 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured in Japan to Sri Lanka through the COVAX facility to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. The embassy said that the vaccines were expected to be delivered during the coming weeks.  

Dr. Herath acknowledged that the sudden stopping of the well planned programme to vaccinate those who had received Covishield with Pfizer as the second dose somewhat derailed the operation. 

Responding to another query, Dr. Herath said that so far Sri Lanka had received 264,000 doses under the Covax project though the initial estimates indicated 4.5 mn doses in a quarter once the operation got underway.  

Dr. Herath emphasized that on the part of the health ministry and the government there was absolutely no effort to deceive those who received Covishield as first doze. Over 500,000 of those who had got Covishield first jab remained to be inoculated with the second AstraZeneca jab, Dr. Herath said, asserting that Sri Lanka was blessed with a functioning system to carry out the challenging task. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the required supply of doses of Covishield as pledged by the WHO Dr. Herath said, assuring they would do whatever possible to inoculate those who had been deprived of Covishield second dose. 

Dr. Herath explained that disruption of the Covishield supply chain caused a major crisis here. The health ministry spokesman asserted that the unexplained long delay caused uncertainty and in a way undermined public confidence in the health sector.

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North and East to benefit from 1.6 mn Sinopharm doses donated by China



President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with Chinese Ambassador in Colombo Qi Zhenhong (pic courtesy PMD)

China has donated another consignment of 1.6 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to Sri Lanka to fight the pandemic. Two SriLankan flights, UL869 and UL865, carrying the vaccine arrived at the Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport at 5.30 a.m., yesterday (27).

Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong officially handed over the vaccines to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat, yesterday (27).

In addition to these vaccines, a stock of syringes has also been donated. The vaccines were handed over to the Ministry of Health to be given to people over the age of 30 years in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. 72% of the vaccines used in the vaccination process in Sri Lanka is Sinopharm.

President Rajapaksa said that he highly appreciated the support provided by the Chinese Government for the control of COVID – 19 by donating 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines on March 31, 500,000 on May 26 and 1.6 million doses yesterday.

The President pointed out that by the end of August, all those over the age of 30 would be vaccinated and the tourism industry would be able to commence from September. “Therefore, the Chinese people are invited to visit Sri Lanka again”, the President said.

Ministers Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Douglas Devananda, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, Senior Advisor to President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage, and the Political Officer of the Chinese Embassy Luo Chong was also present on the occasion.

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