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SJB: Excise, FM officials all out to pocket Rs 1 bn

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By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday told Parliament that the Finance Ministry and Excise Department officials had misled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal in order to obtain billion rupees, fraudulently.

The officials had got a contract for printing stickers or barcodes to be displayed on bottles of liquor awarded to an Indian company.

“The project would result in one-billion-rupee loss to the government coffers annually,” the MP said, adding that the money being taken from the public purse would end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Pathirana said that the Excise Department had commenced a project to paste stickers on bottles of liquor to differentiate them from the fake and counterfeit bottles in the market.

“As per this project’s requirements, 32 million stickers would be needed per month. The stickers are to be purchased from Madras Security Printers company of India. This method was proposed in 2016 but it failed and the officials thereafter decided to introduce a barcode system.

“The cost of a sticker at 25 cents and the new barcode system will cost of two rupees a piece. This is a dubious deal. It seems that the Finance Ministry officials and the Excise Department heads have ganged up to give the contract to the Indian company and get commissions. There are many unanswered questions. First, the contract of printing the barcode too has been given to the MSP company, which could not secure the first contract. I want to know whether the proper procurement process has been followed. The second question is whether the barcodes would be up to the standards listed in the tender. Third question is who had selected the MSP company which is black-listed in India after being found guilty of frauds with Indian liquor companies in providing stickers to them. MSP has been blacklisted in many other countries. The company has been banned in Sudan and Liberia for supplying the stickers to private companies. The last question is whether this fraud is being committed with the knowledge of ministers of this government.”



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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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