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SJB irked by football tournament held in contravention of Covid-19 guidelines

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Mujibur Rahuman says the Director General Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena owed an explanation as to how Football Sri Lanka (FSL) recently conducted the inaugural quadrangular invitation soccer tournament, at the Race Course grounds with the participation of over 2,000 spectators, in violation of Covid-19 guidelines.

Colombo District MP Rahuman asked whether the DGHS felt that mega events, organised by the government, wouldn’t pose a threat, though the Opposition was repeatedly advised against public gatherings. Congratulating the Seychelles team for winning the four-nation tournament, 3 to 1, in penalties, lawmaker Rahuman quoted Dr. Gunawardena as having told him when inquired that his Office was not asked for permission nor informed of the tournament.

MP Rahuman said: “We understand the DGHS’s dilemma as Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attended the final along with Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa. If the Health Ministry is unable to properly implement guidelines, it should stop blaming the public for irresponsible conduct.”

MP Rahuman said that it would be interesting to see whether spectators would be allowed at the Sri Lanka vs West Indies cricket matches. Did FSL receive special status due to the direct involvement of Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa in this endeavor, MP Rahuman asked.

Responding to another query, MP Rahuman pointed out the recent unveiling of Sandahiru Seya built to invoke blessings on the armed forces, that took place amidst a large gathering in Anuradhapura.

The top SJB spokesperson said that the much touted ‘One Country, One Law’ concept was nothing but a joke when the government flouted its own guidelines. The MP alleged that after the unveiling of Sanda Hiru Seya, several hundred persons were invited to the President’s House, Anuradhapura for Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa’s birthday celebration.

MP Rahuman emphasized that there couldn’t be a different set of guidelines for the SLPP and another for the rest of the country. The former UNP said that police headquarters issued daily statements of preventive measures taken by law enforcement authorities to curb the epidemic. However, the police provided security to the inaugural quadrangular invitation soccer tournament and facilitated the gathering of VIPs.

The Covid-19 Task Force, too, should look into this matter, the MP said, urging the government to set an example. Asked whether the SJB protests undermined current health guidelines, MP Rahuman said that the SLPP could not exploit the epidemic to suppress political dissent. The government and the Opposition could agree on a moratorium on major public activity, the MP said, alleging that the SLPP seemed only interested in curbing the Opposition whereas it continued with public events.

Health authorities have repeatedly warned of a fresh outbreak of the epidemic unless the people followed health guidelines. They point out that the daily average of about 500-600 new cases indicate a possible major threat.

MP Rahuman said that recently State Minister Dr. Jayasumana declared that the December could be quite dangerous against the backdrop of expert reports that weakening of efficiency of some of the vaccines administered here.

MP Rahuman said that those above 60 received a booster dose as all realized Covid-19 posed. The MP said that the government also considered making vaccination mandatory for all those entering public places. If the government was aware of the danger of another wave, it shouldn’t have allowed gathering of crowds at the Race Course for soccer matches, MP Rahuman said.

The SJB MP recalled how the government ordered inoculation of a selected group of Hambantota voters (20-30 years) with Pfizer much to the dismay of youth in other districts. The government went ahead with its plans regardless of GMOA’s opposition, the MP said.



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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine

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Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today

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by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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