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SJB: Situation wouldn’t have deteriorated if govt. had acted six weeks earlier

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‘PM ruled out lockdowns in talks with Chinese Defence Minister’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) parliamentarian Mujibur Rahman yesterday (13) alleged that the country was paying a huge price for the government’s refusal to heed medical experts’ advice to impose stringent measures to curb movements.

Had the government acted at least six weeks ago, the ground situation wouldn’t have deteriorated to such an extent, the Colombo District MP told The Island.

Wednesday’s sudden declaration that countrywide travel restrictions would be imposed on Thursday (13), at 11 pm till Monday (17) 4 am pending further measures depending on the requirement revealed the crisis the country was facing, the MP said.

Lawmaker Rahman pointed out that no less a person than Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as late as April 28 assured the visiting Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe that in spite of the increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, the government wouldn’t declare countrywide lockdowns due to the impact such lockdowns would have on the economy and society.

Rahman said that the Premier Rajapaksa’s assurance to Minister Fenghe couldn’t be taken lightly.

Responding to another query from The Island , lawmaker Rahman alleged that the government pursued a political agenda brazenly at the expense of overall safety and security of the people. The government obviously felt the need to act at last after the country reported over 2000 new cases on a daily basis over the past ten days with alarming increase in the number of deaths.

Referring to a spate of statements issued by the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) over the past couple of months, the former UNPer said that the crisis the country was experiencing could have been certainly avoided, if the powers that be acted responsibly. Instead, the government undermined Covid-19 health guidelines by encouraging public gatherings, MP Rahman said. The MP said that the April Covid-19 cluster was nothing but a creation of the SLPP government now blaming the public for the crisis.

Rahman said that though the government referred to a countrywide lockdown it was actually a curfew. Asked whether the SJB as the main Opposition party that backed such measures regardless of difficulties caused to the public, the Colombo District MP said that when it came to the country’s interest there couldn’t be a dispute over the required harsher strategy. However, arrogant SLPP leadership should learn, at least now to seek a national consensus on not only a strategy to meet both the daunting Covid-19 challenge as well as post-pandemic scenario.

The national economy that had been in severe difficulty due to waste, corruption, irregularities, mismanagement and shortcomings was now in such a critical situation due to Covid-19 fallout, the country needed a common agenda, MP Rahman said. Unfortunately, the SLPP, had never followed expert advice much to the discomfort of those who believed in a sensible approach, he said. Asked to comment on a shortfall of 600,000 covishield doses for those who needed the second jab, MP Rahman emphasized the government owed an explanation why 927,000 were given the first dose when the country received only 1,264,000 in three separate consignments from India.

Who decided to continue the first covishield round till April 6th, thereby created a wholly unnecessary problem? MP Rahman asked.

The SJB spokesperson said that the government struggled to cover up its failure. Referring to various statements attributed to different government spokespersons and those who serve the interests of the SLPP, in this regard, MP Rahman said the bottom line is that uncertainty gripped over 600,000 people.

MP Rahman appreciated GMOA and GMOF (Government Medical Officers’ Forum) quite rightly pointing out those who received covishield couldn’t receive second jab by way of Sputnik V or the Chinese vaccine in the absence of proper study into such ‘mix-match’. But, that didn’t prevent Co Cabinet spokesman Udaya Gammanpila declaring the possibility of vaccine ‘mix-match.’

Rahman reminded that the second jab would have to be administered between 12-16 weeks after the first. The SJB MP asked the government to issue an official statement in that regard without further delay.

The UNPer said that the SLPP, in spite of winning 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary elections with a commanding majority in parliament was struggling to cope up with a spate of issues. The crisis caused due to the mismanagement of the rampaging pandemic was one issue at hand but definitely not the only problem, the MP said.

Asked whether the SJB was trying to exploit the situation regardless of the consequences, Rahman said that the SLPP should accept the responsibility for the situation.

Having won two national elections, the SLPP, instead of seeking a consensus on a national agenda, enacted the 20th Amendment at the expense of the 19th brought in with the backing of over 200 lawmakers, MP Rahman said. Enactment of a new law meant to suppress democratic opposition through vile means and fighting an epidemic two different things, the MP asserted, urging the government to review the overall strategy.

Let the government strategy depend on nothing but sound medical advice backed by political will, Rahman said.

Commenting on accusation directed at Transport Minister and SLPP heavyweight Gamini Lokuge regarding his May Day intervention in lifting of ‘Piliyandala lockdown,’ lawmaker Rahman said that the government explained how a specific directive issued by the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr Asela Gunawardena was countermanded. Who took responsibility for the subsequent deterioration of the situation in Piliyandala area? the MP asked. The situation therein should be examined against the backdrop of the government deploying police to carryaway those who walked about with improperly clad facemasks on the basis they undermined public health. The government conveniently ignored its much touted “One Country, One Law’ slogan, the former UNPer said.

 

 

 



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Supreme Court Judge, President of the Appeal Court, Appeal Court Justice took oath before President

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(pic PMD)

Justice K. P. Fernando, President of the Court of Appeal took oath as a Supreme Court Judge before President Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning (06) at the President’s House in Fort.

Court of Appeal Justice Mr. Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne took oath as the President of the Court of Appeal while High Court Judge M.A.R. Marikkar was also sworn in as a Judge of the Court of Appeal before President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Minister of Justice Wijayadasa Rajapaksha, Secretary to the President Mr. Saman Ekanayake, Commanders of the Tri Forces and other officials attended this event.

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Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border

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BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.

The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.

Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.

A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.

Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.

Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.

They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.

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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals

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Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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