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SL to purchase 3mn Covishield jabs; plans to vaccinate 50-60% this year

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Sri Lanka plans to purchase three million doses of India’s Covishield vaccine and use a combination of Indian, Russian and Chinese-manufactured COVID-19 vaccines pending approval to immunise 50 to 60 per cent of the population within the year, an official said.

Presidential advisor Lalith Weeratunga told reporters that Sri Lanka has sent a formal request to the Serum Institute of India for the three million vials of the company’s version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine known as Covishield. This is in addition to half a million doses of the same vaccine arriving in Sri Lanka tomorrow as a donation from the Indian government.

“We are hoping to place a purchase order through the State Pharmaceutical Corporation of Sri Lanka for two to three million doses,” said Weeratunga.

Given global demands, Sri Lanka must act quickly to acquire vaccines for the population as early as possible, he said, but it must be done according to a plan.

“There is no point storing an unnecessarily large amount of vaccine in the country, and this Covishield vaccine has to be used within six months of the manufactured date. We need to plan an operation to speedily distribute it among the general public when we reach that phase,” he said.

Weeratunga further said the government will take similar steps with other vaccines if the National Medicine Regulatory Authority (NMRA) approves them to be used in Sri Lanka.

“Though we have expressed interest to purchase the vaccine as early as possible, we have to wait until the Serum institute accepts it. It will take them some time to deliver that consignment. In the meantime, if the other vaccines are approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and t he NMRA, we will do the same with them as well,” he said.

Acting Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr Susi Perera said that with the WHO recommending that people under the age of 20, pregnant and breast-feeding women be not vaccinated, 35 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population will not receive the vaccination.

“When the Ministry of Health listed the groups of people that need to be vaccinated, the we saw that we need to vaccinate more than 20 per cent of the population in order to manage virus. So we decided to vaccinate 50 percent,” she said.

“There is 65 percent that need to be vaccinated excluding the 35 percent [who don’t need vaccination]. The ministry has decided to vaccinate at least 50 percent,” she added.

Weeratunga claimed the government will be able to vaccinate 50-60 percent of the targeted population within this year.

“We have queued up to get the vaccine from various institutes. Right now what we have is the Oxford-AstraZeneca one. But if Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm also get WHO and NMRA approval based on all the data that is generated out of ongoing trials, we will have a combination of vaccines. Very tentatively I can say 50-60 percent of the targeted group will be vaccinated within the year,” he said.



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DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL

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by PRIYAN DE SILVA

The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.

The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).

The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.

Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969

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The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.

Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.

“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.

Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.

“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.

The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.

“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.

The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.

“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.

Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.

“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.

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JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?

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By Rathindra Kuruwita 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.

“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.

Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.

 “They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.

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