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SLFP to re-think role in ruling alliance says party secy.

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“Things are heating up…..problems are piling”

ECONOMYNEXT – The public is losing confidence in the government and its coalition partner, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) may soon have to take a call on whether or not to go it alone at the upcoming provincial council elections, a party senior said.

SLFP Vice President Prof Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa told EconomyNext that the SLFP has yet to decide whether to contest the PC polls as a partner of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)-led alliance.

With the national New Year approaching, Piyadasa said, “things are heating up” in the country as the prices of goods continue to rise.

“Then there is the coconut oil issue and the sugar issue. Coconut oil is something that is fundamental to Avurudu celebrations. Problems are piling up, not easing,” he said.

Piyadasa was referring to a controversy surrounding imported coconut oil that is allegedly contaminated with high levels of aflatoxin, a carcinogenic substance, as well as the so-called sugar scam which opposition parties claim has cost the country Rs 15.9 billion in tax revenue.

SLFP leader and former President Maithripala Sirisena has made it clear that the party wishes to form an SLFP government in the future, said Piyadsa.

“We are working towards that end,” he said.

On March 18, Piyadasa told EconomyNext that that the SLFP party rank and file have raised concerns about broken promises within the alliance.

“Our Urban Council members at the grassroots level weren’t given money to do their council work. They couldn’t even put up a lamp-post. So there is huge pressure from the lower levels of the party,” he said.

“We have to do something about this immediately. We cannot go on like this,” he added.

The party is currently accepting nomination papers for the provincial council polls. The deadline for applications has been extended to April 15 after which, he said, the party will start organizing in all districts.

“The cabinet has said elections should be held, but we still don’t know what under what law they plan to hold the election.”

Last month, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said the PC polls must be held soon either under the previous Provincial Councils Elections Act or under the proposed new (Amendment) Act with its “complications” removed.

The presidential secretariat quoted Rajapaksa as saying the Amended Provincial Councils Act which included a new delimitation of the constituencies, a quota for women candidates and other changes “had been defeated by the former government which proposed it.”

Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court determined that the PC polls can be held under either the old or new system but upon the amending legislation being passed. The Rajapaksa government has yet pass amendments to the (Amendment) Act to conduct the elections under the previous proportional representation system.

All nine provinces in Sri Lanka are currently being run by their respective governors following the end of their five-year terms at various points. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has also called for the early conduct of polls, a sentiment echoed by India. The provincial councils are a legacy of the Indo-Lanka accord signed in 1987.



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Amendments to be incorporated into Colombo Port City Bill – GL

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP Chairman Prof. G. L. Peiris says amendments proposed by government lawyers in respect of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill submitted to the Supreme Court, through the Attorney General’s Department, would be incorporated into the Bill along with the amendments proposed by the Supreme Court.

Education Minister Peiris, one of the intervening parties in support of the Bill, says the government is confident of the passage of it in Parliament this week.

Prof. Peiris discussed the upcoming two-day debate on May 19 and 20 at the regular SLPP media briefing at their Nelum Mawatha Office in Battaramulla.

The former internationally distinguished law professor and Colombo University Vice Chancellor said that the government was determined to go ahead with the mega project as part of their overall efforts to attract investment. The Minister explained the need to go ahead with planned projects, regardless of difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister briefly described the procedures adopted in the passage of the Bill.

Petitioners that challenged the Bill included the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) and Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera represented by SLPP Colombo District lawmaker Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC. Petitioners asked for the Bill to be approved by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and at a referendum.

The only MP other than former Justice Minister Rajapakse to express concern over some provisions in the Bill was Yuthukama leader and SLPP National List parliamentarian Gevindu Cumaratunga.

At the onset of the briefing Prof. Peiris said the government was continuing with a vaccination drive to bring the Covid-19 situation under control. The minister acknowledged the difficulty in procuring the required number of covishield doses for those who required the second dose. The SLPP Chairman said that the government was discussing the issue at hand with both governments and the private sector in a bid to obtain the required stock.

Prof. Peiris placed the shortage of covishield vaccines at over 400,000 whereas the health ministry earlier estimated the shortfall at over 600,000.

Minister Peiris acknowledged that a daily count of approximately 2,500 new Covid-19 cases was quite a challenge though the government sustained efforts to keep the situation under control.

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Covid patients to be treated at centres close to homes

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Those diagnosed with COVID-19 would be sent to treatment centres and Intermediate Care Centres closest to their homes, the Health Ministry said yesterday

The decision was taken at a meeting held yesterday at the Health Ministry. Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle and Ministry officials took part in the meeting.

 A Health Minister’s spokesman said the decision had been taken to lessen the psychological trauma on the patient and the family.  

 The Ministry will also supply necessary medical equipment and medical staff to treatment centres that are being built by the government and non- governmental organizations.

 State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) has been instructed to procure AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses required for the second jab as soon as possible. (RK)

 

 

 

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Digitalization way forward for Lanka – World Bank

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Healthcare workers in Sri Lanka enter data into the DHIS2 COVID-19 surveillance system(Pic courtesy World Bank)

Digitalization is the way forward for Sri Lanka to transform into a technology-based society, says the World Bank.

The WB report said that the Government of Sri Lanka has demonstrated its commitment to accelerate digital transformation. In order to reap the benefits of digital technologies, the country now needs to ensure that access to high-speed and affordable Internet is available to all citizens including in remote areas of the country and across income groups and gender. It also needs to ensure that the right policies, laws, and regulatory frameworks are in place to protect the security, data and rights of all especially the vulnerable.

In early 2020, when the COVID-19 lockdown began, Sri Lanka’s food supply chain was significantly disrupted leaving farmers and consumers to face the adverse effects of the pandemic. Wholesale and retail markets were closed and traders were encouraged to deliver food items directly to doorsteps following strict health guidelines.

However, to sell and deliver food items and agricultural products, small traders were required to register at the Divisional Secretariats (DS), local-level administrative units which serve as the primary citizen delivery points.

But government office closures significantly affected this process. Meanwhile, there was no means to submit and process permit requests electronically.

Now, the Government of Sri Lanka, led by the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) in collaboration with various stakeholders, has embarked on a highly anticipated digital transformation journey to address such issues.

With support from the World Bank’s Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC), ICTA is planning to bring services online to 10 selected Divisional Secretariats through piloting the ‘form.gov.lk’ initiative, a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) platform.

The platform will leverage existing infrastructure such as the Lanka Government Cloud (LGC 2.0), the government’s cloud computing infrastructure, and the Lanka Government Network, the government’s private network which connects 860 government offices across the country.

The proposed solution will offer the general public and businesses the capability to fill and submit relevant information and documents digitally without having to visit government offices.

These pilot services will range from civil registrations (births/deaths) and small business registrations to allowing farmers to process police permits for transporting crops.

Once the system is successfully piloted in selected DS offices, the platform can be scaled to other government organizations, reducing travel and building efficiency in service delivery including in areas outside of urban centres and contributing to Sri Lanka’s green recovery.

“Our biggest objective is to build the digital foundation for the government to continue serving all Sri Lankans during a crisis like this. This is just the beginning of our digital transformation journey” says Mehinda Herath, Chief Executive officer of ICTA.

The CERC will also build resilience in public service delivery by enabling government officials to work remotely.

This will be done through the implementation of a government-wide email and collaboration solution and video conferencing facilities; and by enhancing the capacity of the government cloud infrastructure (LGC 2.0) to support more services.

A disaster recovery site will also be established for LGC 2.0 so that critical data is not lost in times of exogenous shocks, including natural disasters such as flooding and cyclones.

“The vision of ICTA is to improve living conditions and livelihoods across Sri Lanka irrespective of geographical locations and other disparities. This will be done through effectively adopting digital technologies and developing the required enabling environment, including the legal framework, basic infrastructure such as unique digital ID and government wide digital connectivity as well as various other aspects that are required to develop the digital economy,” says Prof. Lilith Gamage, Chairman of ICTA.

Transforming Sri Lanka into a technology-based society is one of the key national policy objectives of the country, as highlighted in the President’s manifesto, Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor. This includes the implementation of a “whole-of-government approach” to digital government to improve the delivery of public services to all Sri Lankans; developing the technology industry for jobs and growth; and supporting digital entrepreneurship and growth of a digitally savvy workforce and population.

The government is developing a foundational digital ID system that is backed by biometrics. ICTA together with the Ministry of Justice has also commenced an initiative to establish a country-wide court management system with the aim of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the judicial system.

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