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SLPP ally questions order to pay back wages of Dr. Shafi

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(L-R) Dr Shahabdeen, Jayantha

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The National Freedom Front (NFF) says the ongoing investigations into Dr. Shafi Shahabdeen’s alleged involvement in Easter Sunday attackers and nonconseual sterilisation of women in Kurunegala had been seriously weakened by the government’s controversial decision to pay him back wages.

The Constituent party of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (20) called a special media conference at its Pitakotte party office to explain how the government had undermined multiple investigations, including one handled by the CID much to the dismay of the Easter Sunday victims and those sterilised against their wishes.

State Minister Jayantha Samaraweera flayed the Public Service Commission and the Health Ministry over the payment of back wages and reinstatement of Dr. Shahabdeen. However, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella’s Office in a statement issued on Dec 17, at the onset of the controversy, stressed that Dr. Shahabdeen hadn’t been reinstated though the Director, Kurunegala Hospital was  instructed to pay his back wages.

Lawmaker Samaraweera, who represents the six-member NFF parliamentary group, said that they were quite surprised the way attempts were being made to undermine the investigations taking place at a snail’s pace. The Kalutara District MP alleged that under the current dispensation, too, investigations were being handled in a shoddy manner. According to him, the then Health Secretary Wasantha Perera following an investigation conducted by the Director, Kurunegala Hospital had sent Dr. Shahabdeen on compulsory leave, instead of initiating a proper inquiry under the PSC. MP Samaraweera claimed that Dr. Shahabdeen had been sent on compulsory leave with a view to saving him and that had happened now.

Dr. Shahabdeen was granted bail in July 2019.

State Minister Samaraweera sought an explanation from law enforcement authorities regarding Dr. Shahabdeen’s alleged involvement with Easter Sunday terror attacks mastermind Zahran Hashim. The lawmaker claimed that Dr. Shahabdeen had been investigated for giving access to an associate of Zahran Hashim Rs 440 mn. The alleged connection came to light following an arrest made after the 2019 Easter Sunday blasts, the State Minister said.

Lawmaker Samaraweera said that the CID recorded statements from 601 Kurunegala women whereas 8,000 were believed to have been sterilized over a period of time.

Responding to allegations, the Health Ministry said that the Health Services Committee of the PSC on June 11, 2019 approved that Dr. Shahabdeen be sent on compulsory leave. This was in line with recommendations made by a six-member expert committee that inquired into sterilization of Sinhala women during Dr. Shahabdeen’s tenure at the Kurunegala hospital, the health ministry spokesperson said.

The expert committee, in an interim report dated January 20, 2020 that had been submitted to the PSC recommended he be placed further on compulsory leave to enable the continuation of the investigations, the ministry spokesperson said.

In spite of Dr. Shahabdeen being granted bail and repeated requests to relevant authorities to reinstate him the Health Services Committee of the PSC on Oct 12, 2020 recommended that he be continued to be placed on compulsory leave, the spokesperson said, adding that on Oct 27, 2020, Dr. Shahabdeen requested the PSC and the Health Secretary again that he be reinstated and paid back wages, the ministry official said.

Subsequent to that intervention, the Director of the Kurunegala Hospital had been directed to pay Dr. Shahabdeen’s back wages and also sought an explanation as to why the payment was not made earlier in terms of the relevant sections of the Establishment Code. Accordingly, the Health Ministry has issued necessary instructions for the payment of back wages though Dr. Shahabdeen hadn’t been reinstated.

State Minister Samaraweera attacked the decision on the part of the health ministry to call for an explanation from Director Kurunegala Hospital in that regard. The former JVPer accused the government of illegally influencing in Dr. Shahabeen’s case at a time the administration was under fire from the Catholic Church over the ham-fisted handling of the Easter Sunday case.

 

 



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Now, CEB plans to ‘rationalise’ tariff

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By Ifham Nizam

Plans are afoot to ‘rationalise’ the electricity tariff shortly, Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando said, adding that the 52-year-old system should be changed for the betterment of the electricity consumer.

CEB Chief told The Island the CEB tariffs need to be changed to better reflect the use and the income level of the consumer. Ferdinando added that he had already briefed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on it.

Ferdinanado said that right now waste and corruption on CEB’s part had also been added to the consumers’ bill.

He said the CEB had received 1500 MT of fuel yesterday and would receive another shipment soon. However, thort-term power interruptions would continue in several areas until the operations at the Kelanitissa Power Station returns to normal.

“The power interruptions are an annoyance and we are looking for solutions. We too want to provide an uninterrupted power supply to our customers. Our hydro-power generation capacity is low as water levels in reservoirs are receding,” he said.

CEB’s Systems Control Department officials said that power outages might be experienced for one and a half hours due to problems at the Kelanitissa thermal plant complex.

CEB Media Spokesman, Additional General Manager Andrew Navamani said that the national grid had lost 282 MW due to the issues at Kelanitissa thermal plant. He said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had informed the CEB that necessary stocks of fuel for Kelanitissa power plant would be provided by yesterday night.

However, it would take several hours to start the generators, he said.

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Solving vexed problems: Ranil calls for fresh approach

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‘What we are witnessing is end of politics’

By Saman Indrajith

Traditional politics did not have solutions to the present-day problems, and the MPs should adopt a novel approach to them, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the adjournment debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement, the UNP leader said: “We have come to the end of politics. If we go by the words of Francis Fukuyama, it is a question of the end of politics. But that does not mean the end of Parliament. We in Parliament must think afresh. We must discuss how to bring about long-term policies which would help us find solutions to the problems affecting the public. Thereafter, we can go for elections and ask people to decide who or which party could do better. Japan did so. Great Britain is doing so. India and Canada do the same. Why can’t we do it here? If we can arrive at a consensus, we will be able to usher in a new era.

“The President has commenced this new session while the country is facing the worst economic crisis in 34 years. In his statement, he mentioned only the foreign reserve crisis. The economic crisis we are facing is far worse. We created a middle class with open economic policies. With the collapse of the open economy, the middle class too will collapse. There are a handful of companies and individuals who could earn profits while the economy is shrinking. We must decide whether we’ll perish or unite to work out a plan to ensure our collective survival,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We have come to the end of traditional politics. We may shout at each other and go out to shout slogans. But that will not help us solve problems.”

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Chandrika says Sirisena should be thrown out of SLFP

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SLPP MP and former President Maithripala Sirisena should be thrown out of the SLFP for making the party a junior partner of the SLPP former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said on Wednesday night after appearing before the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry (SPCoI) appointed to implement the recommendations of the final report of the PCoI into alleged Political Victimisation.

Both Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had destroyed the SLFP, Kumaratunga alleged.

The former President said that she had urged Sirisena not to join the SLPP as that would be the end of the SLFP.

“I repeatedly told him this and Sirisena removed me from the party’s Central Committee and stripped me of my organiser’s post in retaliation.

“Now, Sirisena is saying the same things I said about the SLPP. Even during the war, I managed to get the economy up and running. Look at it now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

Kumaratunga was also critical of the SPCoI, stating that she had not been summoned before the PCoI on Political Victimisation for her to respond to any allegations against her.

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