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SLPP furious over alleged Rishad links, claims Wimal stabbed govt. in the back

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government had been stabbed in the back by National Freedom Front (NFF) leader and Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, SLPP parliamentary group sources said yesterday (11).

Referring to Minister Weerawansa’s accusations regarding clandestine links between a section of the government and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen, allegedly involved with those responsible for 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, sources pointed out that the NFF leader’s move was intended to undermine the SLPP.

Delivering a public lecture at Sambuddhathva Jayanthi Mandiraya, on Tuesday (9), lawmaker Weerawansa alleged a group of decadent ruling party politicians who realised entering into political marriage with what the minister called Islamic extremism in the future had prevented the exposure of the likes of Rishad Bathiudeen.

Weerawansa holds Small and Medium Business and Enterprise Development, Industries and Supply chain Management portfolios. The NFF parliamentary group consists of six members, including one National List MP.

SLPP sources said that Minister Weerawansa’s outburst had caused irreparable damage to the government at a time it was under heavy pressure over the alleged shortcomings in the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) report and the controversial recommendation that 22 volumes of it shouldn’t be handed over to the Attorney General on the basis of them being sensitive.

Responding to a query, sources said that Minister Weerawansa had attacked the government the day before the commencement of three-day debate on the PCoI report and the issue at hand had been brought to the notice of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Minister Weerawansa alleged that the likes of Rishad Bathiudeen and former Eastern Province Governor M. L.A, M, Hizbullah had been taking overland in the Mannar region and the Eastern Province, respectively in line with strategy promoted by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian Islamic scholar based in Doha, Qatar.

The National Freedom Front Leader alleged that Rishad Bathiudeen during his tenure as the Industries and Commerce Minister of the UPFA (2010-2015) and yahapalana (2015-2019) administrations had deliberately undermined some businesspersons on racial grounds. Minister Weerawansa, who, too, had been a minister in the same Cabinet with Rishad Bathiudeen, explained how the ACMC leader bad exploited his ministerial portfolio for the benefit of a particular community.

Minister Weerawansa questioned the rationale behind the PCoI conveniently not recommending specific measures in respect of President of the Muslim Council M. N. Ameen, who included extremist teachings of Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Muslim teachers’ guide.

Weerawansa alleged that Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s teachings had been severely inimical to the country and promoted violence. Minister Weerawansa also said that the PCoI owed an explanation why specific recommendations weren’t made in respect of Hizbullah in spite of him being identified as a person who propagated extremism in the Kattankudy area.

The NFF leader also questioned the circumstances under which Rishad Bathiudeen’s brother, Riyaj arrested in connection with his alleged involvement with the Easter Sunday carnage under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in April 2020 had been released. Minister Weerawansa said the police, after accusing Riyaj of being in touch with one of the Easter Sunday bombers, had quietly released him.

Commenting on one-time Western Province Governor Azath Salley’s conduct, Minister Weerawansa asked why the PCoI refrained from recommending action against the NUA (National Unity Alliance) leader Salley. Alleging that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in spite of being responsible for disrupting intelligence services thereby creating an environment conducive for Thowheed terrorists was conveniently let off the hook, Minister Weerawansa questioned the conduct of the P CoI on many points.

Minister Weerawansa tore into the PCoI questioning the motives of its members who cleared Wickremesinghe although he was responsible for the breakdown of the national security apparatus. He said there was no point in going after the then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, IGP Pujith Jayasundera, Chief of National Intelligence retired DIG Sisira Mendis and Chief of State Intelligence Services (SIS) DIG Nilantha Jayawardana when the very person who created a situation conducive for Thowheed terrorists escaped the attention of the PCoI.

Lambasting the PCoI for omissions, Minister Weerawansa asked whether Easter Sunday bomber Zahran Hashim’s ghosts had been active in the PCoI, and how the PCoI had recommended specific action against Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara over alleged extremist activity and left out those who connived, aided and abetted Easter Sunday conspirators.

The then President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the PCoI whereas his successor Gotabaya Rajapaksa extended its term.



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Facilities for infected pregnant women inadequate – SLCOG

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The distribution and availability of high-flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant women were not adequate, President of the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (SLCOG,) Dr. Pradeep de Silva said yesterday.

Dr. de Silva said that while they had not yet faced any lack of oxygen in treating Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers, things could change rapidly given the limited availability of equipment. “Having an adequate supply of oxygen alone is not enough. You need high flow oxygen machines, and 50 litres of oxygen per minute is needed to operate a high flow oxygen machine. I do not know how many machines we have in this country but where I work, Castle Street Maternity Hospital has about four. We need to estimate the number of these machines we require and how much oxygen we want. From my understanding, the distribution and availability of high flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers is not adequate.”

Dr de Silva said that Sri Lanka needed about 50–200 high-dependency unit (HDU) beds per district, based on the population, 10–50 high flow oxygen machines per district, four for ten ICU beds and two dedicated Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machines.

“If we get this, we will be able to deal with pregnant women who develop complications from COVID-19 for the next four to five years,” he said.

Dr de Silva said that currently one pregnant woman who has been infected with COVID-19 is receiving ECMO treatment. There is also a shortage of beds at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, which has the largest ward dedicated to COVID-19 infected pregnant women. On Thursday, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Dr Mayuramana Dewolage, who heads the ward that treats COVID-19 infected pregnant women at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, said that they only had 37 beds were dedicated to pregnant women with COVID-19. They didn’t have any HDU or ICU beds dedicated for their use, he said.

“We share HDU and ICU beds with other patients at Mulleriyawa Base Hospital,” Dr Dewolage said.

The President of the SLCOG also urged all hospitals to find a separate space for pregnant women who were receiving treatment at their institutions. When COVID-19 pandemic started, the Health Ministry instructed all hospitals to do so but it was now obvious that those instructions had not been followed, he said.

“When the second wave started people got ready but later, they just stopped getting ready and now we are unprepared to meet the challenges of the third wave. We need to find a way to manage this. If the Ministry of Health has not prepared a plan, we are ready to help formulate one,” the President of the SLCOG said.

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Those who had AstraZeneca first jab, should take Sputnik V with adenovirus 26 – Specialist

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

If those who have taken the first dose of AstraZeneca are to receive a second jab of Sputnik V, they should take the first Sputnik V vaccine with adenovirus 26 (Ad26), Consultant Immunologist and head of the department of Immunology-MRI, Dr Nihan Rajiva de Silva says.

Dr. de Silva said that the first dose of Sputnik had Ad 26 and the second had adenovirus-5. “Adenovirus-5 is common. We may have been exposed to that and we may have developed antibodies. Adenovirus-26 is rarer and we will better respond to that. That is why the vaccine-maker has used adenovirus-26 in the first vaccine. So, if you had a first jab of AstraZeneca and you are to get the second dose from Sputnik-V remember to get the first jab,” Dr. de Silva said.

He added that any vaccine has the chance of reducing the severity of the virus and that the general public should get vaccinated when the opportunity is available.

Dr. de Silva said that there was a shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines because the Serum Institute of India could not deliver shipments as promised.

“However, we are now getting Sputnik V vaccines and we are looking at mixing them. There is a study in Russia about the efficiency of mixing Sputnik V with AstraZeneca and the results should be out soon. I can say that theoretically mixing the two vaccines should work,” he said.

Dr. de Silva added that the AstraZeneca vaccine should work against the new variant spreading in the country.

Consultant Cardiologist at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Dr. Gotabaya Ranasinghe said that those with heart issues, non-communicable diseases and were obese must get vaccinated to minimise the complications of Covid-19.

Dr. Ranasinghe said that those in the above-mentioned categories were at risk of contracting, getting complications and dying of COVID-19 and research had proven that vaccination would reduce the chance of such eventualities.

“If you worry about getting vaccinated, talk to your doctor. Don’t seek advice from friends and family,” he said.

Dr. Ranasinghe added that they had limited the number of heart surgeries they do due to COVID-19. ICU beds used for heart patients too were being now allocated for COVID-19 patients. “We only do the most pressing cases. But this means that the waiting list keeps on growing. Now, the waiting list is over eight months. If we limit the surgeries more and keep taking away ICU beds available for those who have had heart surgeries, the waiting list will grow further,” he said.

The Consultant Cardiologist also advised the public to eat healthy food and engage in moderate exercises, at least five days a week. This will reduce the mental stress as well as boost the immune system. ‘We recommend moderate exercises like jogging and brisk walking, for 30 minutes, five days a week. Being healthy is as important as wearing masks or adhering to physical distancing,” he said.

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STF raids narcotics distribution centre close to Bloemendhal police station

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Acting on information received from the Organised Crime Fighting Unit of the elite Special Task Force (STF), police commandos, on Thursday (6), arrested a person running a narcotic distributing network, 1.5 km away from the Bloemendhal police station.

The STF identified the suspect as Thawasidevan Pradeep Kumar, 21, a key associate of one Suresh with links to a criminal outfit run by Kimbulaele Guna, now absconding in India.

DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that the raiding party had recovered 2 kg, 22 g and 88mg of ‘ICE,’ with a street value of Rs 25 mn in addition to 4kg, 2 g and 527 mg of substance known as ‘hash,’ as well as Rs 400,000 in cash and a mobile phone.

Kimbulaele Guna is believed to have sought refuge following an LTTE attempt to assassinate President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at the final PA presidential election rally at the Town Hall in December 1999.

DIG Rohana said that Guna’s brother Suresh was a major heroin distributor in Colombo. The STF later handed over the suspect, along with contraband and locally made ‘hash,’ and his phone to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB). The raid on the heroin distribution centre situated in Aluth Mawatha, Colombo 15, followed specific information received as regards the ‘operation’ conducted with impunity (SF)

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