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SLPP secured two overwhelming mandates for total economic overhaul – Gevindu

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga says the 2021 budget presented by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in his capacity as the Finance Minister would be able to strengthen what he called village-based economy.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga says Sri Lanka needs to take tangible measures to bolster the local economy or face the consequences.

Referring to overwhelming electoral victories achieved by Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the 2019 presidential election followed by the SLPP securing unprecedented 2/3 parliamentary majority in spite of the PR system at the general election, Yuthukama Chief asserted that the 2021 budget would pave the way for overhauling of the national economy.

MP Cumaratunga told The Island that he had an opportunity on Saturday (21) to discuss in parliament how the budget could be the basis for a new economic model to check the ruination brought on by JRJ’s ‘open economic’ policy adopted in the wake of the UNP landslide victory at the 1977 general election.

At the onset of MP Cumaratunga’s speech, the civil society activist emphasized that the country was aware of who carried out the most assassinations of Tamil politicians and the high profile civilian rescue mission conducted by the armed forces in April-May 2009 where over 100,000 men, women and children held as human shields were saved.

Samagi Jana Balavegaya National List MP Mayantha Dissanayake who had been in the Speaker’s Chair intervened several times as Cumaratunga was repeatedly interrupted. When Cumaratunga complained, Dissanayake pointed out those who caused interruptions were members of the SLPP parliamentary group.

SLFP nominee Dr. Suren Raghavan (SLPP) interrupted Cumaratunga’s speech to allege how his efforts as the former Governor of the Northern Province to bring back 83,000 Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu were thwarted by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). On behalf of the TNA, its Vanni District lawmaker Selvam Addaikalanathan (TELO) hit back at Dr. Raghavan.

MP Cumaratunga alleged that President JRJ exploited the difficulties experienced by the people during 1970-77 Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s administration to completely do away with the economic system followed not only by the SLFP led coalitions but the UNP as well. At the expense of the entire gamut of local industries, President JRJ adopted an economy primarily based on foreign loans and an import-export system. The introduction of the new system had far reaching consequences, the MP said, explaining how Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera in his ‘Abuddassa Yugayak’ discussed how the elected, foolishly responded to the then economic situation. Dr. Amarasekera highlighted the increase in the foreign debt amounting to Rs 10.5 bn in 1977 to Rs 6,402 bn by 2019.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga alleged that the treacherous Wickremesinghe-Mangala Samaraweera duo followed the JRJ strategy. Alleging they were the worst of the UNP lot, Cumaratunga said that yahapalana administration co-sponsored the Geneva Resolution against the Sri Lankan military and sought agreements with both New Delhi and Washington at the expense of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Reference was made to ACSA (Access and Cross-Servicing Agreement) and SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) though MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) was left out.

Their strategy was meant to transform the entire country to a refugee camp, MP Cumaratunga said. Massive SLPP victories at the last presidential and parliamentary polls had underscored the public determination to reverse UNP strategies. The electorate brought the UNP to its knees at the last general election, MP Cumaratunga said, while praising those who defeated the UNP machinations at introducing a new Constitution during the previous administration.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga called for a new Constitution that met the aspirations of a vast majority of people. The lawmaker emphasized along with such a Constitution, the country needed to adopt a new economic model that catered to the needs of the people.

Cumaratunga compared the crisis here and in various parts of the world and the catastrophe faced by the US. Referring to Al Qaeda attacks directed at the US, MP Cumaratunga explained that those who pushed for all out liberalization of economies were now exploring ways and means of bringing back investments home and thwarting terrorism as well as unauthorized crossings across borders.

The MP also discussed the pivotal role played by the Defence Ministry in the overall government projects with the focus on poverty alleviation. Large sums of funds allocated to the Defence Ministry should be considered vital investments for a better future.

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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