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Striking health workers ignore court ruling, vows to meet govt. challenge

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Striking health sector trade unions yesterday (11) declared that they wouldn’t call off their trade union action in spite of a Court ruling issued the previous day. Top spokesperson for the trade union grouping Government Nursing Officers Association (GNOA) head Saman Rathnapriya emphasised that they hadn’t been informed of enjoying orders issued by Court.

District Judge of Colombo Aruna Aluthge has issued two enjoining orders preventing unions from continuing its trade union action.

“We have only heard of such an order from the media. We were not called before the Court; nor have we been informed of such enjoining orders. Trade union action is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. If we had been called before the courts, we would have explained why we were doing this,” the former UNP National List MP said.

Countrywide hospitals were severely affected by the strike, launched on 07 Feb.

Rathnapriya said that if the Court had actually issued enjoining orders and his union had been officially informed of them, it would convene a meeting of their executive committee and taken a decision.

The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President, Ravi Kumudesh, told The Island that they would file a case against the Secretary to the Ministry of Health, Maj. Gen. Sanjeeva Munasinghe for failing to take tangible measures to prevent them resorting to trade union action.

“This strike could have been easily averted. We had given ample time for the government to address our seven demands. However, they did nothing. Secretary to the Ministry of Health could have discussed with us during the past three months. He ignored the demands of 65,000 health sector professionals and that is what has led to a union action. He is responsible for the inconvenience that the people are experiencing,” Kumudesh said.

The CMLS head said that, they were ready to meet any attempts of oppression head on. Instead of making false allegations to undermine legitimate trade union action, the Health Ministry must solve the issues faced by its employees, Kumudesh said.

“Now, they are claiming that a person has died at Bibile and they are trying to blame us. Apparently, an ultra sound scan had to be performed and those who perform ultra sound scans are not on strike. If the life of a patient was lost due to conducting surgery, under inadequate facilities; those who took that decision must be held responsible.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwelle said that he expected the health workers to return to duty, respecting the Court order.



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Speaker proposes how to steer SL out of crisis

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has handed over a set of proposals to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, spelling out how to resolve country’s economic crisis.The proposals made by the Speaker pertain to a number of important sectors and highlight the importance of providing relief to low income groups.

The Speaker has said Sri Lankans working or doing business overseas or foreign investors depositing USD 100,000 with the Central Bank for a period of two years should be paid a 10% interest per annum in Sri Lankan rupees and allowed to credit the interest to any account preferred by the depositor. He also proposes that the government issue a vehicle import licence worth USD 25,000, six months after an individual makes a fixed deposit while also allowing him to pay a standard tax of USD 10,000 to the government for that vehicle.Speaker Abeywardena has proposed how to reduce energy costs, release adequate stocks of LP gas to the market, boost domestic production food production, stabilise the banking system.

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MR had not decided to resign on 09 May, says Weerasekra

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP MP Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera says Prime Minster Mahinda Rajapaksa had not decided to resign on 09 May 09 although the SLPP MPs had been asked to bring supporters to Temple Trees for a meeting.Weerasekera said so when The Island asked him why he had skipped the Temple Trees meeting.One-time Public Security Minister said that the then PM Rajapaksa had, during a conversation with him on 08 May had denied reports that the latter was planning to resign the following day. MP Namal Rajapaksa, however, had asked a group of MPs and others to bring supporters to express support for the PM, MP Weerasekera said.

Weerasekera said he had been among those contacted by MP Namal Rajapaksa.The former Navy Chief of Staff said that the failure on the part of law enforcement authorities and the military to respond swiftly and decisively to a threat of breach of law and order had led to a disaster at time global attention was on Sri Lanka due to the deteriorating financial situation.MP Weerasekera questioned why police had refrained from firing at least once into the air when mobs arrived at some MPs’ houses, which were destroyed. For over 48 hours mobs had ruled the country, the MP alleged, demanding an explanation why shoot-on-sight orders had not been issued as soon as mobs started to attack MPs’ houses.MP Weerasekera said that serious accusations made by SLPP members, particularly Wimal Weerawansa, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Mahindananda Aluthgamage couldn’t be ignored. They accused some sections of the SLPP of conspiring to unleash violence and the police and the armed forces turning a blind eye to countrywide retaliatory attacks.

Newly-appointed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles said that he would order a thorough probe into the May 09 incidents. Minister Alles said so when The Island asked him what he would do against the backdrop of allegations of the police facilitating attacks on protesting public in the Kollupitiya and Fort police areas.MPs, Weerawansa and Dr. Ramesh Pathirana alleged in Parliament that Maj. Gen. Jagath Alwis, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration and C. D. Wickremaratne, Inspector General of Police prevented Deshabandu Tennakoon, Senior DIG, Colombo from mob attacks on the protesting public.

Former Minister Weerasekera said that the government, the SLPP and the police should come clean on this matter. MP Weerasekera said that the government mishandled the challenge posed by those who cleverly exploited the economic crisis. “Perhaps one of the major blunders was allowing the public to block roads. Now, it has become a style. Interested parties also exploit the media and social media. The government seems clueless,” MP Weerasekera said, urging the government to review the developments.MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage, too, told The Island, the top SLPP leadership ignored repeated warnings. The former Agriculture Minister questioned whether those who had advised the Cabinet of Ministers chaired by the President deliberately deceived them.

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Lankan-born Cassandra elected to Australian Parliament

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She beat another candidate of Sri Lankan origin, Ranj Perera

Cassandra Fernando of Sri Lankan descent has been elected to the Australian Parliament.Cassandra, an advocate for essential workers and the Federal Labor Candidate for Holt.She migrated to Australia with her family when she was 11.She began working at Woolies Dandenong Plaza as a teenager. She now represents workers in the retail and fast food industries, fighting to improve their pay and conditions. She has also volunteered to tutor migrants and refugees from non-English speaking backgrounds so they can make the best of every opportunity.

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