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Sumanthiran claims high airport taxes has brought Palali to a standstill

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By Saman Indrajith

The Palali International Airport had come to a standstill because of the high airport taxes, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran told Parliament on Thursday.

“When the airport was opened, there were flights from Madras, then due to Covid all flights were suspended. Now, this has not resumed yet, and even when it resumes the cost of the airfare is prohibitive. The reason for that is that the airport taxes are so high that people will not be able to afford it,” he said.

The TNA MP said that airport taxes have been waived at the Mattala airport and that they wanted the same for the Palali airport. Sumanthiran said Palali can attract visitors.He also said that the land issues in the North and East persisted. Sumanthiran said that in Kurunthoormalai there was a demonstration about a new construction that is being undertaken by the Department of Archaeology.

“Two of our members were arrested saying that they had disrupted the officials from functioning. Now Archaeology is entrusted with the responsibility of preserving archaeological monuments. We know that there are archaeological monuments that must be preserved, but they don’t have the authority to build new. And there are court orders, restraining them from building new structures, and yet, when people demonstrate against illegal activity by the Department of Archaeology, they are being arrested,” he said.

The TNA MP added that there are now efforts to bring in new people from other districts to Mullaitivu, particularly from the Ratnapura district.

“There was one politician who took people from Ratnapura district and settled them there. Now there are 58 shops and efforts are being made to grant land from this Archaeological site to these 58 shop owners who have been brought and settled there to change the demography. This must be immediately stopped,” he said.

Sumanthiran said that the people in the North are facing land grabs by the Departments of Archaeology, Mahaweli, the Forest Department, and Wildlife Department.

He said that the Government is now facing a challenge in the UN Human Rights Council. In September 2015, the Sri Lankan government co–sponsored a resolution called HRC 30/1.

“Co– sponsoring means you agree, you sign on to that resolution which then means it is your resolution. Now in that resolution, there was a clause that Sri Lanka agreed to have Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, authorised prosecutors and investigators participate in a process. It was at the request of the Sri Lankan government the words “Commonwealth” also was added, Commonwealth and other foreign judges. Now this is Sri Lanka’s own resolution. But now your Foreign Minister goes to Geneva, and saying participations like this, external mechanisms, are unconstitutional,” he said.

In response the Minister of Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva said that successive governments have invested a lot of money on the Palali airport.

“A lot of people from Jaffna were recruited. However, no airline has come in. We have developed the infrastructure. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is good at making allegations and they say they have great Indian contacts. Why don’t they encourage Indian airlines to fly to Palali? If Palali becomes a bustling airport it will benefit the people of Jaffna greatly,” he said.



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Health crisis: GMOA calls for WHO intervention

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Alleging the government has failed to address the developing crisis caused by grave shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has called for WHO’s intervention.In a letter dated January 26, 2023, addressed to WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge has raised concerns about shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, escalating prices of medicines and allegations of malpractices and corruption in procurement procedures.

The GMOA has released its letter to the media along with what it called a 10 fold plan formulated by an expert committee set up by the GMOA.

The following are the GMOA’s proposals:

1. To appoint a high-level coordinating committee within the Ministry of Health to ensure effective communications and coordination between following institutions, identified as responsible for the whole exercise. (a) Ministry of Health focal points (b) Medical Supplies Division (MSD) (c) State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) d. State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) e. National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Monthly progress review meetings of aforementioned committees are to be ensured, with Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Health or his representative. Quarterly review with Minister of Health to facilitate arriving at essential policy decisions.

2. To ensure Transparent Procurement Procedures, where every interested citizen should be entitled to know the true facts.

3. To upgrade the available computer software programme to match the current needs and to ensure more efficiency in procurement procedures.

4. To appoint a technical committee to study Auditor General Reports with regard to procurement Procedures of last 5 years and actions to be declared with specific time frame to implement recommendations of the Auditor General.

5. Review the recent Presidential Investigation Commission reports and initiate urgent actions to file legal action against the respondents. Remove all those officials who are accused through these reports of malpractices, from their current posts, until the verdicts are delivered.

6. To minimise emergency purchases of Medicinal drugs and ensure the transparency of that process through progress reports on emergency purchases, which is to be published on a monthly basis.

7. To identify alternative modes for distribution of pharmaceutical drugs to peripheral stations (e.g.: Public Transport services with identified modifications)

8. To open an “Information Desk” at the Ministry of Health to effectively communicate with and guide the donors of pharmaceutical items.

9. To fill the existing vacancies at National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), following stipulated acceptable pathways and activating all the sub committees within NMRA.

10. To declare a relief package to reduce the prices of essential medicinal drugs, through the upcoming interim budget.

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CEB says suspension of power cuts not possible

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By Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) says it is not in a position to discontinue power cuts despite an assurance from some quarters that there will be no power cuts till the end of the G C E Advanced Level examination on 17 February.

CEB Chairman Nalinda Illangakoon, contacted for comment, told The Island that they had not taken any decision to halt power cuts, especially at night. He however stressed that during the examination hours there would be no power cuts.

“We have not agreed with anyone to do away with power cuts,” he said, adding that they had clearly pointed out that Rs. 4.1 billion was required to continue power supply without power cuts until 17 February.

He also said that the CEB could not do business on credit. “I am responsible for my institution. Anybody can say anything but I have to run it,” he added.The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) yesterday said that the power sector stakeholders had agreed not to impose power cuts from yesterday until the end of the GCE A/L examination.

The HRCSL said in a statement that there will be no power cuts until February 17.They also said that the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) had come to an agreement with the PUCSL to provide continuous fuel supply for electricity generation during the A/L examination.

Covering the cost required for power generation must be identified as a priority in the proposed tariff revision, PUCSL instructed the CEB. Accordingly, the two parties agreed to pay the relevant expenses incurred within 60 days, the statement said.

The HRCSL also said the Power and Energy Ministry should intervene to provide coordination facilities for the agreement.Accordingly, an agreement was made not to continue with power cuts during the exam period starting today.This agreement will be included as a recommendation of the HRCSL, and the PUCSL agreed to implement the recommendations.

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PM’s Office: IMF impressed with progress made by govt.

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International Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive Director Dr. Krishnamurthy Subramanian has said the political will displayed by the Sri Lankan leadership to speed up reforms and implement difficult tax increases in order to revive the economy is highly appreciable, according to a statement issued by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena’s Office yesterday (26)

Dr Subramanian, who called on Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena at the PM’s Office in Colombo yesterday (26) was quoted as having said almost all the requirements for the IMF relief package for Sri Lanka have been completed and the moment the final assurances from major lending countries is completed, the process would be finalised.

“We will bat for you,” IMF Executive Director said using cricket jargon. “We play forward with a straight drive for you and whenever necessary, we play cover drives too,” said Dr Subramanian who was the Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India from 2018 to 2021.

The Prime Minister briefed the IMF delegation about steps taken by the government to face the unprecedented economic challenges faced by the country and to enhance agricultural produce to meet local demand and also for export.

While elaborating the measures taken to reduce non-essential imports and increase export production, he stressed the need for welfare for the poorest segments of the society. Dr Subramanian said that as the Prime Minister pointed out a safety net for economically vulnerable groups is an essential requirement when plans are formulated to restructure debt and revive the economy.

However, he emphasised that the public sector should be ready to make sacrifices as they are at least assured of salaries, while many others have lost their avenues of income.

Secretary to the Prime Minister, Anura Dissanayake, Deputy Governor of Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara, who is IMF Alternate Executive Director, Dr. P.K.G. Harischandra, Director and Dr. V D Wickramarachchi, Deputy Director of Economic Research Department of Central Bank also took part in the discussion.

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