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Turkish terror group’s links to Easter Sunday carnage under investigation

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in terms of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) report on the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage has issued specific instructions to the Police/Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and other relevant authorities to expedite investigations, SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday.

Addressing the regular SLPP briefing at the Waters Edge, Prof. Peiris, who is also the Education Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa intervened on behalf of the government whereas the Attorney General proceeded with own actions.

Prof. Peiris said that the entire set of PCoI volumes was handed over to the AG recently to enable him to proceed. The SLPP Chairman emphasized the pivotal importance in taking tangible measures to secure the arrest of those suspects living abroad.

Prof. Peiris said that as part of the overall investigations law enforcement authorities had been instructed to probe the alleged FETO (Fetullah Terrorist Organization aka the Gulen movement) links to the Easter Sunday carnage. Prof. Peiris explained that the proscribed Turkish organization had provided funding to some persons named in the report and a thorough inquiry was called into foreign involvement in the attacks.

The PCoI revealed that the previous government had turned a blind eye to information provided by Turkey regarding FETO activities in Sri Lanka. FETO leader Gulen has secured US protection.

Reiterating the government’s commitment to bring Easter Sunday perpetrators before court, Prof Peiris revealed the arrest of 99 persons in connection with the attacks and also efforts to secure the extradition of 35 others. However, the Minister didn’t explain the status of the extradition process pertaining to those 35 living overseas.

Prof Peiris said that the 36 separate investigations into various aspects of the Easter Sunday attacks had been completed. The police were directed to hand over the relevant files without delay, the minister said.

Appreciating the services rendered by the PCoI, Minister Peiris said that specific information hitherto not available were now with authorities and quite useful in the investigations.

The former top law academic also discussed the Wanathavilluwa detection made by the CID in the run up to the Easter Sunday attacks. Making reference to three wounded persons in custody, Prof. Peiris said that the police were directed to conduct thorough investigations into their alleged involvement.

Archbishop of Colombo Malclom Cardinal Ranjith moved Court of Appeal regarding the recovery of swords and daggers in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks. The SLPP spokesperson said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued specific instructions as regards the detection of some 1,440 swords and daggers. The academic explained the judiciary addressing the Easter Sunday issues while President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued directives to expedite the overall process.

Prof. Peiris censured the previous government over allowing extremist elements a free hand. The minister pointed out how foreign preachers were allowed in without any scrutiny. Dismissing Opposition and civil society criticism of planned prohibition of burqa, Prof Peiris emphasized the right and the responsibility on the part of the government to take tangible measures to neutralize the threat.

Blaming the previous government for issuing visa on arrival to dangerous foreign elements, Prof Peiris explained how irresponsible and foolish conduct of the previous administration created an environment for extremists to destroy Buddha statues at Mawanella. If the government of the day properly inquired into Mawanella incidents, including the attempt to kill the then Minister Kabir Hashim’s coordinating secretary, the Easter Sunday carnage could have been averted, the minister said.

Minister Peiris also questioned the rationale in one-time Western Province Governor Azath Salley’s declaration that his community wouldn’t care about laws of the country and would abide by Muslims law. The minister said that no one would be able to take such a stand under any circumstances.

Commenting on PCoI recommendations and findings, Prof. Peiris said that 54 persons living abroad were categorized as wanted in connection with the Easter Sunday investigations. Of them, 50 had been already extradited and were under investigations whereas actions were being taken to bring down the remaining four in foreign custody.

Minister Peiris said that the government would soon request Australia to inquire into some persons who had been arrested in Qatar in Oct 2020 and subsequently sent Down Under.

According to Minister Peiris, the PCoI called for the establishment of a separate unit at the AG’s Department to handle terrorism cases, bring in amendments or introduce new laws in parliament as regards foreign funding matters, extradition and money laundering et al, setting up a National Intelligence Organization by way of a parliamentary act, restrictions on setting up of private organizations by lawmakers and special court to hear Easter Sunday case and any other case related to it.



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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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