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Udaya slams SLPP Gen. Secy. for demanding his resignation over fuel price hikes

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… questions Kariyawasam’s agenda: President sets the record straight

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila yesterday (13) told a hastily arranged media briefing at his Ministry that the economy was in such bad shape that the government couldn’t have further delayed the upward revision of fuel prices.

Attorney-at-law Gammanpila revealed that the Central Bank in a missive dated May 31 strongly advised the Treasury to increase fuel prices or face the consequences.

Minister Gammanpila, who is also the leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya emphasized that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as the Finance Minister, authorized the price increase.

Minister Gammanpila said so in response to SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam’s scathing attack on him over the price increase.

Kariyawasam, in a statement issued on behalf of the SLPP, questioned Minister Gammanpila’s motives. The National List MP went to the extent of questioning whether Minister Gammanpila pursued a hidden agenda to undermine the SLPP and its leadership.

Soon after the conclusion of Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s media briefing yesterday, the Presidential Secretariat issued a statement explaining the circumstances leading to the fuel price hike. The statement essentially endorsed the views expressed by Minister Gammanpila at the briefing.

The Presidential Secretariat explained that the primary reason for the price hike was that the CPC owed a staggering Rs 652 to the Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank whereas the CEB owed Rs 85 bn to the same banks.

Minister Gammanpila told the media that if Kariyawasam issued a statement in his capacity as an MP, he would have ignored it. However, the issues raised on behalf of the SLPP couldn’t be disregarded, Minister Gammanpila said, revealing that he announced the price increase on June 11 in the wake of a committee chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa deciding on the move on June 09.

According to Minister Gammanpila, the committee comprised President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Trade Minister Bandula Gunawadena, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Power Minister Dullas Alahapperuma, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa and State Ministers Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Lasantha Alagiyawanna and himself.

Minister Gammanpila said that before he made the announcement Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa furnished written approval for the increase. Referring to MP Kariyawasam’s letter that demanded Minister Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over fuel price hike, the PHU leader emphasized that it was a government decision.

Gammanpila said that the SLPP General Secretary shouldn’t find fault with him for a collective decision taken by a committee headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Having explained the financial crisis that had been caused by growing losses due to underpricing of fuel, Minister Gammanpila claimed that he was able to prevent fuel price increases on three occasions by making representations to the Treasury since he became the Energy Minister. However, the Treasury had ruled out interventions in the current situation, Minister Gammanpila said, asserting that the accumulation of losses were a very heavy burden on the banking sector. Declaring that the Petroleum Corporation owed banks as much as over Rs 600 bn, Minister Gammanpila warned of possible collapse of the banking sector if remedial measures weren’t taken.

Responding to a query, Minister Gammanpila said that he volunteered to make the announcement at his expense as he wanted to save President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. According to the PHU leader, State Minister Cabraal attended his media briefing as Finance Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s representative. Actually, MP Kariyawasam had lambasted the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa by issuing a statement therefore the issue at hand was who should accept responsibility for wholly unnecessary development and resign.

MP Kariyawasam didn’t answer his mobile phone.

Claiming that SLPP leader Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa and its Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris hadn’t been aware of Kariyawasam’s missive, Minister Gammanpila asked who gave the MP authority to issue such a statement.

Minister Gammanpila side-stepped query whether SLPP strategist Basil Rajapaksa was behind the move. A smiling Minister Gammanpila said that Basil Rajapaksa wasn’t behind him. The Minister wanted the media to raise it with lawmaker Kariyasawam.

Responding to another query, Minister Gammanpila questioned the rationale in Kariyawasam’s actions, while making reference to the SLPP General Secretary previously taking on National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa in the wake of the latter urging the SLPP to accommodate President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the decision making process of the party.

Minister Gammanpila said that five years ago the public didn’t know who Sagara Kariyawasam was. However, in the wake of Kariyawasam’s battle with Minister Weerawansa, people got to know him. “My mother, a retired principal, inquired from me who Sagara Kariyawasam was after he demanded Minister Weerawansa’s resignation,” lawmaker Gammanpila said.

Minister Gammanpila said that Kariyawasam’s objectives needed to be examined. The minister declined to reveal what President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa told him after SLPP General Secretary demanded his resignation.

Minister Gammanpila strongly defended the decision to increase fuel prices regardless of the difficulties experienced by the public.



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Washington will continue to support Lanka’s fight against Covid-19

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US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina B. Teplitz explaining a point to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Aebywardena during their meeting yesterday.

US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina B. Teplitz yesterday said that the US would continue to support Sri Lanka’s fight against Covid-19 through the COVAX facility.

She made the pledge during a courtesy call on Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday, Parliament sources said.

Marcus Carpenter, Deputy Chief of political division and Kushani Rohanadeera, Deputy Secretary-General of Parliament and Chief of Staff were also present at the meeting which was held at the Speaker’s Office in Parliament.

A number of issues of mutual interest were discussed between Sri Lanka and the US, including diplomatic and economic matters. Furthermore, the future intended investments of the United States in Sri Lanka for the future of the energy sector were also discussed, sources said.

The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka expressed how pleased she was over the steps taken to establish a Special Committee for the purpose of reforming the current electoral system in Sri Lanka and the steps taken by Parliament to re-establish the Sectoral Oversight Committees of Parliament.

The Ambassador also informed the Speaker that the US continues to support the development of Sri Lanka and protect democracy in the face of COVID faced by the whole world.

 

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Institute of Chemistry organises webinar on ‘Genes, Immunity and COVID-19 Vaccines’

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Arrangements have been made by the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon to conduct a webinar on “Genes, Immunity and COVID-19 Vaccines” with the intention of disseminating awareness on the widely spread COVID-19 and the importance of vaccination.

The webinar will be held via zoom from 8.30 am to 12.00 noon on Sept 4, a press release issued by the Institute said yesterday.

It said: The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak that originated in the city of Wuhan, China, has claimed countless lives within a span of two years causing significant damage to the world’s population and the global economy. Within the passage of a year, the emergence of changing COVID-19 variants with higher transmissibility, increased fatality was discovered around the globe. Currently, Sri Lanka is fighting the third wave of coronavirus and there has been an increase in the number of cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant of coronavirus across the country.

With the current situation, the need and importance of vaccination has become a vital tool in the battle against coronavirus. Vaccines save millions of lives each year and the development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is a huge step taken forward in the effort to end the pandemic. Misinformation on COVID-19 vaccines provided by different information channels have led to hesitations in accepting the COVID-19 vaccine among the population. This seminar will provide information on COVID-19 vaccines currently available and will be an immense help to clear any doubt with regards to COVID-19 vaccines.

The programme hopes to cover topics such as “Genomics of COVID-19” by Dr. Sameera. R. Samarakoon. “COVID-19 and Nutrition” by Prof. Ranil Jayawardena, “Immune response in COVID- 19: friend or foe” by Dr. Narmada Fernando, “COVID-19 Vaccine: What is Best” by Prof. Chandima Jeewandra and “Concluding Remarks and a Q&A session” by Prof. Nimal Punyasiri. The seminar will be moderated by Prof. Chayanika Padumadasa.

You can register to this webinar by visiting the IchemC website (ichemc.edu.lk) while more information can be obtained by contacting the Institute at 011-2861231. Also you may obtain information by sending an email to covidseminar21@gmail.com

For more details, please contact Ms. Nishadi (077 730 6270) / Ms. Shanali (076 553 2142)

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COVID Shield app introduced to Sri Lanka to fight against COVID-19 pandemic

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Health Informatics Society of Sri Lanka (HISSL) and the Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health (CWCDH) have introduced the COVID Shield app to Sri Lanka to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID Shield App allows users to assess their lung health on a regular basis to identify deteriorations associated with COVID-19 early.

The app uses the in-built sound recording features of a smartphone to analyze the breathing sounds and gather additional data when the user performs several simple tests to determine breathing performance.

The app tracks lung health along with other symptoms to support identifying COVID-19 related deterioration early.

In addition to identifying the state of lung health, COVID Shield is also capable of providing the users with alerts based on overall assessment of his or her symptoms. Based on these alerts, the users can take the next step without delaying seeking medical advice. The users will also receive COVID-19 related health education and latest statistics from reliable sources on his or her dashboard.

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