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UNHRC efforts to target SL armed forces:Govt. may contemplate new laws, constitutional safeguards



Dr. Amarasekera warns govt. to be wary of vile Western strategies

 By Shamindra Ferdinando

Under severe pressure on the human rights front with UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet pushing for punitive measures against Sri Lanka, SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris on Monday (1) said that the government wouldn’t hesitate to introduce news laws in Parliament to guarantee protection for the armed forces.

 Prof. Peiris emphasized that they were even ready to provide what he called constitutional safety for the armed forces. Prof. Peiris, who is also the Minister in charge of the education portfolio, said that the government bore the responsibility to take tangible measures to safeguard the interests of the armed forces. Prof. Peiris dealt with the issue at the weekly SLPP media briefing at Battaramulla.

The top academic said that the Constitution could be amended to afford the required protection.

 The 46th session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is now underway.

 Prof. Peiris who served as the External Affairs Minister, after the successful conclusion of the war in 2009, explained constitutional safeguards in place for the protection of US and UK military personnel deployed for overseas missions. However, in the guise of protecting human rights, war-winning Sri Lanka was being relentlessly harassed by interested parties bent on causing turmoil here, while hiding the sins of their own armed forces, Minister Peiris said.

 UNHRC adopted three resolutions against Sri Lanka in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In Oct. 2015, Sri Lanka co-sponsored Resolution 30/1 against its own armed forces and the war winning political leadership. In March 2020, Sri Lanka announced withdrawal from Resolution 30/1 though it firmly remained involved in the process.

 Commenting on Bachelet’s controversial report that dealt with the situation here, Prof. Peiris alleged that it was unfair by Sri Lanka. Although a Bachelet’s Office agreed to make some amendments, such gestures weren’t sufficient to rectify the harm caused to Sri Lanka.

 Alleging that the UNHRC pursued an agenda in respect of Sri Lanka at the behest of some member states, Prof. Peiris questioned the rationale in Bachelet focusing on purely domestic issues, particularly developments following the Nov 2019 presidential election.

 Prof. Peiris discussed how the UK turned a blind eye to LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham’s wife, Adele’s direct involvement in LTTE terrorism. Minister Peiris pointed out the absurdity in the British position as regards accountability issues having provided a safe haven to Adele who sent child soldiers into battle after tying cyanide phials around their necks.

Prof. Peiris, who once led the government negotiating team for talks with the LTTE said that those who had been involved with the LTTE had no qualms in promoting their association with the terrorist group. Pictures and video footage of Adele in LTTE combat uniform is in the public domain.

 Referring to US National Security Adviser John Bolton threatening the International Criminal Court (ICC) in case it sought to prosecute Americans, Prof. Peiris explained how the world’s solitary superpower sought to protect its interests. However, Sri Lanka was at the receiving end for bringing the war to a successful conclusion over a decade ago, Prof. Peiris said, pointing out the Western powers sought protection for their armed forces deployed in other countries whereas our forces operated within Sri Lanka territory.

 Federation of National Organizations (FNO) spokesperson Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera urged the government to be wary of Western strategies. Asked whether the nationalist organizations approve of the government’s stand in Geneva, Dr. Amarasekera emphasized that the country couldn’t under any circumstances accept the Core Group’s resolution. Dr. Amarasekera said that having quit the accountability resolution in March last year it would be ridiculous to accept another resolution. The civil society activist said that losing a vote in Geneva was much better than giving in to their despicable strategy. The government should be wary of their perceived readiness to listen to our grievances, Dr. Amarasekera said, urging those responsible for Geneva policy to review the strategy. Dr. Amarasekera regretted the government’s pathetic failure to exploit valuable evidence provided by US and UK defence advisors, a confidential UN survey, Wikileaks and other documents to disprove unsubstantiated war crimes accusations against the backdrop of UN confidentiality clause that denied Sri Lanka an opportunity at least to examine accusations till 2031.

 Dr. Amarasekera said that the government hadn’t done its homework and struggled in Geneva expecting other countries to save Sri Lanka. Their failure to present Sri Lanka’s case properly in Geneva couldn’t be justified, Dr. Amarasekera said, pointing out how New Delhi made use of the situation again to demand the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which was forced on the country by Delhi. Dr. Amarasekera was referring to New Delhi’s recent statement in Geneva.

 Dr. Amarasekera said that Bachelet was pushing for wider actions against the armed forces. Her report should be examined against the backdrop of the US declaring Army Commander General Shavendra Silva a war criminal, the veteran nationalist said. What she wanted was individual member states to take punitive measures, Dr. Amarasekera said, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage, too, were denied visas, based on false accusations.



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Facilities for infected pregnant women inadequate – SLCOG



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



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



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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