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UNP demands explanation for failure to lock down country

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By Piyasena Dissanayake

The UNP demanded to know from the government yesterday on what grounds that it could justify its decision to keep the country open while hundreds of people die daily from the COVID-19 virus.

UNP Chairman and former Minister Wajira Abyewardena addressing a press conference at the Galle District UNP office yesterday (15) said that none would be able to comprehend the rationale behind the government’s decision to not going for a countrywide lockdown against the calls by doctors, PHIs and WHO experts.

“The government is adamant. It has no intention of listening to anyone. When the coronavirus was first found in this country last year, our leader Ranil Wickremesinghe proposed a comprehensive set of guidelines but the government did not listen to him. Thereafter all medical experts, health authorities and even virologists presented their proposals which were similar to the suggestions made by the UNP leader. Yet, the government did not pay heed to any of those calls. Even now when the crisis had reached the level where people die in their hundreds, the government does not care. When the senior health officials warn of possible crisis this government would transfer them out. Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva was one of the senior most experts. He is a specialist doctor with 34 years of experience in the health service and years of experience in epidemics and disease control. He was transferred out when he was raising concerns of the possible dangers of the pandemic. He was sent to a place to look after cattle. Dr. Anil Jasinghe and Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara proved their competence in handling the crisis during the first wave of the pandemic where Sri Lanka was among the top countries in responding to the virus. They were transferred out. Dr. Paba Palihawadana is one of the senior most Epidemiologists in the country. She had been harassed so she joined the WHO. Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera too was chased out. Prof. Asitha Perera was forced to resign. Dr. Palitha Abeykoon was removed. Now without these experts and people of their calibre, the government COVID Task Force can even meet in a roadside boutique and make the decisions that they want.

“This is a serious situation and people are paying with their lives for the idiocies of the government. We demand the government to tell the nation its rationale behind keeping the country open contrary to the warnings by the health experts and doctors. What right it has to let people die in this manner? What scientific knowledge the persons who made this decision have,” the UNP Chairman queried.

Galle Municipal Council Opposition Leader Dilith Nishantha also addressed the press.



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Full implementation of 13A: NFF vows to torpedo Ranil’s move, asks Dinesh, Mahinda to disclose their stance

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The National Freedom Front (NFF), a constituent member of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya (NJS), has declared that it would oppose President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s bid to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The patriotic people were ready to defeat such plans, even at the expense of their lives, the party has vowed.

The breakaway JVP faction consists of six MPs, including former minister Wimal Weerawansa. The NJS is contesting the Local Government polls, scheduled for March 09, under the ‘Helicopter’ symbol.

NFF spokesperson, MP Jayantha Samaraweera, on Monday (30), told the media that his party was ready to lead a campaign against the UNP leader’s move to do away with constitutional safeguards meant to ensure Sri Lanka’s unitary status. The Lawmaker addressed the media at the NFF main office, at Pitakotte.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the controversial constitutional amendment at the Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15, President Wickremesinghe reiterated his commitment to the Eelam project during the party leaders’ meeting at the Presidential Secretariat, the former State Minister said.

Lawmaker Samaraweera asked Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, and twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had flanked President Wickremesinghe, at the party leaders’ meeting, to disclose their stand on 13th Amendment.

The Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya, consisting of NFF, Democratic Left Front, Communist Party, Lanka Samasamaja Pakshaya, Pivuthuru Hela Urumaya, Vijayadharani Jathika Sabhawa, Yuthukama, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Nidahasa Janatha Sabhawa, Jana Jaya Peramuna, Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya and Nidahas Janatha Peramuna, has yet to disclose its position on this issue.

MP Samaraweera attacked the President, close on the heels of NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa, who is also the Chairman of the Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya (ULS), questioning the legitimacy of the move. Lawmaker Weerawansa addressed this issue at a meeting held at the BMICH, on January 26, to discuss ways and means to thwart the move to privatize the CEB.

The ULS consisting of seven political parties, and groups, is aligned with the NJS.

Referring to the circumstances UNP leader Wickremesinghe re-entered Parliament, through the National List, nearly a year after the last General Election, former Minister Weerawansa emphasized the President didn’t have a mandate to fully implement the 13th Amendment. How could the UNP leader abolish Sri Lanka’s unitary status, having received an opportunity to complete Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s remainder of five-year term, won at the Nov. 2019 Presidential Election.

The MP challenged their erstwhile comrades, in the JVP, to state their position on the 13th Amendment. Alleging that the JVP had been conveniently silent on the issue at hand, MP Samaraweera asked whether the current leadership would take up Wickremesinghe’s challenge.

In addition to Weerawansa and Samaraweera, Yuthukama leader Gevindu Cumaratunga, MP, has declared opposition to the President’s move, at the party leaders’ meeting.

Of the SLPP parliamentary group, retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera is the only MP to publicly oppose Wickremesinghe’s proposal.

Political sources said that the NJS, as a group contesting the forthcoming LG polls, was yet to deliberate this issue and take a stand. They said that consensus was required without further delay as the President’s proposal would be a major issue at the forthcoming election.

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PHU, too, opposes land, police powers to PCs

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A lawyers’ group, aligned with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU), yesterday (31) said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe couldn’t unilaterally decide on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Attorneys-at-Law Pasan Gunasekera and Bhupathi Kahathuduwa, in a statement issued, explained why police and land powers, in terms of the controversial amendment, shouldn’t be granted to Provincial Councils. Abolition of current constitutional safeguard would undermine Sri Lanka’s unitary status thereby paved the way for a new conflict.

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Bangladesh FM to deliver LK memorial lecture

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Bangladesh Foreign Minister, Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, will deliver the Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture at Block 3, Jasmine Hall, BMICH, on February 03, at 6 pm.

The LTTE assassinated the then Foreign Minister, Kadirgamar, on Aug. 12, 2005.

FM Momen will deliver the annual lecture on the invitation of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies.

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