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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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Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries

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The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.

The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.

Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.

Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.

Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.

Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.

Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.

The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.

(SF)

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So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.

He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.

“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.

Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.

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Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter

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The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.

The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.

• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893

• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals

• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252

• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance

• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987

The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.

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