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UNP puts forth 21-point proposal, including immediate abolition of COVID-19 Task Force

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Ranil meets Gotabaya

By Piyasena Dissanayake

UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, MP, yesterday (17) met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to discuss the Covid-19 situation.

The UNP said that it had submitted a 21-point programme to the government in good faith that the latter would implement them to fight the pandemic to save the lives of people.

Addressing the media yesterday, in Colombo, UNP Chairman Wajira Abeywardena said that the party’s Working Committee had unanimously adopted the 21-point plan. It had already been sent to the President and other relevant government members as well as the Speaker of Parliament and leaders of other political parties, Abeywardene said.

The proposals are specifically aimed at controlling the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure health security and to restore the economy, the UNP Chairman said.

 “We hope that the government will look into these proposals and take necessary actions to save the lives of the people,” Abeywardena said.

The plan, titled ‘The United National Party’s Policy for Health Security and Economic Security’, is as follows:

 • Temporary field hospitals are to be constructed with the assistance of the Army and construction companies. This will include the provision of new beds for patients.

 • The Government must immediately seek international assistance in obtaining more ventilators and oxygen supplies for patients while these supplies must be airlifted.

 • Obtain the services of retired medical professionals and private practitioners to assist the health services in the country.

 • The procurement of vaccines must be increased, it is recommended that the procurement process for COVID-19 related matters be suspended, and an emergency procurement process be put in place.

 • The vaccine program must be expanded to include children aged 12 upwards, with the approval of their parents.

 • The vaccine program must be accelerated and a realistic time frame for the vaccine program must be established by the medical authorities.

 • The PCR testing of the public must be increased.

• All members of the health service must undergo regular PCR testing and be provided with Personal Protective Equipment.

• Proper statistics must be maintained of those infected by COVID-19 and the deaths.

• There is no provision in the law for anti-COVID-19 Task Forces. The powers are vested in the Cabinet of Ministers, the Disaster Management Council and the Director-General of the Health Services. The Task Force must be immediately abolished, and the Cabinet must assume responsibility. The Disaster Management Council comprising of relevant Ministers, Opposition Leader and officials must be convened. The Cabinet shall operate through them.

 • A special advisory group of experts comprising of individuals recommended by the World Health Organization must be set up to assist the Cabinet.

 • The Parliamentary Consultative Group on Health must meet on a weekly basis to provide an update to the Members of Parliament on the situation in the country regarding COVID-19.

 • The lead role in all COVID-19 related matters must be taken by the medical authorities, with the military and other necessary institutions providing support. All anti-COVID-19 efforts must be under the direct control and supervision of the health experts in accordance with the Health Services Act.

 • The Opposition drafted ‘Public Health Emergency Bill’ must be immediately enacted by Parliament. The Government’s ‘Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (Temporary Provisions)’, which provides partial relief, must also be enacted.

 • The International Monetary Fund issued special drawing rights to member countries to enable them to provide resources to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This fund provides additional financial resources for the health sector, therefore the $ 800 million allocated to Sri Lanka must be utilised for COVID expenditure including purchasing vaccines.

 • The economy is under severe strain due to COVID-19 and the lack of foreign exchange reserves. There is no space for an emergency economic relief program, therefore the Government must immediately begin talks with the IMF to obtain the necessary funding.

 • The public and private sector must adopt a Work from Home strategy to reduce the movement of the citizens.

 • Usage of public transport must be limited to half capacity, and the public must be restricted to only essential travel.

 • The country’s borders must be immediately closed to all non-vaccinated tourists.

 • The Disaster Management Council must work out a plan for the education sector to ensure the resumption of safe schooling for children.



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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE

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Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm

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By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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