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Victory in a war is determined by the political leadership – Minister Sarath Weerasekera

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by Saman Indrajith

The then corporal of the school cadet platoon is today a cabinet minister, while the sergeant of the same platoon now is an opposition MP, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera told Parliament on Thursday.

Participating in the budget debate under the expenditure heads of the Ministries of Defence and Public Security, the Minister said that Gampaha District SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, in his speech said that he (Fonseka) gave leadership to the army to win the war and the corporal, while he was the sergeant of the school cadet platoon has now become a cabinet minister.

“It is true. I was the corporal in the cadet platoon when Fonseka was the sergeant. Today I am a cabinet minister,” Weerasekera said.

Field Marshal Fonseka: I said so without any ill-will. I wish you all the luck with your appointment. I am only asking you to take care and be vigilant of those on your side today.

Minister Weerasekera: I don’t think that our past would hinder any of us doing our duties and our present positions will harm our friendship.

Minister Weerasekara however said that he disagreed with Field Marshal Fonseka’s view that political leadership should be deprived of the credit of victory for the war. “I was one of the five top military personnel honoured at the end of the war. I admit that the army went from strength to strength under Field Marshal Fonseka, but I have to say that the victory of a war is determined by the political leadership. War is an extension of politics. There can be politics without war but there cannot be war without politics”.

He said that World War II was won by Winston Churchill. It was lost by Adolph Hitler. The names of generals and admirals come only after those names. Today, thousands of people in Vietnam are walking thousands of miles braving the sun and rain to come and respect Ho Chi Min, the political leader of the Vietnam war. They don’t come to respect the war winning general Vo Nguyen Giap.

There is a museum in honour of Ho Chi Min and no museum in the name of General Giap. Similarly, when General MacArthur tried to extend the Korean war up to China, the then US President Harry Truman removed him and appointed General Matthew Ridgeway in his place. That is how the politicians decide the outcome of a war. So it is always the political leadership that determines the victory of war, the Minister further said.

“We know that in 1987, we were very close to ending the war with the Vadamarachchi operation. The then political leadership got cold feet when India dropped lentils from the air and stopped the operation. We still remember the tears in the eyes of General Denzil Kobbekaduwa for depriving him of victory. Similarly, on May 19, 2009, we saw the end of Prabhakaran. Several days prior to that David Miliband from England and Bernard Kuchner from France came to pressure the then president and defence secretary to stop the war. If the then political leadership decided to stop the war, you would not become a hero today”, he added.

Field Marshal Fonseka: I spoke about soldiers. You speak about politicians. 

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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