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WHO extends time for booster shot, raises hope for AZ jab recipients



Prof. CJ explains how combination of three vaccines was used to address problem 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Those who have missed Oxford AstraZeneca (Covishield) second jab so far are unlikely to get theirs before the originally stipulated period to ensure the best effect of the vaccine.

Various government spokespersons, including Senior Presidential Advisor Lalith Weeratunga  are on record as having said that the second jab should be administered between 12 to 16 weeks to maximise protection against new variants of coronavirus.

However, State Minister of Pharmaceutical Production, Supply and Regulation Prof Channa Jayasumana yesterday (24) said subsequently the WHO had determined that the second jab could be given in 24 weeks (six months).

Prof. Jayasumana said that though the original deadline couldn’t be met due to the disruption to the supply line, the time and space provided by the latest WHO technical paper would give the government an opportunity to complete the inoculation of those who earlier received Covishield first jab.

Prof. Jayasumana said so in response to The Island queries.

Asked how the government intended to ensure the second jab for approximately 570,000 before the expiring of the new deadline, Prof Jayasumana said that in addition to 264,000 covishield promised through the Covax programme in the second week of July, Sri Lanka would take delivery of 26,000 Pfizer vaccines doses on July 5, 12 and 19 and the remaining requirement would be met through US donation of Covid-19 vaccines, probably Moderna. “If everything goes as expected, the issue of Covishield second jab can be settled by end of July,” Prof Jayasumana said.

According to the State Minister, the WHO has said the second dose could be given after 20 weeks though previously it was 16 weeks. According to WHO technical study dated May 26, 2021. “The uncertainty of future supplies has prompted countries to review policy and programmatic implications, as providing the second dose of the vaccine within the WHO recommended 8-12-week schedule may not be feasible in the near future,” according to the WHO study.

The Island sought an explanation from Prof. Neelika Malavige, who is also the Head, Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine at the Sri Jayewardenepura University Medical Faculty, what would happen if the deadline couldn’t be met. Prof. Malavige said that a slight delay wouldn’t be an issue but in the absence of required data she couldn’t comment on much delayed inoculation and what its impact would be.

Referring to available foreign research data, Prof. Malavige said having the second dose was essential to guarantee the best effect of the vaccine, and in particular to maximise protection against new variants.

Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena didn’t answer his mobile phone and therefore the response of the senior most official responsible for Covid-19 counter-measures to the plight of nearly 600,000 persons awaiting the second jab couldn’t be obtained.

Prof. Malavige pointed out that against the backdrop of sharp increase in the cases of the Delta variant, in some parts of the world the administration of the second dose had been advanced. According to the Office of  Health Ministry’s Chief Epidemiologist as at 8pm, June 22, 2021, altogether 372,675 had received the booster shot whereas 925,242 got the first dose during January-April 2021. The report revealed that on June 20, 21 and 22, the covishield second dose had been given to  252, 132 and  385 persons.

Sri Lanka received altogether three stocks of Covishield consisting 1,264,000 from Serum Institute, Pune beginning January 28, 2021. Of them, India and Covax donated 500,000 and  264,000, respectively. Sri Lanka paid for the rest.

The Japanese Embassy on Wednesday (23) said that Sri Lanka’s request for stock of AstraZeneka vaccines was still under consideration. The Island raised the issue with The Japanese embassy in the wake of a statement issued by the President’s Media Division (PMD) on June 09 regarding positive Japanese government response to Sri Lanka’s request.

“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s request to the Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga for 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine has received  positive response,” PMD stated in a statement soon after the President met Japanese Ambassador in Colombo Sugiyama Akira on June 09.

Asked whether the Japanese Embassy could comment on the PMD statement, the Japanese Embassy has sent The Island the following  statement: When circumstances allow and at an appropriate time, Japan will allocate around 30 million doses of vaccines manufactured in Japan to other countries and regions, including through the COVAX Facility. We have received a request from the Government of Sri Lanka for assistance in relation to vaccines. The two governments are in discussion on the issue and the request is being considered at our HQ. We would like to refrain from making further comments on the diplomatic communications.”

However, according to media reports Japan had already donated 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan early this month.

Authoritative Foreign Ministry sources told The Island that the Sri Lanka reiterated call for urgent supply of AstraZeneca from the UK in the wake of recently concluded G7 summit where the issue of some influential countries hoarding vaccine stocks was revealed.

Both Prof. Jayasumana and Prof. Malavige explained the current status on the basis of relevant documents made available to The Island. Prof Jayasumana acknowledged that it would be the responsibility of the government to ensure the proper implementation of the inoculation drive though some shortcomings were obvious. He said the issue of malpractices in the overall programme couldn’t be  denied but every effort would be made to implement the programme.



Police failure to contain May 2022 violence explained



Police inaction to prevent arson attacks against SLPP politicians in the Western province on May 9 may have been due to orders not to carry weapons to deal with protesters, a new investigation has revealed.A review of the role of the police at the time showed Senior Deputy Inspector General Deshabandu Tennakoon had ordered all officers under him to ensure that no personnel were issued with arms and ammunition in the run up to the May 9 violence.

In his two-page instructions to DIGs, SSPs, SPs, ASPs and officers in charge of all stations in the districts of Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha, Tennakoon had said no weapons or ammunition should be issued under any circumstances to officers deployed to deal with the protesters.

This order dated May 5 had not come to the attention of a three-member investigation panel headed by former navy chief Wasantha Karannagoda appointed to look into the security lapses. However, the panel had uncovered an order similar to that of Tennakoon issued by the then army chief Shavendra Silva.

Deploying police without even their own personal protection is seen as a violation of departmental orders and an internal investigation had begun, a top official source said.Meanwhile, the private residence of President Ranil Wickremesinghe was torched despite 400 air force men being deployed to protect it. The airmen did not open fire to deter a handful of attackers who scaled walls to enter the premises and set it on fire.

Instead of dealing with the arsonists, a police Special Task Force (STF) unit outside the Fifth Lane residence of Wickremesinghe attacked a television crew angering the protesters and encouraging more people to congregate there.

Several people identified through CCTV footage have already been arrested in connection with the arson at Wickremesinghe’s residence.However, action is yet to be taken against police and security personnel who failed to ensure law and order.

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SL will engage major T-bond holders for voluntary optimization: Governor



ECONOMYNEXT –Sri Lanka will not re-structure Treasury bills outside of central bank holdings and will engage with major T-bond holders for voluntary ‘optimization’ Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said.

“There will be some treatment on central bank held Treasury bills,” Governor Nandal Weeasinghe told a creditor presentation Thursday.

“Other Treasury bill holdings will not be treated. Treasury bonds we envisage voluntary optimization.”

Sri Lanka has to at least extend the maturities of bonds to reach a gross financing need target averaging 13 percent of GDP in 2027-2032 based on projections in an IMF debt sustainability analysis. Of that foreign debt service has be below 4.5 percent of GDP on average.

“Local currency creditors participation in a debt optimization will help reaching the DSA targets,” Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena said.

“Authorities are exploring options for domestic debt operations aimed at liquidity relief while preserving financial stability to avoid further eroding Sri Lanka’s repayment capacity.”

The government and advisors will “invite consultations with major T-bond holders to gauge options and constraints”, he said.Governor Weerasinghe and Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardene said Sri Lanka is likely to outperform the growth targets in the IMF debt sustainability analysis given past history. The IMF DSA is projecting 3.1 percent growth in the next few years.

Sri Lanka grew at rates around 4 to 5 percent during a 30 year war, but growth started to fall after serial currency crises hit the country under flexible inflation targeting with output gap targeting (monetary stimulus) during peacetime. In 2020 taxes were also cut for stimulus, going beyond open market operations and outright purchases of bonds seen earlier.

Meanwhile state spending went up from 17 to 20 percent of GDP under state expansionist revenue based fiscal consolation after spending based consolidation (cost cutting) was thrown out of the window from 2015 to 2019, critics say.

Sri Lanka is now trying to cut spending and excessive growth of the public sector, based on normal economic principles, to limit the burden of the unaffordable state on productive sectors and the poor, while preserving essential spending.According to the latest IMF program, fiscal consolidation will be “primarily” revenue based.

Sri Lanka’s Treasury bill and bond yields were higher than required due to uncertainty over whether they will be re-structured and the so-called ‘gilt’ status will no longer apply.

The lack of an early cut off date for domestic debt is a key problem in the IMF’s current debt resolution framework as domestic bond buyers are the last resort lenders after most foreign creditors stop lending, when the IMF says a country’s debt is no longer sustainable.

Download presentation from here.

Sri Lanka and debt advisors will engage with major Treasury bond holders, Weerasinghe said.

Key T-bond holders are Employment Provident Fund, Employment Trust Fund, insurance companies and banks.

Sri Lanka is also conducting an asset quality of review of banks.

Based on its results a debt optimization options will be offered paying attention to asset liability mis-matches, Weerasinghe said.

By preserving banking sector stability foreign investors are more likely to get repaid.

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BASL slams attempts to hinder Saliya Pieris, PC, appearing for a client



The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has issued a statement on the recent string of protests launched against former BASL President Saliya Pieris’s decision to represent a client who had retained him. In the statement signed by BASL President Kaushalya Nawaratne and Secretary Isuru Balapatabendi, the BASL noted that the protests in question not only hinders the senior lawyer’s right to represent a client, but also acts as an attack on the profession at large.

Further, they noted that Article 13(3) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka specifically guarantees every person the right to a fair trial and the right to be represented by a lawyer of their choice.

The BASL also cited the 2019 Supreme Court judgment delivered in a landmark case together with the Judicature Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Civil Procedure Code in favour of their argument. The Bar Association strongly demanded that the relevant authorities ensure that Pieris’s professional duties and safety remain unhindered.

Excerpts from text of the statement:

“The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) observes that there has been a series of organized protests in Colombo, in relation to Mr. Saliya Pieris PC, the Former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client.

“We are of the view that the said protest, not only seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law, but also an attack on the profession at large.

“In the case of Wijesundara Mudiyanselage Naveen Nayantha Bandara Wijesundara v Sirwardena and Others (SCFR 13/2019), the Supreme Court observed that: ‘The first piece of legislation passed by the Parliament soon after the promulgation of the 1978 Constitution was the Judicature Act No. 02 of 1978.

‘As the administration of justice in any civilized society cannot be effectively implemented without lawyers, the legislature in its wisdom, through the Judicature Act, established the legal profession. Thus, there is no dispute that the legal profession is a sine qua non for the due administration of justice in this country and for that matter in any civilized society. The said profession is essential for the maintenance of the Rule of Law and maintenance of law and order and its due existence is of paramount importance to the organized functioning of the society which is primarily the basis for the smooth functioning of the country as a whole.’

“Our constitution specifically guarantees the right to legal representation in Article 13(3) and

the Civil Procedure Code also provides for the right to legal representation in civil cases. Specifically, Section 24 of the Code allows parties to be represented by lawyers or other authorized representatives in court.

“Overall, Sri Lankan law recognizes and protects the right to legal representation, both in criminal as well as civil cases.

“Therefore, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka strongly demands that the authorities ensure that Mr. Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and, ensure his safety.”

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