By Rathindra Kuruwita
Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Co. Ltd, the maker of Sinopharm vaccine responded to questions posed by the Expert Committee appointed, on March 17, to make recommendations for importing the Covid-19 vaccine to Sri Lanka, by April, but the Committee had been presented with requested answers only on 06 May, a day before the WHO approved the use of the vaccine, Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) President Dr. Lakkumar Fernando said yesterday.
Dr. Fernando is a member of the Expert Committee.
“There are many allegations that we delayed approving Sinopharm. This is false. We indeed approved vaccines, which had not been hitherto approved by the WHO, to be used in Sri Lanka. Even the Covishield vaccine had not been approved by the WHO when we gave the nod. The same is true of Sputnik-V,” he said.
Dr. Fernando said that on 17 March they had handed the NMRA a set of questions to be sent to the makers of Sinopharm. On 19 March, there had been an NMRA board meeting on the vaccine. Dr. Fernando was a board member of the NMRA at that point.
“Four of us objected because the expert committee had not approved the vaccine. The board has 13 members. That means there were nine others apart from us. Six of them had been recently appointed by the government and the others were officials. They could have taken a vote and approved Sinopharm. Instead, they appointed another committee to look into Sinopharm. So, from 19 March to 06 May the initial expert committee had been sidelined with regards to Sinopharm.”
Dr. Fernando said that on 06 May afternoon they had been given a document containing answers sent by the makers of Sinopharm. The WHO was to approve Sinopharm a few hours later.
“We approved Sinopharm within 24 hours. However, when we later looked at the document sent by makers of Sinopharm, we saw that they had responded by April. So, why was this letter withheld from us for weeks, even a month? How can they accuse us of delaying the approval of Sinopharm?”
Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border
BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.
The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.
The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.
Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.
A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.
Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.
Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.
They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.
13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals
Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.
President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.
Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.
Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.
Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.
Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.
President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.
“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.
The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.
“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.
Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.
MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.
Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02 in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.
The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.
Gas prices up
State-owned Litro has increased the price of domestic gas with effect from midnight yesterday.
Chairman of Litro Company Muditha Peiris said the price of a 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder would be increased by Rs 334, the price of a 5 kg gas cylinder by Rs 135 and the price of a 2.3 kg gas cylinder by Rs 61 .The 12.5 kg cylinder is Rs 4,743.
Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border
Protesters among prisoners pardoned by Iran leader
Weekend avalanches kill 10 in Austria and Switzerland
‘Dates have the highest sugar content to fight Coronavirus’
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