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‘World will lose faith in all Lankan data’



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The discrepancies in Sri Lankan COVID numbers will soon create doubt on all data that comes from Sri Lanka, former governor, Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon said. In recent weeks there had been many verified reports of the discrepancies, however the manipulation of numbers began in mid 2021, he said.

“I had brought some discrepancies to light in May 2021. However, at that time the discrepancies were not that great, but the numbers that are coming out now is unbelievable,” he said.

The epidemiology unit and the health ministry had under -reported 42% of COVID-19 numbers in Badulla District, Tennakoon said. Tennakoon said that according to the regional health authorities, there had been 14, 373 cases from march 2020 to 17 August 2021. However, according to the epidemiology unit the number is 8,313, he said.

“Thus there is a discrepancy of 6,060 patients. This is not a phenomena limited to Badulla, we have seen this across the country. Soon the WHO won’t accept our figures and we will be embarrassed in front of the whole world. This is a pandemic and WHO needs accurate data from all countries and when we start hedging the numbers, this will affect all the data we provide,” Tennakoon said.

The former governor said that 398 COVID cases were reported from Badulla District. However according to the epidemiology unit, the number was 10.

“This is insane. Only one in 40 patients have been reported. Only one in nine cases from Moneragala have been reorded by the epidemiology unit. All hospitals in Baduula are crowded. Badulla, Bandarawela, Diyathalawa, Bindunuwewa, Kahagolla and Hindagala COVID treatment centres are on the verge of collapse. The government must take the real numbers into account and plan for the needs of the health sector,” he said.

Tennakoon added that according to the regional health authorities, there had been 23, 598 cases reported in Kandy from March 2020 to 18 August 2021. However, according to the epidemiology unit the number is 16,006 he said.

“In Matale, regional health authorities report 11,573 but epidemiology unit puts the number at 2665,” he said.

Commenting on the discrepencies, Deputy Director-General of Health Services Dr. Hemantha Herath said that they are looking into these reports. “We have no intention of making up numbers because at the end of the day health officials are those who will be in trouble,” he said.

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SJB MP slams police double standards



“Why one law for Ponnambalam and another for Gamage?”

The police have failed to display the same efficiency they displayed in arresting Jaffna District MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam with regard to arresting State Minister Diana Gamage, who should have been spending her time at the Mirihana Immigration Detention Centre, Kurunegala District SJB MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha told Parliament on Friday.

“If the police had displayed the same efficacy, Diana Gamage should have been at the Mirihana Detention Centre at this time. Instead she comes to parliament and issues threats to other MPs. The courts have clearly stated that the CID could take her into custody because she had been using two passports.

“The Immigration Controller himself has reported to the courts that she had been a UK citizen since 2004 and using a UK passport since then. She has not revoked her UK citizenship. In addition she has obtained anther passport through the Secretary General of Parliament. The Speaker too should have a responsibility to prevent a foreign citizen sitting unlawfully in the House,” he said.

Jayamaha said that Gamage had no right to sit in parliament. “The case against her regarding her having forged passports is postponed again and again. The law is not implemented. My colleague Mujibur Rahuman tabled a document in this House that the Defence Secretary had been informed of the illegality of Gamage’s presence in Parliament. I tabled the same again today.

“She recently told a TV talk-show that she had applied for the revocation of her UK citizenship. We do not know whether she has two tongues,” the MP said.

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Sarath Weerasekera opposes SLT share sale on security grounds



Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), which owns a fixed and mobile telecom group, which is partly foreign owned and listed should not be privatized, the head of a parliamentary committee on national security has said.

Government MP, Retd. Admiral Sarath Weerasekara who chairs the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security told parliament Friday that divestment of the 49.5 percent stake in SLT held by the government could “expose the country’s strategic communication infrastructure and sensitive information to private companies that are motivated by profit, which could pose a threat to national security”.

Weerasekara also said that any individual or organization proscribed or otherwise that “aided terrorists or extremists” must not be allowed to purchase shares or control Sri Lanka’s national assets.

The claim comes despite satellite links and international cables connecting the country being built and managed by foreign conglomerates in which many connected countries are also shareholders. SLT is also a shareholder in some global cable companies.

Weerasekara suggested that the government retain the right to repurchase shares held by the majority shareholder of SLT.SLT’s second biggest shareholder, behind the Sri Lanka government, is Malaysia-based Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd with a 44.9 percents take in the company.

Most Sri Lanka’s mobile firms were also built and owned not just by private firm but foreign ones. SLT’s own mobile network, Mobitel was a build operate transfer project by Australia’s Telstra.

Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers in March 2023 listed Sri Lanka Telecom among several state companies to be re-structured.SLT currently enjoys market leadership in fixed-line services and is the second-largest operator in mobile. It also owns an extensive optical fibre network.The company was placed on watch for a possible rating upgrade by Fitch Ratings in March 2023 after the government announced the restructuring. (EconomyNext)

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Cardinal hits out at government demanding local elections



By Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has urged the government to hold local elections to secure the democratic rights of the people.

“Voting is a right of the people that we must all enjoy. It is a right that every person over 18 -years of age is entitled to to determine the future of the country,” he said on Thursday.

“Today justice as been turned into injustice, governance to dictatorship and law into lawlessness,” the 75-year-old cardinal told a gathering of hundreds of people at a function at St. Anthony’s College in Kochchikade.

Local polls to elect 340 councils were slated for April 25 but the election commission postponed it, citing a lack of funds.

“The government said earlier that it doesn’t have money to hold an election, now it’s saying that it has money. If the government has the money, please give an opportunity to the people to vote and let the people express their wishes. How much of what came from the IMF was used for agriculture? How much for the fishing industry? And what about education?” the cardinal queried.

Rather than improving the lives of people, “politicians import goods, and bring in what we need and what we don’t need, destroying our economic independence, leading us to depend on foreign countries,” he said.

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