Opposition Planning to Amend No-confidence Motion Against Gammanpila

By Gagani Weerakoon | Published: 2:00 AM Jul 17 2021
Ceylon Politics Opposition Planning to Amend No-confidence Motion Against Gammanpila
By Gagani Weerakoon

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa chaired a special meeting of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 control at the Presidential Secretariat last weekend.

Legislators Channa Jayasumana, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Sudurshani Fernandopulle, Bandula Gunawardena, Prasanna Ranatunga, Keheliya Rambukwella, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Namal Rajapaksa, Sisira Jayakody and Gamini Lokuge were present at the event. 

Special Adviser to the President Lalith Weeratunga came to the meeting a little in advance. President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa came to the meeting smiling happily. “What is your good news today ...?” the President asked. 

At that time, the health authorities started the conversation by presenting the latest information on vaccination to the President. “But I’ve seen a little drop in vaccination programme these two days ...” President Rajapaksa noted. 

“By next week, all will be well, Sir. We have planned to complete the targets very successfully within the next few days,” Minister Namal Rajapaksa explained. “There is no problem with vaccination ... we carry it out perfectly well in hospitals. 

The most important thing is to speed up the distribution process of the vaccination,” aid Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya. “Why do you say so ... is there a delay in getting the vaccines ...?” The health officials then started explaining the causes that delays vaccine reception and Dr. Padeniya elaborated a system followed by them at hospitals. “The health sector is adopting a special system to expedite vaccination process. 

We do not take time to register those who come to take the vaccine. Instead, we ask them to write down on a piece of paper all the necessary information, such as their name, address, telephone number, and age. 

They put that piece of paper in a box, get the vaccination and leave. Only then do we register the information in the box....’’, Dr. Padeniya described the methodology; many present pointed out that it was a very successful and fast methodology. “At present, vaccination in the Western Province is almost coming to an end with great success. We have also started to vaccinate people over 30 years of age in other areas.

 If it continues with the same pace, we can finish vaccinating all in Sri Lanka by end of August. We now get a lot of vaccines from abroad,’’ the President said. Meanwhile, Minister Bandula Gunawardena raising an issue pointed out that there’s increasing opposition in the society over protesters being arrested and directed to quarantine centres. “It is wrong to point the finger at the Government for that.

 People are being taken for quarantine for health reasons. It is decided by the health authorities. ... On the other hand, the police do their duty when they gather in one place and protest in violation of the common law of the land,” the President explained. 

Meanwhile, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa instructed the officials to launch a mobile vaccination service for those who are suffering from illnesses and unable to leave their homes. The COVID-19 vaccination process has been expedited at the district level throughout the country. However, vaccination of the people who are sick and unable to leave homes has become an obstacle.

 The President emphasised the need to expedite the mobile vaccination programme with the assistance of the Medical Officers and the Public Health Inspectors or by obtaining information through special telephone numbers. The President expressed these views at a meeting with the Special Committee on COVID-19 Control held at the Presidential Secretariat on Friday (16) on the vaccination drive and future operations. 

The COVID-19 Committee revealed that a higher percentage of COVID-19 patients identified in the last few days have not received the vaccine and the deaths were of those who have not been vaccinated. 

Therefore, the President pointed out the need to make people aware of the importance of vaccination and to get them involved in the vaccination programme. Ministers Prasanna Ranatunga and Rohitha Abeygunawardena pointed out that all persons over the age of 30 in the Gampaha and Kalutara Districts can be vaccinated within the next four days. The vaccination of persons from the investment promotion sector and tourism industry is 90 per cent completed. 

Therefore, Minister Namal Rajapaksa said, there is a significant revival in these fields. The President instructed that those who are employed in any field should be given the opportunity to get the vaccine easily from any vaccination centre. 

State Minister of Indigenous Medicine Promotion, Rural and Ayurvedic Hospitals Development and Community Health Sisira Jayakody stated that COVID-19 patients were successfully treated at Ayurvedic Centres. Minister Ramesh Pathirana highlighted that no one who had been treated at Ayurvedic Centres had succumbed and that special research should be carried out into their speedy recovery. The President pointed out the need to direct the students and teachers to use local indigenous medicines to boost immunity after recommencing schools. 

Ministers Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Bandula Gunawaradena, Johnston Fernando, Ramesh Pathirana, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Keheliya Rambukwella, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Namal Rajapaksa, Prasanna Ranatunga, State Ministers Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Dilum Amunugama, Sisira Jayakody, Channa Jayasumana, MPs Madhura Withanage, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Health Secretary Major General (Retired) Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe, Commanders of the Tri Forces, Inspector General of Police and heads of the health sector were present at the meeting.

 PC members summoned to Temple Trees 

Former Provincial Councillors representing the SLPP had been summoned to Temple Trees last Saturday. The Minister of Finance Basil Rajapaksa had called the meeting and discussed on a number of development projects and political issues with them. He also listened to the opinions of the Councillors as well. “We are pleased that you have agreed to be sworn in as a Member of Parliament and to be appointed Minister of Finance. You are the one who prepared economic plans since 2005. 

We all believe that you can rebuild the country from where it is today,” many of them said. Meanwhile, issues at provincial level which have arisen due to delays in Provincial Council Elections and halted development activities were also discussed. Apart from that, the SLPP representatives also spoke about agitations of the people as well. On Tuesday, Rajapaksa met staff members at the institutions which come under his purview. He discussed about the current status of the institutions and future plans with the staff in dept. Since the appointment of Basil Rajapaksa as the new Minister of Finance, foreign 

embassies in Sri Lanka have expressed their willingness to meet him. Accordingly, last Wednesday was set aside to meet the foreign ambassadors in Sri Lanka. Ambassadors of five countries and High Commissioners of two countries attended the bilateral talks which were held from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. that day.

 It is noteworthy that these bilateral talks go beyond proposals to enhance relations between the two countries. Many ambassadors told Rajapaksa that they will give maximum support to build the country’s economy. They also discussed on general information of countries as well. Rajapaksa explained to the Ambassadors how the ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ programme of the President is being implemented with a focus on creating a green economy, renewable energy promotion and an environmentally-friendly transport sector that minimises fuel consumption.

 The High Commissioner of the United Kingdom and the Ambassador of the European Union praised Sri Lanka’s efforts to create a green economy. The British High Commissioner commended the construction of the Central Expressway with the assistance of local construction companies and said that Britain would extend its support to expand this initiative. The Indian High Commissioner commended Sri Lanka for maintaining an economic growth rate of 4.7 per cent even during COVID-19 pandemic. 

During the bilateral discussions between the Chinese Ambassador and the Minister of Finance, it was agreed to provide assistance to the people of Sri Lanka for the success of the vaccination programme, to attract investors to small and medium scale industries and to assist in the development of the Sri Lankan economy. The German Ambassador agreed to assist Sri Lanka in providing technical education facilities for Sri Lankan children under a formal administrative system by enhancing German technical college facilities.

 The US Ambassador stated that the United States and Sri Lanka will work to enhance mutual understanding by creating investment opportunities for the LNG Energy Project. The Russian Ambassador said that he would continue to support the vaccination programme and that there was a possibility of formulating a joint programme for the production of vaccines in the future. 

Sajith enters Justice Ministry 

Opposition Leader Sajith Preamadasa decided to hold a joint protest against the arrest of trade union leaders during a protest demanding the protection of free education. Accordingly, a protest was organised at Independence Square last Friday. Prior to participating in the protest, members of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya visited the office of the Leader of the Opposition.

 MPs Nalin Bandara and Harshana Rajakaruna went to the protest site early to inquire about the situation. Shortly afterwards, Bandara made a phone call to MP Gayantha Karunatilake, who was in the office of the Leader of the Opposition. ‘‘Come with the leader. We are ready here,” he said.

 Karunatilake passed the message to the Leader of the Opposition. The Parliamentarians were waiting for him and Gayantha suddenly wanted to find the mobile phone number of Minister Sarath Weerasekara. “I am looking for this number. 

If we are caught by Police suddenly, I can call and tell the Minister to bring some clothes for us,” his remark made everyone to split into laughter. In addition to SJB, various other social activists were also present at the protest site. More than a thousand policemen were guarding the area around Independence Square. Shortly afterwards, the security guard handed over a copy of the Constitution to Sajith. 

“This is above all regulations. This has ensured the freedom of expression of people. This repressive Government will not be allowed to suppress that right,”Sajith said, pointing at the Constitution in his hand A discussion was held at the Ministry of Justice regarding the recent fire in the X-press Pearl ship. Sajith came at once to the discussion being held by Government ministers including Justice Minister Ali Sabri and Ports Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena. He arrived there at an invitation extended by Minister Abeygunawardena during a parliamentary debate.

 Attention was also drawn to obtaining the assistance of foreign lawyers to resolve the ship’s issue. “You have to be extremely cautious about hiring foreign lawyers as there might be conflicts of interest,’’ Premadasa said which was agreed to by others present including Minister Sabri. 

UNP wants NCM amended

 As it was a week when Parliament was not sitting, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe spent the week delving into the party reorganisation work as well as strengthening of the party apparatus at grass roots level by remaining at Sirikotha. However, due to scores of party activists and members attempting to visit the Sirikotha headquarters, its security officers had a trying time struggling to control the crowds due to the COVID-19 situation. Due to quarantine regulations most of the party officials and activists were forced to spend a long time outside the headquarters and due to this situation seats were placed outside the head office as well. 

On the advice of Wickremesinghe, party Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene regularly went outside and looked into the well-being of the visitors. Wijewardene advised them to be patient as due to the COVID-19 situation they all cannot be allowed to enter the head office at once and the activists said they would bide their time without any issue. With media reporting about UNP seniors’ suggestions to bring an amendment to the Noconfidence Motion moved by the Opposition against Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, other Opposition parties also have started discussing it. Wijewardene also enlightened the Leader Wickremesinghe regarding the NCM against Gammanpila. 

Then Vajira Abeywardena proposed that what the Opposition ought to have moved a NCM against the entire SLPP Government rather than going after a solitary Minister. Then Palitha Range Bandara suggested that the UNP should propose to the Speaker to amend the NCM against the Minister concerned as that would allow the Opposition to state that the entire Government helmed by the PM had failed. Then several party seniors urged the Leader to amend the NCM in such a manner that it covers the entire Government and the Leader promised to them that a decision on it would be taken after consultation with party lawyers. 

The leader then tasked the Deputy Leader to further discuss the issue with other Opposition parties as well. The disciplinary actions against UNP LG members are still continuing and it was supervised by Deputy Leader Wijewardene, Chairman Abeywardena, General Secretary Range Bandara, Vice President Akila Viraj Kariyawasam and Vice Chairman Sagala Ratnayake at Sirikotha. Meanwhile, during the evening of last Wednesday Range Bandara received a call to his mobile phone from a special person informing he needed to meet Range Bandara urgently. Afterwards, the meeting took place after having informed the leader as well. 

This person was none other than SJB MP Palani Digambaram and the Leader of the NUW. The meeting between Bandara and Digambaram lasted for over one hour and the UNP Leader was subsequently apprised of its outcome. On Thursday morning, the leader visited Sirikotha and among those who met him at his official chamber were Bandara, Wijewardene and Abeywardena. Sandith Samarasinghe said that the views expressed by the leader in Parliament on the present financial situation had been a slap on the face of the Government. 

Abeywardene pointed out that the Government has no other alternative but to go on bended knees to the IMF but lamented that the Government was continuing to repose its implicit trust in China with the latter having promised US$ 1.5 billion to Colombo. Then, Wijewardene questioned how the Government would look to pay out the loans under the present situation. 

The leader only nodded in agreement with the views expressed by others but kept mum. Then Saman Rathnapriya charged that the Government had begun to intimidate trade union leaders by kidnapping them and then forcing them to undergo quarantine against their will at forces’ camps.

 Ashu Marasinghe also expressed similar sentiments and criticised the actions of the Government especially the Police whom he alleged had become politicised to the core. Sagala Ratnayake also aired similar remarks and Vajira said that around 600.000 Sinhala Buddhists had already applied for visas to head overseas being unable to put up in this country under the oppressive rule of the present regime

By Gagani Weerakoon | Published: 2:00 AM Jul 17 2021

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