Sinking ship, B’day bashes put Govt in a quandary
By Gagani Weerakoon
The Government, despite its attempts to arrest the spread of third COVID-19 wave by extending travel restrictions and taking the vaccination drive to other parts of the country, has come under severe criticism over irregularities, biases and ignorance.
With increasing incidence of unfair preferences in the vaccine drive, strong calls are made on the Government to keep politicians away from the entire process.
Amidst growing concerns, two SLPP Mayors were making headlines, in the past week, with one being brought to books while the other got off scot-free.
In one such incident, Mayor of Moratuwa Municipal Council Samanlal Fernando, was remanded until 11 June by the Moratuwa Magistrate’s Court, in terms of the provisions of the Quarantine Law and the Penal Code.
He was arrested for obstructing the duties of State officers.
“Police received a complaint against Moratuwa Mayor Samanlal Fernando over obstructing the duties of health officers and violating quarantine rules and regulations at the vaccination programmeme held at a church in Moratumulla. The area MoH officer made a statement to the Police in connection with the incident. A special Police team was deployed to conduct investigations and to apprehend the suspect. The suspect, Mayor Fernando surrendered to the Police and was arrested,” said the Police Spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana.
Meanwhile, Mayor of Kurunegala, who made headlines for destroying an archeological site at the heart of Kurunegala Town, was once again in the limelight over controversial birthday celebration.
A cake cutting was held to celebrate the Kurunegala Mayor’s birthday during the last day of a seven-day Pirith chanting ceremony that was organized at the Kurunegala Police station premises.
The event was held at a time when an islandwide travel restriction was imposed in the country and all parties and public gatherings had been prohibited under the new health guidelines issued by the Health Ministry in May due to the coronavirus situation in Sri Lanka.
Police continue to assure action against Kurunegala Mayor Thushara Sanjeewa and his wife over the birthday celebration that was conducted at the Kurunegala Police station premises on 30 May.
Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said the Police will initiate action against the two suspects after they complete their quarantine process.
A group of people, including the suspects, who were at the Police station at the time of the incident, have been placed under quarantine.
Disciplinary action has been taken against Police officers who had organised the birthday celebration for the Mayor, while an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) was transferred to Kuliyapitiya for organizing the event within the Police station premises.
Prez worried about economy
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on Wednesday, stressed that the economy should not be allowed to collapse despite the spread of COVID-19 and all must support the continuity of industries and development.
“Despite the current situation, the country’s economy cannot be allowed to collapse and the contribution of all stakeholders is needed to overcome the challenge and move forward as a country,” the President told a meeting with the Governors and District Secretaries.
“Governors and District Secretaries should extend their fullest support to the continuation of operations at factories and development projects,” the President added.
The President pointed out the importance of looking into the possibility of operating a factory or carrying out a development project uninterrupted in compliance with health recommendations instead of shutting them down at once when an infected person is detected at a factory or a project premises.
He also stressed that the Governors and District Secretaries should personally intervene to maintain essential services and prevent any disruption to the lives of the people.
The challenges and problems faced by the people in the face of travel restrictions were discussed at length at the meeting.
President Rajapaksa said that although the Government had given instructions to maintain industries and essential services in compliance with proper health recommendations, there were shortcomings in the implementation of this initiative at the divisional level.
The President instructed that the mechanism for distributing surplus fruits and , purchased from the farmers at the divisional level, should be properly implemented. He stressed that it was the responsibility of all stakeholders not to allow the agrarian economy to collapse. The projects that are being implemented with local funds and foreign loan assistance should meet the relevant targets properly.
The President also instructed the Governors and District Secretaries to maintain direct contacts with State Ministers and relevant secretaries in order to ensure the implementation of Government-launched projects, including the rehabilitation of 10,000 tanks, development of 100,000 km of rural roads, establishment of 1,000 National Schools and housing, regional hospitals, drinking water supply and renewable energy development projects.
Sri Lanka is currently receiving the total number of vaccines required to continue the vaccination programmeme. President Rajapaksa noted that the process is executed in a scientific and sophisticated manner and added that he expects further support from the political authorities as well as the Governors and all public officials when facilitating necessary assistance to the health sector to run the operation smoothly and swiftly avoiding any inconvenience to the people.
President Rajapaksa said that the Government has decided to provide organic fertiliser to farmers free-of-cost and requested the Governors to provide necessary assistance to overcome the challenges in promoting organic farming. It was also stated that the Government has planned to provide aid and facilitate loans at a concessionary interest rate via State banks to small-scale businesses and farmers’ associations to produce organic fertiliser.
SJB calls for Govt’s resignation
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa criticised the Government for not paying attention to his request to call an all party conference to decide on a course of action to control the COVID-19 pandemic and find solutions to several other pressing issues in the country.
“Other countries are coming up with short-term and long-term programmemes to support the public during this pandemic but the Sri Lankan Government is coming up with new matters to distract the public and keep repeating their failures,” he alleged.
Premadasa said the Government failed to control the pandemic and that many livelihoods have been destroyed as a result of its decisions.
“Fishermen have fallen from the frying pan into the fire due to the MV X-Press Pearl disaster; bringing their livelihoods to a halt. The livelihood of farmers have come to a standstill due to the ban on fertiliser imports. Even the livelihoods of those who depend on the apparel industry has been destroyed,” he added.
He also warned that the Government will have its return for shamefully comparing death rates of other countries with Sri Lanka instead of taking firm action to control the pandemic.
Premadasa expressed these views making a special statement recently.
Meanwhile, SJB General Secretary Ranjith Maddumabandara said that the Government should resign over its inability to deliver essential services to the public during the lockdown period.
"The vaccination programmeme is a muddle. Since the Government hasn't provided enough facilities to the health sector, they have been prompt in launching trade union action amidst the pandemic. These things prove that the Government is a complete failure," he added.
Maddumabandara also claimed that none of the statics related to COVID-19 that come from the Government is reliable.
He further said that the Government has proven its failure more than once and such a Government has to do nothing, but resign.