Country cannot be locked down till Covid-19 solution is found – President | Sunday Observer

Country cannot be locked down till Covid-19 solution is found – President

8 November, 2020

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that the country need not be locked down if the public followed the health guidelines issued to them to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. He said the movement of the people cannot be curtailed by imposing curfew indefinitely. Businesses and other operations pertaining to businesses and factories can continue while ensuring that people follow the health guidelines. The President said that decisions must be made taking into consideration the livelihoods of the people, the country’s economy and all other relevant aspects.

President Rajapaksa said that the entire country cannot be under lockdown until a solution is found for the control of the Covid-19 virus. He said that everyone should be prepared to engage in their daily activities while following the recommended health guidelines and advised the police to strictly enforce the curfew in the respective areas to control the spread of the virus.

The Suwen Sitimu digital project formulated by the Information and Communication Technology Agency to assist with the Covid-19 prevention drive was presented to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during a meeting on Wednesday. During the meeting the National Operation Centre for the Prevention of Covid-19 updated the President on the Covid-19 situation in the Western Province and throughout the country.

Parliament Council

The inaugural meeting of the Parliament Council set up under the 20 th Amendment met on Wednesday (November 4) under the patronage of Speaker, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, at his official residence. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, Prime Minister’s nominee Minister Douglas Devananda, Opposition Leader’s nominee MP Kabir Hashim, Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake and Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff Neil Iddawala were present at the meeting.

The Parliament Council meeting which commenced at 4.00 pm continued for more than an hour. The Speaker welcomed all Council members while extending an invitation to work more cooperatively in the future.

The Secretary General of Parliament then elaborated the legal framework and the functional aspects of the Council in accordance with the 20 th Amendment followed by the instructions given by the Speaker. Accordingly, the Council members came to a mutual agreement on the steps to be taken pertaining to future functional aspects to be followed by the Parliament Council after lengthy discussions. The inaugural Parliament Council meeting was then adjourned and scheduled its next meeting for November 10 at 10.00 am.

Minister of Fisheries Douglas Devananda has been appointed to the Parliamentary Council as the nominee of the Prime Minister.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Monday (November 2) assented to the nomination submitted by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Under the recently-passed 20th Amendment to the Constitution, the composition of the Parliamentary Council was revised to six.

Thereby, the Council now consists of the Prime Minister, Speaker, Opposition Leader and three nominees each appointed by the ex-officio members. Minister Devananda is also a member of the Parliament Select Committee, the Committee on Parliament Business and the Committee on High Posts. He chairs the Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Fisheries and the Kilinochchi District Coordinating Committee.

During a meeting with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Faris Hadad-Zervos, has commended the Sri Lankan Government on how it has dealt with the Coronavirus outbreak.

Expressing “deep gratitude for the relationship” that Sri Lanka and the World Bank share, Hadad-Zervos congratulated the Prime Minister “not only on the election (victory) but on how Sri Lanka has managed the pandemic.”

“We wish you a speedy exit from this situation,” he said. He was accompanied by the World Bank Country Manager for the Maldives and Sri Lanka, Chiyo Kanda. The Sri Lankan delegation thanked the World Bank for the many years of close cooperation and assured that the new Government will continue that relationship.

It also expressed its appreciation to the Bank for the various assistance programs during the pandemic. The World Bank was the first donor agency to come forward with assistance when the pandemic first broke out early this year. The Country Director said the World Bank will assess how best to support Sri Lanka and to “see how we can turn this crisis into an opportunity.”

Key sectors

Asked about Sri Lanka’s priorities, Premier Rajapaksa responded by pointing to several key sectors the Government would like to prioritise after the current outbreak situation is under control: Economic development, roads, drinking water, sanitation and agriculture. In the area of agriculture, the two delegations explored how farmers could be more empowered to produce value-added products that could be marketed internationally as uniquely Sri Lankan brands.

The World Bank Country Director highlighted Sri Lanka’s Ayurveda sector, and said that there is a great international demand for Ayurvedic products. Another area which was discussed was film tourism.

With a very well-developed tourism sector, Hadad-Zervos said a possible next step for countries like Sri Lanka to increase tourism even further is to attract the entertainment industry from around the world to use Sri Lanka as the location for productions. Studies have shown that seeing a location in a movie or television can have a significant impact on the number of tourists visiting that location.

One of the most successful examples of film-induced tourism is New Zealand after being featured in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Premier Rajapaksa said the Ranminithenna Tele Cinema Village was established during his presidency with film tourism in mind. However, it was not put to good use during the past few years.

He said while there are examples of some popular films shot in Sri Lanka such as The Bridge on the River Kwai, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Water. The Prime Minister had expressed a keen interest on further collaborating with the World Bank in this area.

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi told Parliament that she is even ready to sacrifice herself to the sea, if such an act can wipe out the Covid-19 pandemic from the country.

Commencing the debate on two Regulations of the Medical Ordinance, the Minister said many people sling mud at her using images of her engaging in a religious activity to invoke blessings, to curb the pandemic, She said

“The Opposition slings mud at me, saying that I am going to sacrifice myself to the sea. According to legend, this country has the blessings of the Gods. I do my best these days to prevent this pandemic as the Minister in charge. Apart from that, I have received many invitations to participate in religious activities to bless the country at this difficult time. I am ready to sacrifice myself to the sea to protect the country from COVID-19,” she said.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said if former Minister Basil Rajapaksa was to re-enter Parliament it would augur well for local politics. Speaking at a recent media briefing held at his Ministry, Amaraweera said the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Parliamentary group would welcome the return of Rajapaksa if he re-enters the Legislature. The Minister was asked about the reason behind the decision taken by SLPP National List MP, Jayantha Ketagoda to resign.

However, the Minister said that he was still not certain whether there were any plans within the Government to allow Rajapaksa to be sworn in as an MP. He added that in any case, the process of swearing in an MP was long drawn and cannot be done overnight.

LPL tournament

Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa has told the media that the Health Ministry and the Covid-19 Task Force have given the ‘green light’ to go ahead with the Lanka Premier League (LPL), the Twenty20 franchise cricket tournament scheduled to commence this month.

In a Twitter post confirming this, Sports Minister Rajapaksa thanked the President and Prime Minister and said that this is indicative of the Government’s commitment to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and return the country to normalcy while adhering to health guidelines. The Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) board officials, including the President Shammi Silva and the LPL Tournament Director Ravin Wickeramratne reportedly met the President on Thursday (November 5). The meeting had also been attended by the health ministry officials and Sports Minister, Namal Rajapaksa.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) on Wednesday (November 4) held an advanced seminar on governance via video, strictly abiding by the health guidelines of both countries.

Minister Song Tao of the International Department of the Central Committee of CPC, Party Secretary Liu Cigui of the CPC Provincial Committee of Hainan Province, SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris, Secretary General Sagara Kariyawasam, SLPP MPs including Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Namal Rajapaksa and Ramesh Pathirana together with some State Ministers and Mayors from the Western Province participated in the meeting.

The advanced seminar was held to implement the consensus reached by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Chinese President Xi Jinping in their telephone conversation. The two ruling parties of China and Sri Lanka are committed to jointly promote regular exchanges, engage in in-depth experience sharing on governance and to enhance collaboration during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the seminar, the bilateral relations of the two countries and the two parties, suggestions on the CPC-SLPP cooperation and long-term exchanges, Hainan’s successful practice on provincial development and poverty alleviation and joint combat against Covid-19 had been broadly discussed with fruitful outcomes.

Reliable sources confirmed that UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and former Minister Vajira Abeywardena had met Ven. Muruththettwe Ananda thera at his Abyarama temple on Wednesday. Ven.Ananda thera and UNP Leader Wickremesinghe had an extensive discussion which lasted about two hours. According to sources, in addition to the personal matters, they had also discussed a series of political matters as well.

Opposition Leader, Sajith Premadasa was told in Parliament on November 3 not to play the race card with the sensitive issue of cremating Muslim Covid-19 victims to score political points by rousing communal disharmony. Justice Minister, Ali Sabry said that the issue had been very sensitive to Muslims as cremation was in violation of Islamic burial rights and asked the Opposition Leader not to play politics with such issues.

Minister Sabry said so after Opposition Leader Premadasa raised the issue of cremating Muslims, during the debate on two new regulations under the Medical Ordinance. Opposition Leader Premadasa said, “While other countries united in their battle against Covid-19, we got divided.

The World Health Organisation permitted both cremation and burial of Covid-19 victims. The Health Minister has repeatedly stated that she followed WHO guidelines. Muslims were cremated here. That is a sin. Not only that, there was a rumour being circulated that Covid-19 was spread by the Muslims.”

Minister Sabry told Opposition Leader Premadasa that Covid-19 is a challenge not only to this country but to the entire world. We are facing the challenge. There is anguish among the Muslims about cremations. Yet, it is not good to politicise the issue. A group of very senior doctors was sent by the Government to the WHO and made a request to amend their guideline on cremations. That was six months back.

They did not go there for political reasons and the WHO pointed out that there was nothing political but they viewed the issue from a scientific perspective only. They identified it as ‘fear of unknown’ and told our delegation that the matters related to Covid-19 were actually an evolving science. They promised us to consider the amending of guidelines in six months. We are working towards that purpose. Please look at this issue in a humanitarian perspective and have patience.