Opposition should be actively involved in fighting COVIDMinister Rohitha

The Opposition should be actively involved in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic rather than simply criticiszing the Government’s attempts, Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena said in Parliament yesterday (04).

Minister Abeygunawardena was participating in the debate on the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Minister Abeygunawardena expressed his disappointment in the Opposition on using the pandemic as a political mean.

“The whole world is facing a serious predicament due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Science can discover cures for most of the diseases, including the coronavirus. However, this ailment suffered by our Opposition, seems to have no cure at all. The reason behind this is that they operate on political agendas, hatred and jealousy. The Opposition is using any topic as a mean to an end. This is a global pandemic,” Minister Abeygunawardena said.

“Over 15 million patients have fallen victim to the pandemic while over 3 million have died. If we look at the global situation, our number of deaths reported is 709. We should try to lower this number. But we are better off than many of the countries. The number of COVID-19 patients at hospitals is slightly over 14,000. We will have to carry out our usual socio-economic activities while getting use to this pandemic, abiding to strict health regulations.

The Opposition demands to lockdown the country with an ulterior motive. If we go for a total lockdown, how can our daily wage earners find their living? Following a lockdown, we will have to deal with an economic crisis.

It will create major social issues. This will make an ideal ground for the Opposition to make a comeback. This Opposition does not like to see a stabilised government. So they want to destabilise ours. The Opposition does not like to see any economic progress in the country. The Government has provided numerous relief packages for small and medium scale entrepreneurs in this pandemic.

We have paid special attention to low income families. All those were granted a pack of essentials worth Rs. 10,000. It has been given not once but twice during the 14 days. The Opposition is not talking about the reliefs we give to our people. I would like to suggest that each of these Opposition MPs should be assigned to selected hospitals and ask them to take responsibility.

Then we can see how they work. If they question, they need to find solutions, too. As a government, we need to minimise the number of victims,” the Minister said.


Increase in COVID cases not limited to Sri Lanka State Minister Fernandopulle

Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease ControlState Minister Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle said that the increase in COVID cases is not limited to Sri Lanka, but all over the world, there has been an increase in April.

“The COVID virus can mutate periodically resulting in different strains emerging. This could lead to sudden increase in cases and differences in the spread of the virus and seriousness of the infection. According to the WHO, during the past 10 weeks, there has been an increase in COVID numbers globally. Although around 1.2 billion have been vaccinated globally, April 23 recorded the highest global cases, which stood at around 900,000. Globally the fatalities have increased over the past seven weeks with around 11,000 deaths reported daily.” She said.

She said that neighbouring India has around 19.2 million cases over the past five weeks, while Sri Lanka has recorded around 113,676 cases during this period. State Minister Fernandopulle also said that the cases in the Southeast Asian region had spiked over the past five weeks by around 40 per cent.

The State Minister said that however, Sri Lanka has increased the number of PCR tests but during April, the numbers had increased. She said that constant testing and vigilance had managed to detect the UK COVID strain responsible for the increase.

She, however, said that despite the increase in cases, Sri Lanka is not too late to control the spread of the virus, if the people cooperate with the health authorities and limit their travel avoiding crowded places.


‘Land Development Corporation Amendment Bill consistent with Constitution’

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Land Development Corporation of Sri Lanka (Amendment) Bill, which was challenged before the Supreme Court, is consistent with the Constitution, the Speaker announced in Parliament yesterday.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced that the Supreme Court has ruled that the provisions of the Bill are consistent with the Constitution and can be passed by a simple majority in Parliament.

The Speaker also announced that the decision of the Supreme Court will be ordered to be printed in the official report showing the schedule.


MP Dr. Harsha De Silva nominated for COPE

The Speaker announced in Parliament today that MP Dr. Harsha De Silva has been nominated to serve in the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) by the Committee of Selection.

MP Dr. Harsha De Silva has been nominated to fill the vacancy occurred after MP Ranjan Ramanayake ceased being a Parliamentarians.


Three gazette notifications on toddy approved

Three gazette notifications pertaining to the sale of toddy were approved by the House yesterday.

The maximum amount of toddy transported by an individual was increased to three litres. Earlier, it was 1.5 litres.

According to the new regulations, the period for selling toddy was also extended until 9 p.m. The definition of toddy has been changed as well.

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Buddhika Pathirana said that the new regulations will encourage people to consume more toddy and inadvertently encourage the production of artificial toddy. The concessions given under the new regulations will benefit large scale artificial toddy manufacturers, MP Pathirana said,

“The daily need of toddy in Sri Lanka is 160,000 litres and natural toddy accounts for only 40,000 litres. The rest is artificial toddy. It is made out of salt, sugar and yeast. Most of the jaggery and vinegar, which is used in Sri Lanka is made out of artificial toddy,” MP Pathirana said.


Strictly adhere to health guidelines in ParliamentSpeaker

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday requested all Parliamentarians to adhere to the Health Guidelines by the Health Authorities in the wake of the COVID -19 situation in the country.

The Speaker urged MPs to follow the health guidelines when working outside Parliament as well.

“Special attention was given to the COVID-19 situations hin the country at the Committee on Parliamentary Business on April 30. MPs have been requested to support and adhered to the Health Guidelines such as wearing masks, washing and sanitising of hands, and maintaining social distance when attending and being present in Parliament and when acting outside Parliament.

“I strongly emphasise the need for all those who come to Parliament, including the staff of Parliament, other affiliated staff, Parliament journalists, and security personnel, to adhere to these Health Guidelines when visiting and while being in Parliament,” the Speaker said.


Don’t undermine health experts’ recommendations MP Rajitha

Opposition MP Dr. Rajitha Senaratne requested the Government not to undermine the recommendations of the health experts in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was moving the Adjournment Debate in Parliament yesterday.

The MP said that the country is at a decisive juncture regarding the health of the people in the third wave of the COVID pandemic. “Unlike fighting the war against enemies, the fight against the COVID-19 virus is far more dangerous as it multiplies daily by the thousands. However, by the Government making way for superstitious beliefs and practices, this only puts the people in danger. Despite medical experts had warned the Government through scientific research that dangerous strains of the virus had entered the country and recommended certain precautions, the Government continued to disregard their advice and continued with their political agendas resulting the death of scores of valuable lives,” he said. He said that the political authority should adhere to the advice of health experts instead of disregarding it.

The former Health Minister said that instead of blaming the people for being careless, the Government should take the responsibility as the guardians of the people. He added that it was because the Government had played down the obvious danger and made the people believe that they had the situation under control, the people, too, had taken the situation lightly and let down their guard.

The MP blamed the Government for being at loggerheads with the Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) who are better informed regarding the real situation on the ground as they are directly involved with the people, instead of giving ear to their recommendations.

He said, therefore, the only course of action to prevent the spread of the virus is to break the chain of infection. He said that the only way to do that is to impose travel restrictions and limit direct contact.

MP Senaratne recommended that the public transport system should be better monitored to prevent close contact and break the cycle of infection. He said that by Monday, the daily infection rate in the country had reached its highest with over 2000 cases and 13 deaths reported. With the increase in cases, he said that a greater number of younger patients were being reported. He said that foreign experts predicted newer strains in the country.

He said that with the new strain, no prior symptoms are prevalent and suddenly patients find it hard to breathe and their condition worsens requiring oxygen.

He commended the Health Minister for taking timely steps to utilise the facilities of the Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) Hospital to meet the ICU facilities to deal with the growing cases.

Time was not allocated for Oral Questions under Standing Orders 27/2 and the Adjournment Debate was held from 11 am.


Fertiliser imports cost Rs 36 billion last year alone - MP Nalaka

Fertiliser imports had cost Rs 36 billion in 2020 alone, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Nalaka Kottegoda said.

Speaking at a press conference convened by ‘Viyath Maga’ yesterday, he said Sri Lanka had imported 574,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser in 2020.

“The stocks of chemical fertiliser in the country are sufficient for about another one and half years or two years. Therefore, the farmers have enough time to adjust to the new situation. The Government has appointed two expert committees to study how best to implement the new decision. We have promoted organic fertiliser and we will manufacture fertiliser using organic waste collected by the Local Government Bodies,” he said.

He commended President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s firm decision to stop chemical fertiliser and pesticide imports.

“Within two years, we will fully convert to organic farming. This is a difficult task, but we will do it,” he added.

He said the need to shift to local seed varieties as hybrid seed varieties now being cultivated require chemical fertiliser and pesticides.

“Sri Lanka has become the top chemical fertiliser user in South Asia. We use 284 kg of chemical fertiliser per hectare. Australia uses only 64 kg of chemical fertiliser per hectare, but they take better yield compared to ours,” he added.


Debate held with doors left open

A parliamentary debate was held for the first time leaving all the doors to the House opened yesterday the Serjeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando said.

With the permission of Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and Secretary General Dhammika Dasanayake, the side doors on both sides of the chamber were left open to allow as much ventilation as possible so as not to jeopardise the security of the House, Fernando said.

Serjeant-at-Arms Fernando said that a number of steps have been taken to make Parliament more safe keeping in line with the COVID-19 health regulations. He said that the air conditioning in the chamber was operated in a way that it was ventilated from the outside.