By Sam Panditha –
Covid Control – A disaster
My earlier article on 1 April 2021 “IS THE GMOA IN SELF IMPOSED QUARANTINE?” raised the COVID issues facing the country and the total silence of the GMOA. We have not heard mch from them. The COVID situation has worsened. We saw over the New Year holiday, pilgrims to Adams Peak (Sri Pada) were without masks and one behind the other. The slow movement due to the congestion, the panting and laboured breathing of climbers and the natural wind would have created a COVID spread factory. Nuwara Eliya was bumper to bumper. Shopping malls, Kataragama was shocking. We are seeing the impact of this uncontrolled movement and disregard to basic COVID guidance. Positive cases are coming up everywhere. Prof Malavige announced that the virus is now air-borne. India is already heading for a catastrophe, people just dying on the road.
What happened to our “claim” as the best COVID control country next to New Zealand? Where were the COVID coordinators, General Shavendra Silva, Ministers Pavithra, Fernandopulle, Prof Jayasumana, Police spokesperson and GMOA? This week we heard new infections- all over and lockdowns. This is just an indication of how widespread the spread.
We failed to control the spread. Simply to divert the public pre-occupation with the failed Government policies creating a very high cost of living and the “pol thel” scandal, the Government could have imposed a ban on Avurudu movement. But more important to them was getting the Port City Bill and Political Victimisation bill rushed through.
Apart from the movement control measures, the other sure way of controlling the epidemic is vaccination. USA has vaccinated 216 MN and UK 42 MN which are well planned schemes. Where do we fit in? We have not ordered our vaccines yet. The free COVAX donated by India we have given in a hap-hazard manner starting February 2021 (see my previous article). For the vaccination to be effective, the second dose must be given within 12 weeks. Government says 925,000 first vaccines given in Colombo (Not even a single dose in Kalutara and Gampaha). So we have the lowest vaccination rate in the world, except Africa. We are debating still even what Vaccine to order. Few weeks ago we wanted the Chinese Sino vac. Our National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) professionals who opposed the Sino vac were sacked by the Minister. Brazil studies showed Sino vac only 50% effective and just recently China’s top expert admitted their vaccines are not effective.
The 12 weeks for the second vaccine is now due. Do we have sufficient COVAX vaccines to give the second dose? Have those who got the first dose being informed when and where they will get the second dose? This shows a total waste of the few free vaccinations we got. If people only got 1 vaccine the effectiveness is only around 55%, only with the second vaccine it moves to 90%.
Various Ministers are giving various stories on a daily basis. The 23 April Daily Mirror quoting Prof Channa Jayasumana “Pfizer agrees to supply 5 Million doses and we have placed orders for 13 MN Sputnik. Colombo Page 25 April “The stock of Russian-made Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccines will arrive in Sri Lanka in a few days, China has donated 600,000 doses of Sino pharm COVID-19 vaccine to
Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers has given the nod to purchase seven million doses of the Sputnik-V COVID-19 vaccines at a cost of US$ 69.65 million”. Do we have capacity to deal with Pfizer which has to be refrigerated at – 70C.? These are stories and even if true, why did we not order the vaccines a year ago? A major crisis has been created.
India today is a disaster, but have the vision and capacity to manage. We are heading for a pandemic – without the vision and the capacity to cope.
Port City, One Stop Shop And Hambantota
The other hot topic is the new bill/gazette to regulate the new Port City. There are cases pending in the Supreme Court and many politicians try to justify stating the Bill is necessary to have a “ONE STOP SHOP” to promote investment.
Have the public being informed about the cost and benefits of the Port City? What is our investment and how much China contributing? We are paying for the Chinese Construction company to build the city? China construction bill would be hugely inflated and would cover “donations” as we saw in the past. Is it a project that can provide economic benefits to Sri Lanka or just for China to exploit us and have a military base that will antagonise India? Where are the facts and figures on these? Chinese Defence Minister is here in the Country today. Why?
Before we discuss the Port city “ONE STOP SHOP, we have the failed HAMBANTOTA project. We spent billions on the Hambantota Port, Mattala airport, Conference centre, Suriyawewa stadium and over 100 km of four lane roads in Hambantota, flyovers etc. frequented by cattle. Over 3000 acres have been handed to the Chinese in Hambantota to develop an industrial city. Not a single investor has turned up. We can add to this, the NELUM KULUNA as well. We were told thousands of ships go past Hambantota and we can attract them and Mattala to attract tourists. It is 11 years since we opened the Htota port. The only ships we see coming there are the Colombo bound car shipments that are offloaded and transported by road to Colombo at a cost of Rs 15000 a car. The other ships are Chinese secret ships loaded with Uranium.
It is the same “Economists” that promoted and built Hambantota white elephants that promoted the Port City. Claim is to create a new Singapore or a new Dubai style financial hub in the Port city. How viable is this idea? Even India with a 1.3 Bn population has not attracted a Financial City. One cannot have financial cities like bus-stops around the world. We have New York, London, Frankfurt, Dubai, Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo as the leading financial cities. Each of these centres has a solid local economy to support the financial activity. What do we have in Sri Lanka? A bankrupt, very small economy and apart from black money what can we put in the Financial City?
The key augment justifying the bill is the need to have “ONE STOP SHOP” to encourage investment and cut bureaucracy. This is an admission that our bureaucracy and regulations distract investment. Why not have a new Gazette/ bill to have a “ONE STOP SHOP” – Hambantota to recover our huge losses and debt?
This week the Chinese Embassy in Colombo has invited all Parliamentarians to undertake a study tour in the Port City. This shows the China mentality that they already own the Port City and a Chinese Visa is needed to make a visit. Those who created the artificial “goni billa” on the US- MCC Project and the need for a Visa to go to Sigiriya are totally silent on this real China Colony.
Political Victimisation Commission – Where is BASL?
The other current topic is the recommendations of the Political Victimisation Commission report to the parliament and to pass it to throw away the on-going cases. Anura Kumara summarised the context well.
It is highly likely that this bill will be passed and a black day dawned on Sri Lanka judiciary. While the Government has given a priority to investigate these on-going cases ad get them quashed, there are four cases that have been concluded in foreign reputed courts and convictions made, affecting Sri Lanka. Let me list them here:
Jaliya Wickramasuriya USA case
The US government in December 2018 filed a case against him on wire fraud. “From around late 2012 to November 2014, the defendant Jaliya Wickramasuriya devised a scheme to defraud the government of Sri Lanka during the purchase of the embassy. A case the US filed against him on defrauding Sri Lankan government in 2014, we are totally silent.
Air Bus Deal- Sri Lankan Airlines
The UK Government enquiry found Sri Lankan airline was defrauded US$ 2.0 MN and CEO of the airline, Kapila Chandrasena, and his wife implicated and clearly listed in the UK Court judgement. See links below. We have not taken any action to convict the culprits and recover the $ 2 Million.
US Influence Peddling and Fraud
As per the Sunday Times article; “The Sri Lankan Government in 2014 paid US$ 6.5mn through its Central Bank to an American businessman, who was a CIA mole, to buy influence and fix its image in the US, an investigative report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) now reveals, following his sentencing for 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion, foreign-influence peddling and campaign finance violations.”
The US$ 6.5 MN payment was made by the Central Bank approved by Governor Cabral. Was there Parliamentary approval for this? How much was paid to the agent? Was part of the funds misappropriated? What was the outcome of the project?
Do we have an investigation in Sri Lanka on this? It is ironic that the person Sri Lanka Government hired at the cost of USD 6.5 million to promote the image of the country is jailed by the US Government for fraud!
US Convicts Three Sri Lankans Related To Easter 2019 Attack
On 8th January 2021, US Government convicted three Sri Lankan Nationals for their role in the 2019 Sri Lanka Easter Sunday attack.
In Sri Lanka, two years after the attack we are still accusing each other about who is responsible for the attack. Not a single person has been produced in court, charged with the heinous crime.
To complete the Justice Upali Abeyratne Commission work, we could still add these four cases as an annex to the report, and prove that the US and UK Governments have politically victimised these Sri Lankans!
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has being silent. The Basic principle of a democracy is the separation of the executive, legislature and judiciary and also the independence of each. The 20th amendment gave the executive -power to appoint and remove judges. This act gives legislature to overturn the Judiciary.
Where is the BASL??