President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his address to the nation on Friday (August 20) called on everyone to be prepared to make more sacrifices, if the country is to be placed under a lockdown for a longer period in the future.
He said at this crucial juncture, everyone should take the country forward strategically by acknowledging the gravity of the situation. The President requested everyone to work together in unity as a team to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that nearly 98 percent of the population aged over 30 years have received the vaccine so far, while approximately 43 percent of them were fully vaccinated. The President is hopeful that the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths reported in the country would see a decline with the ramped-up inoculation drive.
President Rajapaksa said, “According to the accepted opinion of the World Health Organization (WHO), the majority of medical experts and the global standardised methodology, vaccination is the only solution for the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The President also spoke of the efforts he had made to import vaccines to Sri Lanka by personally contacting the Heads of State of India, China and other vaccine-manufacturing countries.
“As a result of these efforts, the country is now receiving a large number of vaccine consignments monthly,” the President said.
“This is not a time to carry out demonstrations or strikes,” the President said while urging the public not to push the country towards anarchy.
UNP leader meets President
A meeting between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe took place on August 17. The discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat was the result of a telephone conversation between the two on the previous day. UNP Leader Wickremesinghe had presented a set of proposals to the President, pertaining to the mitigation of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Wickremesinghe had also requested a meeting of Party Leaders to discuss the prevailing situation and find solutions, with the participation of the Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament and the Minister of Health.
The attention of the duo also fell on launching joint programs to seek remedies for the pandemic. Reportedly, the former Prime Minister’s views on hospital capacity, medicines and vaccination had drawn a positive response from the President.
“All should get together”
Former President Maithripala Sirisena requested the President to immediately convene a meeting of representatives of the political parties in Parliament, taking into account the present situation in the country.
Former President Sirisena made this request joining the debate on the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) (Temporary Provisions) Bill in Parliament on Tuesday (August 17).
Former President Sirisena also said that all political parties should get together and solve the problem without finding fault with each other.
He said that in the event of a national catastrophe, all should forget party differences and unite on behalf of the nation. He said that Sri Lanka could have received more assistance from the WHO.
Sri Lanka was not the only country facing a shortage of resources in the health sector, many other countries are also facing a shortage of resources in their health services. The former President said that everyone should be determined to overcome the pandemic.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on August 16 reshuffled the Cabinet by changing the Ministers holding six key portfolios. Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris who was the Minister of Education was sworn in as the Foreign Minister before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat on August 16.
Minister Dinesh Gunawardena who was the Foreign Minister took oaths as the Minister of Education. Transport Minister Gamini Lokuge took charge of the Power Ministry but there will be no change in the Energy Minister portfolio, which remains with Minister Udaya Gammanpila.
Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi who held the Ministry of Health has been appointed as the Minister of Transport while Minister Keheliya Rambukwella who held the Media Ministry has been placed in charge of the Health Ministry. Minister Dullas Alahapperuma who was the Minister of Power took oaths as the Minister of Mass Media before the President.
The President also appointed Minister Namal Rajapaksa as the Minister of Development Coordination Monitoring in addition to his current portfolio of Youth and Sports.
This is a new Ministry. Minister Namal Rajapaksa in a tweet thanked the President for appointing him as the Minister of Development Coordination Monitoring to expedite the President’s vision “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”.
Twenty-one point plan
The UNP said it would extend its support to the Government and its Leader to save the lives of people as the nation was facing a crisis. The party in a media release on Thursday (August 19) stated, “We are duty bound to help the Government during this crisis.
In past times of crisis, the UNP has come forward to support existing Governments.
We do not need positions or power if the Government wants to do the right thing. UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe supported the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga to sign an agreement with Liam Fox during the battle against terrorists.
Likewise, our Leader met President Rajapaksa on Tuesday to explain to the President that action should be taken to save the lives of people and also maintain the economy.”
The UNP also put forward a 21-point plan to the Government titled ‘The United National Party’s Policy for Health Security and Economic Security’.
Former Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi said that her removal from the Health Ministry was unexpected.
At a brief farewell function at the Ministry of Health, Wanniarachchi said that she will make up her mind with the mindset that everything happens for good.
She said, “I didn’t think this change would come suddenly. Before I went there, I told two doctors, ‘I wonder whether it is a ministry shuffle’. They both said it would not happen.
I do not think, when I came to the Ministry, you wished for ‘this woman to disappear’. However, unexpectedly, I have been assigned to the Ministry of Transport. I did not know this was to happen before I went there.”
The Minister said, “In any case, you have to accept everything in life happily. Let’s make up our minds that everything happens for the good. There is nothing else to do. I am saddened. Please support the new Minister too.”
Former Minister Ravi Karunanayake at a recent UNP Working Committee meeting at party headquarters, Sirikotha, had said that although Ranil Wickremesinghe, Arjun Aloysius and he were accused in relation to the Treasury Bond scam, there is a serious doubt as to why the then Minister in charge of the subject Kabir Hashim has not been accused.
Karunanayake had said that everyone in the previous Government worked individually. He said all of them wanted to be crowned individually and not work together as one, as a Government, one group and one party.
They did not advertise the work carried out by the Yahapalana Government to the country and its people.
“What everyone did was to launch individual propaganda campaigns and attempt to get credit. Today everyone is talking about the services we rendered as a Government. Today I am alone,” he said.
Karunanayake said that the party does not have a proper and successful propaganda campaign even today.
Today, when the country and the people are facing a severe crisis and a number of problems and everyone is helpless, everybody should get together and work together on behalf of the country and its people.
Representatives of the Ceylon Teachers’ and Principals’ Union said that protests and other types of action will continue until the Government provides a solution to their issues in written form.
The representatives stated this following discussions with the Cabinet Sub-committee appointed to resolve the issue of the salary anomalies of teachers.
The Cabinet Sub-committee comprises Ministers Wimal Weerawansa, Dullas Alahapperuma, Prasanna Ranatunga and Mahinda Amaraweera.
Minister Amaraweera told the media that the objective of the Government is to ensure that this issue is solved as soon as possible by peaceful means.
Easter Sunday attacks
Meanwhile, activists of the union, Joseph Stalin and Mahinda Jayasinghe said that protests will continue if a proper decision is not taken by the Government by the next Cabinet meeting on August 23. JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva said that the Government has let the people down on the promises it made on prosecution of the masterminds behind the Easter Sunday attacks.
He said, “A large number of promises were made to the people that all those involved in the Easter attack will be sought, punished and that justice will be served.
The Government used the people’s fear and took power capitalising on this fear.
People voted for this Government to ensure that such an attack would not happen again.”
Silva said, “But what we are seeing now is that this is gradually being erased from history.
The Government is gradually forgetting its duty. Even if the Commission appointed by the former President Maithripala Sirisena had its shortcomings, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa could have appointed a new commission to look into this.
At least there are some things in that Commission report that still have the potential to be implemented and he could have implemented those recommendations.”
The JVP General Secretary said, “At present, there is a suspicion among the people affected by this incident and among the religious leaders in the Catholic community that this Government is not conducting proper investigations into the Easter Sunday attack.”