An official news release said last week that the Government has sought the help of the United Nations and its agencies to help Sri Lanka obtain vaccines for Covid-19 used by other countries. The task does not appear to be easy with manufacturers contracting large orders, particularly with the United States. Here is an account [...]


Govt. seeks UN’s helping hand for COVID vaccine


An official news release said last week that the Government has sought the help of the United Nations and its agencies to help Sri Lanka obtain vaccines for Covid-19 used by other countries.

The task does not appear to be easy with manufacturers contracting large orders, particularly with the United States. Here is an account that gives an idea:

Operation Warp Speed (OWS), the United States government’s ongoing initiative funding vaccine development and distribution, has agreed to buy a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses from six different manufacturers: Pfizer-BioNTech (200 million), Moderna (200 million), AstraZeneca (300 million), Johnson & Johnson (100 million), Novavax (100 million) and Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline (100 million), says TIME magazine’s latest Corona Virus update.

This is whilst Pfizer and BioNTech, TIME said, will supply the U.S. with an additional 100 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July 2021 under the terms of a new deal. That is on top of the 100 million doses the pharma companies have already pledged to the U.S.—and it is only a drop in the bucket, in terms of the U.S.’ total vaccine purchases.

TIME adds: “Why did the government agree to buy a billion doses when only about 330 million people live in the U.S.? There are a few reasons.

“For one thing, all of the COVID-19 vaccine candidates except Johnson & Johnson’s are supposed to be given in two separate doses. So, 100 million shots would be enough to fully vaccinate 50 million people.

“More significantly, most of the contracts were signed before federal regulators had any idea which shots, if any, would turn out to be safe and effective. (Even now, the Food and Drug Administration has only granted emergency-use authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots; the jury’s still out on the rest.) By committing to buy a diverse array of vaccines, the operation was trying to guarantee the U.S. would have access to those that turned out to work best as soon as they were available.

“That has paid off so far: Both Pfizer and Moderna were ready to ship out millions of doses very shortly after getting the agency’s green light. And, on the flip side, it is proven wise not to pin all our hopes on one vaccine. Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, for example, have hit delays that mean their joint vaccine will not be ready for deployment until the second half of 2021, if it’s ever approved at all.”

Duminda's release: President says bigger issues to be dealt with

Government sources said a Minister, the leader of a smaller political party, raised issue at last Monday’s weekly ministerial meeting. He proposed that a decision on Duminda Silva’s release be made that day.
President Rajapaksa, these sources said, was displeased that the issue was raised at a time when the government had to cope with many challenges. That included coping with the rising number of Covid-19 cases and matters related to the economy – matters that have caused some public unrest.
At a government parliamentary group meeting in October, as reported in these columns, signatures were collected from MPs calling upon the release of Mr Silva. The report said,“The fact that the Chief Government Whip’s office staff circulated the petition and almost all MPs who attended the group meeting placed their signatures makes clear the exercise had official blessings…”
A five judge Bench of the Supreme Court in October 2018 affirmed the conviction of former Defence Ministry Monitoring MP Duminda Silva and two others.The Supreme Court Bench presided over by then Chief Justice Priyasath Dep comprised Justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Priyantha Jayawardena, Nalin Perera and Vijith Malalgoda.
The five judge Bench was unanimous in their decision to reject the appeal filed by Duminda Silva and two others against the death sentence imposed by the Colombo High Court. The judgment of the Colombo High Court found them guilty of conspiring to commit the murder of four persons including former MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra.
Accordingly, the five-judge-Bench of the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the decision of the Colombo High Court to impose the death sentence on eleventh accused Duminda Silva, third accused Chaminda Ravi Jayanath alias Dematagoda Chaminda and seventh accused Dissanayake MudiyanselageSarathBandara.


Various groups busy with groundwork for new UN resolution against SL

By now it is confirmed to the government what pressing issues will be coming up in a new UN Resolution at the upcoming 46th Council meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, next March.

The government had already received an advanced copy of the report prepared by the  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka based on the previous resolutions and the shortcomings in the implementation process.

The government’s response to the report is expected to be conveyed through Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN by next week.

The UK is leading the front to draft the resolution since it was among the UNHRC Core Group on Sri Lanka along with the US in keeping up with the new incoming US administration. Other countries in the core group consisted of Canada, Germany, North Macedonia and Montenegro.

Foreign diplomats of western countries based in Colombo have already commenced the dialogue with Tamil political parties for their input too.

A section of the Tamil politics are advocating for ‘the Mechanism or IIM’- known as International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for the most serious crimes under International Law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011. A similar mechanism was made on Myanmar as well.

Then there are Muslim civil society groups and influential outfits which are advocating through local UN interculotors to include the issue of mandatory cremation of COVID-19 victims denying them burial, in the report as well.

Two local banks get moody over Moody’s ratings

Two local banks – Sampath Bank and the Hatton National Bank –have informed the Chief Regulatory Officer of the Colombo Stock Exchange that they will discontinue rating agreements entered with Moody’s Investor Services in Singapore.

The Sampath Bank has said in a letter
to Ms Renuka Wijayawardhene, Chief Regulatory Officer of the Colombo Stock Exchange that “The Board of Directors of Sampath Bank have decided to discontinue the Credit Ratings obtained from Moody’s with immediate effect and a communication to that effect will be addressed to Moody’s.”

The Hatton National Bank has said, “We write with reference to the above (Disclosure under the Colombo Stock Exchange Rules) and wish to inform that the Board of Directors of Hatton National Bank PLC (HNB) has taken a decision not to renew the above agreement with Moody’s Investor Services Singapore Pte. Ltd. on the ratings issued under the said Agreement has not been used for in support of any debt instruments to date. Board’s decision will be communicated to Moody’s.”

Burning protest over cremation

It was a protest by Muslim groups in Kalutara this week.

Groups held placards and demanded that their brethren who die of Covid-19 be allowed to be buried.

As the crowds shouted, both in Tamil and in English, “we want burials,” “we want burials,” one voice stood out clearly.

It was that of a man who shouted hoarsely that he would immolate himself if the government does not allow their demand.

Immolation? Well, he wants to burn himself when the protest was over cremation.

Stinging remarks over honey potion

Opposition and Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) leaders poked fun at government ministers during a news conference this week over the honey-based potion that is being offered as a cure for coronavirus.

They told a news conference that they were suffering from an unidentified illness since consuming doses of that cure. Some gave answers to questions where there was little or no relevance to the question.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena, who was a Health Minister too, told the Sunday Times that whatever local medicine offered to the public should be scientifically tested. He said “This is a time where people suffering due to the Covid-19 pandemic are trying to grab at anything for relief. We should not follow myths,” he cautioned.

Uduvil lockdown: Jaffna DS responds to our story

Jaffna’s District Secretary K. Mahesan has responded to our last week’s Café story headlined “130 mn rupee question and the unlocking of a lockdown in 24 hours”

This is what he says: “The news published with the above heading expressing the fact is not true and fabricated one on proceeding the declaring selected areas as isolated and lifting at Uduvil Divisional secretariat division. All COVID-19 related healthcare activities are being satisfactorily implemented with the guidance of relevant departments and special instruction time to time given by the Department of Health and the Ministry of Health.”

Our note: Our news item focused on how the ‘lockdowns’ were being imposed within a short period and what factors led to such decisions as transpired in the current COVID-19 measures where the purported lockdown of Uduvil Division was lifted within 24 hours after it was announced by the health authorities.

Many local Grama Niladharis were tapped at midnight to collect details of the families in the division as requested from Colombo. It turned out that of the 17,410 families in the area, only 3,500 families had state employees, pensioners or Samurdhi beneficiaries.

The data were collected and sent to Colombo. Once the critical factor of how much funds to be allocated was known, in case a ‘full lockdown’ was to be imposed, the decision was reversed.

Arafat’s holster and the home he wanted

Setting the record straight, Samir Sanbar, a former UN Assistant Secretary-General and head of the Department of Public Information told journalist Thalif Deen in New York this week, that it was discreetly agreed that Arafat would keep the holster while the gun was to be handed over to Abdelaziz Bouteflika, later Algerian Foreign Minister and President.

He was referring to Thalif Deen’s story last week in the Sunday Times. The story said how the Palestinian Liberation Organisation Leader Yassir Arafat walked to the UN podium wearing the holster and how he slept in the UN office in view of the security threat,

His speech, drafted in Arabic by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, stressed the spelling in formal Arabic of the “green branch” which the PLO Chairman still misspelled.

Incidentally, when anti-Arafat New York protesters on First Avenue shouted: “Arafat Go Home”, his supporters responded that was precisely what he wanted—a home for the Palestinians to go to!.



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