Something strange occurred when the World Health Organisation’s Sri Lanka office took down two critical reports compiled by an Independent Group of Experts from its website. WHO-Sri Lanka issued a notice on Wednesday saying; “WHO has not released any recommendations on the COVID-19 quarantine curfew or issued any statement to the media on the matter. [...]


Typos in WHO report trigger fake news; Health Minister hails removal


Something strange occurred when the World Health Organisation’s Sri Lanka office took down two critical reports compiled by an Independent Group of Experts from its website.

WHO-Sri Lanka issued a notice on Wednesday saying; “WHO has not released any recommendations on the COVID-19 quarantine curfew or issued any statement to the media on the matter. WHO continues to support the vaccination drive and compliance with public health and social measures to reverse the impact of COVID-19 in SriLanka.”

When local journalists contacted the UN agency to question the reasons that led to the removal of the reports, the organisation said typos in the reports had been incorrectly referred to in local media reports and elsewhere as ‘WHO Expert reports’.

It was the newly appointed Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella who took up the matter with the local WHO chapter on the basis that fake news was being spread based on those reports.

Minister Rambukwella has long been a Government spokesperson and often defends a bad brief. On this occasion however he took to his Twitter handle to appreciate WHO’s swift action saying;

“Thanks to @WHOSriLanka for taking swift action to stem the spread of misinformation by certain parties. The spread of #fakenews seems more infectious than a global pandemic. I urge all stakeholders responsible for information dissemination to be responsible in their vocation.”

Dematagoda yesterday: Many people out and about. Pic by Eshan Fernando

It’s business as usual, even for armed gangs in the north

The Police may have warned that those who violated the islandwide lockdown and travel restrictions that were extended for one more week till Sept 13 would be strictly dealt with, but in many cities and suburban towns it was business as usual with a significant number of people on the street to buy essential items.

In the north, the violent armed gangs are also operate freely amidst this unofficial curfew, even carrying out a revenge style attack on a fruit seller in Maruthanarmadam on Wednesday in front of police and military personnel. All gang members escaped arrest.

Locals said four individuals armed with sharp weapons arrived at the scene and attacked the fruit seller mercilessly.


Publicity stunt puts Namal in hot seat

A publicity stunt organised by the staff attached to Minister of Sports Namal Rajapaksa, who oversees three other ministries, to showcase how busy he is turned out to be embarrassing, if not a disaster.

As planned, one of his staff member’s started a live video clip on a social media site while the Sports Minister was on the road, seated next to the driver’s seat as he unlogged his mobile phone. His secret password was caught on camera as the live video went on.

It was only after fans pointed this out to him in the comments section, and some openly typed his numerical password that the Minister realised what had happened. He responded to those who make fun of him saying:”Some say I’m acting, some say I’m pretending, some say I’m busy… The choice is yours to decide. However I have changed my password,” with a smiley .

Northern teachers rap their southern counterparts

Even though teachers’ unions out-rightly rejected the Cabinet decision of fixing salary anomalies in stages starting from the next budget, some unions and political parties that are leading from the front have turned against teachers in the North and East.

The reason, southern based unions alleged that they have not stayed away from conducting virtual teaching classes despite the collective decision reached weeks ago.

A northern political activist attached to the People’s Liberation Front (JVP) openly criticised their move with fellow trade unionists of ‘not extending solidarity with those who protest for their sake too’.

However, northern based education unionists stressed that though they are in agreement with unions that the government urgently needs to look into the teachers’ salary anomalies, it was not a wise move to abandon school children in these difficult times without offering them any alternative teaching facilities amidst a global pandemic.

Backlash over missing voices and translations at OMP event

A hastily organised virtual event by the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) on Monday to mark International Day of the Disappeared met with severe criticism and a backlash from participants for not providing Tamil/Sinhala translations.

There were no women’s voices in the panel even though it is the mothers and relatives of missing persons who are leading the front. Worst of all, no Q&A session was allowed. It was the first public engagement of the OMP since the new Commissioners took office.

The meeting was presided over by the Chair of the OMP, Justice (Retd) Upaly Abeyrathne with Ven Karawilakottuwa Dhammathilaka Thera, the Minister of Justice Ali Sabry, MPs Gamini Waleboda and Suren Raghavan taking part
as speakers.

As the Justice Minister stressed that this long standing issue in the country should see a closure without any further delay by offering compensation and for the country to move on, participants took the chat box in the zoom callout to the panel to demonstrate flaws.

One participant asked why the OMP is coming out of deep hibernation only now and if it was because of the upcoming UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva and whether this kind of initiative will continue even after the UN sessions.

RW takes a shot at Uncle Sam on The Burn Bag Podcast in the US

One of the popular narratives on Sri Lanka in Western media is that Sri Lanka is in a Chinese ‘debt trap’ due to China’s increasing infusion of funds with high interest rates, and loan schemes for various development programmes in the country due to its growing interest in the region.

Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremeisnghe who is the sole parliamentarian of the grand old elephant party (UNP) was asked his take on this narrative by a popular podcast called The Burn Bag Podcast in the US.

“We have a debt crisis. But the bulk of our borrowings have been on the international market and that’s really the issue. Bilateral wise, China is the largest but still it’s small until we sort out the international market — London Club, we won’t be able to get out of it. And China is smaller than the London Club.”

The one hour long podcast focused on the former Prime Minister’s reflections on the 2018 constitutional crisis, Sri Lanka’s governance structure, ISIS-linked Easter Sunday bombings
in 2019, which occurred towards the tail-end of his premiership in addition
to Sri Lanka’s place
amidst U.S.-China big
-power rivalry.

Then the podcast interviewer asked about US paranoia that China could potentially militarise Sri Lankan ports, for which the ex-Premier responded in his customarily sarcastic manner.

“I ask myself one question, who built up China? Who made them the second largest economy? Not the Chinese. Who came and invested there? If American car companies sell more cars in China than the US, that alone answers that question”.

He went on to refer to US-Sri Lanka relations even during World War II when the US President (Roosevelt) was concerned about the possible fall of then Ceylon because it was the largest producer of natural rubber to the Allied Forces. The former premier said that whether the US likes it or not, Sri Lanka is strategically placed geographically that they will have to take that into consideration when dealing with the China issue.

The podcaster was a Sri Lankan-American.


Chinese embassy all abuzz as US-China lock horns over COVID-19

The Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka is busy these days disseminating news reports and statements countering a US intelligence report on the origin of COVID-19 which is widely blamed
on China’s mismanagement of the virus in its early days and weeks when it
was believed to have been found in a meat market.

The tech savvy and super active social media handles of the embassy continued to carry out a cyber war in digital space. The embassy also sent statements from ambassadors to local media institutions as part of the counter campaign.

This week, the embassy circulated a statement issued by Ambassador Qi Zhenhong. It was titled “The U.S. Intelligence Report on COVID-19 Origins: Ugly Agendas Under a Worn-Out Cover”. The statement alleged that the hidden agendas for the U.S. are to cover its failure in response to COVID-19, to suppress China, and to distract its defeat
in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Zhenhong declared; “For lives’ sake, do something good for your own pandemic control and the global anti-pandemic collaboration.”


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