If one was to go out this week to buy essentials, he or she may wonder whether any sort of lockdown — be it ‘conditional’ as Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella suggested this week, or a ‘quarantine curfew’ as someone else described it — is effective in the country. Needless to say, the ongoing ‘lockdown’ by [...]


As the word spread; ‘let there be liquor’ ‘civic conscious citizens’ flocked to do their duty!


Crawling under shutters what will people say ...: As soon as this picture was taken the shop owners hurriedly proceeded to close shop. Pic by Indika Handuwala

If one was to go out this week to buy essentials, he or she may wonder whether any sort of lockdown — be it ‘conditional’ as Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella suggested this week, or a ‘quarantine curfew’ as someone else described it — is effective in the country. Needless to say, the ongoing ‘lockdown’ by whatever name was further extended until October 1.

It was business as usual in many instances except in regions where COVID-19 cases are on a high.

On Friday, there were long queues in front of the liquor shops in many parts of the country when the word spread that stores had opened for business.

In many areas throughout the country, grocery stores and other shops that sell essential foodstuffs remained closed while large crowds lined up in front of liquor stores without adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.

Many were not wearing facemasks or lifted them down for casual talk while mandatory social distancing was a forgotten subject. Police who arrived with military personnel in some towns left with a mere verbal warning.

Amidst all of this, a middle-aged man in a queue was busy explaining to his drink buddies that the reason for the government allowing liquor shops to remain open was to collect revenue as state earnings dwindled significantly during lockdowns. “As a tax-paying citizen of the country, it is my duty to contribute in any possible way I can,” said the civic conscious citizen.


Journalists baffled by many-angled photo op of presidential spokesman

When the all-red -White House briefing style Presidential Media Centre (PMC) at the Presidential Secretariat was declared open recently, there were the usual questions on spending.

Earlier, journalists complained that the Secretariat was singling out selected journalists for the press conferences and following the recent lockdowns there were no in-person briefings being held.

The latest was a virtual briefing held on Thursday where the Secretary to the Foreign Ministry, Admiral (ret.) Jayanath Colombage took part on the ongoing UNHRC sessions. President’s Spokesman Kingsly Rathnayaka was the only person standing on the podium of the empty auditorium.

Then followed the customary press statements from the PMC along with nine photographs of the Presidential Spokesperson whose Twitter bio refers to him as a “Veteran Media Personality”. The posed photographs were taken from different angles for greater effect.

Journalists at the newsrooms were confused about why so many photographs of the Spokesperson were attached in the first place to a statement that had nothing to with him.

Vehicle gilmart behind Mannar UC chairman’s sacking

Early this week, Northern Governor P.S.M. Charles sacked Mannar Urban Council (UC) chairman Shahul Hameed Mujahir from his post through an extraordinary gazette notification due to charges of misuse of his office.

It came to light that what led to the removal of the UC Chair was that he had given misleading written directives to the police and courts over the ownership of a vehicle that was used by a well-known local politico who is currently in jail.

The vehicle was reportedly used for some illegal activities in the area and once it was seized by the police, the UC Chair gave a written directive saying that the vehicle belonged to the Council and secured its release.

A concerned citizen filed RTI petitions with the Council and local authorities to establish that the vehicle never belonged to the Council. Thereafter, the Governor’s Secretariat was informed of the misuse of
power charge.


A case of foreign currency buyers exceeding those looking to sell foreign currency into LKR

It is evident that the country’s economic difficulties are reflected in people’s buying power and spending as the cost of living skyrocketed to new heights in recent months. The latest development revolves around both local and international banks that have introduced caps on spending when using their respective bank cards overseas.

A renowned international bank that has a significant number of branch networks locally sent a notice to its customers recently saying the bank is currently experiencing a situation where clients looking to buy foreign currency exceed those looking to sell foreign currency into LKR (Sri Lankan rupees).


A roomful of people, but no one knew what the new CB Governor signed

The day after he received his appointment letter from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday, the newly appointed 16th Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) went to his office to assume duties.  His office was filled with CBSL staff who wanted to congratulate him, journalists and photographers who wanted to witness his signing on a piece of paper.

The COVID-19 regulations were disregarded and worst of all, nobody bothered to remind anyone about the need to adhere to the guidelines. No one was sure either, of what he signed. It was not a brand new rupee bank note for sure, which he is entitled to sign as Governor.


Agitated customers get  no answer for buy 5 yoghurts to get 400 g milk powder

Taking advantage of the current shortage of imported milk powder packets, certain importing companies adopted a new tactic to increase the sale of other products of
the company.

Retail shop owners have been instructed to follow a new mandatory condition of buying five yoghurt packs in order to be able to buy a 400-gram milk powder packet. Many customers obliged since there was a shortage of milk powder packets in the market.

When some concerned customers in Jaffna questioned the move, retail shop owners said that the conditional mechanism was introduced by the company itself and they have nothing to do with it. Agitated customers asked what the Consumer Affairs Authority is doing about this but there was no one to answer.

In defence of Ratwatte: A jewel in the crown by Weerawansa!

Government ministers and MPs were put in a difficult position this week owing to the alleged antics committed by Lohan Ratwatte, who ultimately resigned from his post as State Minister of Prison Management (though he continues to retain his original portfolio as State Minister of Gem & Jewellery Related Industries).

As opposition figures and activists condemned Mr Ratwatte and called for his arrest, government ministers and MPs had to field questions from the media over the incident. Given that the state minister is accused of drunkenly entering two prisons and even holding prisoners at gunpoint and threatening to shoot them, there was not much they could say to defend him.

Many in the government opted to saying they were unaware of the incident and could not comment. Others said they had only seen what was reported in the media and speculated not all of it might be true. There were some who said they would wait until results of an investigation were made public before giving an opinion.

Then there were people such as Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, whose defence of Mr Ratwatte reached the alarming proportions. The minister tried to frame the whole event of Mr Ratwatte’s resignation as one that set an “example” to the country’s political culture. “What is more important is that he has been humble enough to accept responsibility and resign. There hasn’t been such instances of politicians doing so. He has set a unique example to the political culture of this country,” Mr Weerawansa told the media. When a journalist pointed out that Mr Ratwatte still retained his portfolio as State Minister of Gem & Jewellery Related Industries, Mr Weerawansa was unfazed. “If he had gone to commit a jewellery heist, he would have resigned from that post as well,” he quipped.

….and Godahewa puts foot in the mouth, goes silent on Twitter 

In attempting to give his two cents’ worth over the Lohan Ratwatte saga, State Minister Dr. Nalaka Godahewa tried to compare the incident with one that occurred 14 years ago.

“When a politician went berserk at a TV station years back, the government didn’t take any action and it didn’t go well with the people. But today we are happy to see the President and PM responding fast when such unacceptable incidents take place. Politicians should not feel they are above the law,” Dr Godahewa wrote on Twitter.

What he referenced to was the infamous incident in 2007, when then Minister Mervyn Silva and his bodyguards stormed into the state-run Sri Lanka Rupahavahini Corporation. What he failed to mention was that Silva was a minister under the government headed by the then President and current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Prime Minister Rajapaksa is also the leader of Dr. Godahewa’s party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

The state minister did not answer questions posed by Twitter users as to whether he was indirectly attacking his own Prime Minister and party leader for “not taking any action” against the politician at the time.

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