Sri Lanka’s health minister tests positive for coronavirus after promoting magic potions to fight COVID-19

Sri Lanka’s health minister, who publicly endorsed sorcery and magic potions to stop surging coronavirus infections in the island, has tested positive to COVID-19.

She and her close contacts will self-isolate, officials said on Saturday.

Pavithra Wanniarachchi had publicly consumed and endorsed a magic potion, later revealed to contain honey and nutmeg, manufactured by a sorcerer who claimed it worked as a life-long inoculation against the virus.

She also poured a pot of “blessed” water into a river in November after a self-styled god-man told her that it would end the pandemic.

The island nation of 21 million on Friday approved the emergency use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine only hours after Ms Wanniarachchi tested positive, officials said.

“Her antigen test returned positive on Friday and she has been asked to isolate herself,” a health ministry official said.

“All her immediate contacts have been quarantined.”

A junior minister who had also taken the potion made popular by Ms Wanniarachchi tested positive for the virus earlier this week.

Doctors in the island nation have said there is no scientific basis for the syrup, and there is no known cure for COVID-19.

But thousands defied public gathering restrictions to swamp a village in central Sri Lanka last month to obtain the elixir.

Sri Lankan health officials attend a mock COVID-19 vaccination drive after the Government approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.(AP: Eranga Jayawardena)

Family members of another politician have also been infected after taking the syrup.

Pro-government media gave widespread publicity to the holy man, who claimed the formula was revealed to him by Kali, a Hindu goddess of death and destruction.

But the Government has since scrambled to distance itself from the man, whose preparation was approved as a food supplement by the official indigenous medicine unit.

Sri Lanka is in the grip of a coronavirus surge, with the number of cases and deaths soaring from 3,300 and 13 in early October to nearly 57,000 infections and 278 dead this week.


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Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 cases surpass 41,000 – NewsIn.Asia

Colombo, December 28 ( – The number of coronavirus patients detected in Sri Lanka crossed the 41,000 mark yesterday (27) as another 668 new cases had been detected within the day.

The total number of COVID-19 positive cases stands at 41,054 with 8,162 active cases across the island according to the Health Promotion Bureau. 32,701 cases have recovered so far.

Four COVID-19 related deaths were reported yesterday (27) according to the Department of Government Information which brings the total number of COVID-19 deaths recorded in the country to 191.

Ukrainian Budget Carrier, SkyUp Airlines will be operating a charter flight to Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) today bringing the first group of tourists that will be staying in a travel bubble operated in Benthota, Koggala and Beruwela.

Isolation status from the following areas will be lifted from 5.00 am today (28) morning, Head of National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) Shavendra Silva stated.

– Dam Street, Keselwatta, and Maradana Police Divisions
– Slave Island Police Division: Wekanda, and Hunupitiya Grama Niladhari Divisions
– Mayura Place of Wellawatte Police Division
– Borella Police Division: Halgahawatta and Kalipulliwatta Grama Niladhari Divisions
– ‘Laksanda Sevana’ Housing Scheme of Wellampitiya Police Division

The following areas are newly declared isolated areas and the isolation orders will come into effect from 5.00 am today (28).

– Keselwatta Police Division: Aluthkade West and Aluthkade North Grama Niladhari Divisions

Areas declared as isolated in the remaining districts will continue to remain under isolation until further notice.

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The war within – Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority has become more politically fractured | Asia

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Banyan – Sri Lanka’s president is amassing personal power | Asia

NEVER SAY Gotabaya Rajapaksa leaves things to chance. After decisively winning the presidential election last November, putting family in charge of important government departments, suspending Parliament and finally winning postponed elections in early August in a landslide for his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and supporting parties, still the president insisted that “obstacles” to his authority remained. Changes to the constitution were the only solution. Parliament has granted his wish, creating a near-absolute presidency with the 20th amendment.

As so often in Sri Lanka’s turbulent history, the amendment in effect annuls its predecessor. The 19th amendment was a reaction to the overweening rule of Gotabaya’s brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, president from 2005 until his surprise defeat in 2015. With Gotabaya, a former army officer, in charge of defence and intelligence, he had prosecuted the even more brutal end to an already bloody 26-year civil war. After the war’s end, triumphalism reigned and critics were intimidated. The amendment limited the president’s powers, expanded those of the prime minister, accountable to Parliament, and strengthened independent oversight of the police and the judiciary. More was promised by President Maithripala Sirisena and his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, including inter-ethnic reconciliation and devolved government. Yet so dysfunctional became their relationship that intelligence about impending terrorist attacks was ignored. Suicide-bombers struck on Easter Sunday last year, killing 269. Gotabaya’s message of security and competence, along with jabs at the Muslim and Tamil minorities designed to please the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, propelled him to the presidency.

Now the 20th amendment looks intended to cement Rajapaksa rule for years (even though Gotabaya remains bound to two terms). Sri Lankans with dual nationality may now sit in Parliament, or indeed be president. This paves the way for another brother, Basil Rajapaksa, the family’s political strategist, to enter Parliament. Mahinda, currently prime minister, is not in good health, and Basil is his obvious replacement—and eventually perhaps Gotabaya’s. Curiously, several SLPP MPs resented Basil’s grip on the party enough to complain about the provision. (Why not simply renounce American citizenship? A plan B is always advisable.)

As for the president, the amendment now allows him to dissolve Parliament early, hire and fire the prime minister and appoint judges as well as the heads of the election, anti-corruption and other supposedly independent commissions. Although Parliament can opine on these appointments, it cannot block them.

What will Gota’s absolutist presidency mean? He promises brisk, technocratic government and economic development. In dealing with the pandemic, he has indeed introduced sensible measures to help the poor. Yet personalised rule is more the Rajapaksa mark. Recently the president was indignant when, having ordered that one village should have access to another’s clay pit, a local official asked for written instructions—was his verbal command not enough? Meanwhile, he has named 66 ministers. Patronage networks are multiplying like the alimankada, wild-elephant pathways that criss-cross the island. Such networks, writes Asanga Welikala of Edinburgh Law School, undermine “critical separations between state, society, economy, and the private sphere”.

A Gotabaya presidency makes a return to the earlier hounding of critics possible. Out of public view, Mr Rajapaksa’s notorious irascibility—he flies off the handle and bears grudges—is returning. More probably, his martinet notions of a “disciplined society” risk dashing dreams of a plural, devolved Sri Lanka in which the Tamils who form a majority in the north and Muslims who make up a tenth of the population are as much a part of the polity as Sinhalese.

True, Mr Rajapaksa promises a whole new constitution in the coming year that “fulfils the people’s wishes” better. It is possible a new constitution could contain a kinder accommodation for Sri Lanka’s minorities. Yet for now, Mr Rajapaksa has made explicit the link he sees between an all-powerful state and the centrality of Buddhism, whose more chauvinist priests he courts. Of the 66 ministers only three are Tamils and just one is a Muslim (there is only one woman, too). The message is stark: in the ethno-nationalist state, everyone must know their station.

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Gotabaya, caudillo”

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Lanka’s new COVID-19 information gathering App

Colombo, October 29 (PMD): The Western Province Health Services Office has introduced a new application designed for the benefit of those who are in the medical sector and combatting COVID – 19. It was shown to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday.

The app will provide data, including information on COVID infected, their close associates, quarantine, PCR testing services, observations, decision making and areas closest to the infected ,the President’s Media Division said.

The app was introduced by a team led by Western Province Health Services Director Ms. Dhammika Jayalath this morning (29) during the meeting of the Task Force on COVID – 19 prevention chaired by the President which meets at the Presidential Secretariat on a daily basis.

The President pointed out that the new application should be further improved so as to make information on latest developments always available. relevant information. There are 350 Medical Officers Health divisions throughout the country. COVID infected persons have been identified in 28 out of these divisions. Members of the Task Force said that maximum possible measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the pathogen to other areas.

A total of 41,000 people, including first and second associates, have been quarantined to prevent the virus from spreading. President Rajapaksa emphasized the need of conducting random PCR tests covering every part of the country.

It is important to comprehensively understand the causes of the increase in COVID infected on several occasions and prevent its recurrence. Random tests were carried out continuously within the limits of Colombo Municipal Council. However, unexpected COVID clusters emerged near the Peliyagoda fish market and Minuwangoda.

Support from all parties is essential to prevent the virus from spreading locally through supply chains. The President stated that it is the social responsibility of people from all walks of life to follow health guidelines to the maximum possible extent.

Random tests should be carried out at economic centers including Dambulla. The President highlighted the importance of paying constant attention to the possible occurrence of COVID clusters.

Curfew has been imposed in the Western Province effective from midnight today (29). The responsibility on the part of the health sector during the relevant period is enormous. Curfew violators should severely be dealt with. Curfew passes will not be issued by any Police Station. However, cases of extreme urgency will be exempted.

People should not gather in risk zones. President emphasised that no opportunity should be available to congregate people ast events such as weddings and religious functions within the Western Province.

Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Secretary to the President P. B. Jayasundera, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga and members of the Task Force on COVID prevention were present during the discussion.


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President Gotabaya reiterates Lanka’s plea to make the Indian Ocean a Zone of Peace

By P.K.Balachandran

Colombo, October 5: On October 1, for the second time in its post-independence history, Sri Lanka made a strong plea to the international community to turn the Indian Ocean into a Zone of Peace. Five decades ago, in 1971, the then Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, had proposed to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) that the Indian Ocean be made a Zone of Peace. The world body had considered her proposal very seriously despite opposition from the powers represented in the Security Council, barring China.

Since the security situation which exists in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) now is as grave as the situation in 1971, incumbent Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa reiterated Mrs. Bandaranaike’s call to make the IOR a Zone of Peace, when he addressed four newly accredited foreign envoys here.

Gotabaya said that since Sri Lanka is located in a place of strategic importance, it attracts the attention of many powers. But Sri Lanka has chosen neutrality as its foreign policy and would like to be kept out of international rivalries. The Indian Ocean should be a free zone open to every country he said and went on to recall that five decades ago, it was Sri Lanka which had proposed that the Indian Ocean be declared as a Zone of Peace.

Gotabaya was led to making the above plea because of the growing rivalry in the Indian Ocean Region between the Western powers and India on the one hand, and China on the other. China’s acquisition of the Hambantota harbor on lease from Sri Lanka; its role in the construction of harbors in Pakistan and Myanmar; and its alleged plans in the Maldives, have given rise to fears in the West that these facilities will be used for military purposes.

Allaying these fears, Gotabaya told the envoys that the Hambantota Port has enormous development potential, “although some call it a debt trap”. The previous Government had leased the Hambantota Port to China but it is being used only for commercial purposes, he assured.

Recalling the origins of the demand for making the IOR a Zone of Peace, in an article in The Island, former Lankan diplomat Dr.Jayantha Dhanapala, said that Mrs. Bandaranaike first mentioned the idea in her speech at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Lusaka in September 1970. It was reflected in the final declaration of the Lusaka summit.

According to Dhanapala, Mrs. Bandaranaike’s proposal was an immediate response to the expulsion of the people inhabiting British-owned Diego Garcia island in the IOR and its conversion into a US naval base. But Indian academic Prof.K.P.Misra said that the objective behind the move was to strengthen the sovereignty and the independence of the Indian Ocean states against the hegemonic drives and struggles of the major world powers.

“The dangers of external military presence in the area was amply demonstrated, when the US sent a naval task force lead by a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to the Indian Ocean during the Indo-Pakistan conflict of 1971. This show of force served to demonstrate a dangerous implication of great power presence in the region i.e. potential source of military intervention in the regional political developments,” Misra said in his paper.

On October 12, 1971, when Mrs. Bandaranaike raised the issue at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), she made the following suggestions: (1) warships and ships carrying war material would have the right of transit but they will not to be allowed to stop except for emergency reasons. (2) there should be a ban on naval manoeuvres, intelligence operations and naval tests. (3) all foreign military bases should be excluded from the littoral and hinterland states.

But the world’s powers felt that the treatment of the problem by her and the UNGA in general was simplistic, idealistic and naïve.

Their arguments against the Zone of Peace concept were mainly four: (1) implementation of such a proposal would violate international law on the freedom of navigation on the high seas for all ships guaranteed by the 1958 Law of the Sea (2) a group of states in any given region cannot establish a separate legal regime for the high seas. (3) the Indian Ocean is of concern not only to the littoral states but also to the entire international community. (4) verification of intent of any warship would be difficult.

However, supporters of the resolution led by Sri Lankan delegate Shirley Amarasinghe, argued that the freedom of the high seas does not adequately serve the fundamental interests of all nations alike, and that it is clearly weighted in favor of the interests of the dominant user nations.

Sri Lanka proposed a resolution on its Zone of Peace proposals in the UNGA’s First Committee dealing with Disarmament and International Security Issues. NAM countries supported the resolution, but most of the West abstained with the US, UK and France strongly opposed. According to Dhanapala, there was opposition to the IOR as a Zone of Peace concept in Sri Lanka too. Some nationalists felt that it would lead to the monopolization of the IOR by India, he recalled.

However, by Resolution 2832 (1971), the UN General Assembly declared the Indian Ocean a Zone of Peace. It called upon the great powers to enter into immediate consultations with the littoral states of the Indian Ocean, the aim being to halt the further escalation and expansion of their military presence in the region.

“The declaration upheld the need to preserve the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states of the Indian Ocean region and sought to resolve political, economic and social issues affecting the region under conditions of peace and security, Dhanapala noted.

On December 15, 1972, the United Nations resolution 2992 (XXVII) was adopted in which an Ad Hoc Committee of fifteen members was set up pursuant to resolution 2832 (XXVI).

But as Misra points out, the Ad Hoc Committee, which was set up to study the implications of the Indian Ocean peace zone proposal, produced no recommendation as to what measures should be taken to halt the great powers’ acceleration of their military buildup in the Indian Ocean, and to eliminate all bases, military installations, logistical supply facilities, nuclear weapons, and any manifestation of great power military presence in the area.

However, when the issue was brought before the United Nations General Assembly in 1976 for a vote, the tally was 106 for, none against and 26 abstaining. The US and the USSR abstained.

The US delegate submitted that the resolution might adversely affect the security interests of his country and its friends and allies in the Indian Ocean area.

‘‘This [resolution] may affect the fundamental security interests not only of states compelled to maintain significant military preparedness. . . but also of states that rely on the stability created by, a political and military balance,” he said.

He also argued that the resolution was likely to pre-empt efforts to create a new regime of the law of the sea in as much as it proposed a special set of rules for a particular area, thus setting a “dangerous precedent.

“We reject the view that a group of states in a certain region can establish a legal regime for the high Seas in that region.” The USSR concurred.

However, the superpower balance started to change in 1977. In the General Assembly vote on the issue, the Soviet Union was among the 123 states which voted in favor of the resolution. The U.S. voted against. The Soviet decision to vote in favor was meant to gain more influence among the littoral and hinterland states of the IOR, it was said. The expansion of Diego Garcia and the accommodation of US submarines such as Polaris and Poseidon, among others, also made the USSR side with the littoral state of the IOR.


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Sri Lanka’s election – The Rajapaksas secure a firm grip on Sri Lanka | Asia

A landslide victory gives the hard men a chance to change the constitution and strengthen their power

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Wigneswaran tells Bachelet: Lanka’s statecraft is a potential threat to regional peace

Colombo, September 22 ( C.V. Wigneswaran MP and leader of the Tamil Makkal Thesiya Koottani (TMTK) has said in a letter to Michelle Bachelet Jeria, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, that Sri Lanka’s statecraft is a potential threat to regional peace and development.

“The record of successive administrations demonstrates clearly that the developments you have identified are intrinsic to Sri Lanka’s model of governance. This country’s means of statecraft poses a potential threat to peace and sustainable development in the region,” Wigneswaran told Bachelet.

Referring to the High Commissioner’s statement of 14 September, the former Chief Minister of the Northern Province said that the Tamils sincerely appreciate her understanding of the “Sri Lankan government’s disturbing tendencies—towards lack of institutional independence; appointments of military officials to civilian offices and lack of accountability regarding those officials’ alleged roles in war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

These trends are not the failure of a particular Presidency but have been the case right through, he added.

“The Tamil people are of opinion that reconciliation is possible only on the basis of equality based on respect for international norms and procedures. This includes the cardinal precept enshrined within Article 1 of the UN Charter — that international peace and security are inextricably linked with the equal rights and self-determination of Peoples,” he said.

“The OHCHR’s attention to Sri Lanka thus presents a renewed mandate to the international community to preserve peace and security. The Tamil people would be a willing and able partner in these efforts,” Wigneswaran stated.



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