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Friday August 19th, 2022

Blame game in Sri Lanka parliament over detained MP’s DIY urinal

The sun sets over the Parliament at Shri Jayewardenepura

ECONOMYNEXT – Legislators in Sri Lanka traded charges on Thursday (07) over a claim that detained opposition MP Rishad Bathuideen is compelled to urinate into a bottle while in prison.

The matter came up when members of the opposition raised a point of privilege over Bathuideen’s ongoing detention which is now into its sixth month, claiming that he is undergoing much hardship.

Bathiudeen and his brother Riyaj were arrested on April 24 for alleged links to the 2019 Easter Sunday bombers. The government was under pressure at the time, particularly from the head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic church, to take action against purported masterminds of the attack.

The brothers were arrested under provisions of Sri Lanka’s controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for aiding and abetting and for maintaining connections with the attackers.

However, the MP has yet to be charged by the legal authorities.

“His cell is locked at 5pm every day and he has to urinate into a bottle,” Chief Opposition Whip and main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Lakshman Kiriella said raising the question of privilege.

Bathiudeen is also facing inconvenience in offering his two night-time prayers due to this issue, he added.

“This is an injustice. There is a government MP also in prison, but he is being allowed to bring his meal from his home,” Kiriella said referring to Premalal Jayasekara, a ruling party MP and murder convict who is in prison.

“This is what happens when police act according to government orders. This is politically motivated.”

Former minister Bathiudeen is also at the centre of a controversy surrounding a 16-year-old domestic aide employed at his residence who burnt to death in July this year.

Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando responding to Kiriella said it was the same fate Fernando underwent when he was arrested during the previous government.

“Even for us, they closed it at 5pm and opened at 6. We also did [urinate] into bottles,” Fernando told parliament.

However, Fernando said he has spoken to the prison commissioner and the commissioner has informed him that Bathiudeen was permitted to use the prison toilet and have his meal brought from outside, but COVID-19 restrictions have so far compelled authorities not to allow meals from outside until October 15.

“I urge Kiriella not to mislead parliament. None of Bathuideen’s lawyers has complained about this to the court,” said Fernando.

Early this week, former prime minister and opposition United National Party (UNP) MP Ranil Wickremesinghe also raised a question of privilege on Bathiudeen and asked the authorities to either present evidence against him or release him from prison.

On August 23, a medical doctor attached to the Welikada prison hospital lodged a police complaint against the detained MP for allegedly threatening his life.

Bathiudeen has denied all allegations against him. (Colombo/Oct07/2021)

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Sri Lanka schedules 3-hour power cuts for Aug 20, 21: regulator

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will impose power cuts of up to three hours on Saturday August 20 and Sunday August 21, Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) Chairman Janaka Ratnayake said.

All areas (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V and W) will have power cuts of 1 hours and 40 minutes between 10.30 am and 06.00 pm and 1 hour 20 minutes from 06.00pm to 10.00 pm.

Click here for a detailed schedule.

The state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) said supply interruption time and restoration time will vary within 30 minutes as indicated above.

Sri Lanka’s daily scheduled power cuts that were reduced to one hour in July with power generation from hydro power plants contributing more than 50 percent to the main grid reducing thermal power plant use was extended to three hours last week due to a breakdown at the Norochcholai coal power plant.

According to officials, the breakdown happened in Unit 1 of Norochcholai which will take around two weeks to repair.

The Minister of Power & Energy said Unit 2 is undergoing scheduled maintenance work while Unit 3 will continue to operate. West Coast and other fuel power pPlants will be used to manage the supply, the ministry said. (Colombo/Aug02/2022)

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Sri Lanka guidance peg edges T-bond yield edge down

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions edged down on Friday (19), while yields in Treasury bonds picked up slightly and in T-bill remain unquoted in dull trade, a day after the Central Bank announced the policy rates will remain stable, dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01. 06. 2025 closed at 27.95/28.05 percent on Friday, slightly up from 27.90/28.00 percent on Thursday.

No T-bills were quoted on Friday, dealers said.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s central bank announced a guidance peg for interbank transactions further weakened by three cents to 361.00 rupees against the US dollar on Friday from 360.97 rupees.

Data showed that commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 368.00 and 370.00 for small transactions.  (Colombo/ Aug 19/2022)

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Sri Lanka records 10 new COVID-19 deaths in 48 hours as case numbers rise

ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka recorded 10 COVID-19 deaths in the 48 hours from August 17 to 19 taking the country’s pandemic death toll to 16,640, health ministry data showed.

Sri Lanka is experiencing a slight increase in COVID-19 cases with the relaxation of public health restrictions relating to face masks and public gatherings.

Health authorities said the situation will be monitored constantly and have asked the general public to continue to follow basic hygiene measures in order to control the spread of the virus again in the community.

In August alone 2,924 new cases were recorded in Sri Lanka, with 84 deaths attributed to the disease.

So far in 2022, from January onward, health authorities have identified 81,157 patients to date.

Epidemiology unit data showed that 874 patients are currently receiving treatment, out of which 716 are receiving home based care.

The spread of the virus has increased with the use of public transport rising after an easing of a fuel crisis.

Sri Lanka is also facing difficulties in securing essential medicine supplies for the health sector due to a forex shortage.

Health officials said if the number of COVID-19 patients rise to a level the health sector cannot manage,  with the added issues of fuel and medical shortages, the health system might collapse.

“It is the responsibility of us all. There is no use trying to forcibly control people. We all have the responsibility to reduce or stop the spread of the virus before it gets out of control. We have been living with it for the past two years,” Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath said. (Colombo/Aug19/2022)

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