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Monday December 11th, 2023

Sri Lanka army dismisses “fabricated attempts” to tarnish quarantine efforts

Army Commander Lt Gen Shavendra Silva

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s army yesterday denied alleged mistreatment of apparel workers quarantined in military-run facilities.

“In full compliance with laid down strategic guidelines, once a need to move any close contact of a positive affectee arises, troops, engaged in COVID-19 preventive tasks inform all of them by phone well in advance and request them to be ready ahead of such preventive evacuations, but in many instances these evacuees even after arrival of the troops, do take more time for preparations before they board the buses but such instances are politely tolerated and managed. No tri-serviceman, as alleged by some quarters in Kalutara, would dare give them only ‘one second’ for such preparations, nor would the troops provide them with uncooked ‘raw fish’ as alleged by them, apparently to suit different agendas of interested parties or those who act as forerunners of hidden plans of action,” an army statement quoted Commander Lt Gen Shavendra Silva as saying.

Last week, a collective of labour rights activists representing a number groups and organisations highlighted concerns regarding the situation faced by free trade zone (FTZ) workers in light of the ongoing public health crisis. The collective called into question the manner in which the government and the military have handled the quarantine process. It said the way the authorities have dealt with women workers in particular has been deeply problematic.

Sri Lanka’s army chief, who also heads its National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCOC), refuting these allegations said the military is tasked only with taking suspected cases who have got in direct contact with a patient.

“We fully understand their predicament, but they should realise the gravity of the situation as it could be transmitted easily to society. Despite heavy workloads, I personally inquired into those allegations, but found that they are completely false,” the army statement quoted him as saying.

Silva claimed that he personally studies photographs taken of the meals provided to the people being quarantined.

“Those quarantine centres are run by tri-servicemen and this congestion took place only during the first few days when we had to cope with some 800 odd evacuees. People should note that we are trying to prevent the transmission into society and respective PHIs and Medical Officers are informed of our arrival to take away suspected cases. We are a group who gave away their mattresses and mosquito nets for the benefit of others and their dedicated services should not therefore be thus insulted or downgraded,” he added.

The army commander further said that the military treats garment workers, their contacts and family members in the “best possible way” as “our own Sri Lankan brothers and sisters”.

The army statement continues to highlight praise said to be received by health authorities for the quarantine facilities provided and run by the military for some 52,000 people so far. Up to 10,000 people currently in quarantine in these military-run facilities, the statement said, continues to receive good care.

“The army with other sister services is doing its utmost for the greater benefit of our society as the defenders of the nation and wants to ensure minimising further transmission of this deadly virus to other areas. People with common sense should therefore understand the challenging roles the army is playing and continue to cooperate with these efforts, some of which would perhaps have unintentional shortcomings, and help negate possibilities of further spreading of the virus,” the army chief said.

According to the statement, Silva “flatly denied” the “unfounded and fabricated allegations”, calling them intentional fabrications that bear all the hallmarks of a precursor to a bigger future machination that interested elements are now mapping out in order to tarnish or ridicule the role of the troops when the whole country is afflicted with a global health challenge of this magnitude.

The army chief called on media personnel to conduct their own impartial investigations and find out for themselves  how the military’s quarantine procedures are adopted and what is going on there without leveling unfounded accusations. (Colombo/Oct19/2020)

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Sri Lanka rupee opens at 327.00/50 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee opened at 327.00/50 to the US dollar on Monday, from 327.00/30 Friday, dealers said.

On the Colombo Stock Exchange, both indices opened up: The All Share Price Index 0.28 percent at 10,823, and the S&P SL20 0.35 percent at 3,113.85.

Bond yields were up.

A bond maturing on 01.08.2026 was quoted at 14.05/20 percent from 14.05/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.01.2027 was quoted at 14.05/20 percent from 14.10/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 was quoted at 14.20/50 percent from 14.20/35 percent.
(Colombo/Dec11/2023)

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Sri Lanka promoting Buddhist tourism from Vietnam, ASEAN

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is planning to boost Buddhist tourism by linking temples in the country with those in East Asia, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said after to welcoming a delegation of monks from Vietnam.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, and Minister Sabry have initiated a temple-to-temple program where 100 Sri Lanka temples will be linked with counterparts in the Association of South East Asian Nations region.

“Tourism development will get a lot of growth with the temple-to-temple program,” Minister Ali Sabry said.

Along with the delegation of monks, five travel agents from Vietnam were also invited.

Under the first phase of the Temple-to-temple programs, several monks from Sri Lanka had received invitations from Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam the Foreign Ministry said.

The Temple-to-Temple diplomacy program will be extended to Singapore, Japan, Thailand and Cambodia during the second phrase of the program.

Sri Lanka is targeting 2.3 million tourists in 2023, after getting about 1.5 million this year. (Colombo/Dec10/2023)

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ADB $200mn loan for Sri Lanka economic stabilization efforts

ECONOMYNEXT – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US 200 million dollar concessional loan to Sri Lanka to help stabilize the country’s finance sector.

The Financial Sector Stability and Reforms Program comprises two subprograms of IS 200 million dollars each, according to a statement by the ADB.

“The program’s overarching development objective is fully aligned with the country’s strategy of maintaining finance sector stability, while ensuring that banks are well-positioned for eventual recovery,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono was quoted as saying in the statement.

“The expected development outcome is a stable financial system providing access to affordable finance for businesses in various sectors of the economy.”

The ADB statement continues:

“Subprogram 1 targets short-term stabilization and crisis management measures that were implemented in 2023, while subprogram 2 is planned to be implemented in 2024 and focuses on structural reforms and long-term actions to restore growth in the banking sector.

The program will help strengthen the stability and governance of the country’s banking sector; improve the banking sector’s asset quality; and deepen sustainable and inclusive finance, particularly for women-led micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.

According to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest review, Sri Lanka’s economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization, although a full economic recovery is not yet assured.

The program is a follow-on assistance from ADB’s crisis response under the special policy-based loan that was approved for Sri Lanka in May 2023.

It is aligned with the fourth pillar of the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility provided to Sri Lanka to help the country regain financial stability.

It is also in line with the government’s reform agenda, including strengthening the operational independence of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) and its designation as the country’s macroprudential authority.

In designing this subprogram 1 loan, ADB has maintained close coordination and collaboration with the IMF to design targeted regulatory reforms for the banking sector—including the asset quality review—and with the World Bank on strengthening the deposit insurance scheme.

“The loan is accompanied by a $1 million grant from ADB’s Technical Assistance Special Fund to provide advisory, knowledge, and institutional capacity building for Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance and CBSL.”
(Colombo/Dec9/2023)

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