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As per the powers vested in the President under the Constitution, the responsibility to ensure that the civilian life moves on without any hindrance has been bestowed with the Presidential Task Force established to combat COVID – 19 in Sri Lanka.

The Special Representative of the President Basil Rajapaksa has been appointed as the Chairman of the Task Force while Additional Secretary to the Prime Minister Anton Perera serves as the Secretary.

The membership of the Task Force is 40 including Provincial Governors, several Secretaries to Ministries, Commanders of Tri-Forces, security chiefs including Acting Inspector General of Police, Chairmen of several Departments, Corporations and Authorities and District and Divisional Secretaries.

The President had declared powers and functions of the Task Force through a special gazette notification.

The Task Force should carry out its responsibilities covering every district in the country while giving priority to districts of Colombo, Kalutara, Gampaha, Puttalam, Jaffana, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu which have been identified as fasing a greater risk.

Provision of required facilities to farmers for the production of rice, grams, vegetables, fish, dairy and egg and crops including tea, cinnamon and pepper is one of the main tasks. The Task Force should maintain a proper coordination mechanism with Ports, Customs, corporate banking sector and other State regulatory entities to create a conducive environment to import essential dry food items and medicine and to export goods such as tea and sanitary apparel and implement decisions.

The Task Force will ensure supply food items purchased from producers directly to the consumers while presenting operational reports to the President.

All Government Officers and other relevant persons who may be requested to extend assistance to deliver services shall comply with the instructions in respect of such tasks. The President has instructed government officials and others through circulars that they should provide all necessary assistance and information. The Task Force is also required to report to the President regarding all incidents related to delays or omissions in the discharge of duties and responsibilities by an assigned officer.

Some of the other tasks assigned to the Task Force are,

–          Directing and providing facilities to the Department of Agriculture and to the Department of Agrarian Services to provide seeds, plants, fertilizer and equipment required for the farming activities.

–          Encourage seed farming, use of organic fertilizers and home gardening as well as to grant loans to farmers through Bank of Ceylon, People’s Bank, Regional Development Banks and Samurdhi Bank branches.

–          Particular attention should be given to women, low income families and vulnerable persons in carrying out the related tasks.

The distribution of rice, vegetables and products to the people of all districts should be streamlined to strengthen the farmer and the local economy. Organizing of Co-operatives, Sathosa, Economic Centers, Cargills, Keells, Arpico and Laugf business networks. Helping farmers for farming and plantation activities the Task Force is empowered to continually sustain the process that required for maintaining the day-to-day life of the community, including the distribution of medicines and the opening of commercial banks.

The Police Media Spokesman SP Jaliya Senaratne warned the public not to step out of their homes other than for a very urgent requirement, adding that those who do so could be arrested even without a warrant.

He said this in a statement issued today (25).

 During the past 24 hours, 420 persons who violated the curfew had been arrested together with 97 vehicles, SP Senaratne stated. In total, the police had arrested 2682 persons so far for violating curfew and 706 vehicles have been taken into police custody.

SP Senaratne noted that it is very unfortunate that some people are violating the curfew and acting very irresponsibly by getting onto the streets at a time when the country is struggling to contain the Coronavirus from spreading.

In order to prevent uncontrolled gathering of people at market places amidst effort to combat COVID – 19, a special mechanism has been established to deliver essential food items to homes. This will be implemented through a local system in collaboration with Cooperative Societies and super market chains, Head of the Presidential Task on Continuous Supply, Operation and Coordination of Services that are essential to maintain the day to day life in the battle against COVID- 19, Basil Rajapaksa said.

The entire process should be in line with the Corona control initiatives carried out by the health sector. It is imperative to maintain the day to day life of the public. Steps have been taken to distribute food items while protecting domestic farmers and the national economy.

Mr. Basil Rajapaksa made these observations during a meeting held today (25) at the Presidential Secretariat with all District Secretaries, Heads of banks and State and private entities tasked with the supply of essential food items.

There is no shortage of rice, coconut, vegetables, eggs and chicken. Mr. Rajapaksa pointed out the possibility of distributing these items through a combined effort between Cooperative outlets and super markets after purchasing from domestic farmers. These items can be packed according to the need. Assistance of the Center for Disaster Management will be obtained for this operation.

A decision was taken to deliver medicines to the homes of regular patients who have registered at hospitals with the support of Divisional Secretaries, Public Health Officers and the security forces.

It was also discussed to implement a system to distribute medicines thorough few locally selected pharmacies to patients who purchase medicines from private pharmacies.

Heads of the banks were also advised to take action to keep the commercial banks open to facilitate trade and other essential activities.

Mr. Basil Rajapaksa requested the authorities to implement a programme to supply domestic gas at consumer’s doorstep responding to the telephone orders.

The objective of the entire project is to prevent the public from gathering at market places so that the health sector’s efforts to combat the coronavirus could be a success.

Divisional Secretaries, Grama Seva Niladharis, Agricultural Research Officers and Samurdhi Development Officers will assist this distribution process. At present, several countries have completely stopped the import and export activities.

It was discussed at length about building a stable production economy in the country while paying greater attention to the prevailing situation.

It was decided to facilitate the cultivation and fisheries activities without any interruption.

The relevant officials were advised to encourage the farmers to cultivate vegetables as well as paddy, maize, undu, green gram, cowpea and kurakkan.

Ministers Chamal Rajapaksa, Bandula Gunawardena and Douglas Devananda, Secretary to the President, Dr. P.B. Jayasundara, Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Attygalle and Secretary, Defence, Major General Kamal Gunaratne participated in this discussion.

The on-going island-wide curfew will be lifted and re-imposed as follows.

  1. The curfew currently in force in Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara districts will continue until further notice.
  2. The curfew currently in force in Puttalam, Vavuniya, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Jaffna districts will be lifted at 6.00 a.m. on Friday 27th March and will be re-imposed at 12 noon on the same day.
  3. The curfew currently in force in other districts will be lifted at 6.00 a.m. on Thursday 26th (tomorrow) and will be re-imposed at 12 noon on the same day.

Movement from one district to another has been completely banned. Furthermore, taking foreign tourists from place to place is completely prohibited.

People who engaged in agricultural activities and people engaged in small-scale tea production as well as export crops are allowed to carry out their usual activities in any district during the curfew hours.

Transportation of media personnel and essential items including rice and vegetable is also permitted.

Airports and Ports services will also continue.

The subject Minister in charge of Agriculture and Trade should effectively coordinate these activities, the Government has directed.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa requests international donor agencies to provide a debt moratorium or debt deferment facility to all vulnerable developing nations to the COVID – 19 risk.

President had urged Director General of the World Health Organization to forward this request to multi-lateral and bilateral lending agencies.

President points out this relief would be helpful to manage COVID-19 Social Distancing, Public Health and Social Security Systems in those countries.

Steps will be taken to obtain the assistance of political party leaders and their representatives who represented the last Parliament for the Government’s program for preventing the Covid-19 spread in the country, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stated today.
 
Prime Minister Rajapaksa arrived at this decision at a meeting with the Party leaders and their representatives who represented the last Parliament, at Temple Trees yesterday. The Prime Minister made this decision after taking into the views expressed by the party leaders and their representatives into consideration.
 
The opinions of the party leaders and their representatives will also be taken into consideration in the prevention of Covid-19 in the future. 
 
A comprehensive program is under way centering the National Operation Centre for the Prevention of Covid-19 outbreak in the country on the directive of the Government.
 
Party leaders commended the measures taken by the Government to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the country and also assured their fullest cooperation towards the measures to be taken by the Government in this regard in the future.
 
Health Services Director General Dr Anil Jasinghe apprised the party leaders and their representatives on the present situation in the country. The Party leaders also focused on the impact caused by the outbreak on country’s economy and measures that need to be taken to mitigate its impact on economy.
 
They also stressed the importance of continuing the present program to provide essential commodities to the public.
 
Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that arrangements have been made for the people to buy essential commodities through Cooperatives and Lak Sathosa outlets and this program will be further streamlined in the future.
 
The participants also discussed about the opening of tea factories and plucking of tea leaves and keeping the wholesale shops open to provide relief to the people.
 
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe while commending the measures taken by the government said the curfew should be imposed to prevent the congregation of people.
 
He also proposed to continue the leave granted to the employees who are not in the compulsory services.
 
Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya also commended the government’s program and requested the Government to put in place a mechanism for the people to purchase essential commodities without any inconvenience.
 
The Party leaders pointed out that fishing communities are facing inconvenience as their produce are not allowed to be transported during the curfew. The Prime Minister in turn instructed the Acting IGP to make arrangements to ensure that fishermen can transport their produce without any hassle.
 
Several Party leaders were of the view that Parliament should be reconvened. However the majority was of the view that they should extend their full support to the present national programme aiming at preventing the outbreak of Covid-19 instead of re-convening the parliament.
 
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Former President Maithripala Sirisena, Former Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Ministers Dinesh Gunawardene, Bandula Gunawardena, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Wimal Weerawansa, former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, and SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem, former Parliamentarians S Sumanthiran, Udaya Gammanpila and several other political representatives were present.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has directed the relevant authorities to consider the possibility of granting relief measures to those in prison for being unable to fulfil their bail conditions over minor offences.

The President made this observation at the Presidential Secretariat today (24)when he met with the Special Committee appointed by him to look into the possibility of providing legal relief to those imprisoned for minor offences.

The President took the decision to grant relief to these prisoners based on a request they made from him when the state leader visited the prison premises recently.

The special committee appointed by the president is expected to meet again on March 26th to receive recommendations regarding legal relief measures for prisoners who are unable to pay their fines or bail.
The Legal Committee consists of officials of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) and the Department of Prisons.

The special committee includes the Prison Commissioner Jayasiri Tennakoon, President Legal Director General Hariguptha Rohanadheera, Deputy Prison Commissioner Venura Gunawardena, President of the BAR Association President’s Counsel Kalinga Indratissa, Secretary Kaushalya Nawaratne, President’s Counsel Shavendra Silva, Attorney Susara Dinal and several others.

Today (23) President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with the powers vested in him directed a number of relief measures to people undergoing various hardships due to the prevailing situation brought on by the Coronavirus. All these concessions will come into effect from today itself.

President has directed the Governor of Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the secretaries of all ministries, chief secretaries of all provincial councils and the heads of all banks, financial institutions and leasing companies to take the appropriate steps accordingly.

These relief measures are as following:

1. To extend until 30 April, 2020 all payments on income and VAT taxes, driving license renewal fees; all bills on water and electricity, assessment taxes, and bank cheques valued less than Rs 15,000; and repayment of all credit cards below the limit Rs. 50,000.

2. A six month moratorium on the leasing loan installments of all three-wheelers.

3. A moratorium on loan installments until 30 May, 2020 from salaries of all public and private (except board of directors) sector employees.

4. A three month moratorium on all personal bank and leasing loan installments of value less than Rs. 1 million.

5. The March trainee allowance of Rs 20,000 of all graduates selected for employment will be deposited into their respective bank accounts.

6. To double the Agrahara Insurance benefits for all health, police, civil defense and all government servants engaged in controlling the spread of the COVID19.

7. A six month debit moratorium on tourism, garment and small & medium industries and for Central Bank of Sri Lanka to re-evaluate the finances.


8. Bank of Ceylon, People’s Bank, National Savings Bank, Sri Lanka Insurance Corperation, Employee Provident Fund, Employee’s Trust Fund to jointly invest in the treasury bonds and bills to stabilize the money market at 7% interest rate.


9. A 15% interest rate of credit cards for domestic transactions of value up to Rs. 50,000.00 and the minimum monthly charge to be reduced by 50%.

10. All bank branches to provide their full services to customers when curfew is not in effect.


11. Sri Lanka Ports, Customs and other related institutions to release without any interruption to relevant entities food and essentials such as fertilizers, medicines and fuel.


12. To Provide interest free loans of Rs. 10,000 to Samurdhi recipients and Samurdhi card holders through all Samurdhi Bank Associations.

13. To exempt Lanka Sathosa and Co-operative shops from VAT and other local taxes and charges.


14. Samurdhi Authority to issue title certificates to Samurdhi and low income families immediately for issuing nutritional food items to low income families. They should be provided with rice, lentils, onions and food cards on weekly basis.


15. From the President’s Fund, a special bank account has been opened at the Bank of Ceylon for tasks related to preventing the spread of the Coronavirus and for providing the necessary healthcare and relief measures. For this purpose, Rs. 100 million had been deposited from the President’s Fund. Tax and foreign exchange control restrictions have been lifted for all local and foreign donors who wishes to contribute to this fund.

16. USD 5 million to be contributed to the SAARC CORVID-19 Emergency Fund.


On the orders of the President, the Secretary to the President directed all relevant officials to implement these decisions with immediate effect.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa directs the legal experts and the Department of Prisons to look into ways of granting some relief to the prisoners who were charged with minor offences and those who are unable to meet their bail conditions.

President issued these instructions during a meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat today (24) with the members of the committee appointed to make recommendations on the possibility of providing legal redress for the prisoners who had committed minor offences.

Steps were taken to provide relief to the inmates following an inspection tour by the President at an earlier occasion.

The Committee is scheduled to meet the President again on March 26 to submit their recommendations on granting legal reliefs for inmates who are currently unable to pay fines or pay for bail money or produce personal bail.

The Committee of Lawyers consists of officials of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and the Department of Prisons.

Commissioner General of Prisons Jayasiri Tennakoon, Director General of Legal Affairs of the Presidential Secretariat, Hariguptha Rohanadheera, Deputy Commissioner of Prisons, Venura Gunawardhana, President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, President’s Counsel Kalinga Indatissa, Secretary Kaushalya Navaratne, President’s Counsel Shavendra Silva and Attorney Susara Dinal participated in this meeting.

 
 

Districts of Colombo, Gampaha and Kaluthara have been identified as high risk zones in view of the spread of COVID-19.

Large crowds in shops had been observed after curfew was lifted this morning in three districts. Health officials fear that this in turn could lead to a wider and faster spread of the virus.

Therefore, the Government has directed wholesale dealers to deliver essential consumer goods to the doorstep of each household until the situation is brought under control. Sathosa, Keells, Laugfs, Arpico, Food City, Araliya, Nipuna and other wholesale dealers will be involved in this operation. Providing these essential consumer goods such as food, medicine, gas and other services will commence from tomorrow (25).

To ensure the smooth operation of delivering essential consumer goods to each household, a special task force has been established under the leadership of Mr. Basil Rajapaksa. The task force would be comprised of Secretaries to the Ministries, Government Agents, Divisional Secretaries and other relevant officers.

The curfew in the three districts that have been identified as high risk zones will continue until further notice.

However, lorries, vans, three-wheelers and motorcycles that would be used for delivery will be permitted on the roads during this curfew period.

The government appealed to the people to follow the procedures introduced to safeguard against the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the country and to protect the lives of the people.

 If we are to triumph over this corona epidemic proper habits should be followed to prevent its spread. When travelling in public places such as offices, shops and public transport, it has been found that the most effective preventative measure is to maintain distance and also to follow the proper health practices stipulated by medical experts.

In order to prevent the spread of the virus, the government has implemented several stringent measures over the past several days. The curfew that was enforced on Friday evening at 6.00 was scheduled to be lifted on Monday at 6.00 am. But, in some areas such as Colombo, Gampaha and Puttalam Districts and Mannar, Vavuniya, Mulaithicu, Killinochchi and Jaffna in the Northern Province the curfew now in force will be lifted only on Tuesday (24) at 6.00 am. The curfew in the rest of the country will be lifted at 6.00 am tomorrow and re-imposed at 2.00 pm the same day.

When the curfew is lifted people are expected to come out in numbers to gather their essentials. However, the government advices all citizens to follow the advice issued by the government and the health authorities in order to avoid getting infected.

While shopping for their essential items, people are adviced to keep their distance from each other and cover their faces when sneezing or coughing and also avoid close contact when travelling in public transport or trishaws. In obtaining fuel the public is adviced to follow the same rules. Only one member should venture out to purchase goods in order to minimise the number of people gathering to purchase goods. This also helps to maintain distance.

The government assured that there are ample stocks of essential commodities and measures have been taken to distribute them around the country. Therefore, the government says that there is no need to stock supplies unnecessarily. The Corona Task Force advices the public to only purchase what is absolutely essential for use during the curfew which also helps in spending lesser time at shops. People are adviced to stay home and engage in activities confined to their own homes.

The Coronavirus knows no boundaries, religion race, cast or creed and infects anyone in its path be it the rich or poor. Currently, 180 countries have been affected by the coronavirus, but countries that have identified the threat early and took precautions are handling the situation well. China, where the Coronavirus originated is a good example. However, due to poor planning and preparation, a wealthy nation like Italy was unable to control its spread.
 Meanwhile, President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa took several measures on the advice of the WHO to safeguard the country from the Coronavirus. On January 26th the Corona Task Force was established making Sri Lanka the first country to do so.
The President is coordinating with the members of the Task Force and the related institution heads on a daily basis and taking necessary decisions based on their discussions.

Currently there are 17 quarantine centres established complete with all facilities. Further, the arrivals terminal has been closed and all passengers coming into the country has been stopped. Yet despite these measures, the government ensured that all essential services continue to function without any hindrance.

However, there are some anti-social elements who are engaged in spreading false news and rumours for petty political gain. Some of them have already been identified and the government stated that strict  action would be taken against them.  

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