He said UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had handed over a set of policies containing 21 proposals to the President when they met recently, which includes proposals to create a healthier and more economically secure country.
This was stated by Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardena during a discussion held with Party members yesterday (22) over Zoom technology to discuss the Party’s 75th anniversary preparations.
“As the COVID crisis continued to escalate, the UNP put forward an alternative proposal that included health and economic issues. Unlike other parties, instead of merely criticising the government, we have also presented an alternative set of policies. The daily COVID fatalities has reached almost 200 per day. We continuously urged the government to lockdown the country for three weeks. However, the government has taken steps to lockdown the country for ten days. We welcome this move as it is better late than never. However, if you look on the streets, people are freely moving about. This is not the sort of lockdown we wanted. What the country needs is a complete lockdown such as what was recommended by the health professionals,” he added.
He noted that if the President’s recent address to the nation is analysed, it basically warns the people that sacrifices would have to be made if the country is to be locked down for a longer period. “What does he mean here? What the President is saying is that the government has to increase the prices of goods and services and that public servants will have to expect salary cuts because the state sector will not be able to pay their salaries. This is an attempt to cut off the Rs. 10,000 salary increment granted by our government.”
He said the UNP proposal is to go to the International Monetary Fund which would even enable the country to get relief from other countries. “Without doing these, don’t expect the people to make sacrifices, while allowing their friends to make money using the Covid pandemic. Get ventilators as soon as possible to provide artificial oxygen. Our leader had said that at least 2,000 respirators were needed. The government should take steps to maintain the oxygen capacity as well as these devices,” Wijewardene added.He also suggested to the government to obtain the assistance of retired health workers and retired doctors in order to meet the present requirements.
The UNP Deputy Leader charged that the vaccination drive has also slowed down, adding that the current vaccination procurement process needs to be replaced with an emergency procurement process.
“The COVID vaccination programme, subject to parental approval, should be expanded to include children above 12 years. There are also issues with COVID statistics. Therefore, action should be taken to maintain accurate statistics on COVID-19 infections and deaths. There are no provisions in law for a COVID Task Force. Those powers are vested in the Cabinet, the Disaster Management Council and the Director General of Health Services. We therefore propose that this task force be abolished immediately and the Disaster Management Council be convened immediately with the inclusion of the relevant ministers, Opposition Leader and Opposition MPs. Our proposal is that the Cabinet should operate through them.”
He proposed that in addition, a special advisory panel of individuals recommended by the World Health Organization should be set up to assist the Cabinet. The Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Health should meet weekly to update information on the current situation in the country regarding COVID-19.
He said the Sri Lankan economy is facing a severe crisis due to the COVID-19 epidemic and the lack of foreign exchange reserves. There is also no room for emergency economic relief programs. “Our other suggestion, therefore, is that the Government should immediately begin negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to obtain the necessary funding. We have submitted 21 such proposals. Our Leader presented this resolution with the objective of securing the health and economic security of the country without burdening the people. We further urge the President and the government to pay attention to this and protect the people.”