- PM chairs party leaders’ meeting on COVID-19
- Members of all parties represented in last Parliament present
- Attendees subject to mandatory health precautions, including temperature checks and distanced seating
- Calls to reconvene Parliament get lukewarm response
- Officials brief on latest situation in country
- Agree to work together on future programs
A party leaders’ meeting convened by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, to brief them on the Government programs to control the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, concluded yesterday with an agreement to involve all parties in future programs to overcome the crisis.
However, calls to reconvene Parliament by some party representatives present did not receive enough support, as many were of the view that this would give the wrong message to the masses, who have been under curfew with restricted movement as part of COVID-19 response measures.
The representatives of all political parties from the last Parliament were present at the meeting, along with former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and former President Maithripala Sirisena.
The attendees were subject to mandatory health precautions before the meeting commenced, with temperature checks, face masks, hand sanitizing, and distanced seating.
The party leaders were first briefed on the latest situation on COVID-19 by the Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe and Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi.
National Operations Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 Head Army Commander Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva too was present at the meeting, along with other officials.
The discussion focused on several issues, including the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on the economy, and what measures should be taken to minimise said impact.
Another issue that was addressed was the necessity of putting a mechanism to deliver essential commodities to consumers in place. Party leaders were told that such a program has already been initiated and will commence from today.
This program will include home deliveries by vehicle, including lorries, vans, trishaws, motorcycles, and other transport vehicles during curfew hours, from outlets including Sathosa and other private supermarkets.
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said that it is necessary to keep the programs to control COVID-19 stringent and asked the Government to consider giving paid leave to workers engaged in non-essential services in the Government sector.
A request was also made to allow fishermen, farmers, and tea estate workers to continue their work during the curfew, and for these activities to remain open during this period.
All delivery vehicles including lorries, vans, trishaws, motorcycles and other transport vehicles will be permitted to travel during curfew hours.
Those present at the meeting included Basil Rajapaksa, M.A. Sumanthiran, Douglas Devananda, Mano Ganesan, Palany Thigambaram, Rishad Bathiudeen, Rauff Hakeem, Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero, Vijitha Herath, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Mahinda Amaraweera, Udaya Gammanpila, Wimal Weerawansa, Dinesh Gunawardena, Prof. G.L. Pieris, and Senthil Thondaman.
Party leaders to support Govt. on COVID-19 measures
- Talks focus on dealing with economic fallout
- Focus on providing essential goods to public
- Proposal to reconvene Parliament gets little support
In an effort to effectively counter COVID-19, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday called on all political parties represented in the last Parliament to work with the Task Force for the Prevention of COVID-19 and support Government policies.
The decision was taken following a party leaders’ meeting yesterday morning. The meeting was held at Temple Trees, where both United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and Samagi Jana Balawegaya leader Sajith Premadasa were also present.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Media Division, the party leaders commended the Government's efforts to combat COVID-19 and pledged their support.
The discussion also focused on the potential economic damage and measures that could be taken to minimise the short-term and long-term negative impact on the economy. During the meeting, party leaders also expressed their views on measures which needed to be taken to revamp the economy.
“Discussions were held regarding the distribution of essential commodities, and the implementation of the current policies of the Government. Opening of wholesale markets to distribute essential food items and continuing operations of tea factories were also discussed,” it said.
The statement said the Prime Minister pointed out that the Sathosa Co-operatives stores have made arrangements to provide essential food items to the public, and steps will be taken to further streamline the measure. “The Prime Minister said that while taking measures to control the COVID-19 disaster, attention has been paid to minimise the negative impact on the economy.”
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe also commended the Government's measures to contain COVID-19, and requested the Government to take measures to minimise public gatherings, it said.
According to the Prime Minister’s Media office, former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya also requested the Government take measures to provide adequate stocks of essential food items to the public.
The party leaders also pointed out that fishermen were not permitted to sell and transport fish products due to curfew and requested to take necessary measures to address the issue.
Following the request, the Prime Minister advised the Deputy Acting Inspector General of Police to take immediate steps to address the issue.
The statement said several party leaders, including the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), proposed to re-convene Parliament. However, the majority opposed the request, and pointed out that reconvening Parliament would give a negative impression to the public at a time the Government has requested the public to remain at home.