By Athula Ranasinghe –
The hullabaloo that took-place at the vaccination center at Koralawella, Moratuwa resulted in a public outcry which caught the attention of all electronic media. All country witnessed how the Mayor obstructed the lady MOH in the presence of the general public and the police without allowing her to carry out her legitimate duties. It came to a stage where the Mayor had to admonish the Medical Officer. In the ensuing melee, the Mayor threatened the MOH and staff that he is also an unofficial magistrate and demanded that the political stooges, he selected should be given the utmost priority in giving the jab. How earnestly, she repeatedly requested the mayor to allow her to perform her duties as planned was ignored by the Mayor thus ridiculing and hapless people who were in the queue from the dawn terribly witnessed the ugly behavior of the mayor with arms akimbo in anguish.
On his surrendering to the Mount Lavinia Police the following day, he was produced before the Moratuwa Magistrate who remanded him till 11th June for obstructing the duties of the MOH and other Officials. Despite all these disturbances one sterling quality what we observed was, she had the audacity and endurance to continue the vaccination program in defiance of the protests with the police protection.
The obnoxious behaviour of the Mayor and his cahoots came up for discussion at a meeting chaired by His Excellency, the President, senior ministers and members of the Covid-19 task force at which His Excellency in no uncertain terms ridiculed and condemned the incident on the ground that his well-intended efforts ruined the very purpose it was established. He specifically mentioned that vaccination centers are selected on a scientific and data-driven basis where the Health Department authorities have the unfettered autonomy to conduct vaccination rollouts without any hindrance by adhering to stipulated health regulations.
An unsavory intervention of the Minister Namal Rajapaksa that the incident in question was an isolated event was curtly brushed aside by His Excellency, meaning that he did not tolerate this type of nuisance. Being an upcoming minister during his salad days, he should not have belittled the highhanded act of the mayor in a public forum. The entire country knew that this was not an incident in isolation and people would not buy the assertion of the young minister suo motu. The minister should have realized that he cannot pull wool over of the eyes of the people on the ground it was an isolated incident. Taking the excellent opportunity he got, he should have risen to the occasion by condemning the Mayor’s behavior and that such a course of action would be fondly welcomed by the people who are struggling to dull the pangs of their hunger under very trying circumstances, as a result of the lockdowns and economic hardships. People know very well, how the Minister Gamini Lokuge reacted when curfew was imposed in Piliyandala. People would also recall how Minister Johnstan Fernando attempted to give favoritisms to his catchers in Kurunegala at the cost of elderly people who thronged at the vaccination centers.
The offences committed by Mayor, Moratuwa are punishable offences both under criminal procedure code under section 184, 185 and 186 and the quarantine regulations of the Quarantine Ordinance and the learned magistrate judgement would be a landmark judgement for the Public Officers who relentlessly devote their energy for the protection of the people.
In issuing a press release, former Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya the National Movement for a Just Society has condemned the behavior of the Mayor and on the other hand saluted the lady MOH for standing up against injustice. At a press conference, SJB MP Hesha Withanage has said that the Mayor’s behavior was emblematic of the politicization of the vaccine rollout. He has criticized that the inequality in vaccination has resulted in further delays for people hoping to getting jabbed in time. He has further alleged that vaccination is carried out at the whim and fancies of the politicians and the government has failed in its overall vaccine strategy, citing that the Moratuwa incident has laid bare of the politicization of the vaccination process.
What the government worthies should bear in mind that the government has incurred millions worth of foreign exchange in importing vaccines to be given to the people and they have a cardinal duty to ensure that roll out the vaccine is given in a fair and equitable manner without resorting to under-hand ruses with ulterior motives. Now that a substantial quantity of vaccines has been imported, every effort must be made to give the vaccines at a fast pace without incurring the wrath of the people. Special mention should be made in this regard that government has launched an accelerated program to expedite the vaccination projects with the arrival of new stocks of vaccines in Jaffna, Kandy and Ratnapura within the next couple of days. Ratnapura district is the most vulnerable district as it represents the Minister of Health and that there is a high probability to dilute the vaccination program with the involvement of the local politicians and their henchmen. Hence, it is the utmost responsibility of the Health Minister to ensure that no untoward disruption occurs similar to that incidents we witnessed in Piliyandala, Galle and Moratuwa.
Over to the Minister of Health and the Head of the Covid 19 Presidential Task Force.