Influential sections of the Buddhist clergy continue to come out strongly against President Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa‘s Government with Omalpe Sobitha yesterday accusing the regime’s cronies of making obscene profits from Covid-19 disaster facing the country.
Addressing a press conference, the senior monk said that the company importing Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits to Sri Lanka makes a pure profit of approximately Rs 24,000 on each test kit sold to private hospitals in the country.
He said the test kits were imported at a cost of Rs 800 (USD 4) each, with each kit containing 10 testing samples. The Private hospitals are charging patients Rs 2500 per sample, Dr Omalpe Sobitha claimed. In fact, the price per testing sample is less than Rs 100, the senior monk claimed.
In India for instance, a Rapid Antigen Test costs Rs 150 (INR) at hospitals, while most countries offer antigen testing free of charge because of the negligible cost of the kits.
“The Government has paved the way for gross injustice and corruption by this company, which is profiting from the sickness and misery wrought by the pandemic,” Sobitha Thero said.
George Steuart Health, owned by President Gotabaya’s de facto Chief of Staff and Derana CEO Dilith Jayaweera, is the sole licensed importer of RAT kits to the island. The corruption associated with the antigen test kits has long been the subject of political discussion in Parliament and consistent exposes by the Sirasa Media Network in particular.
Jayaweera went to court to prevent NewsFirst (MTV) from reporting on the issue, claiming the channel was defaming him. Jayaweera’s formidable legal and monetary clout has deterred other media institutions from focusing too much on the issue. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna has also repeatedly flagged the corruption. It is unclear on what basis GS Health was granted sole licensing for import of the RAT kits. The Company is involved with multiple Government projects including the Sports Ministry proposal to build 500,000 gyms around the island.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has suffered an unprecedented erosion of support among the Buddhist clergy, most of whom were enthusiastic supporters of his presidential bid only two years ago.