An article by a member of the Christian clergy has been unceremoniously censored online by the Daily Mirror newspaper because the author inadvertently referred to how Sri Lankan Government officers working at embassies overseas are directing Sri Lankan citizens trying to return home to a travel and services agency run by President Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s close associate and indicted criminal Nissanka Senadhipathi of Avant Garde Maritime Services fame.
Senadhipathi and his powerful political friends have leaned on the newspaper to remove the online edition of an expose by Father Tyrell J. Alles about the difficulties and frauds faced by citizens who are desperate to return to Sri Lanka.
Senadhipathi has been indicted under the Firearms Ordinance and the Explosives Act at the High Court and the AG has begun trial proceedings against him. Since Gotabaya Rajapaksa became the President Senadhipathi has resumed his “business” activity in collaboration with his presidential buddy. The Government recently gave his company Avant Garde hundreds of acres of land free of charge for an “agricultural project”.
Fr. Alles in his article in the Daily Mirror explained how an official at the Sri Lankan Embassy in the US (Washington DC) had instructed him to purchase his ticket from a “specific person” who had charged him a higher price. Fr. Alles said in the article that the ticket and his Rs 15000 per day hotel quarantine stay had been organized by a company called Avant Garde Security Service (PvT) Ltd. Fr Alles likely unaware of Avant Garde’s shady arms dealings in the past even thanks the company for accommodating him on a flight home.
It is not clear why the Sri Lankan embassies are telling citizens trapped overseas to purchase their air tickets from a specific source to be accommodated in repatriation flights. The action looks prima facie corrupt several lawyers told Colombo Telegraph.
Fr Alles then continued to explain how badly the LKR 15000 per day hotel had treated quarantine visitors. The priest had even found dead worms in his food. Father Alles said he believed the repatriation to Sri Lanka was a racket run by a corrupt mafia.
“Drawing from my personal experience, Covid-19 and quarantine in Sri Lanka is a racket, a dishonest scheme to obtain fast money. We were victims of an organized mafia. It is evident that Avant Garde and their colleagues made their repatriation plan a money-spinner. It is also evident that hoteliers and their collaborators have invented a new form of money-grabbing. This skullduggery mutates faster than the virus. Who can rescue us from this vicious circle in this paradise island which to me is far from paradise, in fact hell on earth?” says Fr Alles.
A cached copy of the article is still available for viewing here; http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.dailymirror.lk/news-features/The-Covid-19-Repatriation-Mafia/131-205105&prmd=ivn&strip=0&vwsrc=0
However Colombo Telegraph has decided to publish the full text of Father Alles’ article as it appeared in the newspaper that has since censored him online. We believe it is in the interest of the Sri Lankan public to know how the President’s criminal associates are robbing ordinary Sri Lankans blind every day.
The Covid-19 Repatriation Mafia
By Father Tyrell Alles
Having experienced first-hand the loathsome treatment of repatriating Sri Lankans at paid Quarantine Centres, Fr. Tyrell J. Alles contracted Covid-19 in early January. Writing to the Daily Mirror, he says the Covid-19 pandemic is now a money-making racket, where a few gain from the misfortune of many.
I returned to Sri Lanka from the United States of America on October 1, 2020. The Sri Lankan embassy in Washington, DC included me in one of their repatriation flights, for which I am grateful. Avant Garde Security Service [PVT] Ltd., organized this repatriation. I purchased my air ticket at a higher price from a person as instructed by the embassy. In addition, I had to pay Avant Garde Rs.15,000 a day for a 14-day period of quarantine at Shangri-La Hotel in Hambantota.
No sooner, I landed in Colombo, I experienced the inefficient and abusive treatment meted out to arriving passengers. After a long and tiresome journey, we waited at the airport for hours on end on our feet with limited toilet facilities. Outside the airport, we were locked in a bus for more an hour. After a snail’s pace journey to Hambantota, the incompetent check-in system at the hotel lasted another couple of hours. All this time, locked in a bus, we did not have even a drop of water to quench our thirst. Some protested against such inhumane treatment after paying exorbitant rates for the air travel and the hotel. The 14-day quarantine process at the Shangri-La Hotel, only added fuel to fire.
After three negative PCR tests, I was treated like an alien, who had arrived from another planet with a virus. Although, I am not one to complain about food, I am forced to do so. For example, given the hotel charges, will one like to find dead worms in the food? How will one feel when one has to repeatedly call the reception to get the basics? How will one feel when one has to repeatedly remind the hotel about the change of linen? I was disgusted! Thereafter, I had to quarantine at home for another 14 days subject to control freaks; the PHI and the Police, with notices on my gate terrifying the neighborhood.
Early January, I tested positive for Covid-19. The Ministry of Health subjected me to mandatory 14-day quarantine. It is common knowledge that the government quarantine centres are hygienically appalling, with toilet facilities that are dreadful and the probability of catching another disease, worse than Covid-19 from such a quarantine centre was inevitable. I was offered to be quarantined at Club Koggala Village at an exorbitant rate of Rs.12,000 a day. Once again, the services, the food, and even the room were below standard. During the 14 days, I did not even have a plate or cutlery, not to mention the insipid unhygienic food either to be eaten or thrown at your discretion.
Being a diabetic, the medical team told me to request diabetic food. My request fell on deaf ears, giving me the impression, “either you eat or die.” At both Hambantota and Koggala, the Sri Lankan Army provided transport to the hotels at a price. But I had to find transport at the end of the 14 days, as if to say, now that we have got our money, find your way back home. Adding insult to injury, there were parasites who offer transportation at ridiculous rates, making hay while the sun shines.
Drawing from my personal experience, Covid-19 and quarantine in Sri Lanka is a racket, a dishonest scheme to obtain fast money. We were victims of an organized mafia. It is evident that Avant Garde and their colleagues made their repatriation plan a money-spinner. It is also evident that hoteliers and their collaborators have invented a new form of money-grabbing. This skullduggery mutates faster than the virus. Who can rescue us from this vicious circle in this paradise island which to me is far from paradise, in fact hell on earth?
As regards the government, all we hear is its obscene arguments in parliament, a comedy show, the only entertainment that is free-of-charge. Acting like hooligans, at each other’s throats, these unschooled idiots are hand-in-glove with those who line their pockets in the name of Covid-19. My logical conclusion is that while many have lost their businesses and their livelihood, because of this pandemic, some others have made it a lucrative business, a mafia, a pathetic, horrendous and disgusting experience to so many others like me. This is Covid-19 and quarantine in Sri Lanka.
Since the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the whole world is going through a crisis that has affected every aspect of human life. The governments of different countries respond in various ways to curtail this pandemic and to provide medical assistance to its citizens. This letter relates my experience of how Sri Lanka has responded to this crisis, especially through its quarantine programmes.
Every baptized Christian shares in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, in his prophetic, and royal mission. As a Catholic priest, in addition to this threefold function, I share in the ministerial priesthood of Christ. I write this letter in response to the prophetic mission entrusted to me by my baptism and my priesthood for the service and common good of mankind. (By Nimal Ratnaweera)