Dr Anil Jasinghe was forced to clarify his professional position in the media after lawyers for Secretary to the President Dr P.B. Jayasundera tried to mislead court that the Director General of Health Services had signed off on the Parliamentary election being held during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Colombo Telegraph learns that lawyers for Jayasundera were issued instructions from the highest political levels to use Dr Jaasinghe’s letter to mislead court that health experts were green-lighting the election during the COVID outbreak.
Dr Jasinghe’s letter does not authoritatively claim that the present climate is suitable to hold an election, Colombo Telegraph learns. Instead the letter speaks of what provisions need to be made in law and regulation in order to facilitate a safe election that will not pose a massive public health risk.
This is in line with the argument from the petitioners that Parliament must be allowed to meet to draft and enact new legislation that would enable the Elections Commission to hold the election safely, without endangering the public. Only Parliament can make and amend existing law in order to make provisions to facilitate elections under pandemic conditions, lawyers for petitioners have argued in court this past week.
However President’s Counsel Romesh De Silva misled court, reportedly on the instructions of the highest political authorities that the DGHS letter was proof that an election could be held.
The assertion shocked the nation which has come to regard Dr Jasinghe as a credible professional in charge of the current public health crisis. The Elections Commission has repeatedly maintained that Dr Jasinghe and other public health authorities have refused to state conclusively that an election was possible under the current circumstances.
The assertions made using him as a reference prompted Dr Jasinghe to give a television interview to clarify his position, Colombo Telegraph learns. While he had provided health directives in his letter with regard to holding parliamentary elections, he stressed the process should go hand in hand with stronger quarantine laws and regulations and adapting to the new normal by using social marketing and other media techniques.
“If these measures are not taken and the country reopens, and there is a new virus outbreak in three weeks, never mind elections, it will not be possible to do anything,” he emphasized on the state broadcaster Rupavahini.
While the President was keen to follow the guidance of health professionals there were other political persons who were exerting pressure on health authorities to reopen all sectors, he admitted. He also begged the public not to lump health professionals in with politicians.
Regarding the letter he wrote that was presented to court as a document proving health professionals were saying elections could be held, Dr Jasinghe explained that Dr Jayasundera who was the most senior officer for the public service as Secretary to the President had formally inquired from him about the health situation with regard to the parliamentary election. In response, he had issued the letter outlining the process to be followed to hold a safe election he said.
Reliable sources told Colombo Telegraph that the lawyers for Jayasundera were given specific instructions to mislead court in order to have the case disposed of as soon as possible. The Government wants elections despite medical advice that new laws must be in place before the polls can be held safely, Colombo Telegraph learns.
Sri Lanka reported 137 new corona virus cases, one of the highest number of infections in a day on Tuesday (27) after more Kuwaiti returnees tested positive for the virus. The country continues to test exclusively in quarantine centers and identified clusters, leading to testing data being relatively less valuable in gauging how much the virus has spread throughout the population. Sri Lanka’s curve pattern is erratic and less than 0.2 percent of the population has been tested for corona virus. Many of the 50,000 tests conducted are repeat tests performed on PSD and PMSD security and officials proximate to the ruling family.
With a Major General being put in charge of the Ministry of Health, there are also concerns about under reporting of cases and corona virus linked deaths. (Chinthika de Silva)