The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka became the scene for stunning revelations for the second time when a letter issued by the country’s much respected Director General of Health Services Dr Anil Jasinghe was tendered to court, suggesting that there was no impediment to conducting the Parliamentary election.
In his letter Dr Jasinghe who has been the civilian public health authority more or less leading Sri Lanka’s fight against COVID-19 suggested that provided certain precautions were taken and certain new regulations were made under the Quarantine laws, the election could proceed.
The letter was tendered during hearings on eight fundamental rights petitions challenging the President’s refusal to reconvene Parliament at the Supreme Court. Proceedings have been adjourned in the case until Tuesday (26).
The assertions by the DG Health Services was particularly shocking because he has been unable so far to provide the same undertaking to the Elections Commission, sources told Colombo Telegraph. Health authorities including Dr Jaasinghe have been unable to say with certainty that there would be no risk to public health from the virus if the election goes ahead during several meetings with the members of the Commission. The Elections Commission has decided to consult a cross section of public health experts including WHO Sri Lanka before it makes a decision on election dates, Colombo Telegraph learns.
Colombo Telegraph exclusively revealed after Day Four of hearings that the Government had coerced health authorities to provide a detailed plan for holding elections during the pandemic conditions prevailing in the country to be presented in Supreme Court when Government lawyers were responding to the petitions.
Colombo Telegraph learns that Dr Jasinghe, a community medicine expert and other senior Ministry of Health officials have been coerced to providing undertakings the Government required to present in court. As recently as April, Dr Jasinghe considering tendering his resignation over the pressure he was facing to declare normalcy in order to facilitate an early election, it is learnt.
Jaasinghe’s letter was tendered to court the day after he participated in a racially charged smear campaign against Prof. S. Ratnajeeevan H. Hoole, a member of the three-man National Elections Commission.
In an interview to the pro-Rajapaksa newspaper Ceylon Today run by businessman politico Tiran Alles criticising Hoole for “acting unethically” after Prof Hoole and his daughter Elilani, who had served her two weeks in quarantine after returning from London stopped by at the Elections Commission.
Jasinghe himself signed Elilani Hoole’s clearance certificate, which confirmed she had been quarantined at Jetwing Blue for a period of 14 days after her return to Sri Lanka. No where in the certificate or in any other form of instruction was Elilani Hoole informed that she was to remain in isolation even after her quarantine.
Several media organisations aligned to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa – Divaina, Island, Ceylon Today and Hiru TV – launched a racially charged campaign against Prof Hoole claiming his daughter had violated her quarantine orders. The newspapers and the television station falsely claimed that Prof Hoole and his daughter had practically been chased out of the Commission premises which had to be disinfected following their visit. The newspapers published the news items without seeking comment or clarification from Hoole or the Commission, refused to publish Prof Hoole’s right of reply and in the case of Hiru TV followed up the news item with a barrage of calls from racist monks demanding Hoole’s removal from the EC.
Dr Jasinghe’s conduct in reporting COVID-19 statistics has also been questionable in recent weeks. Earlier this week the DG Health Services told the media that over the past 20 days the only COVID positive cases were inside the Sri Lanka Navy or from within quarantine centers. However this is a deeply flawed statistic given how low the prevalence of testing has been in the wider population in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan authorities have performed less than 50,000 tests for corona virus, most of these within contact traced clusters and high risk neighbourhoods where one or more persons have shown symptoms of the virus. Further, of the 50,000 tests a significant number includes repeat testing performed on presidential security staff and officials interacting regularly with the ruling family. This means that only 0.2 percent of the population has been tested for the deadly virus, with real infection rates expected to be much higher than reported.
Proof that the situation is probably worse than reported emerged yesterday after the Lady Ridgeway Hospital in Colombo reported that several children had been admitted with symptoms of Kawasaki disease – high fever for days and a strawberry coloured rash on their skin. The condition has surfaced in several countries worldwide that have had high infection rates for corona virus, including Italy, UK, US, Spain and France. Many children showing the symptoms test positive for coronavirus or test positive for coronavirus antibodies which means they had previously been exposed to COVID-19.
LRH doctors are warning parents in affected clusters and regions in particular to be watchful for symptoms of this condition in children and young adults. It is unclear if LRH is being permitted to test these children admitted with symptoms of Kawasaki disease for COVID-19. (By Chinthika de Silva)