Kiriella alleges India withheld vaccines from Sri Lanka to spite government

Lakshman Kiriella

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament yesterday that the excuse given by the government for its failure to get vaccines from India was a lie.

Kiriella said that the government ministers’ excuse for failing to get vaccines from India was that there had been a fire in the vaccine manufacturing factory on Jan 21. “That is not true. After Jan 21, India supplied 7,575,000 vaccine doses to seven other countries. It showed that the reason was that the current government had antagonised India.

Kiriella said: Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka was the first to stress the need to bring vaccines. We hoped that we could get AstraZeneca vaccine from India. But what has happened. Only 500,000 free vaccines could be obtained from India.

The government said that there had been a huge fire in the facility that produced vaccines in India and as a result we could not get vaccines. Thereafter, on Jan 21 India provided vaccines to seven other nations. It gave 500,000 vaccines to Canada on March 02, five million vaccines to England on March 05, 125,000 vaccines to Iran on March 10, 300,000 vaccines to Brazil on March 18, 1.5 million vaccines to Saudi Arabia on March 28, 100,000 vaccines to the Maldives on March 29 and 50,000 vaccines to Palestine on March 29. Those seven countries got vaccines after Jan 21. We could not get it because India is not on good terms with us after this government’s Port city project.

“The government has started inoculation in the upcountry areas. There were vaccination projects in Kundasale and Mahaiyawa. Those who get the vaccine have to sign a letter that they may not need the second dose of the Sputnik V vaccine. Signature is obtained on another letter saying that the government would not be responsible for the side effects of the vaccine. Innocent people after spending hours in queues are asked to sign the letter moments before getting the jab. I have heard that this particular letter has been printed at the Kundasale Pradeshiya Sabha. What authority do they have? Do the local government officials have the same authority as doctors? There is no proper inoculation plan. I request the government to give vaccines to plantation workers because they are vulnerable. There are eight apparel factories under BOI in Kundasale. One such factory has at least 500 employees. All factory workers in the country must be given.

The government does not have money. It took a loan from the World Bank in May. This government is a total failure. It has failed in both vaccination and fertiliser projects. They laughed at us when we were planning to make Wi-Fi available to the public free of charge. They protested when we tried to give free tablet computers to schoolchildren. If that project had been completed, today the children would have been able to make use of them while the schools are closed.

The government gave tax concessions to mega companies, that caused a loss of Rs. 800 million.

The government has no vision to prevent losses. For example, look at the recent incident of a fire aboard X-Press Pearl ship. I saw an article in the London Times on this incident and about the possibilities for the cause of the fire. In future, we will know who is responsible for the fire. But the problem is that now it is exposed that our harbours did not have the capacity to extinguish such fires in the vicinity of the country’s main port. This would bring down our ratings and that would result in an increase of insurance surcharge. The government must take action to rectify this immediately.”

(Source: The Island – By Saman Indrajith)