Opposition Leader lists government shortcomings in fighting coronavirus

Sajith Premadasa

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the country’s anti-COVID-19 campaign would have been stronger if the government had not got its priorities mixed up during the recent past.

Participating in the debate on two new regulations under the Medical Ordinance, the Opposition Leader said: “The government has not imported ventilators since January. They spent the time to get the 20th Amendment passed.

They did not have time to import quality PCR testing machines and were busy pruning down the powers of the prime minister.

The government could have made use of that time to increase the number of beds in hospitals in view of the pandemic but it did not have time because that time was spent worrying about dual citizenship. While other countries worried about the immunity of their people, our government’s worry was to ensure immunity of the executive presidency.”

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi: He is misleading the House. We brought down 200 ventilators during the past eight months. At the beginning we had the capacity to conduct only 250 PCR tests, today we are conducting 10,000 tests. We do what a government should be doing.

Opposition Leader Premadasa: Those ventilators were given by the US as grants. I am telling you that the government did not order a single one. The government did not make purchases. There were many grants from international organisations. What did you do with those monies? You were seen engaging in mystic ritual acts of throwing pots to the rivers to get rid of the pandemic. You should have obtained the blessings of the snake king that manifested inside a bottle at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara during the last two days of the presidential elections campaign in support of your candidate.

You cheated people then and are doing so now. You continued to reject what we said. That was what happened whenever we spoke of the danger from the pandemic. When we said the need to wear masks, you rejected us. When we spoke of the need for PCR tests, we were ridiculed. When I spoke the need to maintain quarantine guidelines in parliament, she said that was not relevant.

Health Minister Wanniarachchi: He is misleading the House. The Opposition leader does not know how to read a gazette properly. There is a definition of the common places, and Parliament does not come under that definition. Those definitions contain descriptions of open and closed places.

Opposition Leader Premadasa: Parliament is a common place. The minister got her facts mixed up. All those stories were told to keep Parliament open to get the 20th amendment passed. One policeman attached to the Parliament division got infected. Two media personnel got infected. You should conduct PCR tests on all members of parliament staff. Since January we have been insulted whenever we spoke of the need to take precautions.

(Source: The Island – By Saman Indrajith)