Jathika Jana Balawegaya Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, yesterday (23), questioned the Government as to why the monies in the COVID-19 relief fund are not utilised properly, to provide relief to those who are affected by the pandemic.
Participating in the Committee Stage debate on the 2021 Appropriation Bill, Dissanayake queried: “When a COVID-19 patient dies, the body is not handed over to the family for final rites. It would be cremated by the hospital authorities. Now, the authorities ask money from families to buy coffins for that. Families have been asked to give either a coffin or Rs 20,000 to buy a coffin.
How fair is this? Most of these families are living in lockdown areas. Many of them are in quarantine. Their sources of income have been disrupted due to the pandemic. How can the Government ask coffins from such helpless people to cremate their loved ones?”
Dissanayake said by 30 September, there was Rs 1,640 million in the COVID-19 relief fund.
“According to the Government, Rs 100 million has been allocated for conducting polymerase chain reaction tests on the public, but only Rs 42 million has been actually spent for the purpose. Another Rs 100 million has been allocated for the COVID-19 awareness programmes, but only Rs 24 million has been spent for that. A sum of Rs 268 million has been spent to develop laboratory facilities at the Batticaloa Teaching Hospital and to develop Rapid Test Kits at the Sri Lanka Nanotechnology Institute. Why does the Government keep huge amounts of money donated by the public, in the bank account, without utilising it to provide relief to the people? Why can’t the Government establish a mechanism to provide coffins to cremate bodies? It is inhumane to ask families of the victims who are also helpless and penniless for coffins,” he said.
(Source: Ceylon Today – By Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake)