SJB irked by football tournament held in contravention of Covid-19 guidelines

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Mujibur Rahuman says the Director General Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena owed an explanation as to how Football Sri Lanka (FSL) recently conducted the inaugural quadrangular invitation soccer tournament, at the Race Course grounds with the participation of over 2,000 spectators, in violation of Covid-19 guidelines.

Colombo District MP Rahuman asked whether the DGHS felt that mega events, organised by the government, wouldn’t pose a threat, though the Opposition was repeatedly advised against public gatherings. Congratulating the Seychelles team for winning the four-nation tournament, 3 to 1, in penalties, lawmaker Rahuman quoted Dr. Gunawardena as having told him when inquired that his Office was not asked for permission nor informed of the tournament.

MP Rahuman said: “We understand the DGHS’s dilemma as Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attended the final along with Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa. If the Health Ministry is unable to properly implement guidelines, it should stop blaming the public for irresponsible conduct.”

MP Rahuman said that it would be interesting to see whether spectators would be allowed at the Sri Lanka vs West Indies cricket matches. Did FSL receive special status due to the direct involvement of Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa in this endeavor, MP Rahuman asked.

Responding to another query, MP Rahuman pointed out the recent unveiling of Sandahiru Seya built to invoke blessings on the armed forces, that took place amidst a large gathering in Anuradhapura.

The top SJB spokesperson said that the much touted ‘One Country, One Law’ concept was nothing but a joke when the government flouted its own guidelines. The MP alleged that after the unveiling of Sanda Hiru Seya, several hundred persons were invited to the President’s House, Anuradhapura for Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa’s birthday celebration.

MP Rahuman emphasized that there couldn’t be a different set of guidelines for the SLPP and another for the rest of the country. The former UNP said that police headquarters issued daily statements of preventive measures taken by law enforcement authorities to curb the epidemic. However, the police provided security to the inaugural quadrangular invitation soccer tournament and facilitated the gathering of VIPs.

The Covid-19 Task Force, too, should look into this matter, the MP said, urging the government to set an example. Asked whether the SJB protests undermined current health guidelines, MP Rahuman said that the SLPP could not exploit the epidemic to suppress political dissent. The government and the Opposition could agree on a moratorium on major public activity, the MP said, alleging that the SLPP seemed only interested in curbing the Opposition whereas it continued with public events.

Health authorities have repeatedly warned of a fresh outbreak of the epidemic unless the people followed health guidelines. They point out that the daily average of about 500-600 new cases indicate a possible major threat.

MP Rahuman said that recently State Minister Dr. Jayasumana declared that the December could be quite dangerous against the backdrop of expert reports that weakening of efficiency of some of the vaccines administered here.

MP Rahuman said that those above 60 received a booster dose as all realized Covid-19 posed. The MP said that the government also considered making vaccination mandatory for all those entering public places. If the government was aware of the danger of another wave, it shouldn’t have allowed gathering of crowds at the Race Course for soccer matches, MP Rahuman said.

The SJB MP recalled how the government ordered inoculation of a selected group of Hambantota voters (20-30 years) with Pfizer much to the dismay of youth in other districts. The government went ahead with its plans regardless of GMOA’s opposition, the MP said.

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