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AG orders criminal investigation into Covid spread from Brandix plant

This photo taken on October 4, 2020 shows the entrance of Brandix garment factory at Minuwangoda, near the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, where over 1,000 workers tested positive for Covid-19 making it the biggest outbreak of the virus in the country. – More than 1,000 workers have tested positive for coronavirus at a Sri Lanka factory that until August was producing surgical masks for the US, officials said on October 7, as they scrambled to find the source of the country’s biggest outbreak. (Photo by Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP)

ECONOMYNEXT – The Attorney General has ordered police to conduct a criminal investigation into the spread of the Covid 19 virus in and from the Brandix Apparel factory in Minuwangoda, the Coordinating Officer for the AG Nishara Jayaratne said.

In a voice recording released to Media today, Jayaratne said that the AG Dappula de Livera had taken note of the spread of Covid 19 from the factory and that it “had endangered human life.”

Under those circumstances, the AG has ordered a comprehensive investigation to be conducted as to whether either the “management of Brandix or a government official has through neglect or oversight” led to the current situation.

Jayaratne said that the AG has issued instructions in writing to the Acting Inspector General of Police Chandana Wickramaratne to report the progress of the investigation by November 13.

The AG has had a meeting with the head of the Legal Division of the Police Department and discussed the matter, she said.

The authorities have not been able to pinpoint as to how the virus entered the Brandix plant in Minuwangoda where around 1,200 workers produce apparel.

The management of Brandix has promised a comprehensive investigation of its own into the issue

Brandix Group Chief Executive Officer Ashroff Omar in a letter sent out to Brandix staff dated October 12, said that “there have been statements made that our employee safety protocol was compromised. We are conducting a comprehensive independent investigation of our factory in Minuwangoda. We will take strong action where necessary and address what needs to change in order to prevent this from happening again,” Omar wrote.

Meanwhile, labour rights activists in Sri Lanka called on the Board of Investment (BoI) today to ensure the impartiality of an internal inquiry pledged by Brandix Apparel Limited into the growing Minuwangoda COVID-19 cluster.

“Brandix has promised an inquiry into the cluster that emerged from their Minuwangoda plant. To ensure that this inquiry is impartial, there needs to be some representation of the workers and also of the Labour Department. The Board of Investment has to ensure that,” Programme Coordinator of Dabindu Collective Chamila Thushari told reporters. (Colombo October 27, 2020)

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Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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