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The furore over the removal of MRI chief continues

ECONOMYNEXT-Both pro-government and opposition spokesmen are questioning the removal of the Director of the Medical Research Institute Dr Jayaruwan Bandara who was replaced by his erstwhile Deputy Dr Prabhath Amarasinghe yesterday.

The influential Buddhist Monk, Muruththettuwe Ananda Thero deplored the removal of Bandara at a press briefing yesterday while those sentiments were echoed by Opposition MP Dr Rajitha Senaratne today.

Ananda Thero, a political activist and long-time President of the Nurses Union, said that he had asked the Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa about the issue and both had said they were not responsible for the decision, he claimed.

“We then wrote a letter to the President and had it delivered to his residence objecting to the removal of Bandara,” Ananda Thero, seen as a close supporter of the Prime Minister told reporters last evening.

Senaratne, who was Health Minister in the last government, told reporters today Bandara was “sacked from the Director post because he gave a statement as true a medical professional.”

Health Minister Wanniarachchi is yet to comment openly on the subject but in Parliament yesterday her colleague, State Minister of Prison Reforms Dr Sudharshini Fernandopulle denied Bandara was sacked.

Fernandopulle told Parliament, in response to questioning from the Opposition benches, that Amarasinghe had been away from the country completing a post-graduate degree and on his return had been appointed to the top post as he was the most senior officer.

Bandara, in a Television interview, said that COVID had been “present in the community for the past few months since January,” breaking an official silence on the subject.

Bandara told the Adaderana television news network on Monday that “there is a danger in this situation.”

The government had been touting the idea that the coronavirus had been tamed in Sri Lanka and all new infections were from overseas visitors.

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As the Leader of the Opposition, Sajith Premadasa said yesterday the government had advertised that as a main achievement of its nascent rule during the campaign for the Parliamentary elections.

“Bandara said, just like us, that the COVID virus was out there in the country, it became true finally because the authorities still haven’t found the source of the virus in the new cluster,” Senaratne added. (Colombo October 8, 2020)

Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe