Army Commander Shavendra Silva has taken steps to hold a meeting with Army Legal Officers at the Army Headquarters, ignoring the quarantine rules.
The meeting was held on the 18th of this month, with the aim of supporting President’s Counsel Kuvera de Zoysa who is contesting for the Bar Association election this time. A member of the staff of Judge Advocate, Major General Edward Jayasinghe, who was present at the meeting, was diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus on the 21st.
According to the existing quarantine laws, all those who attended the meeting should be quarantined in such a situation, but MediaLK found it was confirmed that no such quarantining has been done so far.
President’s Counsel Kuvera de Zoysa and former Secretary of the Bar Association Kaushalya Navaratne have expressed their views at the meeting and a majority of Army Legal Officers have expressed their displeasure over this meeting. The reason for this is organizing such a propaganda meeting in the current epidemic situation.
“It’s not possible to engage in canvassing inside the army”
Our attempt to inquire into the allegations against Army Commander Shavendra Silva was unsuccessful as he did not answer the phone. Therefore, in response to a query made by us, Army Spokesman Brigadier Chandana Wickremasinghe said that it is normal to bring officers to the Army Headquarters for various meetings, especially at the end of the year to discuss next year’s plans.
However, when inquired about holding the meeting with the purpose of a propaganda project, the Army spokesman said, “Things like that don’t happen at Army Headquarters. We do things that belong to the military.”
We also asked the Army Spokesman regarding giving the opportunity to a candidate competing for the post of President of the Bar Association to speak at this meeting.
“There is no way that a canvassing was done there. It’s not possible to do canvassing inside the Army. Experts in a particular field may speak sometimes. It is difficult for me to comment on that,” he said.
When asked about the comments made by the lawyers at the meeting, the Army Spokesman said he cannot say anything as he do not know the subjects discussed at the meeting.
When inquired about the organization of the meeting in a situation where meetings were restricted, the Army spokesman said that although he is not aware of the importance of the meeting, the Army would not disregard the quarantine rules.
Commenting on the identification of a participant in the meeting as a person infected with the virus, he said they are open to the society and that it is not possible to look into the personal relationships of everyone. Therefore it cannot be confirmed that the person was infected with the virus at the meeting, he said, adding that the Army is carrying out all activities in accordance with quarantine laws.
No notification yet
However, our investigation has confirmed that all military law officers who participated in this meeting have not been notified to be quarantined due to the virus. But in other government institutions, when such meetings were held or when a person in one section was found to be infected with the virus, that section was closed down or all those who attended the meeting were treated as first class associates.
“Decision should be made based on the situation”
When contacted, General Secretary of the Public Health Inspectors Association, Mahendra Balasuriya said that he had not yet received any information about the relevant meeting held at the Army Headquarters or that anyone who attended it had contracted with the virus. When asked the procedures be taken when a person attending such a meeting was diagnosed with the virus, he said,
“First, information should be gathered about how the meeting was conducted. We need to determine how many people attended, how long they stayed there, how well they used masks, how far they protected social distance rules, how they exchanged papers or files, and how they did things like washing their hands as they entered the meeting.
It is also important to know if the person who entered had a fever and if the person who was diagnosed with the infection had any symptoms. Because if there were symptoms, the rate of transmission from him to others would be higher. Therefore, in view of these circumstances, a decision has to be taken to quarantine the first-class associates for 14 days.”
According to our inquiry by the parties present at the meeting, the Secretary of the Association of Public Health Inspectors stated that although the quarantine laws have been protected to some extent, there has been any procedures to check fever among the participants.
A meeting for propaganda?
Although the Army spokesman said that canvassings are not allowed at the Army Headquarters, at the meeting, President’s Counsel Kuvera de Zoysa has said that he would have decided to join the Army full-time if he had not run for the Election of Bar Association.
He also noted that law officials of the military should have no problem with voting for him because he has such respect towards the military. Commenting at the meeting, Attorney-at-Law Kaushalya Navaratne has stated that the other Presidential candidate contesting for this post is a person who has betrayed the Army. But he has not presented any evidence for this allegation.