The Chairman of the Weligama Urban Council (UC), Rehan DW Jayawickreme has issued letters to two private television channels accusing them of unauthorised entry and invasion of privacy of a suspected COVID-19 case in Weligama yesterday.
In the letters, he draws attention to media ethics and the need to know what is right and wrong.
He also notes in the letters that he is using his powers to ban unauthorised entry of the media into private vicinities of suspected COVID-19 cases.
Rehan Jayawickreme told the Colombo Gazette that a Muslim female who has been suffering from various illnesses for over 15 years, had visited the Weligama Hospital for a routine checkup, due to her regular physician being busy in Galle.
The doctor at the Weligama Hospital, however, had reportedly racial profiled her and claimed that she may be suffering from COVID-19.
The patient, who had gone home following the meeting with the doctor, had succumbed to one of her many illnesses the same day.
The Chairman of the Weligama UC said that opposition parliamentarians in the area had then informed the two private television channels that the woman had died due to COVID-19, following which the channels had video recorded the house of the diseased and aired news segments on the incident.
This had resulted in agitation among the Sinhalese population in Weligama, a town which is largely a mix of Sinhala and Muslim nationals, he said.
Jayawickreme said in order to settle the agitation, he had instructed that the deceased not be allowed to be cremated until the conducting of a COVID-19 test.
The results of the test conducted this morning had returned as negative, but the hospital had refused to hand over the body to the relatives, stating an autopsy must be conducted into the death.
The Chairman of the Weligama UC said he agreed with the outcome of the autopsy and had instructed the relevant officials to thereafter handover the body to the relatives without further delay to enable them to conduct burial according to the deceased’s religious belief.
Rehan Jayawickreme further said that as incidents like this left unnoticed could lead to racial tensions, he issued letters to the two private television channels reprimanding their irresponsible actions with regard to the incident.
As a result, Jayawickreme said he was prompted to prohibit media personnel from entering areas under the Weligama UC without authorization to video or record voice cuts with regard to suspected COVID-19 cases.
Meanwhile, former Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Parliamentarian Ali Zahir Moulana thanked Jayawickreme for his singlehanded steadfastness and for defending the fundamental liberties available to all.
Moulana tweeted urging President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to bring an end to the vile, racist victimization of minorities in Sri Lanka, on the guise of fighting a pandemic. (Colombo Gazette)