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MCC, PUC, SLMC and PCRby

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A week of acronyms:

by Malinda Seneviratne

We’ve had a fire at the Supreme Court, the reconstitution of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC), moves to reconstitute the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), an official statement from the US Embassy announcing that the controversial Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement has been tossed into the proverbial waste paper basket and unprecedented scenes in Anuradhapura where the man who claimed he had found a cure for Covid-19 courtesy the blessings of Goddess Kali created quite a rumpus.

Let’s start with the controversial ‘peniya.’ Now it is fashionable to laugh-off anything that’s ‘native’. Call it a colonial cultural remnant if you like. The problem is that Dhammika Bandara’s ‘cure’ was not tested properly. It was however ‘endorsed’ by sections of the government and given publicity by the state media. It was essentially a commodity in the market. There was a seller and lots of buyers. Seller and buyers violated Covid-19 protocols. Officials failed to enforce them. There was a buzz which knowingly or unknowingly helped divert attention from important issues such as the prison riots in Mahara. The Opposition waded into the syrup and is still stuck there. Good publicity for Dhammika Bandara and the ‘peniya.’

That’s old news. The ‘latest’ is the man making quite a scene before the Chief Prelate of the Atamastanaya in Anuradhapura, Ven Pallegama Hemarathana Thero, claiming that he was Mother Kali and was therefore the good bikkhu’s mother as well! Now there are many Sinhala Vedamahattayas who go about curing the sick quietly. No stamping feet. No advertisements. Most importantly, they don’t use efficacy as though it is a license to demand anything and everything. Dhammika Bandara is different, obviously. He hasn’t done himself any favors.

That’s ‘ongoing’ and could divert attention from the other issues flagged above. The Opposition was quick to claim that the fire at the Supreme Court was an act of arson aimed at destroying important documents. Sajith Premadasa visited the courts complex and called for an ‘independent investigation’. The word ‘independent’ has been used so often that it has lost all value, more so because the ‘independents’ that successive governments have appointed to various councils and commissions have essentially been political fellow-travelers of the particular regimes.

The truth is that the fire had not caused any damage to court records or papers. It was in a location where there was broken/abandoned furniture. Why such garbage was not removed, we do not know. We do not know how the fire started. Investigations are ongoing, we are told.

Interestingly, the fire was intense enough to drag Ranil Wickremesinghe from virtual cold storage. Following the historic election debacle in August 2020, Wickremesinghe has been in political hibernation, so to speak. The UNP is still to name someone to the national list slot. The issue of party leadership is as yet unresolved. Wickremesinghe hinted at retirement. It is well known that he is an expert at quelling opposition in the ranks. The ranks left, more or less, and that has made ‘quelling’ irrelevant. He is not one to let go, however low his political fortunes sink. He’s come out. It is interesting to see what he does next.

Then there’s the MCC, the PUC and the SLMC. The media release issued by the US Embassy in Colombo is full of contempt, of course couched in diplospeak. ‘Funds approved for Sri Lanka will be made available to other eligible partner countries in need of grant funding to pursue their economic development priorities, reduce poverty, and grow their economies,’ it says, implying that Sri Lanka doesn’t have or is not interested in pursuing ‘development priorities.’ ‘Development’ and ‘priorities’ as understood by the USA, obviously, which are not necessarily in Sri Lanka’s interests. Sri Lanka doesn’t want to reduce poverty, is another element of the subtext. One remembers that such plans as are praised by countries like the USA gave us first ‘structural adjustment’ then ‘structural adjustment with a human face,’ and finally ‘structural adjustment with poverty alleviation.’ That taught us where poverty comes from.

The media release also claims, ‘country ownership, transparency, and accountability for grant results are fundamental to MCC’s development model.’ Well, the entire process of project proposal writing was overseen by the US Embassy. There were ‘MCC experts’ herding ‘local experts’ at Temple Trees during the Yahapalana years. Mangala Samaraweera was pushing it. Wickremesinghe went along. They were all dumped by the voters eventually. And, following Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s pledge to review all such agreements, even Premadasa said that the MCC agreement would be revisited. The JVP and the SJB wanted to know the new government’s position. The Gunaruwan Committee appointed by the President clearly objected to the agreement in its current form, but the Government kept it on the table. Now it’s off the table. No credit to the Government though.

The Embassy finally says, ‘The United States remains a friend and partner to Sri Lanka and will continue to assist Sri Lanka in responding to COVID and building its economy.’ This is almost like saying ‘we are mad at you for not following the script!’ The USA’s ‘friendship’ will be once again on show in a few months in Geneva when the Sri Lankan case comes up for review. Let’s see what happens then.

‘Diplomacy’ is in the subtext of the controversy over the sacking of certain members of the SLMC, but it’s not the whole story. There are ex-officio members in the SLMC as well as a certain number who are elected. There are also those appointed by the Minister.

Now there’s a hue and cry about the sacking of certain members. The replacements are political appointees, cry the objectors. What’s forgotten is that the lot that were moved out were themselves political appointees. Sunil Ratnapriya is not just a political loyalist, he is a politician. Dr Harendra de Silva, whose work in the Child Protection Authority is highly commended by one and all, was a close associate of former president Chandrika Kumaratunga. They were all appointed by Rajitha Senaratne, now a man who anyone can say is dignified and honorable to the last letter.

There are allegations against those appointed by Senaratne in particular and the SLMC in general which basically went along with what the minister’s friends said or what they believed were the minister’s wishes. Replacing them with a set of people that another minister trusts is not guaranteed to produce startlingly different outcomes though. At the end of the day, the outfit that clashed with the SLMC (the Government Medical Officers’ Association, GMOA) seems to have got its way. A committee was appointed to review the work of the SLMC, certain serious allegations were examined, there were disturbing findings and some members of the GMOA were elected to the SLMC. Politics of different kinds were and are clearly at play.

One of the murmured but not openly mentioned precipitating factors in this drama is the de-listing of several prestigious Russian universities. The process, the report indicates, wasn’t above board. We don’t know if the Russian Embassy expressed concern. Unlike their US counterparts they are not given to issuing media releases or reading out the Riot Act.

There’s a similar drama brewing with regard to the PUC. The President’s Secretary Dr P B Jayasundera has written to the Treasury Secretary directing that staff of the PUC be transferred out and offering that the PUC’s functions can theoretically be added to other state institutions. The current set of commissioners are certainly not saints. They’ve been repeatedly rapped on their knuckles by the Attorney General’s department for operating outside their mandate. They have essentially acted as though they are a body parallel to the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), coming up with alternative long-term energy generation plans following solicitation of public comments of the CEB’s plans. The long term energy general plans are typically made for 15 years, with adjustments being made every two years. The PUC, citing trivialities, have delayed approval of the same, taking more than a year and a half on average, which essentially makes such plans redundant.

If the frustrations of the CEB have been noted by the President, that’s good. The CEB’s detractors claim that certain high-ups in the CEB have their own agendas. Perhaps they do. Well then, they should be investigated and brought to light. Chanting ‘CEB is corrupt, CEB is corrupt’ just won’t do. For the record, if the CEB was indeed corrupt and the PUC squeaky clean and effective, why wasn’t corruption in the CEB wiped out by those in the PUC?

Jayasundera’s directive is childish. It’s a shortcut at best. What’s required is that the rules be followed. They are clear as per Section 7 of the PUC Act No 35 of 2002 with respect to who could be a member of the PUC, and the term and removal of members. The mandate is clear. A regulator regulates but does not transfer to himself the functions/mandate of the regulated. The PUC does not make policy. It deals with guidelines and works to ensure that operations fall within the relevant parameters.

Overall, politics in the nuts-and-bolts, i.e. policy-making, institutional arrangement and procedural matters, seems to have trumped power games among and within political parties.

The only matter of interest, at least for political analysts who look at elections and candidates is the resignation of Patali Champika Ranawaka from the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). Ranawaka, who at one point led the Sihala Urumaya (SU) through which party he first entered Parliament 20 years ago, was instrumental in mobilizing sections of the Maha Sangha to contest parliamentary elections in 2004. The JHU secured nine seats on that occasion and played a key role in the election of W.J.M. Lokubandara (UNP) as Speaker. Lokubandara would thereafter morph into a staunch ally of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The fortunes of the JHU declined not too long thereafter, but Ranawaka’s star was on the rise. He is credited with having authored Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election manifesto in 2005 and was a key speaker during that election campaign. Following the resignation of National List MP Ven Omalpe Sobitha, Ranawaka entered parliament and was duly appointed as Minister of Environment.

The JHU joined the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) in 2010 and had relatively meager returns, but Ranawaka came third in the preferential votes in Colombo. He was given the Power and Energy portfolio but later, perhaps since he didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with the Rajapaksas, was ‘downgraded’ to Minister of Science and Technology. The unilateral exit of Ven Athureliye Rathana Thero from the UPFA in late 2014 forced Ranawaka’s hand. The JHU quit the government, backed Maithripala Sirisena and Ranawaka was made Minister of Megapolis and Western Province Development. He was, then, a Gota+Basil version of the Yahapalana Government. He was President Sirisena’s nominee to the Constitutional Council and was the Secretary of the United National Front for Good Governance led by Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Ranawaka’s political history is akin to someone who has switched vehicles frequently. He either hit potholes or drove into them, abandoned the vehicle and jumped into another. His organizational history, so to speak, is colorful: JVP, Chinthana Sansadaya, Ratawesi Peramuna, Janatha Mithuro, National Movement Against Terrorism, SU (Sihala Urumaya), JHU, UPFA, UNPGG and now the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB). As of today, the first nine are nonexistent or largely irrelevant. Ranawaka has moved. Up.

Yes, he was with the JHU for 16 years, but both he and the JHU would have gone into oblivion had he (and the JHU) not hooked up with the UPFA (2010), the UNP (2015) and the SJB (2020). Some argue that it was not that Ranawaka jumped from party to party but that the relevant parties had come to him. Well, writing manifestos notwithstanding, none of the big brothers listened to him after the polls closed.

The JHU is not even a rump as of now. It makes sense to quit. More importantly it’s a necessary first step for Ranawaka to further his political ambitions. Sajith Premadasa, whose sophomoric qualities got exposed during his presidential bid, is no match for Ranawaka when it comes to intellect, drive and even oratory. This was most evident during the constitutional crisis in late 2018. Wickremesinghe was ready to give up, senior UNPers were dumbfounded, but it was Ranawaka who held the fort and saved the day. Too late in the day to stop the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s inexorable drive to power of course, but although not a UNPer, he won the (grudging?) respect of that political camp. It is quite possible that a Ranawaka presidential bid would inject some hope and much needed passion into the SJB/UNP. Premadasa better watch out; the attacks from the pro-SLPP camp are directed at Ranawaka, not Premadasa, perhaps because he is seen as a more serious challenge. That’s good for Ranawaka and bad news for Premadasa.So it was essentially a week of acronyms: MCC, PUC, SLMC and PCR (that’s Patali Champika Ranawaka).



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‘Fraud on a Power’- Exercised in Vaccinations Management?

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by Chandra Jayaratne

The doctrine “Fraud on a Power” (also known as “improper purpose” doctrine) was one of the key fundamental building blocks in framing the potential charges in a high profile suspected corruption and money laundering case investigated under the ‘Yahapalanaya’ regime. This investigation was assisted, by a set of independent professionals acting as authorized independent volunteers. It appears that the prosecutors of the Attorney General’s department make limited use of these concepts.

The pigeon holed investigation report delved in to the real issues that should be pursed in a purported corruption and money laundering investigation; and in addition dealt with the failures in governance, failures of fiduciary duty, lack of professionalism, transparency, accountability, oppression and mismanagement and even willful misrepresentation. These findings regrettably had not been covered even in a specially appointed Commission of Inquiry, which cost the state coffers millions of rupees.

More regrettably, the report under reference lies in many a cubby hole of the leading investigators and prosecutors, without essential follow up action; nor are these findings even being used to develop ‘lessons in good governance’, whereby similar actions can be prevented from being repeated in the future in any state entity.

Article 3 of our Constitution states “In the Republic of Sri Lanka, sovereignty is in the people and is inalienable. Sovereignty includes the powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise” whilst Article 4 inter alia states “The Sovereignty of the people shall be exercised and enjoyed in the following manner: the executive power of the people, including the defense of Sri Lanka, shall be exercised by the President of the Republic elected by the people;” It is thus evident that the President, the Cabinet and the duly appointed Secretaries of the Ministries, empowered with Executive Power by the Constitution must exercise such power for the benefit of the people; and are whilst holding such office and executing such power are committed to act as Trustees of the Sovereign People.

The readers of this article are kindly requested to review the following facts as narrated and assess, firstly whether the facts as set out as purportedly connected with the “Pandemic related Vaccinations Management” in Sri Lanka are accurate. Provided the purported case studies as noted below are factual and can be validated by evidence, the readers are requested to assess whether these actions tantamount to those in governance, including those directly involved and those in the apex of Governance under “Command Responsibility Principles” are guilty of;

 The violation of the Constitution and impacting on the Citizens Fundamental Rights to Life, Freedoms, Justice, Equity and Equality;

 The violation of any of the International Conventions to which Sri Lanka is a signatory and which have validation by local laws;

The violation of International Humanitarian Law and connected Jurisprudence, including joint Criminal Enterprise and Command Responsibility;

Any offenses under the Criminal Procedure Code;

Criminal Negligence and or Failure to Avoid Disasters;

Policy/Priority Corruption, Administrative Corruption and / or Financial Corruption and /or offenses under Bribery Act Section 70 dealing with Corruption.

It is also up to the readers to assess whether the undernoted purported events as listed below as Case Studies developed from purported information, media exposes and narrations by connected parties demonstrate and support the possibility that the vaccinations management and administration are tainted by bad intents, “power having been exercised for a purpose, or with an intention, going beyond the scope of or not justified by the instrument creating the power (ie. The Constitution)”, “Abuse of Power”, “inadequate deliberation” and/or “failing to take relevant considerations or taking account of irrelevant considerations”, “acting on considerations for their own or their family personal benefit or for the benefit of any other third parties, outside the interests of the effective beneficiaries”, “misbehaving with their power” and “is sufficiently serious as to amount to a breach of fiduciary duty” and thus tantamount to “Fraud on a Power”:

 

Case Study 1

1. Frustrating several attempts by leading Business Associations and Chambers, at no cost to the state, in accessing vaccines for their staff, whose well being was considered essential for the production operations and long term competitiveness and thus keep value addition to the economy uninterrupted ( Refer Separate Case study below) and

2. In the process of such frustration the State loosing the opportunity to receive at no cost a significant number of vaccines to be administered to the common citizens;

3. Not allowing the already established private sector agents of the vaccine manufacturers from actively engaging and enriching the procurement process, whether such procurements be by the State or as a part of a private sector business initiatives

 

Case Study 2

1. The Failure to make timely strategic decisions related to guarantee required supplies in a phased out manner and ensure procurement processes and supply chain management plans executed with effective risk mitigation

2. The failure to have in place a priority list in the administration of the limited stocks of vaccines

3. Failure to transparently and with integrity administer the vaccines, strictly in line with the agreed priority

4. Ensuring, where two doses of the vaccine are essential for effective risk mitigation, that adequate stocks are maintained for administration of both doses to the covered participants, within the recommended time gap

5. The validity of the opinion publicly promoted by Health Officials of the Ministry that it is better to give one dose to many participants as against the required two doses and also attempt to stretch the number of vaccinations from a vaccine vial from 9-10 by administering 11 or above vaccines

6. The GMOA submission of 1st June titled “Strategic Interventions towards achieving optimal control of Covid 19 in Sri Lanka” identifying the immediate need to restructure the Epidemiology Unit, ensure effective oversight and initiate an audit in to all activities connected with the vaccinations administration

7. A fully functional vaccine registration, administration, and management system developed by the State entity Information and Communications Technology Agency (ICTA), purportedly lying dormant awaiting formal authorization by the Health Authorities for formal launch. This purported reluctance to launch the system is despite clear understanding that if such a systems was in place, good governance, better transparency and operational and decision making integrity would have been assured with the optimization of economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the vaccinations management process

 

Case Study 3

.

Whereas the Apparel Exporters and the Apparel Industry as a whole and the sector Country Ratings being internationally assessed by Importers based on “ON TIME DELIVERY” (OTD); and Sri Lanka in 2020 having had OTD of around 60% vs Bangladesh 98%; and Sri Lanka’s Exports in 2020 significantly declining vs Bangladesh showing a 5 % growth within a highly restricted market, the Joint Apparel Association Forum Sri Lanka (JAAFSL), recognizing that despite 2020 low market performance as against competitors and yet having the Order Book for 2021 full by December 2020; and realizing that staff availability, their health and ability to function in the Covid impacted environment was a key driver of competitiveness is purported to have approached the Government in January 2021, with the under noted proposal:

The JAAFSL offers to fund at its cost, with an outlay of USD 20 mln, against a secured and confirmed order negotiated via local agents for WHO accredited vaccines at 3 $ each per vial, sufficient to cover approximately 6. 7 million vaccinations of which 0.7 million doses would be retained by JAAFSL for the 2 does each of the 350,000 apparel workers, with the balance handed over to the government for use to vaccinate common citizens, and

This offer by JAAFSL is purported to have been topped up by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) with an offer to provide funding of up to an additional USD 30 mln, and

With the total pool of funds garnered by JAAFSL and CCC, the order could have been made out to support at the offered price per jab of USD 3 to vaccinate 16. 7 mln jabs in total, and regrettably

The State is purported to have not approved this initiative, stating that the State will be the sole importer of the vaccinations

Case Study 4.

The Public expose already in the social media and other media that Bangladesh Government Order for Sinopharm vaccinations are at USD 5 per vial less than the price at which Sri Lanka is procuring the same vaccination direct from the same source of supply in China and that similar reduced charge procurements have purportedly been made by Pakistan too

 

Case Study 5

The media / social media expose of the ad hoc nature and selective manner of vaccine administration; reporting that unannounced administrations are taking place at unusual locations; and in some instances purportedly even being unauthorized and totally outside of the announced priority of administration being; thus clearly evidencing the by passing of equity and principles of priority in the application of the second dose of the Vaccinations

 

 

Case Study 6

The Media reporting that in some instances, those receiving the first dose of the vaccine were forced to sign a declaration prior to such administration affirming that that they are not insisting on the second dose of the same vaccine being administered to them as a prerequisite.

The report of the International Tribunal for a post-event global actions review in dealing with the pandemic, headed by the former lady president of Liberia and former lady PM of New Zealand has recommended inter alia the creation of a global mechanism to be adopted in similar situations; withsuch mechanism taking charge of action accountability for global good; and be in readiness to action them anywhere in the world, in the event any of the countries, their leaders and global institutions fail to take the best option strategic action.

Does this recommendation, which comes from the highlighted failures of timely strategic information sharing, lack of urgent strategic actions, lack of a single mined agreed action plan with focus on prevention and contingency plan, all resulting in implementation delays and failures to align the global leadership to such a path, culminate in placing the blame on WHO, China, US, G7 the and possibly even the UN and its other agencies? In such a backdrop, can National leaders who failed their people in the current pandemic like Presidents Trump, Bolsanaro (now on trial by the Senate of Brazil) . Philippines President and Premier Modi and others, be charged under International Humanitarian Laws and associated Jurisprudence or under Public Interest Litigation, for failure to avoid disaster within the principles of command responsibility?

 

Should caring intellectual elders of society form themselves in to a Peoples Commission of Inquiry and conduct a post audit of the vaccinations management, seek the citizens assessments and suggestions and determine the weak links in the administration this time round and develop a local mechanism to be adopted in similar situations in the future and place such recommendations before the citizens and those in governance.

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Is America’s Help on the Way?

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by Dr Sarala Fernando

Despite the opposition predictions that the US will “punish” Sri Lanka for its pro- China policies, the truth is that the US humanitarian assistance for the Covid 19 crisis has been flowing to Sri Lanka unabated since 2020 despite the crisis in their own country, led by USAID supplying vital PPE including gowns, gloves, masks, safety goggles etc, importantly all purchased in Sri Lanka to help the local economy. Even the US Department of Defence had donated PPE equipment to the value of $191,000.

In 2021, USAID stepped up donations, including 200 portable ventilators. It has re-directed US$ 2.5 million from USAID to support Covid 19 relief and continued to source locally produced PPE, thermal scanners, hand-washing stations, hygiene kits, disinfection sprayers etc. In addition, USAID has re-programmed $5.2 million for working with WHO as key coordinator for Sri Lanka’s Covid response, UNICEF and civil society to handle second and third order effects of the pandemic.

With the new Biden Administration resuming its relationship with WHO, most recently the US allocated 19m doses as the first tranche of vaccine donations to WHO vehicle, COVAX. It was announced by the White House that in Asia vaccines will go to South Asian countries India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Maldives. It is now up to COVAX to confirm the amount of vaccines that it will send to Sri Lanka. It must surely be known that some 600,000 persons in Sri Lanka, mainly seniors, are eagerly waiting to complete the immunity with the second jab, having got the first jab thanks to the generous gift of Prime Minister Modi and the COVAX first round earlier this year.

Everyone knows that Sri Lanka is woefully short of the vaccines required to reach the WHO goal of 20% of population inoculated by end September 2021. Clearly the epidemic in India has been a major cause which has shut down the pipeline to the import of vaccines from the main manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India. The Opposition alleges it is incompetence on the part of the government to secure the required doses on time and being too early to declare victory over the Covid 19 without sufficient testing in the general public. The general public are asking those in power to set out a clear programme of priorities instead of this secret scramble for the remaining vaccines by political grace and favour which has led so many front line workers, from PHIs to nurses, to go on strike.

Yet does the problem also lie in insufficient attention paid to high level networking and mobilizing the traditional pillars of our friendship-with-all foreign policy? The Seychelles President was recently interviewed on international tv where he spoke of his success in obtaining early donations of vaccines through personal interaction with the heads of states of the UAE, India and China. Recently the Indian press gave prominence to a phone call from US Vice President Kamala Harris to Prime Minister Modi where the US has promised substantial donation of vaccines. The US has also lifted restrictions on products required for the expanded manufacture of vaccines in India. However, the special attention to India is understandable as it is a strategic partner of the US and a member of the Quad. Now that the US has announced its policy to donate some 60 million doses of vaccines including Astra Zeneca, has Sri Lanka moved at the highest levels to lobby for the current need of the balance 600,000 doses required to give the second jab to our citizens? In the midst of the Covid crisis, the priority seems to have been given rather to moving the Foreign Ministry building to a new location with all the dislocation that will engender and distress to the staff.

The international shortage in Covid 19 vaccines is the perfect vehicle to test Sri Lanka’s traditional friendship –with- all foreign policy and to avoid the trap of reliance on one or the other of the contending superpowers. To those who argued that our foreign policy should be Indo-centric, India being the nearest regional power, finally when the crisis hit the Serum Institute manufacturing process, it was China who came to our rescue. Even the Sputnik vaccine availability seems to have run into some problem perhaps because of the crisis in India where Russia would be more concerned to supply India’s needs as a long time strategic partner. Now the picture has got even more complex with the US disposing of some 60 million doses of Astra Zeneca which they intend to donate to the developing world as soon as possible. The question is whether Sri Lanka will be able to get the missing 600,000 doses from the US and how should this urgent need be lobbied? Fortunately there is a competent professional at the head of our Embassy in Washington who must be moving heaven and earth right now to secure the deal, all the while combating LTTE rump disinformation and hostile initiatives in the Congress. The question is whether that level is sufficient to bring results given that elsewhere heads of state seem to be picking up the phone to call President Biden, sending their Foreign Ministers to Washington and even chosing to lobby through CNN and BBC interviews as Nepal did recently?

There is another problem; the Sri Lankan Minister in charge of obtaining vaccines recently dismissed attempts by third parties to obtain the missing 600,000 doses in the local roll-out saying most of these offers proved dubious. However, why not empower the local agent for Astra Zeneca to move in this matter as they would certainly be the most competent with regard to quality and logistics. A letter published in the local press from the local agent suggests that their role has been limited to sending information to the State Pharmaceutical Corporation which has insisted on being the sole agent negotiating for the missing doses and at what price. Lack of transparency in this process has led to recent political charges that the price paid for the Chinese vaccines was exorbitant which has in turn led to a storm of social media criticism which must be surely unwelcome to the Chinese.

It has been announced that Pfizer vaccines are also on order, but surely with the cold chain conditions, this cannot be given at mass vaccination sites, so will it now be given through the hospitals? Contrast the hitherto “closed” procedure in Sri Lanka to the opening up in India where even states were given the option to negotiate and purchase the amount of vaccines they required and route them through hospitals – even private ones! It is a classic contrast between the advantages of an open market system with a vibrant private sector against a closed state-centric system, something unthinkable at this time of crisis when the nation’s health safety is at stake and after so many years of a liberalized open market system in Sri Lanka.

(Sarala Fernando, retired from the Foreign Ministry as Additional Secretary and her last Ambassadorial appointment was as Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva. Her Ph.D was on India-Sri Lanka relations and she writes now on foreign policy, diplomacy and protection of heritage).

 

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Biden-Harris administration unveils strategy for global vaccine sharing

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Announces allocation plan for first 25 million doses to be shared globally

As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic at home and work to end the pandemic worldwide, President Biden has promised that the United States will be an arsenal of vaccines for the world. To do that, the Administration will pursue several additional measures beyond our robust funding for COVAX: Donating from the U.S. vaccine supply to the world and encouraging other nations to do the same, working with U.S. manufacturers to increase vaccine production for the rest of the world, and helping more countries expand their own capacity to produce vaccines including through support for global supply chains.

This vaccine strategy is a vital component of our overall global strategy to lead the world in the fight to defeat COVID-19, including emergency public health assistance and aid to stop the spread and building global public health capacity and readiness to beat not just this pandemic, but the next one.

 Today, the Administration announced its framework for sharing at least 80 million U.S. vaccine doses globally by the end of June and the plan for the first 25 million doses.  

 

Specifically, the Administration announced that:  

 The United States will share vaccines in service of ending the pandemic globally. Today, the Administration announced its framework for sharing these 80 million U.S. vaccine doses worldwide. Specifically, the United States will:

 Share 75% of these vaccines through COVAX. The United States will share at least three-quarters of its donated doses through COVAX, supplying U.S. doses to countries in need. This will maximize the number of vaccines available equitably for the greatest number of countries and for those most at-risk within countries.  For doses shared through COVAX, the United States will prioritize Latin America and the Caribbean, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa, in coordination with the African Union.    

Share 25% for immediate needs and to help with surges around the world. The United States has received requests for vaccines from countries all over the world.  The U.S. will share up to one-quarter of its donated doses directly with countries in need, those experiencing surges, immediate neighbors, and other countries that have requested immediate U.S. assistance. Specifically, we will:

Set the stage for increased global coverage.  The allocation of this first tranche of donated doses reflects the desire of the United States to respond to all regions and lay the ground for increased supply and access throughout the world. 

Prepare for surges and prioritize healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations based on public health data and acknowledged best practice. We will share with countries in urgent need, with a priority on vaccinating frontline workers. The United States will not use its vaccines to secure favors from other countries.  The U.S. will work with partners who are both ready and in need.  And, our donations will prioritize countries with vaccine readiness plans that prioritize individuals at highest risk of severe disease and those working to help care for them, like health care workers. 

Help countries in need and our neighbors. The United States will share vaccines in our region and across our borders. We first made doses available to our closest neighbors – Canada and Mexico.  Our dose sharing approach prioritizes Latin American and the Caribbean on a per capita basis.  

The U.S. announced the proposed allocation plan for the first 25 Million doses. Based on the framework above and pending legal and regulatory approvals, the United States plans to send our first tranche of 25 million doses:

Nearly 19 million will be shared through COVAX, with the following allocations:

Approximately 6 million for South and Central America to the following countries: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, as well as the Dominican Republic.

Approximately 7 million for Asia to the following countries:  India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands. 

Approximately 5 million for Africa to be shared with countries that will be selected in coordination with the African Union.  

Approximately 6 million will be targeted toward regional priorities and partner recipients, including Mexico, Canada, and the Republic of Korea, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen, as well as for United Nations frontline workers.  

The sharing of millions of U.S. vaccines with other countries signals a major commitment by the U.S. government.  Just like in the United States, we will move as expeditiously as possible, while abiding by U.S. and host country regulatory and legal requirements, to facilitate the safe and secure transport of vaccines across international borders.  This will take time, but the President has directed the Administration to use all the levers of the U.S. government to protect individuals from this virus as quickly as possible.  The specific vaccines and amounts will be determined and shared as the Administration works through the logistical, regulatory and other parameters particular to each region and country.

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