Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) in the country say that they had no role whatsoever in possibly averting the man-made Meetotamulla tragedy, which some have since resorted to defining as a massacre, as their role in monitoring and supervising the process of waste management had been outsourced by the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) thereby entirely cutting out the vital role of the PHIs in the process.
The Public Health Inspectors’ Union of Sri Lanka pointed out that the tender contract for the removal of garbage and its disposal had been given to a private entity at a staggering monthly cost of approximately Rs 600 million.
Vice president of the Union, S.A.U.T. Kulathilaka explained that as a result they were not involved in the process.
According to Kulathilaka, they controlled, monitored and supervised the labourers of local government authorities assigned the task of dealing with garbage and ensured that the waste was removed and disposed of properly (and if this aspect was not done according to the prescribed standards, they dealt with that too) and that the garbage dumping sites were covered properly and made sure chemicals were applied to kill flies found at such locations.
“We handle it for example, in Negombo, Katana, Seeduwa and Kaduwela. We however have no authority or permission to intervene and handle the matters pertaining to garbage in Colombo as the CMC has given this to an outside party,” he added.
Director of the Health Emergency and Disaster Management Training Centre, Prof. M.D. Lamawansa, Chief Epidemiologist at the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Samitha Ginige, Community Specialist at the National Dengue Control Unit of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Priscilla Samaraweera and Municipal Commissioner and Officer implementing the powers and function of the CMC, V.K.A. Anura were all not available for comment.