NOCPCO Head, Chief of Defence Staff and Army Commander General Shavendra Silva
No outside ‘third party’ reaching them for accommodation of foreign arrivals in their hotels for quarantine purposes should be given a single cent to get such openings, National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) Head, Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army General Shavendra Silva has told hotel owners, hoteliers and hotel executives.
“We have already managed to prevent some ‘unscrupulous’ elements who were resorting to such corrupt practices in the recent past after the second wave broke out. We would not dare to tolerate such practices at the expense of the Army image since ours is a credible organisation of the highest standards. What we want is to get those arrivals a fair deal with decent meals, full care and accommodation at the lowest rate possible,” he said, addressing the invited hotel owners, hoteliers and hotel executives to NOCPCO for a meeting on Tuesday (12) afternoon.
“Let me place on record at first our deep gratitude to the Chairman and executives of Hotel Dolphin who volunteered to give the hotel free of charge for State officials, tri servicemen and other stakeholders for quarantine purposes even for a few days, no sooner the decision for establishment of quarantine centres was proposed by the President early in March last year. Of course, Hotel Citrus also offered its premises but we used only the offer of Hotel Dolphin during March-April in the formative stages. We are very grateful for such gestures and commend them for the concern they extended to us. Similarly, Jetwing Group was generous to quarantine a group of 44 students at our request allocating 44 rooms after the second wave struck us. There had been instances where ‘interested parties’ have approached hoteliers in the past, but there is no room now left for any of those practices in your trade,” he underlined, requesting that such attempts should be immediately brought to the notice of the Army.
“The Army does not have any personal agendas whatsoever and what we expect from you is the provision of decent meals and proper accommodation at reasonable rates to those checking in for quarantining. If you all can further bring down those rates, it is so much the better and I believe small hotels below 5-star level could certainly go for such reductions,” he urged.
The entire quarantine mechanism has many facets such as screening, airport formalities, transport, selection of State or paid quarantining, passage of medical staff, tri servicemen and other health workers to such locations, etc., which is a daunting mechanism at work.
“Preference was given to the hotels along the coastal belt from Negombo to Tissamaharama due to short distance and practical needs where both airports are located and more importantly, most of those arrivals expect to stay in nearby hotels in this region for quarantining purposes soon after they land here, sometimes during the small hours of the day. At first, we expect the selected hotels be fully filled to their maximum capacity and we have formulated the mechanism to that effect. However, as numbers began to rise, we selected you all and wanted you to ensure the best service for their money at lowest possible rates,” he added.
Providing telephone numbers and particulars of several responsible senior officers engaged in the quarantining operations, General Shavendra Silva noted: “If anyone is inconvenienced by so-called ‘third’ parties pressurising you demanding money or bribes for facilitation of those arrivals in your hotels, please ensure you directly get in touch with those nominated responsible officers and inform them immediately with details. I reiterate firmly that you all should not at all give a single cent to any third party for facilitation of arrivals into your hotels. We are very transparent and accountable for all what our organisation fulfils on behalf of the public and there are no hidden agendas behind our well-defined practices. Neither our troops nor our coordinating officers of high integrity would resort to such practices and tarnish the image of this organisation at all. Therefore, please ensure any information with regard to ‘Army involvement’ in such malpractices be brought to our notice at the earliest.”
Explaining how allocation of hotels was done for this purpose, General Shavendra Silva also mentioned that certain selections were preferred due to compelling economic difficulties, humanitarian grounds and various other concerns they were facing as businessmen who earned foreign exchange to this country before COVID-19 struck the country.
“Hoteliers are also an essential community for the country’s economic growth and we value your services all the time. I urge all of you to give them the maximum possible relief by lowering the charges at this critical moment of our history,” he concluded.