We have observed that fake newspaper excerpts are an often used to propagate falsehood among social media users in Sri Lanka, and we have debunked many such falsehoods in the recent past as well. This is our investigation into another such instance, in which a supposedly recent newspaper article went viral among Sri Lanka social media users.
Social Media Posts:
Several social media posts went viral carrying a newspaper article in Sinhala under the headline (English Translation) “COVID–19 Vaccination drive at Narahenpita Army hospital is corrupted. Army officer sends a letter to the President”. The story was attributed to “Chamara Ekanayake” claiming to be a newspaper journalist who made this revelation.
The detailed narration of the article went on to note that Captain Ambepitiya had given Astrozeneca second dose to some of his friendly lawyers and also to his family members in June using a separate list. Furthermore, the article claimed that Director of Army hospital, Col. Dr.Attanayake, kept a set of vaccines stored in his own fridge at the Army hospital and had given those vaccines to VIPs and politicians, who were being sent to the hospital by the Army commander. Another claim in the detailed narration was that Brigadier Dr.K.P.Pathirana, the health services director of Army hospital, had Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in his ward no.20 and he gave those vaccines to the family members of Army who were in the age group of 18-30 years etc. You can see a few examples of such posts below.
A number of such posts were seen circulating among Facebook users as seen below.
Due to lot of requests from our readers, we decided to do an investigation into these claims. Here are our findings.
We started our investigation by checking out the local Sinhala newspapers during the last couple of weeks to find out whether such a news item had been published in any of the mainstream newspapers. However, we not only did not find such an article, but also did not come across a journalist by the name “Chamara Ekanayake”.
The Presidential Secretariat also confirmed that they did not receive such a letter from a senior Army officer, complaining over the vaccination process at the Army Hospital in Narahenpita, as mentioned in the viral post.
We then got the versions of the three officials named in the detailed narration of the purported newspaper article.
Captain Ambepitiya rejected the allegations against him and said he was transferred to Panagoda army camp in the month of May and was not in the hospital in June as mentioned in a social media post. He even forwarded the vaccination card of his daughter who had received, Sinopharm vaccine and not AstraZeneca as claimed.
Col. Aththanayake, the director of Army hospital said all corruption allegations are baseless and that he was not hiding a set of vaccines in a fridge.
Brigadier Pathirana said he is the director of medical services of Army hospital and was working in ward no .20. However, the ward is dedicated for the patients of skin related diseases. He also stated that there were no facilities in ward no.20 to store Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Detailed versions of the statements given by the Army officials can be found here, in our Sinhala article.
Army Commander, Shavendra Silva also said that the information related with such Facebook posts were fake and can be considered as an attempt to tarnish the reputation of Army in its contribution for the vaccination drive.
Meanwhile, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) accused the Army and said the Army is intermediating unnecessarily to the vaccination process and were not following the scientific recommendations.
The GMOA statement can be seen below.
Important Note: We are not in a position to independently verify whether there was any corruption in the vaccination process of Sri Lankan Army officers at the Army Hospital in Narahenpita or for that matter any other vaccination Centre in the country. However, it’s clear from our investigation that a newspaper article as seen in the social media posts is fake and was not published in any newspaper recently and also there were some lapses in the information presented in these posts.
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According to our investigation, Factcrescendo Sri Lanka found that the viral newspaper article was not published by any newspaper recently. Also we didn’t find a journalist by the name of ‘Chamara Ekanayake’ working in any of the mainstream media agencies. We learned that there were several inaccuracies in the information presented in the edited newspaper article after hearing the version of the accused Army officials. The Presidential Secretariat also confirmed that they had not received a letter from a senior Army official, detailing corruptions that were taking place at the Army Hospital.
Title:Did an Army Officer Send Letter to The President Alleging Corruption in Narahenpita Army Hospital?Fact Check By: Kalana Krishantha