Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe hailed Rotary President Raveendran for the Rotary services during the war time in administering the polio vaccine in the whole country including the north east.
He paid the tribute while addressing the 107 th anniversary of the Rotary Club in Japan recently. During the address, he said:
“Back in 1995 a few Rotarians together with the UNICEF got in touch with the Health Ministry. They wanted to do an NID, a national immunization day. Rotary pledged to bring in one and a half million dollars for it, and was looking for the balance from the government, in order to vaccinate the whole country against polio – in one shot.
The officials at the Ministry agreed that it was a good and tested idea; they thought that all children in the country should be vaccinated – except those in the conflict areas of the North and East as the government did not have access or control over those areas at that time.
But the Rotarians had insisted that this was not acceptable as this was Rotary money which could not be used to vaccinate only half the country.
Apparently the Ministry of Health officials had looked at these crazy Rotarians and said, “If you haven’t noticed, there’s a war going on. We don’t have control in the North and the East, so what is it you want us to do?”
Your Rotary President Ravindran had answered them saying, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of the war.” In the end the Ministry of Health said, OK, go ahead, if you can stop the war, then we can vaccinate the whole country.
A couple of months later your President Ravi came back with a letter, delivered to his office and to the UNICEF office. It was a letter from the LTTE in the North saying, “You can have your ceasefire. We will lay down our weapons, if your Government will lay down yours, on the days designated as NIDays”.
A ceasefire came into being – they laid down their weapons. We laid down ours. And the Rotarians, UNICEF, Red Cross and other health workers went, with their white flags, on their jeeps, into the North and the East of the country where no one would have dared to go. We called them Days of Tranquility. And they gave us a polio-free Sri Lanka.”