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CPM Magsaysay veto for brutal anti-communism

The ex-health minister was chosen for her widely acclaimed achievements of controlling Nipah outbreaks in 2018 and 2019 and the first wave of the Covid pandemic

K.M. Rakesh Bangalore Published 05.09.22, 01:58 AM
KK Shailaja.

KK Shailaja. File photo

The CPM leadership has “endorsed” the refusal of K.K. Shailaja, the celebrated former health minister of Kerala, to accept this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award.

The party believes that the achievements under her leadership were because of a collective effort, and that the former President of the Philippines in whose name the award is given was a brutal oppressor of communists in that country.


The former health minister was chosen for her widely acclaimed achievements of controlling Nipah outbreaks in 2018 and 2019 and the first wave of the Covid pandemic.The CPM central leadership gave the impression that the party merely endorsed the decision of Shailaja, who is known among the people as “Shailaja Teacher”.

But CPM Kerala secretary M.V. Govindan said: “The party decided against accepting the award since the Magsaysay award is named after a leader who oppressed hundreds of communist cadres and the proletariat. Shailaja declined the award, realising that.”Chief minister and CPM veteran Pinarayi Vijayan, around whom a personality cult is being built now, had come in for flak for not considering Shailaja for a second term after winning the state elections in 2021.

While it was seen as the chief minister cutting her down to size because of her huge popularity, the party had explained that every CPM minister was replaced to give a chance for younger MLAs.Past recipients of the Magsaysay include Vinoba Bhave, Mother Teresa, Jayaprakash Narayan and Satyajit Ray.CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury cited three reasons why Shailaja declined the award. “She herself called me and intimated me and gave her opinion that this is a collective effort and not any individual effort,” he said, adding that the Magsaysay awards are only for individuals.“Second, the Magsaysay award has not been given to any active politician so far. Comrade Shailaja is a member of our central committee…. And she is active in politics…. This award is normally given to social activists, people’s movement leaders, etc, but never to an active politician.“Third, …Magsaysay had a history of brutal oppression of communists in the Philippines. So, for all these factors put together, she has politely refused,” Yechury said.Shailaja said the fight against Nipah and Covid were collective efforts.

On whether the political ideology of Magsaysay had guided the decision, Shailaja said: “Certain NGOs may not be in line with the communist ideology. So it is not correct to accept it as an individual. The consideration was also about collective efforts.” Shailaja had accepted the Open Society Prize by the Central European University in 2021 for the same achievements considered by the Ramon Magsaysay award jury. Former secretary general of UN Kofi Annan and Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz were among the previous recipients of the Open Society Prize.Shailaja is also a recipient of The UN Inter agency Task Force Award for the achievements made under her leadership in preventing non-communicable diseases in Kerala.

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