It would appear that both print and electronic media, as well as the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 ( NOCPCO), in the past few weeks have been relentlessly engaging in a vicious media campaign to place the origin of the second wave of COVID-19 at the doorstep of the Brandix garment factory, Minuwangoda, probably with ulterior motives. Reams of articles and electronic media news have gone to the extent of naming this second wave as a Brandix Cluster epidemic, suggesting that this particular garment factory is instrumental in originating and spearheading this epidemic, which has
now surpassed 2,000 mark. There have been hardly any articles or news in support of the company, except for the paper advertisements published by the Company stating their genuine stance intermittently, but media messages appear to have made a lasting impression among the public that the company in question is totally responsible for the origin and the spread of the virus. How far is it true and genuine!
It is in this unsavory background that Dr. B. J. C. Perera, Specialist Consultant Pediatrician, in a recent thought-provoking article published in The Island has narrated a balanced view and the true behaviuor of the virus. In a hard-hitting note at the commencement of the article, this learned physician says that Sri Lankans had a lackadaisical and complacent attitude over the virus, in that Sri Lankans totally disregarded lockdowns, curfews and quarantines in defiance of health guidelines for the last few months. However, all hell broke loose with the emergence of the so-called Brandix Covid cluster, initially with an infected factory female supervisor. It came to such a pass that the authorities had the audacity and blamed the company in question for installing and spreading the virus like a headless chicken. Sadly, it is now reported that employees of this manufacturing facility, over 1,000 and their associates, had inflicted the disease in lock, stock and barrel whereas the responsibility for neglecting this unfortunate situation should be placed before the respective authorities and not at the Brandix.
The learned Physician suspects that the blight was surreptitiously lurking around, not only within the factory premises but also within the adjacent villages and immediate environment, for some time before the emergence of the so-called Brandix cluster until the unfortunate victim was detected from the factory. This highly respected physician is of the view that the factory girls have been made scapegoats in this process. There have been fabricated ruses that the Brandix workers employed at their Visakhapatnam facility who were brought in three flights, and Indian businessmen who visited the Minuwangoda plant, would have brought this deadly virus en masse and the Company’s efforts to convince the authorities and the general public otherwise proved futile. The authorities have so far failed to ascertain the source of its origin and they are groping in the dark. Even now in the news telecasts, the authorities have the temerity to pinpoint that the latest detections are the associates of the Brandix family, which is not the factual position and this argument will have to be taken with a pinch of salt. Are we going to buy the argument that the detection of 49 Covid cases reported at the Peliyagoda Fish Market today and the Colombo Dockyard are the intimate associates of the Brandix cluster? Has the authorities heeded attention to the article in which it has conveyed a strong message that Brandix did not manufacture Covid?
How, Lt. General Shavendra Silva, a highly respected decorated officer and Head of the NOCPOC, justifies this stance at the cost of the damages inflicted to the reputation of the factory. He should have borne in mind that Brandix is an international brand that has generated foreign exchange to the tune of billions of rupees for the country, and provided gainful employment opportunities to the unprivileged female workers in remote villages. Surely, the Company would have been financial resources to the adjacent villages and towns by way of emoluments of the factory employees, and the quality of life of these innocent employees have had an appreciable impact after the factory was established at the Minuwangoda facility. It would appear that the NOCPOC totally lacked its vigour and direction with the removal of the former Director General of Health Services who successfully managed the first wave of coronavirus on a scientific basis. To add insult to the injury, the former Director of the MRI has also been removed on frivolous grounds at a time that both ends of the candle are burning at a faster pace.
An unfounded outcry initially doctored by the authorities that the visit of the Indian businessmen had led to the spread of the virus among the Brandix factory workers has now found no basis. That was an illusory stand that has now been rejected. Notwithstanding the firm assurance given by the Company that no Indian businessmen visited the factory, a wide publicity was given that their visit would have a nexus with the coronavirus. The Island, recently quoting a statement made by Industry Minister, Wimal Weerawansa has told at Parliament that not a single Indian national had been allowed to the country as an employee or any person to obtain technical assistance since the outbreak of COVID19, having verified facts from his ministry, BOI and the Controller of Immigration and Emigration. Health Minister, Pavithra Wanniarchchi too confirmed this stance at the Parliament.
Commenting on the social lives of the factory workers, Specialist Consultant Pediatrician, further contends that the factory workers are made to work in enclosed, air conditioned, virtually packed surroundings. Their lodgings are overcrowded, sometimes quite a number of them sharing a room. They are going through all that through necessity and certainly not by their own choice. They are just trying to make an honest living. They are working and living in environments that are the most favourable of conditions for human to human transmission of the coronavirus. This candid expression of this erudite scholar is food for thought for the authorities concerned. In view of what he says, the constant interaction of the workers with the public outside the factory premises, may have had a great probability of contracting the virus. That cannot be discounted at all. Should the Brandix be held responsible for their interactions with the society after working hours. There appears to be great possibility that few workers would have brought the virus to the factory from the outside environment, for which the management of the Brandix could not be blamed for. The physician says the virus could remain viable for even 28 days, especially on certain types of surfaces. As to how realistic these findings are in our hot and humid climes are not yet known.
Now, the virus has spread throughout the Gampaha District, the need of the hour is a committed compliance with health guidelines by the Sri Lanka people, and perhaps this is the only proven and tangible way to protect ourselves against contracting virus, as per the advice of the Consultant Pediatrician. There has to be an unwavering and steadfast effort on the part of the entire population of the country to abide by the rules of the health guidelines. Hence, the mode of government approach hither to adopted i.e. running with the hare and hunting with the hound, must be stopped. We would expect the authorities to extend its unqualified apology to the Bradix management for the humiliations it suffered, and help the company to rebuild its brand and reputation.
Productivity Specialist and Management Consultant
(These are writer’s own professional views with malice towards none. firstname.lastname@example.org)
Need to prioritise national needs
May the Gods give us timely rain,
May the harvests be bountiful,
May the people be happy.
And may the King be righteous.
I believe that there are many (here and abroad) who are ready to help our country to flourish and our people to enjoy the maximum benefits, out of the blessings that Nature has plentifully bestowed on us “Where every prospect pleases, and Man alone is vile”, or as that wonderfully expressive Stanza above, inspires us.
We have it all, but have (mis)managed comprehensively, to destroy our endowments, and reduced ourselves to disgraceful beggary. We have been blessed by our location in the Tropics. Had it not been so, we would have needed to invest all of our earnings, to merely keep ourselves warm in the biting cold of Winter and if we could not, possibly perishing.
One of the alarmingly helpless laments heard is this: “What is the point of writing or talking, when we are sure that nothing will happen?” The youth in the ‘Aragalaya’ have proven otherwise. The authorities seem to be deaf and blind, and ready to sacrifice all, in their greed for money or worldly comforts, for themselves and theirs – to hell with the “sovereign people”. Venality, like heroin, is addictive and is transmissible. We see this – crooked parents beget crooked children. Retribution, in this or future lives is bound to come.
Against the pessimism of several friends, and others, I am cautiously hopeful. This is what emboldens me to keep on writing. After all, it is the incessant beatings of little drops of rain that convert even the hardest of rocks into fertile soil. Persistence and patience in doggedly and relentlessly pursuing a worthy goal, are the operative words. The youth in the Aragalaya, display the courage of their conviction against corruption that we, the Seniors had not the guts to do.
Three imperative goals for us (among many others) are:
(iii) Law and order.
Some Cosmetic changes first…
Drop the “Sri” from our title. “Great Britain”, became “Britain”. Likewise, “Lanka” would be more modest, and less pompous than “Sri Lanka”. So also “Deshapalanaya” which carries with it the flavour of subjugation and control. A word more suggestive of humility and compassionate scholarship might be better, and a lot more accurate.
For this, the well-endowed Parliament library may be worthy of more presence by members.
Of the three supporting columns of democracy, the “Judiciary” could remain as it is. It must however be admitted that certain rulings, particularly those concerning politicians, are disturbing. “The Executive” (President as of now), should move to, and Head “The “Legislative,” whose function is to formulate Laws and supervise their intended implementation. “The Executive”, should logically be what we now loosely call “the Administration”. To “execute” is to implement, to act, to perform and to deliver. It also has the closest contact with the public, and most in need of radical change. This brings us to a concept of “Governance,” having as its credo and primary responsibility, “to ensure convenient and orderly life to all citizens” and thereby not to be seen as an avoidable nuisance, but as a friendly helping hand.
(1) We, as a nation have a very poor work ethic. Responsibility, integrity, courtesy and courage against interference from any quarter, are necessary and inviolate. Every effort should be made to ensure that efficiency, honesty and economy should be key. In the words of John F. Kennedy, the US President, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for yours,” That is, to maximize the “Give” and minimize the “Take”.
(2) Cabinets -should be established solely in the interests of serving the needs of the public. They have instead become an instrument, not for the common good but for electoral convenience. The first Cabinet at Independence, numbered only 11. Today, there could be near 50, (counting the Deputy, State, Subject and “over-seeing” Ministers), This is more to assure votes for the governing party, than to provide useful service. This is naked betrayal of trust.
Any subject that seeks to divide the citizenry should not be entertained. This is particularly so, when it ignores likely unrest. We have seen it happen. What need is there for portfolios such as for ‘Buddha Sasana, Christian Affairs, Hindu and Muslim Affairs”. It is sheer arrogance to think that these great religions need Cabinet support. How can we talk of Religious Amity, when these seek to divide rather than to unite?
Monks in Parliament have been a disaster. Likewise, Culture and Sports are entirely personal matters and need no Governmental interference.
Acts of supreme stupidity, even by our less than stellar Parliament, were the attempts to prevent conventional attire of Muslim women, the “Halal” issue, and burial of their dead. The worst was the opposition to singing of the national anthem in Tamil. No wonder that our country is near bankruptcy, when our Legislators were busily engaged in pettiness, trivialities and robbery.
(2) We do need radical reforms, if we are to have the three arms (or legs) of Government, to serve the Public, who are their ultimate paymasters. “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” No system driven without this doctrine, can survive. Punctuality (the courtesy of Kings), application and pride in one’s job, are also crucial. Even in domestic employment, the first and dominant question is “How much will I get?” Seldom is it asked, “How can I help?” The ‘Public Service’ amounts to some 80 percent of the employed, while consuming about 70 percent of the Budget, makes it predominantly ‘an employment sink’ and a wide-open door for tempting or enticing marauding politicos. The diabolical dissolution of the former CCS, mostly comprising an elite and fearlessly independent set of Administrators, was a tiresome barrier to the corrupt. It had to be destroyed, and Felix Dias was the man to willingly and wilfully do it. Today, we have for the crooked politician, a comfortably compliant service in place of what should be one of such formidable propriety, that none will dare corrupt. A Public Servant who seems willing to double as Toilet Paper for a corrupt boss, is an unforgiveable scoundrel. One can identify several such. We were shocked to hear, from one of them, that half his colleagues in Cabinet were heroin addicts. So, then what?
(3) No politician can rob alone. There have to be compliant officials. It may take many courses of fierce purgatives to totally cleanse our corrupt Governance system. Corruption is so entrenched in every nook and cranny of the system, that unbelievably drastic action has to be taken. The complicit quickly learn the ways of the game and gleefully violate all principles of honesty, integrity, decency and culture. The whole structure cries out for urgent reform, and to be made leaner by trimming the superfluous. Some will need a new spine and, some others would warrant castration. In view of the fact that the Politician is often the source of the evil pollutant and source, I began to write about this in some detail. The text got to be so long, that I decided to leave it for the present, and resolved to honor it with an article on its own.
Every livestock farmer is familiar with the concept of “Carrying capacity” – which determines the number of chickens that can be sustained in a cage, or cows in a field.
What applies to animals surely should apply to the species, Homo Sapiens. Natural Laws are universally valid. A farmer culls his stock when it exceeds his capacity, by “culling”. This cannot be applied to human populations. Has Nature taken over, by inflicting periodic natural or self- inflicted disasters (conflicts or diseases), to restore some stability?
In 1798, Reverend Thomas Malthus, FRS, postulated that populations would increase beyond the capacity to provide adequate food. Population increases exponentially, while productivity of (food), does only increase linearly. Thus, sooner or later the latter outgrows the latter. At that time, this was condemned as a diabolical plot to deny the Benefits of the Industrial Revolution to the poorer countries or the poorer segments of society. It seems that the dire warning is proving its validity. Even at the risk of rejection as being unprofessional or superficial, the situation that confronts Sri Lanka is serious. Making some assumptions, our population of 21 million and increases (growth- rate) of 2 %, the annual population increase, (excluding deaths), would be 420,000, and birth rate would be roughly 1,000 per day.
The requirements of a few crucial sectors would be as follows, Rice (additional acreage), Schools (4 x 250), houses (assuming that all marry) 500, Universities (assuming 10%) 10, Transport (50- seater buses) 20, Hospital beds (assuming 1% sick) 10, Jobs (at 50 %) 500 and so on. One has to note that these are estimated daily requirements. Even If today’s requirements are met, tomorrow’s will loom menacingly. This assumes that the present standards of living remain as they are. This seems an impossible task. The only option is some sort of population planning, which of course be resisted.
Global warming might seem a distant prospect that may not bother us at the moment. This is so, although recent observations suggest that the earlier projections were in error, and the worry is more severe than at first feared.
Several of our major rivers flow brown from eroded soil. This points to serious flaws in our land and water use. The Soil Conservation Act, prohibited forest clearance above high elevations but that continued nevertheless, mainly for tea planting. If such tea is left unplucked, (i) they would soon grow up to about 10-15 feet and also allow the establishment of secondary forests of tree types n natural to the area.
(ii) Sand for construction requirements are normally met by river sand. Remembering that most soils, have only a small percentage of sand, every ton of sand removed, would mean that several tons of soil has been eroded. It would take centuries to build back an inch of topsoil thus washed away.
(iii) Our forest cover, which is estimated to have been about 50% of the land area at the beginning of the last century, is now below 20% due to resettlement, urbanization and wanton destruction. It has to be noted that in even the much-decried Chena system, vegetation is only thinned. The land cultivated changes from time to time rotationally and thus the natural forest regenerates. Large scale clearance is manifest in mechanized logging operations and unsupervised encroachments. The same applies to illegal timber extraction and sand mining. Experience shows that co-operating with regular entrants to forested areas, is far better than the total exclusion of entry into forests. Firewood collection, from naturally shedding tree branches, and collection of medicinal herbs, are a centuries-old tradition.
Attention has been increasingly drawn to the question of pollution, particularly by long-life plastic wastes. Some regulation is sorely needed as the menace grows.
Law and order issues
There is an increase in the civilian protests – related mostly to shortages of fuel and cooking LPG. Adding to this are civilian protests as is manifested in the ongoing “Gota go home’ rallies and the unleashing violence and destruction of Private properties, consequent to the raid of Gotagama protesters, and lately in gas and fuel shortages. The peace keeping apparatus is showing signs of fatigue and the crowds more and more hostile, ending often in unseemly confrontations. The situation is menacingly volatile. Open revolt the last thing we need now.
Dr Upatissa Pethiyagoda
Chaos at petrol stations
The Island editorial of 29/06/2022 aptly describes the pathetic state of the country where there is no end in sight with petrol queues, social unrest and an incompetent Government. When one looks at the daily reports of violence at petrol stations, I wonder whether there is law and order in this country. Queues are almost non-existent when the motorcyclists throng filling stations and the policemen on duty look the other way during this disorderly conduct. There are several reports of thugs controlling these stations often with the connivance of the police officers and filling their containers to be later sold at three times the market value of fuel. In addition, policemen on duty help their friends, relatives and other influential people to jump the queues and get their tanks filled. This is a national calamity which needs an immediate and effective response from the highest levels of the Government. Allowing thugs and goons to run fuel stations should be forcefully dealt with by shifting the control of petrol stations to the armed forces. Police sending a few constables to petrol stations is not enough and their senior officers instead of working in their air-conditioned offices should venture out to check the actual ground situation.
It was reported that one petrol station in Kurunegala is controlled by a set of underworld thugs who force the petrol station attendants to first fill their containers before supplying petrol to those who have waited for days. A similar incident was reported from Kalutara, where a politician forcibly refuelled his buses and his son’s vehicles and those of his friends at the expense of the people waiting in a long queue, and in full view of the policemen on duty. No wonder the people who have waited for days turn violent and often clash with the Police. Recently, we saw on television how luxury vehicles enter the Kolonnawa storage terminal and get their tanks filled without any hindrance and the question is who gave them permission to do this? So far neither the Minister nor the CPC Chairman has given any explanation about this blatant violation of fairness to the public. It is imperative for the Government leaders to wake up from their slumber and see that sanity prevails at fuel stations.
In Kandy, three-wheelers are doing a brisk business of selling petrol sometimes at Rs. 2,000 a litre which is a lucrative trade and this explains why there are only a few three-wheelers available for hire in the city. It is more profitable for them to sell the petrol they get to some other party and then rejoin the queue and this vicious cycle continues. Government should assign only two days of the week for three-wheelers and enforce the rationing system by providing petrol based on the last number of their vehicle. Government talks about these grandiose schemes but no action is forthcoming (NATO, no action, talk only). We have a law and order Minister who hasn’t uttered a word or given instructions to the Police to stop all the illegal activities, such as jumping queues, filling containers and selling fuel at black market prices.
The system introduced to ensure that health sector employees would be given petrol on Fridays at designated petrol stations has become an utter failure. Some owners of petrol sheds claim that they are unaware of this system and Police have been totally ineffective in preventing others waiting in queues from becoming abusive towards health sector personnel. This shows that nothing works properly in spite of government proclamations and the ministers involved should be ashamed for their incompetence. Our people too are so selfish that they do not realise the importance of the health sector that works to save the lives of others. This facility to give petrol on Fridays is given solely to Health sector employees but this has been interpreted wrongly by the Police who have decided that it is for essential services only and come in hundreds of their private vehicles to be served with scant disregard to all those people waiting in queues. This situation is best described as anarchy in which there is no organisation and control, especially in society, because there is no effective government.
Prof. O. A. Illeperuma
An open letter to 6.9 million
Basil Rajapaksa has recently said that the Rajapaksas are not responsible for the dire situation in the country. He told the journalists not to pass the ball to him and he passed the ball to the people, especially to the 69 lakhs who voted the “Pohottuwa” into power.
So, my dear 6.9 million citizens,
You are my brothers and sisters. The Rajapaksas may blame you for the dire situation in the country but I do not blame you. I do not condemn you. For everybody makes mistakes. We are frail human beings. Now I am a senior citizen and in my life time I have been pickpocketed three times. It cost me three purses, a few thousand rupees and two ID cards to learn the lesson. But dear 6.9 million brothers and sisters your present political lesson cost all of us national bankruptcy, millions unemployed, unending queues for petrol, diesel, kerosene, cooking gas and passports, exorbitant price hikes of essentials, lack of essential medicines, looming starvation, anarchy, destruction and terrifying death. I hope you have learnt the lesson, at least by now.
Do you realise what kind of image you have shown to the world of our people, of us? Out of courtesy they will not voice it but they consider us damn fools.
Didn’t you know about the Rajapaksas and the tsunami funds? Didn’t you ever wonder how his three brats were spending like nothing and living it up like playboys? Have you never heard of Siriliya? Have you never heard of the deals between the Krish and the Rajapaksas? Didn’t you ever realise what an enormous amount of money has been wasted on useless white elephants, like the Lotus Tower, the Sooriyawewa Stadium, the Mattala Airport and the Hambantota Conference Hall? Why is it that the murderers of Thajudeen and Lasantha Wickrematunga can never be discovered? The latest revelation, from circumstantial evidence, is that Adani Group probably has dealings with the Rajapaksas. The Pandora Papers expose has raised the Rajapaksas to the notorious status of International Crooks. This is only the tip of the iceberg; if you scratch the garbage heap you’ll find more.
I cannot understand how the 69 lakhs got so thoroughly fooled by the Rajapaksas. You believed scandalous tales about infertility Kottu, infertility garments and Muslim doctors making Sinhala mothers sterile, etc. Everybody knows but nobody says who the brains behind the Easter Sunday massacre are. I guessed who it was quite soon. In any crime, the prime suspect is the one who profited most from it. Ask any police detective. The monks, intellectuals, professionals, and artistes were taken for a ride. Therefore, I do not blame you, the 69 lakhs. But the world was surprised that the citizens of Sri Lanka have such low IQ and can be so easily fooled.
Never mind all that; now let us talk about how to remedy the damage done to yourselves, us and the country. Here are a few methods to keep the right attitude to the current reality.
No.1: Never tolerate or get used to the hardships we are going through. If you are in a queue, curse the government loud enough so that at least the men in front and behind can hear you. The problem is not organising the queue more efficiently; the problem is there should not be any queues. The scarcity of petrol and diesel is a deliberate ploy by the heartless government to suppress the protest by the people. The only solution is a new stable and respected government and sending Rajapaksas to jail. Curse the government when the power cut begins. When you go shopping, curse the government loudly for the high prices of things or their lack. Keep the public aware of the hardships they unjustly endure. Never allow them to get used to it. Rage, rage against Gota and the 225 thieves.
No. 2: Either organise yourself or get somebody to organise small neighbourhood groups everywhere in your village, town and work place. Get in touch with someone in the Aragalaya and tell them you are ready for a final showdown.
No. 3: Write a letter of appreciation and encouragement to each one of the people who are at the Gotagogama. Or send a Thank You card for the sacrifices they are making for us and for our children. Here is their address: (Name) The Library, Gotagogama, Galle Face, Colombo 2.
No. 4: If you believe in a Universal Force or God, as I do, pray insistently with grief and groans and ask him to save our country from the rapacious scoundrels and killers who are holding our people by the scruff of the neck and robbing them clean.
No. 5: The evil government is driving us to a famine and starvation. Let us not be selfish. Let us share what we have or what little we have with those who do not have anything. Let us be always kind and considerate to our fellow citizens whoever they maybe.
Forget race, religion, language or whatever divides us. All of us are brothers and sisters in this national calamity, all children of Mother Lanka. Let us save her and ourselves together.
Down with the Ali Baba and the 225 thieves!
Fraternally your co-citizen,
Fr Chryso Pieris SJ
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