We are now in a Lockdown. It has been the most common and interesting word in the social and political vocabulary in the past few days.
Before this much unwanted lockdown of the Saubhagya Rajapaksa Regije of today, there was also what was called a Cabinet reshuffle. It was certainly a shuffle of the largely useless, misguided and incorrect political names, who comprise the huge majority of the Pohottuva Government. All but one of them, Dallas Alahapperuma excluded, make a bag of political nonsense that burdens the people.
With the Petroleum Corporation saying it has enough fuel for one month, the lockdown may prevent large queues near petrol sheds in the coming days and weeks. It certainly gives some time for the new Minister of Transport, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, to practice using the ‘Dammika Peniya” or any other special local fuel, to make our buses run without any imported fuel.
Will we be waiting till the present Minister of Health, Keheliya Rambukwelle, makes his own study of the people dying each day of the Covid Delta variant, and say there is nothing that can save such “kalakannis” from necessary death? He certainly has much more to do, than what he never really did as Minister of Mass Media, but all that is about the health of the people. Is the health of the people of any importance to politicians who have been carrying out a mockery of the need to follow guidelines on good health, and actually prevent the spread of the Delta variant? Does he also describe as ‘kalakannis’ the people of Kandy who signed a declaration that they needed only one dose of the Covid vaccine?
Dallas Alahapperuma has certainly not been allowed to take measures to improve our supply of energy. His thinking in favour of having better means and goals for energy production would not have impressed the Rajavasala Kavatayas, who now direct this country. As a person who has good familiarity with the media and its needs, one hopes he would be able to be a Media Minister who does not give in to twisting and turning realities, especially in this Covid disaster, and try to serve the real need for information to the public, and not a supply of farcical nonsense that some Task Forces are keen on putting out.
Namal Rajapakse has also been given more powers or functions, to help him be the next Prime Minister — one more Rajavasala goal.
It is certainly interesting to see how this lockdown really came about. We have the State Minister (Prof) Channa Jayasumana, saying the President paid heed to the request by the Mahanayake Theras with regard to the lockdown. Let’s thank the Mahanayake Theras of the Malwatte Chapter for making this call that made the President do what he may not have wanted to do.
The call for this lockdown is certainly an escalation of the democratic process in this country, which has been seriously threatened by the 6.9 million voter support for Gotabaya Rajapaksa, followed by the passage of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. The call for this lockdown is certainly the widely spread voice of the people. It is the voice of the masses that went beyond the ban on chemical fertiliser imports. A voice that kept echoing from the paddy cultivators, tea and vegetable growers, who were suffering under the narrow Gota-Saubhagya thinking.
What the Opposition had largely failed to do in Parliament, despite the many calls for sensible handling of the pandemic – such as vaccinations and the supply of face masks, and sufficient facilities in hospitals – it was left to our traders to become the voice of the people.
As the traders’ associations in so many towns in the country, from the South to the North, West to East and Central, decided to close down their shops and other trading places, from tea kiosks to restaurants, the trade voice of Sri Lanka came out to shatter the deafness of a political leadership, that thought they could keep playing the flute of discord and conflict to mislead the people.
This voice of the traders, and then that of the key trade union leaders, certainly made the small Pohottuva catcher parties in the government, including a few Cabinet Ministers, to also call for an extended lockdown. These parties and their leaders must have seen the necessity to be with the people, and not bound down by the politics of the Rajavasala Pavula. This trend became clear when the Mayoress of Colombo, Rosy Senanayake also called for a lockdown of business places in the city.
As the Covid pandemic with its deadly Delta variant has brought this country into a situation of major disaster, not seen or realised by a hugely powerful government, let us hope the voice of the people from the traders, trade unions, professionals, politicians and the Maha Sangha, has given our rulers a message of what governance really means.
Let them begin to understand that there is much more than the power of the Rajapaksa Pavula – five in the Cabinet, and more scrambling outside, that is the need for governance. That the voice of the people is the Voice of Democracy. This lockdown has shown that democracy has put down the power of a family, forcing them to listen to the Voice of Democracy.
Yohani – not our Manike?
It is very heartening to hear that both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader of India have expressed their appreciation of the song Manike mage hithe, sung by the local artiste Yohani de Silva, which had gone viral in this part of the world.
Sadly, neither the government nor the Opposition bigwigs of Sri Lanka have congratulated her in the media, taking into consideration the vast amount of foreign exchange she is bringing into this country.
Must give way to ambulances
The introduction of the Suwa Seriya free ambulance service has helped many patients, afflicted with serious illnesses, to get to the hospital in double quick time, saving the lives of many people who would otherwise have succumbed to serious ailments such as heart attack, or grave injury resulting from serious accidents. We have to thank Dr. Harsha De Silva for all he has done to see this very important service established with the help of the Indian Government.
There have been a few people trying to take credit for getting this ambulance service from the Indian government, but it was the sole effort of Dr. De Silva that saw this through. The Suwa Seriya ambulance comes to the location where the patient is, very quickly. Now the Suwa Seriya ambulance service is available throughout the island, a boon to people who cannot afford to pay for an ambulance to get to a hospital.
Along with the Suwa Seriya, there are a large number of ambulances attached to government and private hospitals. We hear the sirens of ambulances throughout the day. When an ambulance is rushing to a hospital, it is absolutely necessary that motorists give way. It is noticed that most older motorists try to move their vehicles to make way for the oncoming ambulance to proceed without a hassle. But some younger motorists, driving expensive SUVs, and some private bus drivers, who think they own the road, do not give way for the ambulance to proceed.
It is imperative that all motorists abide by the rule to give way to an ambulance as soon as the siren is heard. It is the duty of all motorists to enable an ambulance to reach the hospital soonest.
H.M. Nissanka Warakaulle
Mr. President, please let this be a turning point!
By Rohana R. Wasala
When I pen these words, most Sri Lankans are still sleeping. I am ahead of them and awake. That is because of the time zone difference between where I live and Sri Lanka, my country of birth. As usual, as the first thing I do in the morning, particularly these days, I glanced at the headlines in The Island epaper, and was depressed to read the banner headline “Ratwatte remains a state minister despite resignation over running amok in prisons”, with the following underneath it:
“State Minister of Prison Reform and Rehabilitation Lohan Ratwatte yesterday told The Island that he had informed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that he would step down immediately from his post as the State Minister of Prisons. However, he will continue to be the State Minister of Gem and Jewellery Industries”.
Having earlier read and heard over the media about Lohan Ratwatte’s alleged escapades in prisons on Sunday (12) night, I have been eagerly waiting to read a newspaper headline like “Deputy Minister remanded; a good start to meeting challenge to rule of law”, for I expect nothing less from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. As a disciplined and determined executive, with a military background, he, I assume, tries to handle the toughest cases with the strictest adherence to the law. He appears to rely on the ministers and the government servants, serving under him, to follow his perfectly lawful commands in a spirit of military discipline, mutatis mutandis, in the context of civil government. Whatever the likely or actual response to the extremely embarrassing deputy-ministerial episode (not the first involving LR), it should be of a kind that contributes to a restoration of the fast eroding public faith in the hoped-for Gotabaya rule. The Island editorial of Thursday (16) under the arresting heading “Arrest them” offers sound advice. I drew some solace from that. For I realised that there is at least another person of a like mind.
I was even more shocked and disappointed by the Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya’s attempted absolution of the Deputy Minister. According to the online Lanka C News (September 16), the Commissioner has said that the Minister visited the prison to discuss pardoning some prisoners and that the he has the right to visit the prison to discuss with the inmates at any time of the day. The Commissioner might be technically right, but I am doubtful about the lawfulness of what the Minister has done, especially in his alleged inebriated state. Upuldeniya was handpicked by the President for the extremely demanding job. His coming to the defence of LR was a bolt from the blue to the innocent peace-loving law abiding citizens of the country who have been for decades persecuted by the persistent menace posed by the unholy alliance between criminals and some jailors and a handful of politicos providing together an impregnable bulwark for the first.
However, since the case hasn’t yet been verified or investigated, we don’t know for sure whether the Deputy Minister is guilty of going berserk under the influence of liquor as alleged. As a person embroiled in politics, he could be a victim of some calumnious effort of his detractors, and we must be cautious in passing judgement on him. But again, as he, who has a previous thuggish reputation, has virtually accepted guilt in this case by tendering his resignation, citizens are justified if they expect, as I do, a tougher reaction from the President.
At this moment we should anticipate a presidential response different from the mild rebuke “Anthimai!” (equivalent of a sarcastic “Great!”) that the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa greeted the hospitalised Labour Minister Mervyn Silva with, on December 27, 2007. (I eagerly hope that the President’s deterrent reaction would be known before this reaches The Island readers.) The latter was admitted to hospital after being given a taste of his own medicine following a rowdy interference he committed with the work of a news editor by the name of T.M.G. Chandrasekera at the state-owned Rupavahini TV station over not giving enough coverage as he alleged to a public event that he had organised in Matara the day before. Though very close to MR, he was not an elected MP; he was only a national list MP from the SLFP that MR led. In any case, it was inexcusable that he conducted himself the way he did, for what he did was bound to reflect badly on the President himself. The other employees of the TV station, angered by the uncouth highhanded behaviour of Mervyn Silva, forced him and his notorious sidekick, suspected drug trafficker Kudu Nuwan or Lal or someone (I am not too sure about these trivial details now) to a room and held them there, handling them roughly. Mervyn Silva was heard pleading : “I will tender an apology if you say I have done wrong”. He had. The workers were providing manual proof as best they could.
Mervyn Silva was beaten up right royally, and bundled into his prestigious ministerial Pajero and was briskly driven away to hospital safety. The state Rupavahini telecast the proceedings live for the whole world to see in repeated ‘news flashes’ most of the day that day, as my older readers might clearly remember. It was a sort of news carnival for the wrathful Rupavahini broadcasters and for the scandalised viewers. While watching the scenario live, I convinced myself that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would kick his you-know-what-I-mean within the hour, or at least after his discharge from hospital. To my utter disgust and disappointment, nothing like that happened. The fellow flourished for another eight years under MR’s wing until he betrayed him utterly in 2015, after having abused his well-known humaneness and his reluctance to abandon people who have helped him in the past. Lately, Mervin seemed to try to cozy up to the boss he so treacherously let down; but MR’s brothers have saved him from his erstwhile unequal friend.
I personally believe that we are not going to see such wretched characters protected under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the remainder of his term.
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