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COVID-19 lockdown: Too little, too late

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After dragging its feet to heed the advice of medical professionals, starting well before the Sinhala New Year, the government has finally clamped down on a lockdown, banning movement of people, from province to province. The argument, on the government side, is that a full lockdown affects the economy, but this does not take into account increasing Covid patients and the resulting increased health costs incurred by the Government to treat these patients. It is a case of choosing between death or hunger. People are accustomed to complete lockdowns, as it happened last year, about this time. The question remains whether such a partial lockdown is effective in controlling the spread of Covid. My own suggestion is to go for a complete lockdown of the country, for at least two weeks. Imposing night time curfew is ineffective since people to people transmission takes place during day time when people flock to do shopping and to attend to various other chores.

People in this country are not disciplined to wear face masks and practice social distancing. They wear the mask, only at the sight of a policeman. The enforced partial lockdown, at present, will not curb the spread of the disease, especially in the provinces where people attend to their business as usual. In crowded market places, in particular, there is scant regard for health guidelines. It may be appropriate to include someone uthorized in human behavior, in the COVID task force. The Health Ministry epidemiologist has gone on record saying that the present escalation of Covid patients is mainly due to the Sinhala aurudhu season where people were travelling all over the country, specially to places such as Nuwara-Eliya and Kataragama. Media were reporting uthoriz frolicking in Nuwara-Eliya without any consideration of health guidelines and where the Mayor, himself, was involved in uthorized a festival for holidaymakers. The result is all the traffic policemen, on duty, in Nuwara-Eliya, got Covid and they had to be replaced by officers from other stations. Similar incidents have taken place at Kataragama where large crowds gathered. It is a well-known habit that people travel to these places during the New Year period. Had the government listened to the health professionals, instead of its own advisors, this could have been avoided.

In India, which is facing a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions, ignorance of people is the main cause in spreading this virus, just like here. Political consideration takes precedence over health and even some provincial elections were held during the pandemic. Also, religious activities, such as mass poojas, with complete disregard to health guidelines, are another main reason for the spread of Covid in India. Even in Jaffna there was a pooja attended by a large crowd where none wore face masks. . The famous Indian writer, Aurunditha Roy, was blunt in venting her anger and frustration, even asking Prime Minister Modi to step aside. Similarly, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the Covid Task Force, in the USA, urged Prime Minister Modi to go for a total lockdown, at least on two occasions. This Indian variety is the most contagious and a WHO official said on Monday (May 10) that it is reclassifying the highly contagious triple mutant Covid variant spreading in India as a “variant of concern” at the global level. This is known as B.1.617, which has been found to spread more easily than the original virus and there is evidence that the currently available vaccines are ineffective against this virus mutant. Recently an Indian Professor from the Rutgers University, USA, who was an expert on infectious diseases, who travelled to India, died of the corona virus and this was after getting both vaccines in the USA. This is alarming because this virulent Indian variety was found in Sri Lanka from an affected Indian citizen. How many Indians came to Sri Lanka in recent weeks should be investigated and they should be properly isolated and quarantined. The question arises as to who uthorized the entry of Indians to our country when most governments have banned the entry of Indians into their countries. In April alone, statistics of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Board (SLTDB) reveal that a total of 4,168 international tourists have arrived in Sri Lanka during and most of these arrivals were from India followed by China and Kazakhstan.   It is shocking to see some ministers still talking about a tourist bubble to bring in Indian tourists. Doctors at the Sri Jayawardenapura University also reported that the British variety of the virus originated from the tourist bubble of Ukranian tourists. This was first revealed on April 8th by the same group and despite this warning the government thought it fit not to go for a complete lockdown during the New Year period.

Health professionals, too, has a role in taking a more positive stand, instead of talking vaguely about provincial lockdowns which are not going to work. Why cannot they ask the President to completely lockdown the entire country? Recently, Malaysia enforced a complete lockdown of the country to tackle the problem. New Zealand controlled the pandemic by strictly enforcing lockdowns, even when one positive case was found. The USA has been able to control the pandemic through mass vaccinations and over 50% of the total populations has been vaccinated so far, as opposed to 3% in Sri Lanka. It is the only way to fight this invisible enemy. There is no other alternative but to enforce a total lockdown if we have to come out of this dire situation.

Prof. O. A. Ileperuma

 

 



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Opinion

MPs can show their colours

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I refer to this article, ‘Covid bonanza for….’ by Shamnidra Ferdinando.

It was obvious that the LC could not easily be cancelled. It will be interesting to know when the LC was actually opened; before or after Cabinet approval? The answer will be revealing.

Now that the vehicles will come in, come hell or high water with burning ships, there is a simple solution.

If the government is sincere in its intentions to reverse this totally unnecessary expenditure, which the country cannot afford,  scraping the bottom of the vangediya as it is, then the vehicles can be sold in the open market, in a transparent manner and at a profit, too, and the wasted  funds reimbursed to the Treasury. Personally, I know this will not happen, seeing what we are helplessly seeing being enacted in the country yesterday, today and alarmingly, tomorrow, too.

The next best option is for those MPs who oppose this criminal waste of public funds, to work out a method by which they can sell the vehicles presented to them by the starving masses, in a transparent manner and utilise the proceeds again in a transparent manner to uplift the lives of the millions of poor citizens in their electorates.

ACabinet given opportunity for Members of Parliament to show their true, even if highly faded and smudged, colours!

 

CITIZEN FERNANDO

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Opinion

Gazette Bill in blatant conflict with Constitution

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The Colombo Port City Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Bill had been gazetted on March 24 after Cabinet approval, and placed in the order paper of Parliament on April 9. Normally, before placing a Bill on the order paper of the Parliament, it goes through the levels of the Legal Draftsman, Attorney General, Ministry of Justice, and the Cabinet of Ministers.

According to a news item that appeared in the Daily News, on April 27, the Attorney General has informed the Presidential Secretary that the Port City Economic Commission Draft Bill is not inconsistent with the Constitution. But the same Attorney General has advanced the submissions and amendments in court, during the hearing of 18 petitions filed by members of civil society alleging the Bill is inconsistent with the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has found more than one third of its clauses are conflicting with the Constitution – the supreme law of Sri Lanka. Thus, it has been proved the Gazette Bill was in blatant conflict with the Constitution.

High officials of the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General and the Legal Draftsman who are supposed to have been involved in the drafting of this Bill are professionals of recognized capability. They are committed to follow the best practices of their professions and should adhere to standards in procedural manuals and professional codes of conduct and ethics. They are bound by the oath taken by them in line with the Constitution and the accountability of the offices they hold. They also would have been supported by several legal eagles and experienced politicians in the Cabinet.

Citizens are confused as to how on earth such a Bill, in blatant conflict with the Constitution, could have been approved by the Attorney General and be drafted by the Legal Draftsman. 149 Members of Parliament have voted to amend 26 clauses of 75 clauses of the Legal Draftsman’s Bill. This is tantamount to a No Confidence Motion on the Legal Draftsman.

JUSTIN KEPPETIYAGAMA

jdkgama02@gmail.com

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Opinion

Probe into expressway construction and floods

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The news item appearing in your issue of 10th June, regarding the Expressway Construction and Floods, is of interest to me, as I had handled Road Projects when attached to the then Department of Public Works [PWD] and later the Ministry for Highways.

It’s stated that Minister Johnston Fernando had instructed his Ministry Secretary to investigate immediately, whether there was any truth in the claim that some areas in Gampaha were inundated owing to the construction work, in the first phase of the Central Expressway, from Kadawatha to Mirigama; and continues to say ‘Yahapalana adjustments to the construction master plan may have lead to the present situation’, which could be insinuated as placing the blame on the previous Yahapalana government. This is the usual blame-game adopted by bankrupt politicians. It will not be surprising if the present government will be blamed when a new government is formed, for mismanagement of projects carried out now.

As far as I know, while construction is on, there comes up certain problems, which may necessitate altering or deviating from the original design. Hence the responsibility lies entirely on the Engineer, and not on any politician or government in power. Here the integrity of the Engineer counts. Sad to say, there have been accusations where professionals have given way to political pressure and projects have become failures. I would like to quote Moeller’s theory “One of the major reasons for a country to be subjected to bad governance is when its professionals do not speak out, but worst still, these professionals actually gang up with those committing anarchy for their own benefit. What the professionals do not realize is that in the long term, they too would be subjected to the worst treatment by these despotic dictators whom they were keen to protect. Moeller’s theory being proved time and again consorting with an autocratic regime is a worst act of treason against one’s own country and its people”

To the credit of Minister Johnston Fernando, he also mentions the likelihood of this flooding by saying “We must keep in mind that the highest rainfall in the known history was reported from this area”. Whatever, the findings of the investigations be, the accusation should be taken as fault finding of Engineers, and they should now come forward to protect their prestigious profession and give reasons, which lay, incompetent politicians, do not have the capacity to understand. Hope the Sri Lanka Institute of Engineers will expose the viles of politicians to steer this country in the correct direction. This goes for other professions as well.

G. A. D. SIRIMAL

Boralesgamuwa

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