I refer to the article, under the heading “Internal Unity – a priority”, on the Opinion Page of The Island of 30th April. I have no disagreement with the assertion made by the writer that what Jehan Perera stated was a thoughtful and measured message. Jehan Perera usually offers wise and helpful messages to his countrymen, through his writing. But I have a problem about certain other things that the writer of this article: Mr Tony Witham (TW) referred to above.
From the content and tone of this article, I can easily guess on whose behalf that he wrote it. The official agency resident in this country, which should have responded to what TW called “shrill and hysterical words emanating from a large number of writers”, has significantly kept silent on this matter, because the shrill (but not hysterical) voices have been stating the truth. TW’s pathetic attempt to counter them has been a resounding failure.
Take for instance his argument that if someone is innocent of an accusation, one need not be worried about an investigation, because one would be invariably cleared eventually. I am greatly surprised at the extreme naivety displayed by this writer here. In the real world of ours, things are not as simple as that. Fair trials do not happen automatically. Too many innocent people are being convicted of crimes, which they never committed. In a recent research study by the Law Department of a University in USA (Boston College, Mass. USA) it was found that since 1989, more than 2,700 people in the USA have been first convicted of felony crimes, and then released later after they spent varying periods in prison, on finding new evidence. This amounts to an average of nearly 90 a year. Together, these unfortunate people have unnecessarily served 24,600 years in prison. Some others would have been even put to death. The Boston College researchers acknowledge that these were only the high profile cases that received publicity in the media, and that there could be many other lesser known cases not subjected to such re-examination. If this is the case with the USA, then the situation in the UK and other advanced or ‘civilized’ countries would not be any better, and what about other less developed countries? And what about those countries which have laws reminiscent of the Dark Ages.
I wonder whether TW would still recommend a passive behaviour to individuals and/or countries confronted with false accusations. TW, please note that miscarriages of justice often happen when the accusers resort to fabrication of evidence or suppression of evidence unfavourable to them, just like what the leader of the Core Group (UK) is doing right now in the case of Human Rights accusations against Sri Lanka.
Responding to very valid questions raised by the distinguished writers (TW’s expression), he cleverly downplays a valid issue by bringing in a story of how a group of kids playfully accused each other of some mischief by saying “You did it first”, etc. The issue Mr TW, is not who did the wrong thing first, the issue is the credentials of the so-called Leader of the ‘Core Group’. As I pointed out in a previous letter to the editor, this particular country being one of the greatest perpetrators of HR violations in history, has no moral right to talk about HR situations in other countries. We know that this country is certainly not the one that is without sin to claim the right to throw the first stone.
Mr Editor, thank you for publishing recently that picture of a whole contingent of African people enslaved, most probably by the British Slave Traders (who else?). That picture shows how a group of human beings with black skins – bare bodied, that the slave traders apparently caught to be sold like cows and sheep. These unfortunate men were linked to each other by a heavy steel chain welded to rings round their necks, the chain being similar in size to those used to control elephants in our country. I appeal to you to publish this picture or similar revealing pictures at least occasionally for the benefit of our readers, who may not be familiar with what the British slave traders have been doing during the 18th and 19th Centuries, with the full blessings of their home government.
The main concern of the writer TW appears to be the need for internal unity in our country: Sri Lanka. The country in whose defence TW is writing has, however, not proved its genuine interest in the internal unity of other countries. See what it has done to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Its interventions have resulted in converting these formerly peaceful countries into battlefields, causing the death of thousands of innocent people. These countries are now hotbeds of international terrorism. Given these facts, how can we have faith in your good intentions anymore?
TW should know that one big impediment to achieving that internal unity in this country of ours has been the activity of Tamil diaspora residents in the UK, which includes former members and sympathisers of the terrorist organization: the LTTE. We note that this group has been installed, nurtured and protected by the government of their host country. The LTTE activists command ample financial resources, which enable them to exert influence on the local (Sri Lankan) Tamil politics, encouraging extremist positions, and preventing the growth of moderate Tamil groups willing to cooperate with similar moderate groups among the majority community in the South, to forge internal unity in the country. Furthermore, over time, these UK-based Tamil groups have grown in numbers and reached positions where they are able to influence the outcomes of local and parliamentary elections of their host country. Often false propaganda against Sri Lanka are brought before the British Parliament, through some British parliamentarians, who are more often than not quite ignorant about the true situation in Sri Lanka. The LTTE groups have also used their political influence to prevent Her Majesty’s Government from dealing with perpetrators of war crimes in Sri Lanka, such as Adele Balasingham.
Mr TW, therefore, there are many things that the Leader of the Core Group has to accomplish to promote internal unity in Sri Lanka, before passing strictures, giving advice and passing baseless resolutions at the UNHRC. What I have tried to express in this letter are not trivial matters which can be dismissed as hysterical responses. However, Mr TW, thank you all the same.
S A K.
Covid-19: Bane of the Decade
Bane was a true visionary with the Bat-man as his nemesis. For the record this isn’t even funny. If you dive deep into the theory of DC’s super villain Bane, and his nemesis the Bat-man, it sort of reveals how the masked antagonist envisioned the coronavirus pandemic, led by a bat, about a decade ago.
Of course, there aren’t absolute reports connecting COVID-19 to the nocturnal being, there’s enough to prove it is a carrier of the novel virus. But does this pandemic mean an end to the legacy of this caped crusader? To be honest, even uttering bat-shit crazy is deemed offensive as of now. Wonder what frenzy it will cast upon a comic character.
Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ introduced Bane, a mercenary trained under Ras Al Ghul’s League of Shadows. His mission was to wipe out Gotham for the greater divide of the haves and the have nots. As Selena Kylie suggests, ‘There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne, You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.’
While the scene did give us goosebumps, it is nothing different than the reality we’re facing at the moment. The lockdown has only been a boon for the elite, the privileged who can have access to more than what is required. Meanwhile, there are others struggling to arrange for a decent meal.
The narrative takes us into the character of Bane, wearing a mask, can be hurt if removed, and the story of our lives right now. Not to mention he started off by terrorising the city, only for everyone to remain at home – a lockdown.
Bane had only one enemy – The Bat. Quite familiar to the comparison now are we?
Here are some of his quotes that speak for the oppressed.
“The powerful will be ripped from their decadent nests and cast out into the cold world that we know and endure. Courts will be convened. Spoils will be enjoyed. The police will survive as they learn to serve true justice. This great city.. it will endure”
“Calm down doctor, now is not the time for fear. That comes later”
“Do you feel in charge?”
“Oh so you think darkness is your ally? But you merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it and didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was only blinding. The shadows betray you because they belong to me.”
A decade back this was all fiction, but did we ever imagine that a similar situation would be faced by us. At the very inception one never expected the COVID-19 situation to balloon into such a crisis. A lockdown helped initially and the situation was well under control, but the moment we relaxed and opened up things got worse, and are now beyond control. So a lockdown will not help us anymore. This calls for a major upheaval and revival of procedure, wherein we have to learn to cope up with the crisis. How will work get back to normal? Industries and factories have to function, how will the daily wage earner survive? The planning and implementation will have to be changed. We might even have to create a COVID-19 Ministry or Department, with an islandwide network, wherein we employ an army of doctors and specialists, not an army of soldiers. They have to study the root cause of the virus and how it can be eliminated, why certain areas and people are more susceptible than others in spreading the virus.
The order of the day will be to employ emergency doctors who can handle a situation immediately. Forensic Doctors, who can assist in studying guidelines and offences and help in framing appropriate laws. Infectious disease specialists, Ecologists and those engaged in environmental science. A team of Physicians to diagnose illnesses and administer treatment. One team will be required to see whether our hospitals are well equipped, correct medical equipment and drugs are available, Study whether the vaccines being manufactured are suitable, get the correct vaccines and see that everybody is vaccinated. See whether it would be necessary to set up a separate COVID-19 treatment centre.
It is surprising that India messed up badly, and opened up by having elections and organizing cricket tournaments such as the IPL, without studying the implications and detrimental factors of this virus, and how to cope with it.
It was really amusing to see commentators, who were very much in the open, advising others to wear masks, stay home and stay safe.
Actually it is a big joke when any radio announcer, TV presenter or role model or for that matter any Tom, Dick and Harry ask people to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay home and stay safe, when the causes seem to be yet unknown and precautions to be taken are far more complicated. Not that they are wrong, but it is very much more appreciated when given by a person more qualified to do so.
Win or lose: Ali Sabry or Ananda Lanerolle?
A serious allegation has been levelled against Justice Minister Ali Sabry by Ananda Lanerolle, that the Minister had written a letter to the High Court Judge of Beddegama, asking for a favour in a case. Ananda had revealed this at a press conference held by Citizens’ Organisation for Democracy. And now it is said that the Justice Minister has sent a letter of demand to Ananda Lenarolle asking for a compensation of Rs:1b for damaging his reputation by this false allegation (as reported in the Lankadeepa of 16 May). We quite often see this scenario in politics – allegations and letters of demand for compensation. And I do not know how many of them have got the reliefs. But false allegations continue to spread like wildfire. These days, the critical faculty of the common folk is so blunt that they simply accept whatever the politicians and their stooges tell them at press conferences.What defies my logic in this allegation is Justice Minister Ali Sabry, a President Counsel and a veteran lawyer by profession, writing a letter with his signature (a most authentic document) to a High Court judge asking for a favour in a case. No layman with an iota of common knowledge (not legal) will do it. Yet Lanerolle could not have made this allegation to the media without evidence either. Who will eat humble pie, Ali Sabry or Ananda Lanerolle?
M. A. KALEEL
Kalmunai – 05
Countrywide Lockdown: Better late than never
COVID cases are detected in large numbers throughout the country. There is no province or district that has been spared. The transmissibility of the current strains of the virus in circulation is quite high. In such a situation a lockdown on a provincial basis is meaningless. It is as if allowing the people to move freely spreading the disease within their province without taking it outside the province. The reason given for this view is that the economy cannot be brought to a standstill. However when the disease is already rampant, people will not be in a position to engage in any economic activity. As opposed to short term losses, wider spread of the disease will guarantee economic shutdown for a very long time.
The few countries like Australia and New Zealand which have achieved almost total eradication of the disease did so by imposing strict lockdowns even when a single case was detected in a locality. Vaccination is being carried out only now to prevent the epidemic raising its head again. It is meaningless to expect a vaccination programme, chaotic at best, to control the spread of an already rampant epidemic while allowing people to move freely, ignoring basic public health guidelines.
Hence it is imperative that the island-wide shut down imposed over the weekend is continued indefinitely until the epidemic abates significantly. People are used to such restrictions imposed early last year. Learning lessons from that experience, systems should be in place to ensure that essential services are maintained and people are able to obtain basic provisions like food, thus avoiding unbearable hardship. Daily wage earners should receive a cash handout to ease their loss of income.
I feel the medical professionals, who met the President recently, should have insisted on this rather than accepting the limited shutdown suggested by the authorities.
Dr. Sarath Gamini De Silva
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