The Director-General of the Sri Lanka Tourism Develop Authority has given the thumbs up sign to the Director General of Health and IGP to allow foreign tourists to travel across districts/provinces in Sri Lanka through ‘bubble tourism’. This is despite the fact that Sri Lanka’s Immunology and Molecular Medicine authorities have now identified six new Covid-19 variants in Sri Lanka. These include variants from Denmark, Europe, Middle East, Nigeria and South Africa, including the deadly Indian B.1.617.
A golden wand of protection seems to attend the path of these foreign visitors across the island, while the public is prohibited from venturing into or through such areas to prevent the spread of the virus. It is an irrefutable fact that when foreign tourists are ferried across the Island and allowed to visit the provinces, there is an entourage of locals to assist them at their accommodation, in transport and at places of tourist interest. One of the first Covid-19 patients in Sri Lanka was a Tour Guide! The policy of ‘back to business as usual’, sporadic restrictions, onus of self-protection and ‘never mind the consequences’ has hitherto yielded horrendous results.
The cost of opening the country’s borders to foreign tourists from January 2021, with some short-term gains to hoteliers, has boomeranged on the nation’s production, manufacture and general socio economic well- being. Each new morning new widows and infants howl and mourn the deaths of loved ones. Death Rate and total Covid cases in Sri Lanka have now reached phenomenal levels. Hospitals cannot cope with the rising numbers of patients, who are being accommodated in makeshift sheds and warehouses, or asked to remain in their homes sans medical attention!
Who is really calling the shots in controlling the pandemic that has now reached crisis proportions in Sri Lanka? Does the Minister of Tourism, Prasanna Ranatunga, have special qualifications and abilities in the medical field, to warrant such decisions and directives to be given across the board by his petty minions and willing sycophants in the government bureaucracy? Is he not aware that the practice of bubble tourism is between countries that have relatively small incidence of Covid, as in the case of Australia and New Zealand, holding strong track records of implementing consistently rigorous anti-covid restrictions and regulations? Is not the Director General of Tourism, Ms. Kirmali Fernando, whose husband owns and runs Tourist Hotels, properly advised on the practices around the world? Or is short term pecuniary gain more important than ordinary human lives? In Sri Lanka ” a land like no other” when Ukraine was in a lockdown situation, their tourists were hosted in Sri Lanka.
According to the WHO, the coronavirus variant was first identified in India last year and was classified as a variant of global concern, with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily and is increasingly classified as a variant of concern at a global level. WHO statistics reveal a sharp linear rise in the new Covid cases in India commencing from March 2021, even while our ‘Health Experts’ in the Tourism Ministry were encouraging and further promoting Bubble Tourism Agreements with India until late April 20, 2021
The recent fiasco in Piliyandala saw the local MOH up in arms over the blatant idiotic interference by the Minister Lokuge, in giving counter orders against the Ministry of Health and opening up Covid-19 areas, possibly due to requests of business cronies among his constituents. The subsequent death rate due to Covid in Piliyandala bears ample testimony to the demented exertions of this politico.
Blustering, blundering politicians apart, what of the high-powered Committees, consisting of retired senior government servants, expert medical personnel, deciding to administer the First Dose of anti-Covid-19 AstraZeneca Vaccine to approx. 9 lakhs of the population, while only retaining 03 lakhs for the Second Dose! Surely it is common sense to spread the vaccine in a manner that ensures that both doses are given during the prescribed period of at least 10 weeks! The logic of entering into a signed contract for supply of AstraZeneca to be given for the second dose, and opening a letter of credit, does not seem to have entered into the calculations of those charged with such responsibilities, who perhaps have reached the age of Dementia or careless indifference!
There was enough time to secure the required stock of AstraZeneca from January 2021, if not for political will considering that the Budget of December 2020 had no provision for anti-covid vaccines! Leaving the approx 600,000 of people particularly in the over 60 age group in dire straits, after their first dose of AstraZeneca, which cannot be mixed with other vaccines now available in the market, is tantamount to criminal negligence, breach of trust and inequitable governance. Even in the midst of such severe bungling, there are some politicos trying to pour down Vaccine Cocktails, hitherto never tried or tasted in other parts of the developed world, down the throats of these unfortunate victims.
The cronyism and nepotism rampant in the numerous and now commonplace accounts of people with ‘influential connections’’ getting the vaccine over others, shows a moral impoverishment of the country. It is a fact that today there are those who work in the front line of infection in their respective workplaces, who have not been given priority in the administration of the vaccine. However, Notables, VIPs and Politicians and their allies are given pride of place in getting the scarce second dose of the AstraZeneca, irrespective of the fact that this is considered more appropriate for senior citizens above the age of 55 or 60.
It is a time that the Public has seen through the lies, sheer hypocritical terminology and slanted data that might have hitherto lulled them towards the so-called resurgence of the virus in the “Avurudu Pokura”. Some amusing but insidious half-truths, and concealments are worth mentioning. The media gave the impression for a long time that the deaths were due to underlying conditions of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure when the causative agent was Covid 19. The undeniable truth is that had it not been for the Covid-19 virus, those with underlying diseases might have lived to a ripe old age with the medications! It is only now, with the escalating deaths and ensuring chaos in the health sector, that the real causative agent of those afflicted with Covid-19 is being acknowledged as Covid pneumonia! The crass negligence of garment factory owners in the Brandix cluster, and resultant probe into criminal negligence is without any progress and lies hidden and dormant. The reluctance to admit that there was a community wide transmission across the island, and the continued lies that this is confined in the main to the Western Province, and that every case could be traced back to the Brandix or Peliyagoda Fish Market clusters is now a sad laughing matter!
Those of us who watched the TV news in the time leading up to the present crisis are privy to the spectacle of the representatives of the people (Politicians), at the pinnacle of power, neglecting to follow simple guidelines such as wearing a mask, avoiding crowded meetings, etc. The subtle interplay of attributing a particular age group to the Covid-19 casualty, the balancing of numbers of positive cases and deaths with limited PCR, and the relative lack of a Geographical Information System by which selective and targeted lockdowns could be imposed in severely affected areas, have contributed to maintaining a fog index over the actual situation prevailing in the country.
A nation that has seen its own Minister of Health and other politicians expound the virtues of a fake decoction called “Dhammika Peniya” as a possible Covid-19 preventive, cannot be too surprised thereafter to witness any worse inanities and tragic bungles!
In conclusion, a nation that with renewed hope changes its political pillow for a new government be it, SLFP, Yahapalanaya, alias SJB, Podujana Peramuna, appears to be doomed to certain abject disillusionment. The truth is plain to see. Any apolitical citizen can now realise that whether there be bond scams, major bribery and corruption charges, criminal negligence on terrorist massacres, the policy of no real remedial action, talk only and a series of commission reports, parading on remand, will be the final product. Except for some sprats down the line, the kingpin will continue their rampage. It is said that there is a certain camaraderie and wheeler dealing even amongst those who represent the people on either side of the divide in Parliaments. Where there is neither honour, principle nor true love of country and its people, in a system that is replete with sycophant”public” servants and moribund self-serving intelligentsia, the dark prescription still is “Send in the Clowns and be damned”.
MPs can show their colours
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!
Gazette Bill in blatant conflict with Constitution
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.
Probe into expressway construction and floods
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
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