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Send in clowns and be damned!

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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”.

 

SONALI WIJERATNE

Kotte

 

 



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Opinion

Mrs Paripooranam Rajasundaram- A Gracious Lady

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I first came to know Mrs Pariapooranam Rajasundaram, who was born in Singapore on October 25, 1935 while serving a short stint in Jaffna with police intelligence. Her late husband who called her “Pari” was my very close friend, Mr. Vaithilingam Rajasunderam, the former principal of Victoria College, Chullipuram who was introduced to me by my friend and police batch mate, late Tissa Satharasinghe, who was the Personal Security Officer, to the late Mr T.B. Ilangaratne in 1971.

Mrs Rajasundaram was blessed with three sons and a daughter and several grandchildren and can be truly described as a very faithful spouse and dedicated mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and a great grandmother to the family of which she was matriarch.

My short spell in Jaffna in 1973 brought me closer to the Rajasunderams who celebration their 25th wedding anniversary in 1974. Theirs was an open house and my wife and sisters too came to know them well.

Mrs Rajasundram and her husband were good hosts and his assassination was a shock to all of us. It was then she became part of our family as she lived with us briefly till she obtained a UK visa to join her daughter and son-in-law there.

Many years later when she was living in England, I had joined KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and my family used to spend vacations with them in Cockfosters in North London. Mrs Rajasundaram treated us to sumptuous meals lavishing attention on us. She was very fond of my wife and two children and had a heart of gold. A devout Hindu she never failed in her religious obligations, lived within her means and was never greedy for what she could not afford. She firmly believed in being patient and willingly gave to those in need.

She was a lady who was selfless, full of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, very virtuous, and full of love and character. I can say of her: “People may forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel!”

My prayer as a Christian is that God grants you eternal rest.

NIHAL DE ALWIS

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Independence celebrations for whose benefit?

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Celebrating what? Bankruptcy, corruption and nepotism to name a few. Surely isn’t there one MP among 225 who feel we have nothing to celebrate. We say we cannot pay govt. servants’ salaries in time, the pensioners’ their entitlements. A thousand more failures confront us.

In our whole post-independence history such a situation has never arisen. We should be mourning our lost prestige, our lost prosperity our depleting manpower. Our youth in vast numbers are leaving the country for greener pastures. We should be conserving every cent to live, not to celebrate a non-existent independence. We should be mourning, walking the streets in sack cloth and ashes in protest at this wanton waste of money by an irresponsible government.

I can’t understand this mentality. The forces are also our young men who feel for their fellow men and women. Maybe their lot is a little better than the rest of us. But how can you order them to go parade? They cannot refuse. It is an unwritten or written code that they have to obey orders without question. I feel sorry for them. All that spit and polish – for whose benefit? Definitely not ours. We will be mourning in silence in our homes.

Padmini Nanayakkara.

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Aftermath Of Mr. Ranjan Wijeratne’s Assassination

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It was on Saturday March 2, 1991 when that fateful LTTE bomb blast shattered the life out of Mr. Ranjan Wijeratne, Minister of Plantations and Deputy Minister of Defence, in front of the Havelock Road University Women’s Hostel opposite Keppetipola Mawatha.

Mr. Wijeratne used to take the same route from home to office every day. The LTTE had monitored his movements and found that it would be easy to target him on his way to office from a strategic point after receiving the information of his departure from home.

The LTTE targeted his vehicle right in front of the University of Colombo Women’s Hostel opposite Keppetipola Mawatha. The suicide bomber crashed into the Deputy Minister’s vehicle and killed the Minister instantaneously.

I had dropped our elder son at Royal College for scouting and then went to the public library to return some books and borrow new ones. After having done that, I was returning home when I saw a large cloud of black smoke going up from somewhere on Havelock Road. As I neared Thummulla junction, a university vehicle (I was Registrar of the Colombo University) was going in the opposite direction.

I stopped it and asked the driver what had happened. He said the Shanthi Vihar restaurant at the Thummulla had been set on fire. The police did not allow vehicles into Havelock Road from Thummulla. I parked the car on Reid Avenue between Thummulla and Lauries Road and walked down the Havleock Road to see what exactly had happened.

As I got onto Havelock Road, a policeman accosted me and told me that I cannot be allowed to proceed. Fortunately, at that moment the OIC of the Bamabalapitiya Police station, Mr. Angunawela, came to that spot and recognizing me told the police constable to allow me to proceed.

As I walked down I saw the damage caused. But there were no signs of any vehicle or any dead bodies as the police had got everything removed. There was a large gaping hole on the road where the blast had occurred. But immediately this was filled up and that section of the road carpeted.

I do not know who had ordered it and why it was done in such a hurry. There were pieces of human flesh hanging from the overhead telephone wires. The blast had also affected the house in front where there was a P& S outlet and a lady who had come to buy something had got her eyes blinded by the shrapnel thrown by the blast.

The parapet wall and the Temple flower (araliya) trees that had been grown just behind the wall were all gone. As I went into the hostel, I saw that the front wall of the hostel building badly damaged. When I went in the girls in the hostel were looking terrified and shivering with fright.

Two of the undergraduates who had gone out of the hostel as they had to sit an examination in the university had got very badly injured and they been rushed to the national hospital. Later one girl who was from Kobeigane, a remote village in the Kurunegala area, succumbed to her injuries. The university paid for her funeral. The security guard who had been close to the gate was thrown up and landed back on the ground. Fortunately, he had no injuries other than feeling groggy.

The next job was to evacuate the hostelers from the building. I telephoned the university office and found the Senior Assistant Registrar in charge of examinations was in office. I told her what had happened and to come to the hostel in a van. Thereafter both she and I packed all the hostelers in the van and sent them to the Bullers Lane Women’s hostel. This was done in three trips.

On inspecting the damage done to the hostel I thought the building would have to be demolished and a new building constructed to replace it. However, I contacted an Engineer, Mr. Upasena, at the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB,) who came, inspected the damage to the building and stated that he will get it repaired to be stronger than what it was.

He stated that it might cost around Rs, 20,000/- to get the repair done. I contacted NORAD and they agreed to give the funds required for the repair and renovation. Mr. Manickam from NORAD came and inspected the building and agreed to get much more done than what we wanted repaired and renovated. The repair and renovation were done very quickly and the hostelers were able to move in again.

The reopening ceremony was attended by the then Ambassador to Norway, Mr. Manickam and the Vice-Chancellor. The Vice- Chancellor thanked the Ambassador, Mr. Manickam and the CECB for getting the hostel repaired and renovated to be used again. He never mentioned what I had done to get this hostel repaired and habitable again. That is gratitude!

HM NISSANKA WARAKAULLE

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