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The battle to claim Covid-19!

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Leave the battle to those that are genuinely fighting it!

By Romesh Fernando

Covid 19 is here. We’ve known that for a while! The fact remains that each of us are vulnerable. Never mind the origin of the virus; whether it came from China, India or the US or if it was man-made or a natural occurrence.

The crux of the matter is that it is here to stay.

The Military apparatus under General Shavendra and the medical armory are wielding their might, fighting a battle day and night to keep us safe.

While all this is going on, the blame game has begun.

The pundits, Covid gurus and self-anointed investigative journalists putting pen to paper; some making sense but most others exposing their cheap brand of journalism, lacking in value and relevance.

We also have the electronic media exploiting the freedom of expression that has allowed a myriad opportunities for those seeking to spread fake news. Yes, there are a lot of these opinionated characters out there who spew out their far-fetched theories based on nothing but unjustified assumptions & factually incorrect information, which are doing the rounds. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. One thing is for sure – they’re only making the communication service providers rich!

In this day and age, people don’t need education or intelligence to know where this wanton brand of reporting originates from. A little bit of common sense will tell us it originates from the gutter. The language is poor, the information is false and the so-called freedom of expression is that of an ill-informed individual, fit only for the waste paper basket.

While the country is struggling, the misinformed population is judging and the politicians are playing the only game they know! – politics!! All while the economy is in the balance, teetering on the verge of a crash!

My humble request to all those involved in publicizing their thoughts and sharing their opinions is to take a good look in the mirror and ask, ‘What have I done to help the cause of those suffering after contracting this deadly virus?’

If nothing much comes to mind, then that says it all. It would be prudent to stay home safe and let those that are battling this war work unhindered.

Let us be realistic in terms of our responsibilities as the public.

People never took the numerous warnings seriously. That’s the hard and brutal truth.

Politicians wanted elections held to get into parliament, so they could have access to state machinery and resources to run the country!. The industry had to run in order to turn the wheels of production and give life to an already ailing economy. Thousands of employees needed to feed their families. Everyone did what they thought was needed. We heard the words “Covid is no more”. With such a mentality, It was no surprise that the health warnings and preventative efforts slipped through the public’s fingers. The result is a recurrence on the scale we now see.

Let us honestly answer these questions: How many of us attended political meetings and rallies without masks? Disregarded washing hands and sanitizing? How many of us went out shopping freely and to exhibitions, book fairs and what not, caring nought for the virus or the repercussions? How many more still attended funerals, alms-givings, weddings and mass gatherings? The list of events of exposure is endless!

Then, who do we blame? AND IS IT FAIR?

The woman from Minuwangoda was not patient zero. That’s for sure!

The government had to bring in our stranded workers from all over the world: Europe, Middle East, US and across Asia, from wherever they toiled and contributed to our economy. In that process, couldn’t we have imported virtually all strains of the virus?

This is something we couldn’t avoid. We can’t ignore the cries of our people when they are suffering and stranded in a foreign land. Our culture, our humility our nature is not one that shuns our fellow beings when in distress. Many are the stories of drowning of the hero that dived in to save another. Many are those that died in the war fighting for you and for me.

So, is it fair we blame Brandix or the Military or the Health Services or the Government or anyone else for that matter? Instead, don’t you think we need to unite, stand firm and fight this battle for one and all?

Human error and neglect are paramount in this dilemma. Let us refrain from conveniently palming off the blame to others.

Brandix, which has now hit the news for all the wrong reasons, did what they ought to.

They’re a corporate and socially responsible organisation responding to a global problem. They took it upon themselves to charter aircraft to repatriate their own staff from the Brandix industrial park in Visakapatnam. Sadly, this has been twisted and distorted to no end.

The many stories alleging bribing the government, bringing in Indians to teach us how to sew underwear, charter flights that have brought in cheap Indian labour, circumventing quarantine procedures – the list goes on and seems to be pure nonsense.

The demand for answers to questions on passenger manifests bringing in Brandix employees and their families, proof of quarantining them in designated centres, PHI union demands for proof of PHI participation in the quarantine process of monitoring, etc. are the main highlights in this theatrical enactment of twisting and distorting facts, trying to blame a corporate for the mishap of a possible community spread – a ridiculous thought to say the least.

If only each one of them spent some quality time silently checking on the facts via available media and information services- would actually help all concerned to focus more on the need of the hour – looking after our people, our country and doing what is right.

Brandix, with their unparalleled efforts in CSR, ensured their entire might was put into motion to assist in this issue of unimaginable sadness. They continue to do their part day and night and have vouched to continue to ensure they see their staff out of danger.

Their contributions to the cause are immeasurable. From giving over their plants from the word go when the pandemic hit our shores, and certainly long before the Minuwangoda case, to the many funded programmes managing our sick and affected, to continued support to the cause is exemplary to say the least. Let us hold our fire and take a step back and reflect – If you and I manage to contract the virus, we too may end up in one of the quarantine centres facilitated and supported by Brandix.

They have continued to do all this, while trying to keep their focus amidst the often baseless media slandering.

In no civilized world do we blame a pandemic on a corporate entity. This is certainly a first! Yes! corporates can have slip ups, negligence, mishaps, accidents – especially when they are of the magnitude of Brandix. But what matters is how they manage the crisis. Every corporate in today’s world has mitigation plans in place and I’m sure theirs is next to none.

While the battle rages through, with efforts to combat the pandemic from getting out of hand, there still seems to be the critiques, the politics, the raging arguments, the blame games, stories, debates, YouTube journalists and unions all with vested interests! – they will all be there! All judgmental, with conclusions to pin the blame on the culprit or scapegoat, whoever is more convenient to get a hold of! Sadly, to say the least – that’s what our culture has become in recent times.

So let’s stop the blame games, finger pointing and making this a playground for various gains. Let the authorities and the specialists do their job.

It is sheer neglect on our part as citizens. It is our foolishness. It is our failure to adhere to the repeated calls for safety. The culprit is you and me!

Many the sinks in place for washing. And many a tap without water and many an empty bottle of detergent or soap. Stylish foot pedals no longer work. Many a mask, only for the protection of our chins! Why? Because we cared less.

Let us pause for a moment to ponder on the agony that would run through the mind of the individual that has been exposed. Let us pause to ponder on the agony of those who see their loved ones being driven away in an ambulance with beacons of red or blue into centres for quarantine. Have you had the chance to ask a mother, father, brother, or sister, whose loved one got taken away, what runs through their minds living this nightmare?

Do you have the slightest feel of what runs through a parent’s mind, whose child is taken in for treatment to a centre with no visitation? Or, know what traumatic thoughts run through the mind of a child being taken away for treatment?

While we’re at it reading our Sunday paper, we know that there’s a massive effort in operation to care for the sick and their families.

As business associates of Brandix for many years, we’re certain our fellow associates are not alone. Much is being done to ensure those affected are cared for. The organisation is working round the clock. Let us rally around the corporate in support and solidarity to cope with this situation at hand. After all, we’re all a part of the family that work and live contributing to our economy which continue to be fueled by the likes of corporates like Brandix.

Currently, the global pandemic figures are worrying, yet recoveries are many and deaths sadly still high;

Globally:

38,806,674 cases, 1,097,966 deaths, 29,158,331 recoveries.

In Sri Lanka to date:

5,170 cases, 13 deaths, 3,380 recoveries.

So, let us be thankful for small mercies and those that have recovered.

Let’s continue to pray that those affected will recover fast and return home soon. For our part, let’s be compassionate and humane and refrain from dabbling in words and expressions that are at the expense of others or detrimental to the cause. Instead let’s support the fight in every way possible for the safety and well-being of society.



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Opinion

Save us from our govt.!

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When watching daily news bulletins, on several local TV channels, one could observe two significant matters.

One is how Gotabaya Rajapaksa shamelessly meets foreign diplomats and officers of international organizations, who are well aware of the grave situation of the country, and also the prime reason for it.

Remember, as kids, how we hide from our parents, or teachers, when some small mistake happens – that is because we were ashamed, and afraid of punishment. And ther, too, it would have been only our own mistake, not by the whole family of ours!

Next is how the Police and armed forces are let loose on the men, women and children who have been waiting in queues for hours or days. The authorities are not finding ways to stop queuing or at least maintain some order at those places, but chastise the people, for electing as Basil Rajapaksa had said, a stupid, clueless president and an incompetent government.

The greatest disasters we have faced since Independence are the JVP insurrection, the LTTE war and the tsunami in 2004, and during those times the people were protected by then governments; now Sri Lankans have to struggle against the government, which is steadily throttling them to death.

BUDDHI PERERA

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Opinion

Challenges, and need for an all-party govt.

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Whoever wants to take charge, must first disclose how they are going to set about it. making statements that ‘WE WILL PUT IT INTO ORDER’ is not acceptable. Even SJB, the main Opposition party, hasn’t put forward at least an outline plan as to how they will set about it.

What did the current President promise? What did the current PM promise.? What are their results? Can the country afford more of such vague promises? Three months have gone and still there is no plan from any Party in Parliament. How can any country or institution assist one who has no plan?

Challenges are many and very unpopular decisions have to be made. Resistance from entrenched interests, such as trade Unions, including the GMOA, some corrupt business interests, political interests, mafias, monopolies, etc., has to be countered. Are they prepared to overcome them?

Why go far? Are they prepared to reduce the Parliamentary allocation substantially, and even reduce the number of MPS from 225 to about 150 – on par with countries of similar size, population, GDP, etc.

Parties trying to form a Govt. must first agree amongst them on their Plan, at least on the following:

(i) on their strategy to get Foreign Exchange to purchase limited quantities of fuel for essential services, food, medicines. and fertiliser for the next 6-9 months. Their strategy to increase exports, foreign employment and foreign investment so as to increase Foreign Exchange in the short and medium term. With current conditions it is futile to expect tourists to come to Sri Lanka.

(2) as to how to balance the budget. Are they unitedly prepared to close down or privatize CEB, CPC, AirLanka and Water Board, etc.? Budgetary Allocation for Defence is another, which has to be drastically reduced, the developed countries spend only 2 to 3 % of their GDP on Defence. What does SL do? Out of the Defence allocation, Navy must have the major component for they have to patrol the sea area, which is many times larger than SL land area. SL sea resources are at risk from illegal fishing, human smuggling and illegal dumping, etc.

 (3) Are they prepared to close down unnecessary Ministries, Corporations, and Departments, most of which were created for the benefit of politicians, especially for Ministerial Positions.

(4) Staff levels in Ministries, Departments. Corporations that are to function, have to be drastically reduced, so that they could function efficiently and cost effectively. Reducing staff will also reduce the need for large office spaces, electricity, telephone cost etc.

(5) What are their plans to support and or rehabilitate the staff so retrenched.?

(6) Their plan for distribution of essentials? Rationing?

(9) Can they agree on a small, efficient and capable cabinet? Let not the country have too many Ministers and or Officials telling the country different versions, confusing the people as to which is correct, and that too hoping that at least one will be correct.

(10) How will they source the revenue? Are they prepared to increase the direct tax component to 60% or even 75 % for the present? The majority of the population have been badly affected due to the current crises. Their only crime being they misused their votes. They should not be burdened further with indirect taxes. To reduce their burden indirect taxes have to be the lesser component of the revenue, at least for the present.

(11) Can they do away with duty free cars, and all other special privileges given to some sections of the society. All Laws must be equally applicable to all. Other than the First citizen of the country, all others (be it state employees or Parliamentarians) must be taxed on the same basis as others.

All Parties joining must undertake that they will no longer do politics with these issues, nor will they withdraw from the interim govt when it undertakes unpopular decisions on above issues. They must all commit to swim or sink together.

None of those who served as Ministers in failed Governments, or who were Ministers in MR’s Govts which decided on vanity projects, should not be given Ministerial positions. Same should apply to those Parliamentarians who voted for the 17 ,18,19 and 20th amendments should be excluded, as it shows they neither have principles, nor care for the country. Corrupt and convicts too should be kept out. KNOWLEDGE AND CAPABILITY should be the criteria in the selection of the Ministers. Those who are unable to deliver within 3 months must be made to stand down.

To the party leaders who want to form the government, may I say, first divulge your plan to the country.

Please, do not tell the country that you have a better plan. You can afford to fail but not the country or its people at large!

A. K.RATNARAJAH

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Opinion

Fuel tokens, a big farce

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A file photo of fuel tokens being issued

The Minister of Power and Energy who covers a very responsible Ministry, was selected by the President probably due to his membership of the ‘Viyath Maga’, has undoubtedly proved to be a very inefficient Power and Energy Minister, and a complete failure without any doubt.

He is very capable of giving false hopes always of fuel and gas laden ships arriving on Sri Lanka shores, which have proved to be absolutely wrong. One wonders whether it is a gimmick to keep the fuel and gas starved motorists happy, and avoid the unending queues at fuel stations. This has proved to be a wrong system.

In order to control the daily queues, and knowing there will be no fuel ships for some time, he introduced the fuel token system out of the blues, and with no proper organizational effort. The policy announced regarding the token system, was to enable vehicle drivers to enter the fuel stations on a pre-selected day of the week, allocated to him/her, and dependent on the last digit of the vehicle number plate. This was again to avoid the long queues, according to the Power and Energy Minister.

With the latest innovative fuel token system announced, I visited the petrol station, in close proximity to my home on Monday 27th June, with much hope, and was among the first hundred with the details of my address, profession, NIC Number and contact mobile number. The relevant officer, who recorded the details, informed me that this was a pilot project, from Ratmalana to Moratuwa, and that when the fuel arrives at the petrol station, I will receive an SMS requesting me to report at the petrol station, at the allocated time, once again to avoid queues. But I did not receive the fuel token as it was not available. I was told that there was no necessity to have the token, as I will receive the SMS on my mobile phone.

The following day I received news that the fuel tokens are being issued. When I visited the fuel station, to obtain the token, there were four different long queues, along the road registering three-wheelers, motorcycles, vehicles needing diesel, and cars needing petrol. I met the S LAF officer, registering the cars queued up on the Galle Road, and told him that I am already registered in the book he was entering details and requested the token, which was denied to me. As the queues were there during the next two days, I visited the fuel shed on day four (30th June) when the officer was registering a few people. When my turn came, I showed the serial number and my name registered therein. I was told to wait until the SMS was received. He said that my registration will be cancelled if the token was given at a later date! Then I met the SL Air Force official and explained my position. He then approved the issue of the token. The delay in obtaining the token was nearly 15 minutes. By this incident it was evident that the advice given to Air Force officers to register and issue tokens was not properly given.

I was surprised to receive the token which was a slip of paper, with dimensions only 10cm x 6 cm. Inside it there were printed, Name of the Fuel Station, Type of fuel, Contact Number, Name, NIC Number, Vehicle No, , Date , Time, Signature of authorized Officer and Signature of vehicle Owner. With a microscopic piece of paper, it was with great difficulty that the necessary details were entered.

However, congratulations to the Minister of Power and Energy for drying up all the CEYPETCO FUEL STATIONS in The Island, without fuel for another three weeks or more, without queues, due to lack of fuel. Also causing unending long queues by supporting the LANKA IOC Fuel Stations, to issue your Fuel without Tokens at a higher price.

I politely ask you, Minister Kanchana, is not this another gimmick of yours to handover the CEYPETCO fuel stations to LANKA I O C?

So, we now know the reason for the latest gimmick of the Minister of Power and Energy to issue fuel tokens.

Do you now realise in your conscience, the problems created by you, especially to three-wheeler drivers, who are dependent on a daily living for their families by earning from hires, and now completely out of any earnings to feed their children, to give even a single meal?

Without creating further problems please resign from your post as the Minister of Power and Energy.

Eng. B.R.O FERNANDO

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