1 December, 2022


Cosmic Cost Of Covid-19 ! 

By Sarath de Alwis –

Sarath de Alwis

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has met the Maha Sangha on Friday 24th April to apprise them of measures taken by the Government to control the spread of COVID–19. The official communique issued by the Presidential Secretariat is reproduced in the box. 

It calls attention to the following. 

* The Country must face the pandemic with courage. 

* Buddhists of the land must observe the religiously hallowed, culturally significant Vesak day by mainly using the electronic media. 

* The President would be remembered as a leader who saved the country twice. 

* The President would regularly huddle with and seek the advice of the Maha Sangha on the 3rd Friday of every month. 

The President had stressed the “necessity of a strong Parliament to fulfil the aspirations of the people” who had given him a “landslide victory.” He had said that he had no Constitutional powers to reconvene the old Parliament. It was essential to convene the new parliament.

The Maha Sangha had in one unanimous voice opined that the “country should not be put in jeopardy by reconvening the old Parliament.” One and all, the assembled Maha Sangha had endorsed his decision “not to convene the dissolved legislature.” 

I can see the logic of the representatives of the Maha Sangha who agreed with the president on the futility of reconvening the old parliament. 

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is not a politician. He is a motivational leader. His mandate of 16th November 2019 makes him the messenger of the constituency that was represented by the Maha Sangha who attended the presidential conclave on Friday.  

Essence of leadership is the impact a person has on the thinking and behavior of others. The President had his audience in thrall. 

From the oft repeated exhortations of prelates such as Venerable Medagoda Abyatissa thero, Venerable Wendaruwe Upali thero and Venerable Ellawawela Medhananda thero we can confidently surmise that each of them has their own precise contours of their respective ‘Nirvanas’. 

There is a tendency amongst some of us who read and study Buddhism in English, to emphasize on the rational and humanistic qualities of Buddhism. 

Indeed, the Buddha taught us, that the three basic realities of the universe are that everything is constantly changing, nothing has any enduring essence, and nothing is completely satisfying.  

Suffering emerged, because people failed to appreciate the conundrum of existence. 

The one big question that Buddha tried to address was what was the meaning of life? Then he proceeded to ask how we could get out of suffering?’

But on the other hand, if you really know the truth about yourself and about the world, there is nothing that will prevent you from discovering your own idea of ‘nirvana’. 

Buddha focused on the bad life on earth. He sought to escape it. But if these venerable prelates have also found ways and means for a good life here and now,  who am I to question such eminent wisdom. 

Suffering without end in a futile round of births and rebirths was the fate of mortals. But, if you are in the game of thrones, mortality hardly crosses your mind. It all depends on where you look for ‘nirvana’.  

The opposition wants the parliament convened. The President says he cannot. The pandemic is not concerned with either. 

When we speak of great leaders we tend to speak in terms of GDP. That is a mistake. 

As Kishore Mahbubani points out in a guest column in the last issue of the Economist, great leaders such as Deng Xiaoping and Lee Kwan yew planted the seeds of  knowledge and the idea of internationalism and good order in their societies. The people of those Asian nations are not seduced by profound platitudes. They have adapted strategies based on pure sciences and epidemiological modeling to arrive at policy responses to  Covid-19. 

Those nations are driven by a sense of pragmatism and a willingness to learn from others and adopt best practices that work irrespective of their origin and creators.  

There are no short cuts out of a pandemic. It will not end for anybody until it ends for everybody.

The Virus will remain with us until we develop a vaccine or find an effective cure to treat the infected. The other remedy is to allow it to progress through the population killing some and making those who survive to develop immunity. Neither can be done before a deadline. 

The President lost no time in calling out the cavalry. My daughter who lives next door begins her lockdown day with praise for the president who took timely action. In this neighborhood I am in the unpatriotic minority. 

The President with his military mind reacted instinctively. Many other countries did the same because it happens to be the logical thing to do. 

One country after other overwhelmed by the magnitude of the plague called in the armed forces to help in responding to the pandemic. 

The enormity of the task, the implications of life and death struggles make fine materiel for blurb writers to project narratives of war and battle. The crisis no doubt called for extraordinary measures, war like efforts, pitched battle type commitment and as the unfortunate events in the navy camp show the higher call for sacrifice.

This is not unprecedented. Whenever a major disaster strikes, the armed forces become the first choice of emergency response.

We did it with common consent and not by enacting legislation. That does not mean that governance can dispense with process. That is an invitation to chaos and worse- corruption. 

 Most other countries with functioning legislatures have rushed through laws that provide cover for armed forces to support civilian authorities in carrying out non-military functions on larger scales with precision and order.

But that is what the army is for. They have performed what is expected of them. As a part of the nation’s defense arm, they are in a state of constant alert. 

In contact tracing, army intelligence would have performed far better than their civilian counterparts. But the depiction of the intelligence operatives as relentless crusaders in search of villains infected with the virus was a colossal blunder. 

The debacle at Bandaranayake Mawatha and its environs is a classic example of propaganda overkill. Infected are traced to cure them, rehabilitate them and prevent the spread. 

By making the operation of contact tracing into some type of a cloak and dagger game, we unwittingly erected a barricade between good citizens and errant citizens. 

We are fighting a pandemic. It is a global catastrophe.  

To beat or come close to beating the coronavirus we must understand how it spreads stealthily, silently through Asymptomatic Carriers.  

It is about modern science. It calls for enlightened minds that can withstand the challenge. Minds petrified in parochial prejudice is not the solution. 

While must arrest the virus, we must also prepare ourselves to carve our niche in the new post ‘COVID world order. The pandemic has irretrievably demolished the fragile order of paper money, sovereign debt underpinned by sovereign folly, and sovereign plunder of the poor. The pandemic has drawn a line on the sand between global economic order that is blatantly unfair and global economic disorder.

Make no mistake. Covid-19 will drastically and permanently change the world order affecting individuals, corporates and nation states. Death and starvation are great levelers and a global recession would arbitrate between what is just and unjust.   

The Geopolitical contours of the emerging world order will have no place for insular nationalism.

No decision should be taken outside the Constitution – Maha Sangha emphasise

  • Country should learn to be courageous during a disaster
  • Measures to celebrate Vesak using electronic media
  • Govt. requested to assist to develop unutilized lands belonging to temples
  • Maha Sangha says President will be remembered as a leader who saved the country twice             
  • President invites Maha Sangha for a meeting on 3rd Friday every month

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa enlightened the Maha Sangha on the measures taken by the Government to control the spread of COVID – 19 virus and their progress during a meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (24).

President explained about the control of the spread, quarantine process, reliefs granted to people and future measures to revive the national economy.

The support rendered by every segment of the society including health, security and the entire state mechanism in the face of current challenges is enormous, President said.

President stressing the necessity of a strong Parliament to fulfil the aspirations of the people bestowed on him with the landslide victory said that there are no Constitutional powers to reconvene the old Parliament but to convene a new one.

President said that he expects to meet Maha Sangha regularly on 3rd Friday of every month and expressed his anticipation of blessings and guidance of Maha Sangha as he stated in front of Ruwanweli Seya and during the assumption of office.

Nayaka Theros of all three Chapters said that they approve the conduct of the President and the Government.

Stating that the country should not be put in jeopardy by reconvening the old Parliament Maha Sangha unanimously agreed with the decision not to convene the dissolved legislature.

Ven. Niyangoda Vijithasiri Thero said the previous Parliament should take the responsibility for the current financial crisis in the country.

Ven. Thrikunamale Ananda Thero, the Maha Nayaka of the Amarapura Sri Dharmarakshitha Chapter said that when looking at the initiatives taken by the President to prevent the spread of coronavirus as well as for the future, it is clear that there is a new vision being implemented in the country.

Ven. Prof. Medagoda Abayathissa Thero was of the view that the measures implemented by the President to prevent the spread of the coronavirus could be an example for other countries in the world. The young generation of the country and other various groups have invented many new products. ‘This is a golden opportunity for a better future’, the Thero further said. He also said that the Maha Sangha of the country will always support the steps being taken by the President.

Ven. Prof. Indugare Dhammarathana Thero presented a set of proposals comprising 12 points to make the Motherland secure.

Ven. Dr. Diviyagala Yasassi Thero and Ven. Prof. TubulleSeelakkanada Thero pointed out the importance of creating an environment to celebrate the Vesak festival using electronic media while remaining at homes. It was decided to appoint a Committee in this regard.

Maha Nayaka of the Asgiriya Chapter Most Ven. Wendaruwe Upali Thero said that the steps taken by the President to feed the hungry including the beggars are commendable.

The Maha Nayaka Theros and Anu Nayaka Theros representing the Tri-Nikayas and Maha Sangha participated in this meeting.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 10

    The above picture of “Buddhagama Priests” assembling at the call of President reminds me of a reported statement made by another Buddhist Clergy, Rev. Kagama Sirinanda (an outspoken priest) and that is: ” The Saffron Clothe” is like a THICK FOREST for the ROGUES to hide”. They, the assembled ones have endorsed ” The President would be remembered as a leader who saved the country twice”.That explained the whole purpose of the meeting.

  • 11

    “But if these venerable prelates have also found ways and means for a good life here and now, who am I to question such eminent wisdom. “
    Yes indeed, most of these petrified prelates would have arrived in their not-so-venerable limos , not on foot as prescribed in the Vinaya Pitakaya. Let the dumb laity do it the hard way.
    And of course , it’s clear that the anti-viral properties of Pirith are only for the plebs. The Maha Sangha will wear masks, thank you very much.

  • 10

    This is classical conditioning where citizens are programmed to accept their miseries such as sickness, hunger, anger, helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness as supreme sacrifice to nation and supposedly feel proud of their commitment. This I guess in Darwin Theory is “many are sacrificed for few to live in comfort.

    • 4

      Yes, “chiv”,
      I wonder who you are; not very relevant! Your comments are spot on. You are right, about classical conditioning, and the ultimate result. I’m myself becoming unsure of what I ought to be thinking, and what efforts I ought t make to convey the results to others.
      I’ve been getting reminded of Arthur Koestler’s novel, “Darkness at Noon.” I am hardly imagining that I can get new readers to get into that claustrophobic atmosphere that I entered when I first read it forty years ago. Now the Wikipedia entry has given me a summary – inadequate as expected. I still remember the first impact, though.
      So, in place of Marxism, we must sacrifice ourselves for Sinhala-Buddhism. That is what Gota is imposing on us. The call for “military government” has been a recurring one. I feel helpless.

  • 2

    This essay is more or less the minutes of the meeting chaired by the President with Buddhist monks.
    Ven:A said this……
    Ven B said that…..
    Ven C was of the view……

    Quite unlike Sarath De Alwis.

  • 1

    We need to strike the correct balance between re-opening the economy for all and the ability of our health service to handle the increased number of patients, as explained by Prof Magdon Ismail in this article.

  • 2

    ”President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is not a politician. He is a motivational leader”. Agreed, so lets sack all the govt. advisers (they are probably corrupt anyway), the sanga can advise & bless the country at the same time, not to mention the saving on salaries (I presume the sanga will not ask for a salary, just the perks of luxury cars & the dana should be enough for the simple life style as preached by the Buddha). In fact, why not follow the supreme council of mullahs in Iran with the Buddhist version of the sharia law, policed by Gnanasara & his thugs?

    I seem to have been taught incorrectly by my father that one becomes a Buddhist priest in order to give up all materiel possessions in search of Nirvana & the primary purpose of a priest is to provide spiritual guidance. I suppose in this modern age, it extends to providing guidance to govern the country as well.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.