4 December, 2020

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Fighting Covid-19 Is Impeded By The Regime’s Model & Mindset

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

What would Secretary to the Ministry of Defense – and now, President—Gotabaya Rajapaksa done in wartime if he were confronted with the idea that the war effort should be led by a civilian and the Defense Ministry should have a civilian doctor who had served in the volunteers? He would have reacted to that absurd and dangerous suggestion with more than his usual good humor. Well, that’s exactly what he has done in the case of the war against COVID-19. Why? Because the model is more important than the result.

Why are the most credentialed medical and scientific minds in Sri Lanka not brought together in the presidential task force which fights the pandemic?

While it was reassuring to notice Prof Neelika Malavige attending the President’s conference a week back, why isn’t this Executive Committee member of the International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID), award-winning expert on dengue, and holder of six medical degrees (five from the UK) including a DPhil from Oxford, heading the national anti-COVID-19 Task Force?

To my mind, no one has been more consistently accurate about the Corona crisis than (Harvard and Oxford educated) Dr. Ravindra Ranan-Eliya. Why isn’t he on the Task Force either?

Because the pandemic is being used to install a certain model and to get the citizenry accustomed to a certain way of behavior; a certain way of being.

In his article entitled ‘Reaching the Limits of Managing the Crisis’, Dr Ranan-Eliya goes to ‘code red’ and tells us what is at stake.

“As a country, we’re in a moment of great peril. More than at any time during this pandemic.
Unless we shift course, single-mindedly focus on the critical issues, and make the correct decisions and implement them decisively, we face not only an out-of-control epidemic, but economic disaster…”

He compares us unfavorably with the other places that have experienced a second wave. “…We should have understood that we were…in a much more dangerous epidemiological position than that faced to date by the successful countries…none of these other nations– China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Vietnam – have seen such a large outbreak since crushing their first waves.” (Ibid)

Dr. Ranan-Eliya tells us this second outbreak was entirely predictable, and why it happened.

It was not primarily the fault of the public, as President Gotabaya charged, blaming the victim citizenry, at his conference on Sunday Nov 1st 2020. Dr Ranan-Eliya gives a more reasoned explanation: “In Minuwangoda, we were dealing with cases in people living in numerous different locations, living with other people, and with all the normal types of interaction with friends and family that we have taken for granted since we were told that COVID-19 was defeated in our blessed island. The subsequent rapid spread of the outbreak to numerous locations across the island, several becoming new clusters of their own, was entirely predictable.”

To me, what is most crucial is the huge hole he points out in the approach and thinking of those in charge:

“…as I wrote months ago in this newspaper, we were not in the top category of countries tackling COVID-19, whatever international agencies told us. We need to look at how the really successful countries have managed this and learn from their strategies…”

Back in mid-May 2020 Dr Ranan-Eliya and his team had processed the data coming from Johns Hopkins and produced colored graphs that showed the true state of things. (‘“Eliminating” … “crushing” COVID is possible and these countries are the Superstars’, Daily Mirror, 15 May 2020) We weren’t among the ‘superstars’, but regarded ourselves as right on top.

For this regime, it is more important to believe in its model of governance, its system, than to “seek truth from facts” as was Deng Xiaoping’s motto. The regime does not see the need to “look at how the really successful countries have managed this and learn from their strategies…” because it is an article of faith that Sri Lanka under the present leadership is the “really successful country”, and it is felt to be more important than anything else to keep the faith in this postulate, whatever the empirical evidence to the contrary. Nobody dares to contradict the new model, still less “learn from the strategies” of “the really successful countries”. In consequence, we may be running the risk of a Corona Chernobyl.

The current Sri Lankan model is one which is derived a priori from a sense of superiority stemming from a mix of having won the war (again, falsely listed as the only or the first victory over terrorism, at least in the 21st century) and the innate superiority of the Sinhala-Buddhist culture, civilization and way of being. To question the results on the basis of evidence, i.e. the successes of the model, acknowledge defeats and failures, and “shift course” as Dr. Ranan-Eliya urges, is to question the sacrosanct model itself and verges on heresy and treason.

This is evidenced by a recent controversy. There was was a joint statement by a group of women’s organizations and labor organizations (including one I recall, founded in 1984, the Dabindu collective) about the insensitive and arbitrary character of the military evacuation of women workers for quarantine. It was unexceptionable that the military contradicted the story, though it would have been far better practice in winning hearts-and-minds in civic action, to have had a friendly sit-down with the signatories.

What is most distressing and potentially dangerous is that the military statement proceeded to venture the hypothesis that the critical statement could be the precursor of a conspiracy to come: “…apparently to suit different agendas of interested parties or those who act as forerunners of hidden plans of action”.

The danger here is that if any legitimate criticism is deemed illegitimate because it is critical of the guardian deity, the military, and implicitly critical of the model, and the Establishment’s assumption—hardly hidden, but rather, publicly stated—is that such ‘disinformation’ could only spring from subversive intent, then the response will inevitably be repression, which will not only polarize the social and political situation but will impact negatively on Sri Lanka’s international image, thus damaging our export markets.

The upshot of the rough and clumsy handling of the whole matter is that it has since made the international labor publications such as Ecotextile magazine.

As a former Chairperson of the ILO who worked with the iconic Director-General Juan Somavia (comrade of the late Salvador Allende) when the ILO launched the famous ‘Decent Work’ campaign, I know how perceptions of the treatment of labor, which simply cannot be kept hidden, impact on public opinion and legislators in those parts of the world in which labor standards and the treatment of labor matters.

The model will persist because it will be persisted in, both an article of faith and a monument to the infallibility of the ruler and the ruling stratum, the new power-elite.

Why is this irrational attitude being persisted in, not only on the Corona front, but also in foreign relations, the economy etc.? To answer this, we must identify the mentality and outlook, the way of thinking, of the regime. Evidence is forthcoming in a long post from the Facebook of one of the most influential figures in the Gotabaya camp, a GR confidante and an architect of the successful project of GR as President.

I refer to someone with whom I have enjoyed a most cordial acquaintance, the youthful media magnate and charming corporate personality, Dilith Jayaweera. He addressed an audience at the University of Moratuwa on Nov 5th, criticized Mathematics, and urged that we return to the wisdom of our grandparents. (Keynote Speech at The International Conference on Business Research organized by Business Research Unit, Faculty of Business at the University of Moratuwa.}

In October he delivered a speech and posted a long tribute on the 75th birthday of Prof. Nalin de Silva, currently (and most appropriately) Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Myanmar and one of the two founders of Jathika Chinthana (‘National Thinking’) which shapes the ‘Gestalt’ of the GR camp’s psychology.

Dilith’s long post has a key sentence referring to his first encounter with Prof Nalin de Silva’s ideas at a lecture the latter delivered: “It was titled Vidyaavey Kalaava (විද්‍යාවේ කලාව) and you so convincingly imparted the idea that modern western science cannot inspire new thinking. It just encouraged one to by-heart subjects to pass exams.”

This illustrates why the universalist outlook and methodology of science is not the guiding light of the Gotabaya camp and regime. Their guiding doctrine is that there exists such a thing as “modern western science” which “cannot inspire new thinking”. Jathika Chinthana is an intellectual version of QAnon.

By contrast, the truth is that while there is such a thing as ‘modern science’ and there are Western, Eastern, Northern and Southern contributions to science, some of which, quite unfairly, are ignored or downplayed sometimes, there is no such thing as “Western science”. There is Science. Which is universal. If anything is universal –and universalist, as well as universalizing– it is science.

What is so-called Western science counterposed to? Eastern science? And what is the superior alternative to “modern western science”? “Ancient Eastern science”? Though justly proud of their own contributions to science, China, Japan, India and Vietnam certainly do not  use the category ‘western science’ to distinguish it from any other  brand of science, and they do not regard “ modern western science” as one in which you are “just encouraged one to by-heart (sic) subjects to pass exams”—which is why top Asian, and especially Chinese, scientists have been educated at elite western universities, institutes and centers.

Russia which has produced a vaccine against Covid-19, has done so through “modern western science”.  Cuba, which has made contributions to advanced medical science has not done so with a notion which rejects or is critical of ‘modern western science’ which is why, in the midst of the US embargo, US medical institutions are in Cuba, working on joint projects. There is no country on earth which has rapidly modernized and developed while holding such absurdly negative notions of a construct they call “modern western science”.

As for its inability to inspire new thinking”, the three most respected thinkers in the world today (widely differing in their perspectives), Noam Chomsky, Slavoj Zizek and Jordan Peterson, are products precisely of “modern western science” in the broadest sense and in their respective fields.

Inspired by Jathika Chinthana —a perfect example of what Nietzsche extensively described and denounced as expressions of “ressentiment” (resentment)—no wonder the regime does not do the rational, logical, scientific thing of figuring out the success stories in the Corona-busting campaign worldwide and studying the lessons of those ‘superstars’, so as to apply these ‘best practices’ in Sri Lanka.

This unscientific or pseudo-scientific metaphysical ideology is the prism through which the regime sees everything. No wonder the fight against Covid-19 isn’t going well.

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  • 7
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

    For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

    • 8
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      Thanks for making it short. Keep up.😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎

      • 5
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        Dr. DJ asks:
        “Why are the most credentialed medical and scientific minds in Sri Lanka not brought together in the presidential task force which fights the pandemic”
        Good question. We might also ask who toiled day and night to undermine the last Government and label it “anti-national”. Who did the Maharajahs employ on their channels to slander RW and blow up the “bond scam” out of all proproportion? Who was it that invented the “Nugegoda Man” ? Who made a point of being present at Pohottuwa rallies?
        All these things led to the situation we are in now. So what is DJ whining about now? At least have the grace to admit even now, that Yahapalanaya, warts and all was a thousand times better than this clique of strutting brigadiers and medieval Sinhala Buddhist “intellectuals” ( an oxymoron if ever there was one) taking orders from a mediocre Lt.Colonel.

  • 8
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    They did the war the same way. War was won thanks to SF. Had SF not returned to SL on May 17 in 2009 we are still fighting the war. Rajapaksas were waiting for planets to change to do the final clean up allowing Tamil tigers to escape to Tamil Nadu.

  • 9
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    The fate of the nation today uinder the current would be similar to that of this child whose life was caught by ROYAL MEDICAL DOCTOR – Alianth White ( another HAKGEDIYA style man, came up through Rajapkshe s total ignorance)

    -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCXw4_uq1dg

    We warned the nation adequately, but people took it for granted. Now people are speechless. That man most known MEDIA MAFIA number one in srilanka has had the approval from srilanken health authorities to import those Antibody Rapid Test kits within 24hrs since the tender was called…. Normally the kind of process could take weeks since the experts should have to decide the importing medical drugs could harm the nation. But everything in that line is ignored just because incumbent president is his family friend. President as if a defeated dog would hide his tail, makes every effort to show pseudo cleanliness. This is srilanka Under Rajakashe criminals.

  • 14
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    The priority for Gota and his lackeys was consolidating their power through parliamentary elections and then enacting the 20th Amendment. Therefore they had to downplay the danger posed by COVID-19 in order to hold the elections. While putting the people at grave risk, they even had the audacity to score political points. They claimed the pandemic had been brought under control, while more powerful countries were having meltdowns, because of (1) the outstanding leadership of Gota (2) The unique abilities of the Sri Lankan forces and (3) Special protection enjoyed by Sri Lanka due to its exceptionalism based on its exclusive relationship to Buddhism. Now all hell has broken loose as warned by people who knew what they were talking about. The 2nd phase is in full swing and the poor people are paying a heavy price. The power-crazed Rajapaksas are now losing their minds and resorting to the cockamamy theories of the mad scientist Nalin de Silva. What is Jathika Chinthana? Nothing but the usual ideological hogwash employed by ultra-nationalist loonies everywhere to gain power by exploiting peoples’ insecurities and prejudices. A good example is the BJP government in India. It is also invoking the same kind of mythical powers and nativistic knowledge to divert the people from its abject failure in combating the pandemic.

  • 7
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    Writers of articles critical of the all powerful president Gota living in Sri Lanka beware:

    Don’t think that “white vans” are things of the past.
    History repeats, especially Gota’s.

    Remember tens of thousands of Sinhalese youth, hundreds of thousands of Tamils, and dozens of truthful journalists killed with impunity on his orders or under his command.

  • 6
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    Why is Tissa Vitarana, Sri Lanka’s well-known virologist, former Director of MRI, former WHO expert and former Professor of Virology at Jayawardenapura University not consulted? Where is the ‘secret drug’ that Seetha Arambepola talked about?

    • 7
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      Prof. Gotabaya is a super human. Prof. Vitharana may be a virologist in the past but now he is a virus to the country working for Prof. Gota to assist to eliminate innocent people .

    • 6
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      Law Students Group Sri Lanka

      “Why is Tissa Vitarana, Sri Lanka’s well-known virologist, former Director of MRI, former WHO expert and former Professor of Virology at Jayawardenapura University not consulted?”

      Who is Tissa Vitarana when we have Gota, Kamal, Shevendra, and other 15,000 generals who fought and won lethal LTTE? All 15,000 of them are still fighting the LTTE and Kallathonies from Hindia under the cover of Fighting Corona.

      When will the specialists, experts ….. challenge these military goons?

  • 12
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    Somebody told me that the reason for the Government’s initial success against Covid was that the virus was afraid of Gota. Well it seems to have overcome its fear. So does he send a white van for it or will Kotthamalli and Ayurveda do?

    • 7
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      Stanley

      “Somebody told me that the reason for the Government’s initial success against Covid was that the virus was afraid of Gota. “

      Actually the viruses were initially threatened by the Single Handed General Kamal Gunaratne. I was expecting him to jump into a battle tank, dressed in battle fatigue, armed with a sword, patrolling the mean streets of Colombo, … Instead he was seen/keen walking on red carpets ( https://www.army.lk/news/gr-home-extends-red-carpet-welcome-its-second-secretary-defence) ….. like the one Aladin possessed.

      • 1
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        Most Sri Lankans have short memories.
        .
        This is the last of seven articles that appeared on CT about Royal Institute, Nugegoda, on leafy Chapel Road, leaving the Central Market.
        .
        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/royal-institute-defence-secretary-rules-above-supreme-court/
        .
        The mess started when Kamal Guneratne punished a student a little before fateful Easter Sunday, 2019. I had had no contact either with the Institute of its founder-owner, a very capable Maths tutor, Mr Bandara, now an octogenarian. He’s a very clever, impulsive, still rather rustic man. They’ve got enviable infrastructure.
        .
        The Supreme Court ordered the demolition of the buildings; I said that it just wouldn’t get done. It would have been such a waste. Please check on the present position.
        .
        There are sincere commenters on CT, and there are those who have hidden agenda, which mislead other readers. Please note there the comments by “hanchopancha”, and Dr Preethi Darshana Wanasinghe. They’re not criminals, but they mislead. I’ve had to expose both. Lots of comments by me on that article.
        .
        We must learn the lessons of History.

        .

        • 0
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          … We must learn the lessons of History.
          .
          Easily said than done. Those lessons run into Volumes!

      • 2
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        Where is KG these days after crowing of the successes he brought about. Few months ago he was very vociferous about the drug menace almost daily. May be he has brought it under control for it to bounce back after KD’s impending pardon, like the second wave of the Covid.

  • 4
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    Rulers of Sri Lanka may follow jathika chinnthana, whatever that means, taking the advice from Buddhist bhikkus whose knowledge is a vivid example of the Dunning-Kruger effect in psychology.

    Sri Lankan governments have violated the rule of law on many occasions with pogroms against innocent Tamils, and international humanitarian laws by their crimes against humanity and genocide of Tamils with impunity.

    Rules of Nature form the bedrock of science, and if the rulers violate the laws of Nature with their lopsided jathika chinthanya, there will be consequences they will live to regret. But is the poor citizens who will suffer.

  • 8
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    Here is one. Dr. Shavendra says out of 19 recent deaths only five are due to Covid and rest are due to Chronic Infection/conditions. In his mind, any person with Diabetes, Asthma or heart condition contract Covid and dies due to complications , it is NOT directly due to Covid and hence will not be counted.( as Covid related death). This is how Dr Shavendra under the guidance of Dr. GR have decided to keep the numbers low. Where as in Western Countries any unexplained death with Covid related symptoms even though not proven by testing is counted as Covid related death. According to Dr. Shavendra and GR people should not have any past medical issues to consider as Covid related death. Think about it who will be those people ? mostly young and we already know they are if at all asymptomatic, carriers with minimum mortality. This is how Covid numbers will be kept low, just like those missing people who are either considered dead or living some where , but not murdered.

  • 4
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    Every health expert and organization warned that we have a community infection to deal, but the Govt and their mouth pieces (health ministry) maintain it as few clusters, The infection is now from West to East and South to North with no one spared including health sector, police , press, media,white/blue collar workers –etc and yet govt maintains it as clusters originating from few omnipotent individuals. We indeed are unique people from land like no other.

  • 4
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    Lanka, has found its best known way to fight Covid. Yes, you guessed it right, it is called ” INQUIRY COMMISSION”. A committee has been set up to review Covid related deaths so that they can bring down the numbers by changing the protocols. I wonder why other affected countries did not think of such brilliant plan.

  • 3
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    Dayan,
    I do not blame Gotabaya or Mahinda model for the failure of Corona second wave control and it is absolutely right the blame should go to the people of Srilanka who believed that Rajapakse family only fought against Corona 1st wave and LTTE and won the battle. After 2009, the behaviour of Rajapakse family was evident that their focus was family kingdom, not the country or people. Just assume that Gotabaya is very talented excellent strong administrator, leader and expert on everything and suddenly he got a heart attack or Corona and loose his memory or life, then who should take the leadership of the country. Whatever the powers you granted to President should now go to Savendra Silva (military chief) or Weerawanse or some one else. What is the guarantee that man will be the same? Who is going to safeguard this nation and Buddhism? Have the Sinhala Buddhists thought of the future before supporting for 20th amendment?

    • 1
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      The extreme measures adopted by Gota to combat the first round (after giving time for Ranil to submit a list of UNP jokers for the Parliamentary Elections) succeed, but then created “quarantine fatigue”. An understanding of Mass psychology is also required by the political leaders of a country.
      .
      Gota knew only to kill – and to “beautify cities” by evicting those whom he considered “beggar-class”. Beggars have no place on our roads, but aged cows and bulls will soon be wandering on the said roads causing accidents.
      .
      Thanks, chiv for all the comments; time for Dr Muta Janapriya to analyse again.

    • 4
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      “Have the Sinhala Buddhists thought of the future before supporting for 20th amendment?”
      Actually the more general question is whether ALL the people who voted thought of the future, when they voted for “change” of 19A but R’s had the idea not of change but a full scrapping. Of course when voting for 20A all govt MPs had no voice in the matter as by voters giving 2/3 power to R’s, they were in the trap and of course aided by Diana considered a virgin goddess (anything but) and some renegades.
      Next important thing is consider a new constitution for which people again voted without being told of the essential points of such constitution.
      So it is more to come.

  • 2
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    The aim is to get the public accustomed to being under a military jackboot. To make these imbeciles who voted into power the mastermind behind a bombing to think that god father(Appachi) is doing this for their own good. That way when the ship sinks futhur the imbeciles will aquiese to more and more authoritarian treatment. Mark my words the economic ship is sinking and the inability of these goons to control COVID-19 was the last nail in the coffin. Oh! I almost forgot Appachi’s gurunanse Eliyantha White to whom he has granted government vehicles and security vehicles to boot knows how to control COVID-19. Pour Holy water into the rivers and resevoires of the nation. Who needs doctors. I mean proper credentialed ones not quacks.

  • 2
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    Amid maximum number of new cases reported, Doctors Shavendra and GR thundered “we (army) have not failed, we have controlled the virus”. There are many inmates in large prisons who have turned positive. Can inmates get infected in cluster spread, I guess in Lanka anything is possible.

  • 1
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    Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka ; “with more than his usual good humor”

    I didnt know he had any sense of humour (I prefer the Queens English)
    He doesn’t come across as a person with a sense humour

    • 3
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      Rajash,
      Even Dr. DJ makes jokes when he isn’t talking about himself, you see.

  • 1
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    “Fighting Covid-19 Is Impeded By The Regime’s Model & Mindset”

    The militaristic mind set to fight Covid is never going to work, nor does the religious ritual mind set.

    Flying Drones and helicopters make noise and good visually but Corona is not Tamil Tiger baby faced fighters, the virus is not going to take refuge in a bunker

    Neither does offering ritual pot of water by throwing them under Kelaniya bridge drive away the virus

    but hey …the very people who voted for Gota and PPP will be mesmerised by these acts

    • 0
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      correction “mindset”

  • 1
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    Anyway still hope lingers. Nature has its own way of doing things.
    May be the tide will turn.

    • 1
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      the way Sri Lankan govt is handling the Covid-19, lies and concealing facts, the tide will surely turn!
      …..in to a tsunami!

  • 2
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    The “second wave” has answered the prayers of the few who wished the worst for the country merely to spite the regime.
    Sri Lanka was more than lucky several times after the first case. But lessons were not learned after every new ‘cluster’ about the need to be extra cautious. What we saw was complaisance about whatever was ‘positive’ like the low numbers compared with neighbours or the rest of the world and the very low numbers of deaths, however, amid claims to the contrary by cynics that the data are false.
    After the cluster that involved members the naval forces, there was need to review the folly of using armed forces to handle a task which the well trained medical staff of the country could do properly. The negative attitude towards leadership by the medical profession persisted because subsequent large numbers were ‘imported’ were controllable. But the risk of a stray infection going out of control was not even considered, because it was not part of the strategy, in fact there was no strategy for anything to be part of it.
    Aster the second wave started, it would have been sensible to tell the truth to the public that there was a serious risk of the infection transforming from a cluster status to community status.

    • 0
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      (contd.)
      While the President is busy blaming the public for its failings in dealing with the pandemic, it is time for the public to be proactive.
      There is need to demand a bigger role for the public in dealing with the infection at a local level; and for medical personnel to insist on their right and responsibility to take key decisions in matters pertaining to the disease, its spread, containment and treatment.
      Political interference should be rejected unreservedly.

      • 2
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        As long as we have apologists for the regime, nothing is going to change or improve. Some people derive pleasure being masochists.

        More than political interference people should reject the authority of the armed forces with 15,000 single handed generals, demand for civilian leadership with medical knowledge. Gota should build large Golf Courses where the 15,000 generals should be retired permanently. Let them reminisce the war, what a good war they have had.

        Shavendra and Kamal had failed in their approach to combating Corona, they should try field guns, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, surface to surface missiles, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, carpet bombing, ….. etc. They still believe this is much lesser war than fighting LTTE.

  • 2
    1

    As long as we have apologists for the regime, nothing is going to change or improve. Some people derive pleasure being masochists.

    More than political interference people should reject the authority of the armed forces with 15,000 single handed generals, demand for civilian leadership with medical knowledge. Gota should build large Golf Courses where the 15,000 generals should be retired permanently. Let them reminisce the war, what a good war they have had.

    Shavendra and Kamal had failed in their approach to combating Corona, they should try field guns, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, surface to surface missiles, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, carpet bombing, ….. etc. They still believe this is much lesser war than fighting LTTE.

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