5 June, 2020

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Gotabaya Proposes, Coronavirus Disposes

By R. Hariharan

Col. (retd) R.Hariharan

The COVID-19 pandemic has derailed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s carefully crafted plan to hold the parliamentary elections on April 25 to win two-thirds majority in parliament elections to repeal 19th Amendment (19A) to the Constitution which curbed presidential powers. In the face of the pandemic threat, the Election Commission (EC) was left with no other option but to indefinitely postpone the election, though it took the decision only on March 19 after deadline for filing nominations ended. The government which had ordered the closure of the schools a week earlier, considered it politically expedient to go ahead with the election and did not agree to postpone it.

The President and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) had repeatedly vowed to do away with the 19A. After President Gotabaya’s victory, the chances of the SLPP and its allies winning two-thirds majority brightened after power struggle between the main opposition United National Party (UNP)-leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and Deputy leader Sajith Premadasa wrecked the UNP-led coalition. After peace parleys failed, Premadasa broke ranks and filed his nomination on the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) front ticket. He is supported by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, All Ceylon Makkal Congress, Jathika Hela Urumaya and the National Democratic Front.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has grown into a major existential threat has played havoc with the peoples’ normal life. So fighting the pandemic has become the urgent national priority for the President. The virus threat has skewed President Gotabaya’s political pitch. Moreover, its fall out has become a major challenge for him. The voters are more likely to judge President Gotabaya and SLPP upon how effectively the government handles the virus threat, rather than the past record of Rajapaksas in eliminating the LTTE threat.

According to Sri Lanka Health Promotion Bureau data as on March 31, 132 confirmed cases (including 114 active cases) have been reported in the country. So far there had been 2 deaths and 16 recovered cases. The first case was reported on January 27, when a Chinese tourist from China was found to have high fever after screening on arrival at Colombo airport. However, it was from March 10, virus affected cases rapidly increased to current levels, with 10 cases reported in one day on March 31. At this rate, health officials expect the virus cases to peak around April 11.

The President’s immediate priority is combating the virus threat on three fronts: curb spread of the virus by taking holistic measures to enforce stringent action to prevent the spread of infection and quarantine and treat those infected and manage the adverse financial, economic and political impact on society. Fortunately for him, Sri Lanka has a fairly well organized public health system, unlike other South Asian countries.

However, he has to manage misinformation and fake news about virus attack and government measures, which have dramatically increased in the last two weeks. Unfortunately, politicians as well as religious leaders seem to be oblivious of the danger of using the virus threat to garner advantage.

The government has come out a slew of measures to combat COVID-19 threat. After initial glitches in maintaining supplies and controlling crowding of people, the President has announced the formation of a 40-member Task Force (TF) under Basil Rajapaksa, designated as “Special Envoy.” The TF members include three provincial governors, Chief of Defence Staff and secretaries of important ministries. The TF has been entrusted with the task of streamlining a wide ranging of activities. These range from helping farmers resume agriculture activities, organizing public retail outlets to ensure supplies to cities and rural areas, coordinating the work of ports authority, immigration and customs authorities to ensure supply of essential imports including drugs as well as export of goods and ensuring effective health and sanitation work.

With these measures the government hopes to enforce restrictions on movement of people particularly after work from home was enforced from March 20 to April 3. Curfew has been imposed with selective slots to enable people to procure daily necessities and supply of essential products through door delivery channels. The government has declared Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara as Corona high risk zones. President’s COVID Health and Social Security Fund has received Rs 140 million; more has been promised by industrial houses.

The cabinet has announced a wide range of fiscal and financial concessions effective from March 25 under which banks, finance companies and leasing companies are eligible to participate in extending support to their customers. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) has been called upon to impose a six months debt moratorium for tourism, apparel and industries affected by the coronavirus crisis immediately. It has also been asked to provide working capital at four percent interest The CBSL announced Rs 50 billion refinancing facility to help businesses, individuals and self-employed hit by COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a huge financial crisis for Sri Lanka to find money to tide over the financial crisis. To meet emergency sovereign crunch, Central Bank of Sri Lanka was able to raise to total of only $22.3 million on all bids out of $220 million Sri Lanka Development Bonds offered in auctions held during March 26-30. It showed the financial world was in no mood to lend in troubled times. In this context, it is interesting to note Sri Lanka and China Development Bank (CDB) have signed an agreement for a financing facility of US$ 500 million for development efforts.

According to the Senior Deputy Governor of the CBSL the Government was in the middle of negotiating a loan from the CDB which could be between $ 1-2 billion. Considering that Sri Lanka has to repay a total of $ 4.8 billion this year, with the next large payment of $ 1 billion due in September 2020, the financial heads must be wracking their brains to find a solution.

Sri Lanka has no parliament at present and the President is ruling with an interim cabinet. Many have questioned the powers of the President to sanction money under various heads without parliamentary oversight. This issue is likely to figure in the Supreme Court in the coming months.

In the midst of such stressful times, President Gotbaya shocked even some of his admirers by granting a presidential pardon to release a convicted death row prisoner former Staff Sergeant RM Sunil Rathnayake. He was sentenced to death for killing in cold blood nine Tamil civilians including three teenagers and a five-year old child in Mirusuvil near Jaffna on December 19, 2000. The Supreme Court had turned down Rathnayake’s last appeal against his death sentence last April.

The presidential action was condemned by the UN Human Rights Council representative; undoubtedly it was a slap in the face of the international body which had been demanding Sri Lanka fulfil its commitment made to the Council to account for alleged war crimes and human rights violations during the Eelam War.

Whatever be the reason for the President’s action, it has destroyed the first baby steps to establish ethnic credibility Sri Lanka had taken during the last decade after the war ended. It has reminded Sri Lanka Tamils the harsh reality of President Gotabaya’s words soon after he was elected: the Sinhala majority vote “allowed me to win the presidency….I knew that I could win with only the votes of the Sinhala majority. But I asked Tamils and Muslims to be part of my success. Their response was not what I expected. However, I urge them to join me to build one Sri Lanka.”

So clearly COVID-19 pandemic or not, President Gotabaya’s sights are still set on retaining his loyal Sinhala flock’s support for the coming general election.

*Col R Hariharan, a retired MI officer, served as the head of Intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka from 1987 to 90. He is associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and South Asia Analysis Group 

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Latest comments

  • 5
    5

    The author has got some of his facts in a twist. The first C-19 patient, a Chinese national, was discovered not during screening on her arrival but on her departure by which time, she had visited several parts of the country and stayed in several accommodations. The number of C-19 cases reported at end of day 31 March was 143 and not 132 as stated. The highest number reported in a given day so far is 21 on 31 March and not 10 as stated. The good Colonol was in charge of intelligence during the IPKF occupation of the North 1987/90. One wonders if his intelligence assessments too were based on similar errenous data.

  • 8
    1

    So can the corona endemic be a blessing in disguise for SL? Which is worse, the epidemic or SL under the military backed dictatorship under GR? Seems to me, we are f****d either way economically. Only consolation is that under GR, the rich would have got richer & some others would also have benefited from the scraps thrown from the table but the country as a whole would be deep in the shit hole.

  • 1
    4

    Colonal Hariharan, as I heard, is a Signal officer. He does not have battle ground experience mostly about emotions. So, write this. How about what MODI is doing. Why don’t MODI allow muslims to do as they wish. Why Himdusthanis are with that much inferiority complex ?

    • 5
      1

      Hindusthanis have severe inferiority complex against Dravidians a culturally superior and advanced civilization entity and not that much with Muslims, who are themselves Central Asians (Aryans and Mugals) converted to Islam and speak languages which are almost similar. Ask the same question why Sinhalese are with that much inferiority complex. Why don’t they allow Tamils to do as they wish.

      • 0
        0

        They do not allow Tamils to do as they wish because of the same reason Mr: Modhi don’t allow Muslims to do as they wish. Sinhalese have no inferiority complex, since most of the are Buddhists and they doesn’t about inferiority/superiority. They know that according Buddhism “race” “caste” etc (including “me”) are constructions of ignorant minds and hider their path of spirituality. They know that someone who born as “Sinhala-Buddhist” may become a “Arab-Muslim” in next rebirth. So they do not hate, degrade anyone. But they use aforementioned concepts as conventional truths since can’t live in this word without recognizing ourselves as so. On that basis “Sinhala-Buddhists” can’t have a Inferiority or Superiority complex. But like all other groups they too care about there heritage, rights, dignity etc. They do not tolerate intolerant, fundamentalist, separatist behaviors and agendas.

  • 2
    3

    The presidential action was condemned by the UN Human Rights Council representative;
    Is that so…. Was’nt very Organisation that was called a Cess Pool by the Mother of Human Rights the Americans.
    Raj-UK, U guys f****d Sri lanka with the Intl Community.
    Retribution has f****d U, the Intl Community & all of us.

    Raj-UK, wait for your turn there. COVID differentiate none. Riches, Intellectuals or Professionals or Ethnicity.

    • 2
      0

      Sinkala Thonda ( MANY);

      You are not doing any service for the 6.6 million racists. You are all doomed At least the Mother of all ……… apparently gave you $1.3 million when no one else gave you even a penny. Your message is Sinkalam but you cant hide it can you like Shankar( a Singhe) . From being a Tamil hater he has now begun to like Indian Laddu and Masala which regurgitates. Finger licking good.

    • 2
      0

      Thondmany

      I returned from SL last week & I am happy to be back in UK. If I get the virus & even die, its god’s will or Karma or whatever one believe in but I will be well treated by the NHS, so I am not bothered about ‘my turn’. Just bear in mind that its ex pats like me & exploited poor mid east workers who bring in the bulk of much needed foreign exchange that keeps you, the politicians & the rich comfortable with luxury imports.

  • 4
    1

    How sweet of the retired colonel to offer us an inside track to the Presidents’ plans.
    Retired colonel but not retired spook (old spooks never die, they just keep on spooking . . ) As Eagle Eye has pointed out, even a spook can get his ‘facts’ wrong. But who can tell who was the ‘first’ to start the infections in our little garden of Eden. The fact is that the invisible little virus will give us a good run for our money. Social distancing is totally alien to us. Big matches, elections, etc will not be disrupted if we can help it. With that sort of attitude, little coronavirus will be with us for a long time. (It doesn’t even have a visa!) Still, I think that current advise to resort to chanting pirith, some thoilaya, drinking samahan, paspanguwa and russem will help us get through this little difficulty. After all, glorious Sri Lanka survived the worlds most dangerous ‘terrorist’ army, so what are frightened about little coronavirus.

    • 4
      0

      S.K,
      I am highly concerned for my personal survival in the coming weeks, given the loud barrage of anti-virus pirith which starts up at 6 am, from the temple across the road. What is the point of waking people so early when they have nothing to do? Also, I am sure the hamuduruwos are using a cassette while snoozing with their ears covered.

      • 1
        0

        Old Codger

        You are so lucky! Sometime ago I was invited to stay with a friend in Negombo – he lived just off Periyamulla Junction. After a very agreeable late night, I went to bed. At 5am I was awoken by the Muezzin at the Periyamulla calling everyone to prayer, then at 6am the Pirith chanting started (from the Angurukaramulla Temple). I spent the whole of the next day trying to keep my eyes open. So very Sri Lanka.

      • 0
        0

        Study done by some figures at Botany department of Open University of Sri Lanka, have found that Pirith Chanting have positive effects on growth of Oriza Sativa. Three samples of Oriza Sativa under the normal conditions have exposed to one sample for Pop Music, another for Thunsuthra and another for silence from a distance of 30cm. And sample exposed to Thunsutra showed more growth than others. Research paper is peer reviewed and published by Sri Lankan Journal of Biology. Can be found here (https://sljb.sljol.info/articles/abstract/10.4038/sljb.v3i1.17/) maybe Pirith chanting have other positive effects like “Prvention of Spreading COVID-19” !

  • 7
    2

    Buddhist Fundamentalist Fundamentalism is represented by murder accused President Gotabaya!

  • 4
    0

    Col.R.Hariharan has stated the truth. Gota is trying to utilze this Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to hold election and grab power. People will know Sajith is an opportunist. Let us wait and watch the response of the minorities and the UNP.

  • 0
    0

    Grave mistake against justice, and that death sentence which was delivered by the supreme court. Even the misuse of the defeated candidates coming through the list is a disgrace. No justice against high profile fraudsters and corrupt deal makers. Xtae banks have been looted by all governments in various ways. We are now, damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.

  • 1
    0

    Colonel

    Let me deal with the following in that order.

    1)Gotabaya Proposes, Coronavirus Disposes:

    *** Gotha -D 20 and COVID -19 were teenage Sweethearts and they were Co Habiting.( Padithrintha Paravaikal) . One day Queen Bee popped the question will you join me in holy matrimony. ( Election) and COVID -19 said I am not ready to settle down yet and I want to Flirt for a while. Gotha-D -20s Curfew didnt work and COVID- 19 continued to Flirt infatuating many ( according Gotha S-20 159) 40×159 and after being infatuated many persihed ( according to Gotha -D -20 5 ) 40×5.

    2)The voters are more likely to judge President Gotabaya and SLPP upon how effectively the government handles the virus threat, rather than the past record of Rajapaksas in eliminating the LTTE threat.

    *** The bigger threat for for Gotha is the Colateral damage done to the Economy and that is why he is trying to hide the number of deaths using Curfew Laws curtailing Free Speech to which he is not a Stranger. Sri Lanka Economy is Decimated. Tourist Industry is all but dead for the forseeable future as workers have been laid off . Hotels completely shut. Import of all Non Essential items stopped because there is no money other than the $1.3 Million allegedly given by USA which I dont believe. No other Country can or will give as they are all in the same boat.

    Future is BLEAK. I know you are going to say. I cant hear you I Beg Your ” PARDON”

  • 1
    0

    I have a message for all the Gotha Lovers.

    *** Especially the Hardcore Racists. This is a World Pandemic and China was the Epicentre and the Creator of this Monster. China is trying to hide the scale of death and destruction and it is too late as the damage is already done. It is going to take a very long time to recover from it and if you dont have the technology and the resources it is going to be even hatder. Sri Lanka alonside many other poorer Counties falls into hiscategory. The BRAVE President is trying to hoodwink everyone by the stooge press putting out messages such as saying “World Leaders ” applauding Gotha for his magnificient Vision and Foresight by taking timely action. NO World Leader has made such Comment and if any ony only one body “WHO” while commenting on other Countries efforts might have commented on it but I havent heard.
    One Sri Lankan paper reported that because of the BRAVE Presidents timely action by sending a plane to bring all the Sri Lankan students from China he averted the spread. Ther in lies the misapprehension about Gothas foresight. What I would have done is quarantined them in China and on arrival Quarantined here and kept isolated. Despite all the Bravado talk Sri Lanka didnt have any testing kits so they couldnt have known who carried it. I dont believe anything Gotha and his men say as they are Scentifically ignorant. All the cases we have in Sri Lanka which I beleive is 159 x40 originated from China and no where else. The talk of a Tamil from Tamilnadu being traced to Kany is a lot of Bullshit, There are more that 100,000 Chinese workers who are frequent travellors .
    Stop the balme game accept reality and what is ging to be damaging to Gothas Presdency is the Colateral Damage to the Economy. No Country that matter will come to the rescue as long as the HUMAN RIGHTS Violator and PARDONER is at the helm.
    You lot elected Gotha and you pay the price and this is mother nature punishing you.

  • 1
    0

    For Any in who is interested in how long the Sri Lnka students from China shoudd have been montotored.

    “Participants:

    Persons with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection outside Hubei province, China.
    Measurements:

    Patient demographic characteristics and dates and times of possible exposure, symptom onset, fever onset, and hospitalization.
    Results:

    There were 181 confirmed cases with identifiable exposure and symptom onset windows to estimate the incubation period of COVID-19. The median incubation period was estimated to be 5.1 days (95% CI, 4.5 to 5.8 days), and 97.5% of those who develop symptoms will do so within 11.5 days (CI, 8.2 to 15.6 days) of infection. These estimates imply that, under conservative assumptions, 101 out of every 10 000 cases (99th percentile, 482) will develop symptoms after 14 days of active monitoring or quarantine.
    Limitation:

    Publicly reported cases may overrepresent severe cases, the incubation period for which may differ from that of mild cases.
    Conclusion:

    This work provides additional evidence for a median incubation period for COVID-19 of approximately 5 days, similar to SARS. Our results support current proposals for the length of quarantine or active monitoring of persons potentially exposed to SARS-CoV-2, although longer monitoring periods might be justified in extreme cases.

  • 0
    2

    Sankaralingam, why do you think Sinhalese have an inferiority complex. You do not seem to know the meaning of the word. On the contrary. It’s as stupid as the Tamils who are 15 percent of the population
    and think they must control half of the Island. Keep dreaming.

    • 2
      0

      Stop teaching English to me, swabasha educated gamaya used to kaduwa. I am from top school in Colombo and obtained distinction in English in 1962 O’level. Signs are not good for you for the future and 15% may be given control of the entire Island.

  • 0
    0

    Old Codger

    You are so lucky! Sometime ago I was invited to stay with a friend in Negombo – he lived just off Periyamulla Junction. After a very agreeable late night, I went to bed. At 5am I was awoken by the Muezzin at the Periyamulla calling everyone to prayer, then at 6am the Pirith chanting started (from the Angurukaramulla Temple). I spent the whole of the next day trying to keep my eyes open. So very Sri Lanka.

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