25 November, 2020

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Government’s COVID Restrictions: Hypocrisy Rules Jaffna Under GA Mahesan

By A. Kathiravan –

The North and South of Sri Lanka have seen armed insurrections. These are signs that the youth are revolted by the insincerity and hypocrisy of their elders, especially from the ruling classes. However, the new COVID restrictions and their arbitrary waiver to oblige the powerful show that we have learnt nothing about the absolute need for the even application of the rule of law and restrictive regulations.

It was last Friday 6 November that Government Agent and District Secretary, Mr. K. Mahesan, at a press conference announced the new Spartan COVID restrictions:  funeral attendance limited to 25, weddings to 50, temple poojas to be done by the priest alone, eating houses to allow only take-out, etc. Masks and hand-handwashing are to be strictly maintained, with 1 m social distancing. Any function or gathering that is unnecessary, he said, is to be scrapped.

Bravo! Here was a man implementing rules that are ignored by-and-large by most. However difficult, the right thing was being done by Mr. Mahesan. The belt-tightening is necessary. Although the pain falls unevenly on some – hundreds of cooks and waiters at restaurants, and even more on workers being laid off, and on shop-keepers suffering loss of sales – the community is supportive of these measures and felt thankful to Mr. Mahesan.

By evening, however,  it came to be known that that previous evening, Thursday, from 7 pm onwards Mr. Mahesan had hosted a farewell dinner to an officer who was retiring from the Kachcheri’s transport section. The sumptuous sit-down event was at Hotel Valampuri with some 50 invitees. Masks were not worn, and distancing not maintained as seen in the adjacent photograph – not even by Mr. Mahesan seen in a red sports shirt. The table setting again shows no distancing. The rush to serve at the back of the photo shows the passion for food overcoming health-guidelines.

Worse would follow that evening. People from Colombo are not to come out for fear of spreading COVID. Ordinary folk who came to Jaffna have been locked up. But Mr. Mahesan was hosting a meeting for over 200 high personages at the Kachcheri. There were government ministers, their security detail, and media units!  Most were from Colombo. The MOH had protested in writing, prohibiting the meeting for so many in an inadequately sized hall. When asked  whether the ubathesam, “preaching,” of the GA does not apply to the GA himself, the GA simply got angry. The MOH said objections had been given in writing to all concerned including to the Ministry of Health. But nothing moved. So health authorities kept their distance from the event.

By afternoon, the three-hour function was in full swing and in breach of all of Mr. Mahesan’s own rules. Protocol was breached when Jeevan Thondaman and the minister for Rural Development were confined to the backrow while Mr. Mahesan, GA-Kilinochchi, state ministers and sundry others were given the first row. The media men of the ministers who were seen crowding around the front to suck up to their ministers. I note that media persons who attended Parliament have been tested positive and confined – the same parliament where GA Mahesan’s distinguished invitees had recently been. Most Jaffna politicians were present. They too had been in that potentially infectious parliament.

The government and opposition politicians were seen to be good friends despite the speeches they make. Strangely Mr. Douglas was seen feeding a female, a prohibited act in Tamil culture except when that female is the wife, or a sister or daughter. A Federal Party elder from the 1970s reminded me of the ridicule that Sirimavo Bandaranaike was subject to during her visit to Jaffna when Additional GA Murgesampillai (maternal grandfather of Gajendrakumar Ponnablalam) garlanded her and newspapers asked if he had married her. Interestingly, during COVID some Christian ministers avoid coming into contact with the Communicant’s mouth when placing the host in it.

To cap it all, that evening 60 of the invitees were hosted by Mr. Mahesan to a dinner at another of Jaffna’s upper-class restaurants for the high-flying, US Hotel. The dinner was charged (I believe to the government) at Rs. 1600 per caput.

The MOH for Kopay ordered the Kopay Divisional Secretary to be home-quarantined for mixing in a large gathering that those from Colombo attended. Within a day, however, she was over-ruled by Mr. Mahesan and let loose in the population. When asked why Mr. Mahesan responded that he had done according to instructions from Colombo!

Is sauce for the goose not sauce for the gander? As a reporter I am angry that these rules do not apply to high officials while I need to eat out on work-related travel, and restaurants fitting my budget are closed. I am reminded about the Tamil adage about the house holder who hid in his room upon hearing a robber ransacking his house and when the robber had gone, put on a front of bravado ordering his servant loudly for all to hear, “Ey, Chuppiah. Get the stick to beat off the robber.” The press conference at the Kachheri seems to me a case of inability to apply the appropriate rules to powerful politicians while posing to us Chuppiahs that the Kachcheri is serious about the regulations.

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  • 2
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

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

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    • 3
      1

      This is a comment to put the minds of readers at rest. (What did Nathan do to make CT disallow his comment … ?)
      I gave a Tamil adage in Tamil, – in the original format.
      The adage was on preaching to the world and not wanting to follow it yourself!
      (I skip the Tamil version to ensure that CT finds this acceptable).

  • 11
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    How did Mr. K. Mahesan think that the media wasn’t going to pickup on this hypocrisy and publicize it? Is the news reporter A. Kathiravan a lone wolf in the pack who recognized this needed to reported and exposed?.. Good on A. Kathiravan.

    All these officials and politicians lacking clarity and resolve on such a once in a lifetime public health matter is just crazy. We have seen this hypocrisy in other parts of the country too. The Rajapaksas attending Thondaman’s funeral procession comes to mind.

  • 10
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    soman

    I am sorry your favorite presidential candidate Trump didn’t do well in the elections.
    Will American war criminal Lieutenant Colonel Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa and American crook Basil Rohana Rajapaksa attend Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration ceremony?

  • 1
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    Thank You CT

    Pulling a hair out of an egg shell are we

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb-4LGi5bXU&list=PLeskMkEaHJYfbhpb6GbPATlXshAlQofMY

  • 2
    10

    A whining voice.

    Please see that he is given a front seat and enough food next time.

  • 4
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    Dear Kathiravan

    Thank you. Can you take up a new scope of writing weekly/monthly update of the structural set up in Jaffna of the administration please.

    Who is who as MP’s/LG elected, show a Jaffna district Map and mark up respective elects responsible for various elected officials “serving the people”, population breakdown under the respective elect and what they are responsible for etc.

    Conduct interviews with people who went the respective offices/surgeries/town hall meetings and their grievances/their experience of getting things done/were they guided & connected to the right places etc. Are they allying served without party political differences, caste, language and religious differences etc.

    Establish action list/progress report/mile stones of each elected and the media request update regularly for reporting to the public please.

    Please also map how much time the elected spent in their localities vs somewhere else, their attendance to the Parliament/LG council meetings meetings etc….if they do not ask them to explain why each sessions were missed etc.

    Observe them in their spaces as to the active nature of them…struggling to solve issues/unnecessary arguments/infighting/playing politics where no politics should be etc/there income & expense claims etc.

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      It is a lot of workload but this need tone done….ask them all to create a website reporting their work along with your goodselfs the news paper folks & journalist.
      This should be done not to undermine the elected and nor should be seen as for people to belittle them but to identify issues/limitations so we can have a National discussion/take the matter to respective GOSL departments accordingly etc.
      Please consider starting a journey of this nature if you ever want to see services delivered to people. Use Hon Alfred Thuriappa and my Father Thiagarajah as to what they did/how they did things so all the public needs are met as effectively as possible to make that change happen in peoples life.

  • 2
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    Kathiravan means SUN. We should be happy that sun light is ‘falling’ on the wrong doers and exposing them.

  • 0
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    Dear Kathiravan

    Can you kindly give us update on Jaffna waste municipality waste/water management and water salinity management/coastal erosion management please without any party politics/finger pointing please.

    (1) We have respective GOSL departments/Local Government departments/GA/MP’s/Elected Municipality/Mayors office.
    (2) We must have a local City and Rural planning expertise based on current needs (household & various industrail sectors) /future population and economical growth and who is driving these needs/town-hall meetings doing some ground work of discussing with the residents their needs/study works that is currently being conducted/funds allocated and being spent/future allocations etc???
    (3) Respective Ministers coming to Jaffna and able to discuss matters with officials and elected (without party politics) and the elected are able to translate what the Ministerial folks discuss with them to the masses??

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    (4) Can also kindly are with us our Media set up who has the capability to attend these events (once more not from the same old party politics) but objectively be nurtral professional yet expertise who can ask the right questions and translate the intended actions/planning from study work/engineering/construction/commissioning point of view.
    (5) Do we have our very active Environmental Groups down south (not there foreign NGO’s) well established in Jaffna and they take their messages to the schools/universities etc?? so all the above 4 points could be a sustainable QA/QC event as suppose to just doing something without the bigger regional/National picture in. mind??

    Please give us some feed back so all the diapora (not just Tamil but all srilankan) can contribute mentally and physically and their children can participate under the supervision from GOSL departments etc.

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