By Kumar David –
It was a surprise that last week’s Droll Stories of Gota’s Lockdown attracted so many readers comments. These long and lonesome curfew days folks must be looking for things to do. They say Russia produces so many Grand Masters in chess because of its interminably long winter. I am going to entertain you again. These are clean; if our Editor relaxes his puritanical comments policy, I will relate tales to match Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron; yarns about seven young women and three men who fled Florence for the country town of Fiesole to escape the plague of 1353. Though called bawdy, vulgar and licentious, it is a classic. Anyway, what do you think is going on here under cover of lockdown and curfew? [A serious note: The Decameron is a record of physical, psychological, and social effects of the previously unknown yersina pestis bacterium].
Did you know that to get into a bus or train to go work in the Colombo or Gampaha District one has to have a card certifying employment? Try his for a honk if you have a card printer and laminator. Invite your nephew to come to work; for the heck of it sign: “Manager, O Conner & Co”. I think there are scams going on. Those of you living outside the country will not believe this. On Saturday 17 May all bus and train services were cancelled because government servants don’t work the weekend. Jesus Christ, what about all the other poor sods!
Talk about social distancing. Buses in the outstations are packed at times. What do the Authorities make of this ridiculous inconsistency? For a revealing OMG-video of social distancing in Bombay. We ached under an all-island 34-hour curfew from Saturday (16) 8 pm to Monday 6 am and this outlandish routine will be indefinite. Perhaps some whiz in the Health Dept. discovered a virulent mutant SARS-cov2 Dimanche Zeylanicus which manifests only on Sundays! Or are we being drilled for life under military rule?
Why have they stopped teaching elementary physics in our medical schools? If you put a sealed container of water on the fire for 50 days and then break the seal, the explosive escape of steam will blow the roof. A govt. medical chap called Anil Jayasinghe (he has otherwise done a good job) and a medico-political charlatan Naveen de Zoysa expressed great fright that when liquor shops were opened after being locked down for 50 days. There was a hectic rush for the stuff that cheers. Grow up! Learn how markets forces function. My eleven-year old nephew is smarter, forecasting on Sunday “Uncle, there will a big rush when they open on Monday”. Between the two gentlemen, who the knave and who the fool?
Orders from upper class officials, comfortably ensconced in their sinecures, are fired at people who have lost their income. Here is an e-mail circulating from a much-respected captain but I do not have permission to quote his name. “I saw a line of poorly dressed people with sad long faces in the scorching sun; motionless, speechless personification of a soulless, solution-less plight. Waiting for the pawn-shop to open! That is the last straw; no one to borrow from, no one to assist, to the pawn-shop to feed the family. The lockdown and the curfew have beaten the majority; wage-earners, labourers, tuk-tuk wallahs and millions more”.
Here is another quote. Ram Manikkalingam: “Can Sri Lanka live with a governance vacuum — no parliament, no cabinet and no Prime Minister? There is a standoff between President and the Old Parliament. Parliament does not have the power to recall itself, President does not have power to hold elections and depends on the EC which cannot hold an election when it wishes to”. Article of14 May in Sunday Times. It’s all a topsy-turvy, humpty-dumpty merry-go-round; Sri Lanka has become midsummer night’s nightmare; it’s too grotesque to be funny. There is a disconnect, there is distrust. Fifty days ago, there was trust; but brutal harassment is changing that. People no longer believe such hardship is needed for the good of public health.
There was only one way out: To go to the Supreme Court. There are three cardinal questions SC will have to answer. After 2 June is the “old” parliament ‘recalled to life’ (whatever the legal jargon); in the prevailing exceptional circumstances who is empowered to fix and change election dates; thirdly, is the curfew now imposed on the nation illegal, sans parliamentary endorsement within 14 days. Whatever the SC determines on each issue half the country will agree, the other half will not. That matters not. If the court is seen to be unbiased and unintimidated by the executive, that’s good enough. (I hope not too big an IF). Some will grumble, but eventually an unbiased and unforced SC ruling will be accepted by all; there will be closure.