14 August, 2020

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Political Or People’s Interests In Dealing With Covid-19 Crisis? 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

For three months Sri Lankans watched the burgeoning coronavirus crisis in other parts of the world with a measure of equanimity as something that was faraway and international rather than national. There was a belief that the country’s warm climate would better protect it against inroads by COVID-19. More than the discovery of the first 28 victims of the virus as of Monday it has been the decisiveness of the government’s delayed response that has caused a measure of alarm. Initially the government imposed quarantine restrictions on those passengers coming from countries that had already been affected by the global pandemic and followed this up by stopping the issuance of visas and flights from them.

However, the seriousness of the crisis dawned when the government closed all schools for over a month. The closure of schools has been followed by a government directive that all public events and meetings be postponed and that the police have been given orders to take action against those who violate the directive. The unexpected declaration of Monday as a public holiday, followed by a further three day holiday, is a confirmation of the threat that lies ahead along with the uncertainty of what next. The video images of overflowing hospitals in Italy and the inhumane choices facing health workers there as to who should be given priority to life-sustaining machines has highlighted the importance of Sri Lanka avoiding going down that path at all costs.

The rationale for the government’s actions can be understood by studying the Chinese success in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. They imposed lockdowns of entire cities and regions to minimize the possibility of human travel and interaction. The logic is that the lesser the number of human interactions, the slower will the virus spread. This gives more scope for the country’s health system to cope with the numbers who are infected unlike in Italy where the numbers suddenly shot up. News media has reported that in addition China ordered school closures, no movies, no malls, no non-essential businesses open and most bank branches closed. Businesses get sprayed with disinfectant. Street fumigation takes place regularly. Building sterilization takes place several times a day.

Cinese Exception 

Despite the economic costs the government has made a timely decision to tackle the COVID- 19 threat. It has sought to restrict the mobility of people and their interactions in large numbers to slow down the rate of infection. The number of infected persons will grow for some time, but the rate of increase can be reduced. But even in China, which is a success story of disaster response once the nature of the disaster was understood, the number of those who were infected continues to rise. The total number of diagnosed cases has climbed to over 81,000 based on World Health Organisation (WHO) figures. The virus has spread to over 140 countries and territories. The global death toll has crossed 5,700, with more than 152,000 confirmed cases worldwide, according to the WHO, which declared the outbreak a pandemic.

The challenge for the government is its willingness to pay the political and economic costs that might be required for the people’s best interests. There is mixed evidence in this regard but overall the government has been proactive and acted earlier than many other more developed countries. On the one hand, the government took an early and necessary decision to set up quarantine centres and to order all passengers who suspected themselves to be infected or who came from coronavirus affected countries to undergo 14 days of quarantine. On the other hand, the government changed its original decision to set up a quarantine centre near to the airport due to protests from by influential government politicians and the local population who stake a claim to live there. Instead it ended up with the decision to take those who are in the categories who require quarantine to the distant Eastern province.

The most significant issue on which the government needs to consider the people’s interest is with regard to the exception it has made for Chinese citizens to enter the country without restriction. This has nothing to do with being anti-Chinese, but the fact that China like 140 other countries continues to struggle to contain the pandemic. The head of the Government Nursing Officers Association (GNOA), Saman Ratnapriya has questioned why China has been excluded from the two-week-long suspension of visas to foreign nationals. The former opposition MP who is also the President of the GNOA said that approximately 300 Chinese recently entered the country without being quarantined. The government spokesperson’s justification is that China has successfully contained the pandemic. But this does not mean that China is COVID- 19 free.

Correct Priority 

The media recently reported that China was to provide financial assistance, medications, medical equipment or anything required to fight against COVID-19. This is very important to Sri Lanka, and the Chinese government is to be commended for being willing to assist Sri Lanka in its time of need. The COVID- 19 crisis will exacerbate the economic problems as the economy slows down as supply chains break down. Stockmarket trading had to be suspended on two days due to its precipitous fall by five percent on each day. The tourism industry in particular is suffering heavily as foreign tourists can no longer come in without being subjected to quarantine and visas to many countries are no longer given.

The second major issue that the government will need to consider is the general election that is due on April 25. Both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Election Commission chairman Mahinda Deshapriya have stated that the elections will be held on schedule. There is a need for elections to be held as parliament has been dissolved. On the other hand, all government ministries are in place and can function under the leadership of the President and Prime Minister. The war against COVID- 19 needs to be given the utmost priority. Already the government has deployed the military, which is the most disciplined and best funded of all the state services, to take the lead in the battle.

In this time of crisis and with fear increasing in society, the state and public service needs to be focusing its attention on public health, public order and social welfare related issues and give less emphasis to less urgent issues. The government’s sudden decision to declare Monday as a public holiday, prohibition of on the conduct of events and to shut all the schools and universities for a month is an indication of the gravity of the situation and measures to come in the form of restrictions on movement and on large gatherings. An election at this time would require a massive diversion of human and economic resources to election related issues. The Chinese example must guide Sri Lanka at the present time.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    1

    Tourist attraction visit on warm country

    NO warm welcome WHO will accept tourist now. number of infected persons will grow for some time.
    The quarantine people during the election day how will they be present to vote, beside having the images of video images of overflowing hospitalsc, Both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Election Commission chairman Mahinda Deshapriya have stated that the elections will be held on schedule.
    disciplined action is use the election fud and best funded of all the state services, to take the lead in the battle.

  • 3
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    Of Boy… It is that Male Nurse Saman who is pissed about Chinese coming , although the Chinese Govt has given Prez Nandasean USD 1 Billion and another Renmembi 2 Billion to look after the inhabitants, until Prez Nandasen sort out the Economic Mess which the male Nurse’s Boss Dr Rani left behind.
    =
    It is funny that UNP’s Vodka Man Ranga also expressed his displeasure about our War Hero taking charge of the Quarantine, to prevent our Expats bringing Corona VD as a Sinhala New Year Present to their families.

    The talk now is Dr Rani and his Cabal who were in charge last Easter are now planning to recall the Parliament .
    And take charge again to run the Government under a special clause in our Constitution which deals with extra ordianary situations in the the Country.

    Wonder whether Male Nurse has read it , as soon as he got that spot in the National List, which Dr Rani’s Constitutional expert quit,
    And the male Nurse wanted to fill his shoes to help Dr Rani and his ex Cabinet

    What a talent the Elite , Anglicans the Velallas in the UNP have lost because of the premature retirement of this Male Nurse??.
    Wonder whether the Male Nurse is elligible for that 54 thou a momth plus Perks pension for the Yahapalana MPs who served Dr Rani and his Cabinet?.

  • 1
    1

    Dear Editor ,
    Colombo Telegraph.
    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I request you to kindly consider an instant short message source for readers to reach you for important and urgent communications.
    Thank you

  • 1
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    oh my corona what on earth have you done to the wonderful numerical number 2020.?
    =
    you have created many a pandemonium after a Pande of a pandi kutti all over the globe.?
    the citizens of most parts of the globe except the pacific tiny little nations and their governments are all at sea not knowing as to whether they are coming or a going.?
    =
    the sad sorry Lankan present rulers the rajapuka family are frustrated that as the whole wide world has been affected they just cannot give tax-free dollars to enrichen the girth on the backsides of their the might less rajapuka clan.
    how sad.?
    Donald trumpet till today has been blowing on his trumpet through his backside and only today admitted that his mighty nation will go into a recession which in suddha’s yak lingo means a Kota uda.
    he along with his Australian counterparts have conveniently forgotten that they have been Kota uda cases for many a moon.?
    =
    nowadays the pessimists are still continuing to dream on and on living in many an illusion that once after the demise of a few billion hapless folks the sun will once again shine on the backsides of many a now-bankrupt nation.
    dreams are free, I boldly say.?
    =
    now it is the right time for all the honorable world leaders along with their civic and medical experts rub shoulders to help in developing a fixable solution to rid the whole wide world of this man/woman eating cannibal.?
    the sooner it’s done is better for one and all.
    =
    in vain hope, the frustrated said and sickened R. J

    • 1
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      Johnpillai, what remarkable Singlish. Are you a Batticaloa Burgher of some kind?

  • 2
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    Situation is worsening and the numbers they telecast every day are much less. I have no doubt – these BPs abuse the situation to score more. No matter any poor ones would get caught.
    :
    Why Gotler stayed as if his penis is taken away, at the time Chinese TOURISTS entered the country. I saw that many of CHINESE people entering in BIA, until last 05.03, when we left the country for Europe after having our 2-weeks vacation.
    :
    Even today, Lanken president does not carea bout the danger before the nation, but Rajakashes honeymon with the CHINESE. What slaves they should be. I think smaller nations of our nature, not having proper infrastructure to controll if avalanche of the infected would be the case, as was the case in South Korea, …. we should long have been alert on this.
    :
    And BLACK africa is not yet met with e crisis – meaning where there higher temperatures are there, the countries enjoyed some natural immunity to spread of COVID 19.
    That is being interpreted by RAJAAPKSEH BIASED media as if they controlled it from the beginign on… Ballige puthas control their pockets only, no matter, even chinese would have raped out their wives.
    :
    Lanken situation is more or less like, going to an incabpel SURGEON in order to save the life. ::: AND make or stay hoping .. the world wonder would be the outcome.
    :
    Gota proved himsself to be AN ANOTHER BP Rajapkshes who cant do the job properly as pledged by volumes in the election campaigns.

  • 2
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    Let s allow Rajakshes brothers and families to F+++k us again.
    :
    We can become eternal slaves to China – but BP Rajakshes would be blessed with the discounts being offered to them.
    :
    Double faced Mahinda WOULD even licked the bones and flesh of the nation, to allow HIS son to be the next president of this country. Stupid Monks would stay licking his balls all alone for no good reason though. That has in their genetics – no meanings at all.

  • 1
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    Chinese let free because gots in the pocket of China for all the commissions collected. So if he says restrictions on Chinese, then the cats out of the bag.
    Even in china Beijing/Wuhan quarantine is continued. The guys who are coming here a trying to avoid quarantine and the wealthy business crowd. Might be infected or not, but certainly it’s funny when a doctor says thay are cleared without quarantine and check. No joke when our families are affected due to commissions and bribes .

  • 3
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    JEHAN Perera,

    Thanks for your article. Sri Lankans need to understand the gravity of the situation.They need to be proactive, bite the ballet and take the medicine now. This is not the time for appeasements.

    100 million Europeans are locked down and quarantined.

    More than seven million residents in the San Francisco Bay Area have been ordered to confine themselves to their homes, joining the ranks of Italy, Spain, France and China.

    “It’s bad,” President Trump conceded, as financial markets tanked and economists warned of a steep recession that might already be underway.

    Better late than never!

    Why can’t this proactive action be taken in Sri Lanka? Are some politicians waiting for bribes? Are they afraid of the Para-Sinhala Para “Buddhist” monks, because they would not be able to get the imbeciles, mean IQ 79, to prostrate to them?

  • 3
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    JEHAN Perera,

    As the United States continues to struggle to ramp up basic testing for COVID-19, experts at the World Health Organization on Monday emphasized that countries should prioritize such testing—and that social-distancing measures are not enough.

    “We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (aka Dr. Tedros) said in a press briefing March 16.

    Sri Lanka is not immune. Do the Sri Lankan’s have the intelligence, tenacity, determination to face the virus containment, or are they going to behave in their traditional 2,500 year old “civilization “ way, including prostrating to monks?

  • 2
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    Not even my dogs would bend down their heads to Rajakashes, but today s speech delivered by Gotler sounded not bad. He sounds to be a senstive person, but his advisers are from MR et al. As we know there is no body in ths country criminal than Mahinda Rajakashes. Anyone would stand against him was abducted and killed – and again to send the message calm and quiet he himself acted with his own tears. Remember the day Lasantha Wikramathunga was gunned down….. there the bugger set the assasination and in the press brieifiing he became soft how come…. that is the genetics of Rajaksehs. They are real high criminals.
    :
    If anyone among their siblings, Gotler could be different because he had some trainings in the Army and also in US. Even a dog that would stay 15 years in America would turn out to be POLITE… here that story of parrots lived with goodies – behave well than the parrots lived with idiots or rascals, speak the langague going by them.

  • 1
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    It is high time, to focus on introducing DATA BANK for ones coming from foreign countries. Specially ones coming from Italy – have been the core cause of the CORONA spread in the country today. :
    .
    President SHAMELESSLY speaks that he was unable to stop the BIG matches of Thomians.
    :
    So how can this VERY same person lead this nation – THAT IS WHY we are in the opinion, it was the media made his up…. HE IS A POLITICAL teenager.

  • 1
    2

    Dr. JP: there is a lot of unnecessary panic. This is a bio-weapon unleashed by the US which might still unleash it on Lanka if MCC and SOFA are not signed. Check out how Iran and Italy have been so badly affected and WHY at this link:
    https://youtu.be/bIeoSqpbj9Y
    Best to not panic and OVER_REACT. More people die of poverty, and structural violence than corona in South Asia. We needs to look at the facts, figures and data for South Asia.
    There have been ONLY 2 corona virus related deaths in the S. Asia region– both in India. Fewer than 30 cases of CORVID 19 have been discovered in Sri Lanka, not a single patient has died.
    Corona came to South Asia ONLY AFTER Donald Trump visited buddy Modi and sold hime 3 billion USD worth of weapons in the last week of February!
    Yet the Lanka economy has been shut down although it is arguable that more people die of normal influenza and diseases related to the structural violence of poverty, malnutrition and wasting, which is very likely considerably exacerbated at this time as South Asian economies, shut down and suffer and people lose jobs, work and income due to the shut-down of non-essential sectors.
    What is needed is a balanced and proportionate response, based on analysis of the facts, but the military mindset is not conducive balanced, measured and judicious response to bio-warfare.
    Ok we are stuck between a rock and hard place – like at Easter Sunday Carnage last year by the same villains

  • 1
    1

    ——–Gothapaya and MaRa along with Pohottuwa tribe want to go ahead the election as scheduled despite the devastating effect and risks of Chinese Virus Corona on the ordinary masses of the country.

    —–The Racist lunatics of Sinhala Buddhist tribe do not want to miss the opportunity to capitalize the memory of Easter Sunday Attack to dupe the gullible sinhala Buddhists and earn the highest possible votes —

    ————–Bovine headed Pohottuwa doesn’t understand that they are pursuing a dream – the two-third majority –that will never be realized.

    —-Pohottuwa is doomed along with its racist and corrupted regime—-

  • 0
    1

    “Already the government has deployed the military, which is the most disciplined and best funded of all the state services, to take the lead in the battle.”

    But to ‘Koti Diaspora’ and Malabar Wellala Demala politicians, Sri Lankan Army is the most undisciplined Army in the world with War Criminals.

  • 0
    1

    A relevant read;
    “Unethical Mosstroopers Have Entered Politics & Running Governance” – Part II
    Colombo Telegraph
    MARCH 16, 2020
    AUTHOR: LACILLE DE SILVA
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/unethical-mosstroopers-have-entered-politics-running-governance-part-ii/

  • 0
    1

    Jehan Perera,
    President Gotabhaya Rajapakse explained very clearly why it is necessary to hold election and form a Government.
    According to the President, the Government is cash-strapped because of the wickedness of the opposition. He said there are unsettled bills of the ‘Jadapalana’ Government running into billions and without settling those bills it is not possible to import fertilizer, medicine and few other essential items. .

    ‘Pad Man’ wants the Parliament to be reconvened to discuss how to deal with Corona crisis. The don-keys who could not prevent Wahabi Muslim terrorist attack despite having received all the information want to advise how to tackle Corona epidemic. Height of Stupidity!!!

  • 1
    0

    Sri Lanka has “SHUT DOWN” , one and the only Airport (BIA) for two weeks. That means no one can come into Sri Lanka. Now the question is : Isn’t it the responsibility of the Sri Lanka Government to allow it’s “Citizens” who are stationed abroad to come back to their mother country? In contrast, I saw a video clip of the Prime Minister of Canada addressing the Nation on March 16th, and stated: ” All visitors excepting the Canadian citizens , Permanent Residents and Americans are debarred from entering the country. Therefore, I urge all Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents to come back to the country without further delay. For this purpose, we have opened four Airports in the country for the International Carriers to operate to Canada. All the crew members who operate those flights are permitted to enter the country” . What’s that indicates? The Canadian Government KNOWS the responsibility to SECURE the SAFETY and the NEED to look after their citizens and permanent residents. In contrast, when the only available Airport (BIA) and the flights are closed down, for two weeks, how can it’s “CITIZENS” come back and isn’t it a highly “IRRESPONSIBLE” and a “DISHONORABLE” action on the part of their Government? Is this the way decisions must be made by a Government “OF THE PEOPLE & FOR THE PEOPLE”? To what low levels our Government Machinery from TOP to BOTTOM has sank, in DECISION MAKING. Can any more be expected?

  • 1
    1

    Mr. Jehan Perera: How about sending the whole parliament on a study tour to Italy, Europe, Iran and South Korea. they would help after studying it.

  • 1
    0

    I think its political interest. When the demand to make Mattala the airport to receive Corona country flights and use Mahinda Rajapakse Conference Center as the quarantine base, Katunayake was closed. This way Mattala and the MR Center will escape as no flights will come in. Rajapakse crookish mind working overtime.

    In the name of Corona protection, Army Commander is appointed as Lead Hand, this is Military Rule and this guy will use his powers, pretending to control Corona and control all anti-Rajapakse election propaganda. His appointment will last until the election is over.

    Election Commission should immediately stop all Print and TV media paid ads from political parties. All parties should be given equal time in all news and other political programs and write ups with no charge.

  • 0
    1

    BIA is closed for two weeks. GOVt should ask Jaffna TNA to take over the Palali air port and operate it to find some cash for them and get diverted all air lines to Jaffna.

  • 1
    1

    This ‘Dollar Kakka’ has written a sensible article after long long time … One of the worst parasite in srilankan media .. But, this time i commend for this article …

    By the way, if Gota is not on the driving seat of SL, country would have plunged to the bottom with this covid plague … Sira and Rani-L would have on each others neck with blaming each other while arresting Doctors as the country going down the drain… Meanwhile, ‘Soora Weera’ keselwaththa boy, Preme and 3% Ranil-Dasa (Anura Kumaraya Dissanayaka) are trying to get political advantage over the issue…

  • 1
    0

    The Rajapakses have reckoned that holding elections amidst the confusion of Covid-19 would be advantageous to them. Voter turnout will be low to facilitate electoral Jilmart!

  • 2
    0

    Have an all party conference and agree on finances to fight the Covid 19 than looking at other non beneficial events like election which was in any case would have been in 6 months time. The intellectuals in the country must infuse some sense into the people who govern and let them know the priorities

  • 0
    0

    Samagi Jana Balawegaya UPF) and Jana balawegaya had their political rallies just three months ago. Why do they want more political rallies. I think, they do not want to be THREE WHEELER PARTIES. So, they want elections postponed.
    This came from a top place. I heard Samagi Balawegaya immitating UNP had appointed all 35 as the working committee( as opposed to 42 seat holding UNP has 91 in the working committee. Anyway, UNF leader is asking enough politicians to win a NO CONFIDENCE MOTION against the goct. On the other hand, he and they are not sure whether they would get that many seats. So, he is thinking how much money is needed to win the NCM (because, they have to buy MPs). Their leader had said, I heard, AHH, THAT IS THE THING I COULD NOT ASK RANIL.). NOW HE KNOWS IF HE BECOMES THE PARTY LEADER, HE CAN USE VITO POWER TOO.

  • 1
    0

    . . .approximately 300 Chinese recently entered the country without being quarantined.

    This is tantamount to a national suicide wish.

    This is what happens when political self-interest overtakes received common sense.

    As always, in the end, it is WE the people who will suffer.

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