19 May, 2022


Truth: Accurate, Approximate   

By Sarath de Alwis  –

Sarath de Alwis

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them” – Galileo Galilei   

These are dark times. Seeking truth in dark times need more light and more effort.  Our problem is not so much about what truth is. Our problem is more about how and by whom the truth is established. 

Prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has issued a media release with a scathingly censorious headline. “Politicking in the midst of the Corona Crisis.”  

In the media release issued on 4th May 2020, Premier Rajapaksa is categorical in asserting that “Parliament was dissolved at the beginning of March when there were no Coronavirus patients in the country.” 

He is accurate in his statement. Accuracy is not the same as factual truth. It is possible to give an entirely accurate account of an untruth.

What may appear to be obvious may not always be true.

Charlie Chaplin once took part in a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest. The consensus was that he had come first. It turned out that he had come third. Graceful clown he was, he conceded that there could be others practicing the art in which he set the gold standard.

The general belief was that Napoleon Bonaparte was below average height. In truth, at 5ft 7, Napoleon was much taller than the average Frenchmen of his time.

Few people would believe that Donald Duck had a middle name. In fact, his creator Dick Lundy gave him the name Donald Fauntleroy Duck. Truth has many facets. How do you know? What do you mean by?  The endless cascade of such questions indicates the depth of despair of a cynical society.   

Truth has many facets. Truth is what you see. Opinions are what you hear. Facts are what you know. Reality is what you have experienced. 

When parliament was dissolved, Sri Lanka had already had its first encounter with COVID-19. 

Xinhua- the Chinese news agency reported it in a story datelined Colombo 19th February. Its caption announced to the world “Sole COVID-19 patient in Sri Lanka discharged from hospital after recovery “ 

The news report quoted Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi. 

“As the health minister, I am very happy that the tourist who contracted the coronavirus was successfully treated and she can return back to China, safely,” Wanniarachchi  told reporters after greeting the cured patient.

“It is also commendable that no other individual has been infected with the virus in Sri Lanka and for this I am thankful to the president for the swift steps he took to prevent the virus from spreading in Sri Lanka,” 

The statement by the Mister of Health in mid-February reflects the sanguine mirage that we pursued in the matter of the COVID-19 threat. 

The Prime minster would have reached closer to the  truth if he had said that at the time of dissolution, there were no known or suspected Coronavirus patients in the country.  

The timeline of COVID 19 up to the dissolution of parliament on 2nd March 2020 unfolds in the following  order.  

 31st Dec 2019- China informs WHO of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, Hubei Province attributed to a novel coronavirus.

1 January 2020 – The WHO sets up the IMST (Incident Management Support Team) across the three levels of the organization: headquarters, regional headquarters and country level, putting the organization on an emergency footing for dealing with the outbreak. Our Ministry of Health must tell us if they received this notice.

4  January 2020 – WHO through the internet reported that here was a cluster of pneumonia cases – with no deaths – in the City of Wuhan in the province of  Hubei in China. 

5 January 2020 – The WHO published the report on the virus in its technical publication to the  scientific and public health community and the global media. It contained a risk assessment and advice and reported on what China had told the organization about the status of patients and the public health response on the cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan.

10 January 2020 – WHO issued a comprehensive package of technical guidance online with advice to all countries on how to detect, test and manage potential cases, based on what was known about the virus at the time. This guidance was shared with WHO’s regional emergency directors to share with WHO representatives in countries.

12 January 2020- China publicly shared the genetic sequence of COVID-19.

13 January 2020 – Thailand reported the first COVID 19 case outside China.

22 January 2020-  WHO mission to China announced that there was evidence of human-to-human transmission in Wuhan but more investigation was needed to understand the full extent of transmission.

22- 23 January 2020 – The WHO Director- General convened an  Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations  to assess whether the outbreak constituted a public health emergency of international concern. The independent members from around the world could not reach a consensus based on the evidence available at the time. They asked to be reconvened within 10 days after receiving more information.

30 January 2020 – WHO declared the new coronavirus outbreak (2019-nCoV) a PHEIC. A Public Health Emergency of International Concern. 

3 February 2020 – WHO released its Strategic Preparedness and Repose Plan that was specifically intended for countries with weak public health systems.

11 March 2020 – Confronted by alarming levels of spread and severity, COVID 19 was declared a pandemic.

So, what is the truth? What did we know of COVID19 when parliament was dissolved on 2nd March? 

It happened two months and two days after China broke the news to the world. It happened nine days before it was declared a pandemic. 

It was 31 days or one calendar month after the World Health Organization declared COVID 19 to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. 

It was made 12 days after our own Infectious Diseases Hospital treated and discharged the first identified COVID 19 patient in Sri Lanka. 

There was some harsh maligning of a ‘selfish druggie’ from a Colombo tenement who was alleged to have endangered the lives of many. How is that the first known virus carrier who brought it to our land like no other well before the dissolution of parliament got a ‘Thoththu’ for her troubles. 

We live in a post truth world. Truth is there, only if we are prepared to look for it. Truth has ceased to be plain and simple. 

Confronted with the convoluted logic of Prime minster Mahinda Rajapaksa’s idea of truth and fact one must retreat to the earliest Aristotelian definition of truth. “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false; while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.”

Truth must be nurtured. Defense of truth must not be made into the defense of a specific truth of a specific kind that serves a specific purpose. 

We must have shared values in discovering truth. As things stand, we are a long way from that ideal state. Perhaps scientists will discover a vaccine for the virus before we discover our shared values in understanding truth. 

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Latest comments

  • 19

    I do not find the article useful because the subject of the author’s attention cannot be a “case” for examination. The “case” he has chosen is of a veteran politician in a third world country who has already amended a national constitution to enable a sitting president to contest for re-election for as long as he wished. This was done when he was president. There are many unanswered questions from mysterious events such as what happened to funds received for the Asian tsunami, a fund called “Helping Hambantota”, Daisy aachchi’s bag of gems, the sibling syndicate that would trash legal restrictions and lie to the public with much disdain for the constituents and a string of very dubious actions. Of course, he is certainly not alone in being dishonest. His opposite number in parliament and entire coteries of hangers-on have no respect for the truth and would trammel it with impunity. Therefore, the author’s attempt at exposing one lie about covid-19 infections from the case he has examined, is a waste of time.

  • 16

    If you want find the truth, you should know who murdered Lasantha, one time best friend of Mahinda Rajapakse. Who will answer to this question?
    It is not a secret that a person known as KP was a lifetime LTTE arm dealer who had dealings with billions. The whole world know he was arrested in Malaysia by Malaysian authorities and handed over to former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse of Mahinda Government. Do you know the truth behind the release of KP who was wanted by for his criminal activities. Over 30000 Sinhala military died with his arms and over 50000 Sinhala military personal made disabled. Did any one bothered about to find the truth?

    • 1

      Also for the deaths of 100s of thousands of Sri Lankans

  • 4

    Ajith: I agree with your comments. Sometimes, even if the truth is “FOUND”, there are “Superceeding Dictates’ that “Cover” up that truth and pave a way to evade responsibility and escape liability. A case in point is, the “Misuse” of public funds to build the “D.A.Rajapakse Memorial”. The “TRUTH” was found in one answer to the question- Why did a part of the total misuse of Public Funds was repaid? But, as I said here “Superceeding Dictates” of the Constitution, covered the Truth. So, under “Supreme Commands”, TRUTH cannot survive. If the truth is to survive, many sacrifices have to be made. That is how Gauthama Buddha found the TRUTH. But even that “TRUTH” is under attack today.

  • 1

    Very Academic. But in trying to apply to a politician of a third world country does not evoke much interest. Even in the first world the term “Politician’s Promise” means its an empty set of words which if at all be implemented in a manner to suit the political powers of the day and not according to the spirit of the promise. Since the author was writing on an abstract subject and showing that truth and accuracy can differ I found this statement on a webpage when I searched for the difference between truth and accurate “Truth is most often used to mean in accord with fact or reality. Accuracy is the quality of being true, but includes the element of being correct, precise or exact.”

  • 5

    Good one. In fact I wanted to construct a chronological list like this and put in with the GLP false essay. By it looked it was going take some time. Then I thought that anyone who read CT knows all the truth about GLP’s essays. Any this has what I wished.

    The royal took a good look at Carnivorous. They planned to infect some area with a controlled spread. First they used Tamils and Muslim names. Tamils immediately started to blame Swiss pastor as gone sale for Aanduwa’s trap. Unfortunately some moronic Muslim leaders picked up on two Muslims death and their cremation. They explained one treatment for all is like Sinhala Only. Sinhalese were easily agitated by this foolishness and stared to feel that 100s of Muslims were dying and Aanduwa secretly burned. Muslim leaders supplied freely, what Aanduwa wanted. This took the tension very close to 2nd Digana. Aanduwa manipulated the Corona numbers and set ready for election sweep out with a 2/3. But one after other, they faced resistance. EC was sacred to go ahead with election. Aanduwa called back Dingana preparation and loaded on the EC for election de-buckling responsibility. But this de-buckling has hurt the majority Aanduwa looked for. Aanduwa now has no idea how to take forward mass arrest for 4/21. Mass has no idea about what is the planning underneath the Covid-19. It has no idea why Muslims go arrested. It had not even a slightest iota idea what is going on the constitutional violation.

  • 7

    Why such a painstaking essay ????? In my opinion Rajapaksas and MS are nothing but liars who seldom spoke truth.The above title may be worthy for UNP crooks who were good at spinning facts. (especially RW). Rajapaksas lack any remorse or empathy, so much so that they could claim “zero casualty” on international platform. He lied to courts (Tsunami), lied to Sushma, lied to Ban ki and Lee Kuan had called him out on several occasions. But for Lankans it is always about bad vs worse. Never about good vs bad.

  • 2

    Truth is just a word that can be manipulated. In these modern times, what matters is how the truth is perceived because we can be in denial even if facts are in front of our eyes. Success is all about ‘optimising’ opportunities & any situation can be exploited for positive advantage by distorting the truth with a bit of ‘spin’ & ‘spin doctors’ are in great demand today. Goebbels did it for the Nazis & so does Trump today. Our politicians have mastered the art & SL has spin doctors in abundance, from self serving cronies in the form of academics & professionals to unethical journalists & judiciary who fail to stand up to the truth. It is up to the society to be rational in their thinking or accept the rhetoric per se & live blissfully in denial.

  • 3

    This is really meaningless ‘hair splitting, taken to the nth degree!
    What matters is the time the first COVID 19 case was reported in Sri Lanka, and the actions the government took since.
    Analysis of the kind presented here is just work for idle hands (and brains).

  • 0

    Truth is not a fact; Fact is consumes truth is distributed. Crow is black is fact. You just know it. It doesn’t affect you life or your honest or mind. But truth does. Truth’s needs in the material world are only philosophical. Normal or ordinary life does not call for truth- the “truth, nothing but truth”. That life defines the truth only according to the circumstances on the fly. You lent a man $10. But he says you gave only $7, return 7. You get along with the life not treating him as cheated. Your lending practice is dependent only on truth, not on “truth, nothing but truth”. . Because this is only normal life he could borrow from you another $20. This why the $18 B thieves are back on power and the civilians completely ignores that theft but concentrated on Central Bank theft. Normal understanding of democracy is people will seek truth from their representatives. That is a basic need & duty of the people for democracy to survive. But in no democratic country’s reps are truthful people. So the truth sought in elections and democracies existing in that country are correlated, connected by a mathematical function. That function is dependent on the countries’ education, wealth, length of parliamentary government, culture, religion practiced……… So it is not wrong if said that what truth is for is what salary you earn is, for an instance. If your country practices high transparency for administration, you are forced to live on a higher grade truth (market quality). Your definition of truth is advanced than others. The transparency keeps your democracy as honest?-democracy. People more are more learning to live with self-defined truth. So the need of the “truth, nothing but truth” is only in philosophical world, not in the real world.

    • 0

      An easy way to grasp truth is, it is donkey, just in the same sense of law.

  • 0

    If the subject is ‘Politics During Corona Crisis ‘ don’t waste your time. The moment I saw the title of MR’s article I ignored it. The author there is a politician, an ‘ace’ one at that. The author here is more ingenious, more tricky. Regular You Tube viewers have a name for that : ‘click-bait’ titles. I was fooled by the present title until I came to
    “Prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has issued a media release with a scathingly censorious headline. “Politicking in the midst of the Corona Crisis.” “
    I don’t know what followed.


  • 3

    In my book Gotha and MR are born LIARS. It is not Approxumately but Precisely to te mm.

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