Coronavirus which has by now proved itself to be a killer-pandemic has devastated the entire world, making no distinction whatsoever either of persons or their social status. It has become both an individual and collective menace enveloping mankind across continents, islands and oceans. It can strike anyone, anywhere and at anytime in a manner that is ruthless. It is a merciless villain that has already amassed over a million victims worldwide, of whom hundreds of thousands have succumbed to its lethal sting. Death stalks everywhere while doctors and medical researchers are frantically on the move attending on the sick, struggling to find a vaccine for its cure or at least some effective ways and means of detection and prevention of the deadly virus.
The main lesson the world learns is that medical science is not a panacea for all ills. No one knows or could ever predict what other deadly infections might overtake the human population in decades to come. The tide would risk making this brand new century a record-breaking span that sees so much of life trampled upon with people blissfully ignorant of remedies to meet the threats and challenges of such overarching health hazards.
LETHAL DRAMA OF LIFE AND DEATH
Life and death are poised in battle array these days. The origins of the current pandemic is being hotly disputed both at the level of private opinion and institutional structures. There are threats by the legal profession to take China to an international court for violation of the right to life of hundreds of thousands of innocent people across the globe as is proved so far by its onslaught. The World Health Organisation (WHO) however holds the position that coronavirus is not manmade but should be identified as a natural catastrophe that has environmental causes for its origin and expansion at this unbelievable rate. Whatever the opinions, it is not at the moment an issue for speculation or blame, but a time for concerted effort to cure the victims, prevent its rapid spread and minimise deaths. There is no gainsaying that the challenge is medical, social and purely and simply human. Life is at stake and the whole episode shows how we ought to consider the preciousness of human life and that the utmost has to be done to protect it from being attacked by sickness and death.
The confrontation with the challenge of the pandemic should make the whole of mankind aware, across cultures and geopolitical borders, that human life is at the zenith of mystery and that all human systems that support life such as economics, political systems, art and culture, media and communications, science and technology and international relations are all meant to be at the service of life and its amelioration: in other words a better and quality grade of life for all. This virus and its heartless onslaught are even of a worse kind than the tragedy that followed the dropping of atomic bombs over Pearl Harbour killing thousands of innocent unarmed civilians, the crimes against humanity under Hitler which exterminated six million Jews in the gas-chambers of Auschwitz, the recent evils of the Iraqi war and at the moment, the 28 or so regional armed conflicts put together!
ATTITUDES AND RESPONSES
It is in a moment of tragedy of such enormous proportions that the mettle of generosity, human compassion and cooperation can be tested and proven. In the grand phalanx of doctors, nurses and other voluntary personnel who are risking their lives and sacrificing so much to attend to the sick and dying, one sees the possibility of mankind’s incredible capacity for loving service and solidarity. The nature of the tragedy calls for a global concern and response. The role of the media not only in keeping the world population informed of the actual day to day situation, but also undertaking a process of conscientization and education of the masses regarding precautions to be taken against the contraction of the virus would be of great benefit to all. Every effort must be made for the psychological support of those subjected to trauma and their near and dear ones who are affected emotionally.
Status quo of the nation is such that the greatest attention has to be on ensuring the safety of people’s health. We are not yet sure whether the intruder is wholly held at bay despite efforts being made to do so. While the state, medical personnel and the armed forces have put their hands to the plow in no small measure, there is still a lack of public awareness regarding their own response and cooperation to arrest the plague. It is understandable that Sri Lankans are facing the challenges of this magnitude for the first time in its recent history. We have had it hard during a three-decade ethnic war that rocked us and a devastating tsunami which brought the pale of death to many. Both these events struck the economy and deranged civil life. Now comes the intruder of a global pandemic that seems to spare no one. The nation is learning to cope with it, adjusting to the discipline of curfews imposed, social distancing and undergoing many a hardship being locked inside their homes with restricted hours to see to their daily domestic needs. Needless to say, the appalling impact on the economy would be staggering as time ticks away. Both the state sector and private enterprise have ground to a halt. People have been struck with anxiety and worry, with youth and children becoming restless, deprived of their work in school. It is not all who have the luxury of taking their lessons online. We are ill-equipped in this regard. Social evils of drugs and alcohol have been scandalously on the rise.
ISSUES AT CROSSROADS
And then there is the issue of the parliamentary election which had become a controversial topic that breeds a constitutional crisis in the judgment of many. Where is the priority concern that should occupy the governing authorities at the moment? The havoc caused by the pandemic will also affect the election process and procedures inevitably and at the end of the day, it is the people who will have to face the dire consequences and bear the brunt of it all. All right-thinking people feel there is a clash of issues: pandemic vs elections. There can be no democratic process that could be launched when a country is seriously unstable, such as the situation in vogue. The fundamental human right of people to safety of life and their daily living must take priority over all other concerns. The state is finally responsible not only for a viable democratic way of life, but more importantly to keeping the nation healthy and safe from any deadly virus.
Practical procedures that need to be followed when conducting the election, the personnel for election duties needed, travel and safety measures to be taken and so forth have to be seen in the light of millions of rupees that have to be dumped at a time when such funds need to be invested in arresting the pandemic. The election phenomenon would turn out to be a regrettable failure of democracy, a comedy of errors and invariably a sign of contradiction. The country and its people cannot afford to be put through the agony of such a painful experience.
It is the duty incumbent on governing authorities to tide over their vested interests and hidden agendas which becomes a categorical imperative in the light of the common good of the citizenry. The nature of real patriotism and genuine love of the country should emerge in the light of challenges that vex the nation. A killer virus is on the prowl and people are still restless with the lot of the poor crying for their daily needs heard desperately everywhere, particularly in the rural areas. There are serious complaints regarding how financial transactions are being carried out with funds allocated for the relief of the poor and grants distributed. While skills of medical officers have to be at the service of the victims with the state facilitating the machinery needed to sustain healing, all other concerns have to fade into secondary consideration till a conducive atmosphere returns. This angel of death must be defeated. We must all embrace the culture of life that is worthy of a true human civilisation evolving towards a fuller humanity and keep the pride of a country so rich in religious traditions which are always pro-life and pathways to justice and true human happiness.