This year`s election originally to have been held on April 25 but postponed to June 20 would be finally held on August 5 under unusual circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic breathing down our necks on the one side and having to strictly adhere to the prescribed health guidelines on the other.
Amid the confusion and uncertainty overshadowing the voting process, comes the assurance by Election Commission Chief Mahinda Deshapriya that votes need not entertain any fear to come to the polling station because it would be one of the safest places to be next Wednesday considering all the precautions being taken to ensure the safety of all stakeholders – those on election duty and those coming there to exercise their franchise. No sooner the election is concluded and the winning party assumes office, it has the onerous duty of fulfilling the promises it made in its election manifesto, on election platforms and especially during this year’s campaign via cyber networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. But going by past records, there is little or no chance of these promises, which have a short life span, being ever fulfilled other than to leave the people disappointed with nowhere to go or no one to turn to for redress. It is no surprise that this happens every time an election comes round, because there are a sufficient number of people with fickle memories prepared to swallow the bait and asking to be fooled all of the time.
The fact that promises are repeatedly broken has been indirectly admitted to by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) candidate Udaya Gammanpila, who recently proposed that a ‘national review council’ be set up to inquire into as to what impedes a large part of the seemingly attractive pledges or promises made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the presidential election from being fulfilled. If we are even unable to depend on promises made by the then presidential candidate, how much less can we depend on the ‘mouth-watering’ promises made by the candidates contesting the general election? Maybe, we might have to wait for another review council to unravel the reasons for disappointing the voters. By then another election and another set of promises will appear on the horizon.
Meanwhile, panic buttons were pressed and alarm bells began ringing last Friday when the authorities at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) in Angoda found that a 41-year-old COVID-19-infected patient, a former inmate of the Kandakadu Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre had escaped and was freely roaming around possibly spreading the disease to whomsoever he came in contact with.
After a massive search operation launched by the security forces and the police to track down the runaway COVID-19 patient -- known to be a drug addict and trace those whom he might have come in contact with -- was finally located in the vicinity of the Colombo National Hospital and taken to the IDH under armed escort and later removed to the Kandakadu quarantine centre. To everyone’s relief, the Health Services Director General Dr. Anil Jasingha has now said the escapee is not a source of infection and was on the verge of being discharged, pending a final PCR test, though however the contact tracing process is continuing.
This incident clearly indicates that the people cannot afford to lower their guard but remain alert and vigilant and continue to adhere to the health guidelines, which include physical distancing, hand hygiene, the wearing of face masks and the avoidance of public gatherings. Unfortunately, what is clearly visible is that the guidelines are rarely if at all observed. Buses and trains continue to be overcrowded and people are seen jostling against each other in attempts to reach VVIPs who descend on election propaganda rallies.
Be that as it may, another matter which undoubtedly brings a sigh of relief is that, with a week to go for the general election, the Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) had called off their work stoppage from yesterday based on the assurances given by the Prime Minister and the DGHS that their concerns would be duly addressed and resolved. The PHIs are an integral part of Sri Lanka’s healthcare services and were performing a yeoman service during these difficult times and their return to normal duties will be a much needed boost or a fillip especially during the run-up to the general election and the fight against the deadly virus which has by no means been eradicated.