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Politics during a crisis Can COVID-19 change this system?

2 April 2020 12:05 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The entire country is under the command of the security forces and medical experts. Here Paramedics and security personnel prepare to evacuate a patient from Atulugama on March 29, 2020

 

There are many positives that have come about due to the present Coronavirus despite there being no signs of the day we can move about freely again. One of those good signs is that the president of the country has got closer to the people thanks to the efforts he had taken to marshall the employees of serving his ‘force’. 


There was a time when some sections of the society looked at the security forces with fear. But now they view the men in uniform with so much love; for the efforts taken and sacrifices made to cater to the needs of those who were quarantined at government maintained health facilities. 


The entire country is under the command of the security forces and medical experts. This has made the lawmakers of the country virtually redundant. What would the role of the politicians be at this juncture? Just the other day Samagi Jana Balawegaya Leader Sajith Premadasa complained to the government that the regime shouldn’t politisise the distribution of essential goods. Also on record is the issuing of a joint statement by a group of opposition lawmakers who are highlighting the fact that the government shouldn’t spend funds illegally during this challenging time. They also say in the statement that the government delayed initiating an action plan to deal with the pandemic in its eagerness to conduct the elections. That’s the old system that exists; the system that an apolitical head of state like Gotabaya Rajapaksa wishes to change. 


The shortcomings of the present regime are much less compared to the Yahapalana government which was unceremoniously shown the door at the last presidential elections. But we must be careful as citizens and not settle for less than the best government that can be installed. We never liked the corruption in the Yahapalana regime. We can never be satisfied with a new regime which is less corrupt. We as citizens of this nation demand zero corruption. At the time of writing we get to hear from credible sources a leading cement factory in Hambantota, at which powerful authorities are stake holders, is continuing with operations and employing an overseas worker who has not finished his quarantine period. Other workers at the factory are infuriated because of the risk they are exposed to due to the presence of this expatriate. The spokesperson for the factory refuted claims of employing any expatriate worker at the site who has not gone through a proper quarantine period. It must be underscored that the authorities who speak of promoting safety during this pandemic must practise what 
they preach. 

 

What must be termed as patriotic is not merely something that a politician does to play to the gallery; what is termed patriotic must be the ethical thing to do


In Sri Lanka one fact which puzzles us is that we have sections of the society whose opinions can be negative regarding a matter which the whole world otherwise might deem positive. Take for an example the attacks in prisoners at the Angunakolapellessa and Welikade prisons respectively. The Angunakolapellessa incident took place at the time of the Yahapalana regime in 2018 while the Welikada incident took place in 2012 when the Mahinda Rajapaksa government was in full swing. Both incidents were politically orchestrated. We might not feel sorry when a prisoner is beaten up inside a prison, but we can’t stomach it when such incidents amount to breaching of human rights. 


If we go down memory lane people in the country voted for a change of regime in 2015. Voters expected new faces and a new way of governance from politicians. But the new regime saw a good number of the same old faces return as ministers. 

It may be a new practice for them, but these two men are learning to wear protective face masks as they support measures taken by the government to combat the Coronavirus disease (Reuters)


Gotabaya has a challenge. He must learn from the island’s past. Maithripala Sirisena, at the initial stages of the presidency, wanted to keep a promise to change the system. But like in the past he too realised, in a painfully way, that this system can’t be changed. The only little thing that stands in good stead for Gotabaya is the manner in which he has taken to politics. Unlike the man he was when he served as defence secretary, Gotabaya, now, is not an individual. He is a system! 


But the system that exists finds its strength from the thinking which in a way promotes ‘a frog in the well’ approach to life. For example the late CPL. Ranjith Premasiri’s (NERO) son W.E Dhanushka Premasiri’s joining the Army and going in the footsteps of his dad is considered commendable and thought as the right thing to do. But when the son of the late Rohana Wijeweera, Uvindu Vidura Wijeweera, contemplates joining the formidable Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and not the JVP (Which his dad formed) critics belive that Wijeweera junior is making a mistake. This makes people question whether he should further his personal interests at the expense of maintaining family roots? For the record Wijeweera junior has also stressed in a newspaper interview with a weekend Sinhala newspaper that what ails this country is a ‘fault in the system’. 

 

A leading cement factory in Hambantota, at which powerful authorities are stake holders, is continuing with operations and employing an overseas worker who has not finished his quarantine period


We have remained as a divided nation. The British promoted the divide and rule system and our politicians nurtured this unofficial way of governance. Tragedy always brought us together, but only for a short time. This COVID -19 virus has pulled at our heartstrings. It has made us forget that we are blue, green or purple. But one thing remains unchanged; something which can be termed a bad habit. And that is the fact that we are a selfish nation. Even if the political landscape is changed this built-in characteristic may die very slowly; or it never would. 
Some like Gotabaya, some don’t. However this is not the time to oppose him. If you stand in his way it amounts to standing in the way of the efforts being taken to combat the present life-threatening virus. We can have radical thoughts. But the present is more a time for us to remain as traditional, obedient students. 

 

The only little thing that stands in good stead for Gotabaya is the manner in which he has taken to politics. Unlike the man he was when he served as defence secretary, Gotabaya, now, is not an individual. He is a system! 


If Gotabaya can’t change the system, may be COVID -19 could. Our history is tainted with acts which we term as patriotic; acts which however might not go down well in the framework of democracy and fair play. When a film like ‘Sulanga Enu Pinisa’ was banned in Sri Lanka, it had already won the Camaraderie Award at the Cains Film Festival. What must be termed as patriotic is not merely something that a politician does to play to the gallery; what is termed patriotic must be the ethical thing to do. 


COVID-19 has taught us to love one another and be more responsible. The virus also has the potential to change us and uproot the roots of selfishness for good! 

 

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  • Thanga Friday, 10 April 2020 08:43 AM

    We as citizens of this nation demand zero corruption. From whom? Gotabaya? Remember the construction of the ‘D A Rajapaksa Mausoleum and Museum at Medamulana? Gotabaya past reveals he is the epicentre of corruption per se! Gotabaya Rajapaksa owes a sum of Rs.47.9 million to Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLRDC) for the construction of the ‘D A Rajapaksa Mausoleum and Museum at Medamula. This is a glaring case of using/misusing public resources for private purposes. Worse the project was approved by none other than Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his capacity as the Secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development. The original estimate was Rs. 33.9 million but during construction the cost ballooned to Rs.81.2 million. Only Rs.33.9  settled so far leaving a balance of Rs. 47.9 million. I am sure the old man must be turning in his grave seeing his sons constructing a Mausoleum and Museum for him at taxpayer's expense!


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