Elton John added spice to ‘Spice Girls’ singing…, ‘Overwear, underwear, anytime, anywhere’, the pop number that was released in Concept album-1999.
The Central Bank imposed a 100% cash deposit for the import of ‘non-essentials’: [an indirect ban?] which hastily incorporated mobile phones and computers too. The rest included TVs, fridges, wine, A/Cs, clothing, and quite sensibly, Underwear and Nightdresses. The policy on computers and mobile phones adversely affect the online education and ‘work-from-home’ agenda. Generally, the restriction is unfavourable to the small and medium [S&M] importers. Whereas, it is a bonanza for the sharks that speculated on restrictions, following the ban on car imports in early 2020, and had their warehouses packed with home appliances and electronic gadgets. The imports statistics for such items as confirmed by the customs data annexed with the gazette, reveals that imports in the first eight months of 2021, exceeded the total for the year 2020.
Bargaining deals being the order of the day; the few large scale importers connected to big-wigs in politico/official networks, could now reap undue profits by disposing of the hoarded stocks at current market prices plus the non incurred interest component [proposed 100% deposit] added on. They can even collude and set up another Mafia, wiping off the under-resourced S&M sector.
Back to “amude”?
Hullaballoo about Underwear—Those who make criticisms, have left the vital Computers and Mobile phones aside and have hung on to panties and thongs: they suggest back to “amudes”. It reminds one, of a speech by RS Perera, the hilarious former MP for Kelaniya, [1960s]; where a ‘blind seventh’ was introduced by him to the ancient Indian parable of “Six blind men and an elephant” [the six attempt to describe the form of a Pachyderm by groping six different organs]. Addressing the election meetings from the opposition platform, he compared the then minister of trade, who enthusiastically and repeatedly spoke of the private sector to his ‘seventh’ who had crept under the belly of the giant animal groping the private.…!
Those who have patronized the high-end outlets in Europe, would know that most of the imported world famous brands labeled, Marks & Spencers or Triumph and even the much vaunted Victoria’s Secret, are made here and not only in Europe/US. Let the ladies have their choice: should men fight for imported ‘guy’s jockstraps and thongs’. Is it disregarding people’s rights to wear underwear of their choice that some critics were trying to stress? A specified percentage of export quality underwear [legally allowed?] to enter the local market too: perhaps for the benefit of those who intend to occasionally expose them in a, ‘bit on the side’?
"A large majority of them belong to the families of the 60% ‘daily earner’ category, who are badly affected by lockdowns--making the malnutrition rate go beyond recovery. The suffering children will not die immediately. However, it can lead to catastrophic situations in the future"
Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, restricted textile imports in the 1970s, for Dr. W. Dahanayake, the maverick ex-PM to protest by attending Parliament clad in an Amude (loin cloth). While media camera crew had a field day, the authorities disallowed the ‘Improperly attired’ veteran legislator in, who reminded them that, the so-called ‘Half-naked Pakeer’ [Mahatma Gandhi] who wore a simple dhoti-loincloth was granted an audience with Emperor at Buckingham whenever he sought one. We live beyond our means wearing expensive underwear and struggle for survival. It is not only the village peasant, but virtually every male, for the past six or seven decades, as Robert Knox wrote, unless on a special occasion, they were seen in Amudes, a quite respectable casual dress, especially among the Kandyan peasantry—we cannot go back. However, it was worn by both former Presidents, JR Jayewardene and R. Premadasa at annual Vap Magul ceremonies in 1980s; a ritual practiced by ancient kings. The writer has nostalgic memories of his mother and the female teacher struggling to dress him as a ‘Goviya’ in an ‘Amude’ for the fancy dress, in his Kindergarten days in 1948/9. Finally, it was the Head Mistress’s rickshaw-man, who helped in the endeavor.
Human Life or Economy? No more Lockdowns!
They prefix “scientific” [their last resort?] to advocate opposing or contradictory views from a divided platform and mislead the laymen and misguide the political authorities. The Pandemic has destroyed the unity among members of the prestigious Medical Profession; and pushed up trade unionists to an undeserving ‘high pedestal’. The GMOA made a very reasonable demand—priority for their families in vaccinations, but ended up in a mockery, with the families of their neighbours, friends and relatives too, joining the queue. Even a 12 year-old child of a doctor is said to have received the jab. They are now blaming the involvement of the military. It is not practically feasible to enforce an ideal ‘scientific lockdown’ to the liking of all stake-holders concerned.
The virus will continue to take its toll irrespective of such measures. The world tried these ‘scientific’ and ‘non-scientific’ lockdowns, but they never succeeded. Europe and America kept their countries locked down for long periods. Some have now opened their countries in the midst of the pandemic, some even during peak times and have told people to learn how to live with it. The only way out is the vaccination and for each individual to understand his or her role and take precautions accordingly. As the world experienced, most nations reached a peak and then it receded.
‘Lives or Economy’- has become a dull slogan of some activists whose depths are equal in measure to the ‘peni-drinkers’, ‘pot carriers’ and ‘pistol-wielding’ ministers. We discuss underwear in a country where one-sixth of under-six are already suffering from malnutrition. The other day, a ‘3-wheeler’ man, a father of three kids, expressed his suffering, pain, distress, and misery to the writer. A large majority of them belong to the families of the 60% ‘daily earner’ category, who are badly affected by lockdowns--making the malnutrition rate go beyond recovery. The suffering children will not die immediately. However, it can lead to catastrophic situations in the future. It is quite obvious that the impact of all negative effects of Quarantine Curfews was stomached by the hardest hit downtrodden section. The PMI for manufacturing recorded 45.1 in August - a drop of 12.7 points from July. The CSE trading activities became negative following the announcement on the extension of lockdown until October 1. However, the silver line is the exemption from UK’s RED list, now tourists returning from Sri Lanka will no longer have to stay in hotel quarantine in UK. With the military handling sections of the operation, Sri Lanka moved at a lightning speed with our well trained and dedicated healthcare system.
True, we haven’t faced a similar daunting situation previously. We don’t know what information to gather, and therefore, are unable to make a rational decision or predict the outcome of our choice. Meeting the challenges of a disaster is a multi-disciplinary task! In a pandemic situation, the medical specialists [divided in opinion though] are the stakeholders with the highest influence, but they cannot or do not, wield the deciding or ‘Veto’ power. Other stakeholders of economic, social, welfare, security, logistics etc., can play resistant, supportive or neutral but important, roles. The new minister must be capable of recommending his choice, after weighing the pros and cons and the potential impact on the nation at large.