Attempt to politicize Corona Pandemic
Posted on April 1st, 2020


An unidentified leading politician opposed to the government and who aspires for the downfall of this government has told his supporters that Corona Virus is a divine blessing for them and all efforts should be made to make this deadly virus engulf the country and infuriate the people who would become unable to engage in their employments, the daily wage earners to earn their living, fishermen to go out for fishing and the country dried up of food, essential items, and drugs.

Reports said that the former MP Rodee Ranawaka has held a political meeting at his residence in Colombo and several persons have attended this meeting.  Police said that they will take appropriate action against the former MP and against all those who attended the meeting ignoring curfew rules relating to prohibition of gatherings.

A special report published by Sunday Times (29th March) stated that for many decades, Sri Lankans have displayed their ingenuity at historic moments even if what they said or did border on insanity. It said that some 65 years ago, an ayurvedic physician cum astrologer, came out with a recipe for a cocktail that would make dark women turn white. This was when the sun, moon and the earth aligned itself during a total eclipse that brought darkness during the daytime. When sunlight arrived later, they were either in hospital or vomiting from the inebriating wild brew. Instead of changing into white, they had turned red in hat health disaster which is immortalized by the baila song Bivva Neyda Vadakaha Sudhiya.

Over five decades ago, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon with a historic declaration that it was one small step for man but a giant leap for mankind. That giant leap, which then sparked visions of colonizing the moon, was good news for them. There was no need to work, for every day would be a holiday due to the full moon. One could say that was in jest.

And now, even before China could contain the outbreak of coronavirus, Sri Lankans had invented their own cure. The price of Asafoetida (or perunkayam) which stood at a mere Rs. 10 for a small piece shot up to Rs 300. It was said to be a hygienic deterrent when worn in a part of the body. It is a plant that has a bad smell and tastes bitter, sometimes called devil’s dung.” People use the plant’s resin, a gum-like material in solid form, as medicine.

Some tied ginger, lime, garlic and medicinal plants in their waist or neck. Various other so-called cures were trotted out, but the Department of Ayurveda flatly denied that any ayurvedic remedy had been found.

Just this week, Dr. Sita Arambepola, till recently the Governor of Western Province, declared on a television channel that a state institution has invented a medicine to cure coronavirus or COVID 19. She said, it was now a top-secret” and will only be made known in the coming days. Dr. Arambepola is now on the National List of the SLPP. Her announcement was after the World Health Organisation (WHO), declared it would take more than a year to find a cure for the virus.

Now comes a prescription from an unexpected quarter. It is from Sajith Premadasa, till recently the Leader of the Opposition and now Prime Ministerial aspirant at the upcoming parliamentary elections. This imbecile politico in a video clip has stated: I suggest the people use Platanol instead of Chloroquine because it will control the coronavirus.”

Platinol is a cancer medication that interferes with the growth of cancer cells and slows their growth and spread in the body.

An aide to Premadasa is reported to have received a call from London from the brother of a Colombo district parliamentarian, once a State Minister. He has asked that Mr. Premadasa be told not to let down those who were backing him by making such stupid” remarks.

His prescription was aired on a TV clip in the social media hours after US President Donald Trump told an internationally televised news conference that the cure for coronavirus was Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine. His remarks came in the presence of doctors and officials of the national health services in the US. Soon after the event, a coronavirus patient who took the drug was poisoned. A man in Phoenix, Arizona, died after self-administering the drug whilst his wife is seriously ill.

In the video, Mr. Premadasa does not say on whose advice he made the recommendation. But a staunch Premadasa loyalist has told another equally staunch supporter, both holding top positions, Anna eye ayith kata arala” or there, he has opened his mouth again.” The second man has replied Eyata Kata vahagena inna kiyanna” or tell him to keep his mouth shut.  Mr. Premadasa later made a statement apologising for his remarks.

Mr. Premadasa has won more space in social media after his medical prescription. One account said he should be sent to Italy where the virus is wide spreading and greater medical attention is required for the victims. Another praised UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe for not ceding the UNP leadership. There were also caricatures of Mr. Premadasa with a stethoscope around his neck and the titles MD and FRCP (Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians) after his name.

In line with these anti-national­­­ and inhuman attitudes of these politicos, the misbegotten coterie such as Jeppos National List nominee Kumar David, Crocodile Rajitha’s PRAA killing squad partner self-exiled Sunanda Deshapriya, Quisling Mangala, Bomb manufacturing expert for JVP  in 1971 under the pseudonym Podi Athula, Victor Ivan who co-authored Sajith Premadasa’s election manifesto with terrorist proxy Sumanthiran,  anti-Rajapaksa and pro-UNP NGO vulture Pakyasothy Saravanamuttu using his notorious websites Vikalpa and Groundciews and promoter of anti-national and anti-progressive political opinion Rajan Philips and many of their ilk have also made statements to espouse the people against the government claiming that the government is not taking adequate measures to successfully combat the virus situation and soon Sri Lanka will become similar to America and Italy.  It seems that their only desire is to gain political mileage over the coronavirus cadavers and topple this government while even a Britisher who left Sri Lanka recently has told BBC that he greatly admires the quarantine facilities being maintained by the government of Sri Lanka including the measures being taken to home deliver food, essential items, and medicines.

Dr, Asoka Bandarage, a well-known Sri Lankan academic and author of many books on analytical studies states that the origin of the virus and the disease is commonly attributed to an animal to human transmission (possibly from a bat) at a seafood market in Wuhan in Hubei Province, China in December 2019. US President Trump and the western media referred to it as the ‘Chinese virus’ or the ‘Wuhan virus’. While the Chinese government initially mishandled the response to the virus outbreak, China reported no new coronavirus cases on March 18. Chinese officials are now saying that the novel coronavirus originated in the United States and not in China. They claim that American soldiers brought COVID-19 to China and refer to a March 12 U.S. Congressional Oversight Committee hearing during which the Director of the CDC Robert Redfield stated that ‘some Americans who seemingly died from influenza were tested positive for novel coronavirus in the posthumous diagnosis’.

She says that there is also speculation the U.S. army’s DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) research and testing involving bats and coronaviruses and gene editing ‘bioweapons’ may have had a role to play in the outbreak of the virus in China.

Dr. Bandarage points out that reports from China state that a pharmaceutical drug manufactured by Cuba, Interferon B, Alfa 2B has significantly helped to stop the spread of the virus there. However, this drug seems to be overlooked in the U.S., and President Trump has called for ‘cutting red tape ‘to quickly get experimental drugs to people outside of clinical trials.

Victor Ivan in his Ravaya article this week titled Calling of Parliament and ignoring it” which is a demand made by his minion Sajith Premadasa has said that in a telephone discussion he had with a doctor he was told that it would be better if the parliament was kept closed without convening it.  Continuing further Ivan says that the Parliament in Sri Lanka is an institution filled with corruption. But until structural changes are made to that institution it is highly dangerous to keep it closed and allow an ad-hoc rule to prevail.

He says that even when Parliament was in a status of corruption some valid services were done by it, such as finding out, to some extent, about the Treasury Bonds scam and the Easter Sunday Carnage. 

He asserts that at the moment Sri Lanka is facing an unprecedented complicated situation.   Although there is an elected President the President does not have Executive Powers.  Similarly, the interim caretaker government also does not have the majority of power in Parliament. No one knows when a general election could be held.  Also, no one knows how many people will die at that time.  The fiscal powers of the government lie with the Parliament. All government institutions are constitutionally responsible to the Parliament.  Conducting the affairs of the State without a date for the election is improper and even the Auditor General’s constitutional powers rest with the prevalence of the Parliament.

Ivan further states that since the country has a President sans Executive Powers and a minority government rule many mistakes could take place from such a rule particularly in a crisis situation like this.    

He finds faults with the present situation in all sectors including apparel exports, food distribution, employment, etc, and emphasizes the importance to convene the Parliament to find solutions to these problems.

It should be reminded that Victor Ivan was one of the main leaders of the 1971 JVP uprising and one of the main slogans of theirs at that time was to destroy the Parliament which they said was an imperialist organ designed to suppress the people!  

The Island editorial on Sunday 29th March said that when the tsunami hit us and some other countries in December 2004, notably Indonesia which suffered the most damage both in human and material terms, the now raging coronavirus has affected the whole world to varying degrees – none of them minor. At this time when all concerned authorities, both at home and abroad, are striving might and main to contain the epidemic as best as possible, it is the duty of not only individuals but all mankind to cooperate to the utmost in containing the disease and halting its spread. It emphasized that all of us must pay a price not only in our own interest but in the interest of our neighbors as well as our brothers and sisters who may be living far away from us but who risk infection from individual acts of carelessness that could be due to either ignorance or selfishness.

It says that the cost of this epidemic, often described as a pandemic because it is of a scale crossing international boundaries and affecting large numbers of people on several continents, would be huge and the economic cost that must be incurred in terms of fighting the virus, caring for its victims and containing its spread is only a part of the big picture. It adds that production worldwide worth billions of dollars has evaporated into thin air with factory closures and the lockdown to varying degrees in different countries but fortunately, the technological great leap forward of recent years enable working from home and many other conveniences in offices that can minimize the physical presence of employees.

The editorial asserts that in the current globalized context, supply chain disruptions have forced the closure of many factories worldwide. Here in Sri Lanka too much of our vital garment industry is dependent on fabrics made in China and that surely would have affected production.

The editorial states while Lankans are quick to criticize our public services, which unarguably are bloated and carry many passengers on their payrolls many sectors in the public service essential to combat the virus responded magnificently to the challenge for which they deserve much credit. It was not ‘always breakdown’ as a popular television program was titled some years ago. There had been carping in some segments like the railway where ticket-less travel was made possible with employees hitting out at top management for the non-provision of protective gear and refusing to man ticket counters and do ticket checking on trains. Railway income, one report had it, was down to 20 percent of the usual. But since the virus hit us, the trains were not as crowded as usual and regardless of revenue losses; this is all to the good in the context of the need to avoid infection spreading crowds.

Referring to actions being taken by the President and the government the editorial emphasizes that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government were necessarily required to maintain a fine balance between over-reacting at great cost to the economy or under-reacting at the cost of the infection spreading. But as one person was quoted as telling a newspaper last week, it is better to over-react and laugh later than to under-react and cry.” Very many difficult decisions had to be taken by the administration and it did not shirk this responsibility for which all credit is due.

The Editorial points out that while fighting and containing the virus, it is also necessary for the country to look ahead. One priority area in this respect is food security. Sri Lanka has been blessed with a climate and geography that makes it possible for us to become self-sufficient at least in our essential food. Despite claims made by incumbent governments of different parties that we have achieved self-sufficiency in rice, imports are not few and far between. But today we are not a ship-to-mouth country as we once were. Sugar, milk, and fish are other products where self-sufficiency is possible given the required policies and the effort. Achieving the right balance between consumer and producer is the greatest challenge in this regard. Hopefully, we will have future governments that will act with the required wisdom to work towards this end.

Cooperation from people of all walks of life and sharing food with their neighbors even in the midst of their hardships are reported from all over the country and the Police have taken stern measures to apprehend the curfew violators.  By 29th March over 6,000 curfew violators and over 1,500 vehicles including 3 wheelers and motorcycles have been taken into custody.  The first corona death reported in the country, a person from Marawila was cremated today as per guidelines given by the WHO.  Meanwhile, the 6th batch of successfully quarantined patients left for their homes and they profusely praised the security forces and health care personnel for the magnificent treatment accorded to them. Several areas such as Obeysekerapura in Rajagiriya, Atulugama in Bandaeagama, Galrnbindunuwewa, Horowpathana and Kahatagasdigiliya in the Anuradhapura district and  Akurana in Kandy have been kept closed for 14 days following complaints that virus-infected people in these areas who had come after foreign visits have mingled with many people in the said areas and there is a danger looming about the spread of people getting contaminated.   

More and more philanthropists have come forward to donate funds to the Special Fund launched by the President while many apparel industries have suspended their regular production work and started manufacturing face masks and virus-proof jackets free of charge.  Some apparel industries have donated rolls of clothing material that had been imported from China to be used as bedspreads at quarantine centers.  Meanwhile, a multi-disciplinary team of Engineers of the medical and engineering faculties of the Peradeniya University has volunteered to manufacture ventilators for virus affected patients. This is being done in collaboration with the National Institute of Fundamental Studies in Kandy.  The Engineers of the CEB has volunteered to contribute a substantial amount of funds and several ICU beds and these beds have been made available to the Panadura hospital. The China Merchants Port Group (CMPort) has donated 1,000 pieces of protective gear to support the ongoing national campaign against the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. The protective gear has been designed for the doctors and other health workers treating COVID-19 patients.

Among the other measures the government will embark on as that has been outlined by Prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa will be :

  • Impose an import duty on fuel to recover profit margins from petroleum imports.
  • Authorize the Treasury Secretary to transfer Rs 4 billion to meet food subsidies certified by the Chairman of Lanka Sathosa/CWE and Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Authority.
  • Authorize the Treasury Secretary to transfer Rs 50 billion from the Fuel Price Stabilisation Fund to settle the debt of the Ceylon Electricity Board. The CEB’s Chairman and Board of Directors to be told to use this to settle the CEB’s loans to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation.
  • Encourage solar panel developers to implement an accelerated solar power unit for each household and the Government to subsidize the installation cost of such units in each house.

Premier Rajapaksa has noted that the National Budget and Appropriation Bill 2020 are prepared with fund flows expected to be improved most likely by the end of July this year.

A report by the Health Review Global said that Sri Lanka is setting an example with swift response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The report said that following a thorough analysis of public health measures employed by Sri Lanka.  We have studied the responses of many countries to the coronavirus pandemic. We at decided to select Sri Lanka for its swift and impressive response to the global epidemic despite being a second world economy. On top of it, we learned the importance of investing in public health, the Health Review Global reported. It said that the paradise nation is 100% vaccination covered, and all treatments under the extended program of immunization are administered free of charge and the Ministry of Health regulates and sets the guidance to the future policies of the health system.

In an interview with Sunday Observer of 29th March former UPFA Gampaha District parliamentarian Dr.Sudarshini Fernandopulle said our healthcare system is well equipped to handle the coronavirus outbreak and the Presidential Task Force for this purpose was established way back in January when the first corona case was reported in China in early January. Therefore, the relevant authorities have been given the necessary instructions to combat the coronavirus pandemic, she said.


Q: The number of corona infected persons has exceeded 615,970 around the world. In this backdrop are the measures are taken by the Government sufficient or should they do more?

A: Of course, the Government is doing a great job. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is giving necessary guidelines and taking important decisions when necessary and all necessary instructions had been given to the authorities to control the situation. The President and the Prime Minister have a good relationship in governance and Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi is giving good leadership at this time of crisis and we have a good Director General of Health Services and Epidemiologists. Our health infrastructure can cater to the grassroots level, and therefore, we have no fear to face the situation. As of March 28, 110 corona infected cases had been reported while over 237 patients were under observation in designated hospitals across the country. The Government, she said, is taking strict measures to enforce the law. Actually, these coronavirus cases were contracted through tourists, people associated with tourists and people returning from overseas. Those who squandered health surveillance were screened and all details of the returnees sent to the relevant MoH offices. The MoH offices through their health staff have noted down the addresses to monitor and follow them up. Unfortunately, some of those who were instructed to practice self-quarantine had not followed the guidelines. The Government has declared 19 hospitals to treat the coronavirus affected people and set up quarantine centers countrywide. The Government imposed the curfew countrywide to contain the outbreak of the disease.

Q: Is our healthcare system adequately prepared and equipped to handle the crisis?

A: Of course. We have a very good health infrastructure. We have a midwife for every 3,000 patients and a Public Health Inspector for 10,000 to 15,000 people. We have good disease surveillance, monitoring, follow up and notification systems. Sometimes, there may be shortfalls but generally, our healthcare system is good, and the health staff is capable of handling the situation, but of course, we need the cooperation of the people as well. Our ICU capacity may not be on par with developed countries. But with the available resources, we have been effectively managing the corona outbreak.

Q: There have been many reports of irresponsible behavior by members of the public despite Government restrictions. What is your advice to the public to tide over this crisis?

A: The public has to take responsibility because the coronavirus spreads through droplets and contamination. As far as possible, we have to advise people to avoid public places. Sometimes, you have to go out to buy food items, and you should then use a facemask and wash hands often. We should also refrain from touching the facemask as well as the mouth and the eyes. If your hands are contaminated, it could enter your system. We should remain calm and not panic. The young or the elderly who have lung diseases, heart diseases or diabetes may be at a higher risk of contracting the disease. Therefore, with a large number of such cases, it would be difficult for the Government to manage quarantine centers.

Q: How do you see the role played by the Armed forces and the health care system at this critical moment?

A:I as a public representative must thank the health authorities starting from the higher officers to all other categories. At present, they are doing a tremendous job. The tri-forces too are doing a great job. The Government has set up a National Operation Centre for the prevention of COVID-19 outbreak headed by the Army Commander. Collaborative efforts are being made to take quick decisions and the Sri Lanka Army is giving great assistance and technical support to adopt whatever is needed in the present situation.

Q: On personal hygiene what can we do to prevent any viral infection?

A: The main thing is to avoid public places. It is appropriate to use a facemask when you have to visit public places such as supermarkets and shops. You should always wash your hands and use a sanitizer regularly and avoid touching the nose, eyes, and mouth, and also have a frequent drink of water.

Q: Will the closure of the Airport for incoming flights have a big effect on preventing the coronavirus spread in Sri Lanka?

A: Of course. Most of the cases were reported by those who came from Italy. The closure of the Airport is a wise step taken by the Government. There may be repercussions. In my electorate too, lots of people depend on hiring vehicles to and from the Airport. However, we have to take preventive measures to safeguard the lives of the people.

Q: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has announced a series of relief measures to the public who have been hard hit by the coronavirus. Are these measures sufficient or do you think the Government should do more?

A: The President has done an excellent job by reducing the prices of some essential goods including dhal and canned fish. Those who draw daily wages cannot afford other items. I read many comments by the people praising the President for reducing the prices of these items. The President has also declared a relief package for those who have obtained loans, giving them a six month grace period. These are good moves to uplift the living conditions of the low-income group.

Q: There have been many calls to postpone the General Election and also to reconvene Parliament to discuss this critical issue. What is your comment on this?

A: The lives of the people should not be put at risk. We have to campaign for the election and have pocket meetings. Everybody has stopped their campaigns. The lives of the people come first so that the postponement of the election is not a major issue. This decision was taken by the Chairman of the Election Commission. I think it is a good move to postpone the election until the coronavirus cases reduce.

To be continued………….

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