Getting Over Present Impasse
Charles Dickens begins his landmark historical novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ with the famous words, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …’, but the time we have been going through over the last two and a half years can hardly be called the best of times or an age of wisdom, as the President himself admitted the shortcomings in his Government.
It all started with the dastardly bombings at three churches and three hotels by an extremist Islamist terrorist group in 2019 to be followed with the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected the whole world, spreading here in early 2020. Added to this arose health worker trade union action, teacher strikes and farmer protests which have been direct results of the economic downturn precipitated by the disruption, caused by the pandemic, of almost every activity.
No one could refute the claim and disprove that all chemical fertiliser requirements for the previous season had been imported and it was hoarding by big time traders to sell at exorbitantly high prices that resulted in the shortage. If the sudden decision to stop the import of chemical fertiliser for the current season was to save the US$ 400 million due to the dollar shortage it should have drawn not the ire but the commiseration of the people to the Government’s plight as the country is cash strapped due to the unfortunate health crisis.
The silver lining in the cloud is Venerable Muruththettuwe Ananda Nayake Thera of Abhayaramaya, Narahenpita in his wisdom, deciding not to proceed with the trade union action by the Public Service United Nurses Union which he leads. This is in contrast to farmers incited by, especially, two or more parties being head over heels opposed to the Government continuing their protests, beating with sticks, burning and giving burials to the effigies of Ministers, carrying coffins, using rude and crude language such as diyavu, palayavu, thopi, etc., which not only children but even adults should not be exposed to, some teacher leaders grinding their teeth and a farmer leader yelling like a devil! All this is ceaselessly telecast not only in news bulleting but also in other programmes by a TV channel, so that the public are denied current information vital to them on topics such as the state of the corona virus epidemic in the country.
In addition it would do well for the Opposition political parties to note that display of political rivalry that was earlier confined to Parliament and the public arena has now entered homes poisoning home environments putting members of the same family having differing political views including children at loggerheads owing to ugly scenes shown on TV and the intolerable din created.
After the corona virus disease having been brought under control after the initial spread in around March 2020, and two subsequent upsurges one with April New Year shoppers being the cause and the other caused by the deadlier Delta virus the country is now seeing hope with reduced patients, less hospitalisations, requirement of oxygen getting lessened and only a few dying of the disease per day. The main reason for the corona virus disease being able to be controlled has been the successful vaccination campaign made possible by the Government laying emphasis on it and giving it top priority.
However, it is regrettable that the Opposition political parties egged on teachers and farmers to continue with their trade union action despite the Government taking remedial action giving a fair solution to the issue of anomalies in teacher salaries, and importing fertiliser.
Whatever the merits and the demerits of the decision to open schools, just as Buddhist schools of the 1950s did not open for a new term on a Monday as it was astrologically inauspicious the opening hour being under the influence of malefic Rahu, but on an auspicious Tuesday, today’s practice of opening Government schools on Thursday is to allow for the cleaning of the premises and the classrooms for the children to start learning in a clean environment on Monday.
So, what the teacher unions that did not turn up on Thursday, last, wittingly or unwittingly committed was the feudalistic act of getting the schools cleaned by others treating them as servants! Whatever the faults of the Government are it is catastrophic, for the country and its people, for the Opposition to create further difficulties for it as it is not the opportune moment: it in incumbent upon all to help the Government, and not further obstruct it, to tide over the present crisis.