Dear Parliamentarians,

Dilshani Palugaswewa | Published: 4:45 AM May 8 2021

Dilshani Palugaswewa addresses ‘one country, two healthcare rules and regulations’

It’s no news that we have thousands of people testing positive every day for COVID-19, a battle we have been combatting for over a year now. Ever since, our fight – yours and mine – has been to do whatever we can to curtail this invisible monster hacking into our bodies and leaving us to die with no family around and no last goodbyes, just typical backgrounds of discomforting hospital hallways, more panic, more despair, and the unpleasant noises of lifesaving machines, losing trace of yet another functioning heartbeat. You know the drill. These are unusual times, I don’t have to remind you. What I do need to remind you however, is the need for unusual action. 

From day one of Sri Lanka’s fight against the pandemic, we saw a few good things happen but more bad ones. We witnessed a handful of positives and a whole lot of negatives. And yes we are aware you take the credit for all the little things that was done right and point the finger at us for all the ‘wrongs’. We know the drill. I don’t need to tell you that the impact of curfew, lockdown, and work/school from home did not impact everyone across the board, equally. Some of us were elated to work remotely and spend time with our families while others somehow managed and many, many more barely survived. And for the most part, we understood that it was a necessary move to assess and assist our situation because in the eyes of the virus, everyone was at risk – there was no discrimination. 

Right from here though, there was inequitable conduct. When health authorities put in place a set of regulations we were told that no one can bypass. No special passes during curfew, no big gathering at funerals, everyone wore facemasks, kept a distance and life went on after lockdown was lifted. Now, just when we were somewhat recuperating from the second wave, this third one has proven to be the worst of all. And judging by neighbouring India who is fighting pretty much the impossible, our catastrophe doesn’t seem too farfetched. Here’s the problem though. These rules and regulations only apply to those who don’t have the slimmest connection to anyone of you. 

In the past week almost every day, Police arrested hundreds of people for violating health regulations and going out in public without a mask. But where was the same treatment when just a few weeks ago, so-called upper class individuals shamelessly occupied the stadium of the Royal Turf Club in Nuwara Eliya wearing fascinators (that were far from fascinating) instead of masks and absolutely no sign of social distancing, like they were in a parallel universe where a global pandemic was non-existent? But sure, bodily arrest people in Jaffna for doing far less damage and hardly protesting authorities taking them away.

 Recently, when a large crowd attended a festival at the Sri Kamakshi Amman Kovil in Jaffna violating the same rules as the aforementioned, the Chairman and Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the kovil were arrested – how so? Is it because horse racing is an essential service, thus excluded of the same ramifications? Even more recent, when we had fully understood that the situation had gone from bad to worse, and the Government announced they had put all State functions too, on the backburner for two weeks, the Attorney General’s Department held a ceremony to unveil the new office premises of the AG’s Department which for your information, was graced by the Prime Minister – five days after the announcement. 

Following suite, the very next day, the Opposition Leader also made no efforts to prioritise public health security or the Governments decision and went ahead with a ceremony of his own (with a large gathering) to mark the 28th death anniversary of the former President Ranasinghe Premadasa. I hope he realises he loses the right to point fingers at the Government for failing to manage this crisis when he himself added to the mess. Point is, yet again, all of you have failed to demonstrate any leadership. Because the law is below you and above us. 

At least when you knew the high-spreading variant was present in the country as early as the beginning of last month, a warning would have been nice. Why was the country allowed to celebrate New Year like we did? Not to act ungrateful, but I think we wouldn’t have minded not celebrating the New Year in the manner we did if that’s what it takes to have all our loved ones with us today. But I guess our best interests are more like a pipedream. Fun fact: You know what’s worse than not having a functioning heartbeat? Having a fully functioning one but acting like you have no trace of it. 

Sincerely, You can go back to arresting beauty queens and vehicle honkers, it’s what you do best 

Dilshani Palugaswewa | Published: 4:45 AM May 8 2021

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