Friday Forum virus is worse than Covid19 | Sunday Observer

Friday Forum virus is worse than Covid19

10 May, 2020

Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Dr. Usvatte-Aratchi and Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare of the Friday Forum have come out with another one of their usual sermons composed purportedly to guide the people trapped in Covid19 pandemic. Prof. Savitri Goonesekera and her two ideological clones front up claiming that they are not alone but have the backing of their fellow-travellers -- just to impress that there are some heavyweights behind them. That apart, in these critical times we should welcome this sermon of public intellectuals as a beacon of light thrown into the surrounding darkness. But, unfortunately, they seem to be more confused than the populace looking for a way out, putting in doubt their capacity to even find the difference between the Corona virus and Toyota Corona.

These intellectuals begin by commending all those engaged in fighting the invisible enemy – from the President down to the public health system at all levels. They even venture to say that in this crisis the state’s dedication and commitment has placed us in a “much better (position) than in some developed countries.”

Then they abandon the Covid19 pandemic which has gripped the whole world and – hey presto! -- switch to local politics which has nothing to do with the critical issues related to viruses and the people, their central theme. Of the sixteen paragraphs on their sermon on VIRUSES AND THE PEOPLE only the opening para deals with the pandemic. The rest is focused on fear-mongering to promote their usual anti-national political agenda.

These intellectuals of the Friday Forum know that in this crisis thousands are dying daily without a cure. And the figure is likely to rise to millions if a cure is not found soon. Scientists say that a more contagious mutant of coronavirus strain has been sweeping Europe and the US. (Sky News).

But they say that “what is of special importance to all citizens” is, (1) threats to democracy, (2) tendency to authoritarianism, (3) violating rule of law, (4) failure to complete the rewriting of the Constitution to redefine democracy as a government not of the majority and (5) generally to keep the Sinhala-Buddhist majority tied to the cart that gives the minority a free ride.

According to the three leading persons and their fellow members the issue facing the nation is not Covid19. It has been taken care of effectively by the committed and dedicated State run by the Rajapaksas, they say. According to them the issue is the politics of the Rajapaksas.

They don’t say so openly but the subtext refers to the politics of the Rajapaksas who won a mandate, against all odds, with the backing of the majority who happens to be the Sinhala-Buddhists.

Now their worry is that the Rajapaksas might win “a huge majority (a 2/3)” in the coming parliamentary election, whenever it is held. So they shift the focus of their sermon away from the critical Covid19 and direct it to target their anti-Rajapaksa, anti-majority political agenda.

They say that “what is of importance to all citizens”, inter alia, is “a government elected with a huge majority (a 2/3) (which) can soon transform itself into an authoritarian regime, in the name of “the People”! Ringing their alarm bells, they cry out loud: “This is not a time to reject democracy and replace it with authoritarianism in the name of strong leadership.”

Imagine the three leading personalities walking into a hospital ward full of Covid 19 victims and announcing that the crisis facing them is not finding a vaccine asap but rewriting the Constitution to cut down the legal/ constitutional status of the majority until it is brought down to the level of a minority – i.e., to make the minority the majority -- and also to prevent the creation of “a government elected with a huge majority (a 2/3).” They are joined by another fear-monger from the Peradeniya University. Quite appropriately, he calls himself ANI Eka-nayake – a name which translated loosely can mean one-man ruler. Obviously, these people stuck in enforced boredom have nothing better to do than to stoke fears of Gotabaya becoming an “Eka-nayake”.

As against this group in academia and NGOs the compassionate world is rallying behind the collective endeavours to save the world from a virus that is threatening to rain chaos on civilisation.

This is indeed a crisis that must be viewed from a global context and just not within the local parameters. Bill Gates who was the first to warn in 2015 the coming of the next virus (to that of Ebola) is pouring billions into finding a cure. Nearly a hundred laboratories the world over are labouring round the clock to combat the invisible enemy overcrowding cemeteries.

Donald Trump the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s mightiest military power, is helpless in preventing a miniscule microbe entering his domain. Some of the scientists are doubtful whether they can find an answer within the next 18 months, though there are heart-warming snippets of news saying that they are on the verge of breaking through. Some analysts predict that millions would die, perhaps with the coming of a second wave.

And what is the response of this group to this pandemic which is threatening to explode into Biblical proportions? They are using this deadly virus to push their anti-national political agenda as if that is the most urgent need to save our part of the world. Prof. Savithri Goonesekere should be ashamed to lend her name to such a partisan and heartless propaganda campaign that has no relevance to the pandemic. She has a reputation to protect, particularly that of her respected husband.

When she goes down this track of exploiting the agony and the suffering of our people to make them believe that the most important thing at this moment is to fall in line with the failed agenda of this group of intellectuals, she declares openly that she is in the bandwagon of divisive and corrosive politics that will reignite destructive minoritarianism – a force that has been the bane of the nation in the post-independent period.

With time hanging on their hands in these boring days the other two have also exposed their utter indifference to the most critical threat to our lives. One does not have to be in the professoriate to know that when a man is shot with an arrow the others around him do not have to rewrite constitutions to find solutions.

Elementary intelligence would have informed them that the first thing to do is to pull the arrow out and apply the first available remedy. UN’s World Food Program (WFP) is predicting the escalation of food starvation from 135 million to double that (245) as a consequence of the pandemic.

As of now we do not know how the food supply chain will hold out if the mechanism breaks down globally and more importantly in our neck of the woods.

And all what these people can think of is rewriting the Constitution and other issues totally irrelevant to the crisis facing humanity. Their political cynicism reveals only their inability to rise from the depths of their moral depravity.

According to the three the future lies in reversing the mandate given to Gotabaya. This means also preventing Mahinda Rajapaksa getting a majority in the coming parliamentary elections. Their perennial political ambition has been to whittle down the powers of the majority and their representatives until the minority is enthroned as the majority. Right now they are frustrated because decades of anti-Sinhala-Buddhist propaganda have been rejected by the electorate giving a mandate to the Rajapaksas to redress the imbalances of history.

So they pick up any stick that comes to hand to beat the Rajapaksas and the majority. Now they have picked up the Covid19 to shift the focus of their sermon to the politics of the majority and the Rajapaksas without naming names.

Hinting at the grand sweep of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ride to power – and also the possible chance of winning a Parliamentary majority – they say: “World history as well as the post independence history of Sri Lanka shows how a government elected with a huge majority (a 2/3) can soon transform itself into an authoritarian regime, in the name of “the People”.” They also sermonise, with another Jeremiah: “Critical issues of democratic and accountable governance must be discussed in public and private fora, and continue to engage our attention.”

What has all this got to do with their theme titled, VIRUSES AND THE PEOPLE? None of the issues listed by them has any relevance to the immediate existential needs of the people. Coronavirus is challenging on an unprecedented scale the values on which the global society is based. The most urgent question is, when will normalcy return.

And when it returns what will the new normalcy look like? If the virus drags on will social distancing change future human relationships? Can technology take the place of absent human beings? Can a new supply chain be developed and maintained to bring food to the table? Can an all-purpose antidote be developed in laboratories to prevent the spread of future viruses which may be deadlier than Covid19?

Will a second wave sweep the globe like a tsunami killing more people? Can the interconnected global market survive the overwhelming backlash from the pandemic? What shape and form will the future schools and universities take? What new instrumentalities and strategies must the global community and states organise to combat future viruses which could turn more virulent? What preparations must be put in place to meet the challenges of the inevitable viral crises that are bound to break out in the future?

This pandemic has thrown mankind off balance. The new challenges are humongous and numerous. Instead of going after the big issues our lumpen intellectuals pick on their two bete noirs – the majority consisting mainly of the Sinhala-Buddhists and the Rajapaksas.

Their obsession with the majority and the Rajapaksas who represent them is incurable. They will turn each new crisis and twist it, as they have done in the past, to project the majority as the evil force that is causing all the problems to the minorities. It is, of course, common knowledge that the coronavirus is a leveller: it does not differentiate between the minority and majority.

But our local egg heads – or is it bone heads? – have run to the conclusion that it is not coronavirus that must be dealt with urgently before it gets out of hand but the Sinhala-Buddhist majority and the Rajapaksas who are on the verge of “transforming itself into an authoritarian regime.”

They are politicising the virus to raise fears about (1) the majority (Sinhala-Buddhists) and (2) authoritarianism (Rajapaksas) – both of which, according to them, are waiting to take over the nation at the opportune moment.

Let me reemphasize their hidden agenda circulating in their warped political imagination. They say: “This is not a time to reject democracy and replace it with authoritarianism in the name of strong leadership.” Here they project the fear of some hidden force/s waiting to reject democracy and replace it with a dictatorship. There is no evidence for this statement. This is their imagined fear.

They are totally irresponsible – nay, idiotic! – when they make sweeping statements without having evidence to substantiate it. Which serious – I repeat, serious, not stray -- political platform has come out saying that they want to reject democracy and replace it with authoritarianism? When in the first flush of victory at Nandikadal the fringe freaks floated the idea of making Mahinda Rajapaksa “a king”, the notion was cut down instantly by the late S. L. Gunasekera and the nation as a whole, including the Rajapaksas who pooh-poohed it.

Subsequent attempts to extend the life of the presidency too failed. An irreversible and concretised sense of democracy has prevailed since independence. This reality is known to the Three who state:

“The response to the Covid19 pandemic has shown us very clearly that effective political leadership can be given, especially in a time of national crisis, when it is combined with space for the contribution of relevant stakeholders in making decisions.”

If, as they say, “an effective political leadership can be given in times of crisis ” in collaboration with “relevant stakeholders in making decisions” why must the Rajapaksa leadership “reject democracy and replace it with a dictatorship”? Do they know what they are talking about? They can’t make one statement in one place without contradicting another.

These are sophomoronic academics who can’t write a credible paper to get an ordinary pass in the kindergarten. On second thoughts, after cogitating over the priorities listed by them I think there is a possibility of my agreeing to change the Constitution provided the first clause is written to guarantee the prevention of the professoriate being inundated with idiots.

Take, for instance, the example of the Rajapaksas fighting, almost single-handed, the most bitter war that raged for 33 years (from May 1976 when the Tamil declared war against “the Sinhala state” to Nandikadal in May 2009) within a democratic framework , however defective it may have been. If there was one excuse for the Rajapaksas to take over dictatorial powers it was the Vadukoddai War declared by the Tamil leadership against the democratically elected state.

The issues pressing the Rajapaksa brothers were far more daunting than the current threats to the nation. They had to fight not only a Tamil Pol Pot at home but also an international front backed by some of the Big Brothers who descended with the sole intent of twisting the arm of the two brothers. But they didn’t. That knocks off ten points of Ekanayake whose perverse political imagination can only concoct images of Gotabaya riding in Hitler’s boots.

The majority, to their everlasting credit, fought the most brutal war waged by a minority within parliamentary parameters, giving protection even to the TNA (Terrorist Nominated Agents).

Besides, who has heard anyone of them, including Ekanayake in academia, demanding that the Vadukoddai War fought from the Tamil end should conform, at least in a minimalist way, to democratic norms.

On the contrary, they were all rallying round the Tamil Pol Pot and urging the international community and the GOSL to strengthen his powers. I can’t remember any one of them demanding the dismantling of Tamil tyranny as the first step to restore peace, security and stability and reconciliation. Advancing bogus theories they were arguing the need to consolidate Tamil tyranny in order fight their bogeyman, the Sinhalese.

Their actions have made it to mean prostituting democratic values to consolidate and legitimise minoritarian brutalities and fascism.