Corona Diary, a bid to educate people to face pandemics - Milinda Rajapaksha | Sunday Observer

Corona Diary, a bid to educate people to face pandemics - Milinda Rajapaksha

20 September, 2020

Corona Diary, a Sinhala book on Covid-19 pandemic, written by Milinda Rajapaksha was launched recently. It describes the events and issues in Sri Lanka during the first three months of the Covid-19 curfew and how the Government tackled the pandemic. The Sunday Observer spoke to Milinda Rajapaksha to discuss the book and issues regarding Covid-19. Milinda is the Media Spokesperson for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and one of the youngest members of the Colombo Municipal Council. He is also a visiting lecturer at the University of Kelaniya and a consultant on Creative Strategy at Triad (Pvt) Ltd. His first book, One Hundred Misplaced Letters, is a representation of his lifelong passion for politics.


Q: How did the book come about?

A. This was an experiment started as soon as the island-wide curfew was imposed on March 16. When we were forced to stay at home, I realised that something different was going to happen which we were not familiar with. I started to put those things into words in a diary form for us to understand what is going on.

All news on the Covid-19 pandemic reached me immediately because of my political affiliations, and I also followed the international media to update on Covid-19. Initially, I thought curfew would continue only for two weeks, but it went on and on.

I was also continuing with my writing on Covid-19 issues. I had no intention to publish a book on the matter. My sole purpose was to understand how people think, how they deal with it and how it affects the people. However, when I saw the global scenario, our political landscape and people’s response to it, I thought it is worthwhile to publish a book on Covid-19 events.

Q: The book is in a diary form. How do you introduce it to the people?

A. I have read a few diaries, from which I came to know that a diary has to be based on a socially significant time, or a significant person. My whole focus was on the situation which we have never experienced in recent history.

This is a diary on issues of a pandemic-isolated people. When I read the book, I can’t believe whether we ever went through such three months in our life. We must be thankful to the Government for managing such a global pandemic.

When we look at the situation in most developed and powerful countries, this will be a record in history.

Q: Was there any research on the book?

A. No. Research is all on the paper, TV and the Internet. The book was written on what was happening in the country. However, I had to get accurate information on the issues of Covid-19. A good team supported me in this respect.

Q: Have you studied the situation in other countries?

A. Yes. Sixty percent of my narrative was on the international scenario. There was so much of misinformation in Sri Lanka and fake news began to circulate during curfew.

I had to include accurate information and figures taken from international sources. I used to call regularly to my colleagues abroad and even foreign journalists and received accurate data on Covid-19.

Q: Did you face any challenge while writing the book?

A. Writing is a relaxation for me. The book has over 400 pages and the entire book was written on Microsoft words in my iPhone.

Q: One can say that the book was written from the perspective of the Government with regard to Covid-19 and therefore, it is a political commentary?

A. Yes. This is a political book. If you read a book about World War 11, that would be political. When you look at the Covid-19 pandemic in America, it is political. Their presidential election campaign is a political response.

Covid-19 is a massive political work, regardless of which country it comes from. When I go through my book again, I realise what kind of excellent political response we had from the Government during those three months. Coronavirus is political, response is political and the book is also political.

Q: However, Opposition parliamentarians blamed the Government for late action with regard to Covid-19?

A. I think Opposition parliamentarians must be thankful to Gotabaya Rajapaksa for giving them the right to life, because most of them would have been dead if Ranil Wickremesinghe or Sajith Premadasa had run the country during Covid-19. We know that one of the biggest tragedies in our history, such as the Easter Sunday Attacks occurred whenthese politicians were in power.

If they were in power, we would have passed the Covid-19 death rates of countries, such as Italy, Brazil or America.

Fortunately, Gotabaya Rajapaksa became the President, made right decisions and mobilised State Intelligence, Army and the medical fraternity to contain Covid-19. Anyway, the response to the pandemic was endorsed by a two-thirds majority of the country at the General Election.

Q: Why did you choose to write a political book?

A. This is actually a record. The coronavirus pandemic brought about opportunities and challenges to the arts fraternity. I saw short films and writings coming out during curfew. I have written a lot about online musical shows, WHO and different people coming together during the lock-down. We saw the world’s best artistes got together and performed from their homes. People watched them online. There were opportunities and challenges.

We saw a humanitarian crisis as in a war. Even though we didn’t see that no one was killing each other, people suddenly died on roads in the West. When we see anxieties, hopeless situations, things people were forced to do and the way people were forced to think about their lives, we are convinced that this was a different, but a huge humanitarian crisis. It’s worthwhile to write a book, such as this to educate the people to face this kind of crisis again.

Q: One can say that the book should have been written from the people’s point of view, not from the Government’s point of view?

A. The book has been written from the people’s point of view. The Government was only a responder. You have to bring the government’s actions and responses into writing when you record the events of Covid-19.

Q: How do you see the future of the new normal condition?

A. A vaccination will be the only solution for the pandemic. I think our people are used to the new normality now. They listen to health authorities. We have come to this new normality because of the Defence and Health sectors’ commitment.

The main thing is to overcome this crisis.