Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)

PLACE PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT

Crisis Management in the face of a Pandemic

- By SVD Kesaralal Gunasekera Fmr Member of Parliament

The situation in the country is bad. Indeed, very bad. No longer can the Government hide the fact that we are heading towards an extremely difficult time. We may even have to bring back the coupon system to ensure equitable access to crucial resources. What is important here is to urge the masses to stand by the President and the Government. Sadly, the goings on in the recent past according to many did not demonstrat­e that the Government truly cares about the public in a way that the public will empathise and stand with the Government.

DEFINE THE CRISIS

The most important aspect for any Government is to find out about what mistakes we are making. When the Pandemic and the economic crises are island-wide, making mere statements does not cover the inefficien­cy. First and foremost, the people need to know the truth from thegovernm­ent. Being upfront and explaining to the people the economic crisis and the debt burden is crucial. ‘ We have enough money’, ‘Government has all the resources’ are statements that the people will not believe as they face this crisis. It is important to be truthful and explain the situation regarding tourism, mid-east income and exports. What plans are in place for those who have lost employment or their livelihood­s. The people have a right to know.

Just last week it came to light that the importer of PCR and Rapid Antigen test kits are making colossal & unconscion­able profits . Social media platforms exposed this and naturally it has created a stir. However there is no action to probe into the matter or to explain the high prices. The NMRA must explain to the public the truth of the matter. When respected profession­als like Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara insinuates fraud in actions by the NMRA, the credibilit­y of the state institutio­n is at stake. The public must know why they have to pay a high price for these crucial tests?

NUMBERS BECOME NAMES

It is the same with Covid -19. The numbers have become names. Many people stopped believing the numbers. Because there is no clear source or a system known to the public as to how these death and infected numbers are calculated, there is a notion that the death toll is much higher than what is declared. In 2020, the Government approached Covid 19 as a war against people. The curbing of people instead of covid gave rise to people not taking the health guidelines seriously. The people were not prepared for the 3rd and 4th waves. At least now, it is pivotal to explain the infectious­ness of the virus and the need for every citizen to follow the health guidelines. Instead of multiple people talking to the public, one trusted medical expert explaining every day the situation and the actions being taken will make the message clear, simple and credible.

It’s good to have radio announceme­nts to encourage people to go and get the vaccine. But outside the Western province, people appear to be panicking and fighting for the vaccine .

What does the government want the people to do, to stay safe in the interim? Can we at least now treat this as a health issue and give clear informatio­n that the only way to reduce the risk of symptomati­c corona is the vaccine and even then , universal health guidelines must be STRICTLY followed. Also bring forth the indigenous medicine ( not concoction­s prepared by voodoo doctors) to boost the immunity of the people.

FUTURE OF EDUCATION

Schools have been closed for over a year. It did not seem like the Government had any plan to ensure that children could return to school safely. Even the online teaching was due to the commitment of teachers and principals. But that too had now come to a halt due to the Government’s inability to manage instead of confrontat­ion of the crisis. Covid -19 is not going to go away soon. So the public needs to know what the plan is for the long run.

PEOPLE OVER PROFIT

It must be noted that the first and second waves were managed admirably However in early 2021, we lost the plot. With signs of a 3rd wave and many a warning from the health profession­als and India going through a severe covid wave, Sri Lanka failed to prepare for the worst case scenario. It is now the opinion of many that the Government is lagging behind in its efforts.

For a government every life of its citizens should be important. This reminds me that in the 1950’s when 6- 7 lives were lost due to communal clashes, Dudley Senanayake the PM resigned stating ‘I cannot continue as the Prime Minister when lives have been lost’ we must take example from leaders of the past and place human lives before everything else. That’s when we can claim that we were the best in defeating Corona.

The way to come out of this dire situation is to establish a National Government.

Now one may smirk at this idea, but this seems the only viable option. All parties should come together and should be guided by a National Think Tank comprising of educated, pragmatic profession­als and specialist­s who are willing to place country before profits. This must be done by the President and the National Think Tank members should not be affiliated to the party in Power but educated individual­s with a pragmatic approach to crisis management.

The most important aspect for any Government is to find out about what mistakes we are making. When the Pandemic and the economic crises are islandwide, making mere statements does not cover the inefficien­cy

GIVE HOPE AND CONFIDENCE

At a time of crisis, the Government, especially the leaders, must provide leadership and provide confidence to the people that they have a workable plan to bring the country out of this mess. Leaders must demonstrat­e that they are genuinely making an effort to solve the crises at hand.

Unnecessar­y spending must be stopped by those in power, before asking the public to tighten their belts.

The leaders must be honest, lay out the problems facing the country and give confidence that the government and its agencies have the capacity to recover and rebuild.

The people want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. At this difficult time give people hope.

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