Enemy now at our gates


A Special Task Force policeman wearing a protective gears sprays disinfectant outside a hospital during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Colombo on March 27, 2020. Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI / AFP

Many professionals in the field are of the opinion that the world is heading towards an unprecedented upheaval. It is now a pandemic and according to many of them, the peak is yet to come. 

As I went through many news items coming from all four corners of the globe on the subject, they actually began to give me shivers.  And the editorial in The Island of 18-03-20 with another article titled ‘Enemy at the Gates’ featured in the same edition by Prof. Ananda Jayasinghe, prompted me to write this.

 It is frightening and scary. Invisible to the naked eye and a size less than yet as ferocious and lethal or even more so than many a man-made weapon. Little things have unleashed their ‘fists of fury’ on us that can make the whole humanity kneel down with hands raised in surrender, unless we all on the globe get together casting our differences aside, face this formidable foe and fight it as one.

 As a matter of fact we can. That’s the expert opinion. We can at some point, stop their advance, start liberating the territories occupied by them, and eventually win the war.

 I am sure the fellow nations, more affluent, stronger and better armed will come to give support to their weaker ones, if required. However, we need to be united as one, countries and their citizenry alike. Each country must do its duty towards the ‘Mother Earth’ to the best of its ability and each individual in that country towards his/her ‘Motherland’. Politics, personal preferences, alliances, so on and so forth, have no place in the battlefield and those who act otherwise must be branded as traitors to the ‘Mother Earth’ and their ‘Motherland’. 

Now let’s get down to our own little front in this war and see how it is fought. And before going any further, I must say these are my personal observations and views and I have no loyalties to any politician or a political party. I am not afraid to call a spade a spade either, be it a word of praise or a few words of objective criticism. 

The initial responses were admirable, albeit some actions that in my opinion should have been taken a little earlier such as the control and limitation of in-bound air traffic.

 And then I salute all our dedicated doctors, nurses, hospital workers, the police, our soldiers in particular and many others, who as one fought and are still fighting the battle on the frontline. They deserve immense admiration and approbation.

 Now to the bitter part of the story: At a time, when all of us, the governors and the governed should be teaming up, leaving aside our differences to fight the common enemy, it was very disappointing to see some politicians trying to ‘fish in the troubled waters’ (a cliché alright. But I have no better one in my armoury of English vocabulary).

 And then probably realising the folly that instead of fish, they were getting a really nasty and smelly mud bath, they got out of the water in time, before it became too late to go for a thorough clean-up.  Then the noises of fault-finding, of the president in particular, became quieter and then down to a whisper, only to raise its ugly voice again in the form of some conditions, if help needed from them, which is the opposition. Now we all know that it is politics and that’s how they survive and sustain their luxurious livelihood, anyway. 

We now know how fast it did spread in Italy. For the first few days, it was under ten or so on each day. Then there was a sudden jump and then I didn't need to go further. It was on all forms of media and news telecasts. The exponential jump in the number of infections was (may be still so) frighteningly mind-boggling.

 And what have we or some of us learnt from the Italians? It is absolutely nothing by the looks of it. One Buddhist prelate says the ‘Sri Pada’ pilgrimages are still on. And another venerable monk advised the worshippers to keep chanting ‘Ratana Sutta’ as they walked up the mountain. I leave the rest to you, my dear learned Buddhists, to dwell on the advice given by the venerable monk.

 Suffice it to say that even a mere two or three infected persons, breathing onto the faces of all around them in such close quarters, can easily trigger off a runaway contagion.

 Politicians with political wisdom should get their priorities right even at the expense of their personal gains and preferences, for the greater good of the country, be they on the government or on the opposition.

 Dear Mr President, you are a man with experience. You were a soldier and you fought a ruthless enemy. You know very well what it takes to win battles. And the enemy that the whole humanity is now fighting with is even more ruthless. And Professor writes, I should say very explicitly in his article ‘Enemy at the Gates’, it is now at our gates, if not already through them by now in legions. Therefore, please ban all mass gatherings such as the pilgrimages to ‘Sri Pada’. You will be subjected to fierce criticism. Yet I am certain that you are capable of handling it. 

Lastly a plea to all our politicians: this is a time of extreme urgency. Please shed your differences and work together and support one another. So that we can survive the ordeal with the least amount of scarring, to our people as well as our economy. 



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