Wijith DeChickera urges citizens to capitalise on the gains of an accelerated vaccination drive – not necessarily wait for herd immunity to kick in

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Not the opening of A Tale of Two Cities but chapters in the book of life and hope being brought into our Bleak House. Which opinion is correct, time will tell.

This ‘tale of two cities’ depends on perspective. If you’re a positive, optimistic or idealistic citizen – the glass is half full… you’ve survived, the government is proactive, its accelerated vaccination drive is a panacea and there’s light at the end of a long dark tunnel.

Then there’s another type… negative, pessimistic, cynical – the state is late and its crisis management is lacklustre, militarisation will leave our citadel in ruins, politicians are incompetent or lacking integrity. For them, the glass may as well be half full of poison. Yet, there’s safer middle ground: where citizens have responsibilities as much as rights, elected representatives are only human and ground realities grow nuanced. On it, Sri Lanka must stand firm.

The sooner we appropriate a belated rescue operation and ‘get with the programme’ without quibbling, the quicker we’ll be secure.

BIG PICTURE If history has taught us anything, it’s that those who don’t learn its lessons have to repeat them. Pandemics end sooner than later – not always because of timely  comprehensive immunity being achieved by stricken communities.

The Spanish flu of 1918 is instructive. That epidemic ended for a plethora of reasons: human, viral, environmental and sociopolitical; not simply immunological. A smattering still dies of influenza in ‘developed nations’ – no vaccination cavalry rides to their rescue.

Our authorities have challenging decisions to make on regulations and restrictions; the citizenry (no exceptions for partisans or peraheras, please!) must play ball…

To my mind, the ‘lives vs livelihoods’ dichotomy is a false one. Basic binaries between ‘either/or’ alternatives must be avoided by adopting consistent ‘both/and’ strategies. Accelerated vaccination alone won’t work. Sustained health and safety protocols may.

SMALL CRACKS We’d best cooperate by allowing authorities to do their bit while we citizens do our utmost to safeguard ourselves, protecting shared wellbeing through better civic mindedness.

Rather than grouse at inconveniences while getting jabs for oneself or others, better remain silent, silence comments bars on social media soapboxes and open minds as solid citizens to more salutary contributions to make to our realm’s health.

It would also behove those who unjustifiably defend a paternalistic and authoritarian regime encroaching on civil rights at times – or try to plaster over the cracks with wit, wisecracks or worse – to belt up too.

Bad enough an opposition with no counterplan has weaponised dangerous protests – a government with no sustainable fiscal policies and haphazard educational philosophies has politicised citizen dissent. Plus played politics with cabinet musical chairs amid a crisis!

If only the political powers, military administrators and civilian medical specialists would speak – and act – with one voice… how many lives would it secure for trembling citizens?

AUGUST ASSEMBLY The nation’s security forces stepped admirably into the breach in August to facilitate large-scale roll outs of a panoply of vaccines.

There is no malice meant in asserting that while the government could have had its immunisation programme running earlier and its ‘A game’ sooner, one must appreciate the efficiency (by and large) and humanity (seen at large too) with which it was dispensed. Discipline with a human face rocks.

But let’s maintain our balance – and perspective – in everything. Militarised bureaucracy is a mercurial beast and may baulk at the prospect of taking directives from a democratically elected civilian administration someday.

HEALTH PROTOCOLS It’s in the hands – literally – of right-thinking civilians now, not our intransigent political masters or their invisible patrons, to steer our way clear of public health land mines lurking on the road ahead. For there is no Delta Force – like the elite US corps – waiting to daringly rescue us from ourselves.

Therefore, get vaccinated! Wash your hands diligently; wear your face masks unreservedly; keep safe physical distance from others; stay at home if you can or away from crowds as you must; mind you sneeze into your elbow in company; curtail activities until the numbers fall… even if – especially if – you’re fully vaccinated. Delta is no respecter of persons.


Perhaps. Better bored than dead… we aren’t out of the woods yet, and the ‘special forces’ teams have already done their part. Pity the poor and hamstrung health-care front liners.

LAW ENFORCEMENT I’m no fan of chaotic education sector protests or an antimilitarist aficionado. But despite distressing scenes in overrun hospitals with the sick breathing their last on the floor, I’d not countenance executive moves to have our military maintain public discipline; nor have cops in civvies abduct troublesome protesters.

The uniformed police are there to maintain law and order, though allegations of dubious arrests and ‘quarantine detention’ of dissidents linger. This punitive culture cannot be permitted to re-emerge.

Since democracy is not an ideal citizen at politically motivated barricades, let the peace be maintained – as it may – by a law-abiding constabulary and courts with integrity. As long as it’s unequivocally ‘One Law, One Country’ – I’m in it with bells (not jackboots!) on… until we no longer need a ‘delta force.’